Where Bush Tracks Meet

Canning Stock Route – Georgia Bore to Kunawarritji

Where Bush Tracks Meet

Where Bush Tracks Meet

We leave the Parngurr mob at Georgia Bore as we travel east along the Talawana Track. Apart from station access tracks this is one of only two tracks crossing the Canning Stock Route between Wiluna and Billiluna. Travel west and you will reach the Marble Bar Road just above Newman, head east and you are going deeper into the Gibson Desert to Windy Corner where you meet the Gary ‘Highway’ which runs north south. I love the tracks out here labelled as highways, they open up the country but their condition is vastly different to the highways most people know and use.

The country is flat and open except for a range on our right as we drive east along the Talawana Track. The road is narrow and lined with small bushes and spinifex. We haven’t gone far before we hear more radio talk and the approaching vehicle asks us to get off the track for him as he has a broken spring so doesn’t want to stop or leave the track. He is accompanied by two other vehicles who are able to stop for a chat. The spring broke the day before so they’ve had a long slow drive today and are headed for Georgia Bore for the night. Tomorrow they are planning to drive into Newman for repairs. While we are talking to the second driver a motor bike heading north passes us and before long we meet two more south bound vehicles already pulled off the track to let us pass. These two are towing Jayco campers, not a sight I expected to see out here, or not with the campers still intact anyway but the drivers sound pretty experienced so they would know their vehicle limitations. They have had no problems and if they can do it hopefully that means we’ll have no problems either. All this traffic and we haven’t even reached the next well.

The next well, Well 23 is a place fuel can be left and it isn’t an attractive place to spend the night but Well 24 is only 14km along the road and there are a couple of large pleasant camping areas set well off the road. From here we have a couple of km to continue on the Talawana Track and then nearly 260km to travel north along the Canning to the store at Kunawarritji community. We plan to restock with fresh supplies and top up our fuel there and it isn’t open on weekends. It’s Wednesday now and rather than try to rush through by early Saturday we decide to have three easy day’s driving and a rest day just south of the community and arrive there on Monday morning.

Our first day of this section has a good number of sand dunes, short sections of corrugations, a couple of interesting ranges and hills to one side and some sections of water. Well 25 is in ruins but Well 26 has good water and a group of six travellers from rural Victoria have called an early stop for the day and are about to set up camp. We enjoy a talk with them and continue on our way.

The combination of a pool of water near the road and the Slate Range to the north east has some good potential for photos when the sun is dropping and lighting up the range and there is a suitable open area for camping beside the road. We’ve only covered 59km and progressed from Well 24 to mid-way between Wells 26 and 27 and it is just lunch time but we decide this is a good spot to stop for the night.

After such an easy day we need to cover a bit more distance the next day. Initially we have a few more hills and ranges to pass and we stop at Helen Hill for more photos.

Helen Hill, Canning Stock Route

Helen Hill, Canning Stock Route

The country changes again and we have lots more sand dunes to negotiate. We discuss whether they should be called sand hills, sand dunes, or sand ridges. Paul considers, probably correctly, that sand dunes are mobile and the amount of vegetation on these shows they aren’t going anywhere fast so he uses sand hills or sand ridges but I still think of them as sand dunes. Whatever we call them though I’m still enjoying crossing them but that could change if I start having problems getting over them.

Camel on the Canning Stock Route

Camel on the Canning Stock Route

The sand dunes we encountered further south were very easy to cross as the sand was damp and provided good traction. The effects of the rain have passed now and as the sun heats the sand up during the day it becomes softer and looser and it is important to have sufficient momentum to get over the top. That has to be balanced by moderating the speed to manage the lumps and bumps and dips in the approaches to the crest which will set my camper bouncing and rocking if tackled too fast. We are after an easy ride up and over which, so far, has just been a matter of getting the gearing and the revs right so I travel up just fast enough to reach the crest where I can take the time to enjoy the view before negotiating the bumps and lumps on the way down. I always feel anticipation as I approach the top as I’m not sure just what I’ll see until my vehicle levels and I can see over the hood. I’m continually delighted by the sight of more of these beautiful red sand dunes or a long expanse of open country spread beneath me.

Sand Dunes

Sand Dunes

While the dunes and the country in between them, a mixture of rocky patches, corrugations and the occasional easy patch, haven’t caused us any problems, the driving is quite tiring and by early afternoon we’re looking for a place to spend the night. We’re a fair distance from the next well so we start looking for a clear firm spot near the road. A couple of possibilities are investigated but aren’t quite right and our patience pays off with a large clear area about half way between Wells 29 and 30. This will give us an easy day tomorrow as we are planning to have our rest day at Well 31 or 32.

