3 July 2002
On our second day at Karajini National Park day we headed out to Weano Gorge, some 43 km away along well-graded but very dusty, gravelly, and somewhat corrugated roads. We followed the path to Handrail Pool, which was as impossibly beautiful as it was slippery. We managed to avoid falling into the pool, which we had been warned would impose a serious risk of hypothermia. On the way out however, Ruby slipped over on the smooth ironstone and got seriously wet, including her hiking boots.
As we climbed out of the gorge we visited two lookouts. One afforded a view of Junction Pool, so-called because it marks the point where four different gorges converge. The view down was vertigo-inspiring. From the lookout to the floor of the gorge, it must have been a 100 m drop.
The next lookout afforded a view of all the gorges at once. The beauty of this spot was beyond description. Here we sat down and ate some sandwiches that we had prepared for lunch.
After a spell, we made our way to Hancock Gorge, and walked as far as Kermit’s Pool. After this, the going got more difficult. The water looked very enticing, but when I tested it my feet hurt from standing in it – not cold so much as physical pain. Instead of swimming, we sunbaked in the amazing colours of the striped ironstone rock. At this point the gorge swerved sharply to the left, so the rocks that were washed downstream had tumbled smooth the once ragged walls of the gorge. There were bands of red, white, and blue stone, running horizontally along the wall.
As we were preparing to leave, we encountered a man travelling down the gorge very quickly and somewhat unsteadily. He had dropped his glasses from one of the lookouts above, and intended to retrieve them. Getting to Junction Pool meant swimming through icy water, and people who undertook this journey were usually equipped with wetsuits. Additionally, there were only two hours of light left. We resolved to tell the ranger as soon as we got up to the plateau, in case a rescue mission was needed. Luckily, the man changed his mind after entering the second pool of water, and headed back, giving up on his glasses. He overtook us on the way back, and we felt mightily relieved for his sake, and for the sake of the rangers.
On our way back to Dale’s Gorge, where we were camped, we stopped at two more lookouts that were located about 6 km off the main road through the park – Knox Gorge and Joffre Gorge. Both were beautiful and quite different from the others. The lookouts were well-constructed concrete patios with sturdy rails. At one lookout there were several families with very young children. A couple of the children strayed away from the lookout and onto a slippery bank that plummeted into the depths below. For a moment I thought we were about to witness an unspeakable disaster as one of them slid on loose gravel, but the child managed to keep his footing and returned to the safety of the lookout. I felt the hairs standing up on the back of my neck as we climbed the steps back up to the car park.
The evening was chilly again. We stayed up playing Oh Hell! which is a card game that the kids enjoy. As soon as the sun got low in the sky, we all put on our pyjamas underneath our warm clothes, and donned our beanies and ski gear. You could feel the cold air descending as soon as the sun set. The annex afforded some protection, but it was relentless. Susan and I retired to the car to try and get some respite from it. The ink in my pen got so cold it didn’t run properly, and I had to try writing with ski gloves on.