Adelaide to Kimberley Week 4 - Pilbara to Ningaloo Coast

Sunday, Jun 14, 2015 at 12:01

Member - Carolyn & Peter L

Wednesday 10th June
OK! Time to get serious! No more loafing around!

We started off the day with a short drive to the Dale Gorge day use area,then headed off to the lookouts first to see where we were going to be walking – down to the gorge floor a long long way down!!

The Dale Gorge walk (2km 3 hr return grade 4) took us down VERY steep steps from the lookouts, then you backtracked a little to Circular Pool (800m, 2 hr return grade 4).Circular Pool was even more beautiful than Fern Pool. Some difficult rocks to climb up – I had Pete to pull me up on a couple of them. We turned around then and headed back along the gorge floor on the Dale Gorge walk up towards Fortescue Falls. For a lot of it you were hugging the gorge walls and stepping onto stones left in the water to get to the next section, but other parts were just easy walking. At the end we had to cross the pool at the bottom of Fortescue Falls by using stepping stones, then it was a sheer steep climb up the terraced rocks to the top of Fortescue Falls, where we got to the day before. During the walk we had spent some time with another couple, Jo and Warwick from Victoria and sat at the top of the falls chatting for ages before realising we better keep moving, so as a foursome the two guys went ahead (actually we think they forgot we were there at all!) and Jo and I brought up the rear.

We had to climb back up the steep steps to the Fortescue Falls lookout first, then we went back via the Dale Gorge Rim walk ( 2km 1.5 hours return grade 3). It was a much easier walk and Jo and I had a great chat along the way, as did the guys as they disappeared in front of us! overall we did the walks in 3 ½ hrs, but probably half an hour of that was sitting chatting at the top of the falls! We parted company as pete and I had decided to have showers at the visitors centre for $2 each rather than overuse our own water supply (our kamper does have a shower but we use too much water to use it too often if we’re out bush for more than a couple of days)

While I was in the shower, Pete came to the rescue of a couple of german female tourists who had a problem with the handle on the back of their campervan being jammed. They were very grateful for the time he spent repairing it for them, which involved talking off the inside panel of the back door and showing them what to do if it happened again.

Back to camp for a late lunch then we headed back to try (unsuccessfully) to book for the national park near exmouth – it has to be done online and of course no internet connection anywhere in the park so we will have to drive into Tom Price to take care of that tomorrow. Our neighbours at the park, David and Lynne had recommended Cape Range National Park, Osprey campground as a bit if a gem – they had stayed there snorkelling and swimming for 16 days!

Then a late drive along 23km of unsealed road to Kalamina Gorge lookout – we did walk the 500m or so down to the gorge floor, but it was quite late and the sun was about to set to we didn’t walk any further. Will try to go back and do that one properly.

Back to camp on dark to cook up the leftover roast into meat patties (memories of childhood there Mum) and a night catching up on my blog!!!

Thursday 11th June
The day started by a drive past the visitors centre then onto unsealed road past Kalamina Lookout to Knox Gorge Lookout. It was only a short 300m from the car park. Unfortunately it would be better viewed in the late afternoon, as the gorge was all in shadow. The walk to the bottom was a Grade 5 – we could see people down at the bottom but had decided (for my sake) not to go that far.

Joffre Falls was next. Steep steps down to the lookout but the view was spectacular! The light was just right for the falls(mid to late morning), and we were in luck as a group of ‘young things’ had made it to the bottom of the gorge on the grade 4 walk, and proceeded to swim and climb up the waterfall to the grade 5. It helps to show some perspective on the pictures and entertained us for a while as we watched them.
Back on the road, we travelled past the Karijini Eco Retreat (which had really bad write-ups on wiki camps) through to the Weano day use area. This end of the park is 55km from our camp at Dales campground. The road in explained why we had seen some vehicles with thick red mud splashed up over their bonnets and windscreen. I don’t know if I mentioned it before but it rained for more than 3 days here just 3 weeks before we arrived, and there was still evidence with some ‘water crossings’ which could easily have been avoided, but boys will be boys…..

From Weano Day area there were several walks to choose from, plus a couple of grade 5 walks that I crossed off the list!! We started on the Weano upper gorge walk (1km 45 min return G4) and followed it into the Lower Weano Gorge (1km 1hr G4). We stopped before the extension to Handrail Pool as this was a grade 5 and either involved walking through or swimming through waist deep water. Of course the climb back up to the top was steep but that’s the price you pay!

Back at the top we walked along the roadway (we could have driven but chose to walk, what legends!) to the Junction Pool and Oxer Lookouts, (800m 30 min return G2) where you can see the four Gorges all meeting into one. The light wasn’t quite right but the sight was still spectacular, 100m straight down! There is also a sober reminder if the danger of the Gorges, with a celtic cross monument in memory of Jimmy ‘Irish’ Reagan who died whilst trying to rescue stranded hikers, when a flash flood swept him and several other rescuers away. It stands as a reminder not to put other peoples lives in danger because of your own actions. Something that is never far from my mind, and the main reason (besides embarrassment and fear) that I choose not to undertake the G5 walks. My excuse and I’m sticking to it!

