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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #064

Editorial

"What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?"

— Sterling Hayden

 

Nuff said.

— Rob Gray

 

Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

 

Tue 31 May 2011

OK so maybe this is the second best campsite in the Pilbara, we have very dodgy reception, meaning that if you try to get email 10 times on maybe 5 or 6 of those times you will get a connection and even then only at about 15kbps on a good day with a tail wind and when holding your mouth right.

So I can read (and even send sometimes) emails but browsing web sites is out of the question.


Our campsite on top of the ridge.

 

Note:

All the walking and photography in this chronicle was done with three photographer friends of mine. I'm using many of their people shots to illustrate the text and the copyright remains with them as noted for each such photo.

Rather than have a link for each photo here are the guy's websites.

Glen Turvey

David Houlder

Paul Hoelen

Presumably they will have photos of the trip posted before long if not already.

Tue 31 May 2011

Glen, David and Paul arrive late in the evening after long flights from Canberra and Hobart, hassles with car hire and recalcitrant Coles staff in Tom Price, and a longish drive over to our camp site; and then they have to put tents up.

Needless to say we didn't chat very much.

Wed 1 Jun 2011

Now we can catch up, we spent a large part of the day chewing the fat and deciding which walk to do first.

We eventually decide to do a few days in the touristy areas of the park and car camp rather than walking. That should blow the cobwebs out and get us in the mood.

As the sun sets we take a few photos in the area around the camp.


Some views from the campsite.

Note that all these pics were taken from directly outside the truck. Like I said, the (second)best campsite in the Pilbara.

And after the sun sets the lads play with some time exposures.


That's my name in lights in case you didn't notice. © Paul Hoelen (I think, I was in the warm motorhome at the time.)

Thu 2 Jun 2011

We drive to the information centre near Dales Gorge and are informed that Hancock Gorge will close tomorrow for track work. Hancock is where the Spider Walk and Kermit's Pool are and I had originally thought it might be nice to spend two days there, at this rate we'll be lucky to get half a day.

We fill our water bladders then drive over to the Weano/Hancock Gorge car park.


Filling water bladders at the tank. © Glen Turvey

On the way however we check out a potential campsite. You are not allowed to free camp in the park but there's a good camp site on the way, about 3k short of the Weano car park is a track to Bee Gorge and at this point the road just loops outside the park for a few hundred metres, the Bee Gorge track is entirely outside the park so we plan to camp there.

Both David and I have been there before but still it's not as easy as we remembered to find the track. We do find it however and earmark a suitable campsite for tonight.

Then it's down to the car park.

We gear up and head down into the gorge, it's as good as I remember.


Glen making his way along the gorge side.


Abseilers below Kermit's Pool.


Looking down from Kermit's Pool.


Colourful rocks at Kermit's Pool.


Small cascade in the Spider Walk.


Me taking the above photo. © David Houlder.


Entrance to the Spider walk (right).


Small waterfall in The Amphitheartre.

David and I are slowly making our way back to the exit track when he decides to take a photo. I'm pretty much done taking photos for the day so I just hang around. On looking up though I notice a possible exit point, I shinny about half way up to ensure there are no surprises, it seems good so I return and grab my gear.

The climb is a bit harder than I thought it would be but but apart from one slightly hairy part is really just a scramble up a steep slope.

Before long I'm on the rim looking down on David. I take a photo of the spinifex on the opposite site of the gorge then stroll back to the carpark.


Spinifex in the opposite side of the gorge.

After a while the lads are back, it's now dark so we drive back to the campsite, set up our tents and eat.


Campsite just off the Bee Gorge track (taken next morning).

Fri 3 Jun 2011

We decide to leave out tents up for the day, partly because we could be late and it's a pain erecting tents in the dark, and partly to save our spot.

So it's back to the Weano car park, but this time we walk in the opposite direction, down to Weano Gorge and Handrail Pool. I haven't been here before so I'm looking forward to seeing it.

As it happens Hancock Gorge is not closed, they realised it's a public holiday weekend and have postponed the track works. But I think we did well enough there yesterday, we're better off going somewhere new.

