Surveyor's General Corner. Part 6 Sandy Blight Road

Monday, Jun 17, 2013 at 07:55

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

We had just come off the abandoned section of the Gunbarrel Hwy and driven to Warakuna roadhouse (Giles) to refuel. Seventy-seven kms along the Great Central Road, passing again the impressive Scherwin Mural Crescent, Gill Pinnacle and Rebecca Hill before turning up the sign posted 4WD road, the beginning of the Sandy Blight.
We drove the wide red sandy roadway beside the Walter James Range, a very pretty drive between red sand hills with the range in the background. We turned into Bungabiddy Rockhole, planning to stay for a couple of nights. We arrived a little too late to occupy the prime camping spot at the head of the gorge where already a small tour group were well entrenched. We back tracked along the rough rocky track about half a km to a cleared area in the scrub and set up camp (among the bindii).

The rock hole is a beautiful place, not a lot of water at this time of the year, but enough to provide impressive reflections during the late afternoon and early morning. For those keen and fit enough you can, with difficulty, scramble up and over the steep hills to the rear of the waterhole, some of our group did this and were well rewarded for their effort. Sitting quietly by the rock hole Brenda and I experienced a dingo, unaware of our presence, making its way in for a drink, and only at the last minute, just a few meters away, sensing us, it suddenly scarpered to a safer distance before slowly wandering off. Later in the afternoon a climb to the top of the hill behind our camp provided splendid views of the surrounding country side.
The tour group departed after one night leaving behind two uncooked chickens for the dingos (they would have appreciated them) and disappointingly a camp fire that was not completely extinguished. With the reasonably windy conditions and still smouldering logs just pulled out of the fire, a potentially dangerous situation, it doesn’t take much to ignite dry spinifex. It took us just a few minutes to bury the coals and make it safe.

Leaving the rock hole the road remained well maintained until the turnoff to the Tjukurla Community before narrowing to a mixture of sand and gravel track. For most of its length however the track remained sandy and a great drive. We passed the tip of Lake Hopkins and at 44 kms reached a bore set in open country. Camped beside it was an elderly gentleman, happy for a chat and revealing that he always traveled solo and had followed a faint track heading west of here for about 100 kms before turning back to the bore.

We were now back in low dune country passing between them and in and out of stands of desert oaks, this is exceptionally pretty country. We passed a Len Beadell plaque and 4 kms later the turnoff to the Sir Frederick Range, the original sign post holding a plaque reading …
“1.2 miles to the base and 2.1 miles to the top. Steep climbs”.
Yes a steep climb along a loose stony track. Consensus decided that it was better to walk rather than pull the trailers to the top. As it turned out we stopped at about the half way mark for great views. It will remain with regret, one of those small challenges we should have attempted.
From there, the track crossed more open country, the Mu Hills in the distance to the right before more sand dunes, at first continuing between them and later crossing several of them. A great drive along a track in good condition. We passed another ‘blaze tree’ of Len’s and a brackish bore before reaching the WA – NT border set between two sand hills. It was around here that we sourced a suitable camp site for the night.

Another glorious day, this time heading in an easterly direction for about 60 kms, eventually crossing 8 – 9 dunes. Mostly desert scrub now with some Casuarina trees and the last of the desert oaks. Yet another ‘blaze tree’ and then parked on the side of the track a burnt out shell of a bus – amazing .. of course we took a ride in it ….well. A 4WD challenge presented itself as I took a marked short cut across a dune, totally unprepared for deep sand as was Dennis with his trailer following me. Mark who was leading and followed the main track had a great laugh at us as he watched us from a couple of hundred meters away. It provided some excitement for the morning and reminded us that we needed to keep our wits about us at all times. The Davenport Hills with their distinctive crowns appeared looking very impressive. The temperature definitely improved as we crossed Capricorn and into the tropics !!!!!. just 21 kms short of the Kintore turn off and the historic Tiekens Tree (the old tree trunk now fallen still lies there). The rough gravel road into the Community passes beside the impressive Mt Leisler as it towers over you for some distance.
Kintore has a population of about 400 residents, the local store was going through renovations and apparently not so far away there is a potentially large investment in an oil field taking place. We obtained fuel (good price of $2. 15 pl), bought some supplies and visited the local Arts Centre talking to the representative of the Arts Co-operative that contracts the local work for sale in Alice Springs. We were able to observe some of the local artists at work, they produce some awesome pieces of art. Back out past Mt Leisler to complete the final 21 kms of the Sandy Blight to the Gary Junction Hwy, passing Len’s Marbles – a small version of the Devils Marbles. (He makes reference to them in his book). It was a great drive and well worth the expectations I had before attempting it, certainly it was not a difficult drive with no real challenges to overcome, but one that you could enjoy and relax on and again I will emphasise an extremely pretty adventure into the desert.

Our journey over the next three days took us 250 kms along the Gary Junction Hwy, stopping at Warren Creek Bore on the first night (an expansive camp site well protected from the road), then through Papunya Community. It is a sensational drive along this road with Mt Leibig and surrounding hills slowly coming into view with its pink /purplish haze. The road not too bad, improved after we passed the grader team (heading West) with all their gear in tow and grading three abreast at the same time. We then turned South past the imposing Hast’s Bluff and its story of Frederick Blakey and how he rode his push bike through this harsh environment from Lightning Ridge to Darwin and his involvement in the 1930s search for Lasseter’s lost reef (After our previous trip through here I sourced his book from the library and read a very interesting life story). We detoured into Glen Helen (we last visited here in the late 80s) to find it has changed little, but the approach past the West McDonalds (from the west) was quite spectacular (It has resolved my desire to take a flight over them on my next visit – I reckon it will be well worth it).

Back out the 37 kms armed with a permit for the Mereenie Loop and a purchased piece of art work, stopping at Tyler’s Lookout with its expansive views where we were able to assist a young French couple with the repair of their vehicle ( we had the rights bolts to fit the need) before visiting the lovely Gosses Bluff Park. The story of its origins is still unclear, it is assumed that 145 million years ago a comet made a soft impact, but there is no physical evidence to be found to absolutely confirm this. There is no camping in the park and being late in the afternoon we found an isolated off road camp for the night. Next day we reached Watarrka NP (Kings Canyon) in time for a late lunch. It was time for a clean-up and tyre repair, in the almost deserted Resort camp ground. Tomorrow we were to tackle the steep climb to the fantastic Rim of the Canyon 6 km walk. We actually took just on 5 hours to enjoy the fantastic rock formations and views down into the canyon with its sheer sides. It is a place for extreme care especially with children, I remember many years ago when we were last here there had been a tragic accident involving a school group – there are no safety rails or fences. That evening the bar at the camp had its merits as well.

Next we tackle the Sandover Hwy into NW Qld.

We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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