The Handrail Pool is located on the west side of Karijini National Park. After our visit there we drove to the Dales Camping area and we were lucky to find a camping site. We were able to pitch camp just at sunset; we pulled our lawn chairs and a bottle of champagne and enjoyed the orange and pink sky. I was instantly reminded why I love camping – fresh air, millions of stars, the cool air of the night and never ending conversation. The internet and television are replaced by sunsets and shooting stars and it is easy to imagine “escaping” from civilization for months at a time.
Our second day in Karijini included a visit to the Fortescue Falls and the Fern Pool in the Dales recreation area near our campground. As we emerged from the canyon trail at the Fern Pool I was instantly impressed with the site of it. It was a like a little emerald of paradise in the red canyon and blue sky. The top photo is the view that greets you from the canyon trail and you can see just how beautiful it is.
Andrea started to get ready to go swimming – something I hadn’t even considered, “You’re going swimming?” Of course, and why not? I am still getting used to swimming in the country’s national treasures. She jumped in and headed towards the waterfalls (you can see her in the water in the photo above).
I stripped down to my shorts and jumped in. Of course I brought along my waterproof Olympus camera. The water was frigid but I found that if I kept my body flat on the water’s surface it wasn’t so cold; the water was much warmer on the surface, about 2′ (1/2 meter) down it was quite chilly. I swam over to Andrea to find her sitting on the rocks under the waterfall. She told me that it was like a massage on her shoulders (albeit a freezing cold massage). I handed her the camera and swam over to give it a try. It was quite refreshing – for lack of a better description.
Several times I had to pinch myself. It was hard to believe that they let us swim in here. It was magnificent and I tried to soak up the memory, to preserve it so that in my old years, I will remember this day.
We fought the cold for as long as we could and then swam around and enjoyed the pool and the canyon views. We swam under the waterfalls and we actually found a little ledge where we could sit down and enjoy the view. I can’t remember if I’ve ever sat under a waterfall like this before but it felt like being on a movie set. I captured a panorama video from under the falls:
Taking our lead (Andrea’s lead really), some other tourists jumped in and swam over to the waterfalls. After we lingered for as long as we could stand the cold we swam back to dock at the trail-head. The Fern Pool is inhabited by little fish that seemed to school around us while we stood on the dock. I thought that they might be hungry so I swatted a fly and tossed it into the water (still alive) but they ignored it. Perhaps they are vegetarian fish?
Near the Fern Pool is a large tree full of Cockatoos. These big white parrots seemed to be enjoying the paradise of this canyon. And just over in the next grove of trees we saw dozens of fruit bats. I climbed up on some boulders to get a closer photo. The bats were trying to take a nap but occasionally they would squabble and jockey for better positions in the trees. The presence of the fish, the cockatoos and the bats made this place even more unique and interesting. Being the big animal lover, Andrea had an ear to ear smile as we looked at these interesting animals.
I can’t exaggerate how striking the colors were, especially the white gum trees and the red earth of the canyon against the deep blue sky. I captured the photo below with my Sony A100 digital SLR & polarized lens; the photo is unaltered and appears as I took it. For the entire visit at Karijini I just stared and stared at the reds, blues, greens and white colors that appeared here in nature. I’ve never seen naturally occurring white and red like this save for snow covered mountains. Karijini is in the middle of desert mountains and the river gorges provide green oasis in a sea of red earth and rock. Of the many parks I’ve visited in my life, this park stands out as one of the most beautiful and unique. It is worth a visit if you ever make it to northwest Australia.
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