From reef to rock… Ningaloo to Karijini National Park…

Important Travel Tips – Australia’s North West

Leaving Exmouth and the Coral Coast we turned north and headed for Karijini National Park.

Located in the remote harsh and barren inland of the Pilbara in the Hamersley Ranges is Karijini National Park;  an ancient landscape of massive mountains and steep escarpments cut by spectacular gorges more than 100-metres deep and within these sheer-sided chasms hide crystal-clear rock pools, cascading waterfalls and lush vegetation.

If your travelling from Broome the nearest towns of significance to this beautiful national park are Karratha and Port Hedland, both of which, are a good few hours drive away.

From Karratha, there are 2 driving options.

The first is a 350-kilometre 4WD trek along Rio Tinto mining roads, which leads directly from Karratha to Karijini via the enchanting Millstream-Chichester National Park.

Built to provide maintenance access to the railway lines these roads include hundreds of kilometres of unsealed roads and anyone wishing to travelling along this route must obtain a 30 day permit from one of the following centres – Karratha Visitor CentreRoebourne Visitor CentreTom Price Visitor CentrePannawonica Library… or online via the Rio Tinto Website.

Alternatively, the second route from Karratha is almost 600-kilometres long, along the sealed North West Coastal Highway towards Port Hedland before turning onto the Great Northern Highway. This is also the route if you are travelling from Port Hedland and if taking this highway from Karratha or Port Hedland please note the last fuel stop on this road before reaching Karijini is the Auski Roadhouse.

For us the easiest route to Karijini was to follow the North West Coastal Highway to Nanutarra Roadhouse, where we would turn off and head inland towards Paraburdoo and Tom Price.

We were leaving one of the most beautiful places in Australia to head to another… a mere 640-kilometres away.

After some last minute grocery shopping we farewelled the turquoise waters of Exmouth and pointed Harry Hilux in the direction of the red dust of Karijini National Park.IMG_3024

There were still lots of sheep and emus wandering along the unfenced verge as we drove away from Exmouth causing us to brake on a number of occasions to avoid hitting one.

For those new to the experience of driving on outback roads don’t swerve to avoid an animal on the road as this may cause you to roll your vehicle. Gently brake and slow down and beep your horn to alert the animal.

120-kilometres from Exmouth and just after turning onto Burkett Road we passed Bullara Station. 318127818Barb and Nev had stayed at this station and considered it one of the best campgrounds they had camped at!  They raved about the friendly atmosphere, sitting around the communal fire cooking dampers, the sculptures made from old farming equipment and scattered around the campground and the outdoor donkey showers with big galvanised buckets hanging from old tree trunks. Sounded wonderful so it will definitely go on our list to camp at next time we head this way! It is perfectly located between Coral Bay and Exmouth.images-2

It wasn’t long before we left the wandering wildlife behind and turned back into the flow of traffic on the North West Coastal Highway – this highway links the coastal city of Geraldton with the town of Port Hedland!

Distances in this part of the world are really, really long and after a few hours on the road it was a welcome relief to pull in for a break at Barradale Welcome Stop where we had stopped previously for 2 nights with Barb and Nev… and a welcome break from the slow-moving caravans and motorhomes we had been following making it impossible for us and even the road trains to pass along the 275-kilometre stretch of road to Nanutarra Roadhouse.

If you are travelling in a ‘caravanning or motorhome convoy’ please be considerate and try not to travel too close together – it makes it really hard for other road users and unsafe for those who become frustrated and want to overtake!

The law requires caravans and other large vehicles leave at least 60-metres between each other outside a built-up area. It is a distance of 200-metres in a road train area.

We love the network ofWelcome Rest Stopsin the PilbaraThey help break up the long trek along the highways in Western Australia and offer travellers a chance to hop out, walk around, and sometimes even stay a night or 2.images-3 They also celebrate the rich Indigenous cultures of this location… but unfortunately it seems some people disregard the ‘welcome’ part of these free rest areas, which was pretty sad considering the effort that has gone in to making this a camping friendly region. In the week since we had visited we were disappointed at the damage to the toilet block… one door left swinging on a hinge and the other the lock completely broken off!

