Karijini National Park

by Konrad Bucheli

Friday/Saturday 12th/13th August, 2016

Today more than 200 km of dirt road awaits us. Shortly after the start in the Millstream Chichester National Park we see an big red cangaroo and his small friend. For me it is the first time I meet a red kangaroo in the wild. On the east coast there live the somewhat smaller grey ones.

About 80 km we follow the private "Rail Access Road". It is used for the maintenance of the mine railways. Today I take the time to count: a composition if it has three locomotives and 236 coaches. The whole time we are beautifully accompanied by the Hamersley Range. Then we drive into it and cross it.

We turn eastward to the Karijini National Park. The road is now worse. Then there is a turnoff. One road leads to a mine, our one to a "airport". Well, an "airstrip" has every important National Park. But the road is now in a remarkably good state. And then, ten kilometres later, there is the airport. And a real jet is standing there. On our map there is nothing in that area. And no, it is not the airstrip of the Karijini National Park. That one is 100 km far from here. But to the first highlight of the park, the Hamersley Gorge, we need now only ten or fifteen kilometres more. But there awaits us another surprise: on a square there are big hay bales stacked, up to five levels hight. And shortly after we see also their origin: on the valley base there are huge green circles painted by giant irrigation systems.

A bit further, shortly before the Hamersley Gorge, there is a rest stop. We lunch here. There is also an interesting information board: ah, since our last night in a "inhabited" area in Roebourne we drove about 300 km and touched the areas of six aborigines language groups. The few dialects we speak in Switzerland cannot stand that. Now to the next board. What? There is Wifi here? Indeed we can check our emails. Here out in the nothing. OK, it is not far to the airport.

The Hamersley Gorge is impressive. Beside the usual wild picturesque beauty there are the from giant forces bent rock layers. One layer is about four centimetres thick. Sometimes they also change the colour. And there are bends with a radius of maybe only two or three metres.

Back on the road it gets idyllic. Petra remarks that only a few Easter eggs are missing. A small purple flower covers the ground like a thick carpet around the bushes and small trees.

Our next destination is the lookout at Mount Bruce. It should be the second tallest in Western Australia. Only the height I do not find anywhere. There should be a great view to the Marandoo mine. From this side it looks like a huge construction site. But there is also some interesting information here. The mine has been de-national-park-ified. The iron ore is crushed, put onto the trains and later on ships to export it. The mine is now below water level. The water is pumped to the next town Tom Price and more than 300 km up north to Karratha. Yes, beside the railways also a pipeline accompanied us. And it is used for a local agriculture project. I guess we just passed it. And yes, there is a "fly-in/-out scheme" for the personnel.

Over night we stay at the Karijini Eco Retreat. We just arrived as we were visited by a "run pigeon". Petra called it like that as she was mainly runs instead of flying. It is the more colourful relative of the pigeon we met at Eighty Mile Beach. It also has this funny pointy head ornament.

On Saturday we go along all the further highlights of the park. Here the Hamersley Range consists of small, soft hills which suddenly break open into chasms. First we hike to the nearby Joffre Gorge. Nice. Then we drive to the Oxer Lookout/Weano Gorge. Wow, it goes 100 metres down. And there are three of them. Sorry, they write something about four. And where is it? There is another platform 30 metres further. Oh, here it is hidden. Back at the car we hear an exclamation. Oh, there are eight five centimetres long legs running over the road. They belong to a big spider.

The Knox and also the Kalamina Gorge are nice. The later we hiked down and then stayed there for lunch. We chatted with an Australian couple: If we also heard about the Census Day?
Yes, we also filled the questionnaire.
He works for the company which developped the on-line version of it.
If we also followed the news?
No, which one?.. The system has been hacked on the evening on the Census Day on 9th of August.

We then go to the Visitor Centre. In the park a big part of the roads are sealed, more as indicated in the leaflet. But now we got a very bad corrugated sheet type road. Everything would be wonderful even, but sometimes these roads have for incomprehensible reason small regular dips. With such a regularity that it must somehow be machine made. Sometimes they do not really disturb if you drive with sufficient speed. But here the wavelength is just too big and we jolt over it. After we passed that we got an icecream as reward. Petra pays for a night in the second camping site of the park.

As we reach it, there is a sign telling that it is full. Petra goes to ask and indeed we get our lot. It is past three o'clock, so we go for a hike. First it is a nice bushwalk. Jann does not really want to walk today, but we manage to motivate him for the first two kilometres. That was good, then with a "what is that?" he points out a gecko. We will meet three more later on. Then there is again a sudden break in the terrain: about 50 meters deep is the half circly with a lovely pool at the ground. The may supply is about 40 metres higher, but it is dry already. Still somewhere water drips in. We follow the rim. Shortly after our small gorge joins the bigger Dales Gorge which features the Fortescu River. That one we met already more downstream in the Millstream Chichester National Park. Another two kilometres later a waterfall awaits us. And another two kilometers lead back to our lot.