Next we headed to the Pilbara coast and had a couple of days in Karratha. Another town built because of the iron ore mines inland and the off shore gas plants. The railroad tracks end at the shore near here at Dampier to load the ore onto waiting tankers. This town is not pretty but useful – for stocking up on groceries and getting the Prado fixed yet again :-(. We then headed to the Historic town of Cossack. Here there is a nice beach to camp on with only 4 campsites and is quite pretty. You can still see the industry in the far distance but it can’t be heard out here. M
Our last couple of days at Karijini were spent at the Karijini Eco Retreat campground on the western part of the Park. This is the same area where I did the canyoning trip, but we decided to spend a bit more time here to see some of the other gorges in our own time. First up was Kalamina Gorge. Not as deep as the other gorges and a rather corrugated 25km drive from the camp, but this had the advantage of making it less popular.
Various textures on the gorge rock floor
The following day we descended Weano Gorge, most of which is an easy walk except the last bit where a handrail and some steps have been installed to give access to the aptly named “handrail pool”. From there one could wade another 100m down the gorge before the way is blocked by warning signs (in the good old days one could continue down into Red Gorge then back up Hancock Gorge – a rather hair-raising adventure where there was allegedly 1 rescue needed for every 300 visitors).
After over a week in the Karijini area, we started back towards the coast stopping at Hamersley Gorge for the morning before heading on to Millstream-Chichester National Park for the night.
While many of Karijini’s gorges are openly accessible to visitors, increasing numbers of rescues and a particularly unpleasant accident in 2004 lead to the more tricky parts being closed off and only accessible on a guided tour. So on one of our days in Karijini I joined a tour which involved descending the narrow chasm of Knox Gorge with an abseil and rock slide over a 3m drop; then a sedate paddle up the wide Red Gorge before climbing back out of Hancock Gorge, which had an easy rock climb thrown in for excitement. The tour company provides all equipment like wetsuits, harnesses, drybags and warm clothing and also takes photos, so all you need to do is turn up with budgie smugglers and a credit card and they provide the rest.
However I was told that they might take a week or so to send me the photos, so instead of waiting I have decided to write up this post and include a few of my own photos taken with my cheap and nasty Go-Pro rip-off and update it at a later date with additional photos (hopefully of better quality) when they arrive.
Maddy’s cold was particularly awful at this time and with this trip requiring one to spend 5 or 6 hours cold and wet, it would not have been wise to join me so sadly she had to stay behind in Tom Price. S
L-R: Water slide then abseil down Knox Gorge; view of the exit of Knox Gorge into Red Gorge
Karijini National Park covers parts of the Hammersley Ranges in the Pilbara region in NW Australia. The rocks in this area are understood to have been formed about 2500 million years ago on submerged continental shelves in the form of layers of iron rich hematite and quartz which have far more recently been raised above sea level. Even more recently, gorges have been carved through these layers to produce dramatic ravines with banded red and black rock walls.
Banded Iron formations in Dales Gorge
We spent 3 nights at Dales Gorge in the eastern part of Karijini National Park during which time I also climbed Mt Meharry – the highest peak in the state of Western Australia. Sadly Maddy had succumbed to the lurgy so she did not feel up to joining me neither on Mount Meharry, nor on the gorge adventure tour which I will cover in the next post. After Dales Gorge we spent a couple of nights in Tom Price then returned to the national park staying at the Karijini Eco Retreat camping area – which will also be covered in another post.
The authorities in Western Australia are astoudingly productive in the number and diversity of their risk signs. The summit track pretty much follows the skyline from the right and the summit itself is roughly behind the bush
We left the Kimberly coast and turned inland to the Pilbara. It was sad to leave the beautiful coastline behind but better for my shell collecting addiction. 80 mile beach was just littered with temptation. It was also exciting to be getting back out into the deserts again on the Marble Bar road.
