Karijini Loop Part 2: Days 5 - 7

Monday, Sep 30, 2019 at 03:16

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

This is a track log we've created using the Positions Manager tool in the app to just display the segment of our trip for a selected date range so it lines up with our blog story/photos covering Days 5 - Day 7. We've used the Track Log button to select the file and insert the map into this blog.

Day 5

We took our time in the morning enjoying the camp atmosphere and didn't leave until 9am. We didn't have a long distance to go to Karijini so there was no rush. We flew the drone, sat around the fire (cold morning) and then settled in for the drive. It felt like a long and tiring drive to reach the highway at 11.45am. Once we'd come to the boundary of the Shire of Ashburton the road was no longer graded and it was much rougher and slower going. This boundary is found 350km from Mt Augustus. There were no other travellers about, which we thought a little strange given this is the shortest route between Mt Augustus and Karijini. I guess many people aren't towing offroad vans and its not a mainstream tourist route so isn't promoted. The upside is no other people around. No traffic, no other campers.

Once we hit the main road we aimed for Tom Price to stock up a few supplies on the way to our first night at Dales Campground in Karijini. We needed to top up our water tank, fuel and various bits n pieces from Coles. We also picked up phone service (only the kids had service in Mt Augustus as they have Optus and we have Telstra). There was a call to David's mum in respite care, and there was a message from friends who realised they would be in Karijini the same time as us so we had a plan to meet up. We arrived at our campsite around 4pm and were completely happy to simply setup and rest for the afternoon rather than explore the nearby falls and pools. There were plenty of people here - loads of kids and families but most were packing up and looking like leaving tomorrow as its now reaching the end of the school holidays for those not yet on the 3 week option. Anne & Mike found us but came with a tale of disaster. Their trip looked to be over with a broken axle on their camper trailer and a call for tow truck to get them tomorrow. We felt so sad for them. They have done so many trips in their camper without incident and for this to happen now was just devastating. David said he'd take a look in the morning to see if there was anything that could be done but for now our dinner was chicken tandoori with a fresh salsa and rice!

Day 6

Today we planned to head out to Joffre Falls and Knox Gorge and hike down into the gorges. We started by heading down to the Joffre waterfall. We spent quite a bit of time here it was just lovely. We were surprised how unprepared most of the other visitors were here - no hiking shoes and no backpacks for water. Most couldn't managed the climb down so had to sit at the top and watch. The signboards in Karijini give a very clear indication of the difficulty level of these walks using a Class system to grade the difficulty. We found it very accurate but as usual, most people don't seem to pay any attention. Everywhere we went in Karijini we were the only ones geared for hiking with packs, hats and proper shoes and protective clothing. We'd come across shirtless people holding beer cans turning back after finding they couldn't manage the descent in their thongs!

Our weather was perfect for hiking and we felt such a huge sense of accomplishment and joy having reached the first of the many beautiful gorges in this magnificent national park. And best of all, our kids realised it wasn't a chore and they were well worth it! It wasn't always easy, but the effort was manageable and only short.

After hiking back up from the waterfall (was just a trickle but at the bottom it has created a lovely amphitheatre) we went to the lookout that juts out over the gorge from the top. This is the view that I remember from 20 years ago so it was very special to finally come back with our kids and share going down into the gorge - something that was just simply not possible in the extreme heat we experienced by coming in late October all those years ago when we were travelling around Australia. The moral of this story is if you ever get the chance to travel around Australia it is so important to time your visit to the very special spots so that you can make the most of it or you will surely regret it. I can't believe its taken 20 years to get back to Karijini to finish off what we started and how easy this place is to explore once the climate is more appropriate.

After Joffre, its a short drive to the top of the Knox Gorge and hikes. Again, here there is a lookout and its a spectacular view however as before, our goal was to hike down into the gorge. It's listed as only a 2km walk but a high level of fitness and hiking skill is required. The first section is the hard part with a very steep descent that has loose flat rocks that slip out from underneath your feet and there is nothing to hang onto other than tiny fig tree saplings that do little to brace your weight. Once you make it this far, this rest is easy and oh so beautiful. From here the trail meanders along the gorge floor following a gentle trickle of water and plant growth until you come to a bend in the river (immediately below the top lookout) where a green pool of water opens up and the only way around is to swim or climb the rock face on the side. Most of the gorges in Karijini end up like this - with the choice of swim or scramble. The rock scrambling is not straight forward - the rocks are worn smooth by the years of extreme weather changes between wet season flooding and dry season heat but they contain easy hand and foot holds if you are nimble and able to stretch and climb. Then once you've made it all the way here are you going to let your dislike of cold water stop you experiencing a swim in the gorge pools or are you happy just to be in the moment? We packed for swimming and even had towels. Incredibly, someone had done a poo right at the water's edge of the green pool - in the exact spot that was the obvious entry/exit point. I stood it before I realised - I was NOT HAPPY about this. How are people so disorganised they can't figure out that there are toilets at the top? Why if nature calls can't you make an effort to get away from the water's edge, off the main walk track? It's a disgrace how some people have total disregard for nature and for others. There is no excuse for this sort of deliberate pollution.

