Saturday, 20 September 2014

Class 5 Walks at Karajini National Park and a Grey Epiphany.

Pilbara Scenes.
So in my previous posts I’ve possibly  been a little scathing of the role of the Grey Nomad in the caravanning ecosystem; casting them as tall giants, towering  powerfully over the rest of us and blocking out the sunshine. But truly, they are not. Slightly annoying at times yes, but then so are we with our “Marguerite!!”s and “CAESAR!!!”s etc. It may not be a symbiotic relationship, but at times I don’t know what I’d do without these young-at-heart travellers. Like most stereotypes,  it is what it is- a stereotypical mold which is rarely a perfect fit for anyone with grey hair travelling around. So I apologise to anyone showing signs of age on the Australian travel circuit. In writing about you, I've thrown every Greying Nomad under the canopy of those living an insulated and strange 80 Mile Beach/-like existence which is completely unfair! This became startling apparent in our canyoning, sorry, I mean bushwalking trips in Karajini.

Hancock Gorge from the top.

Deciding to tackle Hancock Gorge and the "Spider Walk" first, this 400m Class 5 walk started with a short and sharp bang involving an almost vertical ladder. The gorge itself still looks rather benign, even with its narrow ledges just above the creek. But there comes a point in this short walk where you realise the 80 minute timeframe for 400 metres is completely justified. The first is where you take off your shoes to wade through about 30 metres of cold water (easy), and then when you're clinging to a rock face over the water,  edging along for another 50 metres or so. This took a really long time, with Fiela having to coach Marguerite across narrow and slippery ledges while he stood in water on a narrow slippery ledge. It wasn't steep or high, but the knowledge that the water is cold, the bottom rocky and the camera in my backpack expensive, well it was a long 50 metres. Di and Kit were right behind us and she fell, camera and all.
Looking back at the first harrowing bit of our Hancock Gorge Walk.
Sorry, didn't I mention who Di and Kit were? That's because they materialised behind us on this walk like an apparition in our travelling world, sent to encourage us verbally and by example. If I'm as agile, adventurous and hard working as these Grey Nomads when I'm in my sixties, I'll be very, very happy.
The Ampitheatre in Hancock Gorge.
We made it to the next section of the walk in time to realise that the last 15 minutes of tense rock negotiation wasn't actually the "Spider Walk". Your shoes stay off as you have a quick breather and size up the next section: a slippery,  dangerous looking chasm leading down into more cold water.
All nonchalance, ready to tackle the Spider Walk.
The spider walk is so called because you can negotiate it by placing your hands and feet on opposite walls and edge your way down to the bottom, thus theoretically keeping your shoes and feet dry (this is clearly discouraged through signage at the top, most of which reinforce the fact that if you take unnecessary risks like trying to keep your feet dry and you don't die, you certainly won't get medical treatment until at least 12 hours and a major SES operation later). Or you can walk through the water with your shoes off (it wasn't actually that slippery, using the walls as ballast before you get to Kermit's Pool, a serene and small body of water unfolding between the worn, smooth rock.

Kermit's Pool.
Looking back up into the Spider Walk.

Adrenalin Junkies.
Before we descended into this part of the walk I was considering sending Fiela down by himself and babysitting the kids at the considerably safer part of Hancock Gorge. But like two of a kind, the Fiela and Marguerite adrenaline train had already left, metres into the chasm before I could voice concerns for myself, sorry, I mean the kids, on this part of the walk. Down we went. Marguerite had a few tremulous moments (quite rightly) when she could feel and see that her hold on the smooth rock walls was tenuous. But again Fiela guided her down carrying Caesar the entire way, with me as useless as tits on a bull, bringing up the rear.

Fiela guiding Marguerite through. Meanwhile I can't even get the setting on the camera right

We finally made it to the bottom and marvelled. It wasn't hard to picture the sheer force and volume of the water which must career through this small chasm, weathering the rock every Wet Season and enchanting visitors during every Dry. Fiela jumped in for a well deserved swim, but again, chicken shit here doing the writing couldn't face the cold. Enter Stage Right Di and Kit who dived in like they were doing their morning laps at Bondi's Icebergs. They congratulated us on getting the kids down to the pools and told us a bit of their travel story, culminating in the tidbit that they had a Landcruiser ute (bakkie) to which they had affixed a roof top tent, travelling up to Karajini from South Autralia for a few months holiday (NB more chicken shit action as I related our story from the lofty heights of a Jayco Swan). Here they were, people in their sixties, doing it their way, throwing themselves into the experience and having a blast in the meantime. This seemed vastly different to the insulated crew we'd encountered from Broome and 80 Mile (and a few before that), whose daily past times were fixed to the day of the week and the time of the day.

Perhaps this is the point of difference: The Uys Huis was travelling for the purpose of seeing and doing, whereas an element of the Grey Nomad lot seemed to be travelling for the purpose of existing somewhere other than where they normally existed. What had happened to their sense of adventure? Of meeting new people? Of experiencing something out of their ordinary? And yes, again, 20 years after they'd done it the first time? So perhaps my beef isn't with those with grey hair who are travelling, but rather with those travelling with a grey attitude towards those and what is around them- and this extends to lots of people we've met on the road, not just Grey Nomads. Afterall, we're all on life's highway, it doesn't hurt to smile and wave.

 So anyway, Hancock Gorge was beautiful, we looked, we walked out: it took almost two hours with a swim (for an 800 metre round trip).
Into Weano Gorge. This also involved some ledge walking but since I'd already been up to my waist just to get to them, it seemed much less harrowing than our Hancock efforts.
We had lunch and then walked into Weano Gorge and down into the Handrail Pool. This was a similar walk in terms of difficulty, and yes, you HAD to use a handrail to get down to the bottom pool. Lots of shoes off action here as well and due to my latter rant and no doubt the fatigue I've hoisted upon the average reader's brain, I'll just post some photos of it.

One more gorge to go people, and then it's time to make for the coast.

The Uys Huis Hero, carrying the younger Uys Huis Troops.
The pointy end of Weano Gorge- around the bend in the rock walls is Handrail Pool.

Handrail Pool.

The Handrail.
Some crazy toddler halfway up a rock wall. No wait: that's Caesar.

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