Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 26 we're at the end...

Day 26 CSR Our last day on the Canning stock Route proper, I awoke this morning to the sound of a lonesome dingo howling in the dawn followed by an indignant cockatoo's single screech. The dingo continued until he was joined by another, hence they howled in unison for ten minutes! Shortly after, the cockies and galahs joined in to make a cacophony of sound greeting the day!  We took the hint given by the local wildlife and after a much warmer night and start to the day with 9 degrees, we bounded out of bed for breakfast of pancakes. Our tent has decided that it is too stressful lto be erected every night, and has broken. The pole holding the vestibule has broken, so we had to jury-rig a tie down to the bull bar.
The sunrise was beautiful, but cloud was darkening on the western horizon, and a few spots of rain hurried pack up along nicely. Breakfast, washing up, tent pack up all done by 8.30. We departed the camp at 9am headed for Wiluna 93 kms away. First stop well 2a, the Granites. This well was dug by hand out of solid rock and is 10 feet deep. They also built a rock wall around the the top of the well to stop animals from falling in to it. At the Granites we had morning tea of pikelets with strawberry jam.....yum! Back on the track to well 2 we came across two other lots of travelers. The first a group of 6 people in 3 cars from Mt Gambier heading out on their first day on the track. The second group, two cars with 4 passengers from Keith in SA. Everyone and their cars were looking all shiny and clean and raring for action!  We gave them the run down on camp sites and track condition. They will probably end up camping at well 3, as it will be too far to make Windich Springs tonight. While chatting to the second group, a bloke roared past us, obviously on a record attempt. I had done a radio call earlier reporting our position, and he responded with a smart comment, but didn't tell us where he was. Stupid really as we didn't know if he was traveling toward us or the same direction. The way the track meanders through the Mulga stands and twists and turns back on itself doesn't leave a lot of time to react should you find someone coming the other way unexpectedly. That is why its so important to carry and actually use a radio. It is pretty silly to use the radio to please yourself with smart comments, rather than using it to potentially prevent a head on smash in the middle of nowhere. It happens too often for no good reason.  The scenery was pretty spectacular with lots of golden spinifex shifting in the wind, the horizons black with really interesting storm clouds. The road alternated between really rocky, slow going and faster bits of straight corrugated dirt track.  We arrived at well 2 at 1.30 and decided to skip lunch to head straight for Wiluna to see if we could get some mobile coverage to book the ute in for a service in Kalgoorlie before we head across the Nullabor. We left Jon and Kerrin at Well 2 having lunch and arranged to meet them at North Pool 20 kms north of Wiluna to camp for tonight. We left well 2 and shortly came across the main road into Wiluna......OMG! The road is smooth graded dirt, six lanes wide! A bit hard to take in after 3 weeks of two wheel tracks through the sand dunes!  Into Wiluna, the town itself is very neat and tidy. The fuel at the post office is $1.55/litre and as we are half full we will fill up tomorrow on our way back through. We rang Ultra Tune in Kalgoorlie and they were very happy to book the ute in for Friday morning at 8am. A quick look in the supermarket, we stocked up on cornflakes, fish fingers for dinner and a block of chocolate for Jon and Kerrin, then headed back out to North Pool. The camp site here at North Pool is delightful. It is right next a large body of water ensconced in river red gums with their wide reaching branches overhanging the riverbanks, making a lovely camping spot. Jon and Kerrin had secured a grassy, waterfront location and were waiting with water boiled ready for a cuppa. We arrived just in time to see Jon take a dip in the cappuccino colored  water. It is about 12 degrees air temp as I write, Jon found the water"refreshing"! A brisk wind has sprung up, but the sky is looking less threatening than it was earlier. At the point the CSR hits the road, the odometer read 1968.6 km since leaving Halls Creek. Will double check tomorrow, but reckon fuel useage was around 250 litres or thereabouts.

Well 3 campsite

Well 2

End of the CSR.

North pool

Day 25 getting closer

Day 25 CSR It was REALLY cold last night, down to minus 1 degrees. It felt colder, we are not acclimatising at all! We packed up and wrote in the visitors book, checking others who have come through. Track care came through with a new book in April, as well as emptying the toilet, which was appreciated by those of us a little squamish about such things... Off at the crack of 9 am, we left the lovely cover of the white gums, and hit the track, almost immediately we arrived at the stand of grass trees that are nowhere near where they are supposed to be. They are a bit of an enigma, these grass trees, they are not supposed to grow this far north, and not in dry climates. Well 5 was our smoko stop, it has been restored by the Chamberlain tractor club, and they've done a sensational job, along with Granite downs station. The well is the deepest sunk by Canning, 104 feet deep through sheer rock, with a drive 28 feet long at the bottom, because of the poor rate of recovery of the water. It could hold 12,000 gallons. The water is colored, looks like green tea, Kerrin tasted it with a 'yuck' being her verdict! The work the well diggers put in must have been incredible. They blasted the shaft out, and used a windlass to get rid of the rubble. Looking down the well, I can't imagine being lowered down on a rope all that way to start digging and digging and digging.... The country has become far less scenic since we have hit the station country. Mostly mulga and clay flats are it. Very little to see as the trees pack in close to the track, limiting the view. Next stop was lunch at Windich springs. The track has been re-aligned since we were here, so we did not recognize the water hole. We were in a different spot and couldn't see where the old track went, so we just enjoyed the spot we were at. The water is green, but full of life, we even spotted a turtle. No rock pythons though. Apparently they are common here because of the frogs that inhabit the water. We took heaps of photos, but it was too early to camp, so we pressed on. A couple of motor cyclists turned up just as we were leaving, and we caught up with their support crew a few k's down the track. They had just built up a steep rocky creek crossing, so we tested it out for them! Good work! The track veers away from the old alignment, after well 4A and 4B, and we went off into new country, through Snell's pass. This track isn't on either map we are using, so we relied on the sings Cunyu station has placed along the way. The track is made up of nasty rocks, waiting to tear a tyre. Lots of sharp creek crossings, with an occasional salt lake glimpse made up the rest of the day's driving. The mulga pressed in tight and  we seemingly drove forever to reach well 3, arriving about 5 pm. One highlight along the way was spotting some red mulga trees, otherwise known as miniritchie trees, used as fence posts in the early days because the timber is very hard. Well 3 was refurbished in 1998 but the water looks and smells pretty rank, we aren't going to taste test this one!  

