Deep in the Pilbara of Western Australia, Karijini should not be missed. To view the 2 billion year-old formations, in a variety of colours and arrangements is worth the drive.
We arrived at the end of the dry, when temperatures were in their 40s and the roads were so corrugated that the ranger said he wouldn’t risk a 4WD beyond Dales Gorge where we ‘landed’.
There are a few approach paths but we came from the north, after visiting Port Hedland. It was quite a scenic drive, although a huge number of double semis were using the road en route to Newman, I think.
The Karijini Visitor Centre, managed by the local Aboriginal people, is architecturally unique and attractive. Designed as a snake, I think, it is also built to withstand fire (common in the area) and so different on the inside from the outer approach. Informative and worth a stop, the workers are very happy to give advice and maps.
So, we were restricted to Dales Gorge, but that’s like saying we were restricted to a corner of paradise. There are a few accommodation options – free roadside (see wiki camps) where people we met said it had a great view but no shade, eco lodges, and the small fee Dales camground where we stayed, but having a parks pass I think it was free. There was minimal shade but excellent toilets that had just been installed. Probably a woman thing.
From here it was an easy 10 minute walk to Dales Gorge and the whole Gorge trek takes about 1.5 – 2 hours. This includes Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. The latter two are simply amazing and when I have one of those ‘if I could be anywhere in the world right now’ moments, it is very often Fern Pool. Cool, lush, buzzing with bird and insect life, I think we stayed there for about an hour. The paths around the falls and Fern Pool are excellent and easy.
Fortescue Falls, with its terraced steps, called us back in the morning, where we decided to have an early swim before heading off once more. There is a warning that if there is ANY SIGN OF RAIN, you are not to walk in the gorge. I believe that in such places when it rains it veritably buckets down and the possibility of flooding/being swept away is very real.
The heat of the day, with little shade and no air conditioning, made a long stay there not desirable, unless we were to spend the days at Fern Pool. There are stunning pictures of the other gorges and swimming spots that we would definitely have visited if we had a more suitable vehicle, but our two wheel drive wasn’t going to cut it.
There is a variety of wild flowers – mulla mulla being populous. Birds, large ants and goannas all contrast the iron-rich red soil.
Most people head from here to Tom Price and then on to Coral Bay, but we headed for Karratha, much to everyone’s shock.
We’ll definitely go back to Karijini.
Take good, closed walking shoes as tracks are rubble-strewn and sometimes steep. Snakes are not uncommon but we didn’t see any. DON’T FORGET YOUR HAT AND WATER whenever you leave your campsite. We had a little car trouble and pulled into the service station at Auski Roadhouse, in the middle of nowhere. The mechanic on hand had been there for 15 years, but was originally from within a block of our house.