Stop Nine: Karijini, Samson Point & Eighty Mile Beach, WA (June 25-30, 2017)

Our drive to Karijini from Exmouth was our longest yet at 8hrs so we got up before the sun and were on the road by 6. The drive was pretty uneventful – the first several hours were just a straight shot on a one lane highway. James, Jeff and I shared the driving which was about as easy as it gets!

We were nearing on hour 7 with just a few pit stops to stretch our legs as we pulled into Tom Price, the only town we’d passed and the last one before Karijini. About 10 minutes out James suddenly said ‘Oh crap!’ (though he may not have used those exact words). I immediately started braking, thinking he saw an animal. Instead he pointed to a large crack in the windshield, coming from the bottom corner of the passenger’s side that was already 30cm or so. We determined that at some point while I was driving, a rock must have bounced up from a passing car and hit on the very lower corner of the windshield out of view from any of us. We pulled into the Coles parking lot in Tom Price to call the credit card company (to see if it would be covered) and the rental car company to see what they wanted us to do. As with most Australians, the response was pretty Laissez-Faire. The rental car company basically told us that we were probably ok and if we really wanted to we could change cars when we arrived in Broome 5 days later.

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It shouldn’t have surprised us, really and we were just happy that we could keep on moving. Thinking of it, I’m reminded of one of my favourite encounters that I really feel showcases the Australian mindset. James and I stopped in Hawaii en route to Melbourne last September after getting married in Canada. Our first full day there I decided I would do some of our laundry. I grabbed everything from a pile on the bed and shoved it into the washing machine feeling a great sense of accomplishment. 45 minutes later, into the dryer the giant heap went as I poured myself a glass of rose to enjoy as we watched the sunset from our beachfront villa. As I grabbed the laundry out to fold, something papery fell to the ground. Oh, s&*t. It was James’ passport! It was nearly falling apart and the photo was so faded it could have been a picture anyone. We kept our cool, but decided to drive to Honolulu from the North Shore where we were staying first thing the next morning. We checked online and Canadian travelers were meant to report to the Australian Embassy for any issues. So we strolled into the office, looking a bit worried, and presented the passport. The woman behind the counter said ‘Ah, so you’ve washed your passport ‘ave ya?’ James replied yes and asked if there was anything we could do; we were still on Oahu for a few days, perhaps he could get a new picture and a temporary passport issued? She said ‘Nah. Can’t do that’. We stared at her blankly. ‘It’s really up to the airline to decide whether you can fly, so see how you go’ she said. ‘So what happens if we arrive at the airport and they say we can’t fly?’ I asked. Her response? ‘Well, just see how you go. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just see how you go’. Luckily the airline gave us no trouble at all and he was able to get a new passport right away! I just love the laid back, ‘no worries’, ‘see how you go’ mentality.

In any case, we were back on the road to Karijini with a massive crack in the windshield hoping it would hold up.

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We arrived at the Eco retreat only to discover that, while you have access to a grill to cook your own meals, there is little (nothing) else provided. We hadn’t exactly planned on that and didn’t have as much as a plastic butter knife, let alone BBQ utensils so we settled in and decided to eat at the resort restaurant that night. There was a gorge basically behind our tent (Joffre Gorge) so we decided to take a quick peek. We weren’t expecting much, there was a lookout for a waterfall and little else but we soon discovered that there was a path leading down into the gorge that took us to a little pool with a waterfall. We were blown away by how beautiful it was. Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to go in with low expectations!

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Before dinner we decided to have some wine and play cards. We had recently re-introduced ourselves to Euchre and I’m happy to say Katie and I absolutely schooled the boys that night. I think it was 5 games to none (but who’s counting?).

The next morning we woke up and though we wanted to stay in bed (it was very chilly in our tent overnight!) we got up, had some breakfast and set out to hike Mount Bruce. Mount Bruce is the second highest mountain in Western Australia and if you don’t believe me, ask my quads, glutes and hamstrings because they were feeling it! It was 1.5 hours to the top which offered outstanding views and an opportunity for some pretty awesome drone footage.

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After our equally painful decent (I must be getting old because my knees hate going downhill) we made ourselves a quick lunch and headed to Hamersley Gorge. Similar to Joffre Gorge, we climbed down into it (though here it was more like stone stairs rather than clambering down boulders). Robin told us to climb upstream where there was a swimming hole (she specifically told us to ignore the signs not to go upstream which we of course did). What a sight! I was feeling chilly but James went for a quick dip and (likely due to the signs) we had the place all to ourselves.

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Next we headed into Tom Price to get some necessities (cutlery, plates, utensils etc.), get a permit to drive on a mining road we planned to take when we left Karijini and to pick up Robin who was flying in from Perth and joining us on the next few days as we made our way up to Broome. That night we had one of our favourite meals we’ve been making: snapper tacos (I swear we have it every 3 or 4 days!) and played some cards before getting to bed.

The next morning we headed to another famous Gorge in the national park: Hancock Gorge. As with others, you climb down into the Gorge but the thing that makes this one pretty special is the ‘Spider’s Walk’ where you have a hand and foot on each side of a narrow Gorge and carefully climb your way down the walkway to an opening with Kermit’s Pool, another beautiful swimming hole. James, Katie and Jeff all took the plunge while Robin and I played photographer. We headed back to our tent for lunch and then the rest of the group made their way to Knox Gorge while I had a rest (I was starting to come down with something and wanted to nip it in the bud!).

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That night after dinner, we experimented with some star photography. The stars were just incredible in Karijini and none of us could come close to doing it justice but we were able to get one or two shots.

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The next morning was our big trek to Samson Point in the Rio Tinto Rail Access Road. The boys were pretty excited to get our 4WD off-road (even though many of the roads around Karijini are dirt roads). I have to admit, the first 45 minutes or even hour was really cool! Red dirt roads beside railroad tracks, passing trains full of Iron Ore on their way to Port Hedland. But after an hour of unsealed roads you’ve had your fill. Lucky for us, we were taking the whole 300km stretch (at 80km/hr max, on a very bumpy road)! At least our car was already buggered (we’d actually managed to get another chip in the windshield from a passing 4×4 on the unsealed road to Hamersley Gorge).

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Port Samson was our first of two stops before making it to Broome, our final destination, so not a whole lot to report on the town itself!

The next day, we had a 5 hour drive to Eighty Mile Beach, stopping in Port Hedland for some lunch (and drone footage). The following day we had just a short (4 hour) drive to Broome so after some Turkey Burgers and Monopoly Deal we all headed for bed. Cable Beach, here we come!

-Catie

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