2/07/16 We’d heard that getting a campsite at Dales Campground in the popular Karijini National Park was not going to be easy. You can’t book in advance, but have to get to the campground at 0800, line up and wait for a site to become available. With that in mind, we left camp at Mt Robinson early and arrived at Dales around 8:30 to be last in a queue of seven or so vans. An hour later, we were finally checking in, by then at the head of a much longer queue. Some of those behind us wouldn’t be making it in that day and would spend the night at the nearby overflow campground, to try again the next morning.
The couple who were doing the registration thought that our Kruiser was big and would require a big site. “We have a site 16 metres by 16 metres. Would that be big enough?” “Hmm, yes, I think so.” At our MCG-size camp site, we positioned the van sideways across it pointing North-South for optimal solar generation. There are not many national park sites you can go into sideways, intentionally anyway. The guy behind us in the queue had waited two days to get in, and ended up in a tiny site for his larger van. The Fates can be fickle for some. He just lacked my dazzling charm.
After lunch, we headed to nearby Dales Gorge and the Fortescue Falls, reached by descending a steel stairway down the gorge wall to the falls and its swimming hole. Stepped rocks beside the falls were reminiscent of seating in a Roman amphitheatre. A short walk upstream was another waterfall at Fern Pool, where we had a very invigorating swim in the cool water and up under the waterfall itself. In hindsight, I was glad that Di had dragged me off the camp chair I was snoozing in to go for a swim.
We also checked out the Karijini Visitor Centre, built to a very interesting design incorporating rusted architectural steel cladding that merged well with the colours of the surrounding iron red ranges. The building sat low and morphed into its natural surroundings.
Marcus and Annett, a young German couple who were camped near us, came over on our second day and asked for help changing a tyre with a slow air leak. It was their first flat in six months of travelling around Australia in their 4WD with roof tent. Fortunately this all happened in camp because their jack turned out to be too short to lift the vehicle and the wheel brace was buried somewhere under all the gear in their vehicle. I loaned Marcus some tools and a jack and advised him through changing the wheel (including putting the wheel nuts back on the correct way around), then helped him to plug the nail hole in the leaking tyre using his tyre repair kit. He hadn’t done anything like that before so was very appreciative of my sage wisdom, and should be an old hand at it next time. When he’d finished the job, he looked the part, covered from head to toe in red dust and beaming at what he’d accomplished. I jokingly told him I wasn’t going to let him leave camp until he could show me his wheel brace (which he did) and tested that it fitted the wheel nuts (which he also did) and encouraged him to get some wood blocks to make his jack usable. They were a very nice couple, we had a good chat with them about their travels and hope to catch up with them again when they tour Queensland, if we’re back by then.
Karijini is a magic place. We love the spinifex country. Di and I spent a day driving to the various gorges via a 4WD road beyond the Visitor Centre, firstly to Kalamina Gorge, then on to Joffre Falls, the amazing Knox Gorge and finally Weano Gorge. What struck us was the depth of the gorges – Knox Gorge is 100 metres down to the water – and the strata in the sheer rock walls.
We headed to Karijini Eco Resort for lunch and were enjoying a couple of their tasty beef burgers on the deck when a dingo appeared out of the nearby spinifex attracted by the aromas from the restaurant’s outdoor BBQ. It did a casual circuit of the building before being urged on its way by staff. While the resort is regularly visited by dingos seeking morsels, feeding them is discouraged. Later during lunch, Di spotted a pair of Spinifex Pigeons that she’d been hoping to see while we were in the park.
The weather was very accommodating during our stay – hot the day we had our swim; cool the days we visited the gorges; clear blue skies every day; and a nice breeze most days. We extended our three day stay by an extra day to soak up a bit more. Peter and Fleur, fellow travellers we’d met recently at Gascoyne River, were also camped near us at Karijini, along with their travelling companions, Wayne and Barb, and another couple from Queensland. Most evenings, we joined them for drinks and often came across them at various spots around the park during the days. We’re looking forward to catching up again with Peter and Fleur when we travel down their way in the SW Corner later on in the year.
Saw an interesting thing the other day. A couple of caravans came in together, and the driver of the lead one got out to look where they’d set up. It was obvious from the way he was directing the second van around that he was the Trail Boss of that little wagon train. Meanwhile, behind him, his now-driverless rig had started to roll away with his wife in the passenger seat. My first thought was “It’s rolling this way. This could be a disaster!” but after quickly calculating the vectors, I reconsidered. “It’s not going to hit us. This could be interesting!” The guy’s head spun around to his wife’s scream, he bolted to the open door of the moving car, and somehow managed to hop, skip and jump in to apply the brake. How quickly someone can go from being in control of everything to being entirely out of it. Note to Trail Boss: before exiting vehicle, engage Park and Parking Brake. We couldn’t quite hear but were pretty sure that his wife was animatedly reminding him of that very thing.
“They’re funny things, accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.” ― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner