Canning Trip Report (Part 1)

Submitted: Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 00:04
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Last few night shifts have been rather busy and I don't look like finishing this til later next week, therefore I've posted this as the first installment.


Trip Report for Canning Stock Route Trip 2005

I travelled as one of a group of 7 blokes from Shepparton & Melbourne in May to tackle the Canning Stock Route over a couple of weeks.

GQ Patrol Wagon (ULP)
GU Ute (Diesel)

Honda XR650
Yamaha WR450
Suzuki 400

May 10th:Left Halls Creek on 10th May after a night in the Kimberly Hotel and propped up the towns economy a little with $400 fuel ($1.349 ULP $? Diesel) and $400 alcohol after proving we were from out of town. $55 a block of VB and a whopping $90 for a slab of Bundy & Coke. ($55 a bottle for Bundy straight)

Proceeded out to Wolfe Creek Crater and Carranya Station (now in ruins since ATSIC bought it in ‘91) before bush camping south of there. It was interesting to see the high watermark on the end wall of the shed from the floods.

Woke the next morning to find the contents of our fridge (1 of 3) warm. A quick bit of dismantling found oil in the bottom of the case due to a cracked pipe (100,000km of travel over the past 12 years – mostly off road or dirt - had taken their toll and chopped out rubbers on the compressor.) Team conference and it was decided that we could do a run back into Halls Creek on the off chance we could get it repaired or replaced. VKS737 operator Lou advised that there was a repairer in Halls Creek but due to the early hour couldn’t contact them. We figured we’d be back by lunch either way.

11 May: After a snappy 150km into Halls Creek the fridge was assessed as repairable but a delay for parts was a problem. The Retravision (Kimberley Outfitters) turned out to keep a 40litre Engel in stock at a fairly reasonable $1400 so we bought that, modified the fridge mount, bought another $55 slab of VB, $96 fuel and made a quick return to the boys back at camp. We figured better it broke here than at Well 40.

After repacking the ute to fit in the dead fridge we headed for Billiluna and the Canning. Stopping at Billiluna we filled water tanks with good water, the tanks with fuel ($296) and had a chat to the mechanic there. Only one other group had gone south in front of us that they knew of this season. Some crazy European on a mountain bike with a support vehicle – we later found out that she was only riding the easy bits if you can call any of it easy.

After a week and 3000 or so km getting there from Shepparton we finally hit the Canning (CSR). Travel in the north end is fairly easy, open and flat, and the spinifex was quite small. We camped night 1 on the edge of a minor lake (Guda Soak or Rilya Stretch) at a beautiful camp. The water and swim was welcome, sunset spectacular and water birds were plentiful. An amazing place and the nicest we camped at in my opinion.

May 12th: Left camp at 0800 and visited the first of many wells on the way south. Well 51 or Werriado, was a dry dam, dead windmill and well ruins. A detour further south after well 50, which was a bit of a search in amongst the scrub, found Culvida Soak. Wandering up the dry creek a ways found water in a deeper hole in the creek bed. Just next to the water was a crevasse in the rock wall which held more water and some rock art, along with a name from 1931. Fossils could be found in the slate like stone in the creek bed.

South of Well 50 the spinifex increased in height to 50cm or so and the blind was going to be necessary. The area around the 303 tree & track care signs had been burnt out but we found it intact. Stopped at Well 49 for lunch and the first well that had water in it. Water was good quality but no bucket on this well.

We stopped to inspect the burnt out Ford Explorer which was a bit of a spine tingling moment and reinforced the need to check the vehicle regularly for spinifex build up, which we had cleared a few times already by now – and smelled it warming up at times too.

Well 48 ruins were exactly that. The trip into Breadon Pool and Godfreys Tank was disappointing. Having taken the track on the map we found the overgrown path and set off on foot. Within 1000m of Godfreys Tank on the GPS we came to a low area that looked positively awful to hike through and fairly snakey. In the distance the guys on the bikes and in the ute were driving in! We gave up and headed back to the truck. Rendezvousing back out on the track we found them trying to locate the CSR again. They had found a different track in to the south around the hills and when they got to the end of it the sign indicated a 3km walk to Godfreys Tank. They didn’t go as a result. It would appear the track they used is now the common route in and possibly someone moved the signs from the track we were on around to the new track’s end. If this is the case the distance is no longer 3km but a few hundred metres. We ended up missing the tank as a result. The HEMA and Westprint maps don’t show the second and probably better access track at all.

