Monday, 3 June 2013

Pilbara’s national parks: Part 2 – Karijini National Park

Pilbara’s national parks: Part 2 – Karijini National Park

Left Karijini Saturday 11 May 2013 
We had over a week here so clearly we loved it!  The national park includes pretty much the whole of the Hamersley Range and it is spectacular. WA’s two tallest mountains are found here Mt Meharry and Mt Bruce and nearby Tom Price is the highest town in the whole of WA. 

Karijini is famous for its gorges but the landscape above them is equally as beautiful and impressive as the gorges themselves.  Each gorge is different from the next and we loved them all.

Our first day exploring the park we did a short walk along the rim of Dales Gorge looking down into Circular Pool, around to the Three Gorges Lookout, and then down to Fortescue Falls.  From here there is an unmarked track we’d been told about that led to the magical Fern Pool. Aptly named as there were maiden hair ferns growing among the rocks and fig trees and giant paper barks.  It was a beautiful clear water hole with a waterfall over the other side.  Isobel said later that day “It’s the most magical place I’ve ever been to in my life.” We also learned that Isobel has been dreaming of standing under a waterfall.  A few days later she swam over with Simon and realized her dream. So special.

Hancock Gorge was possibly Hugo and Isobel’s favourite gorge and was listed as a Class 5 walk. We had to walk through water and then swim through some of it.  When we reached a natural ampitheatre Simon went on to see if it was safe for the kids to follow.  Hugo and Isobel then walked through the ‘Spider Walk’ where you can reach the gorge walls on both sides and you’re walking through water on somewhat slippery rocks. This led into Kermit’s Pool which was freezing and from here you could look down a waterfall to Reagan’s Pool (named after a volunteer SES man who lost his life while trying to rescue a tourist).  It was fun and beautiful. 

We went to the lookouts overlooking the junction of 3 gorges and it was pretty amazing.  We also saw Knox Falls from up above and Joffre Gorge. We didn’t get a chance to walk down these as we just ran out of time. Next time.

The Kalamina Falls Gorge was one of my favourite gorges.  Not many people go here as it’s sometimes called Granny’s Gorge as it’s easily accessible and not so dramatic as some of the others. Isobel led the way and found a way on a ledge to the falls which were more a beautiful, gentle cascade over rocks. We then tramped through 100m of swampy grassland which just felt like snake country. I was relieved to leave that behind and then the gorge walk was lots and lots of fun.  It was so easy the kids could walk ahead and find our route (it’s not marked) and we did lots and lots of creek crossings, rock hoppings and walking around little ledges but it was all easy and safe and just so much fun!  It was fabulous.  We found a little gravel beach with clear water (much of the other water holes were a bit murky) and we all had a swim.  There was not one complaint or one mention of tired legs so it must’ve been a good one! 

We finally walked the rest of Dales Gorge which we were camped right alongside a few days later.  It was another fabulous walk that was heaps of fun. We took the short, sharp descent straight down and some oldies were worried about our kids. But they haven’t seen our mountain goats in action and it was really pretty easy.  It was another rock hopping adventure and much of it looked like little steps all the way up or down.  Circular Pool, which we’d seen from a distance up on the rim of the gorge days earlier was so impressive up close.  Again crystal clear waters but quite chilly as the surround cliffs means it rarely sees much direct sunlight.  This gorge was vegetated all the way through and much of it was giant paperbarks – not quite as big as the giants we’d seen at Palm Cove.   We climbed up out of the gorge near Fortescue Falls and were the last ones out – so nice to have it all to ourselves!  We got see the surrounding cliffs turn a brilliant red with the setting sun.  But it was practically dark a wee bit chilly by the time we walked 15 minutes back to camp.

On our final day we walked Weano Gorge which the people at the Visitors Centre said was one of the gorges we could do as a family.  But I reckon it was one of the hardest gorges!  We were warned by our friendly neighbours not to do the upper gorge walk as it was snake country, so we again took the short, sharp descent straight down and immediately had to wade through water. The gorge narrowed pretty quickly and Otto and I stopped at a little rock pool surrounded by tall rocky cliffs while the others went down to Handrail Pool and beyond. They reported it was FREEZING in that water and had to find a patch of sun so the kids could warm up to make it back to us.

We’re imagining another family holiday over this way when the kids are teenagers.  It will involve us flying directly into Exmouth and us spending a week at Ningaloo Reef snorkeling and swimming with whale sharks and manta rays.  Then we’ll head to Karijini for another week and take one of the tours which is the only way to see more of the gorges that are Class 6 and beyond where you need to abseil – now that looks like lots of fun!

While we were here we took a day trip into Tom Price to fuel up and stock up.  It was raining that day so we couldn’t have gone walking in any of the gorges as it’s unsafe.  It was a really pretty town but I’m just dumbstruck that they continue to call the peak on the edge of town ‘Mt Nameless’ since everyone now knows it’s Aborignal name. And to rub salt into the wound there is a Nameless Valley, and the town celebrates a Nameless Festival!  I’m outraged at the arrogance. 

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