Nestled in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, recognizable by it’s red and orange hues, is Karijini National Park. You can get to the park from three directions, North, South and West and each is at least 2 hours from the next campsite or town. We came from the North and found the scenery stunning, as the tufts of spinifex and layers of red hills came and went. The wildflowers were so vivid and varied, that we both tried to find new ones and point them out, right up to the Ranger Station.
We had booked our campsite and, as it was absolutely chocker-block, only managed two nights in the overflow camp. This provided a toilet and access to bore water that had to be boiled before drinking. It’s worth mentioning that both this campsite and the main one, Dale’s campground, were showing as full in the online booking but some people don’t turn up, so if you see plenty of free spots, it’s worth asking at the visitor centre or the ranger who does the rounds each night, particularly if you want to stay longer. At the visitor Centre, we got some information about the state of the roads, and discussed what we wanted to achieve in two days, getting good advice and tips, before making our way to the campground and selecting our spot, near the water tank.
Wanting to make the most of the time, we set off on the dirt track for Kalamina Falls that afternoon, where the road was far worse than we had anticipated, with deep corrugations and sand, upon which we slid, until we reduced the tyres to 28.
The carpark went down to the falls on one side and a walk on the other. We met a couple a bit older than us and they had done both, saying the walk was demanding and took them about 2 hours or more of hard work. It was getting late in the day and Alan isn’t keen on long walks, so we did the waterfall. We were surprised that after a one minute downward climb, we were at a stream, with bracken water that looked like lumps of soft manure floating in it, so we went to the fall, where the water was running and it nested in a small grove, where Alan climbed up and under it to have a soak.
From here the return journey to where we began was quicker and then on to Dale’s Gorge, that we remembered very fondly from 7 years ago. The path has been formalized with concrete and there is a huge metal stairway taking you from the lookout to the falls. There weren’t many people swimming at Fortescue Falls, but plenty around and we decided to go the extra 600m to Fern Pool. It was quite different, with the platform gone and signs that it might have burnt down. We liked it better now, as it was more open, but the tree canopy was gone and so less birds were there. The pool looked so much bigger and you really notice the rock formations now and ferns hanging in the crevices. We had a very soothing soak and it is still one of the best places we know, with great memories and good feelings.
We’d planned an early start the next day and so we did, taking off on that grueling road again, only twice as far, first to Weano Gorge and two lookouts, and then to Joffre Falls.
At the carpark we saw a dingo, skulking around and clearly looking for scraps, as it came quite close and approached most of the people there.
The gorge was easy to enter and had tall, stratified red walls that lined the river. It wasn’t very deep but was clear so could have been suitable for swimming. The path was pretty easy with only a few wet patches that weren’t slippery, and some loose stones. At the end there was a lot of rubble that was ok to climb up but I thought it would have been slippery as a downtrack.
Weano Gorge had an easy trail that took less then an hour, and we began it at the beautiful end, within the gorge, finishing on a dry path to the carpark, but one which was lined with wildflowers, so it wasn’t unpleasant. The sun was warming up by that time, so I’m glad we went early.
The layers in the wall were explained in a sign at one of the lookouts. Millions of years ago it was an ocean floor and as layers of sediment built up, mainly consisting of silica, and iron oxide and silica, it pushed the water out. The natural tectonic plates created the twists and turns in the walls. We thought the colours looked like chocolate and caramel icecream and the layering meant that, as large blocks cracked and fell away, what you have are piles of squares. It’s absolutely geometric.
The lookouts were not far from our starting point and although one was closed following recent heavy rain, the other allowed us a glimpse into Oxley Gorge. Such a deep gorge, carved in the same way, and seeming to go on forever.
Thinking that perhaps all of the grading was easier than implied, we made it to the start of the Hancock Gorge and began the descent, hoping to see enough of the gorge to take a cheap pic and call it a day. It was not to be, and I could see one of those deeply descending stairways and people coming up, looking well and truly tuckered out. We both pulled out of going further and enjoyed the wildlife as we returned to the car.
A 20 minute bumpy ride back the way we had come took us to Joffre Falls. The lookout is about 100 m of slightly downhill loose stones, and when you get to the suspended platform you can’t help but exclaim. The waterfall and pool of turquoise water is completely invisible from such a short way above and the water courses down a long, deep gorge. We could see people on the other side of the gorge, taking what appeared to be 500 steps directly down, into the water. Some made it through a sandy gap to the base of the falls, which looked a little fresher in my opinion.
It didn’t look very far or difficult to the top of the falls, so we took the path and, sure enough, after a steep but short scramble down the red rubble path, we were able to walk 30m on flat, rounded rocks to the top of the falls and the gorge. What a great view of the rock layers, gorge and water source.
Surviving the return corrugations, that afternoon we were off to our favourite place in Karijini – Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool and we swam in both, taking our time and sitting in the shade or sun, on the rocks, and enjoying the moment, as it might be another 7 years before we are back.
Back at the campsite, we sat in the shade, a warm breeze blowing, and people came to the water tank that we parked beside, to fill their tanks. The bees, which constantly hover there, keep them company, until the moths come at sunset. The wildflowers and birds are fabulous. It’s been a good visit and we will be back.
Head west, all people, and see the world. But take your hat, plenty of water and apply sunscreen.