Saturday, 23 July 2016

Half-lap Day 78: Karajini

LiAM woke up a few times, freezing, because his blankets kept sliding off and he’d just be in his sleeping bag. He still wasn’t feeling well and was a bit miserable. It was a gorgeous morning when I got up a little after sunrise – still cold, but clear and fresh.

Once everyone was up we had breakfast and Caitlin rode her bike around the campsite and the other loops in the campground. Millie and LiAM played hide and seek with the 4 year old they’d met yesterday, then the girls got Millie’s toys out again and played on the picnic rug until the other girl had to go.  I played with Millie for a while, I was the mother to all the toys and was giving them names.

We’d been looking at the maps and slowly working out what we wanted to do for the day, and eventually packed food and swimmers and put hats and sunscreen on and set off. We walked through our camping loop and the next one, and then to a look out over the Circular Pool. On the way we saw several (very cute) little lizards sunning themselves on rocks. I’d heard that the gorges suddenly appear in front of you as you walk, and that was true. Suddenly up ahead we could see a large gap in the ground, and as we got closer to the lookout the depth became more apparent, and all we could say was ‘Woah!’. Even Tony felt some vertigo as he came close to the edge, it dropped straight down about a hundred metres, and the gorge wasn’t very wide before it climbed sheerly up the other side. We could see the Circular Pool from here and it looked gorgeous, surrounded by moss and ferns. People were swimming in it and walking around and we were keen to get down there. We walked to the next lookout which looked out over a junction in the gorge – it was called Three Ways Lookout and we could see the 3 directions that the gorge took from that point. We could also see the path down to the bottom of the gorge – it didn’t look as steep as I was worried it would be (it was marked on the map as very difficult).
A vertigo inducing view of the Circular Pool
We started down the path, it was rocky and windy but not hard. People coming up seemed to be struggling a little and I was glad that we’d chosen to go down here and come up at the other end. At the bottom of the gorge we walked in towards Circular Pool, and the track did get a fair bit harder – the rocks here were like slabs laid on top of each other, and most of the track was walking up and down natural steps in these rocks, to get along to the end of the gorge. We had to cross the water at one stage, it was very shallow here, just flowing over the flat rocks, and there were stepping stones so we didn’t need to get wet.
Walking along the bottom of the gorge

 We reached the end and it was just as beautiful as it had looked from the top. A deep green pool surrounded by the end of the gorge, with ferns and moss along one side, where water was running into the pool. We’d heard it was very cold, but were all keen to swim anyway. Tony went in first and swore as he came up the first time. Caitlin went in next, she’s pretty good with cold water but said this was really cold. They swam over to the waterfall and said the water there was a bit warmer, they sat on the rocks with the water running over them and felt a bit more comfortable. Millie and I tried to go in, I lifted her over the edge of the water (it was quite rocky) and put her on a flatter part of the bottom – she said it was too cold and asked me to take her straight out. She went and got changed and sat in the sun talking to some ladies who had just got out of the water.
Looking up from the Circular Pool

I went the rest of the way in and it was seriously cold. I swam over to the waterfalls and the water was slightly less cold as it ran over the rocks. I let it flow over my head, while Tony and Caitlin sat up on the rocks. LiAM walked the long way around the edge of the pool and reached the ledge above where we were, and went into the waterfall water that way. There was a ledge he could stand on and have the water fall right over his body. He climbed down to the waters edge after a while, and Caitlin climbed up to the ledge. I’d helped her climb up and then was treading water near the rocks, I helped LiAM get down and then my muscles started to burn, all over my body, so I swam back to the edge and got out. The others stayed in a bit longer then eventually made their way out of the water as well. I was changed and in the sun and feeling much warmer.

After the others got out, Millie decided she would like to have a swim. She got changed, and then some people that we’d met at De Grey (and then seen again at Port Hedland – siblings from England who have been working their way around Australia, they have a dog that the kids loved), arrived at the pool. We chatted to them for a while, and Millie tried to get in the water. Another family arrived and got in as well, then Caitlin started chatting to the kids and got back in with them. Tony went back in and helped Millie get over to the waterfall, and Caitlin and the other girl swam over. The boy wanted to get to the waterfall as well and Tony came back and helped him over. The kids climbed on the rocks and sat or stood under the water for a while, then everyone got out and quickly got dressed and sat in the sun while we had a snack. We talked to the other family for a while, about places to stay on the West Coast and places we’d liked around Kununurra, then we headed back down the gorge.

Millie was cold and hungry and wanted to go back to the tent. She had a bit of fun jumping off some of the higher rocks on our way out, and ate some biscuits which helped a bit. We continued along the bottom of the gorge rather than climbing back up the top, and once Millie put her long pants back on she felt better again. A lollipop made things much happier as well. She and I walked at a slower pace at the others, playing alphabet games and chatting about what we could see. The first part of the gorge was pretty easy, then we crossed the water on stepping stones, and the next part was much harder. The path was very narrow, between the cliff face and the water. At times the only way along was to step from stone to stone through the water, next to the cliff, as the path disappeared entirely. A couple of steps were too long for Millie’s legs, I would stand on one stone with her then lift her across to the next one, then she could usually grab the cliff and step back on to the path from there. It was difficult but not dangerous – the water was shallow (only a couple of centimetres at most) so if we missed a step we’d get wet feet but not be harmed. There was a seam of blue asbestos at about head height at one point, which we carefully avoided.