This area had had a big dump of rain in March and it looked much greener than most places we had seen on this trip. The most exciting thing about this, was that there were wildflowers which you only see after rains. It was the first time we had EVER seen the Sturt Desert Pea in the wild and they are really striking little flowers. M
Our first night away from the coast was at a really beautiful free camp on a river bed at Dooleena Gorge. There was not much water in the river but it didn’t matter as we were surrounded by gorgeous red rock. It was all birdsong morning and evening but no new birds at this lovely spot. There were only a few other campers surprisingly. M
We headed to Marble Bar next which is in the Guiness book of records for being Australia’s hottest town by having 161 consecutive days over 37.8 in 1924. Oodnadatta which we had visited earlier on the trip was said to be Australia’s hottest town by having the highest ever recorded maximum of 50.7 in 1960.
After a quick look at the museum we headed to the Iron Clad Hotel for some “man food” as Steve is now calling it. We had the burger and chips, so it’s woman food for dinner! It was one of those interesting old outback pubs with plenty to look at while you ate.
Marble bar was named after a stone bar at the Coongan river crossing nearby. The only problem is the stone is Jasper not marble but once they figured that out, the name had already stuck. I think Jasper Bar would have sounded fine. The best thing about this town was the beautiful Jasper and lovely swimming area near it!
Above is the “marble bar” on the Coongan River. It is really jasper stone which you probably would not notice but for millions of years of it being “polished” by water flow, sand and rocks running over the top of it. Afterwards we went to a nearby fossicking area to get us a piece of this beautiful rock but there were none as beautiful as this polished river bed.
Marble Bar sprang up as a part of the gold rushes to the Pilbara in the late 1880’s. The gold rush was short lived and miners soon headed south for bigger discoveries. We stopped in at the old Comet mine on the way out the next morning. An old Dutch Farmer named Gerald told us the history of the mine as we sat on the veranda of the old mine managers house, now the museum. The mine is too “dangerous” to take tours groups through.
After a night at the caravan park in Marble bar it was great to get to our next free camp. It is another beauty at Tambina Creek which we have to ourselves. The screeching of the corellas here will be waking us early but that is OK.
After our backtrack to the Derby Rodeo, we headed west once more to a couple of spots along the coast south-west of Broome. Our first stop was at the Barn Hill Station camping area, which is situated on cliffs overlooking the ocean (although rather than cramming into one of the view spots we chose a quiet private spot a bit back from the cliffs and enjoyed the views during our walks).
The beaches with their rugged cliff backdrops and the calm clear blue ocean were magnificent and made for delightful strolls interspersed with refreshing dips. As always the photographs below don’t fully do justice to the scenery.
Aside from the beach scenery the campsite itself also offered a few interesting distractions. It appears this is a good spot to view the legendary drop bear – one of Australia’s most feared predators. Also being an arid coast line, the camp sites all had a barren gravel bed so we were surprised to see one caravan with some neatly growing lawn out the front. As with many northern coastal towns, many retired people from southern parts of the country drive up and camp in the winter for a several months to avoid the cold. So this particular bunch obviously decided to plant and nurture their own patch of lawn once they had set up for the season – and why not?
After 2 nights at Barn Hill we proceeded another 200km west along the coast to the 80 mile beach caravan park. The name 80-mile beach is unusually understated because the beach is actually over 120 miles long. So while you would expect that there is plenty of room for everyone, there is only one access point where about 500 people are crowded into a single caravan park. However the beach is pretty spectacular and well worth a visit to experience its extent, its vast tidal variations and the astonishing number of shells on the beach. Despite its size, the caravan park is actually quite a nice one, so we spent 2 nights there to fully experience the beach at its various tides and moods.
for some reason these red-capped plovers were not getting on so well.
The Station Buckjump above is a Kimberly invention. The cowboy rides his Bronc on a normal everyday saddle and must crack his whip at least 2 times in the ride while also staying on his bucking Bronc. This was quite hard to do as few could even manage to crack the whip and balance.
Barrel Racing above. There was a Ladies version and an open but the girls were better at this event.
The above shots are from the Bull Riding, Station Buckjump, Saddle Bronc and Bareback Bronc.
The above were some of the best riders of the day. They are all Aboriginals and before white man came and took their land they had never even seen a horse! It was nice to see pride in the crowd for these guys and in the riders themselves.