And I'm glad we do, Weano Gorge (and especially the approach to Handrail Pool) is quite amazing. We spend the entire day in the gorge and get some great photos.


David and I walk through a wet part in Weano Gorge. © Glen Turvey


Rock formations in the main part of the gorge.


Looking from a small pool back ot the main part of the gorge.


The small pool just before the entrance to Handrail Pool. The main part of the gorge is through the entrnace on the left. You reach Handrail Pool via the entrance on the right.


Looking from the small pool to the entrance to Handrail Pool.

I'm first back to the car and I get chatting to Rosalie (I think), a school teacher that's hanging around the car park. It seems she is waiting for a group of school kids that are abseiling through some class 6 sections of the gorges. They started from Knox Gorge and are supposed to pop up here at either Hancock or Weano.

But it's 4PM and there's no sign of them, still it's not dark yet.

5PM and still no sign, still it's not dark yet.

At 6PM they still haven't surfaced and now it is dark.

By this time the lads are also here and we're cooking dinner. I've been trying without success to raise the party on the UHF so Glen (who has Search and Rescue training and experience) takes control and contacts the rangers on the nearby emergency radio.

They in turn contact the Tom Price SES (State Emergency Service) and the S&R wheels start turning.

After some time we raise the lost party on the UHF, they are not far away although they have split into two parties because some were slower than others. Rosalie turns on the bus lights to guide them home and sure enough before long we see the leader's head torch, probably just a 100 metres away or so, it's a done deal.

Or not.

They are on the other side of the gorge.

The sides are steep, it's pitch dark, and they only have a single head torch. We could possibly help but we only have head torches as well and anyway we don't know the area and would probably just make matters worse.

Glen is a real trooper and he maintains a comms link between the rangers and the lost party which in turn helps a lot with their moral as they know help is on the way. Meanwhile, according to Rosalie, us being there has helped her a lot as she hasn't had to deal with this on her own.

We commit to staying until the rangers arrive, which they do an hour or so later.

They thank us (and particularly Glen) for our help and ask where we're staying. I blurt out that we'll find a spot in the bush and mean to say "outside the park" but somehow don't add that part. Still they seem to forget about that until 10 minutes later when they again ask where we'll spend the night.

This time Glen says we'll go back to our spot way over at the Munjima Gorge lookout (which is miles across the other side of the park and certainly not where our tents have been all day on the Bee Gorge track just a few minutes away).

The ranger says, somewhat conspiratorially, "Well there's a spot just up the road that's outside the camp, people camp there and there's nothing we can do about it".

"Oh really?" says Glen.

The ranger gives us some directions and we take our leave.

As we drive off I ask Glen if he thinks he can find the place. "I think we'll manage" he replies.

Sat 4 Jun 2011

Another day, another gorge. This time the lads want to do some floating on the river at Joffre Gorge and they have brought a motley collection of lilos, blow up boats and even a pink inflatable pool "lounge".


Required accessory for gorge floating. I am of course referring to the lounge © Paul Hoelen

Personally I think water is only good for hot showers and home brew and there's no way I'm going any nearer to the stuff than absolutely necessary. And a voluntary float in a freezing river does not qualify as "absolutely necessary".

Before we get to the trail head we drop into the Safari Eco Retreat. They heard all about the "rescue" last night and thank us because they would have had to go out if we hadn't been there so they are grateful for that, their gratitude doesn't extend to a free coffee though.


Coffee at the retreat. © Glen Turvey

We get to the Knox Gorge car park and the lads head off, I just hang around for the day, reading, helping someone with a car problem, generally relaxing, and trying to figure out some issues with my serial protocol by drawing the logic waveforms in the dirt. As you do.


Me hanging around. © Paul Hoelen


The lads ready for a day with their floaties. © Paul Hoelen


Glen in his blow-up boat. © David Houlder


Paul with his pink pool lounge © Glen Turvey

Glen and David return just before dark, and Paul just after. It seems he couldn't deflate the pink lounge and after half an hour was about to knife it when he realised that by squeezing the valves the air could escape.

We drive back to the truck, eager to look at the photographic results from the last three days.

