Mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life – John Muir.
When it comes to remembering my travels throughout Australia (see my top fifteen moments here), I can’t look back and not smile when I think of travelling the Western Coast in WA. The west coast is a part of Australia that a lot of backpackers miss out on during their first year of working/travelling Australia because everyone raves about the east coast so much. I guess that’s because it’s basically party central for five to six weeks which is what a lot of backpackers look forward to most during their Australia travels. It is fantastic, but the west coast is so much more brilliant.
Karijini National Park was a complete highlight of my entire year of travelling, probably one of – if not the – best parts of Australia. I wrote about switching off from the rest of the world back in February and it completely made the entire two days in the national park feel like bliss. Despite the sweltering heat (and I’m talking 40 degrees plus!), the sun beaming down, the mosquito bites that itched so so much, and that time I went to the loo when a sneaky snake was under the toilet seat, I had the best time, and I cannot express that enough. I am known for hating exercise (apart from gym sessions), especially in the sunshine and heat, and I definitely have an absolute hatred for flies after this trip, but it was just fantastic and I would happily do it all over again, for longer if necessary because I was so, so ecstatic and truly happy.
The park itself is a thing of beauty, with the tallest trees in lush green, the coolest pools and lakes with waterfalls and gorges that are stunning; there were a lot of rocks and nooks and crannies that were hard to walk on but that is what made it all the more fun. It is split into two sides (it’s that huge): the east side and the west side. Top tip: don’t be the fool who wears flip flops or sandals because you will hurt yourself; and take so much water. I cannot express that enough!
There are five gorges of which we explored four of them, so it’s a lot of land to get through. If you’re thinking of visiting Karijini National Park, I’d recommend staying there overnight – there are fab camping areas and if you’re in a big group, you can have whole areas to yourself!
Dales Gorge (East)
We explored Dales Gorge on the first day of our two-day stay in Karijini National Park. There, we had three swims (so it was definitely a bikini kinda day!) in Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls & Fern Pool which has an indigenous name of Jubaru. It was here that we learned more about the aboriginal culture, as the national park used to be home to many tribes. We learned of the plants that both cure and poison humans, of which are used as healing remedies and forms of punishments; we learned of what the boys are taught and what the girls are taught; at what ages the boys go on walkabout, and we sat at a teaching place, a rock surrounding by trees and animals which was spectacular.
Hancock Gorge, Joffrey Gorge and Weano Gorge (West)
These three were in the western part of the park which are home to Junction Pool (Hancock), Handrail Pool (Weano Gorge), Kermit’s Pool and Spiders Walk (both Hancock). There was a lot of ground to cover in just one day but we definitely used our time wisely thanks to our 6am wake up call and ate burgers to fuel us at lunch time, whilst playing card games and sitting in the shelter.
Red Gorge (West)
Unfortunately, when we went, the Red Gorge was inaccessible and so we could only look out to it from where it connected to Joffrey Gorge. It’s still pretty spectacular, and if I remember rightly it had a huge, huge winding path to get down into the gorge itself which would have definitely upped the heart rate.
GRADE 4 & 5 WALKS
The Spider Walk was the walk that we had been warned about in terms of if we were going to have an accident, it would be along this walk, and so we had to be super careful and not mess around. I was nervous; like I said I’m not the most outdoorsy person, and it looked pretty scary. We went in groups of four or five with Dane – our tour guide (more on him and the tour soon!) – leading the way. Once we got over a large rock, it did become easier and I ended up having the absolute time of my life because it was a real-life, natural, pool slide! It was fab! You don’t see people wearing bikinis and swimming trunks with their trainers on sliding down rocks everyday.
Other walks didn’t necessarily have a name, but some were very challenging, and others weren’t so bad. I think hiking back up to the entrance of Dales Gorge was pretty hectic in terms of sweat, blood and tears – but not so bad as it was basically rock steps. Still tough.
Named after Kermit the frog because it is home to a lot of frogs, apparently. I didn’t see any, which means the snakes must have eaten them all! This is the pool that you have to walk through Spiders Walks to get to, and believe me it is worth it. The water is warm; the sun seeps through the high rocks (because at this point you’re technically underground in terms of rock layers and formations); the view to the next waterfall, gorge and pool is incredible – you have to have Grade 6 permits to be able to wander down that beauty, however.
This was another slightly tricky pool to get to, and when you hear a scream and a splash from a fellow traveller, it means that it’s also pretty dangerous. The water is in a slight stream as it goes down into the waterfall overlooking the actual pool; and you have to hold on pretty tight to the handrail all the way around, before climbing the ladder down to the rocky surface. Basically: get your Lara Croft Game Face on. The pool is, again, incredible – and so much more enjoyable after you’ve climbed down parallel to a waterfall to get to it.
Fern Pool (Jubaru)
Fern Pool is the first stop off water-wise – depending on which way you enter Dales Gorge – and it is stunning. I would go back in a heartbeat. The turquoise waters blend into aqua and green, creating a surreal spot of beauty. Its indigenous name is Jubaru. All of the pools in Dales Gorge are very special to the aboriginal community and should be treated with respect, as should all parts of beautiful nature. A small cove lies here too of which you can sit behind a cascading “waterfall” and feel the natural waters cool you down. Be careful when getting up and sliding off again as it’s really slippery and can hurt if you smack your bum!
The second pool in Dales Gorge is Circular Pool which, again is a beautiful turquoise, green pool surrounded by greenery and rock formations. However, this is more open and so you get to see the bright blue sky overlooking the entire park. It’s a lovely area to chill out, soak off and have a cooling swim after hiking in the sweating sun for a couple of hours.
The Junction Pool lookout is a popular one as you get the see the most amazing views which will stun and astonish you. Deep into the gorge lies Junction Pool which looks like a tiny, slim river but once you’re down there it opens up in a pool which is relaxing just as it is beautiful.
Another beautiful area where you can hang out and cool off in the pool surrounding Fortescue Falls. The pool is shallow enough to stand and the waterfall is mesmerising. Careful though! I’m pretty sure one of the lads in our tour saw a snake in the waters.
I stood on ground which was billions of years old and I could look up towards the higher rocks and see the land which is from the age when dinosaurs roamed the earth. To put it into perspective: the dinosaur age was five layers of rock, and we were seventy layers of rock down in the gorge. That is crazy to me.
It is beyond breathtaking and I have to urge any backpacker in Australia to go to Karijini National Park because there is so much beauty and history there. As always, I wish I had taken more photos.
Have you visited?
Love Faye xo