Hands down, the Hancock Gorge walk in Western Australia's Karijini National park was our favourite walk EVER! Yes, Kings Canyon was incredible, so too was Mitchell Falls, but Hancock Gorge is a challenge for anyone with reasonable fitness, but to conquer this one with a toddler and five-year old - now that is epic!
Like most of Australia, we've been watching Australia's Ninja Warrior, and have dubbed Hancock Gorge as 'Nature's Ninja Warrior', with the Spider Walk obstacle equivalent to Mt Midoriyama.
The class five walk is short at only 1.5 kilometres return, but you should allow at least two hours to compete the round trip. Starting with a steep descent we negotiate rocks before climbing down a ladder. And then the clambering, balancing and clinging begins.
We conquer our first obstacle by tip-toeing around a rock wall by balancing on a ledge to keep our feet dry - just like in Ninja Warrior. But it needed have mattered. We round the corner and in front of us was our first water crossing. Off came our boots and we carefully inched our way through the icy water and across the slippery rocks beneath. D-Man wasn't so keen to wade across. So since it was freezing and it would have come up to his chest, The Husband drew the short straw and carried across both boys.
Once to the other side we could finally see the challenges that lay ahead. I perch myself on a sun-drenched rock (these are few and far between when you're in the narrow gorges), and dry out a little before lacing my boots again. The Husband went off for a quick reconnaissance to see if the obstacles ahead could be conquered by D-Man.
As he was scaling back down the rock face he gave us the thumbs up to say we were good to go! D-Man and I scale the rock wall finding suitable foot and hand holds along the way. If we were to slip we were headed right for some more icy water. The horizontal layers of red rock did make it relatively easy to find a place to hold or balance along the way. Some sections opened up a little to offer foot holds for your whole foot instead of just your big toe. We maintained three points of contact all the way along before we could exit onto a pebbly bank. Over some more rocks before a small ampitheatre opens up.
We pause momentarily on a wide ledge and wait our turn to slip down into the very narrow gorge known as the Spider Walk. The sun floods in here and dances on the rocks to showcase their various red hues.
As we approach the edge of the Spider Walk the flowing water echoes and drowns out D-Man's initial fright. But after a small pep talk and explaining how to beat the obstacle, he lowered himself down and edged along the gorge. Sometimes he would be spread out like a starfish with his arms and legs on both sides of the rock walls. Other times he found it easier to lean across the water with both feet on one side of the rock wall and hands supporting on the other side.
As we emerge from the end of the Spider Walk we are greeted to water cascading into a dazzling emerald coloured pool, aptly name Kermit's Pool. We crawl and shimmy under a rock overhang to reach the very end of the walk. Our big grins a testament to the sense of achievement we felt on conquering Hancock Gorge.
We watch as some young at heart kids bomb into the pool with delight. They only have one or two jumps though. Either the water took their breath away, or they decided it was too shallow for such frivolity. In all seriousness though, this is definitely NOT the place to jump dangerously into water. Not only is the trek in hard enough with a small child on your back, getting out an injured adult would probably require a helicopter and a winch. Added to the fact that this gorge can flood suddenly, its not worth the risk to yourself, your fellow trekkers and the emergency responders who will need to come to your rescue.
We return through the obstacles at a cracking pace and instead of carefully moving hand over hand through the spider walk to keep his feet dry, D-Man wades through the water. But alas, the larger pool of water at the start proves too deep and opts for the safety of Dad's arms again for the return.
Karijini National Park is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. There are amazing walks and lookouts throughout the park and they cater to all levels of fitness.
I am so pleased that we came, we saw and we conquered Hancock Gorge like the true ninjas we are!