Before our arrival at Karijini National Park, rain for the previous few days had hampered access to a number of the gorges. For example, the road to Hancock Gorge had been closed for a few days so we were grateful to eventually make it in there. We knew that our visit to Hammersley Gorge would be our longest trip from the Eco Retreat so we left it to our fourth day in the park. The most direct route involved driving out of the National Park and taking the Hamersley-Mt Bruce Rd. This was however closed down and so we had to take the much longer route via the town of Tom Price. We decided to do some shopping there when we made our coffee stop. We left our motor home in town as well and transferred to our companions’ 4WD as we knew the roads ahead were going to be “interesting’.
There were some advantages of taking the long way round to Hamersley. One of these was passing by Mt Bruce (below left), one of the four tallest mountains in Western Australia that comes in at 1221 metres high, the second highest mountain in WA. Just outside Tom Price there is another significant mountain, particularly as it has the curious name of Mount ‘Nameless’. The local First Nations people called it Jarndunmunha but I can only assume that the original European Explorers were tired and confused when the first arrived and so they simply gave it its current official name of ‘Nameless’.
There is usually a ‘Welcome’ Park outside most towns to greet visitors that usually contain a significant memorial or a statue to indicate the town’s main industry. For example, a number of towns on the coast south of Shark Bay had curious statues of huge metal lobsters to indicate the towns’ main claim to fame. The ‘sculpture’ for Tom Price’s welcoming park was a huge iron ore carting truck. It not only clearly indicated the town’s source of wealth but it no doubt was convenient for the local mining company to move an old truck on that is so huge that recycling the materials would be excessively expensive.
After leaving the town of Tom Price, our companion on the road for many kilometres was the Dampier-Tom Price Railway. For much of this time there were slowly moving iron ore trains that were so long I gave up trying to count the number of huge ore-filled wagons. I read somewhere after returning from WA that these trains were driverless; they were run by computer systems. We certainly didn’t see any drivers which is probably a good thing as such a role would be mindlessly boring.
It was with great relief we eventually made it to the carpark above the gorge. The facilities at this gorge for visitors are excellent so we were able to happily recover from our long dusty journey before setting out down the easy steps into the section of the gorge that was possible to visit. The big difference in the scenery of this gorge from most of the other gorges in the park is the heavily folded nature of the sediments (see appendix 1 for explanation from a board at Hammersley) that are exposed in the cliffs; these were very evident right from the start our walk down the access steps.
On reaching the bottom of the gorge, we were immediately beside a pool formed by the stream flowing through Hammersley Gorge. It was possible to scramble along the rocky sides of the stream and get a reasonable distance along the gorge but the simplest way to explore this area of the gorge was to get directly into the stream and swim along.
The main goal of the swim through this section of the gorge is to get to a perfectly formed bowl in the folded rock strata called the ‘Spa Pool’. It is amongst the most photographed sites in Karijini National Park. The lone rock climber, below left, refusing to swim, was not able to clamber around the side of the stream to get to the Spa Pool.
The three swimmers in our party had a grand time in the Spa Pool before clambering back down the slope into the stream that flowed through the gorge. By this stage of the day it was time to dry off and make our way back to the car and prepare for the long ride back to Tom Price to pick up our van. On the walk back up the hill, our path ran alongside a continuous flow of contorted rock where the strata appeared to be trying to turn circles on itself.
It was a grateful group that made it back to the Eco Retreat, particularly as we had made a booking at the restaurant for the evening meal to celebrate our last night in Karijini.
APPENDIX 1: The Challenges of driving the road to Hammersley Gorge
APPENDIX 2 : Some Geological Information on Hamersley Gorge