With the GPS the CSR was picked up again (not obvious at this point if traveling south due to erosion) and we bypassed Well 47.

We camped at the restored Well 46 and the water was good. Used the 5 ltire sprayer as a shower to good effect. Nice camp amongst the snappy gums. Many aboriginal stone tool chips around about this camp. Took the opportunity to ring Leigh (Luxoluk) from the HF and remind him he wasn’t with us :o)) – Radtel Network worked really well.

May 13th (Friday): Proceeding from Well 46 we visited the ruins at 45 which is dry. South of Well 45 we wound our way around the flood bypass track which though the floods have subsided appears to have become the defacto standard track, with the original route hard to find at the north end.
Well 44 which is also a ruin found us getting into real dune country now. Though the dunes had commenced much earlier they were getting bigger and softer. Wells 43 & 42 also in ruins, as was the Gard’s 1985 44 gallon drum well project is now a muddy smelly bog. Saw a few camels in the area, the first of many for the next few weeks.

A plan to visit the motorcycle and trailer was foiled by the spinifex and scrub on the track which was over a metre high and threatened to pull the boys on the bikes handlebars around as they attempted to navigate it so the main track was chosen as the route to take.

Camped at Well 41 which was flooded in 2001-2003. The flood has subsided leaving dead melealuca all around – which will be consumed as fire wood over coming seasons. The water in this once good and restored well was foul. It smelt and tasted strongly of sulfur. This is a real pity as it looks to have been a well restored well and the effort has been wasted as it will be many years if the well is to recover if at all. Dingos visited camp during dinner and overnight.

After uneventful scheds over the past few nights the nightly Alice Sched had an F150 broken down on the Finke Rd, a traveler at Yulara whose mate had left with the keys to his vehicle and was beyond contact and a rescue crew using the channel out at an MVA – all on Friday 13th! Coincidence??

May 14th:
Today was only going to be a short day but on arriving at our intended camp at Well 39 we found the area around it burnt out, so we headed further down the track.

Well 40 was nothing more than some troughs & steel work in a still flooded clay pan. Smelled of sulphur also.

Well 39 south of Tobin’s Lake was a timbered hole a few feet deep and a small puddle.

Camped at junction of track to west of Water 38. Nice spot under trees and about 2.5km drive to water in rockpool if you need it. Replaced the buggered shocker rubber on the back of the GU ute. Looks like ARB dealer supplied the wrong ones. Listened to the footy on the HF and had a chat to the tag a long group who we were expecting to pass on their way north further down the track.

We found an unusual rocky outcrop today north of Tobin’s Lake. Lot’s of rock on track which slowed progress for a short time. Very lunar looking landscape.

May 15th:
Macca didn’t want to talk to us. Clearly doing the Canning is a common day to day occurrence barely worth a mention on his show.

Stopped at Water 38 again on the way past and in different light to last night found some of the rock markings such as the RMC Duntroon ones, didn’t find Canning and Trotmans though.

VKS737 operator investigated the likely hood of fueling at Kunnawarritji on a Sunday for us and it turns out they no longer open at all on Sundays, so we camped at the windmill at Well 33.

Well 37 was bone dry. From Well 37 progress was very slow toward Well 36. The track is unusual here in that it follows along the dune tops as opposed to traveling between dunes and crossing over them as it does on the rest of the route. This appears to be to avoid a previous flood and there was no sign of the original route at the northern end. The track was very soft and travel was very hard work on the bikes and even on drivers in the 4wds.

Well 36 is no longer under water. Water in the well is not deep but looked crystal clear and had no smell to it. Might be okay but we didn’t try it. Bungabinni native well was a reedy swamp only.

