After Broome, we headed for Port Hedland, an all day drive and big empty stretch. Nothing to see but dead cows (so many that we started counting to keep ourselves alert and “entertained” ) on the side of the roads and termite mounds. Stretches of vast emptiness are common on the West Coast, so you better always have a full tank of gas and enough water. We stopped at one of the only roadhouses, Sandfire, to top up our gas and use their picnic table to eat our lunch. Some friendly wild peacocks kept us company and cleaned up the bugs on the front of the van. Port Hedland is not the prettiest place. Railway yards, iron mines and salt mountains make-up the town’s landscape but it was a good stopping point for us to re-fuel once again, stock up on groceries and get a night’s rest after a long drive.Surprisingly the town has a great visitor center and we got some good information about Karajini National Park, our next destination. We spent the night at Cooke Point campground which was cramped and not terribly classy but we made do for 1 night. The next morning after collecting some salt at the nearby flat, we drove to Karajini National Park. The drive was a gauntlet of roadtrains each threatening to blow the van off the road.
Karajini is one of Western Australia’s most magnificent destination with its breathtaking gorges and hidden sculptured pools. We started off with the easily accessible Dales gorge, Fortescue Falls, Fern Pool, and ended the hike with a short dip at Circular Pool. Above: Scenery on the way to Karajini Above and below: Fortescue Falls Below: taking a dip at Circular PoolBut Karajini’s best spots are off road so we tempted fate, voided our campervan warranty (that’s only if they find out :)) and decided to take on the 30 kms of mostly unsealed washboard red dirt. It took us over 2 hours to drive that 30 kms but boy was it worth it! Scrambling, rock-hopping, wading, spider-walking, we made our way through splendid Weano gorge and reached Handrail Pool in mid-afternoon where we swam in the cold pool but also in the narrow water-filled gorges (the trail turned into a swim) to reach the next pool at the very end. Then we hiked Hancock gorge, which was as difficult as the previous one but we arrived unscathed at Kermits Pool at the end of the day for our final swim.Above: taking the van off road. Below: part of the “trail” Above: descending into the sky!! Above and below: swimming at Handrail PoolAbove: hiking to a lookout where we also squatted for the night. Below: starting our hike to Kermits Pool.Below: the spider-walking was quite challenging and nerve-racking Below: Kermits PoolThe next day was equally rewarding as we took in Joffre Falls and Knox Gorge, both rated also as class 5 hikes, meaning very challenging. Joffre Falls’ hike tested Sylvie’s fear of heights with its sheer drop-offs as we were scrambling down the canyon. Knox gorge was less scary and had a nice but very cold pool to dip in. And so we took a brief swim after we ate our lunch there. Above: Knox gorge, we didn’t try to go any further, it was closed off. Just as well, would have needed a harness and canyoning gear for this one.Above: Lunch stop. Reflection in one of the pools. Below: coldest swim yet!