The Warlu Way, which we were travelling through, is a magical insight into Indigenous way of life in this region! It opens your eyes to the Indigenous people’s relationship and connection to the land and it acknowledges the ongoing responsibility Indigenous people have to their country… so as a visitor, please travel thoughtfully, share and care for the roadside stops and the surrounding environment responsibly and respect the wishes of our hosts!16569mst

Talking of ‘caring and sharing’, long distances and stretches of unchanging landscape can make a driver very tired so swapping drivers after taking a break on a long drive is really important! 

The outback is a diverse landscape; it can be dusty, muddy, flat or flooded. The roads can be empty but they can also carry extra-long road trains – serious road trains, the ones with 3 or more trailers… and you never know what’s around the next bend. images12.jpeg

When fatigue kicks in it affects your driving; you get lost in your daydreams and you are uncomfortable and have heavy eyes. These are sure signs that you are becoming dangerously drowsy and it’s time to PULL OVER, STOP and SWAP!

70-kilometres on we turned off the highway onto Nanutarra Munjina Road and headed for Paraburdoo. We hadn’t been through this way before and we were really interested to see what this little town, with an unusual name, looked like.

The amount of traffic diminished significantly after Nanutarra Roadhouse. Most of the caravans and motorhomes we had been following, although heading in the same direction as us, had pulled into the roadhouse to refuel so we were well ahead of them as we followed an ever-changing landscape of rolling hills and long, straight, flat stretches for as far as the eye could see.

We travelled over iron ore mountain ranges, through landscapes of mallee scrub, rows of red sand dunes and dry river beds and the only vehicle we overtook was a lone cyclist on a mission to ride through the Australian outback, alone, in the extreme heat!

And still we were constantly on the watch for wild life… and the odd cow that might wander into the middle of the road as we passed quiet a few herds of cattle with young calves grazing beside the unfenced road along the way! images

If you come across cattle and sheep on the road, stop and be patient. On many occasions animals have stopped in the middle of the road to watch us approach – they will soon move on, they’re in no hurry… it’s all part of the ‘outback experience’. 

We originally planned to set up camp at ‘House Creek Bridge Rest Area‘ but decided to pressed on for another couple of hours to the next overnight rest area at Beasley River.

It had been a long drive of 420-kilometres from Exmouth and late afternoon when we arrived at the Beasley River sign.

Pulling in off the highway we followed a dirt track for around 500-metres then made camp beside a dry riverbed banked by ghost gums and surrounded by bull dust!

Heat, dust and distance… it was actually a lovely stopover in the middle-of-nowhere and a welcome stop with only 10 other vans and campers already set up.

While I am willing to forgo a great many things while camping, a good cup of tea is not one of them so after setting up our rooftop tent we pulled out the trangia and settled into our camp chairs with a nice brew in hand.

We really missed being able to light up a campfire to boil the billy and it’s always fun to see what sort of delicacy we can scratch up in the camp oven… but with no other option other than our trangia because of a fire ban, we attempted to bake our favourite giant sultana scone over our small flame in our small pot!

Mixing up whatever concoction we could scratch up had become our new favourite hobby since hitting the road… but more often than not it was in our thermal cooker! There are all sorts of recipes we have adapted to our limited cookware and we now call ourselves the ‘Master Chefs’ of the outback! Check out our recipes

That night we were treated to a sensational sunset gracing the skies. With its short performance before descending below the red earth we felt like we were a million miles away; surrounded by the outback grazing land. undulating hills and a night canvas of twinkling stars. The Australian Outback sky is one of the most impressive skies we have ever seen with no other lights to interfere with the dark night sky; no city lights, no cars and no street lights – nothing but lots of bright stars!View Pannawonica

This camp ground is certainly worth an overnight stay on the long road to Karijini but on the downside… the 2 toilets here left a lot to be desired and stank so much, no one would use them!

Our next stop was Paraburdoo to check out the town.

As we drove along Camp Road towards Paraburdoo we couldn’t help but notice the ‘Jolly Green Giant’ (as it is known by the locals) standing proud against the stark countryside of the Pilbara. This Terex Haul Truck was a reminder of the trucks that once hauled the iron ore at the Paraburdoo Mine and was one of a fleet of 17 of these huge vehicles which first went into service in 1976. They continued to be used until 1987 and during that 11 year period they hauled over 285 million tonnes. In 1976 each vehicle was worth $675,000. They were capable of carrying 154 tonnes and had a maximum speed of 40-kilometres an hour.

