Coral Bay, the Ningaloo Reef and Karijini National Park

Nederlandse tekst volgt normaal later…

Our first stop along the road is Carnarvon, a small coastal city. There we need to repair our radiator at the local radiator shop. The mechanic removes the entire front of Janis, weld the stone-hole and sets everything back on place. We buy also some equipment and spare parts for our car…

A second jerry can, a compressor and a set of booster cables. Equipment to help us with the many 4WD tracks that lie ahead. The spare parts we buy are some fuel filters, an oil filter and motor oil, cooling liquid, radiator repair liquid and spark plugs. So we have all we need for the next maintenance within 1500 km’s or some small problems along the road trip. I wonder how my first steps as a mechanic will be. All this new equipment requires some rearranging of our Janis her interiors and on the rooftop, but finally all fits perfect.
A funny detail… We spent the night in Carnarvon somewhere in the streets and in the morning we greet a friendly ranger, which proves later to be the father of our mechanic. And all the equipment we bought in the shop is of the mechanics wife. Spoken about a small world… The father tells us it’s a pity we didn’t came in to drink something with him the evening before. Perhaps at another place and time along our long Australian road…
We also need some supplies, a reserve car key and updating our blog. All this we do during our time in town. There is time to post three blogs at once, only the pictures don’t go that well from an iPad. It is hard to make them properly work on the site. But some more exercise will do. Fuel prices are a little lower than at the surroundings, so we tank our car full, jerrycans included, before we leave and with all the dust along the road, a window cleaning is necessary.

Late afternoon we leave the town for Gnaraloo beach. The trip begins really promising, with amazing blow holes. The water goes some meters up over there, trough a tiny hole in the rocks. The power of the beachfront pushes it, trough these holes skyhigh. Wonderful! So we head the road with real curiosity about what lies ahead, because its a really marvellous place many people told us. During the twilight we see a lot of kangaroos coming out and enjoy a magical moment when the full moon rises at sunset. Both of them are visible at the same time, just turning our head to the side we choose. However, our night end with a false note, because all locations are paid camping sites and the prices are really high! Besides the camping personnel on one of the camping is really unfriendly, so we decide to take another location. All ends well with a good spot along the coastline. Again we have supper and fall asleep with the sound of waves around. Early morning we leave the campsite for free and decide to drive all the way to Coral Bay instead of returning to Gnaraloo… We’ve had enough of the hospitality of that campsite over there.
Along the road we just stop at Quokka Beach, with its marvellous coastline. From there some hours driving lie ahead to Coral Bay.

Underway we see the landscape change another time… From the wildflower country we started around New Norcia and Leeman, to the Gascogne area – this name comes from the Gascogne river that floats in this area, it doesn’t refer to its French namesake – of Carnarvon to the more arid plants around the Ningaloo Reef at Coral Bay and Exmouth. Later this week, when we visit Karijini parks, we enter the Pilbara Region, with its special green colors and deep red iron sandroads, with red sanddust in every corner of our car and clothes…
So many variations in just a couple of days.

We arrive at sunset in Coral Bay, to stay overnight on the local camping. In the morning we take a snorkelling trip in the Ningaloo reef. The coral proves to be really beautiful, but the water is extremely cold and we swim in a strong current, so all places pass quickly and we can’t stay long in the waters. At noon we leave to Exmouth, further on the Archipelago. In Exmouth we visit the Jurabi Coast, but leave soon to the other side at Bundegi beach, just to wait for the moonrise. That night a special phenomena is visible over there, a full moonrise over the water surface. Here they call that a staircase to the moon. A very beautiful event.
That night we sleep again at the local camping, because of the many rangers and the strong control in that area. There is even a military base nearby. Early morning we leave to the Cape Range National Park, because we really want a campsite inside the park and they work following the principle ‘first come, first serve’… So we arrive there second and have plenty of choice for the campsites – which are all gone within an hour. We choose the North Mandu site, in the middle of the camp. After arranging our campsite, we head to Yardie Creek, at the end of the park. There we make a small walk around the cliffs, before we head to the Mandu Mandu Gorge, where we make another trip in nature. At noon we head to the Turquoise bay to go for a snorkelling session, hoping at warmer waters. But we’ve got bad luck, so soon we’re on the beach with a book. This bay has not stolen its name… The seawater is really Turquoise blue, with many different colours depending at the water depth. That evening we take dinner at the seaside near our campsite, with sunset, a shark in the shallow coastal waters and a humpback whale far away.
Next morning we leave early because another long trip awaits us… 650 km to the Karijini National Park. But that night it has rained and when we start driving, a mass of kangaroos are on the way. Drinking in all the small pools on the roadsurface. So we advance very slow and take our time to observe and picture these nice, shy animals.
After visiting this Coral Coast, both of us are a little disappointed and we wouldn’t do that area over again. We would go straight from Shark Bay to the Karijini Park… Especially because the diving in the Komodo National Park proved to be the big brother of this Ningaloo Reef here, with much warmer waters.
For the rest it is driving all day long… With just a small stop in the morning to attach something to our radiator as a protection against stones and insects. A friendly couple that stops on the same rest area helps us to attach that and even shows us how to do it properly.

