This was a day that I had looked forward to since our last trip to Karijini. The walk down this gorge is very easy and it is mostly on dry ground, using the jutting out layers of sandstone and rock at the side of the gorge. It goes for a couple of kilometres and then you end up at a deep pool, where the overhanging cliff face has eroded into a formation called the ‘Bow Window’.
At that point the gorge sides abruptly become steep and the pool is only passable by swimming or floating over a fairly long distance. Every other time I have visited this gorge, we have always stopped there but I’ve been intrigued to know what is on the other side. I had in mind that one day I would return, with proper preparation, and find out.
(This is looking upstream in the still walkable area.)
This trip we had packed a waterproof bag and a huge inflatable thong (flip-flop rather than underwear) that was in the Australian flag colours – I had given it to Wayne when he became naturalised, on the grounds that thongs are part of aussie attire! We hiked downstream as far as we could and when we got to the Bow Window, we blew up the thong and inserted all our gear into the waterproof bag. Wayne straddled the thong and half-kicked, half paddled his way across the pool (he isn’t a great swimmer, as he would be the first to admit) and I plunged into the icy waters and swam across.
And oh, boy, was it cold! It was a longer distance than the other pools we had been into and I was very glad that the distance wasn’t longer as it actually made my joints ache from the cold (once again, the sun only warms when overhead and it was probably around three or four degrees). Felt good at the other side, though; all tingly and delicious.
We scrambled out the other bank and continued downstream for a while, only to come to another pool that couldn’t be forded. Once that one was past, the gorge opened out and became very reedy and scrubby and the water became a series of trickles that you could only hear through the thick undergrowth. I kept on being convinced that there was something amazingly special ‘just around the next bend!’ so we pushed on but eventually I was forced to admit that it was very hard work pushing through all the scratchy vegetation and it was unlikely to narrow again and form any pools.
So we turned around and set back; this time walking on the opposite side of the gorge. We did discover a little spring trickling high out of a cleft of the gorge wall and I climbed up to see. It was very lush, with ferns and greenery clustered around the tiny pool where it seeped out and a big undercut cave at the top of the gorge. Worth the climb up, in my opinion.
Then back across the two pools and when we got to the second one, there were other hikers on the far side, stopped by the Bow Window. Everybody seemed very interested in our method of getting back across and much attention was paid as we swam/floundered our way across. I say ‘floundered’ because halfway across, the inflatable thong decided to burst at the seams and Wayne just managed to get it to the other side before all the air leaked out and he would have had to swim. Still, it lasted just as long as it needed to.
So we didn’t discover anything spectacular but then again, 95% of the time you don’t when you go exploring, be it walking or driving down remote tracks. However, the 5% of time you do find something it totally makes up for the rest and the mere possibility of it is enough to keep me going. And at least I now don’t have to wonder what is around the next bend!
(This is the Bow Window, looking downstream down the gorge. The first deepwater pool is just behind the archway and to the left of it. The other side of the gorge is sheer, as is the base of the window side. Those people are not us, by the way. They are young French hikers who displayed a very unflattering amazement that such decrepit old, fat people were managing to be so adventurous.)