Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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http://theblackstump.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/.

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Monday, 24 July 2017

Karijini - first night



Date:
13 -17 /06/2017
Location:
Karijini National Park (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
1123 km
Temperature:
Min:
15.4

Max:
29.9
Windscreens cracked
1… (Oh, bugger…)

In my last post, I said that there would be a few kilometres to cross before we got to our next destination… and, oh boy, I wasn’t kidding! In the three days that it took us to arrive at Karijini National Park we covered over 1100 kilometres – and, I might add, all this was done without too much huffing or puffing from the kids (they’re angels, really, they are!).

 Having left Cape Leveque bright early, we picked up our van from Broome and made our way down the Great Northern Highway (following the Western Australia coast for 646 kilometres) to a little roadhouse in an even littler town (a collection of buildings at best… some may have even possibly been houses), named Pardoo. 

Sunset outside of Pardoo

I tried to find some interesting facts about Pardoo to inform and educate the masses who are now flocking to read this blog (thanks to both of you for tuning in!!). But, sadly, the most interesting fact I could find about this gem of a town, was that if you booked site at the road house and cancelled it 14-days prior to arriving, you would be charged a $25 cancellation fee… Fair enough, nothing unusual there… However, a shrewd reader of the cancellation policy would find, if you were to cancel within 10 days of arriving, you would be charged 50% of the fee. Now, here’s where it gets really interesting…. (Oh ho, tally ho, does it what!?!). Since a powered site costs $30, by these rules, it would actually cost less to cancel at the last minute – than it would if you were being a good citizen and gave plenty of notice…

…Even worse, if you booked an unpowered site ($12), by these rules you would pay twice as much by cancelling a couple of weeks early. So, in that case, it’s probably best to simply just not turn up…

Pardoo Roadhouse cancellation policy - it might need a bit of a rethink...

Other than that, there’s not much else to say about Pardoo. We arrived, we ate, we slept… (Oh, and we avoided the showers like the plague – mainly because they looked like they might well give us the plague if we went anywhere near them!).

Road to Karijini National Park

Moving on the next morning, we hit the road hard once more. A further 400 kilometres were added to the odometer before we finally pulled up as Auski Tourist Village. As with Pardoo, this was a stop with a purpose; a place to lay our weary heads before we ventured into Karijini national park. A quick check of Google Maps confirmed that, yup, we had finally reached the middle of nowhere

Thanks to Google for showing us exactly how far we are for anywhere...

The Auski Tourist Village (chuckle, village, oh yeah… pull the other one!), was a nice and tidy collection of cabins, amenities and grassy lawn. All of which just seemed to materialise out of the Great Northern Highway as we trundled down the road. Situated on the outskirts of Karijini National Park, Auski wasn’t so much a destination in itself, but rather a cosy place to visit on the way to somewhere else.

The boys, however, took full advantage of the almost empty campsite. Running amuck without anyone to say ‘shhh’ or ‘watch my car’, they could zip around about the grounds like crazy until dark. The only thing that slowed them down, at least for a little while, was the curious sight of a young women wandering through the caravan park with a tiny little wallaby hopping along behind her.

The boys gawped in awe at this wallaby whisperer. Whenever she stopped, the joey stopped. Whenever she moved forward, the joey hopped after her. After a while, the boys approached her and asked how she had cast this magic over the small bundle of fur. It turns out, the little Joey had been rescued from birth when its mother had been killed by a car (a very common story, unfortunately). They joey-whisperer had reared it since then and she would do so for the next few months before it could fend for itself and go back to the wild.

With a nod from their dad, the boys followed the lady and her joey back to their home and gave it a bottle before tucking it up into bed. As Daniel returned to our campervan, gleaming with excitement, he told us all about his time swaddling the joey and rocking it to sleep.

Soon, the boys were in bed too. And so, that was the end of our Auski experience.

The next day, we were up early so we could head into Karijini National Park before the rest of the travelling folk woke up. It was a short journey, only 80 Kilometres or so; which was a walk in the park after the last few days.


Welcome to Karijini!!

The reason for the early start was that the Dales Campsite at Karijini was not able to be booked. At times, getting in here can be a bit of a gamble (like the proverbial snowball, who decided to roll through the netherworld…). But, fortunately for us, since it was the beginning of the season there were still a few camp sites free at this early hour of the day. Mind you, it was by no means empty. Rather, this spacious campsite, was filled nearly to the brim with trailers, tents and caravans, of all makes, models and descriptions – with half a dozen or so sites free for those of us hoping to turn up and stay.