Late night we arrive in Tom Price, near the Karijini Park and rest on a roadparking near the camp. The whole area around Tom Price is covered with open air iron mining sites. A totally different setting from what we’ve seen before – one covered in red dust. When we leave our car a tiny red layer is placed everywhere.
The first visit next morning is a 4WD to the top of Mount Nameless, the highest peak in Western Australia you can reach with a car. This road proves to be a very steep and difficult climb, which we finish with lots of help of the local mine workers. From that top we have a view over Tom Price and the nearby Rio Tinto Mine site, however the really working area is hidden behind a hill, so we just see some parts of the mine. And I really hoped to see the huge yellow trucks that transport the ores – 250 tonnes at once, but they will have to wait for another time. We see only a 2,5 km long train to transport the ores from the mine to the coast, from where they head to China and India to be transformed into metal. Remarkable fact, there leave 7 trains a day with a value of 1 000 000 AU$ each.
Late afternoon we arrive in the Karijini Park, where we camp for two nights at the Dales Camp Area. Tonight we’re totally exhausted from the demanding climb on Mt Nameless, so we just relax that evening with a glass of wine and a nice dinner.

Karijini Park is known as one of the most beautiful parks in Western Australia, some million years ago this location was a seabed, where layer after layer sedimented trough the millennia. Afterwards, because of the forces of the earth the location with the gorges was erupted from the earthbed and carved into its current form by the forces of water.

Our first day in the Park, we play at the Dales Recreation Area. We visit the Fortescue Fall, take a swim in the wonderful Fern Pool, enjoying a shower under the small fall there and make a walk trough the gorges to the Circular Pool.
In the afternoon we take a ride along the red roads – keeping in mind to hold our windows closed as much as possible in the heat – to the Kalamina Gorge, where we really have the feeling of being in a gorge. This walk ends in the Rock Arch Pool, however the pools and the water here proved to be non swimmable with all the green algae.
Next day we start with a walk in the Knox gorge, a location that stole both our hearts! This is a great walk, especially because the majestic views between shallow, high gorges and the feeling of being so tiny in nature. The play of sunlight, water and shadows makes it hard to make nice pictures, but with some exercises, we’re happy with what we achieved!
After that gorge, we stop at the lookout of the Joffre Fall, however without rain there is hardly a fall… Only a beautifully shaped oval pool where the fall drops into. Probably the entire area will be an impressive location after rainfall, when huge masses of rain waters collected into the gorges, but much more slippery and dangerous than now.
From there we head to the Weano and Hancock Gorges, with some marvellous walking trails. We start making our way to the Kermit Pool, a really adventurous walk over rocks and trough water. That is absolute fun! The Kermit lies on an idyllic location between the rocks, we can only reach it trough a narrow passage – called the spider walk – but instead of acting as spiders climbing between two walls, we go trough the waters… At the pool we enjoy a quick swim in the cold waters and the stunning views.
Afterwards we make another walk to the Handrail Pool, which starts another time trough a long water and between some rocks. The pool itself lies in a circular basin enclosed in the rocks, from that trail we go with the Weano Gorge walktrail around the site. But this is nothing compared to the Kermit walk and the Knox Gorges in the morning.
We finish this beautiful day with a stop at the Junction Pool Lookout and the Oxer Lookout. From these two locations you can see how four gorges – the Hancock, the Weano, the Wittenoom and the Red Gorge – merge all together at that very point. A nice lookout to finish a miraculous day.
Here we leave the park for the same campsite as our first day, because tomorrow we have some things to arrange in Tom Prince.

Before we leave the Pilbara area and Karijini, we’ll pay a visit to the last – faraway – gorge from the park. We are lucky this one is situated along our route.
Late afternoon we reach the Hamersley Gorge, where some nice pools are carved and where the layered structure of the rocks miraculously is shaped. We make a small stop to enjoy this site and then we’re back on the road. This location illustrates the forming of layers very well.

From Tom Price and Karijini, we head once again north to Port Hedland (some 430 km’s further), a great ore port where all the ores from the area arrive to be shipped to India and China. A red, dusty port town… With some huge vehicles inside and an enormous railway station – all the 2,5 km long trains from various mines arrive there – and a huge bulk ore loading pier. So we just take a swift stop, before heading to Broome (another 650 km’s more north)… Quite a boring road trip, despite the beautiful coastline some more km’s north of us. But the only entries to Cape Keraudren and 80 mile Beach are run by private owners, so fees apply if you want to see the beaches, once again nature’s resources are claimed to be private. What a pity!

From there we’ll discover the pearl city of Broome, the Dampier Peninsula and try to reach a phenomena called the ‘horizontal Falls. The nights during that trip we spend at campsites along the road, sometimes with the warm flames of a campfire, at which I’m writing this story on our way north. Next days we’ll cross miles and burn fuel, which we try to limit by driving 80 km/h all road long.
Howdee mateys, see ya back in Broome…