Karijini National Park
Directions - Located in the western side of the gorge system within Karijini National Park, take Banjima Drive from Karijini Drive and drive north for 25km until you reach the turnoff for Weano Road. Take Weano Road north for another 12km, passing the turnoff for the Karijini Eco Retreat until you reach the Weano Day Use Area.
The Hike - With a week in Karijini to explore the park, the next hike on the agenda was the Weano Gorge/Handrail Pool loop with a side visit to the Junction Pool and Oxer Lookouts thrown in for good measure. With an excellent time spent at Hancock Gorge the previous day, we were out here early to beat the crowds and mission accomplished as there was almost no one at the car park when we arrived. Taking the opportunity we gathered up our gear and headed out to the trail head to begin another fun experience within the gorges. For no reason whatsoever we decided to do the trail in a clockwise direction and headed off along the red dirt paths leading away from the day use area.
I like the idea of walking along the gorge rim where possible as you get an appreciation for the size and depth of these formations plus the scenery along the rim is just as spectacular. Both Ben and I remarked on the beauty of the Spinifex plains on more than one occasion so to have a section of the trail pass through the golden grasses and among the Snappy Gums was a real delight. It's like having our own African Savannah but without the elephants, giraffes, zebras etc and the Eco Retreat certainly adds to that vibe too. Back to the rim walk, you also get the opportunity to pass by several impressive termite mounds, a feature of the north west thanks to the 40 odd varieties of termites that call this area home. I had fun taking plenty of photos along this 600m section before the trail takes a dip down into Weano Gorge for the loop back to the meeting point of various side trails for this loop. Initially it feels very open with a large collection of trees found lining the stream that passes through the gorge and the temperature drop was noticeable again.
Due to the morning sun just rising over the landscape, one side of the gorge was well lit and the other in shadow, a problem for the photos as the sensors don't really like those conditions. In the moment though I was happy to be casually walking along the stream and criss crossing where the round white trail markers suggested I should. While pleasant enough, I found this area in retrospect to be one of the "lesser" gorge walking parts of the park. I say lesser in relative terms because this is still an amazing place but the gorge walls weren't as high and the vegetation was a little overgrown and felt more like weeds than anything else we encountered in the park. I'm sure this isn't the case but it just felt that way to me. After a few hundred metres things pick up as you reach the main pool of Weano Gorge and a spectacular scene of rapids, green water, reeds and rocky ledges. We spent quite a bit of time here admiring the beauty and taking photos before moving on to the entrance for Handrail Pool. There is an intersection of trails here with the side trail for Handrail Pool leading you deeper into the gorge, the climb out of the gorge up the rocky path and the way we had just come.