Karijini - Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of Karijini, we have to apologise this is a long one, but we had so much to say and once again so many photos to all squeeze in. We hope you enjoy this post as much as we did reminiscing about our trip.
A cooler cloudy morning greeted us as we made our way to Joffre Falls which is within walking distance from the Eco Retreat, but we opted to drive to the other entrance so we could hike across the top of the waterfall before climbing down. As we descended into the gorge it began to lightly sprinkle and the rocks became very slippery. At the same time the difficulty of the hike changed from a class 4 to a class 5. I kept going while the Mrs sat under a rock outcrop to keep dry. The climb down was a little hairier than previous ones just for the sheer drop into the gorge and the bigger gaps between steps compared to the previous days gorges. The bottom of the gorge was spectacular, it’s a short walk back towards the waterfall and you enter an amphitheatre surrounded by amazing cliff faces with the waterfall cascading down in front of you. I had the gorge all to myself for about 20 minutes, it was surreal.
Our next stop would have to be our favourite by far, Knox Gorge, although at one point I didn’t think we would make it down the descent into the gorge. It was so steep! As you meander over and around the flowing water the sheer scale of the gorge is impressive. Make sure you look up to see how far you’ve come! There are some very tricky sections as you try to move around rocks and not fall into the small pools (not swimmable). The gorge was full of microclimates, some areas rocky and devoid of any plant life, others wet, warm and tropical ferns abound as we climbed through a maze of fig tree roots. I think it took us nearly an hour to get to the end of the gorge and we rested, I wasn’t sure if we were ready to tackle the steep climb back out just yet. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as we’d expected and we conquered Knox Gorge.
That night’s camp was at the Parks and Wildlife run Dale’s Campground which operates on a first come basis. We’d been given a tip that arriving about 1pm would give us a good chance of getting a spot, which worked perfectly! We were both exhausted and decided to spend the afternoon resting at camp.
A fire flattened Dale’s camp last summer which has reduced privacy between camps to non-existent and there’s a severe lack of shade until the trees bounce back. The facilities aren’t as flash as the Eco Retreat but they are more than sufficient, they’re cheaper and they are better than similar facilities we experienced in the Kimberley.
In the morning we packed up and drove to Dale’s Gorge day use area. From here we made our way down into the gorge and head towards Circular Pool. It’s a beautiful little spot with plenty of shade, I bet its busy in the hotter months! There’s plenty of shade and the water is nice and cool. The walk from here through the gorge to Fortescue Falls was pleasant though pretty boring compared to the last few days adventures. It’s a much busier walk with more elderly people and children due to the lower difficulty of the trail. I dare say a lot of people would only see this side of the park before heading away from Karijini.
Fortescue Falls was spectacular… and covered in resting hikers. It would be amazing just after wet season! From here we head towards our last attraction for the trip, Fern Pool. It’s only a short stroll from Fortescue Falls through tall trees filled with squawking bats before you find Fern Pool. It’s a stunning turquoise colour and extremely peaceful, you are asked to keep quiet here as it’s a culturally significant area to the local indigenous people.
After an easy walk back along the gorge’s upper rim, we began our journey towards home. The scenery of the Hamersley Range was an amazing back drop heading out of the park. We had more time than we thought so we had one more stop to make.
Mount Meharry is WA’s highest mountain and while it is located inside the Karijini NP borders you need to leave the park and enter via the Juna Downs Station road. You need permission from the Station owners to enter but that’s basically a quick phone call to let them know your intentions. From the highway it’s only 37km to the peak, starting as a well graded gravel road, turning to a corrugated track before becoming an undulating slow drive through window height grass. Sometimes crossing dry creek beds, other times driving along the creek beds before hitting the base of the mountain and climbing, climbing, climbing. The track is like nothing else either of us have experienced in WA. The track is steep and the loose shale like rocks were constantly slipping and sliding under the tyres. The Paj’s traction control was going like crazy trying to keep us moving forwards to the point of overheating the system, not once or twice but three times this happened, on the way up.
We both had white knuckles holding on and contemplated turning around half way up when we came across some large rocks that looked too much of a challenge for the fully loaded Paj. But after getting out and building a ramp our enthusiasm returned and we successfully scrambled our way up the steepest section of the track. The final few meters had us on the edge of our seats in anticipation and seriously words can’t explain the view you find at the peak! 360-degree views of the amazing Pilbara from the highest point in WA, what an amazing place to have all to ourselves.
They have a visitor book you can write in and we were so surprised reading it at how many people drive to the bottom and hike up – very keen!
We couldn’t not get the drone up to get an even better perspective, and the images and videos didn’t disappoint. The sun was beginning to drop fast, in hindsight we should have popped the rooftop tent out and spent a night camped on the top of WA. Alas we made the decision to head towards home, After the heart pumping climb up we were expecting the descent to be equally scary and exciting. We needn’t have worried at all as the Paj took it all in its stride and we were soon back at on the highway trying to beat the sunset to camp, we failed miserably. In fact, we didn’t even make it to Newman before the sun dropped below the horizon.
We were aiming for a roadside campsite south of Newman so we slotted in behind a couple of road trains as the night got darker and the wildlife became more active. Bizarrely we had to dodge an enormous donkey that played chicken with the truck in front, cattle we expected, not a donkey! Before long we pulled in at the Gascoyne South Branch rest stop, cooked up our last dinner on the road and setup camp for the final time.
Reflecting on this short but sweet trip, it really left us with the urge to explore more of the amazing Pilbara. It is very easily glazed over when looking at maps due to its huge number of mine sites and mining towns. I’m sure people just drive through on their way further north to the Kimberley or west to the Coral Coast but we’ll be back in the not too distant future to explore more of what the Pilbara holds off the beaten track.
Until next time…