Hi there,

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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Karijini - Day Two

Putting aside our celestial disappointment from the night before, we were up bright and early the next morning to get ready for a big day of exploring. The next few days were going to be jam packed with spectacular scenery and many, many hours of wandering through magnificent gorges. Today, our destination was going to be pretty close to our campsite, needing only to wander 500 meters down the road to begin our adventure in Dales Gorge.

Dales Gorge was a spectacular trail that followed a babbling river through steep cliffs. It stretched from Fortesque falls at the top of the gorge to Circular Pool at the bottom.

Dales gorge - step right up!

Arriving at the entrance of Dales gorge, we found ourselves peering down one of the steepest sets of rough iron stairs I’d ever seen. The boys soon started bouncing down the steps like A.A. Milne’s Tigger, as Nat and I cautiously plodded behind.

Bouncy, bouncy, bounce!

Trudging down, we occasionally caught a glimpse of the gorge itself and several of the waterfalls that were crashing and cascading down below.

This way to Dales Gorge

Arriving at the bottom of the gorge, we took a quick jaunt to the right and passed under flock upon flock of bats. Seriously, these guys were hanging off every available tree branch, far above our heads. Passing through the thick undergrowth beneath these avian mammals, we soon burst into a clearing alongside Fortesque Falls. This area had been ravaged recently by bush fire and there were still remnants of burnt wood and ash scattered across the ground.

Near the wall of the cliff, there was a handwritten note that had been scribed by the local rangers. The note implored visitors to help with the clean-up effort by collecting any hitherto undetected nails from the burned wooden jetty that once stood here. It didn’t take long for our boys to find a nail or two, which they dutifully placed in the makeshift bin for the rangers to dispose of.

Bats of Fortesque Falls

Turning away from the sign at the bottom of the cliff, we were able to take in the full splendour of this valley oasis. A large lake, filled by a constantly churning waterfall, filled the entirety of the gorge. Hemmed in on three sides, the lake bubbled away from the water pouring in from above. Occasionally, little white patches could be seen floating on top of the waterscape, which (it soon became apparent) were made by a gaggle of galahs perched high in the trees above. Yet, not a drop of this nutrient rich effluent was missed by the many hungry fishy mouths that inhabited the waters below.

Making our way down to a little jetty, which jutted out a meter or so into the water, we could see throngs of fish schooling around the sturdy ladder that plunged into the crystal waters. These were very curious fish, which seemed to eat everything and anything that ended up in their pond. In fact, when we dangled our feet in the water, we soon found that some of the braver fish come up to take a nibble on our toes. While this started off tame enough, it didn’t take long for one fish to sink its teeth into our tender digits a little too hard… then another… and another... What!?

Despite the lake being filled with what turned out to be some form of carnivorous fish, the day was too hot and the water too lovely to not have a dip! So, one by one, we striped off and swam the 50 or so meters to the other side of the lake. Once there, we were able to bask under the pounding waters of the waterfall. As we’d found at several places along our journey, the water streaming down the falls was much warmer than that which had pooled in the chilly lake. So, it was nice to wash off and have the warm beating waters drum down on us. Who needs a shower when you have natural wonders like this…

Dales Gorge - Fortesque Falls

After a while we decided to say goodbye to Fortesque falls and continued our way down the length of Dale’s Gorge. As we dried off and got dressed, we watched as a gaggle of new visitors arrived and dangled their legs in the water… “Ouch” came one voice, whose owner had just realised that the fish bite pretty hard here. “Owww”, “Ouch”, “What the”… echoed her companions voices around the clearing. We wandered away with a little smile on our face.

Dales Gorge was pretty nifty. The river that flowed from Fortesque Falls meandered its way along the bottom of the ravine all the way to the end.  As we walked, we found that the walls of the gorge were reminiscent of large bars of chocolate, which had been stacked up high into the air. They were so smooth that they almost seemed unreal.

Dales Gorge - Stepping Stones

Picking our way down the gorge, we encountered many strange sights: water monitors scrambling over rocks, trembling piles of rocks holding up great swathes of cliffside, and huge trees stretching far out into the slowly meandering river. All along the journey, the rocks changed as well. They turned from blocks of chocolate into the finest and most interesting sedimentary rocks I’ve seen (and that includes the semester I spent studying rocks in my undergrad degree many moons ago). Seriously, look closely at the photo of the monitor lizard below to see what I mean!!

Dales gorge - water monitor, sedimentary rocks, rocks holding up cliff and tree over water

After an hour or so, the landscape changed once again. At first it opened out into a red rocky plateau that was strewn with boulders and stacks of rocks piled high by previous wanderers, and then it converged into a thick jungle of trees and saw toothed grasses.

Dales gorge - stacking rocks...

