Pilbara’s national parks: Part 1 – Millstream Chichester National Park
30 April for 3 nights
Before we left home all I knew of the Pilbara was that it was full of mines and industry and I didn’t think they’d be much to see. Well how wrong could I be! It is full of mines and industry and infrastructure for it, but the natural beauty of the area is breathtaking.
We left Dampier and followed the Rio Tinto Iron Ore Railway most of the way to the Millstream Chichester National Park. The climb into the Chichester ranges was dramatic and a stark contrast to the flat country surrounding it. These ranges are older than the nearby Hamersley Ranges and we loved them. Unfortunately you can no longer camp in the Chichester ranges part of the national Park (unless you discover the unmarked track we did) which is such a shame.
We camped at Crossing Pool on the Fortescue River across the river from the old Millstream homestead. It is one of the prettiest campsites we’ve had as we could camp right on the edge of the river with beautiful views. The drawbacks were the mossies and how close the other campsites were (cheek by jowl) and the bogans who camped there over the weekend right next door!
One night we were getting ready for bed when Mr Pemberton (not his real name but the town from which he’s from) burped loudly – I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to burp that loud! Hugo asked what the noise was. Simon explained quietly in the nicest way, in case Mr Pemberton overhead that it was the man next door burping. Otto piped up loudly, “No it’s not it’s a cow mooing.”
There’s a short walk around the homestead and the highlight of it was the crystal clear spring-fed waterhole (I cannot remember its name). It was beautiful. Years ago one of the early female settlers had planted water lilies on it which makes it look beautiful – like one of Monet’s famous paintings – but which has caused on-going strife for the native vegetation and ecosystem (along with the date palms she planted).
We swam at Deep Pool and moments after I got out (but Simon and the kids were still hanging off the platform in the water) I watched what I guess was a baby snake swim quite adeptly across the water. I didn’t realize snakes that were not sea snakes could swim QUITE so well and so fast and I was worried about a parent nearby. We hightailed it out of there.
But the most impressive part of the national park was the drive we took back to the northern end where the Chichester Ranges are. You drive along a plateau that looks not that interesting (other than the view of the distant Hamersley Range in the rear view mirrors) when suddenly you realize the plateau is breaking up into small rolling hills and you catch a glimpse of something really spectacular…
We climbed Mt Herbert, the mountain I’ve enjoyed climbing the most on this trip – it took about 10 minutes to reach the top – and saw possibly one of the best views of this trip. The range dropped away dramatically to the plains below and you could see mesas and a pyramind shaped hill and follow the line of the ranges around. If we had longer, no small children, and another car at the other end I would’ve loved to walk from here on the old cameleer’s track through the ranges to Python Pool. Next time.
We drove around to Python Pool and it was an impressive water hole with steep cliffs around one side of it. We didn’t go swimming as I heeded the health warnings, much to Simon and the kids’ annoyance. But the ranger confirmed it probably isn’t the best place to go swimming as it hasn’t yet been properly flushed for months and thousands of people have been swimming in it. Would you swim in a bath after thousands had been in it previously?
We followed the road down until we hit the plains and it’s here we found a little track off to our right and discovered an unmarked camp on a stagnant waterhole. A few tents were here and we continued to follow the track across the dry river bed but it didn’t look like the track had been used with all the growth over it. So we didn’t go on as I didn’t think we should. Later I talked to the ranger and discovered the track leads on for another hour or so along the river, following the edge of the range and it would’ve been a lovely drive. The rangers haven’t yet decided what to do about the track – officially close it or leave it open. And as for those tents we found? They belonged to some researchers who believe that Python Pool is home to one of the healthiest quoll populations in the whole of the Pilbara and are doing research every night catching, tagging and releasing them! How exciting.