Friday 31st August

It was a very cool group that met for breakfast. Everyone had tales of layering and sleeplessness. We nevertheless went to watch the sunrise over a landscape very reminiscent of Kenya.

After breakfast when pretty spinoflex pigeons dashed in and out of our camp

we set out on our first walk of the day to Knox Gorge. I think I should interrupt myself here to talk of the walk rating system in Australia. It basically runs from 1 – 6. Grade 6 is an accompanied walk with experienced guides over extreme terrain with climbing and scrambling and not lightly undertaken. Grade 5 is quite extreme with some climbing (for this read vertical cliffs!) and is described as for ‘very experienced Bush walkers’. A high level of fitness and agility is required. Grade 4 is described as for experienced Bush walkers. A good level of fitness is recommended. Grade 3 some bushwalking is recommended – suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Grade 2 no bushwalking experience is required. Suitable for families. Add to this – we are talking gorges here. Great cavernous drops. Magnificent but scary, particularly if you suffer from vertigo, as Keith does, or if you have little legs which (in case you haven’t noticed) I have. Knowing, but not really fully appreciating what was in store, we set off.

By now the day had warmed considerably. It was a short ride to the Knox Gorge car park and there were few people there. It was a beautiful morning. Duly sun-screened, be hatted and carrying water we set off on what was described as a Grade 5 walk. It was not long before we started to descend. The route twisted and turned as we scrambled downwards. Loose, small scree type rocks slid and tumbled ahead of us. Over everything was red dust. We had probably been descending for about 30 minutes when we came to a sharp right turn. A very sharp right turn. The path stopped ahead of us had disappeared and we were confronted with what looked like a very deep pool. The right turn ‘path’ involved clinging to the overhanging rock and finding footholds while hanging over the water. This was where Keith and I turned back. One step too far for us. The overhang was just a taste of things to come and it was not for us.

We worked our way back up the route by which we had just descended. I was quite pleased there were just the two of us, so my pathetic efforts at rock scrambling were not observed. The sun beat down. It was slow progress. When we reached the top we decided to take a walk up the unsurfaced road leading out of the car park. It was a lovely walk. We looked at the view, studied the amazing trees (Snappy GumsI think),

and discussed the situation in which we found ourselves. All in all we agreed that it was good to be here, even if some of the ‘walks’ were beyond us, and not to be disheartened. It was just such a privilege to have the opportunity to see what we could see.

We walked for about an hour and the others had returned to the truck by the time we got back to it. They had had a invigorating first experience of the Karijini Gorges. We had learnt that level five ‘walks’ were not for us.

Next stop was the Fortesque falls car park. From here we walked to the lookout to see the falls from above and then descended by metal steps to the bottom of the Gorge, to see the Fortesque Falls at close hand.

Walking on we eventually found Fern Pool where those who were that way inclined, took to the water to swim. The rest of just munched on our lunch. It was a pretty spot with a little jetty. It was easy to understand that it has considerable significance to the Aboriginal people.

Without the shouts and splashes of the people swimming and the sound of us munching our sandwich lunch, it would be a beautifully serene and special place.

Lunch over, we left Fern Pool to return to its silent beauty and set off along the valley floor on a Grade 4 walk to Circular Pool. It was a lovely walk. You had to watch your step all the way as you hopped from large red boulder to boulder, occasionally using (often) wobbly stepping stones to cross shallow water. Although we covered little distance, it probably took over an hour to reach Circular Pool, a shaded oasis at the base of a tall cliff that almost encircled it.

Few took to the water and after a brief sit to take in the view and location, we took off back along the track to where a rocky path climbed up the cliff face. It was quite a pull up the windy path, edging ever closer to the top. The final twists and turns delivered us to ‘ground level’ an odd concept when it is above you! From here we set out to take the cliff top stroll back to the truck. We had achieved our first level 4 walk which I think is probably our maximum level if we are to stay hale and hearty.

Back at our base it was chopping and chipping for our supper and then a great shower in the corrugated shower block to relieve ourselves of the accumulated red dust. Fat chance!

A good day! However another cold night was in prospect and strong measures were required if I wasn’t going to freeze through another night. Two jumpers, two pairs of socks and encasing my sleeping bag in the ‘swag’ lying on top of the camp bed which I had rather scornfully ignored the night before. These measures saw me much better placed to face the rigours of the night!

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