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Travel Australia with Kids

Tuesday 4th October 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Thursday, October 06, 2011

Bid a sad farewell to wonderful Broome and did a few hops (well that's a relative term I guess as each "hop" was at least 200km - I thought the distances in NT were bad, but nothing compared to WA!) southward towards Karijini National Park - we spent one night each at:

* Barn Hill Station - lovely open caravan park on one of the countless massive sheep and cattle stations along the way, huge expanse of beach perfect for shell fossicking, lots of rockpools for more exploration and a very social spot!  We met 2 other around-Australia-families with children roughly the same age as ours (P & K with their 3 kids, D, S and L and G & R with their 2 boys T and D), which meant lots of free time for adult conversation.  Great night!

* 80 Mile Beach - hands down the best shell fossicking beach EVER! We travelled along the beach for about 20km to get to the creek entrance and were rewarded with total seclusion (not another soul in sight!) and an abundance of large shells. The tides here are absolutely enormous - at least 1km of exposed mud flats at low tide.  And it's the fishing destination of choice, although the day we were there the wind had picked up and most people were just catching seaweed.  We had travelled down with the 2 families we had met at Barn Hill, so more playing for the kids and more socialising for us.

* Cape Keraudren - magnificent views and excellent boating in the calm lagoon, but the midges swarmed in like I'd never seen before: one minute I was inside enjoying a lovely breeze and reading my book and the next I was swatting away more and more of them.  When the boys came back from their boating for some morning tea, we had to keep picking them off the fruit!  There was absolutely no escaping them short of closing all the windows, which would have meant stifling heat, so we packed up very quickly and moved on.

We had intended to stay a couple of nights at Port Hedland, but the caravan park was full and booked out for the next few weeks, so we stocked up on supplies and did a bit of night driving, with a game of dodgem-cows thrown in for fun, to reach our rest stop for the night (that was a huge day - 5 hours of driving). We entered the lovely country around Karijini and the start of the Hammersley Ranges.  We stayed in the "Cockatoo" camp area at Dales Campground for 4 days - the days were quite hot and the sites were completely unshaded, but we used our tarp to provide ample shade and there were plenty of swimming holes for cooling off.  There are quite a few gorges within the park to explore (if only we were younger, fitter and had more time) - we chose a couple of the more popular ones.

One day was spent exploring the gorges around Dales Campground: there are some great lookouts along the rim walk and then a steep climb down into the gorge which leads to the swimming areas.  The walk to Fortescue Falls along the gorge floor was lovely and cool (lots of shade from the trees and gorge walls) with plenty of interesting rock formations and a couple of slippery creek crossings for some adventure.  Fortescue Falls themselves were lovely, but a bit too exposed to the hot sun, so we moved on to beautiful Fern Pool for a swim.  The water was just perfect for a cool off - the kids decided to stay around the boardwalk steps and sneak their crackers to feed the congregating school of fish, while Mike and I took turns swimming out to the waterfall, which was like a warm shower!  Absolutely magnificent!

A whole day was needed to explore the other side of the park (Weano Gorge) with even more astonishing gorges.  Joffre Falls and Knox Falls were both very picturesque (mental note to explore them next time) and the Oxer and Point Junction lookouts were very humbling - I really got the insignificance of the time humans spend on this planet!  Then onto our favourite gorge adventure so far...Hancock Gorge, Kermit Pool and the Spider Walk!  Another steep climb down to start with (this time helped by a couple of steel ladders), then a shallow pool crossing (a bit slippery in parts making me very nervous carrying my indispensable camera across), followed by a mini-gorge swim (had to leave all our gear including camera behind at this stage) which led to a lovely natural amphitheatre, then the Spider Walk (where the walls of the gorge are only 50cm apart so you can walk along with legs and arms on either side like a spider) which we chose to slide down (loads more fun and very very slippery from all the algae) which finally led to beautiful and cool Kermit Pool.  The walk continues from there, but only for very experienced (and somewhat crazy) people with abseiling and caving equipment.  I can't recommend this gorge walk highly enough - it was a melding of wonderous views and adventurous scrambling; it made you work to get there and you appreciated it all the more for it.

We made a day trip into Tom Price for the Rio Tinto Mine tour which was very interesting (great tour guide) - we saw one of the open cut mines and did a drive by tour of the processing facilities.  But of course the major attraction is those impossively massive dump trucks!  They have got to be seen to be believed - and we heard a few horror stories of them running over 4WD cars (with people in them!!!) and not even feeling the bump underneath!  We had lunch at basically the only food place open on the day - a Chinese restaurant which made me remember fully why I haven't eaten Chinese food in a decade! Then we drove up a very steep and rocky 4WD track to the top of Mount Nameless (I'm sure they could think of a name if they only tried a bit harder) for fabulous views of the mines, the township and the surrounding landscape.

Now we've seen our fare share of gorges and national parks, but it was a unanimous vote that Karijini had the best gorges!  Shame it's so far from everything - we spent the next day driving all the way back towards Port Hedland (no pain no gain)!


Beachside at Barn Hill Station - WA (25Sep11)Beachside at Barn Hill Station - WA (25Sep11)Rock formations - Barn Hill Station, WA (25Sep11)Rock formations - Barn Hill Station, WA (25Sep11)
Shell fossicking - 80 Mile Beach, WA (26Sep11)Massive tides and tidal flats - 80 Mile Beach, WA (26Sep11)The result of our shell fossicking endeavours! - 80 Mile Beach, WA (27Sep11)Hopeful fisherman on the beach - 80 Mile Beach, WA (27Sep11)
Sunset at Cape Keraudren - WA (27Sep11)Boating at Cape Keraudren - WA (28Sep11)Start of the Hammersley Ranges - WA (29Sep11)View from rim of Dales Gorge - Karijini National Park, WA (30Sep11)

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