Well 35 is now accessible and is not boggy. A rusted set of broken leaf springs was a sign of someone else’s drama. The bore casing is there still but the cap was obviously lost in the flood and the water in the bore looks poor at best – an unpleasant scum sits on the surface. The water underneath if it was cleared & pumped out may be okay.

We skipped Well 34 as it is off the track and the boys on the bikes went in and came out reporting little to see. A puddle and some troughing was the report on the UHF.

The track to Well 33 from 34 was badly corrugated from Kidson’s Bluff onwards. We did see a Thorny Devil on the track so that broke it for a bit. After the dunes the corrugations were not all that welcome.

The old well at 33 is still there near the new windmill. The windmill has been fixed and is now operating again after many months sitting idle. The water was good and the builders who use the fire on Sunday evenings for their weekly escape from the community have been watering so there was grass around the tank. Not an unpleasant spot at all. The builders and a white couple from the community were the first people we had seen since leaving Billiluna.

There can’t be many places left in civilized countries where you can drive for a week, cover 700-800 km and not see a soul.

Part 2 to follow.

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Reply By: pprass - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 00:54

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 00:54
Interesting trip Dave - how much water did you carry and did you top up along the way?
AnswerID: 120601

Reply By: Willem - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 09:38

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 09:38
Good one Dave. Brings back memories of our solo '94 north south trip.

We also drove to Culdiva Soak but had to go cross country over very dsense scrub to find it. The 1931 etchinbgs were done by michael terry who visited this area then in Morris Tracked vehicles.

Godfrey tank was only a short distance from Breadon Pool but we had also heard from others of a difficulty to locate it. In '94 there was a track veering away to the left from Breadon Pool which then stopped below a small scarp. From there it was an easy walk of about 500mtres to Godfrey tank and some very interesting rock formations.

Isnt it great to be able to drive for a week and not see anyone else?
AnswerID: 120622

Reply By: Mad Dog (Australia) - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 13:52

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 13:52
Great reading Dave, looking forward to part 2
AnswerID: 120641

Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 20:05

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 20:05

Good report. I'm impressed by your obsessive attention to detail when it comes to survival equipment (fridge and contents). Looking forward to part two.
AnswerID: 120672

Reply By: motormart - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 21:32

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 21:32
Very interested in your in report Better hurry up on part 2 as we leave Wiluna on the 1 August with 2 x Landcruisers.1 x Bravo 1 x Hilux. 1 x WR450 and 2 x DR650
Any chance on putting a bit of a report on how the Bikes went with fuel and Tyres and Riders!!!!
AnswerID: 120689

Follow Up By: geocacher (djcache) - Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 22:52

Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 at 22:52
Hi Jamie,

I will and it will likely be finished on Wednesday night if the '000' lines stay quiet in Wang.

Briefly though, we trailered the bikes to Alice Springs and sold the trailer for $100. The guys rode across the Tanami in a day and a half to Halls Creek and hit the Canning 2 days later.

We left Billiluna with 200 litres of fuel for the bikes (pretty sure but I'll check) in the GU which was set up for the trip with a HUGE ulp tank behind the cab as well as a smaller diesel tank for extra for the GU.

The guys on the XR650 were alternating day about (same guy owned GU and XR) so one day one drove the truck and the other rode and the next they switched. The two others rode the whole lot = a huge effort.

They got about 100km to a tank from memory but I'll check that too and post back.

We took on 600 ltrs of fuel at Well 23! 200ltrs ULP for the bikes, 200ltrs ULP for our GQ (plus 80 at Kunnawarritji) and 200 diesel for the GU.

From our calcs. All up the 4.2 diesel GU ute used 370 ltrs for the trip. The GQ petrol used about 380 ltrs. The 3 bikes used about 330-350 I think.

The guys found any days where we travelled more than 90-100km hard going. We did a really big day when a couple of camping spots we had anticipated had been cinderised and covered about 120 km or so from
Georgia Bore to Durba and toward in the last 20km to Durba Stu dropped the XR about 4-5 times just due to the soft sand off the dune tops and fatigue taking its toll.

The issue was that by the crest they washed off their speed (you have to as the exits aren't straight or predictable - nor is oncoming traffic) and the front wheel would bury deep and slow.

