24.06.2012 - 24.06.2012
It was very cold last night. Fortunately I had lots of layers on so didn't get cold but I did wake from time to time, aware of how cold my face was, and snuggled down into my sleeping bag and swag to keep warm. Karen tells me that she got cold around her legs and feet so she's going to add another layer tonight.
I realized as I typed this entry that I missed my brother Rodney's 70th birthday last Sunday. Bugger! It's so easy to lose track of what's happening back home when you're in the midst of nowhere. Looking back I can see that we were in Tunnel Creek that day and then did lots of driving but I would have had signal at Derby at lunchtime and later that evening in Broome. Oops. We've got no connectivity right now and probably won't have until we get into Exmouth tomorrow evening so I've set an alarm for Monday night to give him a call.
Today was a BIG day. We went and did a rim walk to have a look at where we were going and saw the intersection of 4 gorges. Then we went down for the first of our hikes with our goal being Kermit's pool. One of our oldest companions stopped before entering the gorge because her knee was playing up on the climbs.
It was a wise move because in the park's way of grading hikes this was a class 5 hike. If it had been a 6 it would have required a permit, a certified guide and abseiling equipment. It's not that it's particularly far, nor rough, for the most part, but there are a couple of sections that are quite tricky.
Before we got to them we hiked into the gorge until we reached a point where the gorge was filled, wall to wall, with water. There's no way forward, that's not unacceptably risky due to rock falls, other than swimming. So it was out of our jackets and other warm gear, it still being a cold early morning, and into freezing water. Suvi, the lass from Finland, chose to stay and look after our clothes and bags. The rest of us waded, a little reluctantly, into the water. It took our breath away and numbed our feet...and was worse when it became waist and then chest deep. We seemed to be in there forever but it was probably only 30 to 40 meters.
At the end of the water we clambered over some rocks, along some narrow ledges where, at times, we were sitting down, bent over at the waist so our head didn't hit the rocks above us, and slid sideways along the ledges on our bums. All the while we were shivering and had pins and needles in our legs from immersion in the water.
Once we could get upright again the gorge widened out into a section named the amphitheatre. Because it was wider, the sun was reaching into it on the far side so we all scuttled over there to spend some time in the sun and to rest before the next section.
The gorge narrowed again and the water, which until now had been slow moving, was channeled into the bottom of a V shaped cleft in the rock. The water was too fast to walk in and the bottom too slippery so, to move forward, we had to 'spider walk' through the cleft, ie. one leg and one hand on each side of the V, like we were doing a star jump, and then slowly we moved one foot forward until we could find another foothold, then a hand, another foot, the opposite hand etc. The longer we took to find the next foot or handhold the harder it became to support our weight while spread-eagled. The higher we went up the V the further we were spread, the lower we went the smoother the rock and the more difficult to find hand / foot holds.
For someone with duck's disease, like Karen, it was particularly difficult. Less so for taller chaps like me. About 2/3 of the way along the cleft the walls became closer together and it was possible, and easier, to put both feet on one side, lean forward and put both hands on the other side, and then go sideways. Making the transition between the two positions was a little tricky though. We made it!
Then it was back into the water, deeper this time so swimming was necessary. Then out for another climb along some ledges and voila - Kermit's Pool - where no one chose to go for another swim. Lots of back-patting and photo taking ensued then, having looked over the edge at the beginning of the class 6 abseiling area, we turned around and did everything in reverse.
We couldn't dry off and get into our warm clothes quickly enough when we got back to Suvi.
After returning to camp we settled in for another clear cold night. We break camp in the morning and head to the coast.