Cape York via Simpson Desert 3 June 2015 – Day 2

Wednesday, Jun 03, 2015 at 21:30

Peter Beard (WA)

Southern Cross is a very nice, friendly town. We had a very comfortable night at the Southern Cross Motel – dinner and a bottle of wine in the restaurant and a great sleep. The bed was firm and comfortable and the room clean, more than compensation for the lovely brown tiles and shag-pile carpeted floor and wardrobe. Yes, wardrobe. A stop on the main drag for coffee, fuel and a paper saw us on the road just after 8:30 heading north to Koolyanobbing, a bright, sunny morning adding to the pleasure of being on holidays with an adventure ahead.

A few newly-sown wheat fields with bright green sprouts gave way to the ubiquitous salmon gums that cover much of the southern central region of Western Australia – from the coast through to the Yilgarn these beautiful gums with their red/pink bark and deep olive green leaves seem to glow in the sunlight. There was not much traffic, we passed a road train hauling fuel up from the highway on the only wide section of tarmac along the road – alarmingly just before a bend, fortunately we got by in time despite the truck speeding up as we passed.

There’s not much to Koolyanobbing but there was plenty of activity, a row of dongas clustered around the rail siding making up the “town” with major construction and industry happening just to the north. We crossed the wide, flat roadway that carries three trailer road trains long laden with iron ore, Cliffs Natural Resources branded on the side. The ore gets loaded onto trains and sent to Esperance where it is shipped out. Our track to Menzies follows the ore road for about 10kms. We saw five of the monster trucks thundering down the road while we were meandering down the side track north, timed to be about two minutes apart.

Bungalbin Hill appeared on the northern horizon as we drove through sectors of red rocky earth covered with salmon gums interspersed with sandy soiled sections of low spinifex and salt bush scrub. The delineation between the two zones is sudden and definite, you can see the line in the earth where the underlying strata changes from sand to rock and gravel, then back to sand. It is quite amazing.

Just north of Bungalbin Hill is the Helena and Aurora Ranges, a long series of hills that erupts out of the flat plains. The track, which started out as a reasonably widely graded road back near Koolyanobbing, turns to a meandering pair of wheel ruts through the scrub and trees. Pete got a good workout spinning the steering wheel and changing from second to third to fourth and back down again as we negotiated the twisting track.

A series of rockholes breaks up the track north of the Helena and Aurora Ranges – first is Kurrajong Rockhole, then Currara Soak then Yowie Rocks. These are granite outcrops that trap water and provide a relief from the seemingly endless landscape of rock and sand. We had lunch of hard boiled eggs and fruit just past Yowie Rocks, before popping back to relative civilisation on the Evanston Menzies Road. Although gravel, this well-formed road felt like luxury after the winding, lumpy track from Koolyanobbing.
We had originally intended to go up to Lake Ballard but decided to head down to Menzies and the highway for the trip up to Laverton. We still had over 300 km to cover and it was already after 2:00. Our focus is the Simpson, not tooling around in WA – we have been to Lake Ballard a few years ago to look at the amazing statues and figure we will be back sometime in the next few years, it being so close to home.

A coffee at Menzies set us up for the highway drive to Leonora and on to Laverton. We are staying at the Laverton Motel with dinner tonight at the Desert Inn. Tomorrow we head up the Great Central Road to the start of the real adventure – Surveyor General’s corner, the eastern arm of Gunbarrel Highway and on to the literal centre of Australia at Lambert Centre near Finke in the Northern Territory. More on that later, but this time tomorrow we hope to be somewhere east of Warburton on the Blackstone Road.


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