Week 11 - May 28, 2018 - June 03, 2018

This week was a lesson in endurance.  From kayaking and snorkeling to walking on water, from hiking and climbing to swimming in the bowels of the earth, we survived it all.  If you think there are a lot of photos, imagine how many I had to choose from to edit for this webpage.  What a memorable week it was!

We started the week by continuing our stay at Yardie Creek in the Cape Range National Park (near Exmouth).  In the past week, we were fortunate to have made the acquaintance of the manager (Robbie) of Ultimate Watersports and expressed an interest in one of his extreme sports (more on that later in the page).   As such, Robbie saw our business potential and gifted us with two kayaks to use while we were at Yardie Creek, knowing we would return the kayaks and be ready for our lesson in Jet Boarding.

    Launching the kayaks          Incredible walls            Black Footed Rock Wallabies - very cute!

Yardie Creek is a rather wide, freshwater creek that empties into the ocean and it has created its own gorge, has its own tropical fish (that have adapted to the fresh/salt water mix) and is home to a threatened animal, the Black Footed Rock Wallaby.  We spent our last day at Yardie kayaking this beautiful creek and took the opportunity to snorkel its chilly waters.  We were even able to snorkel right up to a few Black Footed Rock Wallabies!  Not many can say they snorkeled with Wallabies!

   Snorkeling with Wallabies         Ospreys on the watch         Gerson is dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of the gorge's walls

A wonderful thing happened while at Yardie Creek, we met a couple from near Melbourne, John and Michelle Bosua, also travelling in our direction.  We have since been hop-scotching into the same shires and caravan parks and enjoying each other's company.  While we were kayaking, John and Michelle were walking along the cliffs of the gorge and they gifted us with some fantastic photos.

                                           Blue and White Herons
   Great kayak photos        Extraordinary photo of an Osprey carrying lunch to its nest

After the kayaking, I could not resist one last snorkel and was fortunate enough to swim upon a rare find, a Cuttlefish.  A Cuttlefish belongs to the class cephalopoda, which includes octopus, squid, etc.  Like the octopus, the Cuttlefish can change its colors to blend in with its environment and it also turns rather red when annoyed as a warning to its annoyer (in this case, me).

    Cuttlefish - changing colors from disguise, to anger and back to trying to hide                  I found Nemo

John and Michelle had a fun experience when they (and another traveller) found an Echidna on the road.  Eddie the Echidna (as I named him) would not move off the road and as they did not want to see a skinnier version of Eddie the next time they drove down the road, with the help of the other traveller, 'thonged' Eddie off the road.  Once Eddie realized he was safe in bush country, he happily waddled away.

     Eddie the Echidna and his relocation                  Gerson kayaking over crystal waters and beautiful beaches all along the coast

      Enjoying a good book at sunset

After Yardie Creek, it was back to Exmouth for a couple of days.  Although we anticipated using the time to knock off a few 'to-do's', we also were excited about our extreme adventure, learning to Jet Board.  Of course, Gerson got up and was walking on air in no time and even boosted up to heights of 25+ feet (8+ meters).  Me? Well, I did eventually lift-off; however, I mostly entertained everyone with my spectacular falls.  We literally had a blast!

     Roof check and maintenance                         Having a laugh before we set out and Gerson pulling us to deeper water
     Just an Emu joining us for breakfast            Gerson was Rocketman!

    I was not as graceful as Gerson, but had a lot of fun                     Dinner with John and Michelle

We left Exmouth and headed into the area referred to as 'Pilbara' for one of the most awe inspiring places we have ever been: Karijini National Park.  The long haul drive had us staying overnight at a little mining town called Tom Price (more in next week's journal) located just on the fringe of Karijini.

   We were greeted by many locals upon arrival in Tom Price                Karijini - dreams made reality

Karijini National Park is Western Australia's second largest National Park and definitely, one of the most spectacular places in the Pilbara.  The park is filled with subterranean gorges and swim-through waterfalls that open up to crystal clear pools just beckoning you in for a swim.  We arrived at the Karijini Eco Retreat, one of two campgrounds in the park, and immediately wandered a few hundred meters to view Joffre Falls.  Although the falls are a tad more photogenic with a bit more rain water, they did not disappoint.  We walked around and across the falls and found ourselves overwhelmed by the beauty of the gorge and our thoughts of what was to come in the next few days.

    Joffre Falls and the Olympic Pool                               More Joffre Falls
    Joffre Falls and a panoramic of the gorge                              Some Swedish girls enjoying a swim (and topless nonetheless ;-))

I should explain a bit about us travellers.  There are literally thousands of people in the midst of their version of travelling around Australia.  Whether it be just up the west coast, around the entire perimeter or up and around and down through the middle, there are a significant number of people in caravans, motorhomes, vans, campers, etc.  This is a very Australian thing to do and judging by the number of people our age and older that are living this life, it is a way of life that is worked hard for and passionately valued .

Speaking of travellers, John and Michelle pulled into camp later that evening and as we had just squeaked in our reservation for our site for several nights, we were able to sweet-talk the camp management to allow them to stay with us on our huge site. 

The next day was spent clamoring through, in and around Hancock Gorge.  The narrow, breathtaking gorge was quite the surprise as we made our way deeper and deeper into the chasm, scrambling over layers of rock, wading through shallow channels and swimming across hidden pools.  I could say more, but I think the pictures tell the story better than I ever could.

   Map of Hancock and Weano Gorge area

   John and Michelle and us starting out in the Hancock Gorge            Incredibly fun!
  Wading and swimming was a fun requirement                        The rock formations and pools were stunning.
   John and Michelle wading through Hancock Gorge          Gerson modeling the latest in beautiful rock formations

   Hancock Gorge access ends where a tour company (that rappels in) starts their trek.  There is no end to the beauty of this place.

