After visiting Exmouth we drove east towards the famous Karijini National park. To avoid a full day of driving we did a stopover at Cheela Plains Farm Stay and ended with a non-planned 2 day stay in Tom Price as both Noah and Vitus developed a sudden case of Skate Park Mania.
Sitting about halfway between Exmouth and Karijini Cheela Plains is an obvious stopover if you do not want to spend a full day driving. We did the 6 km. walk to the nearby cave, found the big lizard living underneath the kitchen and watched the sunset from the lookout.
We also went to see the giant mine trucks stored nearby for later delivery to India. When they have reached a certain number of hours of use in Australia they cannot be used legally in the mines, and they are bought for close to scrap metal price by Indian mining companies. Maybe they care less about security in India or maybe they can afford to spend more hours repairing them due to cheaper labor? Interestingly we found a misplaced security evaluation for one of the trucks (look at the picture below) – not something you would trust on the streets let alone in a mine carrying tons of rock up and down steep slopes.
Unfortunately, Cheela Plains was also the end of the line for our trusted Panasonic Lumix FZ200 camera, which suddenly presented a zoom error and refused to operate. Jesper did manage to take it apart and fix the zoom but after putting it all together something else must have broken and neither lcd, view finder nor autofocus were working. Therefore, the rest of the pictures from the trip will unfortunately be mobile phone quality and we are really going to miss the powerful optical zoom ☹
Beautiful swim-holes, hikes and gorges in Karijini
Karijini is one of the most famous national parks in Western Australia and looking at the pictures from the beautiful gorges, swim holes and trails it is no surprise. We spend the first nights close to the Dales Gorge and hiked the rim trail and gorge trail in one go to make it a full loop. A great hike that included a few steep sections as well as “spider walks” on the cliffs to avoid getting our feet wet. We also stopped to see if we could build the highest “Cairn”(stones placed on top of each other). We did and we were happy to see the next two groups of hikers stop to take pictures of it 😊
To be honest we have seen quite a few sad cases of drunk aboriginals that clearly have a hard time finding their place in society. That made it especially great to meet a proud aboriginal woman at the Visitor Center. She introduced the boys to the junior ranger program, showed them around the visitor center and proudly told them (and us) about her culture, linage and the national park. She also put special emphasis on the need for children to appreciate and respect their parents 😊
Dales also became our first Dingo encounter. First time at the gorge rim and second time just a meter from our campervan at the campground. Warning signs are posted everywhere so we kept a safe distance, but they were quite shy and looked more afraid of us than we were of them.
After a couple of nights at Dales we went to see if we could climb Mount Bruce. The second highest mountain in Western Australia. It was a beautiful hike but around 2/3 up the mountain we came to a step vertical passage with a drop-off and nothing to hold on to. It would not have been a difficult climb (the “steps” were about 20-30 cm wide) and the critical part was only 10-15 meters. The “visuals” were however quite scary, and Line could go no further so we decided to turn back and call it a day.
Unfortunately, a big part of Karijini is only accessible on un-sealed road and it was very difficult to obtain information on what was possible and not in a large campervan/motorhome. Some said everything was possible and some strongly advised us to stick to Dales. In the end we chose a middle ground and went to Weano Gorge. It was 12 kilometers in and out (24 kilometers total) on gravel road and it did take a long time as we could only drive 15-30 kilometers per hour. But it was very much worth it, and we had a wonderful day exploring the gorges and swim holes. The boys especially enjoyed the parts where you had to climb along the cliffs to avoid getting your feet wet and jumping into the ice cold water was very refreshing.
Tiger snake encounter
Since arriving in Australia Vitus has been on the constant lookout for snakes and he would easily trade snorkeling with the Whale Shark tour for a snake encounter. On our last drive in Karijini a 2-3 meter snake was suddenly crossing the road in front of us and after reversing a bit to get a better look it turned around and looked like it was going to take on our big campervan. We later identified it as a Tigersnake (very poisonous)
Mine tour, hiking mount Nameless and Skate Park mania in Tom Price
Tom Price was never meant to be anything but a short stop to buy groceries on a way in and out of Karijini. We did however end up staying two full days.
We had booked a mine tour at the visitors center to visit the huge iron mine and learn more about the industry. The tour was a disappointment. We were given hardhats and safety glasses but never got anywhere close to any part of the working mine and instead of seeing a mine in full operation it was all closed down for scheduled maintenance.
The Skate Park in Tom Price however became a huge attraction for the boys. Not only did they meet a lot of local boys who were eager to teach them how to ride, but they learned so much so quickly and had so much fun that they begged us to stay for another day. We gave in..
As we could not spend all day watching the kids our extended stay in Tom Price also included a hike to the top of Mount Nameless. A beautiful but hard trail with a gradient of about 20-25% most of the way.