Up the coast to Ningaloo Station, Emu Creek, and Karajini National Park – 4x4 driving, outback living and a refreshing oasis of breathtaking gorges and cool pools and waterfalls...

Published: April 1st 2013
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Jump inJump inJump in

Sadie is cooling of in one of the pools
Upon leaving Coral Bay, we heard (contrary to what we had been told that same morning) that the army was indeed doing defense testing on their reserve, which meant that the coastal 4x4 road up from Coral Bay to Exmouth was closed, and that in order to be on the nicest, most secluded beaches, we still had to drive all around the cape like everyone else. Itching to get inland, and having gotten what we considered more than our fair share of underwater sightings and coastal bliss, we decided to take the 4x4 track as far as we could, and then say goodbye to the coast until Broome (where there are crocodiles, so this was also goodbye to swimming) and head towards Karajini.

It was only around 70 km, but it took us almost 3 hours. It was rocky, sandy, steep and impossible, and Øyvind had a blast (I was more gripping the edge of my seat and enjoying the beautiful scenery and hoping we would not have to get out in the heat to dig out the car). We were up and over sand mounds, stopped to look over crystal-clear waters from sharp red cliff edges, and soaked up
Hot guyHot guyHot guy

This tiny gecko was one of many running around in and around the national park
the coastal breeze. At Ningaloo Station, we said goodbye to it, and got back on the North West Coastal Highway (after re-inflating our tyres with our trusty compressor).

That night we stayed at Emu Creek Station, a (in owner Kylie's own words) “small station of only about 390,000 acres”, and were the only ones camping by the river there. The next morning, we bought some free range eggs from them, and got invited in for a delicious cup of coffee. They had a young boy, Wes from Manchester, working for them, and we sat and talked about life on the station, travelling, and pretty much everything under the sun until we decided it was getting pretty hot so we better leave. But not before I jumped on the trampoline with their daughter Kaysha. It really was a very cool place and they were very welcoming, it's always extra special when we get to not only visit somewhere but get a glimpse of what life there might be like.

That day we drove all the way to Karajini National Park, and on the way we could see the landscape begin to change, from flat, sandy and arid, to mountainous, the red ridges of the rock cracking out from underneath the spinifex, the colors were incredible. We had decided to stop in Tom Price to stock up, since we wouldn't be in a town again for another week, and made it there just in time to do so. Here we really could witness the true uniform of the outback, or at least a combination of mining country and rural Western Australia: it consists of a neon long-sleeved working shirt, usually rather short scruffy shorts (usually shorter on men than women), work boots and a wide-brimmed hat (this varies according to profession). The car, when not a truck, is always a 4x4 and is always white. 95% of the time it is either a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Nissan Patrol, and, as most people work some kind of trade, usually has neon yellow stripes down the side and several antennae in the front. We got there just as everyone was going to the store after work, so we could watch people of all ages, shapes, and backgrounds, leaving their same cars in their same outfits. It was a sight to behold. Perhaps because of this spectacle (or perhaps because we
Lush gorgesLush gorgesLush gorges

The colours of the gorges took us by surprise. Even though it is quite light colours, they are still so full and really stands out from the dry, arid landscapes around.
really didn't allow enough time), we didn't get into Karajini until it was already pitch black.

And it also turned out that the camp we wanted to stay at (Savannah Camp) had recently been replaced by an Eco Retreat, complete with an air-conditioned restaurant and showers (and fancy “eco tents” for those looking for “the bush experience” while still being able to plug in their electronics). Disappointed at having to pay caravan park prices to sleep in the park, we made good use of all the facilities and crept into bed while the lightning struck all around us (this has been happening pretty much the whole time we've been on the road, but never so close – it really is wonderful to be sleeping in the car).

The next morning all our disappointment faded away when we went to see Weano Gorge. The views were just more and more beautiful, and as we walked down into the gorge we could not believe the trail. It involved wading, then swimming, then sliding down a narrow gorge and climbing down the edge (thankfully there was a handrail) of slippery slick rock. But it was really worth it. At each step
Enjoying the rideEnjoying the rideEnjoying the ride

There are a lot of dead end roads on the way between Coral Bay and Exmouth, and they give you a great opportunity to drive all the way out to the ocean
we got to a more beautiful pool, surrounded by red rock walls over 50 meters high. We were in heaven. It's easy to explore a National Park in the heat if you know there is swimming waiting for you, and even more so when the swimming is in a pristine pool, complete with waterfalls and shade (and no crocodiles!!). We also went to Joffre Falls but only managed to find the class 6 trail down to the pool (where some parts would have required a rope of some kind as far as I'm concerned), so we didn't venture down (for all the warning signs, trail markings were often hard to find).