just south of well 6

view into well 5

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 24 no more dunes

Day 24 CSR
Only minus 2 this morning! Another light icey coating on things left out. We set off about 8.45, after we had transferred fuel across from the big tank. We now have enough in the normal tank to get to Wiluna, where everyone we have met says the fuel is really cheap. Our first stop was well 11, Goodwin Soak. This is where the Australian Geographic sign a Notice to Travelers has been erected. It was just brand new in 1994 but looking quite old and faded now. Some brainiac has also managed to drive into the sign and bend the support post. On you-tube there is a video of Aboriginal rangers testing the water, finding that the water in the soak is better than the water in the well, but only just. The soak is pretty manky at the moment, it would take a lot of cleaning out to become drinkable. Not much left of this well, so we kept heading south to well 10. This was known by the drovers as the lucky well, as it meant they were clear of the worst of the sand dune country, and back into station country.  On the way to well 10 we stopped and climbed McConkey hill. We walked this little hill last time we were here, and thought it would be nice to do it again. Someone has built a big cairn on the next hill across, so after scrambling up the boulders to the summit, we walked across to find out if it was a monument to anyone. The rock cairn is in good nick, but the wooden part of the cairn has been wrecked, so we are none the wiser as to what it is about. Smoko at the base of the hill, and back on the track. We met a couple of people at well 10 traveling south, they were waiting for the rest of their group, so we kept moving.  There is a sign at the border of Glenayle station, asking you not to camp within 1 km of windmills. This is the first sign of civilization we have seen not being a direction sign to the CSR. Peter Vernon has also erected a sign wishing everyone  a safe trip.  Well 9 is just as we remember it, a cattle yard surrounded by a rocky plain, spikey trees and cattle all standing around. The well is actually running at the moment, and there were thousands of finches and pigeons flitting down for a drink.  We walked over to the actual well which was being guarded by a very big brown bull, luckily very placid. We also checked out the 'fort' built by the Forrest party to protect themselves from hostile locals when they were here in 1874. The fort is a pile of rocks, but it is easy to imagine the fear felt on both sides during this encounter.  From the 'fort' the ridge that the tribe assembled on before attacking could be easily seen. We stopped for lunch in a grove of bloodwood trees, much to the chagrin of a young bull who would have preferred we moved somewhere else. A vehicle coming along the track moved him on, leaving us in peace. Well 8 is derelict, dusty and not very photogenic, so we decided to make a dash for Well 6.  At well 7, we met a very friendly group from NSW and QLD traveling north. We chatted for a while, learning that one of them is from Kurrajong, our old stomping ground in Sydney, and another who knows people who went to the same high school at the same time we did! Well 7 is much as we remember, derelict, but the trees are much bigger.  The run to well 6 through the afternoon sun was spectacular, the spinifex lit from behind and the Ingelbong hills providing scenic relief. The track was very slow in parts, following the clay pans, until the more open country further south. We did encounter one last sand dune, a little one easily over in 2WD, but a fitting farewell to the sand dunes, or a welcome of what is to come if you are going the other way! Well 6 is as beautiful as we remember, and amazingly , we have it to ourselves again. We set up quickly in the fading light and took some photos of the well, and the beautiful white gum trees with their branches stretching over the camp ground. We also set up a star trail photo of the well.  A mouse provided us entertainment by trapping himself in the water bucket.  Getting very cold tonight, will be very chilly tomorrow morning.

