It was a long drive from Ningaloo Station to Karijini. We left late after saying our farewells and ended up having to stay at Beasley River rest stop. Being in the middle of nowhere in the Pilbara region we thought we’d have it to ourselves but as we pulled off the road we found ourselves circling around trying to find an empty site. Finally we headed for the riverbed, confident it wouldn’t rain, and set up next to a handful of other campers and joined them around their campfire. Another beautiful sunset then off to bed.
The Pilbara region is a magical place and a thrill to drive through. Vast landscapes of dark red earth and mountains are covered with endless clumps of rich green spinifex provide a beautiful contrast with the clear blue skies. Sheer rock walls dominate the face of aptly named Mount Wall, and every corner encounters different geological formations of many shapes and sizes, enough to keep the drive interesting. Recent rains had also spurred a floral bloom and we were also treated to expanses of pink and yellow flowers as the kilometres sped past.
The rich red soil is a key indicator of the underlying mineral content and many mines operate in the region extracting primarily iron ore. Tom Price is a town that has grown to service the mining community and provides a remarkably green and well stocked oasis in which to re-fuel and restock before entering the Karijini National Park.
Dales Gorge served as a base from which to explore Karijini. Driving in for the first time could leave one to believe the place is over-rated but all the beauty of this park starts when you leave the car and start walking. Most of the gorges are well hidden below the arid surface and after steep descents cascading waterfalls and clear pools provide welcome relief in the heat of the day.
Dales Gorge offers a loop walk that takes you along the edge of the gorge, then returns back through the gorge showcasing Fortescue Falls, Fern Pools and Circular Pool all pleasant swimming holes.
Kalimina Gorge offers a gentle walk along the gorge with many water cascades, contorted rock formations, evidence of tremendous geological activity in the past, and finishes at the Rock Arch that dominates a corner in the river.
Further afield, near the Eco-Retreat, three gorges converge at the Oxer Lookout. Weano, Joffre and Hancock gorges all offer a variety of walks, and we chose the handrail walk in Weano gorge and Hancock Gorge, experiencing the others from the clifftop lookouts alone.
The Handrail walk in Weano gorge requires negotiating a few pools and rocks to the final pool where a handrail has been placed to assist the final descent. The kids had a peek into the pool but were reluctant to negotiate the final few slippery steps. Xavier accompanied me down Hancock gorge where we encountered the Amphitheatre, Spiderwalk and Kermits Pool, finally after quite a bit of wading and shimmying precariously along cliff edges