With the bikes we carried a 1 spare front & 1 spare rear tyre. We used neither. The XR got two front punctures which were repaired on the trip. The tyres on the bikes were brand new off the trailer in Alice, did the 1000km to Halls Creek and the top of the Canning, the length of the Canning and from Willuna to Leinster to Mt Magnet to Perth. Trailered back to Vic with the tyres they left Alice with on.

The Suzuki got a hole in the radiator from a one of the many fire hardened branches/sticks that are on the track but this was repaired with that epoxy putty and was still good in Perth. The guys did 2 oil changes during the trip and oiled the chains pretty much every day.

Just in case of mishap or terminal breakdown we had a jig made up that fixed into the hitch receiver on the GQ and accepted a front fork without the wheel, and a couple of tie down points from either chassis rail that protuded out the back slightly so that if needs be we could piggy back a bike on the back of the GQ. We didn't need it but it was nice to know we weren't going to leave a bike out there.

By the time we got to Willuna the guys were tired but still in good shape. For four 50+ year olds I was amazed by their stamina. I didn't have to get more than a band aid out in all the time we travelled, though I carried IV fluid, drugs, Cx Collars, airsplints, plaster, suturing material and much more. The only thing I wasn't going to be able to treat was a serious cardiac episode and I reckon if these guys could ride the canning at 50+ they are safe for at least 20 years on that front.

If there's anything else you want to know ask away. You can email me direct at davejones at iprimus dot com dot au if you have really specific stuff or want me to put you in touch with one of the bike guys for intricate details.


FollowupID: 375796

Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 00:06

Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 00:06
A few bike pics.





AnswerID: 120713

Follow Up By: motormart - Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 05:34

Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 05:34
Thanks for the quick reply bit on the bikes
Good to hear the old timers made it .
Will email you for a bit more info.
FollowupID: 375807

Reply By: Member - Luxoluk - Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 20:51

Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 20:51
Hi Dave
A really good read and I'm looking forward to the next chapter. Photo's were good also and seems Noel has lost none of his style with mono over the dune. As for the 50+'s we are not old, just young whipper snipper's are getting close too!! Cheers Dave...catch you soon..back on air next weekend I hope with the new 9323.
AnswerID: 120836

Follow Up By: geocacher (djcache) - Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 23:24

Sunday, Jul 17, 2005 at 23:24
Hey Leigh,

As can be seen by Noels riding style:

You are only young once, you can be immature for as long as you like!

In truth though, his stamina and energy is amazing. Up before dawn, ride all day, one of the last to bed and even then he doesn't really sleep! The man is possibly a droid - or shares DNA with the duracell bunny!

You are right 50 isn't old but I see people every day who are on the other side of 35 and couldn't ride like these guys did, and who will in all likely hood reach death before retirement. This trip and all of the others these guys have done should be inspiration to all. It was a privilege to be invited to travel with them & I would love to do it again if the opportunity presented itself (and Lynne gave me a leave pass.) These guys are truly amazing.

FollowupID: 375916

Reply By: motormart - Monday, Jul 18, 2005 at 01:23

Monday, Jul 18, 2005 at 01:23
Seems I caused a reaction with the remark "Old Timers" Sorry. It was good to hear they they finished as it gave two of us a bit more confidence as I am 49, Another rider is 52 and the other rider, his son is 22. A few 'friends' reckon F'king Crazy,Too Old,Mid Life Crisis,Act Your Age, Your not 21 anymore !
This is from people who's biggest adventure was probably getting a load of wood out in the bush!
Sorry but I didnt get issued with the rule book on what you are suposed to do at certain ages.Not many of us did heh.
I love my Bush riding and this is one trip I cant miss. We all know it will be no walk in the park and I will be very disappointed if I pull a heart mussle Its taken nearly Two years to put this trip together.
The bikes can be stripped down and packed into the utes if something happens before Halls Creek.Mind you, it will be a tight fit if something happens to all 3 bikes/riders.
As for Whippers Snippers, Drop into my shop and I'll do You a good deal on a Stihl
AnswerID: 120869

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