However, before I get ahead of myself, there is a little factoid that I should probably share at this juncture. On our way, driving south between Auski and the Dales Gorge camp site, we happened to chance upon a patch of road works along the Great Northern Highway. Now, road works were nothing new on our travels… In fact, a day without slowing down to pass a line of bollards was simply unheard of. But, on this fateful morning, all those road signs indicating flying rocks suddenly came back to haunt us.

Uh oh... where's this going?!?

There we were, merrily wending our way down the highway; slowing down here and there for the many stretches of road works on the main byway. Traffic was crawling in both directions and we settled down for a family chat about the splendours we had encountered over the past few days. Then, as the traffic got rolling again, there was an almighty “CRACK” from the windscreen.

"What was that” Nat and I both exclaimed, as we fervently scoured the windscreen for any signs of damage. Unfortunately, it didn’t take us long to spot the sizeable gash in the bottom half of the window, right between passenger and driver seats.

“Oh, bugger”, we both exclaimed, knowing there was little we could do about it right now.

The crack itself was more akin to a meteor crater than an immediate shattering of glass. The wayward stone had left a decent chip in our windscreen – but luckily it was holding… for now.

Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be in a place where we could get the chip repaired for a few days. So, for now, we just had to make the most of it and hope the crack didn’t spread. As such, we continued down the road until we reached the Dales campsite of Karajini National Park.

~~...~~

Set in the Hamersley Ranges, in the heart of the Pilbara region, the Dales campsite was just a stone’s throw from Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool. Both these bodies of water were collections that had formed along the length of the Fortescue river.

Pulling into the campsite, we were greeted by the camp hosts – an odd match of an elderly German women and a middle aged Australian man. The Aussie gentleman was keen to chat and seemed ready to help with any queries or quandaries we might have regarding the area (although, he didn’t have a whole lot of answers to these enquiries – save for botanical and animalia knowledge of the region); whereas das fräulein had much knowledge – but getting it out of her was not an easy task. She ran the camp with an iron fist, and shortly after arriving we watched her lock horns with a few fellow travellers whose sites had been given away because she hadn’t expected then to extend their stay before the required 9:00am deadline (…it was 7:39am when we arrived: ‘Oh, no”, I thought, she was one of those… a regular “Hör auf die Macht meiner Zwischenablage”)

Still, the newly found clip board grinch seemed to be swayed somewhat by our two little lads and their earnest curiosity about the area. And so, we were duly granted entry into her park. “Have a great time” called the rotund Aussie chap, calling out to us from the shadows of the camp hosts’ hut. “Look out for those Dawson's burrowing bees near the entrance to the park. Oh, and the fruit bats are roosting and ready to leave. You’ll find then at the entrance to Circular Pool”, the Aussie bloke called.

Turning one last time at the door, I wanted to make sure the Aussie bloke wasn’t trying to signal me in some surreptitious way that he was being held prisoner by die Frau mit der Zwischenablage.

“Entrance to the park…”, my memory echoed. “Ready to leave…”, it came again…

But, turning to the squat Aussie camp host, he gave me a cheery little wave and turned back to his books on the flora and fauna of the region. Ah well, if he was indeed facing his last days on this earth, he seemed happy enough to be doing what he was doing… I’ll check in on him in a few days and make sure he’s still flicking through those books (fingers crossed, right?)

And so, with site number in hand, we made our way through the maze of dirt tracks that led across this vast camp ground. The Dales Campsite was certainly spread out. I believe it might have been designed this way, so that travellers are able to get a sense of what it is like to park up in the middle of nowhere and truly experience Karajini National Park.

Eventually, we stumbled across the wee space in which we were to park our trailer. It was a cheeky little number, tucked in amongst some low-lying scrub; and only 20 meters or so from the nearest toilet. Not a bad little place to plonk ourselves for a few days.

Being early in the morning, we were able to set up and get going before the sun rose too high in the sky. So, knocking together a picnic and filling a few bottles with water, we set off.
 
As always, our first stop was to check out the local visitor’s centre; in the hopes that we might gain a little knowledge about what we were getting ourselves into. The Karijini Visitor Centre was quite cool. Lots of displays about the flora and fauna or the region, as well as tales about the local peoples who made this fertile patch their own. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to take advantage of this until our second or third day. As it turns out, there had been some visitor centre catastrophe, which meant it wouldn’t be open until mid-morning. And so, lacking the maps or local knowledge we’d hoped to acquire, we returned to our car empty handed – save for a quick soccer lesson from a group of South American tourists who were also waiting for the centre to open too (man, do these guys know how to wait… never a dull moment with our Brazilian friends!)

