TRIP GUNBARREL HIGHWAY, CANNING STOCK ROUTE
July - August 1997
Day 1: Adelaide - 80 km south Coober Pedy
Day 2: 80 km south Coober Pedy - Erldunda
Day 3: Erldunda - Lassiters Cave
Day 4: Lassiters Cave - Warburton
The road on the WA side of the border was good - the grader had been through recently. Stopped at Giles and saw Len Beadell’s grader, which is now housed in a cage; then had a tour and talk in the weather station by Geoff Smith. The station is manned for six month stints by staff who volunteer for the post. Camped in the campground at Warburton. Advised to buy fuel in the morning just before leaving.
Day 5: Warburton - Near Mt Beadell
Len Beadell’s Tree
Day 6: Near Mt Beadell - Carnegie
A steady rain overnight left us with damp tents etc to pack up. The road was quite corrugated until after Mangkili Claypan, which had a reasonable amount of water and reeds. After cold winds and a little rain, the sun began to shine mid afternoon. Arrived and made camp at Carnegie Station.
Day 7: Carnegie
Rest (?) day. Wash day, clean up split milk carton day (Note: buy bottles, not cartons!), vehicle repair day – one had to weld and repair his fuel tank (great way to spend his birthday) and another to weld his exhaust. Top up with fuel and supplies.
Day 8: Carnegie - Well 9 Canning Stock Route
After a very damp dewy night, we packed up wet tents etc and headed for Glen-Ayle Station, as the CSR was closed between Wiluna and Well 9 due to rains. As the track to the CSR was a bit boggy and needed more maintenance, we paid $20 instead of the usual $10 to traverse it. Quite a few muddy patches but otherwise quite OK. A myriad of colours in the bushes along the track. Arrived at Well 9 early afternoon and made camp. With the beautiful sunshine and breeze it didn’t take long for the canvas to dry out. A very mild night with lots of stars.
Day 9: Well 9 - Well 15
After Well 9 the track was muddy in spots. When the mud finished it varied between rocky, corrugated and sand. Wells 12 & 13 had no water, but good camp sites. Well 14 was dry, with a small flat area for camping. Countryside was quite flat with spinifex and trees starting to recover after fires (probably a couple of years ago). Well 15 was dry with very little room to camp. Off down the track for a couple of kms for a spinifex free flat spot, with a beautiful sunset.
Day 10: Well 15 - Durba Springs
An early start and into Well 16 for a look. Nice camp spot; water in the well but rather murky. The Durba Hills were magnificent in their beautiful reds with the sun shining on them, many had huge chunks broken away and were scattered down the hillside. At Canning’s Cairn, the more adventurous climbed to the top for a magnificent view, others went halfway, while the rest had a cuppa. Arrived at Durba Springs lunch time and set up camp, caught up on washing and showers. A beautiful spot, a natural pound shape with water in the gorge. Sunny day, birds singing, so peaceful. By mid afternoon many more vehicles arrived for the night. The track today varied from sandhills to rocky washaways to corrugations. The wild flowers were a myriad of colours: blues, purples, lavenders, yellows and pinks.
Day 11: Durba Springs
A visit to Killigurra Springs (was Well 17) revealed a beautiful gorge with a rock pool, plenty of golden orb spiders and webs. One of our group slipped and fell into the water (shoulder height and still couldn’t feel the bottom) in one of the crevices. Unfortunately she hurt her knee badly and had to be carried out. Next stop was Biella Gorge. A pretty gorge, with a long walk through the creek bed to a small pool of water. The gorge continued further, but we decided we’d had enough.
Day 12: Durba Springs
An unscheduled lay day to let the injured rest her leg. Others went walking, others bludged.
Day 13: Durba Springs - Between Wells 19 & 20
We awoke to some very dark clouds. Some of us didn’t make it in time to pack up and got soaked to the skin. I actually saw hail stones on the ground. We heard later on the RFDS radio that it had snowed on Ayers Rock and at Kings Canyon. A very bleak day weather wise. Our first stop was Onegunya Rockhole. It was set in some hills where the rocks had a terrace-like formation. We met a Mr Robin Rishworth who was cycling from Halls Creek to Wiluna. An earlier party had buried food at various points along the track for him. So far, he had taken 22 days to travel from Halls Creek to marker FX16 (between Wells 18 & 19). He was finding it very hard going in the sand. We have just crossed the Tropic of Capricorn! Next we crossed Savory Creek, a very dirty, salty and smelly creek. Next stop Lake Disappointment. An absolutely enormous expanse of while salt beds as far as the eye could see. Further along we stopped at another vantage point for a view of Lake Disappointment. Then we viewed the remains of George Williams wagon wheel - not much of it left now. As there wasn’t much room to camp at Well 19, we went further along the track to find a suitable site. The night was extremely windy and cold.
Day 14: Between Wells 19 & 20 - Georgia Bore
Still bitterly cold and windy this morning. Found some very strange shaped ant hills this morning. The scenery varied - between one set of dunes it was green, the next it was dry and yellow. Fire has ravaged much of this area. Well 22 was dry - it is also the only round tank on the stock route. Camp was at Georgia Bore which gave clear sweet water. The bore was drilled and equipped by CRA for use of travellers on the stock route.
