Wednesday, 17 September 2014

How to survive a Class 5 Bushwalk with small children at Karajini National Park, Joffre Falls.

Once we'd managed to extricate ourselves from Dales Campground, we made our way north through Karajini toward the more challenging canyon, sorry I mean gorge, walks. Driving onto the dirt roads after a few weeks of bitumen was like ripping off that bandaid stuck on your arm and hairs: painful. I even braced myself and groaned when I could see the red stains from cars coming in the opposite direction off the dirt and back on to the bitumen. The dust billowed behind us and our smooth ride was again punctuated by the (very minor) corrugations. The flying dust even coated the trees on either side of the road, looking like great slashes in the pristine landscape, bloody cuts through the green flesh of the Pilbara.

Karajini Driving.

We stayed at the Karajini Eco Resort, which at twice the price of the Dales campground was more expensive, but there were showers and barbecues and it was just metres from some spectacular gorges. The first we tackled was Joffre Falls, a spectacular waterfall with a pretty full on walk involving some Class 5 sections- the most difficult kind. It all started fairly benignly, especially once the fun police at the top of the walk reminded me that there was a cliff and that it would be a long drop to the bottom for Marguerite. No shit Sherlock.  I'd managed to keep a lid on my burgeoning fear of heights and one of the kids careering off the edge, but after this unhelpful comment, adrenalin was already coursing through my body;  and we hadn't even come close to the tricky bits yet.

At the top of Joffre Falls, looking down the gorge.

My fears were slightly allayed though when we came to the top of the cliff, sorry I mean path,  and two young guys hoisting their kayak up over the lip. Seems they'd carried it down in the hope of paddling through the gorge, but it had narrowed so much they'd turned around 100 metres in. We admired and chuckled at their adventurous spirit, but felt pretty sorry for their kayak, small pieces of which could be found on numerous rocks all the way down to the bottom.

Looking down the gorge from halfway up the cliff.

So it couldn't be that bad, could it? Yep, it was pretty steep, and in places I felt like Tom Cruise at the start of the second Mission Impossible movie where he's hanging off some rock. The only difference of course was that I wasn't getting paid squillions and Tom Cruise wasn't guiding Suri down the cliff. Fiela, the hero of our walking expedition yet again guided us down, lifting Marguerite onto the rocks her little Class 5 legs couldn't get to, carrying Caesar and checking on how my hyperventilation was going all at the same time... Truly, it probably wasn't that bad, but when you're using your arms almost as much as your legs to climb down, it ain't an easy walk! Of course Fiela and Marguerite loved it, joined by Caesar who was gagging to get out of the carrier and join in the rock climbing action.

Cliff climbing markers.

The pools of water at the bottom were frigid,  another watercourse seeing perhaps only an hour of warming sunshine per day. It was spectacular of course, layers of rock having been worn away by eons of  Wet season rains, smooth stones which clearly feel the brunt of months of water charging through this small crevasse in the vast Pilbara. And high! The sky felt like it was a loooong way away.

We explored the bottom of the gorge as best we could without more hypothermia and hyperventilation. Fiela braved the waters and swam up and around the bend in the gorge to have a good look at the falls. They're about 35 metres tall and the water falls down lots and lots of curved rock shelves.  Caesar was making the most of being let out of the carrier and was zooming up this cliff face and that and could only be diverted to throwing rocks in the water (a much safer activity) from time to time. It was also getting late in the afternoon and let's be honest, I just wanted to get those kids on some flat ground where the possibility of broken bones was considerably less.

The 'walk' out of Joffre Falls.

We climbed out and realised it would have been quicker to walk from our camp than driven and since we were all quite tired we drove straight home without bothering to see the Knox Gorge lookout a few hundred metres away. We learnt from friends later that it was spectacular, yet another Significant Sightseeing Oversight  from the Uyhuis Travel Journal of Regrets.

The gorge bottom.

Anyway, the showers back at camp were solar powered,  and since the  weather had turned cool and cloudy, our cleanse was brief that night to say the least. The barbecue facilities were awesome though,  and did our steaks proud (I'm not sure what they're feeding the cows up this end of Australia, but the scotch fillet has been uniformly excellent no matter whether it's from a butcher, supermarket or the freezer section of a tiny village store). And despite another dodgy night's sleep thanks to a trio of German lads playing cards next door til 12am, I was feeling better about tackling the really difficult walks (one in particular called the 'spiderwalk')  tomorrow after our trauma-less Joffre jaunt.

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