Newman, Nullagine, Marble Bar, Carawine Gorge
On our departure day out of Newman we went to the Visitors Centre and I enquired about access and camping at Kalgan Pool. Yep, no worries BUT you need a permit. A what?? Yep, a permit from BHP Billiton to cross their railway line. Cheeez!. And it had mobs of access conditions written in as well. The drive in was very scenic as the road wound its way deeper into the hilly country. Unfortunately it was the start of WA School Holidays and the place was packed out. The whole area was a pebbly beach and not really good for camping. But we had lunch there.
That was after I had gone back to give my mate the trolley jack after yet another puncture! On the way back my mate decided to take a short-cut track back to the main road and got the diff hung up on a rock. After lots of advice and laughing, he managed to extricate the GU from its predicament.
Back on the road to Nullagine and I saw a Landcruiser Ute approaching at speed. I slowed down to walking pace and moved on to the left hand windrow but this truck still came barrelling down on us, I flashed my lights but there was no recognition. A rock the size of my fist hit our windscreen and shattered the left hand side of it. Thank goodness for laminated glass. The cook got a helluva fright. I cursed the bastard over the airwaves. It was neither a tourist nor a mining vehicle. It looked more like a station vehicle with as young fella behind the wheel. Anyway, lots of silicon later and a cuppa to steady our anger we were once again proceeding north.
We camped at a way side stop near Roy Hill and it was quiet except for the odd ore truck billowing dust as they passed. As we moved further north more of the creeks had water in them and some were running. Nullagine was an interesting little town with many rich gold mining prospects in the surrounding area. The lady at the roadhouse talked and talked and gave us more information than we needed. We did a quick drive around town and up on to the lookout for a view. Then it was on to Marble Bar and a sleepless night in the caravan park. It was full moon and the bloody Butcherbird somehow didn’t know that. So a 2am he started his melodious repetitive calling and a mate answered down the road. They carried on like that till 7am and then flew off to annoy other beings somewhere else. At the fabled hottest place in Australia it was 1 degree at 7am!!! No hot water in the shower either (run out of gas) and for a powered site at $25 a night it is not good enough. I hate caravan parks!
We enjoyed the scenery around Marble Bar and drove out to the famous Jasper rocks, visited the mine and followed most tracks in close proximity to the place. We have marked this one down for another visit in the future, maybe with a gold detector under the arm.
We followed the Rippon Hills Road to the east, which sealed all the way to where it turns off to Carawine Gorge, and then drove a well-formed track in until the river. Then it was into 4×4 mode to get down to the waters edge across the pebbled sand riverbank. We found a good campsite, winched a few dead logs on to the fire and sat around doing basically nothing for four days. Shortly after we arrived Jeddah, our dog, flushed an Echidna out from under a bush. Now the dog has been trained not harass little animals and was just following the Echidna out of curiosity. We took many photos of the little fella and then left him/her to wander off.
Being so close to water I got it in to my head to wash the desert dust off the truck. I should have saved myself the trouble, as it was twice as dirty by the time we got home. Some of the plugged tyres were leaking air and required more plugs. My mate discovered that his main battery was on the way out and we stuffed around with wires, multi meters and argued the point about batteries. He had to be jumpstarted a couple of times. A few other campers came in and went out again. All in all we had a relaxed, peaceful time there, with the cooks excelling themselves on the good coal we managed to make, burning some seasoned logs. The colours of the gorge are fantastic and the cliffs change as the sun progresses during the day. The fish were jumping but we had no gear for fishing and so we left them to the Fish-eagle who came in for daily visits.
Telfer Road, Punmu Community, Kidson Track
Because of the battery problem we decided that we would come back in the future to visit Eel Pool and other sites around this area. We made it to the Telfer Road quite early and it was a smooth run all the way to the Punmu Turn-off. It is a good gravel road, with a long stretch of bitumen in between. Once we were on the road to Punmu, we met 8 vehicles in quick succession and never saw another one for days thereafter. We chatted to some youngsters in a Toyota BJ 40 with an overhead roof rack that looked as if it had 300 kilos of stuff on it. They also had a swag perched on the bonnet in front of the passenger. We also stopped to chat with some South Aussies and they told us that only the Nurse was left at Punmu as the whole community had gone to a funeral at Jigalong. We took this advice on board and proceeded. This wasn’t good news. I had telephoned Punmu Community some time before, to see if we could buy some fuel off them, as I had planned some excursions off the Kidson Track. I had left a message on the answering service. By the time we got to the community even the Nurse had left. We were met by about 20 camp dogs, which, after seeing our mutt hang its head out of the window, pursued us in a barking frenzy. No human life was seen in our 5-minute scout around the town and we were seen off out of the community en masse by the dogs for about 1 kilometre. Later in the afternoon and close to the Kunawarritji turn off, I found a quarry dug into a sand dune by the side of the road and we made camp. No one passed by during our stay.
