Rare beauty will take breath away

Some ef­fort may be re­quired to see the best of Kar­i­jini Na­tional Park in the re­mote Pil­bara re­gion of Western Aus­tralia, but it’s well worth it, writes Mark Irv­ing

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - REMOTE WALK -

“KAR­I­JINI,” Pete de­clared, “doesn’t give up her beauty eas­ily.” You can say that again, Pete. My heart was thump­ing and my chest heav­ing af­ter I’d clam­bered up the sheer-sided Dales Gorge.

Pete West, owner of West Oz Ac­tive Ad­ven­ture Tours, had led our group down, along and then up Dales – one of eight gorges in the mag­nif­i­cent Kar­i­jini Na­tional Park in the Pil­bara re­gion of Western Aus­tralia’s north­west.

As we rested, we proudly sur­veyed our achieve­ments: we’d given our knees and calves a de­cent work­out, swum in a fish-filled swim­ming hole and mar­velled at the wa­ter­falls and spec­tac­u­lar rock for­ma­tions. We’d ex­pe­ri­enced changes in the flora and mi­cro­cli­mate, too.

It was mid-June and wild­flow­ers were be­gin­ning to emerge af­ter the Wet. As we de­scended the gorge, the abun­dant “snappy gums” and pa­per­barks had made way for ferns and na­tive fig trees that some­how man­aged to send roots through the rock into the ground­wa­ter.

At more than 6000sq km, Kar­i­jini is WA’s sec­ond-big­gest na­tional park and more than twice the size of Lux­em­bourg.

It’s in the Hamer­s­ley Range, which stretches 400km and pro­vides WAwith some of its rich de­posits of iron ore and mag­netite, clearly vis­i­ble among the rocks. Min­ing towns sur­round the park, in­clud­ing to its north Wit­tenoom — in­fa­mous for its as­bestos min­ing.

Pete in­formed us we were on the site of an an­cient sea bed, and some of the rocks around us were 2.5 bil­lion years old. Now that is an­cient. Each of the sed­i­men­tary lay­ers of the banded rock for­ma­tions ap­par­ently rep­re­sents 100,000 years of his­tory.

“This is life-chang­ing coun­try,” Pete said. “I love it for all the things we don’t have here. In such com­pli­cated times, Kar­i­jini has the an­swers we’re look­ing for.”

West Oz Ac­tive Ad­ven­ture Tours of­fers day tours at Kar­i­jini that in­clude ab­seil­ing and “tub­ing” (float­ing down the gorge streams in mas­sive in­ner tubes) as well as treks of vary­ing de­grees of dif­fi­culty. Par­tic­i­pants must be fit and have a good swim­ming abil­ity.

I was on the Big Kar­i­jini Week­ender, a Fri­day-toMon­day pack­age tour held once a month to give city slick­ers a bite-sized taste of Pil­bara wilder­ness.

Pete read­ily ac­cepts it’s nei­ther easy nor cheap for most Aus­tralians to en­joy the Kar­i­jini ex­pe­ri­ence. From Perth, it’s a 90-minute flight to Parabur­doo (or Newman) then a two-hour drive (in­clud­ing a bumpy un­sealed stretch).

So he’s as­sem­bled a pack­age for which visi­tors are col­lected from Parabur­doo air­port for two days of ad­ven­ture, in­clud­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion, guides, equip­ment, meals and one din­ner at the indige­nousowned Kar­i­jini Eco Re­treat in­side the park. Air­fares are not in­cluded.

Like West Oz Ac­tive Ad­ven­ture Tours, the Eco

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.