Week 19 – Trains, Gorges and Contaminated Towns

Our run back to Karijni was significantly drier than when we had made the run out from Tom Price to Karratha. It was amazing to see how quickly the boggy roads we had come out on had dried up. We had a lovely drive out to Milstream Chichester National Park and stopped for lunch at Python Pool. Then headed to Deep Reach and the Milstream Homestead. After lunch we started the main run down the Rio Tinto road again and turned off towards Hammersley Gorge free camp. The free camp was a beauty, so we spent two nights here.

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Hammersley Gorge was quite spectacular as our first gorge in the Karijini area and we were pretty sure it was only going to get better. The rock formations and layers of twisted rock was a sight to behold. We headed back to our camp for a quick bite to eat before braving a hazardous and risky area to check out a little town called Wittenoom. For those that do not know about it check out this story: Wittenoom – Home of Australian Asbestos. Needless to say we didn’t get out, the aircon to was set to internal circulation and the windows only came down for a few photos. But it was cool to drive through the almost deserted town. It would be wonderful to head down to where the mine was one day, but we’ll make sure we have the right protective gear next time.

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We arrived in at Dales Campground in Karijini after spending a lovely night around the campfire with some old and new friends and immediately set up camp before setting off to start walking the gorges. The first ones we did were Hancock and Weano Gorges, which were quite challenging and required swimming or scaling the cliff walls to get through the various sections. We all made it through and the views were spectacular. The photos just do not do it justice. This area is a must do for everyone!

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On our second day at Karijini, we headed back into Tom Price for a tour of the Rio Tinto Iron Ore mine, which was cancelled due to the heavy rain when we were in town the week before. We were so glad we came back to do the tour. It was very informative and the big toys (mining equipment) were very impressive. It was good to see where and how the trains were loaded as we had passed so many on the drive from Karratha. After the tour we drove to the top of the highest vehicle accessible mountain in WA – Mount Nameless. It was a reasonable 4wd track up and the views were huge. It was then back to Karijini to try to get through the third gorge, Dales Gorge. We only made it to Fortesque Falls and had a wonderful swim in Fern Pool. The kids loved the little fishes in the pool as they nibbled on the dead skin on your feet. It tickled but was a very unique experience. Unfortunately we ran out of light to walk the entire Dales Gorge circuit and get to Circular Pool, however it leaves us something to do on the next trip.

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Soon it was time to move out of the Pilbara and head for the Kimberly. Typical for us we took the road less travelled and turned off the main road for a dirt road through to Marble Bar. This road was pretty remote, in fact we didn’t pass another car for nearly two hours! A short detour into Glen Herring Gorge showed us that not all gorges are on the tourist trail and this one was beautiful. It was a little nervy that we were all alone and walking through a gorge all by ourselves, but we were prepared with a back pack, water, snake bite kit, another first aid kit and most importantly the satellite phone! So glad we took the detour and walk.

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We originally planned to stay in Marble Bar as it sounded like a really interesting place, but when we got there we decided it was not for us. So after checking out the Jasper deposit to fossick for our own pieces of Jasper, visiting the Flying Fox Lookout and trying to visit the pub, which was closed for afternoon siesta, we headed for the coast and Pardoo Station. Pardoo is a working station with a fabulous caravan park. However, we arrived late and left early so didn’t get the full experience of this place. Given that we had done some long and difficult driving over the last week and a bit, we decided to head straight for Broome. A few extra nights in an interesting town was just the ticket to refresh and re-energise before the next big adventure on the Gibb River Road.

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