Carry On Clambering

Tue. 4th June 2019

Yes, we had to suffer views like this all dayIt seems appropriate to continue the themes from the last two day’s posts as the primary activity here in Karijini is visiting the gorges and walking along some of the trails. As it turned out there was significantly more rock clambering to be done today than previous days too. As ever, the realisation is dawning on us that we can’t do everything, and we have to make some decisions as to which to visit and which to pass on. Hamersley Gorge has been recommended to us by both the receptionist here and in our Lonely Planet book and so, even though it is the furthest of the gorge options for today, that is what we decide to go for.

At the rim of Hamersley Gorge, looking at the wavy layers of rockDown the gorge, looking back from the last waterfallThe consequence of this decision is that it means we have to drive c. 50km on unsealed road of unknown quality (not worse than yesterday’s road according to the receptionist). Yep, we can definitely do this – especially after my gold-plated $7 long-black (i.e. Americano) from the bar in the ‘resort’. The road turns out to be OK, our favourite unsealed road yet and it was mostly possible to find a path with no corrugations and we were able to roll along at a decent speed without being deafened by the timpani in the back.

Looking down into the gorge from the viewpointOn arrival, even from the top of the gorge, we can see that this is different from yesterday’s gorges with many more colours in the layers of rock and, in places, a distinct wave shape to the layers. A sign by the path down into the gorge explains a little about the geology here. The clinching factor in our decision to come here was the fact that there will be water in the falls as they are fed by ground water rather than relying on rain (good luck with that!). When we get down to the bottom of the canyon, we see that the falls whilst not the biggest, are tiered with a pool above the nearest falls which in turn is fed by another (small) falls.

The creek exits the gorge between vertical cliffsPatience though, and we take a few minutes (and more than a few photos) appreciating the bottom level of the falls and admiring the view of the creek winding its way downstream between vertical cliffs of stripy rock. Even here, to the sides at the bottom of the falls there is very little level ground and you have to pick you way around (and over) stones and boulders in order to find the right spot for the photo. Also, it seems churlish to complain about the bright sunshine and the lovely warm day, but the lighting is so harsh that the contrast in brightness between light and shade adds another challenge to the photography. (Lots of exposure bracketing which leads to more work in Lightroom combining pictures).

(Part of) the lowest waterfallWhen we tire of ‘Oh! Yes, lets try that picture’ at the bottom of the falls, we clamber up the rocks to the next level where there is more of a natural swimming pool (not tempted, we hear that it is cold!). At the back of this level there is a ladder to climb up to take you to the next level. Pretty enough, but kind of more of the same – and we’re still not tempted by a swim. We’re just about to turn back when the two women who have been swimming, say that the falls at the back of this third level is definitely worth seeing and is where all the promotional photos of the gorge are taken.

Beautiful shapes in the rock at the last waterfall‘Nuff said, it has to be done. Only problem is that we’re now at the end of the yellow markers for the Class 4 trail, and from here on it is the blue markers for what I think is a Class 3 trail. Seems a bit odd that its now actually more difficult that the Class 4 with large, layered boulders all stacked at about 30 degrees from the horizontal running all the way around the edge of the pool. Making progress is a matter of trying not to climb too high on one boulder and walking down the slope on the next. Eventually, and with only 1 wet foot (that just made the rocks slippery) I get there and find out that it really was worthwhile.

Looking to find the best angleIt isn’t a big waterfall (even by the standards of this gorge), but the water falls into a cavern with curving walls and all lined with this beautiful, layered rock. I have to straddle the stream as it exits the cavern, crouch down and put on the wide-angle lens on my camera (and bracket the photos) in order to capture the scene. Looking at the pictures, I think I’ve done OK but with the right light (at sunrise or sunset say) I can see how the pictures could be really spectacular. When I get back to Janet and say that I thought the trail was hard for a Class 3, she enlightened me that blue markers indicate a Class 5 trail. (Ed note. That was why I let Dave go on his own!)

A corella - one of the residents of Tom PriceThe other advantage of going to Hamersley Gorge is that it is on the same side of the park as the town of Tom Price (TP). Indeed, if we go to TP, then we even swap a section of unsealed road for sealed road and going there will allow us to fill the Beast up with diesel and have a brief dose of Internet (and a respite from red dust). Last night as we were talking to other campers, we heard some horror stories of folk getting to a road station needing to fill up with fuel only to find that it is out of stock and hence having to wait for the next delivery. Whilst we had enough fuel in the Beast to get to the next road station tomorrow, we don’t have enough to get to the one beyond that. Best to play it safe and go to TP and fill up. As we go further north, we are going to need to be smarter at this.

We'll be sorry to leave the rocks and gorges of KarijiniBack at the campsite in Karijini, we are now getting to be dab hands at getting the tent back up. It helps that we leave the annex out flat on the ground and weighted down. Its then just a matter of directing the Beast to the right spot beside it; attaching the far side of the annex, folding out the tent from the roof and zipping up the rest of the annex. We’re soon sat smugly by our table with cups of tea and sneaky cakes that we bought in the bakery in TP. Tomorrow we move on as we head to Port Hedland and then Broome over the next few days. No doubt there will be some highlights ahead but now we just reflect on the gorges in Karijini. How different each one has been – thoroughly enjoyable and well worth a clamber.

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