Karijini National Park

We first visited Karijini National Park in WA’s Pilbara approximately 15 years ago. We’ve been promising ourselves a return visit ever since. This year we made good on that promise.

We left De Grey River early on Saturday morning, and arrived at Dales camp ground in Karijini around lunch time. As I remember it, last time we were there, all camp sites were booked directly at the visitors centre within the park, and you chose your own site. Now, you drive directly to your chosen camp ground (there’s two within the park), and you pay the camp host, who allocates you a site. We were allocated a lovely big site with lots of open space around us.

Karijini is full of the most beautiful gorges. Some are reasonably easy to access, and some aren’t so easy. At the time we booked in, the two park ranges were assisting the victim of a fall down one of the gorges as they waited for SES and an ambulance to arrive. Apparently, it’s the fourth serious fall within the past four weeks.

On our last visit we trekked down several of the gorges, most of which Paul found relatively easy at the time. I struggled. Fifteen or so years further on, and it certainly hasn’t become any easier. Most of the gorges that we did on our last visit, I wouldn’t even attempt this time round.

We did return to Fern Pool. We remembered it as being one of the easy ones to get to previously, and it’s even easier now. Metal steps now lead the way (around 240 of them I believe) make it considerably easier, even though a reasonable level of fitness is still necessary. It’s as beautiful as we remembered it, with an abundance of maiden hair fern, and a tranquil waterfall dropping into the inviting swimming hole.

Beautiful Fern Pool
A mass of maidenhair ferns visible behind the waterfalls

Having done most of the other gorges before, and understanding how difficult they were, we chose to by-pass them this time around. Instead we decided to do the 200 km round trip out to Hammersley Gorge, one we missed out on during our first trip.

The trip was on dirt roads, but they weren’t too badly corrugated. When we arrived the view from the top of the gorge showed some stunning, wavy rock patterns with some gorgeous colours. The walk down into the main part of the gorge was relatively easy as promised. However, we crossed paths with a family returning to the top with their son of around 10 hoisted over his fathers shoulder, and a towel wrapped around a gaping wound in his leg from a fall. Apparently, they were heading straight to Tom Price (the nearest town), to get his leg stitched up. I hope it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

The gorge was beautiful, and different from the other gorges we’d seen in the park. However, I found the main water hole at the base to be a little uninviting compared to Fern Pool. Paul managed to get in, entering via some quite slippery rocks. I chose to give it a miss.

We walked up as far as we could safely, and in the distance we spied what looked to be a much more inviting swimming hole. However, to get to it would have required crossing a small stream that looked quite slimy, and then scrambling up a steep incline. Getting up there may have been easy enough, but then we would have had to return. It looked to steep for me to be able to safely manage it, so we gave it a miss. I will usually give most things a go if it looks like I could possibly manage by taking it slowly. I’m sure this would have been one of those times. But having heard about the other four falls, and having witnessed the boy being carried out – it just knocked the adventure right out of me that day.

The gorgeous rock formations at Hammersley gorge. I only wish we already had the new camera we’re planning to invest in. Our current little Lumix isn’t really up to the job.

A tree growing out of rock – how do they do that.
Distinct layers.

The landscape in Karijini is arid, but beautiful. It’s dry, and it’s hot. When you manage to clamber down into the stunning gorges, the water holes provide a welcome, cooling dip. I was cruelly reminded that accessing the gorges requires a good level of fitness and agility. Whilst my fitness isn’t too bad, my agility leaves a lot to be desired. I wished, and not for the first time, that I’d had the good sense to start travelling around this beautiful country 30 odd years ago. But as my mum often said, ‘if wishes were horses, beggars would ride’. Now I am travelling, but sadly, there’s so many experiences I have to miss out on because I left my travels too late.

A red landscape supporting white gums.

After leaving Hammersley Gorge we decided we’d stop off at Mount Bruce, the second highest peak in WA. Apparently there’s a viewing platform there that looks out over one of the iron ore mines, and it’s supposed to offer a pretty good view. The track up to the viewing platform was much rougher than the road out to the gorge. We’d only travelled a couple of kilometres when we blew a rear tyre. With our only spare fitted, we decided we’d better by-pass any more unnecessary travel in the park, so we did an about turn and headed back to camp.

Yesterday we left Karijini and headed for Newman (a Pilbara mining town) so as to arrange for our spare to be fixed. I must admit it was a bit daunting to travel more than a 200 kms with a 3000+kg van on the back of our ute, and with no spare tyre. Anyway we arrived without mishap, but there’s no tyres of the same size as ours in the town. So, we’re stuck here in Newman for a few days while we wait for our replacement tyres to arrive. They should be here tomorrow, so we’ll have the best of the older tyres moved to the rear and the spare, and we’ll have the two new ones put to the front.

While we’re here we’re catching up on some mining tours and sightseeing that we’ve been promising ourselves for some time. So, whilst we’re stuck here, there’s things to do, places to visit, things to see. So, fear not – we’re not suffering.




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