After our hikes we headed 72km into Tom Price, to do our washing, book ahead for Cape Range National Park and phone family.Tom Price is a busy mining town, quite pretty with a lovely shady lawned area around the visitors centre. We checked at the visitors centre to find out there were no laundromats, but the hotel/motel is happy for visitors to use their coin operated laundry. Washing machines were 4x $1 and the dryer 2x$1 per cycle – but I think we needed 4 cycles to dry everything in the end!!! Still, had to be done. We used the time to phone family and catch up. Once the washing was done and bookings for Cape Range and exmouth, we finished off with shopping and filling up with fuel before heading back to camp, a lot later than expected, at 6.40pm, with an hour drive in the dark. Luckily we just saw one roo, and it conveniently crossed the road far enough ahead of us that we had plenty of time to slow down and avoid hitting it.

Back in camp at 7.45, we couldn’t be stuffed with the planned pizza on the weber q so settled for cup-a-soup and bed!

Friday 12th June
Sleep in!! we had extended our stay yet another night so we had a rest day. We were planning to drive 102km to Hamersley Gorge but decided to have a rest day and maybe do that on our way out of the park over to Exmouth tomorrow.

The park is so quiet and peaceful with everyone else out doing their walks. The birds are beautiful. Set up our little mobile office (lots of sun being soaked up by the solar panels so good chance to backup photos and get the blogs and scrapbooking up to date, doing 9 digital layouts!

Saturday 13th June
Broke camp at 9.20 and headed 102km to Hamersley Gorge and waterfall on the far west side of the park. Very different from the other Gorges with purple ironstone as well, and all the layers had been buckled up and down into beautiful patterns.

Brochure says 400m, 1hr Grade 4 – something must have got lost in communication cause it seemed longer, but definitely out of my comfort zone and I would have thought a grade 5? We were definitely rock climbing! Pete coaxed me up the last bit on a 45 degree angle, with loose shale rock, hugging the cliff face on the right and two foot of ledge and 10m drop on the other side. Pete’s still saying “it wasn’t that bad” – yeah! Right! Anyway, I did it and I hope I burnt lots of calories with the adrenaline rush!!!! Yes, the views were worth it and it was actually a lot easier to come back down – of course til you got the steps leading to the lookout 100m above you, but I’m getting used to that, only had to stop 3 times today!!
After our exercise it was back in the car for the 500-odd km drive to Exmouth. A large portion (maybe 100km) was on unsealed road, but in excellent condition as they are mining roads and take road trains. Once we were back on the bitumen I used the time to get up to date with scrapbooking and completed another 9 layouts as we drove along. Boy do I love this digital scrapbooking! Arrived at Nanutarra roadhouse at 4pm with still more than 200km to go.

By the time we arrived at Exmouth and set up in the dark it was after 7pm. Tired and a bit over it.

Sunday 14th June
In the daylight we could see a bit more of the caravan park. The trees had taken quite a bashing during the recent cyclones (the park had been closed for 2 weeks cleaning up) and all had been trimmed down quite low. Beautiful pool ( not that we used it). Spent the morning getting washing done, and uploading the blog. After lunch drove to the Visitor Information centre for a town map and information about the National Park, but more detailed information we would get later at the National Park Visitor Centre. Whilst there noticed (!) some stunning sterling silver and pearl shell jewellery of marine creatures – they are fashioned by a local jeweller who no longer has his shop but sells them online – Driftwood Jewellery. Stunning Mantra Rays, seahorses and of course dolphins. I drooled for a bit but walked on……..

Then we checked out the shopping centre – have never seen a shopping centre with two separate IGA’s opposite each other! Had yummy calorific lunch at Brumbys (actually had a salad roll but it was the Danish that was irresistable!)

We then drive further north, up to the town beaches past the naval base and radar towers (much more interesting to Pete than to me), then backtracked a little on the Cape Range National Park road to the lighthouse. Great information about the town and settlement, WWII and Ningaloo Reef. A little further on towards the beach was the Turtle Information centre, an outdoor display.

Back at the kamper trailer I was able to contact Cable Beach Caravan Park to book for our return, and Middle Lagoon on the Dampier Peninsula, both needing booking in advance, particularly as the season is getting busier.

Monday 15th June
Set off early for Cape Range National Park, about an hour north then west and south of town, driving around the Peninsula. A short stop at the Park visitor centre for information about snorkelling (you can hire masks and snorkels on a daily basis from the visitor centre but we had brought our own). We surprised Jo and Warwick, a couple we had left at Karijini, who unbeknownst to us had followed in out tracks and were staying at the park but at a different campground.

