. It was a long and boring journey for 6 hours where the music was on full blast and no-one really talked to us so there was a feeling of it being a long trip. Although we did break it in Parabadu which is a mining town with honestly the best name ever.
We arrive just before 5 and the camp is already set up with permanent tents but we have to get swags and sleeping bags sorted. A swag is basically an extra cover over your sleeping bag which also has a bit of padding under you. Then it was dinner preparation...and some inpromtu betting on a roulette wheel Katie had brought at one of our stops. We had been told that it was freezing but actually once we were all in the sleeping bags and swags it almost got too hot. I was stoked that my brand new sleeping bag was up to the test. Lying in bed I was just getting more and more nervous about what the next day would bring. My heart was pounding and eventually I had to sit up because my chest hurt so much. I didn't sleep much and just dreamt about breaking my leg or falling down the gorge.
D day had arrived but actually the nerves were a little better I just wanted to get started - similar feeling to having an exam and wanting it to get started. We have a detour before the first gorge to the visitors centre but it just feels like time was running out
. We arrive at Dales Gorge and look over the look out at the Circular pool miles below us and I feel physically sick. Looking over the edge was bad enough but knowing that I was somehow about to climb down that height over rocks nearly blew my mind. I can not describe the feeling of pure and utter terror as we were led to the edge of the gorge to begin the decent. It was almost like white noise where I couldn't think of anything else and just about managed to make my legs continue pushing onwards. I was shaking and I think I had gone white in the face because I was asked a couple of times if I was ok. The girls Roos and Elise were amazing. There is no way I would have been able to do it without them. One was in front and the other behind talking me through it, telling me which route to go, and making sure I was ok. I tried to make sure I was in the middle of the group so that I had the pressure of people behind to keep me going and also I worry that at the back I would be left behind. There were basically large rocks which formed a natural uneven stair case. But some of them moved, others had loose stones on them and others were covered in water which meant you had no grip for the next couple of meters. Eventually we made it down to the bottom and there was a journey up and over to get across to Circular Pool. When we arrived a couple of brave souls went swimming in the cold water but I used the time to collect myself. I couldn't quite believe that I had managed to get myself down. After a short break we set off across to the other side of the gorge towards Fern Pool
. Even though we were on the bottom of the gorge this was tough going as there were water hazards to jump over - in one I ended up taking too much of a large jump and surfing for about a foot but remaining upright needless to say my heart took about 10 minutes to return to normal tempo.
We had a group photo on a tree hanging over the water. I continued to get struck by how comfortable some people with it as they climbed up rock faces and scampered up the tree with ease. I was halfway up and convinced I was going to take a swim as we 'posed' for 10 cameras. We got to Fern pool about 2ish and we were starving. Elise wasn't look happy which I suspect was down to lack of food. Roos went to change into her bikini and ended up getting covered in mud up to her ankle on just one foot. The climb up was hard work especially as Roos and I had a deal where I carried our water etc up and she carried it down. I much prefer the journey up even though it is more physical because your weight is into the slope so less risk of falling. After lunch of yet more sandwiches we met a couple who were hitch hiking in Karijini! Crazy people! I have no idea why poeple hitchhike in this day and age let alone into a National Park 500 miles away from the main Perth-Broome highway! The afternoon we went to Kalamari Gorge which was pretty easy and pretty disappointing after the morning. But we had fun messing around with some group photos
Dinner was fish which made things fun - I really didn't want to have an allergic reaction 500kms from nearest hospital. Murray didn't really take it seriously at first which worried me...he was quite a typical Ausi about it and the fact Elise was vegetarian. Unlike Sasha which made provisions for it and was quite deferential in general to make sure we were enjoying ourselves Murray was like 'I don't know what is wrong with you guys not eating meat'. Nice! Pretty similar to when we met him in Exmouth and told him our dietary requirements and he was like 'I don't want you on my bus'. I think...hope...assume he was joking. The night was freezing. We stayed up playing cards - it seems to have been the theme of the trip but eventually went to bed when it got too cold. I haven't been that cold in ages (although fear it might be a common occurance in NZ). Roos and I got as close as possible to share whatever warmth was going around...although I now know why girls feel the cold more than boys - we keep our bodyheat internally whereas boys send it to their extremities.