Paraburdoo is a small mining town named from the Indigenous word Pirupardu, meaning ‘Meat Feathers’. This came about because of the large number of white cockatoos in the area that were once a main source of food for the local Innawonga People.

Built in the 1960s it has a population of around 2,000 and although very small, a quick drive around soon revealed there were plenty of facilities; an Olympic-sized swimming pool, BMX tracks, tennis, netball and basketball courts, a supermarket, chemist, petrol station, post office and a hospital.

In the distance a Qantas plane was visible on the horizon! Paraburdoo has the only commercial airport in the area, which although 9-kilometres northeast of the town, is the hub of the town with the majority of people mineworkers who are ‘fly in fly out’ from as far away as New Zealand.

When we first drove in we were surprised at the amount of traffic for such a small town – white 4WDs with orange flags and lights on their roofs everywhere, and people in mine uniforms made up most of the population surrounding us.

This little outback mining town is serviced by daily Qantas and Virgin flights from Perth, and for those tourists wanting to visit the area access to Karijini National Park couldn’t be easier… car hire is also available!

Paraburdoo also has an interesting short history, which includes UFO sightings, the discovery of 200-year-old bones and royal visits!

One of the towns primary attractions is Palm Springs water hole, a permanent water source and a great place to do a spot of birdwatching.  50-kilometres north along Paraburdoo Tom Price Road, Palm Springs is also a Heritage Site for the local Innawonga People.

Our next stop was at Tom Price, the highest town in Western Australia at 747 metres above sea level and consequently dubbed ‘Top Town in WA’.Unknown

Heading out of Paraburdoo we came to a impressive sculpture of a massive tyre named ‘Resilience‘. This remarkable piece of artwork was made of steel plate that was apparently shaped during a series of controlled blasts and from ‘Banded Iron Formation’ stone that was excavated at the local mine site. Created by Western Australian sculptor Alex Mick, the sculpture is a tribute to the mining industry of the Pilbara, the people of Paraburdoo, the local Indigenous culture, the unique beauty of the landscape and the spirit of regional communities in Western Australia.p1100987.jpg

Arriving at Tom Price the call of a hot shower was quite enticing so we checked into the local caravan park at the base of Mount Nameless, the tallest mountain (1128m) in Western Australia then headed off on the walking track to the summit!p1110011

There is a steep 4WD road that follows the ridge to the top of Mount Nameless and there’s a 3-hour return walking track (for us more energetic people) that starts at the base of the mountain near the caravan park and climbs up and over the red cliffs.IMG_3063

This trail is quite steep made only slightly easier by a few steps carved out of rock and railings on more difficult sections… but this hard trek was well worth the effort as the views over the surrounding hills and the massive Rio Tinto iron ore mine site were spectacular. Just a word of advice though – this walk is not the thing to do in the heat of the day and make sure you carry plenty of water.

Back at camp it was time to wash some red dust off from our long trek and put our feet up and relax with a good book and a nice cool beer! The rest of the afternoon I spent catching up on some washing and my blog.

The huge iron-ore deposit now known as Mount Tom Price was discovered in 1962 after which the Hamersley Iron Project was established. A mine, 2 towns (Dampier and Tom Price) and a railway line between them all followed.

Today, the town is an oasis in a dry countryside on the edge of the Hamersley Range and it was easy to see we were back in the Pilbara region. This town is the ‘engine room’ of the nation, rich in resources and iron ore.

Next day we arrived at the Tourist Information Centre in town only to find that the last tour to the Tom Price mine had left for the day. The tours start at the very inconvenient time of 10am most days so after stocking up on supplies we headed for Karijini.australia-broome-to-exmouth-10.jpg

50-kilometres east of  Tom Price we could see Karijini without going off the bitumen. The landscape changed continuously from rolling hills to long straight flat stretches as we drove along and it wasn’t long after leaving Tom Price we saw our first dingo in the wild in this area, casually fossicking around in the long grass on the side of the road.

There were more large hills as we approached the area surrounding Karijini National Park and the red hills cut with deep gorges were just beckoning us to explore.

