There was no idea, there was no plan. At least not for me. Just a spur of the moment, spontaneous quit-my-job-and-go-travelling kind of decision. The best kind of decision.
Two of my friends had spent the best part of six months planning this road trip, they bought a van (Ford Transit) and decked it out with a bed, a fridge, alternate power source, solar panels, fishing gear, a portable bbq, a camping shower, they even bought a shovel for when they would be out back for days and have no access to a toilet…
Anyway they had thought of everything, and a week before they left on their trip around Australia (beginning in Perth where we all lived), they drove the van to my house for me to inspect! It was just so great, the thought of these two on this adventure for months on end and me stuck in Perth, in the winter, at my dead-end bar job, was just unthinkable.
“Why don’t you guys just come? You’ve got a car, a swag, a sleeping bag. So what else do you need? We’ve got you covered. Just come!” said Shags,
“We also have jobs and a room to pay rent for Shags.”
“So? Quit your jobs and find someone to take your room. Easy peasy done!” replied Hayley oh so casually.
But it was easy peasy, they convinced me and I convinced Liss and that afternoon I’d called up my boss and given my week notice, found a few potentials on GumTree who needed a room and could take over our part of the lease, and put an ad up to sell our bed (I don’t own much else that I can’t fit in a backpack so that part was easy).
Job done, and a week later we were on the road, Shags and Hayley in their white Ford Transit, Liss and me in our 1983 Ford Fairlane, not an appropriate car to be driving around outback Australia but that didn’t seem important at this point.
On the road to Karijini
So we set off on our convey up the west coast of Australia. I can narrow this down to one of the best decisions of my life. We were totally free, we’d drive for a few hours, pull in to a beach have a swim, carry on driving, find somewhere to pull in to make lunch, meet other travellers at rest areas or service stations while we were topping up on petrol (which the Fairlane absolutely guzzled). We had no where to be and no time frame to get there.
Every afternoon before it started getting dark we’d keep a look at for a little track to drive down or a beach to pull into and set up camp for the night. Building fires, drinking cans of VB, making damper (bread from basically flour and beer which we’d wrap in foil and leave to bake under the hot coals all night), playing cards. We would listen to Liss play guitar and Shags on the didjeridoo while we watched the sunset and lay under the stars, total paradise.
We were in no rush, it took us 2 weeks to get to Karijini National Park, which is 1,400kms from Perth so realistically could have taken 2 days. We arrived and spent the next three days hiking and exploring the vast gorges and swimming through crystal clear lagoons. It was such an adventure. Karijini is amazing in that there is total freedom to do and go as you please (no tours necessary, all free to explore) but there is plenty of information and help along the way. One can choose their own level of hiking ability and go to different areas of the park accordingly.
Karijini’s hidden pool
We went on a class 5 hike for “very experienced bushwalkers” (which none of us were) called Handrail Gorge, aptly named as we were all clinging to the handrail provided as we waded waist deep through a gushing river to reach the edge of a cliff. We then had to scale down as a waterfall poured down over us. Once at the bottom of this perilous cliff we came across another river, this time of ice cold water through which we had to swim in order to gain access to the next part of the hike, the finale, Handrail Pool.
It took a lot of discussion as to whether Handrail Pool would really be worth seeing if we all ended up with hyperthermia which seemed like a definite possibility at this point, especially as we could see for a brief period of this treacherous river crossing that we would have to be totally submerged in order to access the pool.
Eventually we decided that we’d come all this way and obviously we were going in eventually, so we may as well just get it over with! I went numb, I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold. It was only a few minutes but I couldn’t breathed as I emerged from the water and desperately tried to clamber out.
It was so worth it, Handrail Pool was picturesque, an untouched lagoon of crystal clear water with waterfalls flowing down the red rocks surrounding it. Breathtaking!
The next couple of days were much the same, finding rocks and cliffs to scale down and jumping in pools at the bottom. We met a few others doing the same, and spent the next couple of nights camping along side them. In fact one guy we met, ad Frenchman named Jerome, we camped with for the rest of our Karijini trip and he joined our convey up the west coast for the next two weeks or so.
I could not recommend Karijini more, check out some of the pictures and info on the Lonely Planet.
Next stop for us, Broome…!
I’d love to hear your comments!