Sun 5 Jun 2011

Lay day today, and some time to decide on the next walk. The lads are keen to see the nearby Fortress Gorge, it's a 3-4 day walk and I'm not that interested so I decide to sit this one out.

Mon 6 June 2011

It's pissing down rain. The Fortress Gorge walk is probably off so we sit around working on photos and chatting.

Paul has borrowed one of my tents but the ground here is so hard that he doesn't bother trying to use the pegs and places a few rocks around the fly to hold everything in place. It works with mixed success and in fact the only thing holding the tent down for the most part is Paul himself.


It's wet and windy. That lump in the tent is Paul © Glen Turvey

Tue 7 Jun 2011

The Fortress Gorge walk is definitely off so we start to plan our walk for when the rain stops in a day of so (according to the forecast).

The lads drive over to Wittenoom, a nearly-deserted town that used to be at the centre of Australia's asbestos mining industry.

Of course we now know that asbestos is not that great for one's health and the town pretty much died with the industry. There are a few hardy souls living there though.

Wed 8 Jun 2011

Still waiting for the rain to stop. The lads go for a mine tour at Tom Price. I sit in my nice warm motorhome.

Thu 9 Jun 2011

We've decided to do a through walk from Dales Gorge to Fig Tree Crossing. It's not very far but we will take 5 or 6 days to allow time for photography and what may be difficult terrain.

Given that this means our car will be parked in the car park at Dales and you're not allowed to camp there (and also it's often a good idea to let authorities know if you are heading into the wilderness) we decide to inform the visitors centre of our intentions.

The girls behind the counter don't appear to know what we're talking about, "Oh", "Yeah" and "OK" are all the response we get. They even suggest we tell the Auski Roadhouse, Lord knows what it has to do with them.

Hmm, that doesn't exactly fill us with confidence that the message will get through to anybody with some sense.

Then I remember that the camp hosts here in WA have close contact with the rangers, so we drop into the camp host tent at Dales Gorge.

She is a little flummoxed at first, not knowing why anyone would want to walk for days through the park, but at least she appreciates why we are telling her and she records our details.

Now we can be off.

We drive to the Circular Pool car park and are just about to leave when Paul decides his pack is too heavy and that a full repack is in order.


A likely-looking lot ready for off. © Glen Turvey

The rest of us head down the gorge with the idea that we will drop packs and walk up to Fortescue Falls and back. Thus if Paul does the same we will cross paths before long.

The plan is a good one, but we don't follow it. David, Glen and myself decide to return along the gorge rim and therefore we miss Paul as he walks along the bottom.

It's an hour or so before we finally get our act together and proceed down the part of Dales Gorge that the tourists don't see.


A nice spot just off the main tourist part of Dales Gorge.

The going is easy for a kilometre or so with rock ledges providing what are essentially pavements to walk on.

There is supposed to be a section that you have to swim around here and we are prepared to waterproof everything and brave the freezing water.

On reaching a very pleasant spot


A kilometre or so down Dales Gorge.

we are tempted to camp but it's only 3:30 so we continue. Immediately David realises that this is the pool that forced him to swim last time he walked here. However he was coming from the other direction and on the other side of the gorge. We spot what looks like a way around that doesn't involve getting wet feet let alone a full swim.

There's a short difficult part but after that it may be clear, however we can't see so as I'm the person least inclined to get wet I drop my pack and scout ahead.

Sure enough, once the small climb is dealt with it's a clear run, or as clear as it gets in some of these gorges.


Porting our packs across a small cliff. © Paul Hoelen

We stick to the river-left side of the gorge for as long as possible but eventually are forced to the other side. Then we must change again.

The rest of the afternoon is consumed trying to stay on the inside of the many turns in the river because that's where the terrain is the most accommodating (the outside of a river bend is usually very steep with nowhere to walk).

The alluvial flats that looked so grassy and alluring in Google Earth are in fact made up of rocks and boulders ranging from a few inches to a few feet in size. This means that every step is a potential ankle-twister. Add that to the creek crossings where you have to fight with cutty grass as tall as us and after a couple of hours I'm knackered.