The majority of Western Australia’s highest peaks are found in this region and while there were plenty of gorge walks on offer over the next couple of days, there was a summit hike on the road into Karijini that we couldn’t pass up, Mount Bruce (Punurrunha).

Mount Bruce is the second tallest mountain in Western Australia and the hike to the summit was a really good 9-kilometre return walk with some steep and rocky sections. As we followed the ridge line we were privy to fantastic views; from one side we had the vista of Karijini Range and from the other an iron ore mine that we could watch trains being loaded with iron ore!Unknown copy 4

This site is a significant men’s place, so much so that indigenous women raised in the lore won’t even look at this mountain as they pass.

The last 26-kilometres into Karijini was a graded dirt road, although from the number and the size of the corrugations the grader hadn’t been through for sometime.

The countryside we travelled through consisted largely of undulating hills, making it difficult to imagine there were any gorges in the area but I have to say our first impression of the area was overwhelming to say the least as we rattled our way along the dusty road!

Broome to Exmouth Roadtrip
... and a snake rattled its way across our path!!

Karijini means ‘hilly place’ to the people of the area, and refers not only to the national park but includes all the Hamersley Range.

Within the national park there are only 2 accommodation options, the Karijini Eco Retreat and Dales Campground (although there is an overflow area for when Dales is full). Free camping outside of these 2 places is not allowed and the rangers regularly check and fine people if they catch them doing this.

The west section of Karijini is the Karijini Eco Retreat campground. Eco Retreat is just a fancy name for a bush campsite that offers hot (solar) showers, drop dunnies, luxury tents and a restaurant and a bar… all relative luxury (except for the dunny), compared to our usual standard but we were more than happy with our set up; the red dust carpet and unspoilt natural setting that surrounded us most evenings!

Click on this brochure for Walks and Gorges at Karijini National Park (including map)

Western side of national park

Eastern side of national park –

We were heading to the eastern section of the park to Dales Gorge Campground, but we would be back to check out the gorges on the western side over the next couple of days… although we did decide on a quick stop at Kalamina Gorge, a relatively easy walk along a track that bought us to a waterfall trickling over a rock ledge into a small pool and a good introduction to the gorge system we were about to experience.

Kalamina Gorge is located part way between the Weano Gorge and the Visitor Centre along an unsealed road. It was an easy 3-kilometre walk through shallow rock pools at the bottom of the gorge until we came to the big pool at the end. These falls are the shallowest in the park and were quite beautiful with water cascading down countless small terraces to a crystal clear pool below… a pool surrounded by ferns and overlooked by beautiful paperbark trees.

UnknownFurther on we came to the Karijini Visitors Centre, which was well worth a visit with very informative displays of local aboriginal history as well as the history of the areas rock formations.

Like all National Parks in Western Australia, Karijini has an entrance fee of $12 per vehicle (payable at the Visitor Information Centre), so if you are thinking of visiting a few of the national parks in the state, you might consider buying a Park Pass! This offers great value for money if you’re travelling and exploring the state for an extended period of time. It cost us only $14 a night (with seniors discount) to camp at Dales and this was payable at the Rangers Station on entry to the Dales Gorge Campground.

Dales Gorge Campground was a popular place but unfortunately we couldn’t book so it was first in first served and as it was booked out our first camp was the very busy Dales Recreation Area – an overflow area while we waited for a site in Dales Gorge Campground, hopefully the next day.IMG_3168

The sites here were red dust, easily accessible and van friendly with lots of toilets around the place. There are no showers at these national park campgrounds but if you are desperate to wash the red dust off this campground is just down the road from the visitor’s centre where just next door is a range of bathroom facilities.

We left early next morning for Dales Gorge but so did everyone else… there were already quite a few 4WDs, backpackers, campers and caravans lined up at the ranger station in the hope of someone leaving.

Some turned around and drove back to the overflow campground and others waited it out and sure enough we eventually secured a campsite at Dingo Loop where we camped in a spacious, shady area that was close to many of the popular and less gruelling walks and gorges of Dales Gorge; Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls, and the tranquil and beautiful Fern Pool.

Over the next couple of days we spent our time clambering up and down and over and around gorges and at the end of each day the gorge rim walk was the easiest way to experience the views of Dales Gorge as we retraced a path over a 2-kilometre return walk.