The next day the sand dunes have all disappeared. We’re back in flat, wide open country which alternates between rocky surfaces with the track winding between thick bushes and a corrugated track threading through spinifex and other hardy small plants. Well 31 has beautiful gnarled white gums and several pools of water keeping birds active in the area and we consider stopping but The Victorian travellers we met at Well 26 stayed at a native well just 2km off the track at Well 32 and it sounds good so I suggest heading on to it. The 24km between these wells is probably the heaviest corrugations we have had so far so it is slow going but I’m happy to get it out of the way today so we’ll have an easy run into the Kunawaritji community on Monday. While we are making a brief stop at Well 32 a couple of guys heading south stop and we compare track conditions, looks like we have lots more rough corrugations and plenty of soft sand dunes to experience as we head north. Oh well that’s what we were expecting rather than the mud and rain we had.

White gum at Well 31

White gum at Well 31

The area around the native well is pleasant and it’s nice to set up for a couple of nights rather than having to pack and move on in the morning. Paul has such a backlog of photos he decides to set up his work area at the side of the camper, we’re still trying to decide whether to call it his studio or his cave, and get some photos ready to be posted when we have internet available again and I try to catch up on my writing and managing my own photos. My hair has been getting annoying flicking into my eyes when I drive with the windows open so Paul gives my hair a trim. He does a great job, especially as it’s his first attempt at hairdressing. I’ve been trimming his hair for a while but as he previously just hacked it himself and he always wears a hat anyway it’s not really too difficult. It’s also birthday time again and we celebrate my birthday with smoked salmon and caper snacks followed by a butterflied lamb roast cooked on the open fire with vegies cooked in the coals. Nothing like roughing it in the bush!

Monday morning we’re later getting going because we have extra packing up to do but we have such an easy run into Kunawarratji we still make it shortly after 10.00am. The track between Wells 32 and 34 was graded recently so we fly along at 60kph and in fourth gear, a rare occurrence. The final 4km into the community is on the wide and flat Wapet Road which runs west to Marble Bar changing names a few times along the way. To the east you can take Jenkins Track out to Gary Junction and then continue into the Northern Territory on the Gary Junction Road or turn south onto the Gary Highway to travel past Windy Corner to the Gunbarrel Highway. I’ve never travelled along either of the Gary tracks but they are on my list.

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Fine Weather at Last

Canning Stock Route – Well 16 to the Georgia Bore on the Talawana Track

Durba Springs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Durba Springs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

The scenery and weather get even better during the afternoon as we approach and then drive along the face of the Calvert Range which rises up on our right side and continues to the horizon. A side track into the ranges looks very promising and there are apparently some fabulous gorges but a sign shows the area is closed. It would be great to return here when the area is open and spend time exploring. A couple of rocky patches on the road must be taken with care and the right line picked to walk the vehicles through in low range and occasionally ruts see us driving at an angle as one side of the track drops below the other but apart from these it’s all pretty easy going.

We’re both so busy admiring the scenery we miss a turn and follow a short side track to a scenic lookout. As we are turning at the end of the track I see water spurting out of Paul’s radiator; the guard underneath has been rubbing on a corner of the radiator and put a hole in it. All of the water we have driven through has put unusual pressure on the guard pushing it against the radiator and eventually the guard rubbed through the soft metal of the radiator. Some waterproof kneadable fibreglass patches the hole and after sufficient time for it to set we replace the lost radiator fluid with 10 litres of water and a bottle of ‘Stop Leak’. Our unexpected stop has lasted a couple of hours but we are lucky no more damage was done.

Radiator Repairs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Radiator Repairs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

The delay has a good result, the sun is getting low and the rocks on the face of the range are glowing. It is beautiful and although night is approaching we have to stop for photos, it’s just too good to miss.

Durba Hills, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Durba Hills, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

We reach our camp for the night at Durba Springs shortly before sunset and the setting tops off the beauty of the day. This is one of those special places and we agree it is one of the nicest places we have been. Even though we are way behind where we thought we would be this is too nice to skimp so we stay three nights.

Durba Springs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Durba Springs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

The camping area has lots of green grass set beneath large white gums. Red rocky walls border two sides of the camp ground and a stream flows along one wall. A large rock pool provides a perfect setting for photos as well as providing a source of washing water. There are no other campers here when we arrive so we have our pick of sites and we are soon set up near the rock pool in a spot with a good fireplace. Previous campers have kindly left a good supply of firewood they collected before arrival so that chore is taken care of and apart from the first night when we are too late to get it ready we can cook on the fire and enjoy the warmth during the evenings.

The two days we spend here are very busy with chores, exploring and photography. After all the rain and cold weather we have lots of clothes, sheets and towels needing washing and lots of cleaning to do. A musty smell in the camper reveals mildew on the roof which responds to a good scrub with vinegar and the warm weather allows the damp area beneath the bed to be aired and dried. It sure feels good to be clean and dry and to have this far more temperate weather to enjoy. In between or after chores we wander up the gorge to explore and also up to the top of one of the side walls. While we are exploring and looking for ways to get to the top of the walls we find some rock art. Paul finds lots of spots and times to take photos, particularly around sunrise and sunset and I join in some of the times. I love the clamber to the top of the gorge wall with a camera but unlike Paul I draw the line at carting a tripod up the rocks as well as the camera and alternate lens.

