Port Hedland - Karijini, 31st October - 2nd November
I believe that there should be an official requirement that all unpowered camping sites be in the shade. Isn’t it clear we don’t have the money for a powered site? Do they think we’ve brought an air-con with batteries? Even in the earliest hours of the morning, the sun is so strong, that it is a question of survival to leave the tent as soon as possible. We manage to keep calm, pack the car and leave. Goodbye, Broome! Thank youy for accommodating us in days of hardship.
The day is hot even in the car. We are still so tired that even Nic doesn't want to drive and the empty, monotonous roads don’t help to find motivation. There is simply nothing to keep you awake behind the wheel. I decide to take over so he can have a good nap next to me. It is a fact that up until now, and going forward through all 24,000 kilometres Nic was the primary driver. He's more durable and enjoys it more. Today, however, he surrendered to sleep.
The road is hot, we are chasing an endless haze. In forty minutes I count six cars. Six - both ways. Some greet me, some don’t. What has brought us all here, in this forgotten part of the world? Six cars in almost an hour. So few like us on this empty road and yet we are all part of this loneliness. We are all connected in a lonely way.
After lunch we swap again - Nic has recharged his batteries so that gives me enough time to turn my attention to the mosquito bites all over me. Today is the 31st October - also known as Halloween. My costume is ready - I will be a mosquito victim - red, swollen and itchy. The weirdest thing is, however, that the bites appear out of nowhere - I haven’t seen a single mosquito flying around to expect such results. There is, naturally, an explanation and it is entirely Australian - they aren't mosquitoes but sands flies (biting midges). They are so small that some people call them “invisible”. And yet you have to deal with the consequences they provoke. There are types of the fly that we were told about, which are fairly dangerous - they carry a virus which makes you very ill, bed-bound for about a week. What is even worse is that, by some dark witchcraft, if you once catch the illness from this creature you get ill every year on the same date for another week of tortures. Can you imagine such a horror??? Not only can you not see them in order to protect yourself but it also follows you until the end of your days. Thankfully, we were not attacked by that kind.
Port Hedland is exactly what its name says - simply a cargo port. I don’t see why anyone would come here for tourism, unless like us they don’t have a choice. The port is used for many different products of the mining industry but the only thing visible around here are huge white piles of salt. Everything else is simply machines and cranes. We try to find a more interesting place to stop but there doesn’t seem to be one. We will look for it in the campsite then.
There we are welcomed with … Australian stories. There is once again a sign to be aware of snakes and the woman at the front desk decides to cheer us up with snake stories from the campsite. A few years ago a group of young lads got heavily drunk and, of course, a snake would go by them at the same time. One of them decided to pick it up and throw it around … The snake bit him exactly three times - more than enough for it not to matter how quickly the ambulance would arrive. The end is not to be told. Thank you for this story! We will surely feel very secure at your campsite tonight.
We pick a spot - equal distances from the bathroom and the pool. We put on the bathing suits and jump in until the last sun rays disappear and after that, we warm up in the shower. Dinner, book, film and sleep.
I don’t know whether you would believe me, but last night we slept well. The temperature and the humidity were low enough to allow it and we even cuddled up in the warm duvet. I have forgotten what it feels like to crave warmth. Oh, how I wish tonight we would sleep just as well but, for now, we will be satisfied with just one night. We should not be greedy.
Today we are going to Karijini National Park with the primary goal of finding natural pools, waterfalls and cascades. At the entrance to the park, we stop to fuel up and are truly surprised by the temperatures outside. Considering that for the last few days we have been burning alive under the sun, I would say today is even cold. There is hope for the days to come.
We set off on our favourite “red” gravel roads.
The first stop is unbelievable - Hamersley Gorge. Already, from the car park, we can see down low and are stunned by the view. Water cascades make their way down from high up and create a few natural pools. When we get down we are surrounded by great red cliffs and the pool itself is in the gorge gap. We jump straight into the water as it is impossible to stand out. The rocks are already so hot that even two steps in bare feet are impossible. After all, it is midday, the sun has no other job now.