As the sun set each evening it became quite cool and the temperature dropped to below 20 degrees, the lowest we had had since leaving the Western Australian coast. We must have acclimatised to the warmer weather as we soon rushed to grab our trackies and jackets and for the first time in many months we needed to pull our doona up as we slept. The nights can get very cold here in the outback but by 10 o’clock in the morning the temperature can rise to 30 or 34 degrees. Once the sun’s up it gets hot very quickly.

Fortescue Falls, our first port of call, is the only spring-fed waterfall in the park and cascades down gently sloping rocks to a pool at the base of Dales Gorge.

From the viewing area we left the red dirt and spinifex of the day use area and negotiated our way down the many metal steps to a narrow trail that led down stepped rocks to the gorge floor and a pool where we could look up to the high surrounding red cliffs.Unknown

This pool was quite deep, the rocks were very slippery and the water quite cloudy! There wasn’t a lot of water flowing over the falls and judging by the amount of people swimming, I would say it was chocked with a fair amount of sunblock.

In the wet season when this waterfall is cascading and the pool is crystal clear it would be spectacular and the rocks below the surface would be easily seen, but on this occasion the pool wasn’t very inviting!

Layers of banded blue asbestos were clearly visible between layers of black ore and red and yellow rock. Each of these thin layers represented somewhere from 1000 to 100000 years of accumulated seafloor sediment.

Blue asbestos is prevalent throughout much of Karijini National Park and we came across many signs indicating veins of it in rock faces at Dales Gorge – but it is only dangerous when released into the air through human activity such as mining.

Just up the road from Karijini National Park (just outside the boundaries), is the abandoned blue asbestos outback mining town of Wittenoom and Wittenoom Gorge.

Until the early ‘60s Wittenoom was Australia’s sole supplier of asbestos and in total mined around 161,000 tonnes. Throughout the time of active mining, more than 2,000 people died of lung disease and the locals soon began linking the cause of death to the presence of asbestos dust in the air. It wasn’t until 1966 when they discovered the real dangers of asbestos that the Western Australian Government set about closing the mine and extinguishing this little town forever. It officially closed in 1977.

From the 1930s to 1966 this booming town was home to around 20,000 people who lived surrounded by mines full of the deadly blue asbestos. All buildings apart from a few private homes were demolished in the town and everyone left… that is apart from a handful of people who refused to move on and who are determined to call what was left of this town… home! Total population 3!

The town was officially removed from Australian maps in 2007 and the last remaining residents were forced to leave in 2015. Its name has been blanked out from all road-signs and the road once bearing its name has now been renamed!

However, the problem is, the population is still 3… and tourists still risk their lives to catch a glimpse of this dangerous, abandoned area resulting in the Government now issuing a warning to anyone thinking of heading to this little ghost town… ‘be warned, you are dicing with death if you visit this abandoned area’!

This ghost town is now known as one of the most contaminated and dangerous areas in the world due to the town’s history of asbestos mines!

Having had a very quick swim at Fortescue Falls we then followed a short signposted track from the base of the stairs that lead upstream through dense bush, past huge fig trees (that were home to hundreds of flying foxes and intertwined with vines), over rocks and tree roots with ferns hidden in shady recesses… until we came to  Fern Pool. The walk in reminded me of the ‘Old Forest’ in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and at the end we came to one of the most magical spots in the park –  small twin waterfalls and an exquisite pool surrounded by native fig trees and maidenhair ferns.

This place had a sense of peace and tranquility! The water was crystal clear and home to numerous nibbling fish and was the perfect spot to cool off!

From a wooden deck at the edge of the pool we were privileged to swim in the sacred waterhole of the local Indigenous women and whilst they were happy for us to visit the pool and swim in it… they had one simple request – behave respectfully and quietly while you are here!Unknown-2

It is here that the Dreamtime Creation Serpent lived after writhing from the coast through the Pilbara landscape to create the region’s waterways and the traditional custodians believe the serpent still inhabits these waters. pilbara-3206.jpg

Eventually dragging ourselves away from this little piece of heaven, we made our way back to camp by following the 3-kilometres Dales Gorge Trail that links one end of the Dales Gorge to the other along the gorge floor to Circular Pool.

