It was time to check out of my room at the campground in Tom Price. I packed up while talking with my dad and by 10:00 am, I had to return the room key. I didn’t know where I was going, so I drove to the visitor center in Karijini National Park.
I was driving on the main two-lane highway, and just before I entered the park, a huge truck passed me and threw a rock at my windshield. It was loud, and the rock cracked my windshield! It hit the top right, about half an inch from the metal frame. Unbelievable – if the stone were just a half an inch over, it wouldn’t have hit the windshield.
There was a noticeable dent where the rock hit, and a line was making its way horizontally across, right in my line of sight. I was agitated. I planned to sell the car before I left Australia, and I’m sure I’d have to replace the window before selling it. As I drove, the crack was expanding before my eyes.
I pulled over, and to my surprise, I had cell service. I googled for ways to slow the crack’s spread, and it recommended putting nail polish on it. I didn’t have any, and the only thing I could think to use was some duct tape in my backpack. I put a piece on the inside and outside, which did slow it down a bit, but it didn’t stop the crack from spreading.
I tried to shrug it off and enjoy the views into the park instead. The day before, I spent 12 hours hiking, rappelling, and rock climbing into Hancock Gorge. That day was so magnificent; anything I did now would be the icing on the cake.
I arrived at the visitor center, and there wasn’t much around. I talked with a woman behind the desk, and she said there weren’t any camping spots available at Dale’s Campground. I had heard that an area outside of the park was beautiful, and it was free, so I decided to take my chances with that site. I would just need to leave the park before it was dark because it would take 45 minutes to get to the other side.
I browsed through the tiny museum and noticed a sign that talked about blue asbestos. I had heard not to kick the dirt or mounds because you could release it. The sign read, “Crocidolite (blue asbestos) is a mineral with a distinctive blue colour ad fibrous texture. It is found as seams between the layers of rock in banded iron-formations. Little is known about the origin of blue asbestos, although it is thought to have formed when the mineral riebeckite within the banded iron-formation was placed under stress. Mining of the blue asbestos commenced sporadically in the 1930s, initially in Dales and Yampire Gorges, and ceased in 1966. More than 150,000 tonnes was produced, barely all from Wittenoom Gorge.”
A quote on the wall in aboriginal language was translated to, “Go with a clear, open, and accepting spirit, and the country will not treat you badly.”
I drove to Dale’s gorge and started my hike. First, I had to climb down metal stairs that led to Fortescue Falls. The views from the top of the canyon were beautiful! The red rock walls with green trees and clear water were serene, all under a bright blue sky.
Once I was at the bottom, there was a small waterfall emptying into a massive pool. There were flat rock ledges scattered around with people sunbathing. Others were in the water. Some kids even had pool noodles.
I decided to go back a little farther and see what was there. The trail was under a canopy of trees. It wasn’t long before I arrived at another pool. There was a dock with a metal handrail for people to climb into and out of the water. To the right side, there was a rock wall.
On the other side of the pool, there was a small waterfall trickling into the pool. A few people swam around, but I didn’t have my swimsuit with me, so I didn’t get in.
I walked back to the main pool and sat down to enjoy the view. I pulled out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and ate it as my lunch. Then, I climbed down the cascading rocks.
The map at the top of the gorge showed a trail that went along the gorge’s bottom. Once I was at the bottom, I realized that I’d have to cross several wobbly rocks in the water. A few other people did it, but they almost fell. I really wished that I had my trekking poles to help me with balance. I eventually got myself to do it and thankfully didn’t fall.
Small circular yellow markers nailed to rocks marked the path. It was challenging to find them, and in true Western Australian fashion, it involved lots of rock climbing. The trail was a class four hike, and I had to jump from rock to rock to avoid getting my shoes wet on several sections.
The gorge was breathtaking! It was like I was transported to a rainforest with abundant life growing amongst the desert. There were pools of water, bushes, trees, and of course, red rocks. I was the only one around, which made me a little nervous, but I kept going.
I eventually came to a spot where people were climbing out of the gorge. I really wanted to see the circular pool at the end, so I kept going. The boulders became more massive, and I struggled to find my way climbing up them.
As I got closer, a few people were leaving the pool and told me that I was in the right direction, I just had to keep going. The trees cleared, and the circular pool was incredible! The rock circled the gorge with clean, crisp lines. It looked like half a pottery bowl that had been sculpted.
I sat down and ate a snack. I said some prayers and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Suddenly, two girls appeared who wouldn’t stop talking. It was extremely annoying and eventually made me leave.
On the way back, I ran into a woman named Helen. She was in her 60s, had shoulder-length blonde hair, and was fit. She took a picture of me, and we hiked together while getting to know each other.
Helen was from a town just outside of Melbourne. She flew to Perth and rented a van with a friend for two weeks. They were driving up the coast, but this was their turn-around point to head back south. Helen’s friend said she couldn’t do the hike because it was too steep, and her knees were bothering her. Helen’s backpack was halfway open, so I closed it for her. She was also carrying a glass water bottle, which I thought was crazy because of the weight.
Helen and I arrived at the steep, narrow, rugged climb that would take us almost straight up to the top. We climbed together, taking a few breaks. This trail wasn’t like the stairs by the pool at the beginning. We arrived at the top, and Helen looked back down, proud of what she just accomplished.
The path back to the beginning followed the top of the gorge. It was flat, making it a leisurely walk around. The views were fantastic. The signage, however, was terrible. I told Helen that the campsites were full, so I planned to drive outside the park to a free campground with good reviews. She agreed and said they passed that site, and it was worth staying there.
Helen and I said our goodbyes when we arrived back at the parking lot. I used the outhouse and headed to my camping site. I arrived at 4:45 pm and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was! The gravel road climbed up a small mountain. There were many sites, most of which were already taken by campervans.
I was almost at the top of the mountain and found a spot overlooking a gorge. That was it – I parked my car. Even though there were a lot of people there, it didn’t seem like it because we were all so spread out. It was much better than the sites in the park.
It was a free camping location, so there were no facilities of any kind. I pulled out my table, chair, and stove so I could start cooking my dinner. Next, I set my bed up inside the back of my car.
I watched the sunset while I ate my rice, cheese, and veggies. It was the most beautiful campsite that I’ve ever stayed at. And it was free.
It was getting cold outside, but it wasn’t freezing. I needed to go pee before bed, but people were still awake, hanging out talking with their group. Just uphill from my site was a campervan. They also overlooked the gorge, so if I went down there to pee, they’d see me. There was a lot of tall, yellow grass, but there weren’t many trees to hide behind.
I waited until it was dark, but the moon was so bright that they would still see me! I hid behind my car and changed my clothes because it was hard to change inside. I walked down the hill and didn’t even need a flashlight because the moon was so bright. I thought, “It’s possible they can see me, but oh well. I have to pee!”
I had a hard time sleeping because of how bright the moon was. It shined through my car windows. At 2:00 am, I woke up and climbed down the hill again to go pee. Finally, at 4:00 am, the moon moved, so it wasn’t shining so brightly in my face. Even with the difficulty of sleeping, that is one of the best camping sites I experienced. It was peaceful, beautiful, and serene.
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