The turn off to the Weano and Hancock Gorges is on the road to the Karijini Eco Retreat and we had noticed on the day of our arrival that this road was closed. The gorges here were considered too dangerous due to the recent rains. However we had been informed the previous night when we visited the reception desk next to the restaurant that by our second morning in the park, these gorges would be open.
The first photo of the day below illustrates the start of our trek, the distances to walk and the termite mounds and the Snappy Gums we would be passing. There were two gorges we were headed for but I was only prepared to test my less than effective knee in one of them, Weano Gorge. My three companions would go on to Hancock Gorge with its perilous descent while I headed back to the car to journal and look forward to lunch.
Our destination to begin with were two lookouts where platforms had been built right out to the edge of the gorges to enable visitors to get close up and personal with the amazing views down into the gorges. The first of these was Junction Pool. The insert to the right below is a copy of the sign placed near the first platform.
Not much further along the trail was the Oxer Lookout giving views down along Hancock Gorge. Before moving on to the viewing platform for Oxer Lookout, the visitors must pass the memorial to a park ranger who lost his life attempting to assist an injured visitor in 2004. This memorial should reduce some of the bravado of carefree Karijini Hikers, particularly if they consider they will be among the first people hoping today’s rangers will come and rescue them if they injure themselves in the gorges.
As for Junction pool, I noticed another Information sign for Oxer Lookout attached to the railings near the lookout platform. Unlike other park signs, I noted that this one had been graffitied by some park visitors. I can only presume that this sign had been developed by scientists in order to give a short summary of the geological timeline of this section of Hancock Gorge. However, we noticed that one irate visitor had crossed out the two references to the suggested age of the local rock formations, the “2500 million years” estimate and the general “millions” of years estimate.
It is probably not the case that a rival scientist may have been visiting the lookout and disagreed with the science behind these age estimates and decided to scratch out this timeline information. I can only assume that some ‘Young Earth Creationist’ has been hiking in Karijini and was offended by the public display of ‘old earth science’ and decided to display his furious disagreement with this explanation of the age of the ‘creation’ displayed all around him/her. First Australians would be slightly offended by fundamentalist Christians bringing their argument to Oxer’s Lookout that God only needed 6000 years to create Karijini.
However the ‘YEC’ type wasn’t the only eccentric visitor to this spot; another graffitist decided to display his/her predilections by scratching on the sign… “This place is magic. Try kissing holding the rail-Electric Tongues!” (My exclamation mark!)
From the lookouts we were able to make our way down into Weano Gorge. It was a lovely rock hopping process that took us to the bottom of the gorge and then along past the pools of the stream that meandered through the bottom of the gorge.
It was a level 4 walk but was not as challenging as I expected. The scenery in this gorge was continuously captivating, so unlike anything I had ever seen in in all my years in the eastern Australian states. Although there were water holes for swimming, the others decided they would keep going as the next gorge offered plenty of opportunities to get wet and dirty.
As the official photographer of our family group, I withdrew from the next section due to lack of physical agility; thus no personal photos of this trek. I had definitely decided I wasn’t a Class 5 walker and so took the warning signs seriously. For example, here is the advice of the local signage… “Hancock Gorge to Kermits Pool is one of the most challenging Class 5 trails in Karijini National Park. Many of the accidents in the park occur in this gorge and most are caused by lack of preparedness, inattention and poor choice in footwear resulting slips and fall, and failing to keep your hands free for balance.”
The photo to the left is of the last section of the ladder going down into Hancock Gorge. The map on the left above does show a photo of this section of the way down into the gorge and was a suitable warning for the ageing baby boomers that I saw at the top of this trail, wondering whether they would survive the walk down and the climb back up.
My three younger, fitter family members were able to make the descent down the side of the gorge successfully. I am not sure whether they had the change of footwear suggested in the park sign on the right! There was an abundance of well-produced signs at the start of this gorge that also included photos of successful hikers making their way through the last section (Spider Walk?) before Kermits Pool; I have printed two of them below.
We all survived the day’s gorge walking and made it back to camp, ready for a late afternoon drink and some relaxation to discuss our challenging and exciting day.
DAY 3…JOFFRE GORGE