Monday, 3 June 2013

East Pilbara – Marble Bar and Carrawine Gorge

11 May - 15 May 2013 
The drive from Karijini to Woodstock on the Great Northern Highway was spectacular.  The East Munjina Gorge was entirely different to the other gorges we’d seen at Karijini as it was wide and there was a road coming up the middle of it! (the Rio Tinto Gorge also had a road coming up it on the western edge of the NP but trucks had to radio ahead before entering it as the road/gorge is so narrow).  We were sad to farewell the beautiful Hamersley Range.  WE could clearly see when we left the range as we were driving along another plateau/plain.

Much to our surprise not too much along the road the Chichester Ranges came into view again and they were equally awesome here on the eastern edge of them. From Woodstock (halfway up the highway to Port Hedland) we took a dirt road to head east to Marble Bar. Surprises were the name of the game. It was a spectacular drive through rocky hills, amazing looking little ranges and we found a beautiful campsite in the middle of it all at Glen Herring Gorge.  We had views all around us, a little campfire and it was just so beautiful and serene – the perfect way to greet the morning on Mother’s Day.

The morning we left it took us an hour to reach the town of Marble Bar and in that short time we drove through a beautiful valley with the old Comet gold mine sitting at the end of it – making it look as though we’d just stepped 100 years back in time.  We then followed a sign to a “Flying Fox Lookout” thinking it would take us to a flying fox colony – but it took us to a flying fox across the river that must be used when it floods.  So funny!  We also saw the first dingo of the trip. 

The town of Marble Bar gets its name from a nearby waterhole where a bar of jasper was mistakenly thought to be marble. It was really beautiful and we sat alongside the river on green grass and had a cup of coffee, kids had a chai, and we ate some chocolate in celebration of Mother’s Day.  We’d also found the jasper deposit where you are allowed to take some of this amazing coloured rock.  What a great start to the day!  And all in under an hour.

We met a secret WWII airbase history buff who had just come back from camping at Old Corunna Downs where he had scavenged some relics from the base that the Japanese never discovered. He gave an old rusty propeller to Hugo that he said would’ve come off a rocket.  He told us there were two other bases never discovered; Yanrey across the Exmouth Gulf from Exmouth and I think the other was Truscott up in the Kimberley a peninsula over from Pago/Kalamburu which was built after that one was bombed.  We are discovering so much WWII history in WA.

The drive to Carrawine Gorge seemed to take forever – maybe we’re just not used to travelling on sealed roads!  It was one of the best campsites we’ve stayed at on our trip – better even than Crossing Pool as any nearby campers were either out of site or a fair distance away.  We had a little grassy site on the edge of the Oakover River with the impressive cliff across from us (so the Gorge is less a gorge and more a river with a cliff on one side). 

We met a lovely family camped next door and the next day we headed out to Running Waters a spring-fed crystal-clear swimming hole that is about 32 degrees all the time. We missed the turn off so we drove down more of Skull Springs Road which we’d not done on the way in as the station owner had advised us against it – but it was graded the day before the Melbourne family came in!  But it meant we saw another dingo (and we’d heard a group of dingos howling the night before so it must be good dingo country).

There was a couple of jumping ropes into the swimming hole so the kids had a great time and the blokes had a great time as it was quite a 4WD track for the last 200 metres in. We were both glad we’d done it with someone else as we would’ve all walked the last section (which I wouldn’t have liked as it was good snake country again). 

We took a different track back home via Upper Carrawine Gorge and as it was my favourite time of the day (late afternoon when the sun is golden) it was a special time to travel through a valley fall of mesas and escarpments. It was the kind of country we are used to seeing from American westerns but not something we associate with Australia. The Pilbara is a really special place.

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