Well 11

McConkey Hill

North of Well 10

Well 6 camp site

Day 23 frozen camel

Day 23 CSR
A VERY cold night last night. At 6am it was -3 degrees, yes that is minus! Many layers of clothes, including gloves and beanies were donned before exiting the tent. Bob stoked the fire to boil some water for breakfast and to fill the thermos for today's drive and morning tea.  After breakfast we packed up the gear and were ready to go at 8.30. We caught up on some reading while we waited for Jon and Kerrin before we departed well 15 at 9am. Only five minutes down the track we came across another wrecked camper trailer. A quick inspection before continuing on towards well 14.  At well 14 we met a tag along tour heading north. There we 8 vehicles in total including three tour vehicles. Two of the cars were towing camper trailers. The is  memorial at well 14 to a man named Kevin Weckert who passed away at the well in 2003 after feeling unwell at well 16, turning around and heading back to Wiluna. He died from a heart attack before making Wiluna. His family have erected a visitor book and memorial to him at the well.  We had a quick cuppa  and a gasbag with the tour here before hitting the track and heading on to well 13. Not far along the track, we spotted a camel standing in the middle of the track! He immediately shot off, running along the track, as that is the easiest route through the prickles. We followed along, trying not to chase him, getting a couple of photos. He stayed on the track about 1 km, and then headed bush. They are very strange animals and look really odd when they run. They kind of lope along, each leg doing something completely out of synch with every other leg, but still managing to maintain forward velocity. Very amusing! Well 13 was a little difficult to locate as it was hidden amongst long grass and is very overgrown. We did manage to find it though, took some photos, then decided to find another spot for lunch as the area around the well is a bit of a dust bowl. Back on the main track, there is an old Landie that has burned. It was a series 2 with a 186 conversion, with almost everything of value mechanically has been stripped off it. That makes a total of 9 burned vehicles. Considering that on our last trip here, there were no burned out vehicles at all it is amazing to consider that every two years or so, someone's holiday is ruined in this way. Certainly makes you stop and think. On the way to well 12 we found a nice shady camping area where pulled off the track for lunch. Cuppa soup and crackers, if you were wondering. Just before well 12 we came across some more travelers, these guys in a landcruiser and a VW Toureg. They were doing radio calls before crossing the dunes so that was very helpful. They pulled off the track and waited for us so we could go around them. Onto well 12, a quick detour of 2 kms out and back. Well 12 had been restored by Ken Maidment in 2003. He and his group also restored Well 15 and well 49. There is a coppers log fence around the well, with steel doors and a windlass. We didn't try the water though as we are all stocked up from last night at well 15. We thought we would head on to well 11 and find somewhere to camp before we got there. We followed the track along Lake Aerodrome, no water, just lots of salt. We stopped for some photos there and then crossed some more sand dunes. We are almost out of sand dune country now which is a shame as less sand dunes means LOTS of corrugations. We have had quite a bit of corrugated track today. It is so rough to drive over and not doing the vehicle or its occupants much good. So tonight we stopped to camp at about 3.30 around 15 kms north of well 11. A lovely spot under some desert oaks., next to the track. Only one other vehicle through this afternoon, he was on a mission, barely had time to wave... We are expecting another cold night so Jon and Kerrin have dug a fire pit into which we will feed the firewood which is already here piled up ready to go for us!

Well 16


colder outside the fridge than inside!

Day 22 meet and greet

Day 22 CSR Not a huge day kilometre wise, but still a good day, with lots of different scenery.  The worst part of the day was the start, we had to leave Durba springs. Such a lovely oasis, it is really nice to see that it hasn't been thrashed in the years since we were here last, and people are looking after it. White man has been camping there for over 100 years, and aboriginal people for thousands before that, it is a special place.  Our first stop this morning was Canning's cairn, about 15 km from the turn off to Durba. Someone has made a new track that takes you much closer to the base of the hill, making the walk a little shorter. The climb and view are just as spectacular as ever. Views back to Deibel hills, the escarpment of Durba swinging away to the north. The rocks are very crumbly, but such a beautiful colour. Back at the cars, it was too late for smoko, so we kept on until well 16 for lunch. Here we were joined by a group of 3 campers from Grafton. The men of the group came over for a gas bag and information exchange. They told us who to expect coming up the track.  We had pumped the tyres up again, as the country has been very rocky. Much more rocky than sandy anyway. We came across another two vehicles that we pulled off the track for. They were from Port Macquarie. They passed us, then they made a point of walking up the track to thank us specifically for moving aside, very nice. We had a good old chat with them as well, giving them info on camping places up ahead. Our next stop was Murray Rankins trolley. Here there was another chap on his own who took off as we pulled up, and a camper trailer. The couple with the trailer and their dog are taking 12 months off to travel. The ladies 2nd cousin actually drove cattle along the stock route in 1949! His name is Len Hill. He is still alive and lives in Charters towers, is in the stockmans  hall of fame and has recently written a book on his CSR experiences. We must track it down when we get back.  They are having a really good time, taking it easy and seem to be doing everything right, unlike some of the other camper trailers we have seen. Even though it was sunny all day, it never warmed up and tonight it is getting really chilly. We are camped at well 15, a lovely spot with excellent water from the well that was restored in 1998. The water is only a few meters below the surface, is very warm and lovely and clear. Most importantly, it has no floaty things in it! Well 15 is where Joe Wilkins was speared by natives in September 1936 for apparantly stealing a native mans wife. The well is surrounded by white gums and mulga trees, between two sand ridges. Once again, we have the place to ourselves. Apparently, there is a tag along tour group heading our way, with 8 vehicles. We thought they might have made it to here, but no. Much nicer for us!

