We got up early and took about 3½ hours to get ourselves ready to go! It was our first time of packing all our stuff on our own and we got a lot better as time went on, but it was a relief to get on the road. From Karijini we drove to the mining town of Tom Price, then to the Millstream – Chichester National Park – a grand total of 281km. The map below shows the route and some places of interest.
THIS file will give a much more accurate version of the route and also includes the photographs taken along the way. You need to download the file and open it in Google Earth available HERE.
The route took us through typical scenery of the Hamersley Range.
Before long the dirt road became asphalt and we continued to Tom Price. This is a town serving the iron ore mines in the area. Almost all the mines here are owned and run by RTZ. (Similarly the mines near Newman are BMP mines.) We are told it is not a company town, but it is. Almost everybody works for RTZ, or for a company which works for RTZ.
But it is a pleasant enough place, but like many of the more recent towns of WA is very similar to Newman or Kununurra or Port Hedland or Karratha or wherever. But it (and they) served us well and we were able to do our chores of shopping, laundry, fuel etc.
We also got our permit to drive alongside the RTZ railway for part of the rest of our journey. At Newman this is a formality, but not at Tom Price. I suspect that the road is only available to the public against the wishes of RTZ, probably at government insistence. So in order to discourage usage you have to sit through a 20 minute DVD about how to drive on dirt roads. This emphasizes the extreme and imminent danger of this hazardous practice. You are taking your life and that of all other road users into your incompetent hands. They show examples using steep, twisty, undulating, badly maintained roads and then ask whether you REALLY want to do this. Well we did and discovered that the road we drove along was nothing like those shown in the DVD. It is a good dirt road, well maintained and as good as many other dirt roads we had, and would, drive along.
It was a long uneventful drive to Millstream, the only excitement being passing an ore train then waiting for it to pass us so that we could photograph it. Having been informed on many occasions that pictures of trains are not to everyone’s taste I have embedded a slideshow of part of my Flickr photostream which will allow the train enthusiast to see my photos.
Eventually we reached Millstream and headed for the Crossing Pool Camp as we had heard that it was the most picturesque – and indeed it was. It was also full – unsurprisingly as there are only nine pitches! So we took the roundabout route to Miliyanha camp passing much of the infrastructure which transports Millstream water to the towns of the coast, such as Dampier.
At Miliyanha we found that informality is the watchword – you find an empty pitch which you fancy and pitch your tent. Some time later the resident, unpaid, wardens stroll over and take your details and money ($A54 for 3 nights) and have a chat. I works very well.
We camped, made ourselves comfortable and cooked our supper. Our headlights, purchased in Tom Price, worked well. Our Primus lamp also worked well, but not while we cooked on the gas stove. The spare gas cylinder we got for the lamp turned out to be empty and we had not thought to have it filled! However we did find out that there is a very good camp kitchen with light and stoves supplied, so we will use that in future.
And here is a geological map of Millstream Chichester.
John and Julie were to go back to Perth this morning but first we had to repack the trucks so that we had all that we needed fo the next couple of months. and also know how to use it! So first of all some intensive tent pitching practice – up to now the tent had stayed in its bag, but we would need it if we camped in National Parks. Then there was the task of fitting everything we thought we needed into our truck. We thought a second spare wheel was a very good idea but it took up a great deal of space! But eventually everything was sorted out and we went our separate ways. It was about 1400 km for J & J to get to Perth and they did it with two days driving. Chris and I had a mere 80 km to drive. We called in at the park Visitor Centre and enquired about the Karijini Eco Retreat and confirmed that although it was best known for its luxury camping it did have a normal camp site. So of we drove the 35 km and booked in at what was a very nice place to stay.
We set up our tent in our designated site and set off for Weano Gorge.
Weano Gorge, at least in the part we visited, is not very deep but it was a challenge for us for we did not realise that it was normal to wade to get along the gorge! So we found our visit a bit restricted, but still spectacular.
But even if one did not go wading to see nice scenery. Weano Gorge was particularly good for reflections of the red cliffs in the water.
And some of the cliffs were very red!
