Carson River Track (now the Oomby Track)

Submitted: Monday, Jul 20, 2015 at 23:39
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I thought some people might be interested in my report on this track which we completed in early June this year. I do note from an earlier post though some comments about the trip now run by Ronnie Morgan of Over The Hills.

1. Although it has been possible to gain permission to do this trip through the appropriate WA government department, it is likely that this option will be not available in the future. It will be necessary to apply through the traditional owners.

2. The trip is rated as 'extreme' and there seems to be some confusion as to why therefore camper trailers are allowed. The extreme tag is really to do with the remoteness of the track-it is 400km in length through isolated country; its rough, rocky nature; overgrowing trees; the odd stony jump-up and some sandy creek crossings. I did initially think about taking my trailer but in the end did not. I reckon I could have got through with it but with some difficulty, possible damage, some scratches and likely inconvenience to others. So in the end I was pleased I left it at home.

3. The cost for us was $3000 per car for 2 people and $500 per additional passenger. Kids free. I can understand some baulking at the idea of paying this amount 'to be guided along a track'. But for us this trip was so much more with side trips to places we would not have otherwise seen, stories we would not have heard and the fantastic experience of the shared involvement with a bunch of terrific indigenous blokes.
Ronnie and his father Colin are trying very hard to provide viable employment to his community whilst also generously sharing their cultural knowledge. In the end all of us on the trip felt very privileged to have been part of it.

4. Future trips will end at the Kalumburu turnoff with 10 days spent on the Track. This will allow a couple of days or more of propping in the one spot.

Anyway enough ranting. Here it is.

This is an arduous yet highly rewarding 10 day 4WD trip through a remote area.

Ronnie Morgan and his father Colin are highly experienced, knowledgeable and friendly Kimberley locals with a deep respect for and connection to their country. We were fortunate enough to accompany them and others on Ronnie's inaugural 'Just Over the Hills' tagalong tour, along what will be forever more known as the Oomby Track. The trip begins with a meet up at the Morgan’s place, then a tour of Wyndham including the small museum which is a must see. It then moves to several locations close by, including the confronting Boab prison tree, a hollowed out tree used to imprison indigenous people in earlier times.

We had a stunning moonlight crossing of the Pentecost River, spent our first night of the trip at the Home Valley Station where we enjoyed a last shower and meal cooked by someone else.

The journey involves travelling across 400km or so of traditional lands of the Balanggarra people. This huge tract of land is now under native title and we were fortunate to be guided through it by Ronnie and Colin, two of the traditional owners. It is a physically demanding but fascinating trip and the rewards are amazing. Highlights include: A traditional smoking (welcoming) ceremony - quite different when run by indigenous people on their own country; fishing for (and catching) barramundi in remote holes; swimming in some beautiful rock pools; viewing the beautiful rock art at Python Pool.

We watched the flight of brolgas and saw bush turkeys (bustards), emus and dingos. We were also watched by many eyes of freshwater crocodiles (which reflected back our torch lights). Birds of prey circled. King browns crossed the road. The vegetation varied considerably and included palm forests as we neared the coast. There was lots of red sandstone. And lots and lots of rocks…

We also visited the Aboriginal mission settlement of Kalumburu, with its Spanish mission style church and museum. The Kalumburu General Store was well-stocked and the snack bar was well-patronised as was the public telephone. We camped on the shore of the Timor Sea not far from where a huge “saltie” had basked earlier in the day.

On our trip, Ronnie and Colin were ably assisted by Bronson, Kelly and Jason. Relationships between the 5 indigenous and 8 non-indigenous participants grew as the trip progressed. Perhaps this was the highlight of the trip – our engagement with indigenous issues and people. It is confronting at times - we visited the sites of at least two massacres; plus the closed community of Oombulgurri, subject of a recent ABC 4 Corners report. This town was closed due to accusations of endemic family violence and sexual abuse. Colin was brought up here and he had a different perspective of the closure. Our views of black/white history and the content of history books and lessons were challenged and some of our notions turned upside down.

As a 4wd experience it doesn’t get much more varied. The trip is as demanding on the vehicles as it is on the participants. The track is at times almost non-existent with the bush never too far away. Bush pin striping tests the paintwork although we came through relatively unscathed. Do pull in those rear vision mirrors though. There are a few rocky “jump-ups” and some rough river crossings. Under vehicle bash plates are a good idea and at least a 2in lift on most vehicles. Rock sliders also would be recommended to protect the sills. Mike’s long range fuel tank isn’t now quite so long range and the muffler decidedly less pristine.

Careful driving is required to protect the tyres. Our two cars suffered from three sidewall punctures but the other vehicle managed to escape tyre damage. As always, pressure is important and lower is preferable, especially with the rocky terrain and slower speeds. There were a number of punctures along the way but these were all dealt with. Tyres should, irrespective of brand, preferably have a high load rating (D or E) to cope with the higher loads over flinty rocks and also the maximum diameter your vehicle can manage to get the underside of the vehicle as far away from the aforementioned rocks. Some vehicle malfunctions are almost inevitable but reassuringly it was great to see the skill of our guides in dealing with any mechanical issues or cheerfully assisting in our own vehicle repairs.

There are a number of sandy creek crossings sometimes with some challenging exits. A bit of a run-up and controlled throttle though gets you over the top eventually. Some soft sand at times brought a few vehicles undone. It was particularly pleasing to see Ronnie down to the axles at times! The Aldi sand tracks did a great job in assisting with the extractions. Do bring your other recovery gear as well. If you are used to the Victorian High Country you will not be daunted by the steepness or roughness of the track but it is the relentless nature of the travels day after day the brings challenges. As a driving experience is it worth it? Absolutely.

We experienced a slice of some of the most remote, rugged, beautiful country that the Kimberley has to offer - gorges, rugged ranges, rivers, vegetation, between Wyndham and the Mitchell Plateau. We got to spend time with our generous hosts and as a result were able to appreciate more deeply their strong attachment to country and their views on the history of their people.

Ronnie and Colin run a trip that doesn’t run to tight daily targets and time schedules. But if you are prepared to go with it - to embrace “Kimberley time” and be open to new experiences - then this is a trip to consider. Perhaps it should be on your bucket list.

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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 at 04:53

Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 at 04:53
Thanks Michael. Great report.
Where are the pics? :)

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Follow Up By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 at 08:42

Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 at 08:42
No pics didn't
Insanity doesnt run in my family.... it gallops!

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Follow Up By: MichaelR - Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 at 20:56

Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 at 20:56
Seriously challenged enough to get this report up let alone pictures! However have a look at their facebook page and you can just see me...
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