We journeyed on to Karijini National Park, the second largest in Western Australia with its landscape of deep gorges, water falls and crystal clear pools which were formed over 2 billion years ago. These gorges featured banded iron formations in many of the rocks consisting of an iron and silica-rich sediment which gave them a rich, dark, maroon and black striped effect, making them stand out from other gorges we had visited. We chose to do the Dale’s Gorge walking trail loop, outlined on the map starting at the Circular Pool car park and lookout. Looking down into the pool from the lookout, the water looked inviting but cold, though there were a few people already swimming. Starting with the easy walk along the rim of Dale’s Gorge, we made our way to the Fortescue Falls Lookout where we gazed down into the depths of the gorge and the glistening waters of the falls before proceeding down the iron staircase to the pool below. It was a hive of activity with people swimming and basking on the rocks. We continued on the return detour to visit the Fern Pool allegedly one of the prettiest settings in W.A. but in our opinion easily comparable to the Circular Pools at the opposing end of the gorge. Continuing on the circuit we followed the trail along the bottom of the gorge to the Circular Pool, an interesting and varied trail over rocky outcrops. After taking in the picturesque setting we followed the stepped trail back up the side wall of the gorge to the car park and returned to camp for the evening.
Next morning we packed up and headed to the western side of Karijini National Park to have a quick look at Joffre Falls before heading to Tom Price. Walking on to the lookout platform and gazing down into the gorge we could see people negotiating the very interesting and challenging looking walking trail around the rim of the falls and then down into the bottom of the gorge and realised we needed to spend more time here. We enjoyed the challenge of the rocky descent to the bottom of the gorge and falls and took advantage of many photo opportunities which presented themselves in this magnificent gorge. The nature of the walk to access the bottom of this gorge combined with its pristine beauty made this one of the most rewarding and enjoyable hikes we have completed on our trek around Australia so far. After speaking to other visitors about the other falls and gorges in this area, we felt satisfied enough that we could continue on to Tom Price without viewing the other gorges and falls in Karijini, especially considering they all had rough dirt road access. Time to move on to Tom Price.
After booking a mine tour the previous day, we returned to the visitors centre where we were issued with hard hats and safety glasses before boarding the bus for the mine site. Baz, our driver and guide shared his knowledge of the mining area and the town which was constructed in 1965 and is the highest town in W.A. at 747m above sea level. The magnitude of the mines production area was overwhelming but the size of the scar it has created on the landscape is a tragedy even though man needs these natural resources. Nonetheless the sizes of much of the machinery and plant was very impressive, especially the trains which hauled the ore to the ports. These were approximately 2.5km in length consisting of 236 ore cars, each carrying 120 tonnes of ore averaging out at 28000 tonnes per train load. An impressive operation.