We wandered through pockets of fig trees and gums, followed watercourses, climbed over stones and clambered over ledges but the 2-kilometre hike was well worth the effort.

We were surrounded by incredible rock cliffs all the way along and rewarded with cool, incredibly clear pools of water here and there that we could cool off in.

Circular Pool was larger than Fern Pool but had that same peaceful and timeless quality. The pool had formed at the base of high surrounding cliffs and was deep with crystal clear water, so clear we could easily see the rocks on the bottom… but it was also the coldest of all the pools we had been in so far, probably because it was on the southern side of an immense cliff covered in mosses and ferns and only saw a limited time of sunlight.

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The track out of the gorge at the Circular Pool end of the gorge was certainly not for the faint hearted as it was quite a bit more challenging with steep rocks and ladder climbs and rocky steps much more rustic than the metal staircase that leads to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. This climb was classified as a Class 5 with the walk along the gorge floor a Class 4!

We returned to our campsite, savouring our first taste of Karijini. We camped in an open area with nearby Snappy Gums providing some early morning shade… but we opted to camp a little way away rather than under the Snappy Gum, given their name (not that they were that big).

Dales campground is very well laid out with several loops marked with allocated campsites with a good distance between each one providing privacy for each camper.

We were surrounded by the classic outback red dust (due to the iron-rich character of the earth here), and  facilities were basic with a few pit toilets for each loop.

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We put the tent up and enjoyed the last hours of sunshine with a nice glass of wine and a good book…  a perfect end to a perfect day!

That night as we snuggled under our doona for another chilly night we were visited by the odd dingo that roamed and scratched around our camp site and we were serenaded by the intermittent howls of a local pack… (another good reason to be in our rooftop tent) –  it was either that or the noisy backpackers down the track!

Over the next couple of days we explored a number of other gorges in the region.  Each with breathtaking beauty and special in its own way and each day we were rewarded with an incredible blue Pilbara sky!

Oxer Lookout provided spectacular views over a point where 4 different gorges met and it was a really beautiful sight but we were eager to get into the gorges to see them up close and personal.

Joffre Gorge is almost right next to Karijini Eco Retreat and the walk only takes 5 minutes through the red dust. From the lookout we followed the track that took us above the waterfall where we were privy to awesome views. Only a small amount of water cascaded over the falls but I should imagine after heavy rains it would be very impressive!

From the second viewing platform, after a walk of about half an hour climbing over rocks and boulders and scrambling down to the waterfall itself (not a very long walk but it is rated a Class 5 on the rating scale), we reached a huge natural amphitheatre that sheltered an enormous pool at the base of the falls. A stream led from the pool into a gorge below, which narrowed dramatically before plunging over a sheer drop to another giant bowl of a waterhole below… beyond our reach. Many of the gorges in Karijini were like this – offering us glimpses of beautiful but inaccessible areas of a landscape that looked as if it hadn’t changed since the dinosaurs roamed.

At the impressive Hancock and Weano Gorge (with its adventurous Handrail Pool) we were awestruck  as we gazed down into the gorges… each at least 100-metres deep; cliffs a mixture of deep red and chocolate brown, making a striking contrast to the many wildflowers and pale spinifex-dotted country surrounding them.

Below we could see water rushing through narrowed cliffs, and tiny ant like people walking along the water’s edge! The contrast between the sheer magnitude of the gorges and the surrounding countryside was stunning. We stood, gaping at the view for some time before eventually dragging ourselves away to descend the steep trails!

The Karijini National Park information and walk trail guide indicates the difficulty and experience required to tackle the tracks; 1 being suitable for wheelchair access, up to 6, which requires specialist equipment (climbing gear).

We started our gorge walks at Level 3, which was not too bad with some rocky areas where we were required to clamber over rocks and wade through some pretty deep pools and soon graduated to level 4 and 5 meaning the rocky areas became more challenging to climb and the crossing and ascents and descents were probably a bit more difficult… so it’s a good idea to check the trail guide (above) before you embark on your gorge outing!

Weano Gorge starts at a Class 4 walk and the Handrail Pool is a Class 5. Class 5 trails are difficult and a high level of fitness is required.

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We descended Weano Gorge via a steep staircase to where a small clear river was gently flowing then wading through the knee deep water we made our way to Handrail Pool, a large deep pool nestled within the gorge walls that we were told was perfect for swimming.

