Mon. 3rd June 2019

These termite hills are huge and redAs ever when camping, even with face masks and earplugs we still woke early so we’re up at 7am. The downside of the roof tent is that if we want to drive anywhere during the day we need to dismantle the tent. We did discover we could leave the annex tent pegged in and just collapse that into a heap on our camp pitch. It still takes a while to pack the bedding away and fold up and secure the roof tent.

Spectacular gorgeLooking down Dales GorgeToday, we want to explore the east part of the park over at Dales Gorge which includes the Fortescue Falls, which does have water flowing at present. The two sides of the National Park are joined by either an unsealed road some 28km long or a loop of 75km on sealed road. As we have our Land Cruiser the obvious choice is the shorter one. Dave is getting the hang of finding the smoothest route through the wide unsealed road albeit with a cloud of red dust following us. It is also best not to go too slowly as the vehicle and our pots and pans rattle horrendously and not so fast that you cannot see the potholes. There is no chance of listening to any music or podcasts en route over the noise of the Beast and its contents.

At the viewpointWe finally arrive at the Dales picnic area and park up. Consulting the sign with maps of the walking trails, we come up with a plan to walk along the ridge of the gorge to Fortescue Falls where we will climb down and then walknback along the river bed path. The map says a class 3 walk out and a class 4 (slightly more difficult) on the way back. Sounds good to us, so armed with our ham and cheese rolls for lunch and ample water we set off. The first viewpoint is over Circular Pool and we hear the sound of happy voices drifting up from the water below. Not sure if they are swimming or looking at the water.

Fortescue FallsWe head on along the easy walk along the ridge looking down on groups of people walking alongside the water at the bottom of the gorge, occasionally crossing the water on stepping stones. So that is our route back then. What a stunning gorge and the rocks are all shades of red. I also love the lone green acacia trees on the top of the rocks across the gorge, set off against the clear blue sky. Every direction we look we see something different. Eventually we reach the metal steps descending to the waterfall base and comment again at the available funds to pay for this and the wooden benches set up strategically by the steps for weary folk to rest on their climb back to the top.

Stepping stones to the trailThere are swimmers in the icy waters below the falls and we have no desire to join them. Although there are people about it is still possible to find our own space. We watch a couple negotiating the stepping stones at the start of the gorge walk back to the circular pool and decide it looks doable. Much more water is in the base of the gorge and it would get trickier and much more chance of wet feet. It is surprising how many trees grow in by the river bed as we meander on the return leg of our walk. The path crosses the river/stream a few times but stepping stones have been well placed to make it easy walking.

Weird formationWe reach the circular pool at the far end before we know it and in time to find some shade to eat our lunch. Quite a varied walk in such a pretty gorge. Water from the gorge walls seeps into the shady pool which is home to many ferns. We contemplate the return to the rim. The steps at Fortescue would be easy but too far away. The only alternative is to scramble up the stone steps to the top. It was grade 4 so we knew we could manage that. Luckily the steps were not as hard as they looked. All in all it took a couple of hours for the round trip and my legs knew they had been exercised.

Great colour paletteWe needed to retrace our tracks down the unsealed road to the campsite. As we started to sort out the roof tent we realised the land cruiser had turned red in the dust and as we reached up to sort the clips and zips the red dust was slowly being transferred to us. Our t-shirts and shorts were red, as were our shoes and the annex groundsheet. My hands and skin are so dry from the dust. Even showering did not disperse all the dust and stepping out of the shower onto the wooden floor immediately made your feet red so they needed to be rewashed.

Reflection at Joffre GorgeOur campsite is next to Joffre Gorge, a 15 minute walk from reception, so we had to do it. The waterfall is dry but there is a pool of deep green water in the base of the Gorge, surrounded by trees and shrubs. Two ladies were sat quietly busy sketching the view. Quite a tranquil sight. The main viewpoint is on the other side of the Gorge with the standard metal overhanging viewpoint. We do not have time to get there as it is a drive away.

Contemplating the gorgeWhat we can do is the descent walk to the base of the dry fall. It is classified as a class 5 walk, which according to the sign required Bush walking skills etc etc. Well its not far, and we can see where we are heading to so we give it a go. It was a bit of a scramble at times but nothing too difficult on the section we walked. The view at (almost) the bottom was quite picturesque and Dave headed off armed with camera as the light begins to fade. We don’t quite reach the end as it is late and we have already done 18,000 steps.

Even the dragonfly in bright redWe have decided to BBQ tonight at the communal outdoor kitchen and manage to find a space sharing the gas heat with a couple from Bristol. There is great banter with the Aussies using one of the other gas BBQs. It is just odd cooking at 6pm just as it gets dark. Any later and you are struggling in the dark. Pork ribs and burgers cooked we sit and eat with Stuart and Sandra from Bristol managing to keep the red soil at bay. What do we drink? – red wine of course! ,

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