The Karijini national park lies in the north of Western Australia. To get there you have to diverge from the road along the coast and therefore some people skip it altogether. A wasted opportunity, because the park is full of adventure.
Upon entering the park you have to sign yourself in and pay an entrance fee. A bit further along the road is a good information center where you can get maps of the park and its popular areas, learn about the history and nature and buy some souvenirs.
The park is pretty big and the roads are not always sealed. Luckily you can get to Dales Campground and day use area by a sealed road. At the day use area you can descend into Dales gorge over big rocky steps. Soon there’s a beautiful waterfall; Fortescue Falls. You can go for a swim, or wait for the Fern Pool swimming hole a bit further on. Fern Pool has little fish that nibble on your feet if you stick them in the water, so you have a natural spa. The water is refreshing and it’s a very peaceful spot. You can make the walk through the gorge among the lush trees, over the rocky bottom. If this is a bit too strenuous, there’s a short walk along the rim, which gives some beautiful views of the canyon. Dales campground is a big area with several loops. There are barbecues and gas stoves for everyone to use and there are (stinky) toilets.
Another day can be dedicated to the Weano day use area on the other side of the park. The road is bumpy and unsealed, so if you’re not in a 4WD, it’ll take some time to get there. I think we went at about 20km/h, which was in an old campervan at slug speed. Suddenly a 43km leg is a long one. The pots and pans were ringing in the back and we were greeted by the dust that came in through the open windows. We made it though.
There are several walks, of which two are not for the faint hearted but definitely worth it. The first one took us to Handrail Pool. It starts with a steep descend into a wide canyon. There are trees and the bottom is rocky. There was still water at the bottom and trying to keep you shoes dry was rather pointless. The canyon gets smaller and smaller towards the end. The walk isn’t long, but poses some challenges. At the very end you are walking between two huge walls, with water streaming around your feet. Then comes the tricky dangerous bit: the handrail. The rock is too steep to walk on, so you’ll have to swing yourself around the handrail and let it lead you down. It took me some time to find the courage, but I was rewarded by the cool water in the pool.
For a bit of canyoning you could swim a bit further into the canyon. We left our things behind at the pool so they wouldn’t get wet and started swimming. The water was sometimes deep and sometimes shallow, but rocky wherever you went. It paid off to feel with your hands where you were going, but I ended up with bruised knees anyway. There was a little bit of climbing over the rocks before we reached the end. The canyon continued, but safety urged us to stop. That, and the sign that said entry only with a permit. You exit the same way as you came.
After a lunch to get our energy back, we ventured into Hancock gorge to reach Kermit’s pool. In the canyon we entered another little paradise. When the rocks ended, we had to use two ladders to get down. Since my feet were already wet, I didn’t have to try to keep them dry. Swimming through the canyon was the easiest option, but we had to keep our cameras dry. There were rocks with small ledges on which you could walk if you were careful. At some points there were ledges underneath the water, so that you could wade your way through.
An open space named Cathedral was perfect for a little break before we started spider walk. I didn’t see that many spiders, but you had to walk through as if you were a spider. It was narrow and slippery and my hands held firmly onto the rock walls. For the extra challenge mother nature had placed some rocks in the middle of the path. Kermit’s Pool was a narrow pool and at the end there was another sign with no enty. Instead of driving all the way back to Dales campground we spent the night at the Rest in Peace lookout just before the township of Tom Price.
The next day we made our way into Karijini once more. We went to the very end of the park to visit Hammersley gorge, again over unsealed road. This one was much better than the one to Weano though. There was easy access to the water by descending some well carved steps. This makes Hammersley a popular place for families as well. We took down a picknick and relaxed at the water’s edge. A big water monitor made its rounds while we entered the water. You could swim into the gorge. The water was deep and cool. It’s cool to see the big red cliffs from a frog’s point of view.
Hammersley was a nice, relaxing way to end our visit to Karijini. We refueled at Tom Price and made our way back along the long road to the coast. We took a short cut over unsealed road. If you are prepared it can save you time. For us it meant car trouble and still being in the middle of nowhere in the dark. So before you plan on taking the ‘short’ route, think! O… and did I mention Karijini is very photogenic?