Karijini National Park and Tom Price, WA

Karijini National Park is truly amazing. The land is dry and desolate, but the gorges are stunningly beautiful.

Western Australia has lots of well spaced overnight roadside stops for RVs. Most have drop toilets and a dump point for caravan toilets. On the way from Cleaverville (via Karratha) to Tom Price, we stopped over night at Beasley RIver Rest Area, which was quite full with other travellers by the time we arrived .

The town of Tom Price was created purely to support the iron ore mine workers. We decided to stop there  for two nights, to get washing done and stock up on supplies. Karajini NP is over an hours drive away, the camp areas have no power or water and we would be there for 6 nights.

The mountain closest to the town of Tom Price was named ‘Mount Nameless” by Europeans 148 years ago. Had they asked the aboriginal people its name they would have been told it has been called ‘Jarndunmunha’ for more than 40,000 years. It is now being recognised by both names. There is a very rocky 4WD track up, but the sunsets are fabulous from there.

The opposite side of ‘Jarndunmunha’ , you can see the mine site, which is huge.

On the road from Tom Price to Karijini NP we passed a lot of very large machinery being transported between various mine sites. Some of the roads are mine roads and permits are needed to travel on them.

Karajini National Park is in the Hamersley Range. The mountains are fascinating shapes and on interesting slants,  they also seem to be collapsing with the sides sliding slowly down leaving just the rock behind. We were so fascinated by the geology of the area that there are way too many photos in this blog post, but we hope you can experience some of the extraordinary beauty of this land, and the inspiring challenges it offers, through these pictures. We have walked further, climber higher, clung to the sides of cliff faces and challenged ourselves more than ever before, and it was wonderful beyond belief.

We stayed at Dales camp ground. Signs warn of dingos and snakes: we saw both in the camp ground while we were there. At night the dingos would howl near the camp, an eerie sound.

Walking distance from the camp ground is  Dales Gorge, with a trail through the gorge and some wonderful swimming holes, Fortescue Falls, Fern Pool and Circular Pool.  Pictures from above the gorge.

Walking/climbing  in Dales Gorge.

Blue asbestos is found naturally in this area. Signs warn not to touch it. We saw it in a few places. (The infamous Wittenoom is not far from here.)

We thought this was a particularly interesting formation. A single column that is so thin, apparently holding up a very large chunk of rock.

Circular Pool normally is good for swimming  but it didn’t have much water when we were there.

Fortescue Falls. So many people were stripping off to their undies to swim, I decided to go in dressed. Tim had his board shorts on for the hike.

Fern Pool.

Some of the scenes around the park.

The only farming done in the area is cattle and sheep; due to lack of water the only crops grown are fodder for stock as seen in the photos below.

On the other side of the National Park, the north-west side,  is Hamersley Gorge: by far the most stunning of all the gorges with the most dramatic rock formations.

There is also a thermal pool at Hamersley Gorge. We swam across the larger (freezing cold) pool, climbed up the water fall and jumped into a perfectly round, cave like hole in the rock with wonderfully warm water.  Don’t know how deep it was and it was a little spooky but just wonderful to swim in. Then we slid back down the water fall and into the icy pool again to get back to our gear on the rocks below. Sadly we didn’t have our GoPro with us.

The next gorge we visited was the very pretty Kalamina Gorge, an easy walk with a fabulous, though even colder, swimming hole.

Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Joffre Gorge and Red Gorge join each other. This is a view from the lookout above them, they are  quite spectacular. And this is what the sign at the look out says. Oxer … an ancient uplifted seabed. Over 2,500 years ago, where you are now standing was the sea floor. Layers of silica (white and red) and iron oxide with silica (dark grey) built up. Over time, squeezing out the water to form tough, well-bedded rock. Colliding continental plates caused these rocks to buckle and develop numerous vertical cracks before being lifted up to form dry land. Erosion over millions of years has sculptured the rocks you see in the present landscape.”

Two of the walks,  Kermits pool and Handrail pool, are class 5 walks/climbs,”for experienced hikers only”. So we set out thinking we would stop when things got too difficult but ended up making it all the way to both the pools. Quite challenging physically and certainly not for the faint hearted but such awesome places to see. Tim was wonderful, encouraging me on, and at times guiding where to put my feet and fingers for the best grip when I was clinging so tightly to the rock face it was impossible to see my feet. I’d say these climbs were equivalent to Frenchman Peak climb we did near Esperance, quite demanding.

Handrail Pool. The rail drops vertically from one level to the next about 5 metres. I did some very undignified pole dance moves to get down. Some people were swimming, they disappeared around the corner and out of sight, and we just hoped there wasn’t a water fall around the bend, but we could hear them laughing so all seemed well.

Kermits Pool. Thankfully there was someone swimming here, because this is where my camera fell from my hands, bounced down a couple of rock ledges then landed in half a meter of water, its final farewell being a flurry of air bubbles. A man swimming was able to retrieve it for me and Tim was able to extract the memory card and get my photos off it.  I’ll be using my GoPro for a while instead.

The next day we visited Joffre Gorge. Mostly a class 4 except the final decent down the cliff face which is a class 5.

We ran out of time to climb into Knox Gorge but this is from the lookout.

Joffre and Knox Gorges aren’t  far from the Karijini Eco Lodge, a camping area where we could pay to have a shower and have dinner.

Leaving Karijini National Park our plan was to head for Marble Bar for the annual Ball and Race Day, but a small scratch on my leg got infected and landed me in Tom Price hospital for three days. (I know, of all the cliff faces I could have plummeted down it was a tiny scratch that got me.)  When we finally left Tom Price it was for Port Hedland for a check up at the hospital and review of blood test results before heading to Broome. Leaving Tom Price we stopped overnight at a roadside area halfway between Tom Price and Port Hedland, mostly because i was still so sick and my leg too sore to drive all the way.

When we arrived at Port Hedland hosptial,  they decided I was too unwell to leave and admitted me. So Tim was once again left to find a caravan park at the last minute and set up camp alone. He had to deal with so much over that time, from mountains of washing, a caravan covered in red Karijini dust inside and out, a flat caravan tyre, phoning numerous places to cancel bookings, sit beside me in hospitals, play nurse maid to me at home and still managed to look completely unfazed by everything. I am one very lucky woman.

Believe me when I say Port Hedland is NOT a holiday town, it’s a mining town. Even the caravan park was ramshackle and depressing. But the hospital and staff were wonderful. Doctors and nurses go there from Perth universities to do their rural placements. It’s small, but very efficient.

Pictures from around Port Hedland.

The port at Port Hedland is one of the largest iron ore loading ports in the world and the largest in Australia. Can you see the line of ships waiting on the horizon?

Apparently Rio TInto also mines salt, not sure if mine is the right word. We wondered what happens to this pile of salt when it rains, or better still in a cyclone.

When we finally hit the road again it was for Broome having missed the Marble Bar Ball and races which we had booked months ago before leaving Melbourne,  our formal outfits are left hanging unused in the cupboard. But we are excited about the next adventure in the Kimberly; let’s hope it doesn’t involve any hospitals.

Cheers til next time.

Helen and TIm