Durba Springs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Durba Springs, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Midway through our stay a group of four vehicles arrive. They are an Outback Spirit tour group with two vehicles towing trailers and two six wheel Mercedes carrying passengers as well as plenty of gear on the back. They are a friendly mob approaching the end of their fifteen day trip and the tour leaders and passengers are happy to chat. Paul is particularly interested in the 6WD vehicles, they’d give us the extra room we need and take us wherever we wanted to go without being too big but apart from the cost of buying and maintaining them they arenĂ­t generally available. I like the look of the vehicles too but I’m more interested in talking to the cook about how he manages food for 22 for an extended period out bush. Eight fridge/freezers is a definite start and a resupply point half way through the trip makes the gourmet catering much easier. They are the first people we have met travelling from the north since the rain started, I’d begun to think the track was closed. It’s good to get some information about track conditions further north. They have had rain but only one night of it and there doesn’t appear to be much mud ahead which I’m happy to hear, I’ve had enough of that for this trip.

After our enjoyable and busy stay we leave reluctantly but also eager to see what is ahead. The rain means we have spent longer on this bottom section of the track than we anticipated. We decide we would like to reach Georgia Bore on the Talawana Track in two days driving which is more than 180km, big days for us. We had been pretty concerned about what state we would find the track because we have to cross Savory Creek and skirt Lake Disappointment but it seems like it won’t be too bad.

Along the way we have lots of sandhills, and plenty more great scenery. It is a beautiful part of the country with blue green salt bush on red sand under blue skies. As well as plenty of photo stops Paul has been using the Go-Pro intermittently while we have been driving … I hope we get some good footage to show what the drive is like. Some sections show evidence of burns a few years ago with lots of young desert oaks which have grown since that time. Without the mud to negotiate it’s all pretty nice driving apart from some relatively short sections of bad corrugations. A couple of muddy salt pans have side tracks leading around the edge which thankfully keep us out of the mud.

At every stop we check our vehicles and at one stop for coffee Paul smells something burning. After checking under his bonnet and giving it the all clear he heads to my vehicle and works out its coming from my rear wheel. We check under the car and everything looks OK but then Paul pulls a small bit of spinifex from the rim. That looks like the culprit and I’m sure I picked it up when I was running along the edge of the track trying to avoid the worst of the corrugations. That problem doesn’t recur but strange noises have become common place. I’ll have to wait until it all gets checked out on a hoist but so far they all seem to be caused by thick mud dried out in clumps. Paul often wanders around the vehicles with a stick or an old screw driver in hand chipping away at the dried mud, it seems to decrease the noises and definitely makes the vehicles lighter.

Vehicle Check, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Vehicle Check, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Even before we reach Savory Creek and Lake Disappointment we see a large pool of water which requires another photo stop. Low lying succulents massed along the side come in many colours and a red sand dune on the opposite edge adds a different hue. Savory Creek has heaps of water in it which is quite amazing to see in the middle of the desert and the tracks along both sides are great to drive along. The crossing is not very wide, firm on the bottom and only mid wheel depth.

Savory Creek, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Savory Creek, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Approaching Lake Disappointment we see a great expanse of water, a very rare sight and if it had been there when the lake was named I’m sure the name would have been very different. Naturally Paul is keen to spend the night on the edge of the lake to take photos, particularly because the full moon will be rising just after sunset and setting around sunrise. A 5km side track leads us to a point and parking area just above the lake. There’s no water just here but the colours of the mud and the distant view of water in front of red sand dunes on the opposite side of the lake look just right to his eye and we stay the night.

Paul is very happy with the evening and morning photo shoots and we continue north next morning. There are no water views today as we skirt the top of Lake Disappointment but there are more views across the mud which we stop to admire. As we have seen before, the delicate succulents growing along the edge are incredibly intricate and multi-coloured and soon we are both crouching in an attempt to get some good close up shots.

Lake Disappointment, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

Lake Disappointment, Canning Stock Route, Western Australia

 

Back on track we pass Wells 21 and 22 with plenty of sand dunes in between. We meet another Outback Spirit mob heading south and stop for a chat then shortly afterwards a tag-a-long group with 11 vehicles passes us heading south. This sure is a change from zero south-bound traffic last week.

We reach Georgia Bore in the early afternoon and find a group of rangers and others from the local Aboriginal community at Parngurr (Cotton Creek) having lunch. They are on their way out to visit parts of their country that they haven’t been to for some time. They’ll be bush bashing to areas east of Lake Disappointment, could certainly be an interesting trip particularly after the rain. We had thought we’d stop here for the night but we fill up containers with the excellent water available from the bore and decide to continue a little further. From here we turn east on to the Talawana Track. We travelled along a different section of this track further west last year on our way out of Karlimilyi (Rudall River) National Park so it is good to complete the circle before we start on the next section of our journey. This bottom section of the Canning Stock Route has certainly provided us with heaps of variety and challenges and even though conditions were difficult we have thoroughly enjoyed it all. Well maybe a couple of the muddy sections were enjoyed more in retrospect than at the time.