A few hours of this gorgeous gorge and we were ready for a rest; however, a reviving lunch and remarkable lookout nearby and we were off for more adventure.  Oxer Lookout gave us dizzying views of where we had just been and where we were to go.

   Oxer Lookout views over the gorges, including the Weano Gorge.

  Stepping down into the Weano Gorge           Fun amongst the trees and rocks

Due to our enjoyable, strenuous scramble in Hancock Gorge, we all opted for a shorter version of the Weano Gorge and headed directly down to the Handrail Pool (and for Gerson and me, a bit more beyond).  We found the best cure for exhaustion is knocking yourself senseless with unending beauty (and chilly water!).
   Gerson dwarfed by the massive rock walls        Staying dry was not an option - I was fine with that!

The Handrail Pool was aptly named as the only way to get down to it (with your bones intact) was to climb down a fastened handrail and some attached stone steps.  Once you lowered yourself to the pool, you were gifted with a rock enclosure interrupted only by the incoming rivulet of water and the outgoing stream.

   Gerson descending into the Handrail Pool - Michelle already enjoying her respite
    Handrail Pool and view to its namesake                     Me trying to cross bodies of water and not get my camera wet.  Success!!

    Beyond the Handrail Pool was more and more               I was in my element

While we were frolicking in the gorge, John remained in a dry place (as he has a very nice camera to protect) and patiently waited for us children to return.  As he was wandering around and taking photos of those nooks and crannies we missed when we were playing in the gorge, John came across a snake.  Apparently, it was not just any snake, but a renegade King Brown (Mulga) snake, one of the ten most venomous (induces muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, etc.) and successfully eluding capture, well, until John the Snakebuster spotted it.  As it happened, the Park rangers were on the lookout for another 'snake' (it turned out to be a legless lizard, harmless) and John told them of his snake sighting.  When John was asked "Where did you see the snake?", he just pointed to the side and said "there", because the snake was still 'there'.  The Rangers excitedly and carefully bagged the snake and Mr. King Brown was relocated to a more remote and safe-from-humans part of the park.

   John and his King Brown snake
   We came across the Rangers and there catch of the King Brown snake

We ventured beyond the Handrail Pool to the end of the watery road because if we followed the river, we would have had to drop at least 20' (7 meters) into a sheer-walled, rock strewn pool below and if we survived that, coming back was greatly in question.
   The wonders continue to be wonderful, and wet            Last pool at the end of the watery road

     The gorge is a photographer's dream                         A very bright red dragonfly and a well-camouflaged lizard

We wound up the day with a nice tea (dinner) at the camp restaurant and regaled each other in our tales of conquest and near-death experiences.

   Tea with John and Michelle - a perfect ending to a perfect day

The next day, we were at it again, only we 4x4'd in John's truck over to the Dales Recreation Area and Dales Gorge.  Again, having multiple choices of gorges and pools to explore, we chose to go to the Circular Pool and then walk along the gorge to connect with the Fern Pool.  As the days were hot and the hikes were quite a workout, we looked forward to a swim.

   Dales Recreation Area and Dales Gorge

   We were all smiles at the start and we were definitely all smiles at the end        First views of Circular Pool - my camera filter was overwhelmed
                                                                                                                                                     by the colors (weird picture but those were some of the colors)
   Amazing trees growing through the layers of stone       Gerson taking a moment to absorb all the beauty (including the photographer)
   Two views of the colorful Circular Pool               Gerson having fun with some of the balancing stone slabs
    The rock layers provide natural steps                             Layers of color and geologic history

It did not take long for John the Snakebuster to find another snake and as luck would have it, I did as well.  While I was swimming in the Fortescue Falls pool, I heard a bit of a commotion near the falls and witnessed a frantic scattering of several people.  When I floated over to see what was amiss, an adult shrieked "there's a snake" and pointed to a lower shelf near the waterfall.  It took a few moments to find the itty bitty slitherer and I asked the nearby watchers if there was a stick nearby.  You would have thought I had three heads by the looks they gave me.  So, calling out to Gerson and motioning the size of the snake, Gerson brought me the appropriate length branch (always longer than the snake) and we shooed it away from the lower waterfall, up into a more covered area.  And well, a little research about what type of 'snake' and I believe it was just a Western Hooded Scaly Foot legless lizard (harmless).
   John, Michelle and Gerson found what I believe to be a Western Hooded Scaly Foot legless lizard      
   I found one as well and relocated it to a safer perch, away from people

We had an extraordinary walk along the base of the gorge, hopping rocks, tip-toeing across stones in ponds and stepping up and down within the layers of stone walls that lined our path.  So, when we came to the picturesque Fortescue Falls, we did not hesitate to immerse ourselves in the refreshing water. 
     How do you not take pictures in this place?
      There are no bad days when you are swimming in a waterfall pool               John, Michelle and Gerson just chillin
It was a short walk to the end of our hike and Fern Pool did not disappoint.  If it was not for our rumbly stomachs, we probably would have christened this water as well; however, we let the waters be in our memories and photos.

     Fern Pool was a lovely place - almost something out of a dream

Our walk back along Dales Gorge's cliffs allowed for one hellava stair climb and some spectacular views.  Even the drive back to camp was awe-inspiring.

   View from a lookout over Dales Gorge             View of Mt. Bruce - Western Australia's second highest mountain at 1,234m (4,049')

And to think we started this week kayaking on Yardie Creek, then learned to Jet Board (or fall spectacularly from), met two terrific people and ended the week with picture-perfect Karijini, not a bad week at all!

To say we are loving Australia and Western Australia specifically, would be quite the understatement.


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