It is not just us here. A few couples are also cooling down in this beautiful place. We meet one of them - from German-French-English heritage and once again exchange nomadic stories. They have covered part of the route we are yet to see so we gladly take in all suggestions and recommendations.
After some hot steps to reach our flip flops and a quick photoshoot with this beauty, we head off to the next spot. The drive isn’t short but it quickly becomes obvious how much it was worth it. Fortescue Falls are the only year-round waterfalls in Karijini. The views are wonderful from every angle. Cut out, step-like red rocks lead the water down to the pool and pull you to come down too. This time we don’t feel like swimming. We only want to sit and quietly take in the surrounding beauty - Australian natural sacredness.
Before we start climbing back up the stairs we veer off to Fern Pool. So far I have always described these natural pools like Heaven on Earth. But if only one of them deserves this name it would be this one. I don’t know how you picture a pool in the Garden of Eden but I see it surrounded by thick forest so that from every angle you can see old trees and bushes in the “picture”. In the distance, I see a small fall that fills it and most importantly there is no human presence to disturb it. Well, this one is just like that, all you need to do is sit and observe so you are not that human presence that disturbs your own idyll. I would like to come back here one day - in the wet season.
After so much travelling and views, the day is close to its end and it is time to find a campsite. We pass a few options and stop at a free one. The temperature tonight requires a few layers and cuddling under the warm duvet - how long I have longed for this moment! We will once again sleep well and recharge tonight!
Oh, what a day! Everything starts off calm.
Today we are travelling south towards Exmouth (pronounced Ex-mouth, unlike its English counterpart) where I will celebrate my birthday tomorrow. On the way there we will stop in the small town Karratha for lunch and to look for candles and something like a cake for tomorrow.
There are countless roadworks on the road, workers and queues everywhere. As we drive, Nic’s phone rings so I put it on the loudspeaker. The call is from the company we should be snorkelling with tomorrow. Unfortunately, the plans will have to be rescheduled for Monday as the weather wouldn’t be suitable tomorrow. And as we speak, Nic doesn’t see the cars in front waiting for the incoming traffic to pass. He keeps going although I try to tell him to stop a few times. But with the woman on the phone all communication gets tangled and he can not understand what I am saying. He stops only after he sees the man with a STOP sign in hand who comes up to tell us off and writes down the car reg. Great! I told you to stop! Nic gets out to apologize and explain the situation.
We are both upset - disappointed we won’t be snorkelling tomorrow for my birthday; angry that we passed the queue - I, because Nic didn’t listen to me, and he because he didn’t notice it at all. On the rest of the drive we are quietly angry with each other. Before we enter the town centre we go up the hill above Karratha to see the view and the ocean.
The road to it is extremely steep and the driver’s visibility is very limited. We are just about to even up with the plateau on the top … I saw the rock at the last moment but Nic wasn’t expecting it at all and drove Berti onto it. The growling noise was deafening! NO! I get out to check. We have not caught anything valuable, only the bumper. Nic drives backwards slowly to get off the rock and as I go to explain to him what happened, poor him has started shedding tears. He felt so guilty. Well, how can I be mad any longer? I hug him tightly until we both calm down. We look over the view quickly but are no longer in the mood for natural wonders. Let's get back into town.
There is nothing in Karratha - just streets and shops. But we find lunch and 2 and 5 candles. We carefully check for cake options and in the local bakery, we find something like a strudel - an apple and custard roll. If it is vegan it will do.
We roam the empty town streets and decide that there is officially nothing to do here. We still have a few hours to the campsite so we leave. We stop here and there for the views and arrive just before the sun sets. We warm up quickly with some rice, take pictures of the moon and try to sleep without the permission from the wind. On top of the main tent layer, there is a second one to protect it from rain. In strong winds, the top one whips on the lower one and the noise is loud and makes you jump as you try to fall asleep. Thankfully for us, with some effort and heads sticking out of the tent, this second layer can be removed to allow some peace and quiet. Fingers crossed it doesn’t rain tonight.
Tomorrow we will celebrate!
Vassya (and Nic)