Camping Queens in Karijini

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by Steph A-K. Klöckener

Our time in Karijini National Park was admittedly my personal highlight of the road trip. The beauty of the park was astonishing and unlike anything all of us had seen before.

We left our camping spot close to Port Hedland in the early morning as we wanted to have as much time in the park as possible. As we had previously discussed where we would stay first, we headed towards Dales Campground in the east of the park.

Once there we had to face the first challenge we encountered in Karijini, which was setting up our camp. At this point of the trip, we had found our routine in setting up the tents. However the national park decided to cross our plans with its dry ground and strong wind.

Suddenly the simple task of ensuring that the tents were stable was a literal mission impossible. As the pegs refused to enter the ground, the tents decided to make a run for it.

Looking back at the situation now, it’s impossible not to laugh. Our attempt to immobilise the tents with weights must have looked hilarious to anyone observing us. As four of us were holding down the tents, everyone else started unloading everything heavy and storing it in the corners of the tents. We had to put more and more into the tents and at times it seemed like we were doomed, but as a team we managed to wrestle our tents into submission.

Karijini Wildflowers

After what seemed like hours, we were finally able to walk towards Dales Gorge.

Our first stop was the Fortescue Falls, the only permanent waterfall in Karijini National Park. We jumped into the pool in front of the falls and went for a swim as the sun started to set over this beautiful scenery.

A little while later most of us continued on wards and headed towards Fern Pool. And what we saw was more than amazing. Using a ladder we entered the water at this sacred site and swam towards the small cave beneath the waterfall. It was the perfect way to end the day.

The next morning we packed up and headed towards the other side of the national park. We drove towards Karijini Eco Retreat and dropped off the trailer at our camping spot. At the main building of the retreat we ran into an old friend that we had met back in Broome.

Fortunately he didn’t have to work that day, so he offered to be our guide for the first level 5 gorge – a hike that is for experienced bush walkers. A description neither the other nine camping queens nor me would use to describe ourselves.

Accompanied by our guide and a friend of his, we tackled Hancock Gorge. We climbed down the cliffs and only a few meters into the gorge, we had to walk through waist-deep water. The first sign that we should have started the hike in nothing but swimwear and shoes. It was a blast to walk through the gorge and after swimming and climbing some more, we eventually made it to Kermits Pool.

After this incredible gorge hike, we said goodbye to our friends and decided to start the next gorge walk right away. Another climb down the cliffs edge and we were on our way towards the Handrail Pool. This time around it was possible to avoid the water by climbing along a ledge, which was more fun than walking through the water. All of us had an amazing time and were more than amazed by what we saw.

Just before the Handrail Pool we had to walk through a very small and slippery passage. And it is undeniable that the view made it hard to pay attention to where we were stepping.

Luckily all of us, including my clumsy self, survived and eventually reach the handrail that leads to the natural pool.

While this hike did not require swimming, looking at the natural pool made it impossible not to go for a swim in the cool water. We put our backpacks on a ledge and jumped into the water. Chances are, that we looked like little kids as we were starfishing in the water and joking around, but none of us cared. It was all about having a blast and enjoying the moment with this amazing group of friends.

After all the swimming and climbing, we decided to spend the evening talking to our friends from Broome at the Eco Retreat. There was silent music and a lot of laughter. And most of us ended up sleeping really early. Our tents were right next to the tables and none of us woke up, but apparently there was a  noise complaint. To this day I don’t know what anyone could have heard. The only loud thing that night was the lady from the reception that decided to reprimand us in a really loud voice. She demanded that we should leave right after we had eaten breakfast the next morning. Now that she had woken up most of us, we decided to drop the debate. After this unwanted wake-up call, I was more than happy to leave the retreat as soon as possible.

The next morning the same lady was working in the small shop and refused to sell us the milk we wanted to buy for our breakfast. As we were filling up our water tanks, we had the chance to chat with other people that were camping at the retreat and were told that the noise didn’t come from our loop at all. We never found out who was the actual perpetrator, but it’s definitely a story I’ll always remember with both confusion and laughter.

On our last day in the national park, we explored Joffrey Gorge. The first part was rather easy in comparison to our previous gorge hikes, but eventually we reached a spot with a steep climb down. Initially we decided to skip this last part and to head back towards the bus. However we changed our minds once we had climbed back up and discussed our plans for the rest of the day.

We split up in groups so all of us could do what we wanted. While some headed towards a viewing platform and two others decided to wait at the bus, me and three other ladies decided to challenge ourselves with the climb towards the waterfall.

At times we could see where we should step and had to hold on for dear life, but climbing down the cliff was incredibly thrilling. Once we reached the bottom and had avoided a natural pool, we discovered that the waterfall had dried out and left behind an amphitheater-like structure.

We spend quite a while down there and took way to many pictures of the scenery. The experience was definitely worth the climb. Eventually we had to head back towards our meeting point and leave behind this amazing place.

In the late afternoon we drove towards Tom Price where we went stocked up on groceries and spend the night at a camping ground.

It feels like there are many more things I could say about our time in Karijini National Park, but in the end it is something everyone should experience themselves. I, for one, am grateful that I was a part of this Share Bus trip with nine incredible women and that I got to explore this pristine park with my favourite camping queens.

Steph (A Nomads Passport) was the storyteller for the Share Bus trip from Broome to Perth in October & November 2018. She more than recommends Share Bus and would always rent a bus with stranger again. You can find more of her pictures from this and other trips here.

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