Monday, August 04, 2008

DAY 282: Day off Karijini Eco Retreat


25km @ 10.8 km/hr
Fri 1st August 2008
Sunny, scattered coud, 25 deg C
Elevation of /destination 694m
Distance to date 17300 km (10812 miles)

A cool night again, but I’d decided to have another day here and ‘do’ the other gorges - a good decision as it turned out. No rush to get up, so I waited for the sun to get well up into the sky before abandoning the warm and cosy pit. I went to the kitchen to make a cuppa and chatted to a young German couple, but got cold again in the early breeze and went and got back into the sleeping bag and had my muesli lay in there.
I went and paid another $25 (grrr) and set off for Knox Gorge 12km away a la gravel. It’s hard yakka keeping going and upright but I quite enjoyed it with no panniers, tyres deflated and no time constraints. There are some short but very steep hills on the Knox Gorge road, and I resorted to pushing a couple of times. It was well worth it though - I was blown away by the walk down into the gorge; a scramble down a very steep track which is the original terrain rather than a constructed track, and down to the gorge floor 100m below. The gorge is 5 to 10m wide and again there is no constructed path; you make your own way along bare rocks, stepping-stone river crossings, vertical rock ledges requiring fingertip holds etc. It takes some care, and is not for the faint hearted. I didn’t have the right shoes - walking boots are recommended - so went very slowly and delibeartely. Vivid red dragonflies flitted around like huge sparks, and wide, flat water boatmen glided over the surface like gondolas. Some people braved the icy pools for a dip, but not I - too unpeasant unless it’s a scorching day! As walks go, it was amazing - unforgettable! It was quite a scramble back up to the top, and I was puffing by the time I’d finished. There’s a look-out at the top of the gorge where you can see the walkers way below, which is as far as most able people get - shame, they’re missing a lot.
Back on the bike, I rode 4.5km back down the road and popped into Joffre Gorge. Another look-out here where I watched a few hardy souls opposite and below descending what appeared to be a vertical rock face to the gorge floor. I followed the rocky path around the waterfall to have a look for myself what the way down was like, and it wasn’t quite as steep as it looked - 80 degrees rather than 90 lol - so decided to give it a go. There are yellow arrows showing you which route to take, which makes it safer, but really this is rock climbing in an albeit simple form. It felt quite safe though, and I made sure I had a good hand holds before moving every time. Unlike Knox Gorge you can’t walk up the gorge, but there’s still plenty to see down there; there’s a large, deep green pool, and off towards the waterfall upstream, through a narrow opening, is the natural amphitheatre - a 50m diameter bowl hewn out by the action of the river over millions of years. You again have to edge around the vertical wall to get into it. It’s a fantastic sight, and I’m glad I did come and see these other gorges after all; they have far exceeded expectations. The pics will hopefully show what it’s like.
It was now turned 3 and I was pretty whacked, but had to endure the gravel for another 8km back to Eco Retreat. I bought a barbecue pack - I couldn’t wait for the restaurant and it could be cold again tonight anyhow, so after a shower (another cold one) I cooked the meagre and vastly- overpriced steak and sausage, and made a pile of pasta to go with it, for an early lunch /dinner. I chatted to a couple from Bunbury WA who were travelling to Darwin to get work, and it turned out that like myself the lady had like been to stay at the Findhorn Foundation, and had lived there for a few months 7 years ago - small world! She went to Scotland from Oz especially for that.
The sun was setting in a spectacualar manner due to stringy cloud on the western horizon as I got back to the tent; for a few minutes there was a vertical ray of light pointing up from the sun beautiful end to an amazing day. The Pilbara gorges have turned out to be among the highlights of my Oz tour; unforgettable.

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