However, unlike the Latina chaps and chapettes, we were not inclined to wait patiently – the day was quickly burning away and we wanted to get moving. So, we turned our wheels in the direction of the Kalamina gorge and zipped back down the road.

Arriving at Kalamina, we jumped out of the car and set off to explore the wilderness laid out at our feet. Scrambling down a rough-cut flight of rocky stairs, we eventually made our way to the bottom. The view on the way down was gorgeous; so too were the sights that awaited us at the bottom. Lush vegetation was interspersed with rocky outcrops and cascading waters. What more could an intrepid adventurer want?




Kalamina gorge - the path begins...

Hitting the bottom of the gorge, we were given the choice of two directions in which to wander… left or right. From our vantage point, we could see that the river ended in a shallow waterfall to the right – so after checking that out for a few minutes, we continued downstream to the left.



Kalamina gorge

The path through Kalamina Gorge was mostly flat and smooth. Apart for the occasion boulder to hop over, there was little more to do than enjoy the scenery. Unless, of course, you’re a wee lad named Daniel; who decided that every pond needed to be livened up a little by having a rock thrown into it.

Other than the occasional ‘plop’ or ‘sploosh’ (depending on the size of rock Daniel had selected), the canyon was quiet and serene.



Kalamina Gorge, the path continues...

The rains hadn’t been through this way for some time, and great mats of algae had managed to take root on the bed of the river that ran through the gorge. At times, these ochre mats seemed to be alive, particularly as the gentle waters of the river undulated them in its current. The kids gave these amoeboid structures a wide berth, and watched them closely as they move by some arcane sort of magic… Definitely bad juju!

Bad juju algae in Kalamina Gorge

After fording our way across several streams, the gorge soon came to a sudden halt. No more path meant no more wandering. So, we sat down to have a slice of Coles finest Madeira Cake, then turned on our heels and wandered home. The boys were a little disappointed that there was no swimming hole at the end of the gorge, particularly as we had been spoiled by the resplendent water holes encountered in every gorge on the trip to date… But, alas, this algae filled trench was not destined to be one of those…



Kalamina Gorge - the end of the path...

And so, we wandered home for our first night in Karijini National Park. As we were setting up the last remnants of our trailer, we heard a screech of brakes and a grinding of gravel coming from somewhere nearby. On the road in front of us was a huge trailer, the likes of which our boys had only dreamed of towing. Out of the front passenger seat of the suddenly halted car came a sun-kissed women, who approached our trailer with a cautious, yet assured demeanour.

She named us one by one, and then introduced herself as one of Nat’s playgroup friends; harking back to when Daniel was a newly hatched bundle of joy. Fiona and her partner, Peter, along with their two kids (G and C; names omitted in case their parent don’t want them to soar to internet fame after appearing in this blog) had been on the road for the past 6 months. They still had another 6 months to go, and Nat had been in contact with them while they had been away. We had a vague idea that they would be in this neck of the woods and Nat had hoped to catch up with them. But, as it turns out, die Frau mit der Zwischenablage had done the work for us. They have been assigned a plot of earth less than 100 meters away!

Raiding the fridge for a bottle of wine and the pantry (such that it is) for some nibbles, we quickly mooched off to spend the early part of the evening with these newly formed/long lost friends. However, unfortunately we had already booked ourselves in for an evening under the stars with a local astronomer touting his wares in this neck of the woods. So, we scoffed dinner, had some hurried drinks and nibbles, and zipped off down the road to join in with the astronomical wonderment that we had signed up for. Sadly though, when we got to the proposed site of our star gazing, we found that it had been called off due to cloud cover (I had driven down to the site less than an hour ago and the sign still said the observation night was still on… ho hum!)

So, forlornly we returned to the campsite, were we found the mother’s group party had retired for the night. So, we headed to our trailer to get some sleep; ahead of our next big day of gorge wandering tomorrow.

When I say head to bed, I mean Nat and the boys got some shut eye. I, however, stayed out to chip away at this blog. After an hour or so of collating photos and coming up with the most witty of prose, I happened to look up (searching for my next quip or hackneyed metaphor). When I did, I was left gob smacked! The clouds had lifted and the full explosion of stars appeared in the firmament. Such a shame, it really would have been wonderful to see then through some powerful telescopes. Ah, well, there’s always tomorrow!

But for now, it’s time for me to get some shut eye of my own.

Bye ‘d bye

Gregg

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