Walking the lower Weano Gorge we soon learned quickly that walking through water was going to be a part of exploring some of these gorges. The water gradually became deeper and deeper and we were thankful we had thought to put our swimmers on then after wading through waist deep water and very narrow sections for quite a distance we finally came to a hand rail that would guide us down a steep, slippery waterfall face to a pool below.

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Weano Gorge was pretty spectacular but then came the walk down into Hancock Gorge, described by many as a ‘journey to the centre of the earth’!

After climbing down a ladder, we wandered into a gorge that narrowed into a huge chamber and an attractive setting of small rock pools and marbled walls.

It was only a short walk of about 10 minutes to the top of the ladder but the climb from the top of ladder to Kermit’s Pool (only 200 metres), took us around 45 minutes return.

This was most definitely a Class 5 walk that led through a narrow ‘corridor’ enclosed by steep cliffs on either side and only a narrow ledge to negotiate from one end to the other and a river running straight through the middle completely covering the gorge floor. We had 2 choices; we could either scramble along the cliff ledges or swim the length to the end – we chose the latter as the water was icy cold but really it didn’t make much difference as in some places, we were wading through hip deep water, which was freezing, then climbing out on slippery rocks only to go back into the water a few minutes later.

Finally exiting this corridor we came to an amphitheatre where we crossed to a very narrow tunnel with fast flowing water which made walking along the river floor not an option anymore… so spreading our arms and legs between the grey-blue rock walls of the tunnel – less than a metre apart – we shuffled along finally reaching a water-filled chamber where we dropped down on to a smooth ledge… thus this section of the gorge walk has been named the ‘Spider Walk’!

This had to be one of my favourite walks with lots of obstacles and water falls to negotiate along the way. It was really good fun, not too difficult, and led directly to Kermit’s Pool… so named after the green colour of the water. This was as far as we could go – further on from Kermit’s Pool  was a level 6 and a restricted area requiring a permit and roping skills.

Knox Gorge took longer to walk than the others as the track from the car park to the bottom was steep and rough in parts with lots of loose rock.  It was worth every bit of its class 4 rating but after coming to a very narrow gap that opened into Red Gorge this walk ended also and led into another level 6!

Of all the gorges, Hamersley Gorge, the most remote of the gorges, was the only gorge we didn’t tackle.

Karijini National Park certainly lived up to its reputation and we rated this park as being one of the most spectacular parks in Western Australia.

It is a massive national park in every sense of the word and the sheer expanse of it all is breathtaking; its spectacular rust-red vertical gorges, intriguing rock formations flanked by spinifex, pockets of fig trees, gums lining water courses, wild-flowers, waterfalls and rock pools were truly magnificent. There are plenty of gorge walks and 2 great campgrounds and if you have a sense of adventure and an appreciation for Mother Nature at her best then you will love Karijini National Park … so make sure you have it on your bucket list when you visit the Pilbara of Western Australia!

For us, this was the end of the ‘Warlu Way‘!

As visiting guests in the ancient lands of the Indigenous people who call this region their home this journey has given us a chance to step back to the mystical dreaming era and learn about the rich cultural history of the people who have lived in this region for thousands of years.

The ‘Warlu Way‘ otherwise known the ‘Warlu Way Dreamtime Trail’ comes from Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and it is said that Warlu, a giant sea serpent, came from the deep blue Coral Sea and travelled through the outback creating the winding blue waterways throughout the outback landscape as he slithered his way through this land.

Leaving the beautiful the campground we headed along Karijini Drive for 30-kilometres to the Great Northern Highway then turning south our journey would continue through the remainder of the Pilbara region to Newman.

Australia’s Golden Outback’ pretty much takes up most of this state, in fact 54% of the state and is an amazing experience that can sometimes be overlooked as ‘a must see’ Western Australia destination.

We know how much you all love to be inspired by our Aussie travels blogs so pack your bags, hop in your 4WD and crank up the playlist… we’re heading for the ‘Golden Outback‘ and the red dust of the outback goldfields –  we’re heading to the mining hub of Kalgoorlie.

 

For all those people out there following our blog… don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!IMG_1346

Enjoy our road trip and come explore with us! Australia truly is a special country!

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