Canning Stock Route – Georgia Bore to Kunawarritji
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.