As the sun went lower the colours grew more intense.
And the white gum trees stood out against the red of the cliffs.
Then it was back to the camp site to cook our supper. And discovered that we could do with some lighting which was compatible with cooking. John had gone off with his head torch and we only had hand held torches. We each could have done with a third hand! Also as it gets dark before 7 PM and lighting is difficult, there is a tendency to go to bed quite early and to get up with the dawn. Oftimes we would be asleep by 9 and up just after 5. Very different from life at home!
Saturday 17th August 2013
Today we did two gorges, Hancock in the morning and Joffre in the late afternoon. Hancock is close to Weano which we did yesterday and Joffre is within walking distance of our camp. The map below shows where we went and also that all the rocks we saw were Brockman Iron formation
Before descending into Hancock gorge we went to the Oxer lookout. This is near the place where four gorges meet. Weano, Hancock and Joffre combine to form Red Gorge and a little downstream, Knox Gorge joins.
After the lookout we started down into Hancock Gorge. At first this is just a steep path past red cliffs.
But then you come to a steel ladder which takes you down a small cliff and you are on the bottom of the gorge.
There is water in the bottom of Hancock Gorge. The stream is barely flowing but the streams course is so rugged that there are pools all along the gorge.
But as you go downstream the trail becomes a little more tricky and your scrambling skills are tested.
The gorge becomes more constricted and the way more difficult.
And then you come to Kermit’s Pool which is where the tired traveller can refresh with a bracing dip.
And just beyond the pool you come to signs telling you to go no further. The category of the trail changes from 4 or 5 to 6 and 7 and climbing aids and abseiling skills are required beyond this point. If you pay $A245 each you can go on tours from the Eco Resort with a climber who has the requisite gear for getting into the deeper gorges. He also supplements his income by rescuing people who get stuck in the gorges.
So we turned back and headed out, but not before one last backward glance.
On our way out we paused to take some photos, Chris put down her camera and forgot to pick it up again! We never saw it again. I passed my spare camera on to her. After lunch back at the camp we rested and then set off to walk to Joffre Gorge. It was then that we discovered the loss of the camera, so our departure was rather delayed as we looked everywhere for it. it is an easy walk to Joffre Gorge, past the rather nice permanent tents of the Eco Camp. You can get into the higher levels of the Gorge easily but getting into the depths is rather more tricky.
The low light of the setting sun lit up the higher parts of the gorge and these could be seen reflected in the water in the gorge bottom.
The moon was up and the sun was going down so we headed back to camp, determined to revisit Joffre Gorge on the morrow.
Sunday 18th August 2013
This was a relatively restful day. We walked to the Reception at the Eco Resort where we plugged in various electric devices for recharging. Only $A5 per item!!! And discovered that you could purchase internet time at $A5 per half hour. We thought that might be useful later. Then we continued to Joffre Gorge and walked as far as we could downstream, which was not very far. There we met a young lady who was enjoying her day off from working at the Eco Resort. She told us that what we could see before us was the “Olympic Swimming Pool”, it was 300m long and very cold. And you could only get out at the far end with an expert climber – rather like the far end of Hancock Gorge yesterday. apparently when it gets warmer the best way of getting along the pool is to “tube it” – get an inner tube from a tyre, sit in it and paddle along. Also have a smaller tube to carry the beers.
The map below shows how Joffre Gorge leads down to Red Gorge and where we were yesterday. Here we were about 4 km from our exploits of yesterday.
So turning round we headed upstream. the sun behind us made the rocks glow.
We came to a narrow section where we had to splash through the stream but saw that it widened out beyond.
The wide area was almost circular with vertical walls and with a large pool in the bottom. This was where the Joffre Falls entered Joffre Gorge.
The combination of warm sunshine and fairly clean water led to the inevitable – Chris went for a swim!
After a respectable time at the pool we headed back to reception, picked up our charged items and made a booking for dinner in the resort restaurant. We rested then went back to reception to catch up with emails and other necessities of modern life – mainly moving money to keep up with our spending! Our meal was pretty good – sophistication in the bush.
