Arriving at Karijini we booked in for five nights and were given a nice big campsite – plenty of room to put up our awning and for Eric to put his up, giving us a nice big shaded area. Our awning is a major job to put up at any time. Trying to put it up and keep it out of the dirt while doing so was a big job even with the three of us.
Everything is fast becoming a delicate shade of Pilbara red – car, van, shoes, clothes.
During this trip we have been able to catch up with several Touring Oz/ACC members. The latest of these were Brian and Maria from Perth (members of both Touring Oz and ACC). They pulled in to Karijini the day after us, and once they were set up came looking for us. They found us just as we were about to sit down for afternoon tea, so we invited them to join us, and the next couple of hours passed rather quickly, as we caught up on each other’s news. It was great to see them again.
View from the lookout
The way down Dales Gorge to Fortescue Falls is fairly steep, but mostly cut into steps – some of them rather high steps – but it didn’t take too long to get to the bottom. On this expedition we just explored the falls area and walked into Fern Pool, a pretty little pool, complete with waterfall. I tested the water and it didn’t seem too bad – not as cold as at Gunlom Falls – but I hadn’t brought my togs. Eric dived in, clothes and all! More about Dales Gorge later.
After leaving the gorge, we drove down to the Visitors’ Centre. As we were leaving a guy came up to us and said, “I know something you don’t know!” It seems he and his wife had just come back from a visit to Tom Price, where he received a phone call from his son, to say that we have a new Prime Minister – Julia Gillard!
Sunset at the campsite.
Tom Price, Mt. Nameless and Hamersley Gorge
We did a day trip to Tom Price and while we were there drove up the 4WD track to the top of Mt. Nameless. Though Mt Nameless isn’t the highest mountain in WA, it is the highest with a road to the summit. At 1128 metres, this is as high as we will drive while in WA.
After lunch we went to Coles to do the shopping. While we were in the fruit section I brushed by one of the plastic crates that held the fruit and the corner of it tore a largish piece of skin on my arm, which started to bleed. Ron didn’t have a bandaid on him, so I went looking for a staff member, thinking that surely in the office they would have a bandaid. I found one lady at the delicatessen and asked her. She said she would certainly have one, but she wasn’t authorized to do anything, but she would get someone who was. She then went to the phone and rang into the public address system and announced, “Code blue to the deli” then commented to me that they would probably think she had burned herself again. Suddenly three staff members came running. I explained that I simply needed a bandaid. I was taken to a room out the back, given a chair, and had my wound washed with a medi-wipe (also wiped the blood off my finger where I had been holding it on the wound). Then they applied a blue plastic bandaid. This was all a bit overwhelming, when I just needed a bandaid. I apologized for being a nuisance, but they said not to worry, they were happy to help. They certainly looked after me well.
Shopping done, we set out for Hamersley Gorge. It wasn’t very far down into the gorge, with the usual steps to help us on our way. At the bottom was an attractive pool, with a waterfall that was really just rushing across sloping rock rather than falling. Eric decided he wasn’t going in. I talked Ron into going in, and he actually had a swim. I got in to about waist deep, but it was just too cold – colder than Gunlom, and I soon got out and left him to it.
Oxer Lookout and Weano Gorge
On the day we visited these gorges at the other end of the park sunrise covered almost the whole of the sky – salmon pink in the east, pale pink everywhere else.
After driving over horrific roads we eventually reached Oxer Lookout. With four gorges meeting there, (Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre gorges) it was hard to get photos to show what it was like, so Ron and Eric took some video.
In Weano Gorge we walked as far as Handrail Pool, then turned around and walked back to the steps, and carried on to the other end of the gorge. Here Ron and I had our own little drama for the day. We were nearing the end of the gorge, and walking over some stepping stones. We were almost on the last stepping stone when Ron slipped. He overbalanced and one foot went in to the water. I was holding his hand for support and to help my balance, and of course, when he overbalanced, so did I. However, while his whole foot went in to the water, only the toe of my shoe went in, so my shoe and foot didn’t get as wet as his. The sign at the start of the walk said to allow 2 hours, but we took only an hour and a half, so I think we did pretty well. When we got back to the day use area we found Brian and Maria just finishing their lunch, so we sat with them while we had ours.
After lunch we set off again, with Joffre Waterfall our destination. Here we had no temptation to do the walk into the gorge – we certainly would not have been fit enough. However, we were able to see the waterfall (what there was of it) from the lookout, and see some people down in the gorge.
Kalamina Gorge. This has to be the gorge that makes you glad you have a digital camera rather than a film camera. At every corner we found new photo opportunities, and so we kept on going, “just to the next corner” and the next, and the next. Apart from an area near the beginning of this track, where we had to negotiate some stepping stones, the walk along the bottom of this gorge was certainly the easiest of all the gorges, a lot of it being on flat rock. Even where we had to go up and down, the layers of rock made easy steps. The little stream tumbled in a series of tiny waterfalls from one level to another, the layers of rock forming ledges for the water to fall over.