After this first pool of water, its easy to walk along the flat bed of rocks, with just a few hops over water crossings until eventually the signs of a narrowing gorge appear and you realise you have reached somewhere special. I have dreamt of being in this exact spot for many years and to finally see it and be amongst these beautiful ribbons of coloured, stripped rocks was a sheer delight. I am so thankful that we could capture this moment together as a family with our drone. There is a simple sign hung on a string blocking forward passage down the crevice of the gorge - David flew the drone through to take a peek at what we couldn't see with our own eyes and was shocked at the abyss that lay before us. I believe some canyoning groups do seek access but due to the extreme danger this is not easy to organise. I have no interest in that.



After enjoying these hikes we returned to camp to prepare our lunch and have a rest but soon enough we were back off hiking to explore Dales Gorge. We started by driving to the Dales carpark (it is possible to walk from camp). We then hiked down to Circular Pool (firstly via a set of stairs then a short walk along the gorge floor). This is a dead end so we then walked back to the base of the stairs but decided to continue along the full length of the Dales Gorge floor to Fortesque Falls (highly recommended) and at this point there is another set of stairs to bring you back up to the gorge rim where we walked along the top of the gorge at dusk to arrive back at the carpark. It was then an easy short drive back to camp where I prepared a meal of mince beef bolognaise with penne pasta.


Credit to Leon Martin for these beautiful photos. He hiked his heavy camera bag and tripod, plus water without complaint to capture these.

Day 7

Fed the family a hiker's breakfast of avocado toast with eggs and optional bacon (I am laughing as I write this as we now have a teenage vegan in the house!) and then we drove to Weano Gorge where after looking at the lookouts and signs started off to do the Kermits Pool hike. Photos, maps and blogs cannot prepare you for this spectacular experience but I will try to give you can idea of what we experienced. I would like to come back here again - perhaps when the water is warmer would be more enjoyable.

The start of the walk is relatively easy, just descending down steps cut into the rock, then a very easy ladder, and then an easy gorge walk until you reach water. The track is blocked by a rock pool of cold water that is deep enough to wade through but will wet your shorts. People who attempt to avoid this water by climbing along the edge of rocks lining the water tended to slip in anyway. We were prepared for this but it actually wasn't as cold here as we expected and it wasn't difficult - just a lot of FUN! Then you are immediately at the beginning of the main water chamber you need to pass through. Again, this is fringed by slippery rocks and its impossible to get a secure grip if you attempt to avoid the water by climbing around it. There is no way we wanted to risk slipping and hitting our heads this deep into a gorge in Karijini - so plunge into the cold water you must! There's a straight channel of about 50m, which then meets a wider, shallower pool and a "beach" of pebbles where you can get out and attempt to warm up in the sun but then the real fun begins as the gorge takes a left hand bend to the left and this is the beginning of the "Spider Walk". And finally, at the end of the Spider Walk the gorge opens up into a pool and you've reached Kermits Pool. I can honestly say, reaching Kermits Pool on this day felt like one of the highlights of my life - it was just so enjoyable! The only thing taking the edge off our enjoyment, was the extreme cold of the water. It was just not possible stay in the water for long - that's once you manged to summed the courage to actually get into the water!



After enjoying Kermits Pool alone as a family, we retraced our steps which meant a second time through the Spider Walk and second time swimming through the cold channels. By the time we had reached the last/first of the water pools, quite a crowd had gathered but most people didn't go much further, either due to cold or difficulty with the slippery rocks and uncertainty. My only reject is that it takes so long to edit videos that I wasn't able to insert a nicely edit of the GoPro footage we have of this adventure - might have to pass that task onto one of the kids...

Back at the carpark we had a coffee of course, and a light lunch but none of us were very hungry at this stage, so be were soon headed off for the second great walk that starts from this point - Handrail Pool via Hancock Gorge. From the carpark, we walked along the rim of Hancock Gorge and then after a short and winding descent followed the creek line that meets up with a junction for an alternative direct route down. Once again, we encountered so many people with unsuitable hiking gear, with thongs and little sun protection and invariably these people could not continue with the hike so missed the chance to actually reach Handrail Pool. At one point, we came across a grandmother sitting under the shade of a rocky overhang with a sleeping baby in a carrier - presumably the parents had continued on.

