A week ago we left the turquoise waters of the Ningaloo Reef and drove inland, into the Pilbara, a region in Australia’s northwest that is more than 400,000 square kilometres.
I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of this varied landscape, so different from anything I’ve ever seen. Tufts of spinifex grass, golden yellow in the late afternoon light, dot the red earth. Sometimes it’s flat and desolate; other times there are rolling hills, or plateaued red mountains. We drove past mines and Aboriginal communities.
We drove and drove and camped by the side of the road near the banks of a dried-up river bed, where the girls collected iron ore rocks, smoothed by running water during the wet season. All the rivers and creeks that we passed over were dry.
The next day we drove some more and finally arrived at Karijini National Park. The traditional owners of this park are the Banyjima, Yinhawangka and Kurrama people, who have been here for over 30, 000 years. It’s places like this that remind me how odd it is that Australia’s national anthem begins, “Australians let us all rejoice, for we are young and free” when Australia is home to the longest continuous culture on earth.
This park was the highlight of our trip thus far. It’s filled with dramatic red gorges that lead down to cool, green fresh water pools: perfect swimming holes. In summer, the temperatures can get above 50 C (over 122 F). But now in “winter”, it’s only 29 (84 F).
On our third day we walked down the steep descent into Hancock Gorge and arrived at a place where we had to walk with water up to our shoulders. And that was the easy bit!
Then there was the narrow Spider Walk where we climbed over running water with hands and feet on either sides of the narrow gorge. At the end, we got to Kermit’s, a green pool, cooled by the shade, and plunged into the cold water. K did the Spider Walk twice, the second time with no hands.
We spent four amazing days in Karajini, camped in a lovely bush setting with no wind and hardly any flies! Our neighbours were a freindly young couple, who came over for drinks one evening. Shane was an electrician, luckilly; he fixed the connection between our solar panels and the batteries used to power our fridge and lights. Thanks Shane!
Another highlight was swimming at the idyllic Fern Pool with pygmy perch who nibble at your toes, black bats hanging from the trees above and loud squawking corellas flying overhead. The pool is cool, but the waterfalls feeding the pool come off the hot rocks and they’re warm, creating a natural shower.
Next, it’s on to the mining town of Newman, to visit a Welsh friend.