Saturday, 23 July 2016

Half-lap Day 80: Karajini

It was great to wake up today with no set plans – we had the whole day in Karajini and had already done most of what we wanted to do, so we could take our time and just see how the day unfolded.

The kids’ friends walked over to our tent at about 9am, and the five of them played until their mum came to get them so they could do the Dales Gorge walk. Tony had made her a coffee so she stayed and chatted to us while she drank that, then they headed off. The little girls had been playing with Millie’s toys again and didn’t want to stop – the plan was for the others to come back after their walk so the girls could have a long play together in the afternoon, and that made them willing to stop playing for now.

Tony had bought a roast in Port Hedland and we weren’t able to have campfires here, so he decided to try cooking it in the camp oven over occasional heat, kind of like slowing cooking it. He seared the meat and put lots of potatoes and liquid in the big pot, got it boiling, then we set it up in the sun, with the grill plate reflecting sunlight onto it, and black tarp on the ground around it. Throughout the day we’d put it back on the stove and get it bubbling again, then give it some more time sitting in the sun. The heavy, black, metal pot stayed pretty warm and we could see that things were cooking in there.

Tony and Caitlin went for a bike ride to the Visitors Centre (a bit over 10km each way). They had a head wind on the way there and Caitlin found it really difficult at times (the road was quite undulating as well). They had an ice cream when they got there, looked at all the information displays and Caitlin bought a little sand filled turtle. The trip home was easier as the wind was behind them.

LiAM and Millie and I hung out at the tent while they were gone. Millie played with her animals, LiAM played with her for a while and then played on the iPad, and I mainly read my book, in between occasionally organizing a few things or keeping an eye on the meat. It was great to really relax and do not much at all for a few hours.

Tony and Caitlin returned and had a bit of lunch, then rode their bikes to the Three Ways Lookout, and walked back down to the Circular Pool to have another swim. They said it didn’t seem as cold today (it was a sunnier day as well) and they had forgotten how beautiful it was down there. I had a little nap while they were gone (possibly my first nap of the trip) and then read my book some more.

Our friends called in after their walk to say hello and drop off a water bottle they’d filled for us at the water tank. They took our techni-ice back to their freezer so we could use it in our fridge tomorrow (they had taken our freezer packs the night before) and they went back to their tent to have lunch.

We’d been surprised at how few birds we’d seen at Karajini. There was an occasional crow, a very occasional raptor flying over the gorge, and we sometimes heard the littler birds but hadn’t seen many. Today though we had a few spinifex pigeons wandering around our campsite, which the kids and I were quite happy to see.

Once Tony and Caitlin were back I went for a walk myself. I wanted to do the rim walk along the top of Dales Gorge. With it being such a warm sunny day I was also keen to swim at Fortescue Falls, the one place we didn’t swim on our walk the other day. It was great to be out walking after sitting all day so far, and I love walking on my own and setting my own pace. I had my telephoto lens with me and was able to take lots of photos that I hadn’t been able to get the other day with only my shorter lens – the ghost gums along the top of the other side of the gorge in particular, looking fantastic today with blue sky behind them and the vivid red cliffs below.

Fortescue Falls
I walked down to Fortescue Falls where there were several people swimming. After taking photos of the reflections of the cliffs in the water on the rocks, I got ready to go in the water. It was hard to get in because the rock shelf along the edge of the pool, where the water was shallow, was extremely slippery. The water was cold but not like the other pools that we had swum in, this was cold at first and then quite comfortable. The water here was flowing more than some of the other pools we’d been in and it felt different – also the first time I’d swum here with blue sky so the cliffs looked starker and it felt so spectacular. The sun had obviously been on the water earlier in the day, by now it was lower in the sky so the water was in shade, with the southern cliff face still in sunshine.

I talked briefly to a guy who was bringing his baby down to the edge to have a swim (warning him of the slipperiness) and then swam around to the falls. I sat on a rock at the base of the falls with the water running over me. It was very cool to twist around and look at the water bouncing down over these terraced rocks – each terrace is only about 10cm high and the water hit each one then bounced down to the next. The waterfall water was a bit cold, and so refreshing. I sat and soaked up all the sensations of being there for a while, then swam back, meeting the guy with the baby on the way, both of us so thrilled that we’d chosen to get in and swim to the waterfall. His wife was sitting on the edge holding the baby. When he got back we started chatting and he asked if I’d mind holding the baby so he and his wife could swim to the falls together – she wasn’t as confident in the water. I’d been wondering whether I should offer to do just that, so I was happy to help. The baby was an 8-month old boy and he sat happily in my lap, looking at the trees and the cliffs and the water. His parents went for their swim and then came back for him, and we had a good talk about travelling with kids.

I felt so happy and content by the time I left to walk up the long staircase to the top of the gorge. It seemed longer than when we did it a couple of days ago, but it wasn’t difficult. I set off on my rim walk, with the light getting redder as the sun approached the western horizon. I’d been thinking of going over to the Circular Pool lookout to watch the sunset, so the timing of my walk ended up being perfect. Along the rim I could see a lot further down the continuation of the gorge, where the walk doesn’t go (to the east of the Threes Ways Junction). It really struck me how different these gorges are to the others we’ve seen on this trip. Everywhere else we approach the gorge from the level of the bottom, then walk along the gorge or climb to the rim. Here, the land is mainly hilly, with large flat areas in between, and the gorges drop down below the flat area, deep into the earth. We approach them from the top and walk the rim, or else climb down into them. I would love to see this area from the air – I imagine it would look like there are lots of long scars cracking the earth.

The rim walk was pretty easy and quite pretty. I got to Three Ways lookout and found myself less concerned with height of the drop off, without the kids there with me. I walked along to the Circular Pool lookout and enjoyed seeing the pool again, and had a bit of vertigo which didn’t worry me overly. It wasn’t quite sunset yet but the light was beautiful, and I was happy to watch it for a little while and then move on.

I got back to camp and the 5 kids were happily playing. Tony was finishing off the lamb on the stove, and the other kids’ mum was just arriving back from her campsite, after having had a few hours over there by herself, something she hasn’t had often on this trip, without another adult around. She bought a bottle of Baileys, and some steamed vegies and cheese sauce, and they joined us for a roast dinner.

It was a lovely evening – a big glass of Baileys each for the adults, and a delicious roast lamb with lots of vegies, and great conversation. The kids really enjoyed their very long play. Having now spent more time together, it was enjoyable too for the conversation to start to move beyond just trip related stories, we’re sharing stories about our lives before the trip and really getting to know each other.

Eventually the others headed back to their van and we got ready for bed and read a chapter or two.

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