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
“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