Cannings cairn

Day 21 CSR gorgeous

Day 21 CSR We have had a really lovely day exploring Durba Springs and surrounds. We woke early, before sunrise, walked out of the gorge and climbed up the northern side of the gorge to watch the sunrise from atop the rocky outcrops. We took lots of photos of white gums and red rocky walls. The colours surrounding us here are stunning and indescribable.  We headed back to the camp for breakfast of pancakes.....yum! After breaky, and washing up every utensil we are carrying, we packed the backpack with camera gear, epirb, sat phone, water and food and headed up for a walk to the end of the the gorge. Clambering over big boulders and tree roots, winding our way through secret caves and around the intermittent water holes we discovered some more spectacular scenery. Burning through the pixels at a great rate probably doesn't do the place justice. So hard to capture such magnificence. There is a prevailing vanilla smell here in the gorge. I have sniffed all the trees and shrubs and can only come up with the flowering spinafex grass which is emitting this delicious aroma! Back to the camp for lunch before we headed off again to find the Martu man. Martu man is a three metre tall aboriginal rock art painting.  We expected to find him tucked away under an overhang, but he was actually exposed and on a boulder that has fallen from the escarpment. He is spectacular, 3 metres tall, with bent legs like he is sitting, and a single antenna poking from his head! We also found a kangaroo painting on a nearby rock and another  figure we couldn't quite make out. Part of this figure was engraved into the rock, but the outline was very difficult to determine, as it was very weathered. We explored around and found another cave with a small spring fed pool of water under the overhang and lots more paintings. This was a lovely place, and you could easily understand why Aboriginal people came here to spend time, and inscribe the lessons of life on the walls.  Some of the figures look intended to inspire fear, with swirling eyes and distorted shapes, others appear to be maps, with engraved circles connected by lines, perhaps describing the next place to get good water,  how far it is, and how much you can expect when you get there. Water  seeps out of a crack in the rock, one drop at a time, forming a small pool. The finches and honeyeaters wait in the trees for us to leave, so they can flit down and have a drink.  We sat quietly, just absorbing the feeling of time stretching back, and imagining the people that used to come here.   We walked back on a high after discovering this place, really special.  Back at camp for a cuppa then went to replace the sand flag. We lost sand flag number 4 on our way into Durba yesterday. Jon has donated a red hanky to the cause and sand flag number 5 is now mounted and ready for tomorrow! The weather has been really lovely and warm during the day and only coolish when the wind gets up. The cold does creep in quickly though once the sun goes down. We have been nice and snug and cozy in our little tent at night. We tested the satellite phone by sending a couple of text messages.  On return from our walk to Martu man we arrived back at camp to discover the place is full of other people! It has been nice to have the the place to ourselves for most of our stay here. Tonight we have counted 18 vehicles altogether camping in the gorge. Dinner for tonight is a camp oven stew followed by chocolate pudding with custard and cream.

Sunrise at Durba

rock art site, Durba escarpment

Durba hills

Day 20 Durba at last

Day 20 CSR Seven chilly degrees greeted us this morning upon emerging from the tent at 6am. Well not me, I waited till 6.30 when it was a bit warmer...9 degrees! It was a cold night so had to add an extra sleeping bag to the bed and keep our socks on. We watched the sunrise over a far dune whilst eating our porridge. Packed up and out of camp by 8.20, destination Durba Spring for two nights rest and relaxation. We passed one vehicle on the track this morning. He was also in the Nissan club but chose to camp at Durba last night instead of well 18.  We also came across a wrecked camper trailer. Enough said........
As the track alternated between rocks and sand dunes, the scrub pressing in against the car, we could occasionally catch a glimpse of Deibel Hills, off to our right. The track in to Deibel was 10k's and we decided that Durba was the pick, so we kept going, losing our fourth sand flag somewhere along the way...bugger!
We arrived at the turnoff to Durba 34 kms later at around 10.30.  We took the turnoff to water 17 which is at the entrance to Killugurra Gorge. We had a bit of of an explore, the gorge is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited.  It was lush and green with running water, enormous 100 feet high red rock cliffs, white gums dotted all over standing out in contrast. We arrived at the parklands of Durba Spring at around 12 o'clock. The place was deserted, we had the pick of the camp sites. We chose one near the back amongst some tall gums, pitching the tent on long, soft green couch grass. A welcome change from the sand we have been camping in for the past 19 nights. There is water in the spring, not drinkable, though perfectly acceptable for clothes and body washing. We had a bucket bath by the car and both now feel human again with clean hair and bodies! We also washed clothes ensuring an adequate supply until next we hit civilisation. This afternoon we had an explore around the camping area. A wide gorge of big chunky red rocks, again around 100 feet high, lots of lovely white gums and very photogenic.  Just as we were preparing dinner at around 5.30 two cars arrived, spoiling our exclusive camp! They proceeded to light a fire, and set up camp away from us, over near the water. After dinner Bob and I did some light painting with the camera and torch on the gorge walls and the results are amazing! Bob made a damper in the camp oven for  lunch tomorrow before we hit the sack at around 9pm.

View south towards Durba Hills

campsite, Durba Gorge

Durba spring

Day 19 Salt and savoury

Day 19 CSR Another beautiful sunrise greeted us, our spectacular camping site showing the beauty of the lake contrasting with the majestic desert oak trees we are camped under perfectly. Packed up and under way by 8.30am. the track between the camping site and the turn off to well 20 is through a lovely stand of more desert oaks. Not too much Sand dune action today, mostly it was just lumps and bumps with no speed being the right one to eliminate the bumps. A touch too fast and all the gear is bouncing in the tray, too slow and the motor is labouring to keep up. Our first stop was a detour of a few km, out to a point on Lake Disappointment. Clearly visible is a boggy section where some brainiac has driven out onto the lake and bogged it. Literally a few meters from the edge! A few seconds of driving, hours of digging! The lake edge is very soft, and walking leaves big foot prints, with mud below the salt surface. We found lots more animals, including a legless lizard, or what used to be a legless  lizard.  Where the track meets Savoury creek, it is about 30 meters wide and looks pretty deep. Still not quite used to the idea of open water in the desert! We walked down to the waters edge and there are even fish! They were all dead, but they are proper fish, not tadpoles. The track comes in from the east, and follows the creek for a couple of k's to the crossing. The crossing looked really dodgy, but I took my shoes off and walked out. It was muddy on top, but firm underneath, and the crossing was easy. There is a surprising amount of water in the creek, with flocks of birds feeding and hunting.  We had smoko under another desert oak, not far from the crossing,  just can't get enough of these trees. A little way on, there was a Pajero bonnet leaning up against a tree, with a message written on it saying the rest of the car was near well 18. We did find the wreckage, burnt and upside down, bringing the total of burnt out vehicles to 8, all of them petrol motors. Well 19 is on the edge of a clay pan, not particularly photogenic, and we stopped soon after for lunch. Left over potato patties yum! More yumping and bumping along the track. The next highlight was crossing the tropic of Capricorn. Someone has gone to the trouble of marking the point where the track crosses from the tropics to temperate. We kept bouncing along, eventually arriving at the turnoff to Onegunyah rock hole. A 5 km bump along to a car park area and a short walk into the rockhole.  The water level is very low, a few inches at the most. Even the finches seem to have given up. We hunted around and discovered several petroglyphs above the water hole,  circles, and bird footprints, looking very old as well as a faded picture of a fish and what the guide book describes as a spaceman! We headed for Well 18 and met the first people we had seen or heard all day. Four vehicles from The Nissan club from Victoria were setting up camp. We checked the water out, and it looked really good, so we all topped up. We are now camped about 1 km north of the turnoff, under a lovely grove of desert oaks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 18 Lake Disappointment