Day 15: Georgia Bore - Well 26
First stop of the day was at the fuel dump near Well 23. We didn’t take on all the fuel ordered but left with all tanks and jerry cans full. We stopped at Well 23 for morning tea and met a group of 3 from another SA club. Whilst chatting a large group headed by a 4WD trainer arrived in a great hurry. Not even a wave! - he was just upset that some people were being sociable, so many miles from anywhere. We camped adjacent to Well 26 (a dusty flood pan). Well 26 is a restored well with clear water and troughs for the cattle to drink from.
Day 16: Well 26 - Well 30
All awoken early by some OKA bus occupants nearby at 4.30 am. Another cold morning. Wells 28 & 29 were both in ruins. Camped near Well 30, which was also in ruins.
Day 17: Well 30 - Well 33
A trip to Mujingerra Cave revealed limestone ground with an easy climb down via a rope ladder to the first cavity. A few people crawled along a narrow shaft about 10 metres long to a small cave with crystal clear water. An extremely corrugated track, causing one Toyota dashboard to break from the spot weld on the left hand side - later fixed with a bolt and a piece of fencing wire. At the junction of the CSR and Kidson Track there was a lonely phone box, from which only reverse charge phone calls could be made. A short distance further along the track was Well 33, duly equipped with a windmill, a drum, a bath and plenty of water. We all had a late lunch and caught up with some washing and showering. In the early hours of the morning the winds started blowing something ferocious.
Day 18: Well 33 - Water 38
Traversed country side that was ravaged by a bushfire around 5 years ago. It is starting to regenerate with spinifex and desert oaks growing well. A stop at Well 37 saw finches and budgies drinking from the troughs and also the well. We visited the gravesites of Shoesmith, Thompson and Chinaman. Next stop was Wandurba Rock, a very cool cave, but we couldn’t locate the Aboriginal drawings. We made camp just north of Wardabunni Rockhole. Rough corrugations early in the day followed by many sandhills.
Day 19: Water 38 - Well 41
Budgies, Wardabunni Rockhole
Day 20: Well 41 - Well 45
Well 42 is an excavation set in a natural sandstone depression, now almost silted up. A small amount of water was available for the birds. We passed over the biggest sand hill on the track, which didn’t prove to be a problem for anyone. Well 43 had water in it, but it was very murky. Camped at Well 45. A very mild night.
Day 21: Well 45 - Well 49
A stop at Well 46 to top up the water supplies. The well was restored in 1991. Water is drawn by winching and a large metal bucket. Breadon Pool had a bit of water in it, but it didn’t look very inviting. The camp area was flat and dusty with no trees or bushes for shade and surrounded by plenty of grass. Some went for a walk/climb to Gregory’s Tank, which was a series of rockholes with water and engraving on the wall from Canning, Wells, Trottman and numerous others. There were some pretty butterflies in this spot.
Day 22: Well 49 - Well 50
Just before Well 50 there was a Rodeo parked in the middle of the track with a broken spring. They were set up with tents in the spinifex and were waiting for new springs to be sent to Billiluna, not a good start to their trip. Well 50 was in ruins. A few kilometers further along the track was Gulvida Soak. A ten minute walk up a rocky creek bed found a pool of water. Went a bit further but found no more water, only dingo tracks. Camp for the night was on the dusty mud flats near Well 50. A full moon this evening.
Day 23: Well 50 - Billiluna
First stop was Well 51 which had clear water. A huge windmill was blowing in the breeze but had no pump attached. A large bird found the platform on the top ideal for nesting, as the surrounding countryside was devoid of trees. Well 51 was where most of the cattle drives commenced. We passed Guda Soak, a large dry lake. Bloodwood Bore was in ruins - the large concrete tank had been smashed and neither windmill was operational. We had lunch about 12 km from Billiluna on a siesmic line. Visited the Wolfe Meteorite Crater, a rather huge hole in the ground and then made camp by the waterhole 3 km from Billiluna. A very pretty spot amongst the gums.
Day 24: Billiluna - Tanami Track
We awoke to the sounds of birds - Corellas, Major Mitchells, Crows, Lessr Ibis, a Duck, Budgies and Rainbow Bee Eaters. A leisurely breakfast followed by a walk before we proceeded to Billiluna for fuel. After purchasing icecreams and bread we turned right to Alice Springs. We visited Rabbit Flat Roadhouse, diesel cost showed 62.5 cents a litre on the pump, then we had to double it! There was lots of Bouganvillia Vine in bloom. The place was otherwise fortress-like - lots of floodlights and security grilles. We found a good camp site adjacent to an old bore on the Tanami. Two other vehicles pulled in, one of them towing a caravan that had broken an axle on the Tanami. The road had rough corrugations between the WA/NT border and the Tanami Mine. Otherwise it was quite passable with intermittent short rough patches. After tea we watched a golden moon rise - there was a beautiful golden haze in the sky until the moon rose higher.
Day 25: Tanami Track - Alice Springs
A later rise due to the time difference. The road conditions were reasonable with not too many corrugations. Stopped for lunch at Tilmouth Well, a very well presented establishment. We were also able to inspect the original well. On the approach to Alice Springs the Wild Hops were in full bloom. We were able to get a cabin at Stuart Caravan Park. The first thing to do was have a long, hot shower (pity half the suntan washed off!)
All in all it was a marvellous trip and experience. It would be interesting to go back again at a later date and see how things change.
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Last Changed December 1, 2005 11:37