Willem's Big Trip. Report No 4

Submitted: Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 19:58
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Esperance, Cape le Grande NP, Cape Arid NP, Nuytsland Conservation Park, Israelite Bay to Cocklebiddy, Rawlinna and start of Connie Sue

Three days at Esperance didn’t do it justice and we could have stayed longer. We had a good deal on a cabin with stay two nights and get an extra night free. The beaches around Esperance have fine white sand and which in turn makes the waters an iridescent colour, which then gradually fades in to a deep blue. I have only seen beaches like this in the Seychelles Islands.

We made our way to Cape le Grande National Park, which is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest spots in Australia with those magnificent beaches, which, believe it or not, you are allowed to drive on. I think that it may even be possible to drive all the way along the beach from Esperance to Cape le Grande. This was something we did not investigate.

Our last fuel stop was at Condingup on Fisheries Road before we made for Jorndee campsite in Cape Arid National Park. We camped snug in the coastal vegetation in a designated spot. A very tame bandicoot came out of the bush looking for scraps of food and became an instant celebrity with the bush paparazzi taking many pics of it. The rain caught up with us at last and it poured through the night. We had a very sparse breakfast under a camp lean-to, put the trucks in 4x4 mode and set out for Israelite Bay. Once back on Fisheries Road it carried on as a developed road for 2km before deteriorating to a scrubland track, pock marked with holes, which were now full of water. I stuck to the middle of the track, which normally is the hardest part of the roadway. One hole was deep enough for water over the bonnet but on the whole the track wasn’t too bad. We made it in to Israelite Bay around 3pm and had a look around the historic spots. Somehow we got separated and while Judith and I were looking for a campsite George called up to say that they were going to the jetty. I told them to look out for the mud hole. A short while later the radio crackled. “Err…. can you come down to the jetty please”. There the GU was, sitting on its belly in the mud hole. No words were spoken as I winched George out of the bog. At Israelite Bay the seaweed gets pushed up against the dune face and it is more than a metre deep in places. It can even hold water, as we saw puddles, which had formed from the previous nights rain.

I had spoken with the Director of CALM at Esperance about the old Telegraph Track. He stated that his staff had not been that way for a while but someone had reported burnt out country and overgrown tracks. He also gave us an information sheet stating that it was not advisable to run the beach unless the tides are .6metre. In winter they are normally 1.5metres and push up right to the dunes. With this in mind we set off in a northwesterly direction along an overgrown track. When we had set off the vehicles had been covered in mud from the previous days driving. After 20km along this track they were scratched clean along the side panels as well as underneath. We saw old telegraph poles and wire lying by the side of the track. It was 47.8km of overgrown track with plenty of scratching to an opening on a samphire flat and a T-junction. To the right it was 2km or so to the beach, which we still considered too dangerous, to drive on, because of the seaweed (although there were fresh vehicle tracks leading on to it) and about 2km back to Wattle Camp which is a small clearing near an old disused well. After lunch we pushed on skirting the samphire flats and salt lakes until the track stopped abruptly after 17km in some coastal vegetation. We got out and searched but could not find where it continued on although the Raster Map showed it continuing. Down to the beach. Now there was minimal seaweed. It was 5 hours after High Tide as we dropped the tyre pressures to 15psi. There were some nervous moments along the beach as where the sea had reached the dunes and pooled, the sand was very soft. We kept the revs up and ran the 32km stretch in one hour and ten minutes stopping only to take some photos of the magnificent Bilbunya Sand dunes. These dunes are about 100 metres in height and rise up above the coastal plain inside a perceived 5 square kilometres or so.
I managed to find the exact spot to get off the beach and on to the track, which led up to a fishing camp, known as Culver Camp, halfway up the Wylie Scarp. The beach actually continues on from our exit point for about 7km where it meets the Baxter Cliffs at Point Culver.