Monday 19th August 2013
The map below shows what we did today. We drove to Joffre Falls Lookout and then to Knox Gorge. The Lookout is not very far from the camp but it is on the other side of the gorge so a drive of about 5 miles is needed to get there. A further 2.5 miles takes you to the Knox Gorge Lookout.
The Lookout gives a different view of the falls and the amphitheatre.
It is a steep walk into Knox Gorge and the signs at the bottom indicate that you should walk downstream. But upstream looked pretty good and that is the way we went.
The rocks are Brockman Iron Formation and look as if they had been cast from molten iron! But of course they are sediments laid down 2.5 billion years ago.
A few hundred yards upstream we came to a rather nice swimming hole which we much enjoyed.
After an hour or two we went back to camp and got ready to leave Karijini. As you can probably tell we enjoyed our time in the Park and we came back almost 6 weeks later.
On rising we set off back towards Newman so that Chris and I could get enough provisions for our first period on our own. But driving along the railway line we saw an ore train and took the opportunity to photograph it.
Typically these trains are 2.63km long, have 248 wagons each carrying 126 tonnes of ore. That adds up to 31,000 tons per train.
Usually there are eight trains per day, so a quarter million tonnes are transported every day. It takes 8 hours to cover the 426km to Port Hedland. Later, after our time in Karijini, we drove along the very similar Mount Tom Price to Dampier Railway, operated by RTZ (Rio Tinto Zinc). Iron ore is BIG in Western Australia.
We did our shopping and set off for Karijini along the Great Northern Highway. As we approached Karijini we looked out for potential camp sites and spotted a candidate a few miles from the camp boundary. We checked it out by having lunch there and gave it a somewhat reluctant thumbs up – it was not far from the road.
After lunch we drove into the park, had a walk round the Visitors Centre, then headed for Dales Gorge. We looked at the Camp Site which, after our experience of wild camping, seemed very crowded! Then had a walk to Dales Gorge and saw our first Karijini gorge. Almost all the rocks we saw were the Brockman Iron Formation, part of the Hamersley Group. They are about 2.5 billion years old and look remarkably well preserved for their great age.
Walking along the top of the gorge we soon came to the Fortescue Falls which were actually flowing but not as much as they would in the wet season.
From the top of the falls one can look along the gorge.
The rocks of the gorge look very straight forward, flat-lying sediments until you look at them more closely. Then they become rather more complex. An article in Wikipedia says:-
The conventional concept is that the banded iron layers were formed in sea water as the result of oxygen being released by photosynthetic cyanobacteria, combining with dissolved iron in Earth’s oceans to form insoluble iron oxides, which precipitated out, forming a thin layer on the substrate, which may have been anoxic mud (forming shale and chert). Each band is similar to a varve, to the extent that the banding is assumed to result from cyclic variations in available oxygen.
It is unclear whether these banded ironstone formations were seasonal, followed some feedback oscillation in the ocean’s complex system or followed some other cycle.
It is assumed that initially the Earth started out with vast amounts of iron and nickel dissolved in the world’s acidic seas. Eventually, as photosynthetic organisms generated oxygen, the available iron in the Earth’s oceans was precipitated out as iron oxides.
At a suspected tipping point where the oceans became permanently oxygenated, small variations in oxygen production produced pulses of free oxygen in the surface waters, alternating with pulses of iron oxide deposition.
So wee beasties, polluting their own environment – oxygen wasn’t good for them – caused the composition of the sea and the atmosphere to change and rust to deposit on the beds of the oceans. You would not get planning permission for it nowadays! However it enables us to live the life we live – what would we do without iron?
Roots of a fig tree near Fern Pool
Walking upstream from the falls we came to Fern Pool which is a lovely pool for swimming – I enjoyed it so much that I forgot to take a photo! But here is a photo of people swimming in the pool below the Fortescue Falls.
By this time it was getting late so we headed back to our lunch spot and set up our last camp together. To morrow John and Julie would be heading back to Perth while Chris and I would be on our own!
HERE is today’s route and photos. Open with Google Earth.