We decided to go to the furthest away areas of the park today. After a quick breakfast, it was back in the car and driving around 60 kms on rutted corrugated red dirt roads.
First stop was Weano Gorge and making our way down to Handrail Pool. When I was a child of around eight, we used to climb down into these gorges, precarious handhold by precarious handhold. These days they have built steps all the way down so although it is still steep, it is much safer. It’s a long way down but there is beautiful swimming at the bottom. Most people stop at the first pool, in Upper Weano Gorge, because it is beautiful and warm in the sunlight but I know that it gets better further in so I dragged Wayne along.
A little way down you come to a pool of water that extends right up to the sheer sides of the gorge and it has to be passed to continue on. Wayne tried to edge his way along the side of protruding rocks when we came to the next water barrier but he still got wet up to hs waist. Me, I knew it was probably easier just to swim so plunged in. This pool (and most further on) only receive sunlight when the sun is directly overhead so they are very cold – around three degrees. It took my breath away but I swam through to the other side and waited for him to join me in his tiptoeing fashion.
There was a group of four ahead of us, who appeared to be in their twenties and they were very tentative about trying to go through the water pool. We forged ahead and I heard one of the girls say, “If they can do it, we can!”. Damn! When did I turn into a fat, middle aged inspiration? Not so flattering.
More walking and wading and eventually we came to Handrail Pool. This is where the narrow gorge opens out and drops down into a large circular area, with a deep pool at the bottom of the drop. There is a steep descent of about five metres over water polished smooth rocks, which make accessing the pool tricky. Or, at least, it used to. These days authorities have concreted in a steel handrail and made steps over the steepest bit. You still have to climb and clamber and cling to the rail but back in my day there was only a knotted rope, tied to a protruding bit of rock and it was incredibly hard to get down.
There were a few people down there already: an older couple (who took our picture) and a group leaving the pool on the far side, where the water continues to flow down. There is a rope barrier there which you aren’t supposed to cross (a sign warns you of accidents and penalty payments if you have to be rescued) as the gorge gets steeper and it is very hard to retrace your steps. If you continue on you access a route called ‘The Miracle Mile’, which eventually links up to another gorge, with easier egress. I have done this in days gone by and it isn’t that impossible but I suppose the sign was put up because people were always being rescued when they got stuck, after having started something too hard to finish. I wanted to go further but we did have to consider the fact that Wayne is an SES member and if we had a problem and he had to be rescued it would be tremendously embarrassing. Also, rules. I am not a rule breaker at the best of times.
So we paused for photos and then made our way out.