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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Australia: Karijini (Hammersley Range)

Karijini National Park as seen from the top of Mt Bruce
The beauty of Karijini National Park as seen from the top of Mt Bruce

Luckily Sunday saw the rain hold off long enough for me to drive from Nanutarra to Karijini National Park, previously known as the Hammersley Range National Park. I went via Tom Price, a remote mining centre that's actually quite an attractive spot, again taking the dirt roads to save time. But this time the rain had done its work, and it wasn't so much like driving on a sandpit, more like driving through a mud bath. I took it very slowly, but one thing's for sure: the front onside wheel arch on my car, which for some reason is missing the part that stops dirt getting inside the panel, is now rammed full of Western Australian dirt. When I open the passenger door, different coloured earth falls out every time, littering petrol stations and parking bays all over the state. I like to think of it as my sedimentary diary; perhaps I'll be able to sell it to a geologist in Melbourne when I get back.

A warning sign in a gorge in Karijini
Exploring gorges can be dangerous business if you ignore the signs

Oxer Lookout

Buckled rock in one of Karijini's gorges
The huge pressures of the earth are evident in places like Kalamina Gorge

Having explored Joffre and enjoyed the solitude of the gorge, where even sunlight doesn't stir the utter stillness, I jumped in the car and slid my way along to Red Gorge, adding yet more layers to my sedimentary diary in the process. Here the gorges start to get really deep; you could fit quite a few houses on top of one another before they poked over the top. I walked a fair old pace round the Red Gorge lookout, which ended with a stunning view, at least as impressive as the Z-Bend in Kalbarri. All along the way were these termite mounds, and when I got to the lookout I came across a huge cloud of their occupants, who suddenly looked very interested in my sweaty T-shirt. I suppose that when you haven't washed your hair for three weeks you just have to take the grief when it comes, so for a bit of sport I spent a while hanging round a spider's web I'd spotted, watching him catch hundreds of the tiny insects in his web, tying each of them up before devouring them for his breakfast. That was one satisfying way to get rid of a cloud of pesky termites.

Welcome to Level Two

Hancock Gorge
Hancock Gorge

Just off from Oxer was the track down into Hancock Gorge, a challenging little number that took a little longer to navigate. For part of it I had to shuffle along ledges jutting out of the rock – as with Kalbarri the rock is sedimentary, but in Karijini the rock is much harder, and has been worn smooth by torrents of water, making the climbing both easier (because the rock is hard and will support your weight) and harder (because it's devilishly slippery when wet). However it wasn't long before I got to the delightfully named Kermit's Pool, where there was another sign to say this was where the walk graduated to a Level Two.

Mark resting in Hancock Gorge
Taking a break in Hancock Gorge

Mt Bruce

Mark on top of Mt Bruce
Perched on top of Mt Bruce, from where Karijini provides a stunning view

Tuesday was another lovely day, so I headed off to Mt Bruce, Western Australia's second highest peak, in the south of the National Park (the highest peak, Mt Meharry, is in the southeastern part of the park, and is a fair drive off the highway through private land that you need permission to cross; as it's only a few metres higher than Mt Bruce, I figured I'd stick to the runner-up). It was a pretty challenging climb, particularly in the heat of the morning sun, but after an hour and a quarter I was at the top of the world and the view was stunning. Unfortunately there's a rather ugly iron ore mine to one side of the mountain, just outside the borders of the park, but the view over the park was like nothing else.

Dales Gorge

Kalamina Falls
Streams like Kalamina Falls turn into raging torrents in the wet season

Feeling better, I drove to the campsite at Dales Gorge and had a quick look round – though not enough to spoil the walk for the next day – and ended up in a beautiful waterfall, Fortescue Falls, reading a book and just relaxing. That night the stars were out with no moon, and I felt totally at ease again; my stress had evaporated and I felt complete happiness about my journey. It looks like I've found a cure for temper tantrums: climb a mountain. It's not much use if it happens in the middle of a city, but perhaps I can find another cure for that culture.