12th – 14th June 2017
A couple of hours drive up the road is Karijini National Park – our destination for the next few days. Our drive along the Great Northern H’way was very pleasant as the landscape once again became covered in trees, still plenty of spinifex though, and hills and mountain ranges began to appear. We stopped to look for the Manna Munna aboriginal rock paintings but there was no signage and as we walked in, (rocky, washed out areas on road) we didn’t want to explore fruitlessly too far.
The whole of the Hamersley Ranges area was known to the indigenous people as Karijini – it’s only the national park that now respects that name. The tourist brochures describe the park as one of the most spectacular sights in the Pilbara. We can’t argue.
The camping area is huge with very well-spaced, numbered sites. We paid $55 for an annual WA Parks Pass, which we plan to make good use of over the next couple of months, and $13.40 per night (senior’s discount) to camp at Dales Campground. The access into Dales Gorge blessfully has a series of steel steps and landings that must go for 250m – it’s a very steep-sided, deep Gorge.
We walked to Fern Pool at one end, then along the Gorge floor to the opposite end passing Fortescue Waterfall and Pool, doing lots of rock-hopping, scrambling, climbing, descending and river crossing to get to Circular Pool at the other end.
I’ve been in quite a few gorges now and this has to be the most stunning. The pools are fed by waterfalls and have crystal clear water right to their depths. The river that joins them and has formed the Gorge is in some places narrow and traverses the rocky platforms as rapids while just a little further on it will open out into a wide, quiet expanse bordered by water plants and bulrushes.
The walls of the Gorge are sheer on both sides with dark red bands of compressed iron and silica coming down to what looks like layers of slate. Where the two meet the water seeps out from the cliff edge providing an ideal environment for ferns to grow on their steep sides.
This whole Gorge is a special place for the indigenous people, with Circular Pool being the sacred home of the Wargu. There’s no swimming or loud noises permitted here. Steve and I were lucky enough to have this beautiful pool entirely to ourselves for about half an hour – it really did feel like a very spiritual place.
We returned to our campsite after climbing steep rocky steps to the top of the Gorge above Circular Pool, then walking along the rim to our starting point getting spectacular views of the Gorge from above.
A drive to Weano Gorge this morning, still within Karijini NP – there’s camping there, but it’s privately run and 3 times the price we’re paying at Dales.
We started at Joffre Falls Lookout. Lovely waterfall cascading into a big pool. We could see the walk down from the lookout and it involved lots of scrambling down the slate-like rocks – long arms and long legs an advantage.
We decided to head over to Weano Gorge and walk it instead. Once more the descent was very steep down uneven steps. At the bottom we headed to Handrail Pool – to get there involved walking in the creek. We took off our shoes and waded in but it got deeper and slipperier as we progressed so turned back and walked the length of the Gorge, admiring the completely different range of plants compared to those above. We returned via the rim walk.
Next was Hancock Gorge, the Amphitheatre and Kermits Pool. I’d seen photos of Kermits Pool and was keen to see it for myself, despite the “Class 5 – for very experienced bushwalkers” warning notices placed strategically all around. The descent was similar – steep, uneven steps, then a steel ladder and more steep steps. Tumbled down slabs of rock alongside the burbling stream had to be negotiated, the Gorge all the while becoming narrower and narrower until finally we were clinging to jutting out slabs of rock while edging carefully along inch-wide ledges above the water.
A temporary widening of the chasm allowed us a moment to relax before it was inevitable we’d have to wade through the water for some 30 metres, fortunately not so deep now, though it was still up to my backside. This time we left our boots on and didn’t bother to try to keep our clothes dry – the boots decision was a good one – not so slippery, feet protected from sharp stones. We came out at the very aptly named semicircular Amphitheatre, the tiered ‘seating’ being formed by the slabs of stone and the stage being a delightful, tranquil pool.
Kermits Pool was still further on. We watched a few people negotiating the ‘Spider Walk’ through the very narrow chasm entrance to it before our attempt. It’s so narrow that to enter we had one foot and one hand on either side of the chasm, finding grooves and barely-there ledges to put a foot on or grasp for support while taking another step. Challenging, and just a little scary when your legs aren’t that long! Anyway we both made it unscathed and were rewarded with the truly beautiful Kermits Pool.
It was so magnificent that a swim just had to happen. We both stripped off (not everything!) and jumped in. Well … I have never been in water so cold. It was only 20 metres to the opposite side but I was worried I wasn’t going to make it I was so cold. The narrow Gorge continues beyond that point and looks pretty amazing but entry is forbidden – too dangerous I’d guess. After getting my breath back and a little warmth into my bones we then had to repeat the swim back, the Spider Walk, the clinging-to-ledges, the wading through the chasm, the rock scrambling and finally the tricky ascent back to the top of the Gorge. Definitely worth every second of all that effort, fear and cold.
Sadly we leave Karijini now. If ever we’re back I’d like to do it all again and take an extra couple of days to slowly enjoy the place.
For more photos of this time in Karijini NP CLICK HERE