After making an obligatory contribution to the stacked rocks, we forged on further down the river. At this point, it was a little like walking out of a jungle and arriving on the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The walls of the canyon became nearly vertical, and the rock at the bottom had the appearance of several swimming pools which had been carved directly from the rock. However, the water in the bottom of each ‘swimming pool’ did not seem to have seen much swimming for several months. Algae clung to the sides of the naturally carved lidos, adding to the Indiana Jones-esque appearance.

Dales Gorge - Indiana Jones Rocks

After scrambling over rocks (and avoiding slipping into the acrid waters below), we eventually arrived at our reward for the hard work we’d put into this hike. The trees became thick again, signalling that we were approaching a water hole of some magnitude. And, sure enough, pulling our way through the vegetation, we glimpsed a sparkle of water ahead of us. This was followed by a burbling and gentle crashing of water from somewhere through the trees ahead of us. Hearing this, we knew we had made it!

Pulling ourselves through the last of the vegetation, we emerged into a broad clearing. Steep rocky cliffs plunged down to a deep circular pool at their base. Thus, we arrived at the aptly named Circular Pools.

Dales gorge - arriving at circular pool

However, as we were traversing the Indiana Jones portion of the trek, we happened to bump into Nat’s Play Group Buddy from the night before. Their family had started their trek at this end of the trail and had been making their way down to Fortesque Falls, from which we had just come. We gave them a few warnings about not keeping their toes still for too long in the lake, and they shared their knowledge of Circular Pools. Amongst their descriptions of the beauteous wonder that awaited us at the end of the trail, they also noted that we should be on the lookout for LEECHES. Yup, leeches! Apparently, the lake was filled with them…

Images flashing through our minds about the Leeches that awaited us!

 So, as we made our way over the last rocky berm and into the cool shade of Circular Pool, we were all a little hesitant to strip off and face the toothy annelids (Haemadipsidae sp) that inhabited these waters…

…that is, until the boys started egging each other on to see who would be the first to take the plunge. After all, these little lads had braved the croc infested waters of Lake Argyle… so why would they let a few leeches get in their way?!?

Dales gorge - circular pool

Unfortunately, try as I might, I wasn’t able to get a photo of the hundreds of leeches that were coiling their way through the waters near the shore. But, if you squint and turn your head to one side, you can just about make them out…

Leeches at Circular Pool

Emerging from the water, both boys were thoroughly checked for blood-sucking stowaways. To their disappointment, there was only one little blighter found on Ben’s ankle – which (to his dismay) popped off with little more than a flick of my finger. So, unfortunately, they didn’t have any great stories of horrific blood loss to share with their friends in school… 

After sunning themselves on the rocks for a while, the boys were ready to continue our journey back down the gorge and up the steep path to the top of the cliff. Climbing the sheer rock face, we eventually made it (somewhat breathless) to the top of the cliff. Fortunately, we were paid off tremendously for our efforts and were greeted by a magnificent top-down view of the ravine that we had spent the day navigating. From this vantage point, it was clear how rugged and vast this hole in the ground truly was.

Dales gorge - top of the cliff

And so, with the sun about the set, we made our way along the cliff top path towards home once more. Back home, we remembered the chip in our windscreen and decided it would probably be best to take a trip to the nearby visitor’s centre to make a few calls to find a place to get it fixed. Unfortunately, arriving at the visitor’s centre, being the weekend, we found that it was closed. So, hopping over the fence, I took a quick jaunt up the long driveway towards the only pay phone for many, many miles around (about 80 km or so). Thinking it would be a quick covert mission, I was surprised when I heard my two lads trotting up the path after me. So, with a quick lesson in how to appear like you belong in a place where you shouldn’t be, we soon arrived at the deserted centre and made a few calls. I managed to find a place in the nearby town of Tom Price, which would be able to fix our window first thing on Monday morning. Mission complete, the boys and I high tailed it back to the car and zipped off back down the road to our campsite.

Arriving back at camp, we found that the star gazing had unfortunately been cancelled for a second night in a row… so, we had dinner and headed back to our friends’ van for a proper catch up and to swap tales of our respective adventures. As we were heading in different directions, several useful tips were able to be garnered by both parties, while the kids played cards in the background.

Soon, it was time for bed and we made the 100 meter dash in the dark back to our home on wheels for the night. As we wandered home, we found that the stars had come out in force again. As such, we spent a little while gazing at the heavens before turning in for the night.

Tomorrow would be another big day…. Time for a kip.

Bye ‘d bye



  1. Ahhh. I remember that rock pillar & huge tree trunk (we have a very similar photo) & how freezing cold the water was!

    1. Oh my, was the water cold! But in the heat of the day, there was nothing better than a cool dip in those icy waters (although, it would have been nice not to be on the menu for the local wild life...).