The next short distance up the rest of the Wylie Scarp was quite an easy run as at the most critical and steepest section, CALM had laid down conveyor belting to facilitate better traction up the jump up. Once on top we reinflated tyres to 25psi and set off to Point Culver. This track was 13km return and took two hours to drive, which included a quick photo session. It was all limestone rock outcrops. Back on the Telegraph Track we were travelling at 10km hour and it was a bloody hard drive too over numerous limestone outcrops. We visited Baxter Cliffs Lookout and camped a few hundred metres distance from Toolinna Cove. We had progressed 57km for 8 hours driving and that did not include the 13km return in to Point Culver. Found enough wood to cook a roast on the coals and have a few ales and wines before turning in.

The Baxter Cliffs are magnificent, dropping straight in to the Great Australian Bight. However they are a tad crumbly at the edge and care must be taken not walk too close to the edge. Then there is the added danger of being blown off the cliffs and into the sea far below by a sudden gust of wind. So we were careful. At Toolinna Cove we marvelled at the daring fisher people who abseiled down to the beach to fish. They have also rigged up a windlass so as to get their gear and/or catch down or up by means of a vehicle winch. There used to be ladders down the cliff face but CALM have removed them, as they want to discourage this practise.

The track improved a bit the next day. We saw camel and dingo tracks and some very large Red Kangaroos. Mallee scrubland covers this limestone area and it is quite scenic in places. Judith found a sinkhole and some caves and they went looking for more. I walked about 30 metres from the vehicle to get a better look and sank up to my thigh in a sinkhole. We moved the trucks away from possible danger, in a hurry.

We passed by the turn off to Caiguna and drove on to the Baxter Memorial and then Perpendicular Cliffs just as spectacular as the others. John Baxter was a companion of Explorer John Eyre and was killed by aborigines in this area.
We camped back near the Caiguna turn off in a large natural clearing.

The next day we had breakfast at the Caiguna Roadhouse, refuelled and paid 50c/l for water. They do desalinisation to get drinking water and there had not been much rain during summer. We weren’t sure of water supplies at Cocklebiddy or Rawlinna and as it turned out there were none to be had. This day George had two punctures with his MTR’s. He was running skinnies with tubes and it was tiny rocks, which work their way in past the rim, and prick the tubes. At Cocklebiddy we split the rims and repaired the punctures before setting off again to Rawlinna.

At first the road to Rawlinna is a broad graded road but after Arubiddy Station it deteriorates to a track. It is here one crosses the Nullarbor Plain which is so flat you could see in to the middle of next week. We found an old Citroen wreck on the plain. The track weaved its way through numerous gates and a vermin proof fence. As it was getting dark, I decided to camp. But George and Maureen had other ideas and talked me in to driving to Rawlinna. This I agreed to against my better judgement. At night, tracks take on a different spectre and it is difficult to follow them even with the help of a GPS.
Eventually we could see the lights of Rawlinna but the tracks were now turning west and east and we were supposed to be heading north. We were virtually driving in circles. Somehow we found the right track and got to Rawlinna. The old railway siding has a historic value. The rest of the township is operated by a humungous Lime Mine operation. We saw a light on in a bungalow and enquired to where we could camp. We were directed to the Nullarbor Muster Gymkhana Grounds. Turn left here over the railway line, then go, maybe 1km, then turn right at the white pole(no sign)……… We found it in the pitch dark and set up camp behind a large shed to be out of the bitterly cold wind. Only the next day did we found out that the shed was an old aircraft hangar and we could have fitted both vehicles and tents in there…Oh well!

Had get directions out of Rawlinna. “Go down that track mate, and turn left at them tyres and go through the gate. That’s the start of the Connie Sue, mate” Hmmmm…tracks going everywhere. Just follow your instinct. This is where the GPS and laptop worked well, even if I had to do it manually.
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Reply By: Martyn (WA) - Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 20:28

Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 20:28
Just like to say thanks for the reports so far, very interesting reading. A credit to you. Some of the bits you describe around WA conjure memories of my own and my wifes wanderings. We usually stop at Windy Harbour on the South coast, then trip off to Denmark and beyond or something like that. Great to hear you had a good time I would of like to of caught up with you but with work and other things going on it would of been difficult. Great to hear you arrived home safely which is obviously the most important thing. Good on you, can't beat the old GQ for reliability.
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Follow Up By: Willem - Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 20:34

Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 20:34
Thanks Martyn. Glad you enjoyed my musings :o)
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Reply By: joc45 - Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 20:29

Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 20:29
Great notes! Have done the beach at the bight a few times, and can confirm that the beach can get soft - nearly lost the Mav there a few years ago when we got stuck near the cliffs. On another trip, we were cruising at 90km/h on the beach. It just changes that much. The telegraph track is great, and on one trip it rained while we were camped at Toolinna, and had to wait 2 days for it to dry out. The rock hole, which was nearly empty on our arrival, was overflowing to 50metres around the hole. At Israelite, if you had gone 15km south, you would have found a great camping spot at Pt Malcolm. Next time!
Keep it up!
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Follow Up By: Willem - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:34

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:34

Yes I had considered Point Malcolm from the west and the iside track but with all that rain I decided on the 'safer' option along the Fisheries Road extension track. Hopefully there will be a Next Time :o)
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Reply By: Lone Wolf - Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 21:35

Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 21:35
Okay, I wasn't going to do this, but hey.... it's funny.

We all left Rawlinna one morning. Connie Sue, and John Stanley in the lead car, the rest of us following.

Half of an our later, we were lost! No kidding!!!!

I asked Connie, as she was only there like a month ago, how do you get lost on YOUR road?

The other tour members were angry, I just plssed myself laughing. Connie & I were the only people who thought it was funny, the rest all wanted that half an hour of their lives back.

Trouble is with those tracks, there's SO MANY. You follow the most used one, and it ends up going out to Skylab Bore or somewhere, because the station workers check water & stock levels.

It is a moment I shall cherish... Connie is such a good fun person, and a blast. She's really down to earth, and just 'cause we got a little lost.... big deal. She is certainly a fun person to travel with.... and get lost with....

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Follow Up By: Lone Wolf - Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 21:36

Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 21:36
"Had get directions out of Rawlinna. “Go down that track mate, and turn left at them tyres and go through the gate. That’s the start of the Connie Sue, mate” Hmmmm…tracks going everywhere. Just follow your instinct. This is where the GPS and laptop worked well, even if I had to do it manually. "

That's the bit of Willems message I forgot to paste in at the beginning of mine!

I was just so beside myself, retelling my lost yarn!!!!!!
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Follow Up By: Willem - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:38

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:38
I relate to you 'lost' yarn very well Wolfie as we had to backtrack on numerous occassions on this 3 month trip

I can just imagine the angry mob having lost their precious time :o)
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Reply By: Member - John (Vic) - Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 22:22

Friday, Jul 15, 2005 at 22:22
$hit Willem I haven't read part 3 and you got part 4 on here.
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Follow Up By: Willem - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:48

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:48
Get your reading glasses on mate. Part 5 is there already and Part 6 tonite and thats it then :o)
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Reply By: Member - Davoe (Widgiemooltha) - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 00:49

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 00:49
Interesting to read others take on your back yard. Yeas you can drive from Esperance to capeLe Grande as a matter of fact there must be 2 - 300k of accessable beach driving Between Esperance and Pt Culver. Seeing as you are probably sick of people saying shoulda done this or that I might as well add to it.
On the trip South from Leinster you can Turn off at Leonora and pick up the Golden Quest Discovery trail which passes all maner of old townsites, cemetaries, historic water holes at granite rocks, lake ballard statues and the interesting breakaways at lake wangine as well as passing through historic Ora Banda. Excellent alternative to the blacktop as it isnt much further. There is also a book explaining in detail each site as well as storys from the past.
Still as you said you cant see everything and because EO has people from everywhere if you investigated everyones favourite places you would spend 2 weeks just getting to Port Pirie - What a great country
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Follow Up By: Willem - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:32

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 12:32

Hopefully we will be out that way again next year and will take a look at what we have missed this time.
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Reply By: Member - Luxoluk - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 18:47

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 18:47
Hi Willem
really good read so far and I'm just about to go to No5. We struggled with the Rawlinna exit to Connie Sue and were absolutely mystified as to what track to take. Ended up at a homstead to the NW, off course of course, only to be directed on through a maze of station tracks back to the Hwy.....ummmm..track. Not hard to get a bit lost out there!! A track log sure makes it easier.
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