Day 18 CSR I woke up at 5.30 to the sound of drips on the tent and awning. Bob woke shortly after. emerging from our warm, dry little cocoon we were surprised to see the camp enveloped in fog! Completely unexpected out here, it was just like at home in Atherton! Low cloud, dripping trees and thick air. Soon the wind came in and took it all away to reveal big blue skies and another glorious winter day  in the desert. We ate breakfast by last nights BBQ with Jon and Kerrin watching the goings on of the camp and bore while we ate.  Breakfast over we finished packing up and were ready to hit the road. Kerrin and Jon took another 45 minutes to get packed up so we went for a wander around the camp. Bob also discovered that the back right hand shock absorber bush is bulging. Hopefully we get home on it.  We hit the track at 9am heading for well 22. No wildlife spottings this morning so we arrived about 40 minutes later. By this time it was almost smoko and 10am. Enjoying a cuppa in front of the hole in the ground which used to be the well, a land cruiser ute arrived carrying three people. They were very friendly farmers from Victoria heading North. Back on track for well 21 the track was nothing special with hardly any sand dunes and no special highlights. Lunch at well 21 under the shade of some mulga trees.  Today's vehicle spots include the farmers, three Germans near a small salt lake, a couple in a landcruiser and two vehicles just before Lake Disappointment look out, one towing a camper trailer.  Tonight we have stopped about 5 kms before the well 20 turnoff camped in a beautiful location high up with views over Lake Disappointment. We are surrounded by tall desert oaks on the edge of a sand dune, spinafex grass and lots of little finches flying around the trees.  Bob refueled the ute from the tank in back before we went for an explore on the lake. It was down to a quarter of a tank, so it has taken about 50 litres, give or take. The afternoon light is lovely and so different to home. We couldn't resist burning through a few more pixels! The experience of walking on a slat lake is quite strange,like walking on a cake, you sink a certain distance and stop, usually..then there are crystals of salt that have burst up through the lake surface, contrasting the red mud of the surface of the lake with the white salt, and there are lots of desiccated animals, such as frogs and crickets laying on the salt. Whilst enjoying a cuppa after dinner we once again heard some camels calling to each other no too far away.....a freaky sound when you are sitting in the camp on a camp chair, knowing how big a camel can be!

Day 17 big dunes and clay pans

Day 17 CSR A big day today, we drove 83 kms from well 26 where we camped last night to Georgia Bore, 10 kms north of well 22, where we are camped tonight. It was very warm last night and the thermometer read 17 degrees at 6.30 am. Most of the day we have had cloud cover and a sharp wind. Our first stop after leaving the well this morning was a really big sand dune which we walked to the top of and spent half an hour exploring, enjoying the views and taking photos. We continued on crossing three of the biggest dunes on the CSR. One reported to measure 13.9 m . We crossed them easily and continued on towards well 25.  We came across a really cool clay pan with lots of cracked dry mud with groovy patterns on it. We all had a play around there for 15 minutes before the last little bit into well 25. Well 25 was a surprise with most it still intact. The troughing was still held in place with timber supports and the windlass was more or less identifiable. The well had collapsed and filled in. So no water. On our way to well 24 we came across 3 vehicles parked at the base of a dune and one vehicle stuck on top of the dune! The ladies standing around waiting told us the guy stuck on top in the patrol had had four goes at getting over and that there was a Toyota prado with a T-van camper trailer on tow. Once the Patrol was over he was used by the Prado as an anchor point and the Prado driver winched  himself  and camper trailer over. The camper trailer people were not traveling with the the other 4 vehicles. By the time we got to have a go at the track it was chopped to pieces. We drove over easily with a little more revs than usual. Jon had a go next but as the dune was so powdery and damaged he had two goes before backing down and deflating his tyres a little more. Once over we parked at the very end of the run up for the dune and had lunch!  Lunch was cut short by rain! We quickly packed everything up, jumped in the cars and headed on down to well 24. The rain didn't last long, but the skies were threatening and ominous for most of the afternoon.  Well 24, Curara soak is a hole in the ground filled with water. The water was not potable but obviously keeps the local wildlife population from going thirsty. It was a little hard to find this well, so we dragged out the GPS and found via the coordinates on the map. There is a rocky, slatey outcrop above the well which we climbed and had a bit of an explore around. There was evidence of aboriginal tool making at this site which was a lot more convincing than the last  one. We found some cutting type tool and some scratch and run marks on flat rocks. Another vehicle came through the car park while we up exploring. Back on the track toward well 23. We drove through little spits of rain and more big black clouds. Well 23 barely exists, just a few bits and pieces of metal and a big square hole in the ground filled with dirt. We drove the 1km into the fuel dump for a look around. There were about 10 drums there. Nothing like last time when the place was littered with them. Onto Georgia Bore to camp the night. The road was straight and very corrugated. It didn't take long to get there with speeds of around 60 kms/hr. shortly after we arrived 5 more vehicles pulled in to camp the night. We were having a chat to one of their drivers when a second ground of 3 vehicles pulled in and proceeded to camp on top of us! I politely showed them that there was another bigger and better camp site to the south of us. One of the drivers was not happy about me pointing that fact out to him....he got offended that I didn't want three cars parked next to our tent. He got the hint though and they are now camped about 250m away. Kerrin and Jon have collected firewood and prepared the BBQ for an after dinner fire. Soup with noodles for dinner for us. It is a warm evening so far.......