I had deliberately not read too much about the detail of these hikes so that my enjoyment would not be spoiled so I was not prepared for the excitement and thrill of what lay ahead as we arrived at Handrail Pool. For those that have started to feel that we live in a "nanny-state" of overprotection with too much jurisdiction, you will find this place is quite the opposite. I guess the ideas it to keep access into these final end gorge points as challenging as they are, in order to keep out the people that really shouldn't be there via natural choice. Anyone with any sort of hesitation or fear that would just be a danger to themselves just simply cannot proceed. It's as simple as that. The sense of accomplishment and thrill at knowing you did succeed at something challenging is sadly, such a rare feeling to experience these days. I really feel more people should get out here and give it a try - take your teenagers especially!

Once again, we were the minority to venture further than the main pool as there was a channel of water leading further down the gorge. We watched a young couple emerge so took our turn after them. The water was even colder than at Kermits Pool but I carried on determined not to miss a thing. All my senses felt like they were on hyperdrive - trying to soak up the experience as quick as possible to avoid hypothermia but really wanting to feel more comfortable to take more time to truly appreciate it. This channel of water was much longer than at Kermits Pool and was totally enclosed like a tunnel - I cannot describe just how much of a thrill I experienced here. At the very end you can get out onto a pebbly beach and walk out of the tunnel where the gorge again takes another big left hand turn, but this is definately the end of forward progress without abseiling equipment and a simple wooden sign strung across the gap with rope marks the end. After all this excitement, you get to do it all again on the way back out retracing your path and once back at the carpark we were all inspired to continue our gorge exploring so agreed to drive on to Hammersly Gorge to find the Spa Pool before dark.



By the time we arrived at Hammersley Gorge the last of the day visitors had left the carpark and we were totally alone to enjoy the late afternoon colours playing off the rocks. Once again, this is a spot we had previously visited but had no idea there was more to see by exploring further up the rocky gorge behind the main pool. Climbing the sloping rock face here is not easy, but within a few minutes you are presented with such an astoundingly beautiful sight that you are inspired to continue to scramble hand over hand to reach the Spa Pool and beyond.

We stayed until the sun had set and it was getting dark. We had loved our last day in Karijini but now it was time to drive back to Dales Campground. Thankfully I had planned ahead and made a lentil dahl in the ShuttleChef (thermal cooker) so it would be hot and ready for our return. Both kids and ourselves felt like this had been an incredibly successful trip - just so unspeakably worthwhile. Perhaps we'll have to come again - perhaps when its warmer to spend more time in the gorge water pools?

On the entrance road to Hammersley Gorge we had noticed a Wifi node so stopped briefly to pick up emails and drove on. As I was reading through them, I started to see a pattern with numerous reports of a tracking problem that had been ongoing since the day after we left. This was a problem being reported by other travellers whereby they had noticed their offline tracking positions were being stored by were not synced to the server when they came back into service. We hadn't actually noticed this ourselves as we had been out of service too but once we took a proper look at our own tracking and read those emails, we had a sinking feeling...

David began racking his brains to understand what was going on and why it would happen after years and years of no issue with the tracking server. The big question was how could it possibly be fixed when we were so remote? We had left home making a slight oversight in our equipment planning - David didn't have complete access to his "development environment" tools, purely because that would mean taking a laptop (as well as all the other devices). We no longer even owned a Windows laptop, the last one was handed down a few years ago to our youngest as a school BYO device and we've coped so far without needing to replace it. It's so disappointing in the middle of a holiday to realise you have to spend thousands of dollars when you get home.

The drive back to camp was frustrating and disjointed as after passing that Wifi node, we couldn't get sufficient mobile data to do enough research and testing to figure out the problem. David was driving and giving me instructions to look up various websites, enter various test code etc and we had to keep stopping at the top of hills to pick up service and then we'd move on, slowly trying to get back to camp. Thankfully our tests revealed that the problem was far less dramatic than at first suspected and could be solved without anyone losing tracking data permanently.

We had hardly eaten all day, we were tired, and now trying to solve a technical problem affecting thousands of travellers in the middle of the peak travel season. It was a very stressful drive taking twice as long as it should but David solved it, and uploaded the fix to the webserver via our mobile phones (without having to divert to Tom Price, which had been a possibility). All we could do now was wait until the morning and see if devices began syncing again.

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David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
BlogID: 7639
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