CAMP HOSTING AT KARIJINI NP
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: Port Hedland, Dales Campground- 400kms
WEATHER: Sunny, 25 degrees @ 9.30am
OVERNIGHT: Dales Campground- $12pn; FOC for camp hosts!
It seemed like another long journey along the straight flat Great Northern highway but as we neared the national park the scenery of the Hamersley Ranges was stunning. The red, hard and stony earth stretches up into hills and ridges and the clumps of Spinifex strike a stark contrast in this arid land. We notice how skinny the cattle are and are not surprised – there seems little for them to eat. The shapes and colours of the mountains and escarpments are majestic.
We arrive at Dales Campground and make our way to the "camp host" tent to pay our fees and have a site allocated. Jim and Jeannette tell us that the ranger is seeking a second host couple to join the September hosts. When we showed interest, the Head Ranger drove in to meet us and explain our duties and we said we would think about it and let her know on Sunday.
Well to cut a long story short we volunteered to take on the camp hosting for 2 weeks of September. We were on our way to Perth to undertake the “camp host” training program, conducted by the Dept. of Environment & Conservation in November, but this way we got to sample the job first.
Kevin, one of the rangers kindly drove us around the park, visiting the lookouts above the amazing gorges! We were impressed. As you look out over the flat sparse plains the stunning gorges are hidden, but when you reach their sheer faced cliffs and peer into amazing oases of flowing water, trees and stunning pools it takes your breath away. Oxer's Lookout presents the convergence of 4 mighty gorges and you can only stare in wonder that this arid land hides such watery treasures.
Karijini camp ground has no water, power or communication channels but the camp hosts have a safari tent with shower, flush toilet, gas cooker and sink and we are supplied water and power via a generator. A two way radio for emergency contact with the rangers is also set up in the tent.
We live in our own van and the tent acts as an office where we collect fees and allocate the 100+ sites each day. Pauline and Trevor, our co-hosts are lovely and lots of fun and this makes our situation especially enjoyable, and so do our customers, the campers. The job is 2 days on and 2 off with 12 hour shifts and it is constant.
One host stands at the exit road from 7am, greeting campers, checking camp receipts, and clearing camp sites until 10am and then its a whip around the 100 sites following up late departures.The person in the tent deals with extensions and early arrivals and then both hosts spend the day allocating sites and collsecting fees abd it is pretty full-on!
We are able to do our washing, use the internet and phone at the ranger’s headquarters, 20 kms away on a dirt road, and we shop at Tom Price, 100 kms west. Tom Price is situated in the beautiful Hammersley Ranges and at 747m it is WA's highest town! It was named after an American working for Kaiser steel, who appraised the iron ore deposits in 1960 and convinced the government of the mining opportunity.
At one stage we realised that one of our tyres had developed a slow leak and Trevor pumped it up so that we could get to Tom Price for repairs- the mechanic pulled out a screw and repaired a small tear and that cost us $30 which we thought was cheap, considering the stories we had heard about car repairs out here- we can recommend Ashburton Mechanics in the light industrial area out of town!
Being in such a remote location, the silence is incredible and there has been no rain since January, so birds stick to the gorges and kangaroos look for greener pasture. We and others, comment that this is real silence that you rarely encounter. Fortunately the sweet song of the butcher bird can be heard early morning on some occasions, and now and again parrots, pigeons and peewees stop by.
The sky is a 360 degree dome and at night the stars are so intense that you easily see satellites and shooting stars!
The flat hard earth allows snappy gums, mulgas, grevilleas, wattles and wild flowers to push through and everywhere the Spinifex dots the landscape; there are some impressive termite mounds and the little mounds of collected pebbles indicate the presence of the tiny pebble-mound mouse.
The more you look around the more you notice and we have a lot of time to explore which is fabulous.
The days pass quickly and we have agreed to do another week here and leave on Sept 21; meanwhile we were able to recruit another couple to do the last week of September and first of October which covers the school holidays.
The previously mentioned lack of rain, was unexpectedly broken by a rainy day of 25mm and another of 15mm and it was great to see the dry land soak up the water; already just a week later little green shoots are pushing out of the ground. Unfortunately we are being battered by 40kph winds by September 18 which lasts a week and seems to be drying the soil back to red dust. Our feet, shoes, clothing and van carpet are coloured red from the dust and the pools of water after rain are bright orange.
As we prepare to leave we are remembering the wonderful people we have met; of course there were a few weirdos but we managed to keep a positive attitude towards them. Some people are so much fun and you can joke and tease them.
The campground was close to full each night with families, miners on days-off, grey nomads in caravans (generators are allowed in some areas), loners (single travellers) and the “wiz-bangs” (young travellers in campervans sometimes trying to avoid paying camp fees). The wiz-bangs come in after closing and try to leave before we are around but we have generally caught up with all of them and no phone coverage means no tipping off the others about the situation!!
The Karijini team have been supportive and fun; everyone was positive and cheerful!
Dales Gorge was a special treat with 2 beautiful pools to swim in- Fern & Circular, walking distance from camp; the water supplied from underground springs and nearly always a pleasant temperature is sparkling clear and clean. The full circuit takes about 3 hours!
We walked Weano Gorge to the spectacular Handrail Pool and Hancock Gorge to Hermits Pool and you needed to walk through hip high water on several occasions and negotiate some tricky rock ledges. Well worth the effort!
The weather has been variable- high 30’s, still and dusty to cold 4 degrees and sunny, and into the thermals, overcast and rainy x 2 and then the cold easterlies nearly blew us away!
This is a stunning national park, a place not to be missed and we would like to come back in a 4x4 drive to access all the areas.
And so it was time to say goodbye on September 22 to all our new friends and hit the road again!