Day 16 tools or no tools?

Day 16 CSR Not as cold last night, 12 degrees greeted us this morning. The usual brekky then away at 8.15, our earliest start. First stop only 5 minutes up the track where Kerrin spotted another Thorny Devil having a sunbake on the track. Bob and I walked back to have a look at him and take some photos. Ten minutes later Kerrin, the wildlife guru, spotted a camel standing atop a sand dune right next to the track. By the time we stopped and got the camera he was heading over the hill away from us. We got a couple of shots though. Morning tea was at Mt Helen. We admired the rock massif whilst enjoying a cuppa, then headed up the rocky slope to check out the view. It was worth the climb with 360 degree views from the big square rocky outcrop. We saw a vehicle pass us heading north on our way down the slope. Back on the track we continued on well 27 and then a further 2 kms ish to the native well and former aboriginal tool making site. I am suspicious of the tool making site as there were a lot of sharp rocks made to look like cutting tools but no sign of where they had been made. No grooves in the rock. As we were leaving the native soak two troopies arrived on a tag along tour. The front one driven by a German tour leader. Otto asked us if we had seen a German couple driving a white troopie? We had seen them last night at well 28 when they briefly stopped then continued on. Otto said he wanted to catch up with them......... Lunch back at well 27 before continuing on down the track. Shortly after leaving the well we came across two vehicles heading north. Four blokes, a tonne of fire wood and LOTS of beer.......we pulled off the track to let them pass. About half an hour later we heard chatter on the radio and. We called them up. They were heading north as well. We pulled over at the Slate Range to wait for them to pass. When they finally arrived there were three vehicles. Stories and fuel prices were exchanged. The plot thickened with regards to Otto. The young German couple he was looking for had asked this group if they had a map?!  Back on the track and heading for well 26 for our camp for tonight. We arrived around 4 pm and again we have the entire place to ourselves. We retrieved some water from the well to wash ourselves and some clothes. The sunset was again a sight to see with a pink and orange sky scattered with streaks of cloud. The well has been restored again since the last time we were here, it is now made with treated pine, as the termites appreciated the last timber that was supplied to them. The water is very clear, so we topped up the drinking containers and used some more for washing. There is even a toilet here now! It was installed only a few weeks ago, and has a little trailer under it, so that it can be wheeled away when it is full. Not sure who is going to volunteer for that job! Dinner tonight was chicken and fried rice and chocolate mousse from Kunwarritji....YUM! Cloud cover as we go to bed is making the temperature quite warm and bearable.  A sensational sunset once again.

Day 15 CSR it's baaack....

Day 15 CSR A temperature of 4 degrees greeted us at 6am.....brrrrrrr! The camels did not Harass us, after their little show last night. The gurgling and grunting only lasted a few minutes, but it did put us on edge for a while. Made a little fire to boil the kettle for smoko, tea and washing up. Our porridge went instantly cold, as always.  It is such a beautiful place well 30,the blood wood trees are so majestic after the stunted growth of the plains. The bird life is incredible as well, the birdsong that woke us was beautiful. It was out turn to hold up the show for while today, the roof racks have been working forward, so I adjusted them and we moved the shovel over to the drivers side, to see if that makes a difference.  Almost immediately after leaving the well, the blood woods end and we are back in the low scrub. We emerged onto a flat plain, with only spinifex and termite nests for a view, soon after that, we were back in the dunes, and happy for it. Those laterite ridges on the track make for very slow going, trying to look after the tyres.  The next big feature is King hill, which we did not visit, and Thring rock, which we did. Both features are named after members of the Burke and Wills expedition. We walked to the top and admired the view. We could see the sand hills to come as we travel south, and Lake Auld or Lake George, out to the west. The map doesn't make it clear which one it is, and to our east the breakaways which Thring rock is a part. The rock is very unstable, but a beautiful deep red. It was amazing how much windier it was only 100 feet above the clay pan on top of the rock. Not much plant life up there, a few hardy salt bushes is about it. Back into the sand dunes, a pleasant experience after the rocks and ridges of yesterday. We pulled into well 28 about 2.40pm, and decided to have an early day. Well 28 is a lovely place, although there is no water the collapsed well is surrounded by tea-trees, and sits between to sand ridges that run east to west. Lucky we did, as just after we pulled up, the inverter let us know it wasn't happy by making that horrible squealing noise that indicates it doesn't have enough power. Sure enough, the fridge was running and the temp inside was slowly rising. Our electrical gremlin was back.... I pulled out all the tool boxes and without any real idea of what I was doing, started pulling things apart. Eventually, we discovered that it wasn't the circuit breaker we suspected last time, as even a direct connection wouldn't work. I then undid the power cable on the solenoid and received an electrical tingle through my arm, indicating the solenoid isn't earthing properly. I undid all the cables and did them up again, the outback equivalent of rebooting, and away it went!! Not sure what has actually been fixed, but it has been fixed and that's the most important thing. We will see how long it lasts this time. Jon dug and enormous fire pit so to christen it, we dug out our dinky camp oven and made a chocolate damper. We have certainly lost our camp oven cooking touch these last few years, as it was burnt to a crisp... We decided that a flash restaurant would say it was chocolate damper on a charcoal base, so we went with that. The UHT cream we pulled out to go with it has been whipped by the corrugations! Also did some start trail experiments with the camera, have had mixed results to be honest....

