Friday, August 14, 2009

The Pilbara - Karratha to Karijini National Park

We left the beautiful shores of the Coral Coast to head for Karratha. Upon arriving here we attacked the visitors centre and although their brochure made out that there was a lot to do in the area, in reality there was not.

We drove out to a few neighbouring areas - Roubourne, Point Samson and Honeymoon Bay. We then headed for Dampier where we had a look around and checked out the ports where they load all the iron ore that is mined in the area. Speaking of mining there was lots of temporary housing for the miners and on the road into Dampier we saw car after car after van after bus FULL of miners all leaving work for the day. There were hundreds of them - lots of work in the area obviously!!!

After driving around the peninsula we headed to Hearson's Cove to watch a phenomenon called "Staircase to the Moon". This happens three nights a month at full moon time where the moonlight reflecting on the mud flats at low tide is supposed to look like a stairway up to the moon. We were a day early so didn't expect to see much (as each of the three nights it's an hour later each time so its best to see it in pitch dark for best effect - it was only just after dusk when we saw it so still fairly light) but it was still pretty impressive watching the moon rise for a change!

The place where we watched it from was really pretty and you can see how it would be more effective in the dark.

The next morning we drove South onto the rail access line towards Karijini National Park. This land is owned by Rio Tinto (who mine the iron ore) and being a private road we had to obtain a permit after watching a 20 minute DVD at the visitors centre on driving safely on the 330km road (90kms sealed and then 240kms unsealed).

We veered off at the 'Python Pool" at Millstream National Park which took us to a neat little area where Dave had a quick dip in the water:

Along the way we saw quite a few Rio Tinto trains lugging the iron to the ports. These were over 200 carriages and 2.5kms long and took three engines to pull them!!!

The landscape in the area was very interesting with lots of green spiky spinifex covering red, rocky hills.

We arrived in Tom Price, another town inhabited largely by miners. We went to the visitors centre, shopped, had lunch and hung around for a bit before going to a carnival which was on as part of the "Nameless Festival". It was pretty tacky but we managed to find $25 on the ground. Bonus!

We left at about 8pm and managed to see some good fireworks on the way out. We drove to the R.I.P Lookout which was a memorial lookout where people have written names and messages to loved ones who have passed away on rocks all around the lookout. A little spooky at nighttime but not so bad in the morning!

R.I.P Lookout:

The next morning we drove into Karijini National Park - an area we had been looking forward to visiting for a while and filled with many beautiful gorges. We called in at the visitors centre and then headed for Weano Gorge Recreation Area where we booked a site at the Savannah Camp.

We drove to Oxer Lookout where four of the gorges meet:

We then did the walk to the Handrail Pool in the Weano Gorge. There was lots of water and clambering around rocky bits.

When we got to the end it narrowed off suddenly and then the water dropped down to a large pool. We had to navigate our way down a handrail over slippery wet rocks and then a rope to get down to the bottom. You can see the handrail in the pic below:

The pool was pretty stunning but it was way too cold to go swimming. We met a nice couple from Freo -Ben and Zoe - who had left Freo about the same time as us to travel right around Aus. We bumped into them many times during the next few days!

After returning the same way we came down we headed to another gorge on the other side of Weano called Hancock Gorge. This involved yet more navigating down rocks and a ladder and through more water:

and after having to do a "spider walk" through a narrow chasm with hands and legs splayed against each side (no photos of us doing this as it was rather unflattering but here is a pic taken from the net - you can see the spider walk in the background):

we were again rewarded with a beautiful pool called "Kermit's Pool". This time we all went in for a quick swim in the freezing cold water:

Unfortunately my watch was lost to the murky depths of this pool, never to be seen again!!
Both of these walks were just amazing - the gorges were so tall and the colours just weren't able to be captured by our camera.
That afternoon we returned to camp for a lovely hot shower. A wonderful way to wash the red dust off ourselves that is accumulating everywhere (You do get used to this after a while as everyone is covered from head to toe in it!)
The next morning we drove out to Knox's Gorge. It was a really slippery and steep descent down loose rocks to the bottom of the gorge and then a lovely walk, skirting pools along the way. This made for some great reflection shots in the water:

We saw some abseilers on the way back who were going on further down the gorge past the Grade 5 walk we were doing and into the Grade 6 area which you need a guide with you to do.
We saw a number of stone cairns on all our walks and couldn't help but add an extra stone to a few of them!

Looking down into Knox Gorge from the lookout:

From Knox Gorge we headed to Joffre Gorge which was a shorter walk over the top of some waterfalls and then down a very steep climb to the bottom of the falls. In the pic below you can see where we went for a swim and then had a nice sunbathe on the ledge where the red arrow is. To the right hand side of this you can see the steep walk down:

After this we drove out to the other side of the National Park to the Dales Gorge Area and to Fortescue Falls. We walked down to the falls:

...and on a bit further to Fern Pool. Both these spots were popular for swimming.

A nice tree we saw on the way to Fern Pool:

We drove back to Dales Camp in the afternoon and were lucky to get a camping spot, squeezing in with another group.
In the moring we awoke for our last gorge walk of our stay at Karijini. We drove back to Fortescue Falls carpark, walked back down to the falls and then walked in the other direction to circular pool.
Dave stopped for a game of chess along the way:

This walk was much green than the other with lots of rushes and paperbark trees:

We ended up at Circular Pool which was very pretty. We went for a swim (freezing!!) and climbed up under the waterfalls (lovely and warm!)

We climbed back up to the lookout over Circular Pool and the walked back to the carpark via the rim of the gorge.
From here we said goodbye to Karijini and headed towards Port Hedland to stay in a caravan park and give all our electronics a good charge.
Karijini was a real highlight for us and a definate recommendation for anyone heading to that area. There are plenty of walks to do and the great thing is that each gorge is unique and different so its impossible to be bored with them. Go there!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, some lovely spots that you have visited. I am sitting down now and reading through your blog from here to your most recent post. I have to admit that I have only been browsing it each time you update, but now and reading it all proper like.

    I was going to say that the gorges reminded me of Death Valley but they are two very different places!