It's not a very happening place, as you can see from all the bustling activity at the airport office.
We rented a car (an SUV!) and decided to make our way through the outback to Karinjini National Park where we had already made arrangements to stay the night at an "Eco Reserve" near Tom Price, another mining town.
What is an Eco Reserve, you ask?
Oh, just wait. It's so good.
We decided to take this remote "Access Road" instead of the highway. It's apparently shorter because the highway goes all the way around and the access road cuts straight through, plus it makes for a very interesting drive. Because they don't use the term "remote" loosely around these parts, we found the nearest (and only) grocery store, bought a cooler, and loaded up with food for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the next couple of days. We also filled up on gas.
Good thing we stopped at the Visitors Center on the way out of town because unbeknownst to us, a permit is required to drive on the access road. We had to watch a video and sign our lives away, which made the whole thing that much more thrilling.
It was worth it. The drive was incredible.And very RED.
Red dust everywhere you looked. Our car was red. Our socks turned red from when we would stop the car, jump out and take pictures.
But it was beautiful in a whole different way than any other landscape we had seen thus far.
It took about 5 hours for us to get across the access road.
Let's just say good thing we had also bought some toilet paper.
There are no rest stops in the outback.
And our first glimpse at one of the mining trains. These trains are around 5 kilometers long! And Patrick saw one about every 30 minutes on the road (I say Patrick because I slept for a good part of our journey on this road). They are literally moving thousands of tons of iron along with waste every night. We met a couple at the Eco Reserve that night who both worked for local mines. He worked for one of the largest ones and said they move around 40,000 tons of iron and over 200,000 tons (yes, TONS) of waste everyday. The girl worked for a "smaller" company which "only" moved 30,000 tons of iron and 50,000 tons of waste. Unbelievable.
Once we got to Karinjini National Park we stopped off at Hammersly Gorge and walked down to the bottom. We thought about swimming but didn't go prepared with suits on, so we just stayed for a while and enjoyed the breeze going through the canyon. It was beautiful. A small taste of what the next couple days would be like.
We rolled quickly through Tom Price close to sunset and were going to stay for a little bit, until the lady at the Visitors Center said, "Are you going to the Eco Reserve? You better go NOW."
"Now?" we asked.
"Yes, now. After sunset there will be kangaroos and wild cows all over the road. It's very dangerous."
And we went.
But we did see a GORGEOUS outback sunset along the way.
And we arrived at our Eco Reserve (without hitting any wild cows) right after dark.
The Eco Reserve was basically a really nice hotel. But instead of renting a really nice room...
You get a really nice tent!
With a king size bed!
And a full bathroom with a view to the beautiful outback!
There was a very nice restaurant at the Reserve, but we had brought dinner to grill out so we opted for the "true" camping experience. While grilling, we met the couple I talked about that worked at the mines. We had a great time cooking and chatting in the dark.
Steaks, potatoes, and peppers. Yum. Yum.
Yes, we forgot plates so we used the cooler lid. We were proud of our improvising skills.
We had a great sleep in our warm bed. Patrick got up, went out on our little deck and watched the sunrise. I stayed in bed and watched the sunrise.
The next morning, we dressed quickly and headed out for a day in Karinjini National Park. The guy who checked us out recommended some hikes we could take through the nearby gorges. We started out at a lookout and then did a walk through part of Weano Gorge.
The first walk we did was nice and easy and fun. Then we started talking to this couple as we looked at the map. The lady said they had just run into some who had done a harder walk, where you had climb on the rocks and spider walk through, possibly getting wet up to your waist. I was reluctant but Patrick's eyes grew big, so we put our swimsuits on under our clothes and decided to go for it.
The first part was not so hard; some rock climbing and stair stepping. Then there was a ladder that they had bolted into the side of the canyon and you could climb down in. THAT was a little scary.
Then you could either wade through a small pool or climb around on the rocks. We decided to climb. I figured out that it wasn't scary to actually be doing it, but it was scary to watch someone else do it, because you could see how close to the edge they were.
We got to what I thought was the end and I was so excited! I had done it!
But it wasn't the end. We hadn't done the spider-walk part yet. So that was next.
Patrick went easily through, but I was really scared. I started to go, but then felt like I was too high and I panicked. PANICKED. I started to shake and froze and wouldn't move my feet. I think I scared Patrick. He didn't realize how freaked out I was, until I started to cry. Then I kept saying, "I'm so sorry; I have to go back. I have to go back."
And I finally turned myself around and went back. Patrick went on without me. I felt like a loser.
So I sat there and prayed. And thought about a lot. And kept going over to look at it again. Maybe if I go lower; don't let myself get so high up again. About that time, another guy came along and probably thought I was a little crazy because I was sitting there trying to talk myself into giving it another shot. I told him that I had freaked out, but maybe if you stayed lower it wasn't so hard. Of course, he jumped right through like it was nothing.
So I really thought about it and decided to try again.
And I did it!!
Patrick was on his way back to me when he saw me coming through.
"Emily! I'm so proud of you! You did it!" he yelled.
He waited on me to come through and we finished the hike together down to what was called the Kermit Pool. It was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.
And we forgot to take pictures of it.
But we stayed for a while and just enjoyed the beauty and the fact that we had done such a hard walk.
We made our way back out of the gorge and by that time, it was time for us to hit the road again.
We spent the rest of the day driving through the deserted outback headed to Exmouth.
We had planned to spend two nights in Exmouth and were going snorkeling the next day! (Hopefully I will get back on the ball and share that story within the next couple of days.)