Day 14 a thorny problem...

Day 14 CSR
A comfortable night sleep in the cabin at the community, we were up at 6am and headed straight for a hot shower! Why's there and it will be two weeks till we get the chance again. Breakfast of porridge and some toast before repacking the car and preparing to hit the track again. By the time we left the community it was 8.15. As we pulled out Jon and Kerrin were hopping in their car ready to follow. We headed out to the turn off to head south to Willuna via CSR....we waited there for about half an hour thinking J & K had stopped for a chat with Graham who was at the bowser as we drove by. They did stop to take a photo of the sign and then promptly ignored the sign and headed off in completely the wrong direction! We headed back to the community to see if they had a CB  radio with a greater range than 3kms but they don't so we just waited by the the side of the road hoping they would work it it out....they did and turned up shortly after.
So......departure time was 9.15. Back onto the CSR we drove over the not so deadly corrugations that everyone had been whining about. First well was number 32 but we couldn't find the correct track in, so continued on down the main track. Half an hour later after a bit of exploring and GPS searching we found Well 31. We combined smoko with lunch and ate at 11.30 under a great big snappy gum right next to what remains of the well.  Back on the main track we headed off for well 30. It was slow going over very rocky limestone with nasty crunchy bits all over the track. Top speed for this 30 kms section was about 15 kms per hour due to low tyre pressures and the chance of a puncture on the sharp rocks. We turned off at well 30 to drive the 4 kms to visit the Munjingerra cave. On the way in we almost ran over a Thorny devil lizard! The most amazing looking little guy, so cute, but spikey at the same time! We all took photos and then  moved him off the track as there was no way possible to drive around him. Not 50 metres up the track we spotted another devil! This one a bit fatter and bigger than the last. Neither were shy and sat there posing for our photos. We moved this little guy off the track, jumped back in the car only to be stopped again another 50 meters down the track by a herd of camels! There were seven altogether and they we just as interested in us as we were in them. They are big, furry and smelly with gorgeous big brown eyes. There were a couple of young ones in the mob and a big one watching over the proceedings, protecting his girls I think. Anyway, we finally got to the cave and it looks nothing like the last time Bob and I were here so many years ago. The roof of the cave has collapsed, due to a four wheel drive parking on the roof we have read. There was also a lot of vegetation around the cave which we don't recall being there last time. Jon climbed down into a small sink hole, hoping it lead to the main cave with no joy, before we all decided it was time to find a camp spot for the night. We headed back to Well 30 where we are now camped under a stand of blood wood trees. The sun disappears around 5.15 pm and it gets cold quite quickly after that. Another spectacular sunset to enjoy whilst enjoying a cup of tea. Then a dash to the car to don several layers of clothing to ward off the chill. We had a camel near camp, just after dusk, he gurgled menacingly (if it is possible to gurgle menacingly) and we haven't heard him (or her) since.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 13 shower time!