After setting up camp in a beautiful spot in Osprey campground – site 32 – with uninterrupted views of the sea, Ningaloo Reef and coastline and our own path down to the beach, we took a walk along the coastline, paddling at the watermark and eventually I braved it for a swim! The water seemed cold at first but once you got in it was very pleasant. Pete couldn’t be swayed to join me so he had a snooze on the beach instead. Balmy 25 degrees with only light winds

Amazing sunset that demanded I stop cooking dinner to set up the tripod! Lots of cloud, but not too much to let the sun come through. Just when you thought it was all over the sky and clouds lit up with the after burn as the sun dipped below the horizon, and the clouds and sea looked to be on fire with pinks, oranges and deep purple. Beautiful!

Tuesday 16th June
The idea was to get up early for snorkelling at Oyster Stacks, some 20km up the road, but it was probably 9.30 by the time we got there. Snorkelling at this site requires at least 0.8-1.2m of water, an hour or so either side of high tide. On this day we had from 7-11am. Some days the tides just aren’t suitable at all.
Well it was cool (22-23) and very overcast so it was really hard to push ourselves to literally take the plunge! At Oyster Stacks you have to enter the water directly off a limestone shelf about 1-1.5m high, with lots of rocks to negotiate. You could enter the water 200m further up where there is a sandy beach, but then you just have to swim back to the coral reef anyway.

Breathtaking!!! Both because of the water temperature for the first vital few minutes till you get used to it, them to the amazing underwater world once you get your mask and snorkel on. It was like swimming in a tropical fish tank, the huge variety and number of tropical fish, not only along the reef but right back to the shore. We have snorkelled on The Great Barrier Reef and also in Vanuatu (with its beautiful and abundant clownfish) but Ningaloo was right up there with the others. The colours would have only been enhanced on a clearer sunny day, but it was still amazing, pity we didn’t have an underwater camera. The coral didn’t have the colour of that on the Barrier Reef, but may have further out, we stayed within 100m of shore. By the time we got out maybe an hour later, we both agreed we were glad we had braved the cooler start and grey skies and taken the plunge!

After our swim we drove along the coast to check out other swimming and snorkelling spots at Turquoise Bay, Drift Bay and the camping alternatives at Kurrajong. We both agreed we had won the lottery with our online booking of our campsite at Osprey Bay, the other camp spots were more hidden behind sand dunes without the sea and reef views.

After lunch (and a snooze!!) back at the campsite we dragged ourselves back out to drive to the southern end of the park at Yardie Creek and Yardie Creek Gorge, about 10km south of our Osprey Bay campsite. The intention had been to do the full Yardie Creek Gorge walk (G4 1hr at the end of the 45 m G2 nature walk) but we turned around before the last dip up and down, but were rewarded with a fellow walker having spotted some adorable black footed rock wallabies. She had done the boat tour earlier into the Gorge (they run two a day at 9.30 and 12.30) and the tour guide pointed out where the families of rock wallabies live. They are quite territorial and don’t move too far so it was easy for her to detour a little off the path and find them again on the walk. We were able to watch a group and two single wallabies at different spots for ages, as long as we stayed quiet they were very tolerant of us getting quite close, perhaps within 8-10m. When they are resting they actually sit back with their tail in between their legs – looks like they are sitting on the loo!!!! They do a lot of scratching Nd body grooming too (and of each other) which is very entertaining.

On returning to the end of the Yardie Creek walk trail we checked out the Yardie Creek River Crossing which can sometimes be a shortcut from the National Park south to the highway and Coral Bay without detouring back north 90km through Exmouth, but one look and we could see why it wasn’t advised! The entry was via a sharp right hand turn through the sandhill, along a very soft sloping beach (think Coorong in SA) then a sharp L turn to cross the river mouth (not too deep but wide and soft) to the other side where there was no obvious road. That was an easy decision to make – could have done it with the Prado alone, but the extra weight of the trailer – Nuh!! Not worth the adrenaline this time. However, had a great chat with a young WA farming family with 3 primary aged kids while we contemplated it – the kids had kindly taken up the challenge of walking across the water crossing so we could see how deep it was. The kids continued to entertain us with the tiny hermit crabs they had caught in the river.

Back at camp we prepared dinner as the sun set (not quite as speccy this time but still good) and started to dismantle the awning in readiness for breaking camp in the morning. The campers at Osprey usually head down to the picnic shelter for happy hour each night as the sun sets but we had our own happy hour at our campsite, enjoying the scenery without the extra activity of trying to get good photos. Sometimes you just have to store it in the camera in your own memory! Our dinner of BBQ steak on the weber on a bed of salsa salad with sweet chilli dressing attracted a few comments and request for an invitation in the near dark from our neighbours – but we left them to their own dinner of freshly caught fish!

And thus we have survived, and thrived, to the end of our fourth week!

Take me back to my home
To the spirit of the land that calls me
Colours and textures, light and birdsong
There I can breathe, and restore my soul
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