For the past 3 years I have spent my Perth winters gallivanting through the European sumer, viola in hand taking classes, working at festivals and wining and dining with some of my dearest friends. This year however, due to the financial decision to purchase a new viola (yay!), I unfortunately couldn't keep up with tradition and thought it best to stay in town and rug up for the winter.
This did however mean that I was now free to escape the city with the family and head north for 10 days of driving, hiking and playing cards under the stars in the incredibly magical Karijini National Park.
"Wirlankarra yanama. Yurlu nyinku mirda yurndarirda"
"Go with a clear, open and accepting spirit, and the country will not treat you badly."
Located in the Pilbra (1400km north of Perth), Karijini is Western Australia's second largest national park. Five breathtakingly rugged gorges cut through the Hamersley Ranges where water has worn the banded iron formations for centuries leaving exquisite waterfalls and sparkling rock pools in its wake.
With cars packed, snacks organised and audio books at the ready, we left rainy Perth and hit the Great Northern Hwy where we would continue straight for the next 3 days.
As we had the time, we decided to split the drive into 3 days. There are various towns you can stay in or you can set up camp in the 24hr stopping points on rout. On the way up our nights were spent in Mount Magnet and Newman.
I always love a road trip, being out there and really having a sense of the vegetation changes as you enter different climates. Although I have travelled a lot of Australia, this trip was a first for me, I have been to the top of the country before, but this distance north I haven't touched so it was wonderful to get a real sense of the beauty Western Australia has to offer.
Although I love a big drive, it was great to finally turn off and enter Karijini itself and set up camp for the next few nights with our friends at Dales Gorge.
From here on in we became explorers.
Many of the gorges contain walks of varying length and difficulty meaning there is something for everyone. Wether you are up for clambering up, under and through the rock formations, wanting a long leisurely walk with spectacular views, or simply enjoy the scenery from the assigned viewing platforms there is more than enough to keep you happy.
With hiking boots on we started our first full day and explored Kalamina Gorge - a ruggedly cut gorge with a track that leads you along the river and rock pools until you reach the final clamber up to end archway.
After a lazy lunch, we strapped the boots back on and headed to Dales Gorge. Starting at Fortescue Falls (The parks only permanent waterfall) ....
... along the creek bed, examining the various rock formations...
... and towards the hidden garden of circular pool.
Although the walks are quite accessible, do take note of the level of difficulty of some of them. The climb out of Circular Pool for example is straight up, and somewhat challenging.
The next day we tackled Weano Gorge. There are two walks at Weano, the first is just through the pleasant surroundings of the gorge, and the second involves wading through absolutely freezing water (although the days were beautiful in the sun, around 24 degrees C, the water was ice!) Along the rocks and down the narrow and steep decent into Handrail Pool.
Just next door to Weano, is Hancock Gorge, possibly my favourite.c Hancock involves a steep decent "into the centre of the earth" before making your way through the rock pools, along the rock walls and down spider walk (where you are walking hands and feet either side of the narrow path above the stream) towards to vibrant green Kermit Pool.
During the wet season the north of Australia is subject to incredibly heavy rainfall. Over the centuries, this rainfall has caused huge amounts of water to force its way through the narrow pathways and polish the rocks into the beautiful formations we see today.
With our days taken care of, our evenings were left to resting and relaxing in the campgrounds. With everyone stuck into their chosen novel, I would take the quiet opportunity to pull out the viola and practice in the setting sun.
Although we were blessed with beautiful, crystal clear warm days, it was of course still winter. As soon as the sun would start to set, the temperatures would drop - fast. (The nights got down to -2!) We would cook dinner in the last minutes of sunshine, before layering up and huddling around the table for an evening of cards and star gazing.
The following day we headed over to the spectacular Joffre Gorge.
A spectacular gorge with one of the biggest waterfalls in the national park. With a steep decent you can clamber down the marked route to meet the bottom pool and really feel the scale of the towering rocks around you.
On our final day in Karijini, my family and I decided that instead of going down we would head up and get a different view of our surroundings. We headed for Mount Bruce, WA's second highest peak.
As we weren't quite prepared for the 5hr return walk, we didn't make it to the peak, but the views were still incredible.
I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot, and one of the things that always gets me about Australia is its size and expansive landscape. You really have to experience a drive, or see the views to be able to fully understand just how vast and varied this country actually is. But it is moments like this, standing at almost 4000 ft with the golden shimmer of spinifex reaching as far as the eye can see, where i remember just how special this landscape is.
Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end and with work to return to, it was time to get back on the road and head back to Perth.
I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to explore yet another part of this incredible landscape, and love that I am able to show you just a glimpse of this beautiful country. Karijini National Park is such a magical space. One of the few places where the forces of nature take control of the landscape reminding you that you are just a visitor observing its creations. If you ever get the chance to visit, I can't recommend it enough as I already look forward to returning and taking in its magic.