Carnarvon Ranges July 2014

Sunday, Sep 07, 2014 at 17:35

Member - graeme W (WA)

Our first blog but this area is significant and worth the effort if the area is open next year. My guess is that it will be as the permit system worked well when we were there. Please don't visit as the cultural owners have put a lot of effort and time into this and the area deserves to be treated with respect.
Cheers Graeme and Deb. Bunbury to Carnarvon Ranges July 2014
The Carnarvon Ranges - Katjarra, rises out of WA’s Little Sandy Desert. Katjarra is one of the most significant places for the Martu People in Birriliburu Country. This area is thought to have been inhabited for up to 25,000 years.
Day 1 Graeme and I set out early from Bunbury, in convoy with our neighbour Frank. Both vehicle’s were well stocked with extra fuel, food, wood and plenty of water, as we knew we were headed for a remote, rugged part of the Pilbarra. We completed 910kms to arrive in Meekatharra in the late afternoon. It was a good day, although the further North we travelled, we encountered many triple road trains. Having UHF radios on board was an advantage. Being in contact with the truck drivers, allowed us safe passing. We were glad to arrive without any problems, as we had set off a day late, with some trepidation. The concern was, late on the day before, the alternator in our 2005 Toyota Hilux, packed it in! Thanks to the guys at Bunbury Toyota, we had a new alternator in by late the next day. We enjoyed dinner at the ‘Meeka’ pub.
Day 2 We left Meekatharra about 7.30am, after discovering another problem – the air compressor wasn’t working. Where we meant to do this trip! Luckily our good neighbour Frank had a compressor in good working order. A good reason to travel with another vehicle After passing an awesome Wedge Tail Eagle sitting on a rock, we knew we were getting into the ‘North’. We had decided to enter the Carnarvon Ranges via Ned’s Creek Station. Graeme had contacted the Station owners the week before, to get permission to travel across their land. We travelled 207kms from Meekatharra to the Station homestead. The owners Raylene and Clive were pleased we had made the effort to call in, as many people just drive across their land without permission. They also liked the bag of pink lady apples we gave them as a thank you. A treat for them on this remote Station. After a chat, we set off to travel the 80kms to the start of the Carnarvon Ranges.
The first sight of these magnificent red rocks was exciting. We continued on through diverse bushland to the Ranger’s camp, near Good Camp Rockhole. Here we met Clinton, Sonya and Leoma. Mo and the other Rangers were still out with other visitors, so we continued on to Yamada Camp, which is in the Northern section of Katjarra. We were advised to go via the new track put in by Track care, as the old track was almost impassable. The ‘new’ track was very ‘exciting’. It took 15 minutes to go a couple of kms. Very rough, slow going as you travel over creek beds and rocks. Yamada Camp is set in a beautiful eucalyptus grove, between the ranges. A toilet, cement fire rings with BBQ plates, table/bench seats, a shelter and two water tanks have recently been installed, in this the only designated camping for spot for visitors. The water tanks are empty, as they haven’t had rain since they were installed. We set up camp and were joined by a group travelling the Canning Stock Route, which borders the Carnarvon Ranges. Mo and the Rangers arrived and after checking our permits, which must be obtained on-line before coming out, $100 per vehicle, we arranged to meet in the morning. This camp is very peaceful and the sun setting on the rocks was beautiful. A fire was lit with wood provided, which was appreciated as the night was cold. It is not recommended to tow in a trailer and caravans are not permitted. It was a tent for us, a roof top tent for Frank and swags for the other group. It was 346kms from Meekatharra to Yamada Camp.
Day 3 We didn’t hear any dingoes last night, although we are told they are in the area. The Ranges arrived and we set off in convoy to Yamada Waterhole. It was great to see water in this dry country, and the life it brings. The Ranges explained to us how important this place was to early Martu People. Grinding stones are still on the ground and evidence of how they built their shelters, using V shaped tree branches and vegetation. It is very important not to take or disturb any artefacts that are still here. Next stop was the amazing Virgin Springs/Katjarra Springs. This spring has been known to the Martu People for thousands of years and is known as the spring that never runs dry. We climbed from the base of the range, guided by the Rangers, alongside the spring to the top of the rock. A not too difficult climb, with the bonus of filling our water bottles with delicious spring water. Swimming is not permitted. The Ranges willingly lent me a hand to get me across any difficult spots. They also cleared out some plant growth to assist the flow of the water. There are many wonderful examples of rock art in this area. We were asked not to photograph the rock art here. The art included images of kangaroos, snakes and dancing figures with tall headdresses. The Ranges were happy to share their knowledge of the paintings and this very significant area. Along the bumpy track again to visit Talbot Rockhole/Pititjarri Rockhole. Pititjarri means fresh water turtle. A lovely site which is associated with songs and stories that tell of its creation. It is also known as Talbot Rockhole because of historic graffiti left by Henry William Talbot, a geologist who visited the area between 1908 and 1910. Other historic graffiti at this waterhole was left by Peter Muir, a government dogger, in 1965. PM39. We left the northern section of Katjarra, to visit Bella Vista in the Southern section. There is no water here but as you climb, the views back across the lower plains are stunning. There is amazing rock art located under the overhang. The Ranges pointed out art we might have missed, including a rather malevolent looking character. The day had warmed up and we reached Warritin mid-afternoon. We followed the Ranges along the marked access track into the site. Interesting plants around this site, indicating the significance of water. The rock holes are surrounded by conglomerate rocks fused with pebbles. Like other sites in Katjarra, the rock holes are associated with the travels of religious figures in the dreamtime. Upstream there is more wonderful rock art. White fat-bodied ‘turtle’ figures (figures fusing human and animal features), with some having impressive tall head dresses, can be seen. There is a lot of rock art around this site.
