One of the new Bridgestone tyres we just purchased in Darwin blew up about 150km from Port Hedland. Replacing a wheel on the side of the road is rarely fun, but it’s really warming up so now everything is hot as well. Once the job was done, we had to delay one night in Port Hedland to replace the tyre, as we are unwilling to drive too far with only one spare. And it was Sunday!
Seeing an opportunity to make the most of it, we did a little exploring around the busiest port in the Kimberley. We watched the huge ships docking and departing the harbour in rapid fire succession. We viewed the BHP documentary on their Iron Ore operations in the Visitor Information Centre. We even managed to package up and send our 80 mile beach shells away. A job offer was turned down within five minutes of arriving, as we want to keep moving. So we booked into a caravan park for the evening, and waited for the tyre store to open.
The next day we headed directly south to Karijini National Park. This park is all about the gorges, of which there are several to explore. The campsite is located near Dales Gorge at the eastern end of the park. We set up camp and settled in for the evening.
The next morning we tottered off to investigate and explore Dales Gorge. It’s home to three well known sites, Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool, at either end of a beautiful creek walk. No-one was feeling particularly energetic, so we elected to view Circular Pool from the lookout above and walk down to Fortescue Falls. At the top of the waterfall is another track (unmarked) leading off into the bush, which eventually lead us to Fern Pool. It is a simply stunning environment, with twin waterfalls dropping delicately into the crystal clear pool below. Various types of ferns line the rock walls either side of the falls, and there are some very interesting rock formations near the boardwalk.
Back at the top, and we are exhausted and decide its time to hit the campsite and prepare lunch, contemplating another exploration in the afternoon. By the time lunch is finished, we can hear the distinct sounds of several thunder storms surrounding us. We decided to wait a while and see what direction they may head. Good decision. That afternoon, and most of the night, it simply bucketed down. At one stage the wind was so strong that it lifted several poles from our awning and dropped them to the ground. Daniel and Karen hurriedly went to resurrect the fallen tent, and in doing so encountered the hail stones that had accompanied the storm. Finally the tempest abated and we were able to relax a little, and get some sleep.
The next morning still looked overcast, but the clouds were reasonably high, and it was decided that we should head for the Weano Gorge area and see what was on offer. It is a 50+km drive from the campsite, so we took our lunch along for the drive. Stopping briefly at the Visitor Information Centre to learn more about the area and its native people was interesting, but our curiosity was for the gorges themselves, so we set off to the northwest.
Right at the end of the road was the Oxer Lookout, which overlooks Red Gorge. What is amazing from this viewpoint, is that three smaller gorges all merge into Red Gorge in the colourful vista before you. Weano Gorge comes from behind to the left. Joffre Gorge is right in front, and Hancock Gorge disappears around a corner to the right. All three creeks meet at Junction Pool and merge to form Red Gorge. It is spectacular. We met the ranger here, and he warned us “If it starts raining, you get out – straight away.”
Walking into Hancock Gorge first, at the rangers recommendation, had us a little on edge. We knew we could walk as far as Kermit Pool, but beyond that required the use of abseiling and rock climbing equipment. As we descended into the system, we climbed down the last ladder to creek level and followed it downstream. As predicted, the further we went, the smaller the gorge became, until it was less than 1 metre wide. The rangers warning came to mind – a small rainfall upstream would create a flash flood with disastrous results downstream. We walked to Kermits Pool, took three photos and left. Quickly.
After devouring a lunch, we wandered over to Weano Gorge, with its descent to Handrail Pool. With the clouds looming overhead, and the sound of distant thunder, it was too much for Leisl and Rosa. Karen accompanied them back to a safe spot, while Daniel, Connor and Josie continued the trek. We followed the creek along again, and came to a large pool cut into the surrounding rocks, where a handrail had been fixed to the wall to make the final descent easier. Again its rock climbing and abseiling from here, so we returned to the relieved girls as quick as we could.
On the way back to camp we stopped for a brief look at Joffre Falls, Knox lookout and Kalamina Falls. After the adrenalin rush of the first adventure of the day, they all seemed a little tame. Desperately in need of a hot shower, we finally headed to camp for the evening.
Our final day dawned clear and sunny, the perfect day for walking around in treacherous gorges. Never mind, it has been an adventure none-the-less.