Jumping off the rocks
At times the path widened out or we walked on large flat stones surrounded by water. It was beautiful all the way, lots of paperbark gums, tall red cliffs on either side, and fresh water trickling past, looking green from the reflections of all the trees. The rocks were still slab like, so the cliffs were very craggy as different levels had broken off at different points. We reached Fortescue Falls – the path led across the water at the base of the pool below the falls. It gave us a big range of views of the falls as we had to walk around half of the pool. We climbed up the terraced cliff on the side of the pool and found a flatish area to eat lunch, watching the waterfall. A few people went swimming and we considered it but the water didn’t look as nice, and the temperature was much lower than earlier in the day (it had become quite cloudy by now). After we’d eaten we decided to continue on to Fern Pool. I went via the falls and got some great close up photos, I was able to stand on some rocks looking straight in at the water falling above me, it was very cool.

Fortescue Falls
The walk in to Fern Pool was easier, along a dirt trail, past some huge trees. There were also trees growing in the cliff with all their roots exposed and hanging down, they looked very cool. The pool itself was lovely, so green and inviting looking, with a small waterfall on the other side. Caitlin got in quite quickly, and confirmed what we’d been told – it was cold, but not as cold as the Circular Pool (this pool would get sunlight on it for part of the day, the other pool probably gets none at all). I went in as well and it felt great, refreshing and so nice to be a large pool surrounded by all these cliffs. I could see fish under the platform as I climbed down the ladder. This pool was quite deep and surrounded by trees, very different to the other one. Caitlin came back in and we swam over to the waterfall – it was about 60m and Caitlin was a bit nervous in the deep water, but she made it easily. It was a little harder as we approached the falls because of the current. We climbed up on the rocks, and Caitlin went straight in to the ledge behind the waterfall. I sat at the base of the fall for a while, then very inelegantly clambered up to where Caitlin was and we sat comfortably for a while looking out through the falling water, it was very very cool. We climbed back down the rocks and swam back as fast as we could (Caitlin didn’t want to linger).

Millie was thinking of coming in now and LiAM had been in and out and now wanted to come to the falls with me. I was happy to help either of them but was getting cold so encouraged them to hurry up and decide who was going first. I was standing on the ladder and a fish bit my toe and I yelled, which amused everyone who was standing on the platform. LiAM came in and we swam back across to the falls. He was very nervous, it’s the furthest he’s swum without help (and I knew I couldn’t do it with him on my back) and there was weed in the water which was freaking him out (it was a bit spiky). Towards the end I swam side stroke and had one hand under his arm which helped him a bit, he felt much more secure if I was touching him. We reached the falls and he climbed up behind them and loved it there. I sat below the falls again and let them wash over me, while the fish nibbled at the dead skin and the sand fly bites on my skin.

Fern Pool
While we were sitting there we noticed the others talking to some people on the platform – it was our friends from Kings Canyon again! This gave LiAM the motivation to get back in the water, and I helped swim back across. I was doing most of the work with my legs this time and towards the end my left leg started to cramp just above the knee. I thought I was still going to take Millie into the water, but she was happy now playing with her friend and didn’t want to swim anymore.

I got out and stretched out the cramp and we caught up on each other’s news since Broome. We got dry and changed and walked back together, this time taking the stairs straight up from Fortescue Falls. The girls were having a fantastic time playing together and exploring the trail.  The mum offered to give Millie a lift back to our tent, and the son walked with us, everyone was happy with this arrangement. When we got to the tent we all sat down and had a wine and shared some chips and dip, and the girls played with Millie’s toys (they play in such a similar way, this worked much better than the games Millie had been trying to play with the other girl earlier in the day). They decided to have a picnic shop, so got some biscuits and nutella and drinks to snack on and sell to their animals at the shop.

We all sat and chatted for over an hour and had a lovely evening. Tony cooked dinner while we were talking, and once it was ready they headed back to their van to get their own dinner. We made tentative plans to do some walks together tomorrow, possibly with our oldest 2 going with them to do a harder walk and then meeting up later to do some more.

We ate and then got ready for bed. I walked the girls over to the toilet and on the way back Caitlin spotted an owl in a tree, very cool. My muscles were all aching by now after swimming so much in the cold, and the long long walk with lots of ups and downs for my knees. As I walked back into camp I thought I was stabbed by spinifex, but the pain just kept getting worse. I got Caitlin to shine the torch on my ankle and there was a HUGE ant with both its pincers and its stinger stuck fast into my skin, through my sock. Caitlin flicked it off with her torch and sprayed it for me with aloe vera, and found a cold wine bottle to hold against it. The pain receded after a while and I was able to continue getting ready for bed. Millie decided to sleep with us (she didn’t like the blanket wall that was still up in the tent I think) and we snuggled in and read Inheritance until everyone was very sleepy.

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