We had an early breakfast and checked out of the Eco Resort. Our first task was to head back to Tom Price to fill up the car, as it would be our only chance to get petrol between Karijini and Karratha. From Tom Price we headed north on our way to Hamersley Gorge. We had to pull over to allow a very large load to pass us going in the other direction. It was a road train bearing a massive mining truck on its trailer.
Hamersley Gorge car park was just a little way off the main road. We climbed down into the gorge. The cliffs ahead of us were quite dramatic, with striking multi-coloured layers of rock which have bent and buckled as they’ve been pushed up to the surface over millions of years. At the bottom of the descent is a tranquil pool. For those who are more adventurous, like Rod and Cornelia, there is a very slippery smooth rock face to climb that allows views into the Spa Pool, reputed to be one of the highlights of WA’s national parks. Access down into the pool is no longer allowed after some people have lost their lives attempting it. Hamersley Gorge is the least visited of Karijini’s gorges, but it was well worth it for us to make the effort to see it.
We left Hamersley Gorge and drove north-west for several hours on unsealed roads towards Karratha. We had the choice of a public road, which was shorter, or the mining company road, for which we had a permit, which was going to be a longer journey. The advice we’d been given at the Eco Retreat was that the public road had been graded as recently as last week and was a good road.
The first few kilometres were quite promising. The road had been graded and the journey was relatively smooth. But soon the graded road petered out and the road conditions became more challenging. There were soft muddy sections, deep ruts, exposed rocks and bumpy corrugated stretches to negotiate. But Rod’s driving was up to the challenge and he handled every tricky bit of road as we came to it with expertise. Our Nissan XTrail was up to the task, but it was obvious many vehicles before us were not so fortunate, as the road was littered with the treads that had been completely ripped off tyres. At times we had to slow down as the dust thrown up by vehicles ahead of us robbed us of any visibility, and sometimes large trucks coming the other way threw up mighty dust clouds that forced us to proceed with great caution until we could see clearly again. One time we had to slow down as a large bustard walked across the road and into the bushes, and another time to make sure we avoided a cow that stepped out onto the verge of the road.
After several hours and over 140km on the Roebourne-Wittenoom Road, we passed over a railway crossing and found ourselves back on a sealed road again. No doubt Rod appreciated that, although a little farther on we turned off the highway into Millstream Chichester National Park heading for Python Pool and found ourselves on another very bumpy rutted dirt road. Thankfully it was only about a 7km section before we hit sealed road again, which took us on a winding hilly journey into the Python Pool car park.
We found a picnic table and ate a late lunch, then walked down the trail to Python Pool. The landscape of this national park was very different to Karijini, although high red, rocky cliff faces were once again a feature. When the trail opened up to Python Pool in front of us, we were confronted with a really spectacular sight. A beautiful wide pool stretched in front of us. On the far side of the pool was a high, sheer rocky wall with a waterfall cascading into the pool below. I’d be curious to know what the water source for the waterfall was. We passed people on the trail coming in to the pool with swimming gear. It certainly would be an iconic place for a cooling dip.
We stopped at a panoramic lookout on the road back out to the highway. Before us as far as the eye could see stretched a treeless red landscape dotted with green spinifex tufts. We stopped for a while to take it all in. Soon we’ll be back on the coast and landscapes such as this will just be a memory.
We were back on a really good, sealed road when we returned to the highway and pointed our vehicle in the direction of Karratha. The road follows the mining companies’ railway line all the way to Dampier on the coast , which is adjacent to our destination, Karratha. We passed several long trains. The long line of trailers attached to those heading for the coast were laden with iron ore. It’s such an impressive sight. We wondered just how much ore is transported from the mines each day. No sooner had we left one train behind than another came into view.
Now we’re in Karratha, it’s time for a shower and a change of clothes. The car will need a good wash too. It’s time to leave the fine red dust behind.