When we set of for our Karijini camping trip we thought the kids would hate all the walking. Thankfully we couldn’t have been more wrong. Our Western Australia National Parks experience was a highlight.
Karijini National Park in Western Australia was a ‘must see’ destination on our itinerary. Located in the Pilbara, it is home to a series of spectacular gorges, rock pools and watery canyons. Websites we read about the place contained the A to Z of inspiring adjectives. I had never heard of rocks described as ‘zebrine’ before. But when you see Karijini’s striped boulders it makes sense.
The ‘W’ word
Although Nat and I couldn’t wait to get there, we were worried about the kids. They had four days of their most hated activity ahead of them – walking. Even though we had tried our best to paint an exciting picture of our Karijini stop, they were sceptical. While we had avoided mentioning that walking was involved, they seemed to sense that the ‘W’ word was on the agenda.
As we set up camp in the Dales Gorge campground amongst wiry low scrub, flies and red dust their interrogation of why we were there didn’t take long to start. All we could do was continue our marketing campaign.
‘Canyons, rock pools, water falls – you’ll love it!’
As they surveyed the campgrounds our credibility looked under threat. Their mood started to sour. It was understandable. From where we stood there was no sign of the things we promised or expected.
‘There’s a lookout just over there. Let’s walk over and see what there is to see.’
‘Walk? How far?’ They had even less enthusiasm for walking straight after setting up camp – a routine that regularly strained relationships. We had no idea how far away the lookout was, so we did the only thing we could do – lie and hope we were right.
‘It’s just a couple of minutes away, let’s take a look.’
KARIJINI – CAMPING IN A hidden world
After a mercifully short walk and only a mild threat of a walker’s revolt we arrived at the lookout. We approached the rail and peered over. Gone was the drab green scrub and red dust. Before us was another world – a world of stunning gorge walls and the promised rock pools.
Karijini National Park
WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL PARK ACCOMMODATION
We loved staying at Dales Gorge Campground within Karijini National Park. With long drop toilets and gas BBQ’s it’s pretty basic but you are within an easy walk to stunning gorges where you can cool off in some amazing swimming holes. Be prepared – it’s pretty remote and red dust will get everywhere!
From that point on we had a whinge free stay. Despite plenty of walking the only complaints came when we had to drag them out of Fern Pool and off the rope swing for dinner.
By the end of our first day exploring Dale’s gorge we were all lost for words to describe the shapes, colours and textures of the massive cubes of rock that made up the valley floor and walls. Some of them looked hand-painted and the layers of rock were stacked like piles of giant books.
If you could take your eyes off the striking geology you started to notice the small things. Lizards darted across rocks. Dragonflies hung and flitted across crystal clear pools of water. Giant figs grew out of red rock walls. Moss and fern lined caves echoed with the sound of percolating water.
different adventure every day
One of the great things about Karijini’s gorges is their variety. Over the next three days we swam and waded through watery chasms and sloshed our way through shallow rapids that ran between towering gorge walls. We rappelled into cavernous blue pools via handrails and ropes, hiked through head-high grass, grappled our way along rock ledges and slid along natural rock waterslides. Every day we found ourselves searching for new ways to describe the different worlds hidden away in each gorge.
It was nature’s ultimate adventure playground; a colossal natural theme park without the stomach-churning rides. We were lucky enough to be there on the first week the park opened. As a result, we often found ourselves alone in a section of gorge and feeling very privileged to have exclusive access to such a wonderful place. It was like we were on an abandoned movie set.
Wonder beats walking
The kids were enthralled. Although they would never admit it, for those few days walking became their favourite activity. To be fair, when the walking included wading through chest deep water and clambering up and over rocks it becomes a lot more fun! While it was the happiest hiking our eight and ten-year old kids had ever done, it did set the gorge bench mark very high for the rest of our trip.
‘Will it be like Karijini?’ was now their first question whenever we stopped somewhere to explore another gorge. We’d pull out our standard line – ‘We’re not sure, we haven’t been here before’. Quietly though, Nat and I agreed Karijini would be hard to beat. But with three months on the road still ahead of us, that was a secret we kept to ourselves.
Before heading off for camping trip to Karijini print out this camping checklist to ensure you have everything you need.