Catastrophe in Karijini

After visiting Karijini‘s sights, Robbie and I decided to go to the nearest petrol station to fill up and get some snacks before returning to the park to pitch our  tent for the night. As darkness began to set in and we began driving back towards the park, we realised* a storm was probably ahead so we needed to get back and pitch our tent quickly. In an instant great sheets of water plummeted on our car from the heavens, and despite the most ferocious efforts of our windscreen wipers to clear a visual path, we couldn’t see two feet in front of our car. Despite this setback, it was difficult for us to stop, so we pressed on.

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As we came closer and closer to the park, great eruptions of lightning lit up the sky and touched the ground in many places around the park. The rain persisted but we finally found the turn-off road to enter the park. We made it about 5oo metres down the road when suddenly CRASH! A great wave of water rolled over the hood of our car, splashed up onto the windscreen, and we felt the car lift from the ground. As the engine failed and the lights spluttered out, we realised* we had just driven directly into a river which had flooded over the road! “What do we do, what do we do?” Survival instincts kicked in and I knew that we needed to get out of the car. I opened my door an a lake’s worth of water rushed in through the open door. I slid out of the car into waist-deep water,and struggled to close the door. Robbie stayed in the car, as I positioned myself in front of the car and braced to try and push the car back out of the river. All that was running through my mind was that lightning was going to strike the water and I would become fried meat for the crocodiles waiting to snap me up. Great sea snakes must be writhing in the water just waiting for such an opportunity as this.

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As I pushed with all my strength, my thongs snapped and I was forced to push barefoot. Slowly but surely the cars tyres touched pavement, and Robbie managed to steer while I pushed in order to get the car to the edge of the road. I opened the door and sank back into my soaking wet chair, shaking not from cold, but adrenaline. Slowly, as my breathing subsided, the realisation* set in that we were stranded on the edge of one of the largest national parks in Australia, with hardly any food, no means of contacting help, and the nearest petrol station was nearly 40 kilometres away. The crocodiles continued to salivate.

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Then, nearly 15 minutes later, a pair of headlights materialised* in front of us, coming closer and closer, and passing right through the impassable river which bested us. The 18-wheeler truck pulled right up to the front of our car, and honked at us to move out of the way. We got out and explained our situation to him, and he came down to have a look at our car. This standard regional Australian man fit every stereotype, and with a bit of fiddling he was able to clear some water out of the engine. Another ute arrived who was able to get close enough to hook up to our car with jumper cables, and miraculously he managed to get us running again! As the first driver gave our car the once over, he noticed a large piece of plastic hanging from the underside of the car, which we couldn’t remove. He told us not to worry, and went back to his truck. He returned with the largest knife I have probably ever seen, and I had to resist every temptation to make a Crocodile Dundee reference. I used the knife to saw the plastic off, and with many thanks we turned around to go back and spend the night sleeping in the petrol station car park.

photo courtesy of

We had a brush with death, which only a series of miracles and the kindness of the North West managed to get us out of alive. As a result of our encounter we payed a lot more attention to weather conditions, and for the rest of our road trip back to Perth, we had to ask for a jump start every time we turned off the car, and I would say we were lucky that’s all we had to do!

*while these words would be spelled with a ‘z’ in North America, all such words in Australia use the ‘s’

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One response to “Catastrophe in Karijini

  1. Pingback: Karijini National Park 4/5 | Explore Western Australia·

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