With no obvious camp site in view and darkness approaching Glen drops his pack and scouts ahead. He returns in just a few minutes, there's a campsite not far ahead.

Day one, I'm buggered and we really only walked for half a day.


Paul's tent in the star light. © Paul Hoelen


First campsite in Dales Gorge.

Fri 10 Jun 2011

After an uncomfortable night I'm actually quite happy to get up in the cold. The inside of our tent flys are soaked and there's no chance of seeing sunlight down here for several hours so we pack them wet.

Today is much like the last two hours of yesterday, boulders and creek crossings. We cross the creek many times because it snakes back and forth and as I mentioned it's usually easier (read "possible" as the outside is often a vertical cliff) walking on the inside of a bend.


Me filling up with some water.


Me again...not close enough? I totally understand.


How's this?



All © Paul Hoelen.

At about 4 it's time to drop anchor and as it happens we are near a small pool with good camping on the sandy bank. However our goal for today was to reach the junction of Dales gorge and the unnamed gorge we intend to walk up, and that junction is not very far away.


The potential campsite, there's a pool at the base of those trees. © Paul Hoelen

So do we walk up there to find there's no water and/or decent campsite and then have to walk back. Or do we camp here only to find the world's best campsite first thing tomorrow morning.

Once again Glen comes to the rescue by dropping his pack and doing a recce.

He returns to inform us of a good site with plenty of water right at the junction, maybe 20 minutes walk away.

So it's packs back on and we're off again. Glen bolts ahead but we soon catch up to find a great spot.


Tents up and washing on the line.


I inflate my sleeping mat. It became known as the 'bikini mat' for reasons that escape me. © Paul Hoelen

After setting up tents and taking a few photos Glen decides to invest some time in making himself comfortable and before long he has a passable version of a stone age Starship Enterprise control consol.


Glen surveys his handy work.


Now let's see, can I reach the water bladder?


How about making a cuppa? Yep, seems to work.

I am inspired by this (and by a deep-seated desire to be comfortable) and create a somewhat simpler version for myself.

Later in the evening we discuss tomorrow's agenda and largely decide that sitting around here is as good a way to spend the day as any. David can't really see anything to photograph but the rest of us can and anyway the idea of this walk was to take our time.


Evening gab fest. © Paul Hoelen

There is a section of the next gorge that has "Most interesting part" annotated by a previous map owner and we are kind of aiming for that. But we don't know who penned the annotation, maybe he was interested in slogging his guts out through 2-metre high cutty grass then swimming through freezing water. Who knows?

Eventually we decided that a great campsite in the hand is better than a "most interesting part" in the bush and we decide to stay another day.

Sat 11 Jun 2011


The camp at dawn.

A day of rest, I take a few photos, Glen and David take a few more, and Paul shoots all day nearly exhausting his batteries.


A few photos of the nearby rock formations.

By and large though I'm happy to just lie around.


That's me, just lion around. You show me a flat rick and I'll show you how to get comfortable. © Glen Turvey

Glen does some exploring up the gorge today and returns with a table for his control consol. That guy has more energy than is healthy, fancy carrying that slab all the way down the gorge just to have a table for the night.


Afternoon around the camp.


New and improved version of Glen's control consol, now with table. Notice the remote control at the bottom of the photo.


A wider view.


Another test run, Glen has a full-on Jason recliner happening here.

Sun 12 Jun 2011

Back into harness today. The plan is to walk as far as possible up the unnamed gorge, climb out of it and navigate across the plateau to one of the Munjuma Gorge tributaries, then follow that into the gorge proper.


We fill up with water, no idea when we'll see some again in the next day or so.


More interesting rock formations.


Rest break.

Some of these gorges exit gracefully at the top and others stop abruptly in a vertical headwall. We're hoping for the former but after an hour or so it's obvious we're nearing the end of the gorge and have not gained anywhere near enough height for an easy exit, the rim can be seen still maybe 100m above us.

At this point however we find a very strange pool, the bottom is lined with a white substance we can't identify.



Weird white pool.

After photographing the pool we decide to exit the gorge by climbing straight up which at least will get it over with quickly.