Kalamina has got to be the easiest gorge both for getting into, and walking along the bottom. We think it is also the most impressive and prettiest.
Dales Gorge. So far all the walks we had done were Class 3 – “Users require a moderate level of fitness. Trails may be slightly modified, and include a combination of steps, some hardened sections and unstable surfaces.” Dales Gorge below Fortescue Falls is a Class 4 – “Distinct tracks in relatively undisturbed natural environments. Trails are often rough with very little, if any, modifications. A moderate to high level of fitness is required. Users need to be self-reliant. There may be few encounters with others.”
We were giving serious thought to trying to do the Dales Gorge walk, going down near the Circular Pool, walking to it, then walking back up the gorge to Fortescue Falls and finishing with a swim in Fern Pool. We were not sure if we were up to a Class 4. We were also a little nervous about the steepness of the track down near Circular Pool.
Before making a decision we went around to Brian and Maria’s site, as they had already done the walk. After talking to them we decided we’d give it a go. We decided to leave late morning, take some nibbles with us, and have a late lunch when we got back. We drove the car around to the Fortescue Falls lookout car park, since we planned to finish at the Falls end and wanted to have the car handy when we finally got back.
We set out from the car park, walking along the top of the cliff to the descent.
The descent turned out to be much longer and steeper than the one at Fortescue Falls and took about twenty minutes just to get down the steps and ladder. It took us another half an hour to reach Circular Pool. I found the track to Circular Pool fairly hard and wondered how I was going to manage the track back, as I would have some high ledges to get down from. We spent about twenty minutes at the pool, having something to eat and drink and taking photos. The pool is beautiful. The water seeps down out of the walls and maidenhair fern grows luxuriantly on the ledges around the pool. I guess my legs must have been tired from the steps on the way in, and the rest at the pool restored them, as we made it back to the bottom of the steps in fifteen minutes and I actually found it easier than going in.
According to Ron’s navigator we had 1.2km as the crow flies to Fortescue Falls – rather further as the track went. For the most part the track wasn’t too bad. There were some bits where I needed Ron’s help, especially where there were stepping stones, some of which were a bit rocky. There were slippery and muddy places too, and we were getting dirtier and dirtier. Along the way there were a number of tiny waterfalls as the rock ledges dropped in height along the gorge floor. And we also discovered the work of the phantom cairn builder (or builders). One quite tall cairn was balanced so precariously it must have taken a lot of time and patience to build, and would take very little to topple it. At one place there was a whole “city” of cairns, both tiny and big. Eric had gone on ahead of us, and told us later that there were a couple of girls building this “city”. They had been at it all morning.
This is quite a pretty gorge, though a lot of the time I was too busy watching my footing to take a lot of notice. Fortunately for a lot of the track it was fairly easy walking. Finally we arrived at Fortescue Falls and had to make our way across the water. Maria had said that at this point she took off her shoes and walked across barefoot. There were a couple of young guys there who had taken off their shoes, so we watched which way they went back, but when they started wading we decided that wasn’t the way Brian and Maria had gone. So we looked around and found some stepping stones. Ron went ahead to check it out and decided that was the way, so I followed, a bit nervously on my own across the stepping stones. I needn’t have worried, they were mostly firm and he warned me about the rocky ones. Then we had to clamber along a narrow ledge on the side of the gorge before finally arriving at the tier of rock ledges leading to the top of Fortescue Falls. About half way up the little track markers changed from the yellow grade 4 markers to the green grade 3.
We continued on to Fern Pool, where we stopped for a drink, then stripped down to our bathers, and braved the water. It was cold, but not as cold as at Gunlom Falls. However, I found the cold left me a bit breathless, and I found it difficult to swim, so stayed at the edge, hanging on to the steps, since I was out of my depth even there. After a while we got used to the cold. We stayed in for a little while, then got out, dried off as best we could, and donned our clothes over our togs. Then we made our way back to the falls and up the steps to the top, where we arrived just over four hours since we had left.
On Monday morning we said goodbye to Brian and Maria who still had another day, and left Karijini for Newman. Some time along the way I remarked to Ron that we hadn’t heard any wide loads on the CB this time. Shortly afterwards we did – a two unit 8 metre wide load was coming our way! When we met it there wasn’t a lot of room to pull over, but we certainly needed to be right off the road, as the wide load needed all of it. Just a few more kilometres down the road we met a 4.8 metre wide load, and as we approached Newman we heard there was a 5 metre wide load coming. However, we were in Newman before we encountered it.
The 8 metre load.