We spent the Easter long weekend in Karajini, a national park in the upper half of Western Australia. It’s a long way from Perth; we woke at 5 am, took the 07:35 am Qantas flight to Paraburdoo (when we’d booked the flights to Tom Price, closer to the park, were sold out), collected our hire car and drove North East. We drove through Tom Price then into the National Park. Thankfully Ben & Dion had sufficient small change cash in their pockets for the honesty-system $12 vehicle fee at the unmanned entrance.
We started at Oxer Lookout – taking the yellow path along the rim, then down to the water. Our planned weekend’s hikes were mostly Class 4 difficulty: loose rocks and minor obstacles easily managed by almost everybody visiting. We donned our backpacks, water bottles filled, remembered to apply suncream to all exposed skin, pulled on our caps and sunglasses and got our cameras out. The earth is orange and red in the Pilbara, because of the iron content, and it contrasted the green of the plants beautifully. Daniel led our group, I followed behind him, with Dion and then Ben behind. As we began our descent I slipped on some loose gravel, trying not to smash Dan’s old SLR camera as I fell. I watched in silent horror as my right ankle everted what looked like a right angle to my tibia. There was no crack. It hurt. I immediately firmly palpated my lateral and medial malleoli for localising tenderness. No medial malleolar avulsion fracture. Anterior lateral malleolar tenderness only, so just a sprain. We had just begun our long weekend and already I was the invalid.
The Eco Retreat
We’d booked deluxe tents in the Karijini Eco Retreat: semi-permanent canvas tents equipped with actual beds and ensuite outdoor bathrooms. No air-conditioning. No fans. I’ve not camped properly since I was a Boy Scout and I probably never will again; clamping was an acceptable compromise between comfort and accessibility. Individual tents are spaced out enough to give some privacy, though at night especially you can hear most conversations within 50 m. It was entertaining to listen to other new arrivals discover the frogs in their outdoor bathrooms. We had reserved a dinner table at the Eco Retreat “restaurant” each night. Over the three nights we worked our way through their menu. Interestingly the dishes on our final night were slightly different to the rest of the weekend, plated more professionally and made with a minimal difference in ingredients. By the third night, though, I really didn’t feel like a steak, or pork belly, and just wanted one of the burgers you could purchase as take-away, but they were explicitly off the menu for the “restaurant”.
The sky was clear our first night and we were treated to the stars and Milky Way without any light pollution – it was brighter than I remembered seeing in Iceland, the last time I could remember looking up at the starry sky. The Southern Cross was visible, above those two bright stars and all the way across to Orien’s Belt. We didn’t see the Pleiades.