Karijini National Park: an experience of extremes

Karijini National park is the second largest park of Western Australia. It’s a collection of breathtaking highs and lows: some of the highest peaks in Western Australia are right here, along with a few spectacularly steep gorges. Walking and canyoning trails lead deep down into big, narrow ravines, providing incredible, unearthly landscapes.  Join me for a journey to the centre of the earth…

If the Pilbara region were a necklace, Karijini National park would be its biggest jewel. It’s a hell of a ride to get there, but the smile on your face never gets lost. Breathtaking views, mesmerizing gorges, dramatic cliffs, refreshing natural pools … Yep, that’s a lot of laudatory adjectives, but they’re all justified. Not a lot of people make it all the way to Karijini because of the remote location in the centre of the Hamersley Ranges, and probably also because it takes a lot time and climbing up and down to get to the most beautiful gorges of the park. Our short sightseeing tour of Karijini is a ‘soft’ version of how the park can be visited.

Getting to Karijini: a long, long way from home

After our wonderful visit to Cape Leveque, we thought we’d make a ‘quick stop’ at Karijini before heading further south to Carnarvon. Bad idea! Not because Karijini isn’t beautiful – on the contrary – but because it’s so treacherously far away from the coastal highway. First there’s the 4 hour drive from Port Headland to Karijini, then there’s the 10 hour drive from Karijini to Carnarvon. A ‘quick’  detour of 14 hours in total! We planned to arrive in the morning but showed up in the late afternoon instead : we stranded in the unattractive Port Headland for a couple of hours after our windshield was ruined and needed to be replaced (the legend is true: a road train coming from the other direction can really cause a crack in your windshield). In Western Australia, time doesn’t just fly when you’re having fun – it flies all the time. So I’m giving you a heads up: if you’re thinking of visiting Karijini, stay there for at least two or three nights.

The first part of the National Highway 95, on the road to Karijini. Imagine looking a this for hours and hours!

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The second part: looking much, much better!

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The Pilbara, that’s nature showing off

Visiting the Pilbara region is an experience of extremes. The first few hours to Karijini, you’re driving through a desert-like landscape: not a single house and at some point not even a single bird or tree. It’s monotonous and frankly, a bit creepy (at least that’s what it’s like in the dry season). Apart from one crazy bike rider, a few mining cars and an occasional fata morgana, it was a big chunk of Western Australia’s nothingness. But the closer you get to Karijini, the more the landscape starts to change. The shapes and colors are slowly recovered and before you know it, nature is showing off in the best possible way: red sands, green trees, yellow grass and little white clouds to give the big blue sky some dimension. The horizon line is now defined by dozens of alluring hills and mountains in different sizes, layers and formations, all standing proud and tall in the late afternoon sun. What you see is two billion years of rock formations in the making…

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A termite mount in the park
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Accidents do happen, especially in the wet season.

Dales Gorge and Fortescue Falls

With just two hours before sunset, we decided to go to one of the viewing points from the top of Dales Gorge, looking down into the Circular Pool. It’s a three-hour return trail to the pool.

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The Circular pool

In the early morning we headed out for one of the easier walking trails leading to Fortescue Falls, also in Dales Gorge.  Fortescue Falls is a lovely, modest waterfall, with water tumbling over red stone rocks from about 20 meters high into the crystal clear pool. The landscape here is absolutely breathtaking ,with spectacular displays of the different rock layers. It really felt like we were going on a journey to the centre of the earth… To see the short video I made of Fortescue Falls, click here.

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Fortescue Falls at the start of our descent into the gorge.
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Dales Gorge

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The final steps!

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The reward: a refreshing, natural pool

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From Fortescue Falls, you continue walking along the bottom of the gorge.
www.karijini.com