Canning Stock Route - Defeated by the desert and our retreat to Well 45.

Wednesday, Jun 10, 2009 at 14:00

Mick O

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Thursday the 11th June
Well 45 - CSR
20 47 36.86 126 10 29.68

Well if this isn’t a day that was one of the most interesting in my travelling experience. It had the best and worst of everything. It’s just after 4 pm and camp is set up at well 45. That’s right, not in the wilds of the Great Sandy Desert as expected. We attempted and we were turned back, not by the savageness of the conditions, but by the inability of a vehicle to cope with conditions of cross country travel.

I awoke having had a restless night tossing up whether to leave the group and do my own thing. Having done countless risk assessments in my head, every fibre of my being, as well as common sense, was dictating that I pull out. Never the less I climbed from the tent this morning intending to head on. The end reason being, that If I wasn’t there, it would be Mr Magic who was shouldering the burden of supporting both The Captain and any others who may have the misfortune to suffer a mishap (God Help anyone relying on my mechanical aptitude though!).

On the positive side, the washing was nearly dry, the dry desert air sucking the moisture from the clothing despite the cold overnight temperature. After breakfast a round bonnet meeting was suggested before departure to discuss fire drill and evacuation calls and procedures nutted out. We also established that it would be a group decision as to emergency egress or turnaround due to the specific triggers for such an occurrence, like tyres. It was an interesting exercise that led to a few uneasy minutes that we could have done without but they were concerns that had to be voiced. Unfortunately there are a rare few who walk amongst us that always see the need to turn legitimate concerns, into some form of personal attack. Never the less, after the finer points of emergency response were nutted out between those of us who remained, hand held radios distributed and we mounted up and headed off after The Captain.

We headed south from 46 for a couple of kilometres before turning off track to commence the trip west. The scrubby country was thick with spinifex, acacia and very soft under tyre but still we wove on. We got into some more open country and on several occasions G & M in the second vehicle lost the Captains tracks as he was getting too far ahead. We again had issues as the Captain tried to get over the very first dune, a small 4 metre mound. This forced a re think and we moved further west along the swale to a point where John had identified a gap in the dunes to facilitate an easier crossing. At one point we scared up a couple of bustards (Plains Turkey) that John stalked and I filmed as they finally took flight.

After 2 hours and 16 kilometres, we were pushing our way through thick spinifex and acacia when the lead vehicle overheated . It wasn’t what I call tough country at 8 to 12 kph. It was pretty easy going really. Now I say that from the back of the field where I had wheel tracks to follow but I base it on plenty of experience driving the country of the western deserts.

While the Captains car cooled down, I set up the awning to provide some shade and we all had a bit of lunch in “the Spinifex Hilton”. Michael produced some smoked chicken drumsticks which made a great lunch. In an hour or so , we reversed our -course sticking to the swale and back east towards the non-lake lake area. We made a different track that we had made when heading west as all the vegetation had been pushed in that direction greatly heightening the risk of taking a stake in the tyre or radiator. At one point it was suggested that we beat to the south east as this would take us around the bottom of the lake and onto the canning again in a lesser distance than retracing our route to Well 46. This was agreed to and on reaching the end of the dunes, we found ourselves in an elevated position with a panoramic vista to the east. I managed to spot some dust a few kilometres distant that I took to be a vehicle travelling north on the Canning. With The Captain leading again we punched on through soft sand acacia country and then crossed a few limestone outcrops and a grassy lakeside plain and hit the CSR once again.

There had been some vehicles passing to the north and on doing a radio check to ensure we were all upon Channel 40, they ended up being people who knew Suzette and John. Talk about a small world. Once on the track I think there was a collective sigh of relief. The rest of the short trip south to well 45 involved a twisting turning track across small sand ridges that was largely free of corrugations and a pleasure to drive. We collected a bit of wood on the way, my axe coming in very handy once again.

Well 45 sits amongst a small stand of pleasant gums. We have spread ourselves out and enjoyed a sensational fire. The sunset bought flocks of budgies to the nearby spinifex. I trotted over to the nearest sand ridge to capture the sunset finding myriad tracks in the dune tops including a roo, the first roo tracks I’ve seen out here. Heaps of bustards, lizards, camel, cats and dingo prints as well.

Dinner of steak and veg with apple jaffles with custard for dessert by a roaring fire. The moon rise turned the narrow bands of cloud into silver ribbons in a fantastic display. A lovely evening.