We spent our second night at Dales Camp (this one was a regular D.E.C. Camp with no reception or waiters), and took the long walk around the whole Dales Gorge the next day. We loved the Circular Pool, and the walk through the gorges was also very dramatic. We spent the afternoon cooling our feet in Fortescue Falls, visited the Visitor Center (where they have a very nice exhibit on Aboroginal Culture in the Area, since the park covers a big area of Warlu Way and is opperated
More relaxationMore relaxationMore relaxation

There are few things better then jumping into a pool of refreshing water after an hour of walking in the gorges
by the Aboriginal Community and holds many sacred areas) and went back to our same camping spot to spend another night. We had seen a sign at the Center that they were looking for Camp Hosts for Dales Camp, and that it was a volunteer position. The wheels in our heads started turning...

It really was peaceful and relaxing, exploring the park and camping and not racing to get places by sundown... The next morning we went to Circular Pool again (but this time it was overrun with people), to cool off and enjoy the view one last time. We ran into Martin and Lisett there, the German couple we had gone snorkeling with in Coral Bay. Together we all went to the Visitor's Center again, and we inquired about the Camp Hosts position. We were already imagining what it would be like to stay for another few weeks, help out and work a bit and get to explore the gorgers and the parks at will, taking amazing photographs in the meantime... But it turned out they had just found a couple that very morning, so they didn't need our help. Had we made up our minds the night before we may have ended up staying there the whole month of April, wearing Ranger shirts and short shorts, for sure 😉

So we ate lunch with Martin and Lisett (next to the car park, as one does), and were on our way, leaving the beautiful nature of the park behind but feeling like we had spent some wonderful days there, and looking forward to the road ahead...

- Favorite Karajini spot: it's a tie between Circular Pool and Hanrail Pool...

- Camping habits: we usually try to find a nice secluded spot to camp. We circle the area, and pick a nice shady spot where we don't intrude on anyone already there. However, very often, a young German/French couple/couple of friends will turn up and park either right next to us or at least at an angle so that they can look at us while eating dinner. Even when that campsite is not shady nor desirable and the rest of the camping area is empty. Why????

- Sad fact: we have noticed many campers waking up around 6am just to leave campsites early, to avoid the rangers and thus
Plane downPlane downPlane down

Just outside Karijini National Park there is a small air strip. Just outside of the air strip we found this old plane... or what was left of it
having to pay. Hey, we are poor now but even we can afford the 7 dollars per person to camp in the National Park. They are not subsidized and are mostly volunteer-run. It is really a shame that tourists (in rental campers often costing them over 100 dollars a day) cheat the system like that...

- New favorite desert: a spoonful of peanut-butter (no sugar, crunchy) with a spoonful of chocolate spread (also no sugar added)... yum! And it keeps in the heat and it's fun trying to whistle after you eat it.

Additional photos below
Photos: 38, Displayed: 27


North of Coral BayNorth of Coral Bay
North of Coral Bay

The stretch between Coral Bay and Exmouth is a great place to travel
Overlooking the oceanOverlooking the ocean
Overlooking the ocean

Sadie and I enjoying the sun a few minutes, before we get sun burned
The gorgesThe gorges
The gorges

our first trek through the gorges of Karijini really took our breath away
Kangaroos Kangaroos

We haven't seen to much wild life on our travels, but a few roos have been around to take a look at us
Cattle stationCattle station
Cattle station

right in the middle of Coral Bay and the exit to the main road to Exmouth there are a few stations. They do seem to have a quite arid life

right in the middle of nowhere, there was a detour. We couldn't really tell the difference between the actual road and the detour
The detourThe detour
The detour

Mostly sand on our way...
Dry timesDry times
Dry times

Even though it is the end of the wet season, there is a lot of dry land around
Re-inflating the tiresRe-inflating the tires
Re-inflating the tires

After 3 hours on mostly sand dunes and rocky surfaces, we got to paved road again, and then it was time to re-inflate the tires again
The gorges 2The gorges 2
The gorges 2

steep rock formations, cooling rivers and refreshing pools along the way made for a great few days in the national park
Getting readyGetting ready
Getting ready

Every day we are going somewhere, we top up our fuel tanks, cause we never know when the next petrol station will be close

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