The following morning we found a Hilux Ute stranded in the middle of the track. By all accounts it had been there a while and various parts had been removed for use elsewhere. We made an excursion on the Kunawarritji Track to a rocky knoll for a look see and then to windmill nearby to replenish our water containers. This bore had been rejuvenated in late 2005 and the water was quite sweet.
The Kidson Track/WAPET Road is a reasonable track with capped dune crossings and not that many corrugations. We were able to sit on 80kmh in 5th gear in places. Unfortunately that could come to an end very quickly when a washout appeared out of nowhere. I was interested to see that some of the dune crossings had been fenced. This must have been to contain the drift of sand on to the capped tracks. WAPET stands for Western Australia Petroleum but I am not sure where the Kidson name originated. The countryside is covered mainly by Spinifex with thousands of acres of Holly Grevillea trees in flower. This grevillea has a spiky leaf as our dog found out with a yelp. She tends to hang out of the window in typical Blue Heeler fashion, biting at passing foliage. At the end of the day there is a handful or more of shrubbery or tree foliage in the back of the truck.
The flora of these desert regions always hold a fascination for me as in such potentially dry areasn they eke out an existence
Our first camp was at Razor Blade Bore. This bore has been reconstructed in May this year and is pumping good water. The tank has been painted a bright orange colour and the names of the Queensland based windmill mechanics displayed on the wind vane of the mill. There was some indication of recent campers with a bit of rubbish left behind. The burnt out fire still had warm coals. So they were probably a day ahead of us. It was time to do some washing, laze around in the sun and cook a roast in the evening. The dingoes howled early the next morning and our pup was on high alert with ears pricked up and whimpering at the mystery. This was the very first time had heard dingoes howl on the entire trip though we saw many dog tracks along the way. A nice surprise in the early morning was to spot a Black Honeyeater in the trees above. A Brown Goshawk kept harassing a Crow and some resident Galahs.
The track surface varied to the west going from a state of being almost totally overgrown to open plains once again. Then there were sandy stretches, which required 4×4 mode again, and some washouts, which needed careful negotiating.
I saw some trees to the right of the track and decided that it was a good place for lunch. Another fresh track led in there as well and it was a campsite for someone. As I walked around the back of my truck I tripped over a brand new shovel, which had been left behind. I gave this one to our travelling companions who brought a podgy shovel with them. They were happy.
Later in the day we visited the only rocky knoll along the way and went for a walk. I wanted to make camp in an open but stony area. The others insisted we push on and I reluctantly agreed. One has these gut feelings sometimes. We drove 80 kilometres before we found an open space in the Spinifex where we could camp. We had to go looking for wood and dragged some logs in with the 4x4s. After starting the fire a small Sand Goanna came out of one of the logs. I caught him after some wild grabbing as he headed back into the fire, and relocated him a distance away.
After that, things went wrong when the damper overheated and the tucker burnt. But we salvaged it all and drowned our sorrows with some Port. The following morning the ‘goanna’ log had only been partially burnt and I moved it on to the fire. Soon after a felt a prickly sensation on my leg and here the little Sand Goanna was climbing up my leg. We then removed the log from the fire, doused it with water and then relocated it to a place in a gully away from the camp and put the little goanna back in its hollow apologising for vandalising its home.
This day was uneventful and we stopped for morning smoko in a newly graded clearing. Not long after a Ute came from nowhere out of the bush. They were two young geologists working for a mining company and had been preparing the track in for the drilling rig. We shared a cuppa and chatted for about half an hour. Then they went south into the unknown and we continued on our trek to the west. We had lunch at the intersection with the Old Telegraph Track and later made camp at a Telstra Tower about 12km from the Great Northern Highway. A stiff breeze sprang up during the night and threatened to move the tent until I stabilised it. In the morning it subsided again. Our travelling companions took leave of us when we reached the highway the following morning. They were on their way home in the north via 80 Mile Beach and we were heading for Cape Keraudren.
The Kidson Track was something I had to do. There are some areas off it, which I would like to explore at a later date that is if I can afford the fuel to get there. The 508km from the Kunawarritji turnoff to the Great Northern Highway was reasonably interesting but I must say I am miffed as to why the region is named the Great Sandy Desert, as I did not see much sand at all. The Kidson Track still traverses Crown Land but areas to the north and south are now covered by Native Title claims and access is dubious to say the least