(Video edited Nov 10)

A written note outlasts the longest memory

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BlogID: 1385 Comments: 5 Views: 18762 Attachments: 1
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Submitted: Thursday, Oct 08, 2009 at 11:30

Member - Jdub commented:

Thanks for rekindling great memories of the whole trip - your campfire journo jottings have inspired us to " doitallagain"

Cheers John , Suzette
Comment 1 of 5
Submitted:Thursday, Oct 08, 2009 at 11:49

Mick O replied:

"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you." Aldous Huxley said that. I say your never to old to learn something about yourself. Thanks for reminding me. Mick. Now lets get out there and "doitallagain".
A written note outlasts the longest memory
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Submitted: Thursday, Oct 08, 2009 at 12:40

Member - John (Vic) commented:

Sounds like it wasn't so much the conditions rather the "experience" of others that caused the defeat??
Better luck next time :-)

P.S. Good read and enjoyed the video. Well done.
Comment 2 of 5
Submitted:Thursday, Oct 08, 2009 at 12:45

Mick O replied:

Thanks John. Met some nice people, learnt some stuff and still got there in the end. Cheers Mick
A written note outlasts the longest memory
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Submitted: Thursday, Oct 08, 2009 at 22:16

Member - Michael J (SA) commented:

G'day Mick,

Just goes to show the benefits of recording any sort of holiday trip just as it happens, be it by photo/video or a journal written daily. You can then sit back, even in a few months time, and recall exactly what you did and where you went, and what you saw.

I thoroughly enjoyed the video too......oh, and it was proof positive to swmbo
that I actually lol

Michael J
The magnificent Hanging Rock
Comment 3 of 5
Submitted:Friday, Oct 09, 2009 at 03:10

Mick O replied:

"A written note outlives the longest memory" Nice one Sherlock! You were there my friend and never a soft excuse offered. Thanks to you and the bouquets, Magic & Co, the big camo toyota. Great people to travel with. Mick
A written note outlasts the longest memory
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Submitted: Friday, Oct 09, 2009 at 09:18

Member - Jack commented:

What a disapointment for you, Mick. You can do it again later, of course. I enjoyed our trip through WA, learned from, and appreciated your attention to detail, and Happy Hour(s) was always worth driving all day for. I'd send you a nice wine, but can't guarantee it is not 'off'. Take care, and hope to see you soon. OBJ
"'ullo me little lovelies .. "
Comment 4 of 5
Submitted:Friday, Oct 09, 2009 at 09:47

Mick O replied:

Cheers OBJ. Good to see you're still around. It was a great 8 weeks spent travelling the west with you. Mind you there were a few mornings that made me wish I'd kept driving at Lancelin rather than ask directions LOL. Oh my head! Regards to BMJ. Mick.
A written note outlasts the longest memory
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Submitted: Monday, Nov 08, 2010 at 06:40

Member - Marc Luther B (WA) commented:

Hi Mick

I would consider trhat you did quite well, as there have been many have travelled from Wiluna to Kunawaritji then turned back. The wife and I have also helped quite a few that have been in vehicle distress and foolishly tried to push on.

My wife is desert born and bred, she walked that area until she was in her teens with her parents as nomads, so she is extremelly familiar with that area, we will always go and help anyopne we hear about that may need help.

We have done the entire CSR in various sorts of weather, but we also know all the side tracks and because of her family connections (and the fact that I have been through Abopriginal law), we can take tracks that are now closed, but will open again in the not too distant future.

Good on you for having a look at a wonderful bit of country and recording your trip for others to learn from. Safe travels in the future.


Why travel overseas, you could travel Australia your entire life, and not see it all.
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Comment 5 of 5
Submitted:Monday, Nov 08, 2010 at 07:14

Mick O replied:

Thanks Marc,

It was an interesting trip that one. Lack of preparation is a trap for the unwary in this country, particularly when heading into the wilds. Thankfully it was only the one vehicle that let us down and there was ample support amongst the rest of us to assist. We had some very competent people along. As my later blogs show, a couple of us were successful in reaching a few of our goals such as Joanna Spring a bit over ten days later but followed a different route in from above the Wapet. We also backed it up this year in reaching Dragon Tree Soak which was an incredible journey. It’s unforgiving but I love the country.

Just reworked the original video which at 10 minutes was a bit long. Didn’t have any music either so I’ve cut it to blazes and added a soundtrack. Glad you enjoyed it.

Cheers Mick
A written note outlasts the longest memory
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