Yours truly, knackered and sweating like a pig on the way up the gorge side. © Glen Turvey

On reaching the rim we get a reasonable view of the gorge's end just around the corner from where we had been, and there is a headwall that would have been way too hard to climb so we made the right decision to exit where we did.

Now we have about 2.5k of flat plateau to cross before once again entering a gorge, albeit it at the top with a gentle entry point down a tributary.


We pass some spinifex on the plateau. © Paul Hoelen

The navigation goes smoothly as we have some easy features to take bearings from, I also get to use my GPS for the first time in a real bushwalking scenario. Before long we find a small dry creek and decide to just follow it as it must go to the main tributary we are looking for.

The small creek turns into a large creek and then a full on tributary that's a mini gorge in itself.


In one of the tributaries to Munjima Gorge. © Paul Hoelen

There's no obvious signs of water and we are carrying enough to dry camp if necessary but it's nice to have a local supply all the same. We find a still and somewhat grungy pool with shady areas and think maybe this will do. It would be nice to get into the real gorge though so once again we drop packs and recce ahead.


Near a potential campsite.

In what's becoming a daily ritual Glen goes well ahead and finds both the junction of the main gorge and a better campsite with reasonable water.

Another 20 minutes of rock hopping gets us to the camp, a really nice spot near a good water hole.


Campsite.


A view of the campsite from a nearby ridge. © Paul Hoelen

Mon 13 Jun 2011

This will probably be the last day, unless the "most interesting part" is something out of the box we'll be walking to the highway.

We break camp and head down the gorge, the going is easy because there's not much water and therefore not much vegetation.


The going is easy as we head off down Munjima Gorge. © Paul Hoelen

That changes dramatically when we reach Munjima gorge proper after about a kilometre. There is a strong creek here and the vegetation that goes with it. At this point we have to turn right and head up the new gorge. We cross the creek and immediately it's clear this gorge is a whole different ball of wax with wall-to-wall cutty grass.

I have a go at getting through but it's a bit of a fool's errand (lucky I was on the job then).


Hmmm, there's a creek under this lot somewhere. © Paul Hoelen

We know this gorge is about 3k in length, and to fight for that long through this crap doesn't make sense.

Being the laziest and least fit of the group I look around in desperation and spot a nice spur. Hmmm that looks like it will give us access to the rim and once up there we can just motor along the open ground.

The lads agree and we backtrack a bit to find a spot to start the climb.


Looking up the spur. © Paul Hoelen


Paul climbing out of the gorge. That's Munjima Gorge heading away from the camera, and the unamed gorge we need to follow coming from the right.

Five minutes later we're at the top of the rim looking back over the gorges.


Heading along the gorge rim. © Paul Hoelen

We head off with a spring in our step, I am expecting a gentle stroll to the highway but it's not quite as gentle as I'd like. There are many tributaries leading into the gorge we are following and every one has created either a small valley or gorge that has to be crossed.

This means undulating terrain with occasional steep bits and at the top of every hill I expect to see the road, only to be disappointed, despite being able to clearly here some traffic.


The undulating terrain along the rim.


Every tributary has a mini gorge to cross.


Thank goodness, something to lean on.


All © Paul Hoelen

Finally though I catch a glimpse of the Fig Tree Creek bridge, soon after we see a spec of white that must be Chris in the Jimny, we have organized to meet here between 1 and 2 today, or if we don't show tomorrow.

Ten minutes later we burst onto the highway, thank goodness. Now we have to do a short car shuffle to the truck and we're pretty much done.

This is accomplished in no time with Glen and David comfortably back at the truck. Paul is still down on the highway so I drive down in the Jimny to collect him. We then continue on to Dales Gorge to retrieve the rental car. We inform the camp host of our safe return and find out that it was a good thing we told them of our trip because various people had been wondering about the presence of an unattended vehicle on the park over night.

I return to the truck and Paul follows some time later. As we are all in dire need of a shower we pile into the ute and drive down to Auski roadhouse to buy a shower. At 2.50 it's worth every cent.

We return to the truck for a feed and maybe a drink or two.

Trans-Karajini walk...job done.

 

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