The next day we head off early to Knox Gorge. This was by far the worst of all the gorges we went to. It seemed even higher from the lookout. The route down was full of loose rocks which meant that you had to take a leap of faith with every step that you wouldn't slip and slide down the slope off the path and fast track to the bottom
. I remember getting to a tree about 20m into the path and looking at my hand shaking and feeling a rushing in my ears. I couldn't think about anything else it was almost as if I had shut down and wasn't able to think about anything else except getting myself down to the bottom of the gorge. I must have looked scared as Murray asked me if I was OK. It was by far the worst part of Karijini and consequently the whole trip. When we eventually got down to the bottom the lookout just looked miles away - I couldn't believe that I had managed to climb all that way. We walked over the base of the gorge and it was generally more flat that Dales had been until we got to a corner. Here we had to climb up the rock face and the area to put your feet got smaller and smaller until eventually we were facing the rock face with footholds of a couple of inches. The gaps between the footholds were also getting bigger. Until we got to the corner where it jutted out into your stomach and you had to reach around the rock to grab the next handhold and swing your leg around whilst not falling into the water 10 feet below. Nadine didn't look very happy either over that stretch.
The next couple of minutes were fine then we had several large areas of water to cross where the gap between the rocks was just longer than my stride so another leap of faith where the price of failure was wet feet at best.
Then we hit more of the narrow rock faces as the gorge got narrower and the walls towered above us. We eventuallu couldn't go any further. Roos and Elise went clambering up the rocks miles above our heads - I couldn't look as one slip and there would have been a serious problem. No idea how they do it. On the way back the corner wasn't as bad as before and I was starting to feel good that I could do this and I had done pretty well with something that honestly scared the life out of me but Murray started describing what our last gorge would be like Hancock Gorge had the monkey walk where the ledges get even smaller and you need to wedge yourself on the slope using all four limbs. Sounded horendous...so much for being able to do this and it getting easier...it just felt like every time I conquered one thing the bar would be raised to the next level where I would need to take another leep into the terrifying. But I guess the slow build up meant that each step up felt manageable.
Hancock gorge was the afternoon activity. The route down wasn't too bad much less steep than Knox or maybe I was just getting used to it. It was pretty similar to Dales with natural steps all the way down. And then a vertical ladder down to the gorge floor. Nadine took one look at the ladder and refused to come down so Gill stayed behind. I wasn't too bothered about the ladder - I prefer them to rocks as it is pretty difficult to slip
. I decided that I wasn't terrified yet so would keep going for as long as posible and not take the easy way out. But this gorge was very different to the others. There wasn't ground to walk on and the gap between the sides of the gorge was much smaller. As a result we were up on the walls of the gorge similar to the corner of Knox gorge except this time instead of a three minute interval it was the wntire walk. Murray was way out ahead and occationally shouted instructions but most of the time I was just with the Dutchies at the back. The were again amazing and enabled me to get through it and find myself a route through. There was one bit that nearly undid me though. I had to stretch between two rocks and it was further than my grasp so I was going to have to let go before I could get the next grip and I just couldn't do it. I clung to the rock terrified. Probably more scared than I have ever been in my life and was worried I wasn't going to be able to make myself go any further and I had come to the end of my endurance. It reminded me of when we climbed some rocks in Malawi when I was 18 and it was above the water and I just got stuck and couldn't make myself move I was terrified and it took ages before I could make myself move. I didn't want that to happen this time as I didn't want to make a big scene by freaking out. I was crying with fear and from being drained emotionally but eventually managed to make myselt move.
Eventually we came to the ampitheatre which was exactly as it sounds; Then it was the beginning of the Monkey Walk - I thought that was what we had been doing but this was worse
. You literally had to hold yourself up with all four limbs. I just didn't fancy it and was given the easy option of sitting it out. I think I could have made myself do it but I also felt I had done pretty well especially as the option to stop was given right at the beginning. I watched them disappear and was clambering over the rocks I was struck by how much more comfortable I was and how I was actually enjoying this! I NEVER thought I would ever say that about heights and climbing over rocks but I guess it goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it! I came upstuck slightly on the way back in the same spot but it was nowhere near as bad on the way back. When we eventually reached the top I was on top of the world! I had done it...not only survived Karijini but also enjoyed it and done almost everything. What a feeling...! I felt alive and great about myself. I think I could try most things now as it was the scariest thing I think I have ever done or maybe level wih Glacier walking in Franz Josef.
After being told by reception that there was no-one in my room I was shocked and dismayed when people came in at 2am. You would think that reception when asked by a girl on her own specifically if there were people coming would tell the truth. It is so scary when the door opens unexpectedly. Then bloody annoying when people open every bag they own, rustle as many plastic bags as possible put the light on and talk at full volume for half an hour! I MISS Asia and the double ensuite rooms. But I got my own back as I was leaving at 6am so made sure I made as much noise as possible...vindictive but hey you try see how generous you are after 3 hours sleep. The new group had invited us out for drinks the night before but I had been sorting out the bloody insurance claim. But the morning comes around and we are all pretty nervous about the group and what they will be like. It was a scramble for the bus but we didn't end up leaving until almost 7 45 as they took forever to get ready in their hungover state and get coffee and supplies for the journey