Monday, 15 September 2014

Karajini National Park: Circular Pool and Fortescue Falls.

Karajini National Park is spectacular; an area of the Pilbara with deep gorges secretly cutting through the landscape, arterial blood red dirt, spiky spinifex  grass and faded looking trees dotting the landscape. The Uyshuis was a little ho-hum-ish about the gorge walks here in Karajini, but from the outset we could see they were vastly different from any walks we’d attempted before. And it was wonderful to be back in a national park, surrounded by seemingless endless untouched Pilbara landscape.
A typical Pilbara landscape of camouflage greens, blood red dirt and hidden jewels; in this case Circular Pool.

One of the more gentle descents into a Karajini Gorge, getting to Circular Pool was simple
compared to what we would experience in the coming days.
We camped the first night at Dales Campground, a national park run site overseen by the overly officious camp hosts. Perhaps they were volunteering on the premise that if they kept people in the campground for long enough, they’d get a kickback… I’m not sure but I really had to convince the lady who welcomed us (and took the fee for the night) that no, I wouldn’t be extending my stay and yes, one night was all I needed.

Circular Pool from the top.
Beautiful and frigid Circular Pool.

Anyhoo, we set up and went to Circular Pool in the afternoon. We’d read the walk was only a kilometre long and set off down into the gorge thinking it would be a quick 45 minutes with a swim. We hadn’t factored in the sheer drop in the gorge walls and the frigid temperature of the water. The afternoon light was spectacular and the walk was challenging in a hoisting yourself over rocks every now and then kind of way. The pool at the bottom was gorgeous but never receives warming sunshine, and after Fiela jumped in, I decided to follow suit and swim across to where warm water trickled down the circular walls. Marguerite had her swimsuit on and as soon as she saw us in the water also decided to swim across, despite our loud and emphatic protestations, the water being (at a guess) 9 degrees celsius at best. Luckily she’d shamed a young British backpacker who was umming and aahing about swimming through the pool to jump in also, as halfway across she started to succumb to hypothermia. He had swum with her, saw she was struggling and managed to drag her over to me on the ledge and the warmer water. Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but watching her eyes starting to widen in fear, her teeth chattering and her limbs slowing down, it all felt pretty real. She was never in real danger, with Fiela and I eagle-eyeing her across the pool, but it was a valuable lesson for Marguerite to literally test the waters before she should jump in.

That panicky moment over, we wrote our names on the walls with ochre along with every other graffiti artist of 2014, and walked back out. You can walk from here along the bottom of the gorge to Fortescue Falls but we felt lazy, and just went back to our noisy camp (thanks for the ringside seats to your midnight card games you French F*!kers).
A poor effort at capturing the size and dramatics of this gorge. 
The next day we tackled the Fern Pool and Fortescue Falls. Again the descent was incredibly steep but it wasn’t long, and considering the coolness of the day (26 degrees), I certainly wasn’t in the mood for a swim. Fiela and (surprisingly) Marguerite did though at Fern Pool, a peaceful little pool ringed by palms, ferns and gums, corellas screeching and the smell of bat poo faintly in the air. It was a beautiful spot and the water was definitely warmer than the previous day’s arctic forays. We also had the place to ourselves which was lovely.
Unperturbed, Marguerite was ready to hop in again at Fern Pool.
Fiela getting his zen on at Fern Pool.
We left the campground and headed up to the other end of the park and its more challenging walks at Joffre Falls and Weano Gorge. We’d heard they were spectacular, but not for the faint hearted. Surely it would be a walk in the park, a piece of cake… Wouldn’t it?

Tree hugging. Lucky eucalypt.
Ready to walk down to Fern Pool and Fortescue Falls.

Beautiful Fern Pool

Marguerite and Fiela.

Ferns at Fern Pool.

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