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.