The rugged beauty of Karijini National Park in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia will delight any visitor.
I’m somewhat jaded after a 4am start in Melbourne and the 11-hour trip it took to reach here. Still, as our aircraft begins its descent into Newman, WA, the featureless brown country below seems to take on a striking appearance. The countryside looks like the veins in a leaf with small intricate capillaries feeding into larger veins and arteries. Despite being semi-desert, this area is subject to heavy rainfall in the wet season. And, from 5000 metres up, the scrubby growth that follows the path of the floodwater appears as delicate patterns.
The Newman Airport car park resembles a four-wheel drive convention with about a 100 white hire vehicles. There are Prados, LandCruisers and Patrols – all with distinctive fluoro side-striping, safety flags and lights to meet mining company OH&S requirements. Stepping out into the 37 degrees celsius heat, we collect our hire car – an X-Trail in standard trim – and head west towards Karijini. The highway has a constant stream of huge road trains, all sitting on the speed limit. It’s a big country out this way; Karijini Eco Retreat is 240km from Newman with nothing in between. Once there, it is a 180km round-trip to the nearest town, Tom Price, for anything – including fuel.