Day 21 - Tom Price to Karinjini 81km

WA_10b.jpg
WA_10c.jpg

After listening to steady rain throughout the night, I was woken up at 5:00am to what sounded like a freight train passing by my bedroom, to discover it was the motel’s washing machine on high spin next door! Nodding off for another hour I recall thinking that the rain had stopped. The signs were positive when we made our way to breakfast – it wasn’t raining and the car park looked reasonably dry! With a relatively short ride to Karinji National Park, anticipation was high for a picturesque ride in and a rest day tomorrow.

With dry roads and light winds, we made our way out of Tom Price and soon turned north-east into Karijini Drive. At the 30km mark there appeared to be a Matterhorn climb on the profile map today that had many concerned. However, the peloton soon worked their way up and over the witches hat like ‘hump’ to be welcomed with a sweeping descent that had many cyclists yipping and shouting for joy as they zipped almost all the way into morning tea at the 45km mark without having to turn their pedals.

On cue, the All Trails Cafe management team once again had a freight train pass by our morning tea location. Six kilometres further along we turned into Kanjini Drive, where we entered Karijini National Park which is set in the Hamersley Range. Karijini means a ‘meeting place’ – a place to come together. It is Western Australia’s second largest national park encompassing some 627,441 hectares. With massive mountains and escarpments rising out of flat valleys, and breathtaking gorges surrounding the high plateau, the park’s ecosystem is incredibly diverse. No doubt our rest day will be filled with hours of explorative activities.

We were given a taste of what is to come with spectacular scenery on the 30km ride through the park to the Eco Retreat; home base for two nights. There were signs of controlled burns along the road side, along with an array of native grasses and flowers, including the Royal Mulla Mulla that was a feature. With 2km to go our ride came to an abrupt stop with a very wet, muddy and corrugated red-dirt road. Richard and Lou had written, “Stay here to be ferried into Eco Retreat” in flour on the road. Soon enough, the Troop Carrier and Sagwagon were assembled to take us and our bikes into the camp ground for lunch.

Andrew greeted us with a big smile and promptly handed out blankets as we made our way into the restaurant for lunch. Within a matter of minutes we all had a hot drink and a hearty burger in our hands. Andrew then formally welcomed us and gave us information about our pending Eco Tent experience. Yours truly was stunned to find out that each tent had an en suite. This was certain to be unlike any other camping experience I have had to date. These tents, are indeed, rather fancy! Fitted out with a real bed (made up with sheets and blankets - no sleeping bag required), solar lights, table, comfy chair and a thermos for making a cup of tea, only the open air en suite gives you the impression you are not in a motel room! We were advised that the sewage system is healthy as friendly frogs like to hang out in the loos. I soon discovered this to be true and named my little tent-mate Wilma; to discover later in the evening there are in fact two frogs hanging out in the loo, so have since named the other one Fred in keeping with the Flintstones theme.

With drizzly rain throughout the afternoon, many of us hung out in the restaurant drinking cups of tea, coffee and hot chocolate while taking a team approach to crosswords. Rob did venture out of the restaurant precinct momentarily to very excitedly report back to the group that blue sky had been sighted. Maz and I thought we’d go find the ‘yoga’ tent and do some stretching before dinner. We managed to circumnavigate the entire Eco Retreat site before finally managing to find the three-walled platform tent that provided a gorgeous vista down into one of the gorges nearby. It has inspired us so much we are planning to return tomorrow in sunny conditions to do another session.

After a fantastic meal and the prospect of fine weather tomorrow, the group made its usual early exit, with 8pm being the standard ‘bed time’ for most of us these days. With breakfast scheduled for 7:30am (a sleep in!) and excursions to see gorges and falls throughout the park tomorrow, the mood was chipper.

PS: I wonder where Patsy & Mandy will pop up tomorrow!

Richard Cooke