CSR Day 13
We got woken a few times during the night by rain drops on the tent. Not heavy, but just enough to make everything damp and muddy. Not something you expect in the desert!  No sunrise today with the cloud cover, so we packed the tent up first, leaving the awning available to sit under for breakfast. It was much warmer last night as well, so the rain did have some benefits.  We hit the track around 8.45 am continuing on from yesterday's lovely scenic  run along the sand dunes. The track is very tight, twisting and turning, almost back on itself at times, through lovely desert oak stands. Lots of camel, dingo and bird footprints in the sand, but couldn't sight any of the owners.  Well 35 eventually turned up, after a bit of mucking around with GPS to find the right track in. The well itself has long collapsed, as have most of the wells, and there is only a bore cap with water about 1 meter below the surface. Apparently the water is OK, but we decided not to try our luck.  We had smoko just near the well, and then continued on south. The track takes a sudden right turn about 4km from the well, and the country changes completely once again. Suddenly you are out in flat country, with the spinifex so tall it blocks the view. The plain continues all the way to Kunawarritji. We hit the fastest speeds of the trip so far, getting up to 60kmh in a vain attempt to defeat the corrugations. Straight and narrow, the track spears across the plain, with only the occasional diversion around a fallen tree. No nasty little turns or sudden direction changes, so we could maintain the speed easily enough. A quick stop at the well 34 junction, to check the roof racks and dampers ( pretty hot) and away again. The corrugations are bad, but not the worst we have experienced. Being able to travel relatively quickly meant the punishment was only short. Our arrival at well 33 was noticed by the galahs and finches drinking at the overflow of the windmill, and that was all. The area had been modified since our last visit, with bollards and a camping area around the windmill. The old windmill foundations can still be seen, and there is a modern plastic water tank. The overflow of the windmill still flows out but is now collected in a ditch and is enjoyed by the local wildlife, including camels. We met the local school teacher, Lynn and her husband Tony. They had arrived to water a boab tree that Tony has planted and is desperately trying to stop the camels from trampling it. We got the rundown on the community and decided to head in. Unfortunately, the community does not have many residents at the moment, due to a funeral being held for a 14 year old local girl who was killed in Newman.  We pulled up at the fuelling shed, and waited while the truck that delivered the fuel to the community fuelled up! Luckily, he only took 1,200l, so we didn't have to wait long! Fuel is $3.40 per litre, and we filled up with 104 litres. Not sure what our fuel economy has been, but it has been pretty good. Jon bought 100 litres, but didn't fill all the way to the top on one tank. We drove the short distance to the shop, parked and went shopping! The community shop is very well stocked and considering how remote it is, reasonably priced. We stocked up on a few things we needed, and a few things we didn't need, just for the novelty value!  We paid for a shower and washing machine and got stuck in. We now smell a whole lot better than we did! The accommodation block is new and very impressive, with 6 rooms and attached shower and toilet block. We decided to lash out and stay the night, as it would be too late by the time the clothes washing was done to go back anywhere to camp, and besides, we wanted to smell nice a little longer. We got chatting to the truck driver who delivers the fuel, he is based in Alice Springs and hasn't been home for 6 weeks. He loads in Alice, drops fuel all along the way, including road camps and communities. If he gets the chance, he shoots some camels close to the community and helps them bring them in. The accommodation is very tidy and clean, just what we needed after the days in the scrub. We have washed and scrubbed everything in sight, and re-charged batteries and cameras. The community generator has been running red hot! We even got to watch TV!  Well, 5 minutes worth, which was long enough to work out not a lot has changed while we have been bush, so we turned it off. We met a couple of blokes traveling the Canning south to north, staying here as well. Believe it or not, they are both from Ravenshoe! They gave us the report for further south and updated us on Scotty, the jeep owner (not as far south as he wanted to be, and his mate with the mechanical issues is still holding them up) and the two camper trailers just in front of us. Lots of camels to look forward to further south, as well as some cold weather. As well, they have said to keep the radios calls happening, as not many people have been answering their calls, and Tony and Lynn mentioned a head on collision near well 30 about 6 weeks ago. Time to be more careful! We have topped up the water tanks, so both vehicles are back to maximum weight for the trip. Tyre pressures may have to be adjusted in the morning, we'll see how we go. Clothes are dry and batteries recharged, we should be all back to normal tomorrow. We had a yarn with Graham, the town jack of all trades. He has been here for 5 years, and helped to build the accommodation block., he also runs the shop and fuelled the car up.

Day 12 sand and rocks

CSR Day 12 
The wind really kicked in during the night, Jon got fed up about 3 am and we could hear muffled cursing as he decided the fly on the tent had to go! We had camped on a high plateau so the wind whistled through camp. We awoke to a spectacular sunrise, the best of the trip so far. Beautiful high cloud streaked across the sky, even Tracey got out of bed just to see it... We packed up and read while J & K re-organised the back of the troopie.  The track today was a real mixture, as it has been every day. Every time there is a chance to accelerate the corugations kick in, so the slow speed stuff is a real relief. The track goes from rocky to sandy, and back almost as quickly as it takes to read it. Lots of beautiful sand dunes to cross, both cars are doing it easily now the tyre pressures are around 18 psi, some don't even need 4wd. Our first stop was Wardabunni  rock hole. It is a hole on the creek bed, hidden amongst the ghost gums and red rock breakaways. Canning blasted the floor out to make it deeper, but it has since silted up again. It must have been a pretty horrible place to bring cattle, as access is difficult. We went a little berko with the cameras here, the combination of red rocks, white trees and streaking high cloud got everyone's creative juices flowing, there should be some lovely shots.  The track goes back to the dunes, and we got some excellent footage on the videos. We had smoko at Wandurba rock hole, actually a cave near the waterhole, but we didn't see the waterhole itself. It was very pleasant sitting in the cave, looking out over the spinifex valley below. There is what looks like aboriginal art on the entrance, but it looks pretty new, so not really sure if it is genuine. Would be nice if it was though! Well 37 was our next stop, the well itself isn't very scenic, but the finches weren't too worried by our presence, and kept leaping down into the well, under the tin lid. Lots of little bird bodies floating in the water relayed the message that this is a dangerous thing to do, but they flocked in their hundreds , all lining up in orderly little finch lines, waiting for their turn.  We stopped in a lovely patch of desert oak forest 2 minutes from the well for lunch, just missing the 4 vehicles heading in. the temperature difference in the shade has to be experienced to be believed, out in the sun a few minutes is all you can take, but under the desert oaks, it is jackets all round! The track was changed in 2003 to run along the sand dunes south of well 37, due to flooding in the lower parts around the salt flats. It is a roller coaster ride along the sand, we even spotted a bustard grazing in one of the lake beds. Well 36 is supposed to contain good water, but again the little floating finch bodies told a different story..Tracey spotted the body of the camel that was pulled from the well last year, and lots of toilet paper people couldn't be bothered burying. All in all, not a pleasant place to spend too much time!  A few minutes down the road, J & K's troopie slammed to a halt, both doors flew open and they both leapt from the troopie, Kerrin yelling fire! Tracey quickly grabbed our extinguisher and we rushed over. The inverter had started to smoke profusely, causing everyone to jump to action stations. After it was established there was no fire, Jon said the fire drill went well, with all of us neatly assembled in the emergency area, fire extinguishers in hand! We really don't need that sort of excitement out here!
We are camped just down the road, in a little sand gully.