Karratha, Western Australia


Monday, October 8, 2018

Karijini National Park
Take flat tableland, dotted with circles of green/grey sharp spinifex and then look way down from a lookout where 4 gorges cut through layers upon layers of red rock. Rivers flow in the desert but down 100 metres. This is what the Pilbarra looked like millions of years ago when this area was a tropical sea.

We clambered down steep rock strewn pathways (!), we swam through narrow gorges and found ourselves in deep pools of cool fresh water fringed with ferns and high rock faces.

The Dales Gorge was more a wandering walk than a challenging hike as many of the others have been. Wider and greener with much lush vegetation we heard birds, smelled the plants and watched red dragonflies darting on the water.

Most impressive though was a woman with a white cane. Blind, yet still walking the gorge, firmly holding her husband’s hand.

Our treat was dinner at the Eco Resort restaurant – barramundi for Celia, lamb shank for me and a trio of crocodile (the favorite), kangaroo and emu sausage for Geoff.

Nights are dark with only the headlamps of campers and the occasional caravan light breaking the darkness. Here we actually see the milky white band across the sky, the Milky Way.

Tom Price (from an email Geoff wrote)
Good morning from Tom Price, the highest town in Western Australia – at least in elevation. It is a mining town adjacent to one of Rio Tinto’s large iron ore mines and we are here for one night for groceries, laundry, and a lap pool for me. This morning we will drive the private Rio Tinto road that runs beside the rail line that carries iron ore to the port in Dampier. We have a permit to drive this road after watching a 20 minute safety video that emphasized the terrors that await us (Cath’s interjection) and making a donation to the Royal Doctor Flying Service.

We had 2 very enjoyable days in Karijini NP. The beauty is in the gorges, and we descended into several to hike and swim in the natural pools. Some of the walks were arduous, with rocks to clamber over and streams to wade through. It is hard to describe how beautiful it was.

The excitement yesterday was the discovery of a snake outside the camp kitchen where we were having dinner. The campers who first saw it thought it was a King Brown, a deadly venomous snake. The local snake wrangler arrived and took a quick look – and reached down to pick it up. It was just an Olive Python, and at 1.5 metres was a young one because adults grow to 6 metres. Needless to say, we walked carefully back to the campsite in case its parents were out looking for Junior.

Millstream Chichester National Park (Homestead)
Set in an irrigated green lawn with the requisite hopping kangaroos is the park’s information centre in what was originally a homestead built in the early 1900’s. The metal roof and wide verandahs keep the interior surprisingly cool in the mid-30 degree heat.

From 1920 to 1964 the homestead was the hub of the community. It included a garden tended by what was then referred to as a Chinese (now Asian) gardener, tennis courts, shearing shed, bathing house, separate kitchen with the mother of all wood stoves (it heated water in a side compartment with its own tap – a cottage idea perhaps?), a place where cattle were butchered, horse stable and racetrack, cotton plantation and a location where the indigenous people gathered for their corroborees (aboriginal dance ceremony which may include sacred rituals).

All this activity in 30+ degree heat in the dry winter and 40+ in the wet summer and no Mountain Equipment breathable quick dry clothing. In the early years supplies arrived by camel train from the coast.

Celia and I had Morning Prayer by cool Python Pool. If you had been listening you might have heard the psalms and prayers interrupted by sudden yelps when tiny black ants nipped our exposed skin.

Karratha and Burrup Peninsula
I am writing this in the most spectacular library (REAP) we have visited opened just 4 months ago and winner of a regional architectural award. What makes building in this area especially challenging is that all new building must be able to withstand seasonal cyclones. The Red Earth Arts Precinct in Karratha also houses a movie theatre and an art gallery.

A rich repository of aboriginal rock art is nearby on the Burrup Peninsula. We saw depictions of kangaroos, turtles, handprints, circles, humans, mouse or maybe a quoll and many others too indistinct to identify. This art is different from most other art in the area because it is not painted with ochre but is chipped into the exceptionally hard basalt rock.

Tomorrow we are off snorkeling – an entirely different Aussie experience.

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