From the Joffre lookout: That wee dot on the top of the rock pillar (top right corner) is Kim, after clambering down into the gorge and up the other side.
Being thin, young and nimble is a big advantage when you explore the gorges of Karajini, the national park at the heart of the Hamersley Range and the Pilbara.
Meeting none of the three criteria above, I gazed enviously from the Joffre Gorge lookout to where a white-hatted young woman had scrambled across the gorge floor river and climbed up the flat-cracked, stacked red rocks to a lofty perch.
Her husband (I assumed – he looked older but he was not much more than a speck) wandered along the river at the base of Joffre, which was a worthy gorge to inspect, we decided.
We had been to Karajini three years ago but just ducked into Dales Gorge, a majestic red gash in the Pilbara tastefully decorated around the rim with snappy gums, stark white sculptures topped with green bunches of leaves. Dales Gorge has a mildly challenging track down to the canyon floor to tranquil Fern Pool, Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool. It is easily reached by a sealed road.
This time we wanted to inspect the less accessible gouging in Karajini. The unsealed road through the park is not too bad but it’s a rattling ride to the gorges on the north.
We inspected Kalamina and at sunset the more spectacular steep narrow ravine of Knox, where we chatted into the dusk with four young people from Perth – three guys and a girl – who had chucked their jobs and headed north. They were hoping to land jobs for the tourist season in Perth, refreshingly optimistic in being young, adventurous and eager to accept whatever came their way in their travels to … who knows where?
After admiring the young, adventurous, eager explorer of gorges at Joffre the next morning we rattled Isabel up to the Oxer lookout over four gorges, rated as one of the most vertigo-inducing lookouts in Australia.
Above the four gorges we encountered Kim from the depths of Joffre. With astonishment I realised the nimble canyon-climber was only a few years younger than me. No wonder they are putting up the pension age.
Kim, 58, and John Allison, it transpired, were from Moreton Bay, semi-retired and roaming Australia for a few months with their caravan, focusing on Western Australia. He’s an electrician; she’s a store merchandiser.
I apologised for taking her photo without permission but promised to email her some copies. She apologised because she and John had been taking photos of Isabel without our permission. That’s OK. Isabel has been photographed only slightly less than Kate Middleton.
The Allisons grew up in the tiny NSW town of Oak Flats and moved to Moreton Bay 21 years ago. John has dabbled in boats, running a charter business in Moreton Bay (“We didn’t make much money but had a lot of fun”) and working in the Whitsundays for a few years. Salubrious memories of that gig include living as caretakers aboard a luxury yacht and then being offered a caretaker job in a mansion atop Hamilton Island, with 360 degree panoramic views of the ocean.
They headed into the challenging Weano Gorge; we tramped down into the daunting Hancock Gorge, where some sections were negotiated by swimming. As we staggered out the Allisons breezed in, a fortunate occurrence as it proved we were not stalking them when we bumped into them two days later at Auski Roadhouse and two days after that at Indee Station.
After we climbed out of Hancock and down into Weano, wading and scaling along to the Handrail pool, where the handrail turned out to be a 6m vertical pole.
Inevitably troops of young French travellers arrived. Les Jeunes Francaise are everywhere on the WA tourist trails and have some turning up their noses (they travel in vans and little motorhomes with minimal equipment and leave a trail of merde et toilette papier in the scrub).
We have enjoyed meeting them, particularly the Handrail pool; Tony because the girls all stripped to tiny bikinis beside him and me because the bikinis showed that French woman do get chubby.