This was the end of a great day spent with the Birriliburu Ranges. We really appreciated the knowledge they shared with us in these very special places. Especially Mo’s patience and guidance.
Back along the slow track we went, to spend another night at Yamada Camp. During the day we had seen evidence of camel and donkey. These feral animals are a real concern to the Martu People and this fragile country. It will be an ongoing plan to rid these animals from Katjarra. We had travelled 69kms this day, in about 6 hours, over some pretty rough tracks but it was worth it.
Day 4 We packed up camp and left Yamada Camp at 8am and headed for Waterfall gully. We had been given permission by the Ranges to explore this site by ourselves, as they had packed up and left for home, the night before. This Gully was named by dogger, Peter Muir in the late 1960’s. His survey mark PM35, is visible behind the native fig tree beside the beautiful pool. Here again, under the overhang, is a wonderful array of rock art. This art is a combination of petroglyph and pigment art. A lovely spot to sit, listen to and watch the birds, especially the zebra finches and appreciate the stunning colours of the rocks and the rock art. It was time to leave Katjarra. Next stop was Blue Hills Ruins. This was a station owned and run by Tommy Ingebong. If you take time to walk around, you can see evidence of station life. It would have been tough country to farm. An old wind mill, fences and ruins of shelters can be found. Under the horse yards was a warren that might have belonged to bilbies. Continuing along the track is a beautiful Ochre Breakaway. These rocks seemed to glow in the afternoon light. It is believed that the Martu People carried some of this ochre to the Carnarvon Ranges, where it was used in their wonderful rock art. Well 5 was next and this is the spot you connect with the Canning Stock Route. Graeme drew up a bucket of water from the well to pour down the trough for the birds to enjoy. The water looked very clean. The signage here said that Well 5 is maintained by the 9G Chamberlain Tractor Club, (well done guys). Now we were officially travelling along the CSR and the track was still rough. We passed through a gate and I became the official gate opener for both vehicles. The land we now travelled across belongs to Cunyu Station. We passed Well 4B to reach our next spot to camp the night at Windinch Springs by late afternoon. These wells allowed station cattle to be moved from Halls Creek to Wiluna. Hot, dusty work. This is a lovely spot to camp, which has a toilet and cement fire pits provided. We carried our own wood but if you need wood, collect it well before you reach your camp. We walked to the nearby river, which is fenced off, with several walk through openings. The river is dry, except for quite a large waterhole. There is evidence of this river being in flood at some time, with vegetation wedged high in the river gums. With permanent water comes an abundance of bird life, frogs and surprisingly, turtles. We used our head torches after dark, to spot the turtles feeding amongst the reeds. John Forrest came upon this spring in 1874 and it must have been a welcome find then, as it is now for travellers along the CSR. We really enjoyed our night here.
Day 5 Another morning travelling over very rocky tracks and dry river beds. Our tyres had been let down to 26, since entering the Carnarvon Ranges and it was still rough, slow going. Taking our time, ensured the sharp rocks did no damage. Well 3 was a welcome place to stop for lunch. It was Frank’s turn to draw up the water for the birds and we were amazed to find many tiny frogs in the cool of the well opening. We also spotted a bird of prey, perched nearby. Many photos were taken. We continued on past Well 2A, to get further along the track looking for a good night camp. We camped between some granite outcrops. These proved interesting to explore and we found many small caves and signs of dingoes. Our campfire was very welcome as usual, to fight off the cool night and provide for cooking our steaks.
Day 5 We have now travelled 306kms from Yamada Camp. We were thrilled to see a dingo racing down the track in front of us. He went bounding off over the spinifex – tough feet! Well 2 was our final stop on the CSR. A tour group was here. So many people! I walked around this area, while the guys pumped the tyres up. It was interesting, with evidence of past campers. The track joined the Wiluna North road and we were now only 40kms from Wiluna. We fuelled up at Wiluna – 364kms from Yamada Camp. Phone messages started coming in! We let family k now that we were off the CSR safe. Travelling along the Wiluna/Sandstone road, a good road maintained by the mines, we reached Sandstone in time for lunch. This is a popular spot for gold prospectors. Onto the ‘smooth’ bitumen of the Mt Magnet/Sandstone road. We decided to push onto Kirkalocka Station homestead, after leaving Mt Magnet. Frank headed for home and arrived in Bunbury at 11.30pm. We enjoyed our first hot shower for days, after firing up the ‘donkey’ water heater. During our last campfire BBQ we had a visit from the 3 homestead horses. This station stay provides a great little museum of history of the area and you are free to wander down to the waterhole.
Day 6 We left Kirkalocka Station at 6.15am and arrived home in Bunbury at 2pm. Plenty of day light to unpack.
We all enjoyed our adventure and were glad we had ‘been prepared’ for all we encountered.
Written by Deb Walker with travelling companions, husband Graeme and neighbour Frank Groth.

Please be aware that the Carnarvon Ranges are now closed to visitors, for this year.
The Ranges may be opened again next year. This decision will be made by the Custodians.

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