Cape York via Simpson Desert 5 June 2015 – Day 4

Sunday, Jun 07, 2015 at 00:46

Peter Beard (WA)

We had an astronomical treat last night after dinner. The moon rose above the rocks to the east in a blaze of orange, looking impossibly big on the horizon. From inky black with stars the sky flooded with white moonlight, brilliant moon shadows across the landscape.

The alterations to the rooftop tent after three long trips have proved successful. The original Velcro straps weren’t up to the new inch-thicker mattress and the fact we want to keep all our bedding in the tent to save room in the car. Pete replaced the original Velcro straps with a couple of small ratchet straps, which makes compressing the tent to fit the cover a breeze. And the extra-long fitted sheets to cover the extra-long mattress plus new sleeping bag saw us sleep like logs last night. We were still up before sunrise though, which happened after 7:30 up here, given we are on central time. It took a bit longer to pack than normal, being our first time back on the road since the Tasmania trip a year and half ago. We were on the road just before 9:00, heading along the Blackstone Warburton Road towards Jameson, Blackstone, Wingellina and Surveyor General’s Corner.



The track is well graded and very easy all the way to Surveyor General’s Corner with very little traffic apart from a community bus and a police car. We were parked with Pete photos and Ali about to wander into the bush for nature call when they rolled up. They stopped to check us out, probably wondering why I bolted back from the bush when they appeared and why Pete quickly put his camera away. Ali didn’t want to offend the locals by exposing herself to a passing car and Pete didn’t want to offend the locals by taking photos of anything sensitive. We must have checked out OK, they let us know there is no diesel at Blackstone and went on their way.

The countryside is amazing through here, the Jamieson Ranges, the Blackstone Ranges and the Finlay Ranges all rear up out of the flat spinifex covered plains and help you appreciate the age and beauty of this land. It was a very picturesque drive down to and the borders.



There is a myth partly perpetuated on the ExploreOz website and blogs that you need a guide from Wingellina to access Surveyor General’s Corner. Our permit from the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku covered the trip across private land to Surveyor General’s Corner and there as a sign at the entrance that says you can access the private road to the corner provided you stick to the track and don’t camp. So we drove out there ourselves to look at this remote and seemingly random point on the Australian landscape.

There are actually two markers out at Surveyor General’s Corner, about 200 metres apart. Not sure why there are two but we suspect that one person put a post in the ground then someone else followed and put a post in the ground and they were in slightly different spots. The marker to the east was great – the metal plate on top has come loose so it spins like a roulette wheel; just set it spinning and you can end up in a different state at the end of each turn.

Edit: Pete's brother Ian has provided the following information on Surveyor Generals Corner:

"The survey of the Western Australian border was first discussed in 1911, but it wasn't until 1922 that an agreement was signed between then Prime Minister W.M. Hughes, the Acting Premier for South Australia, Mr. Bice, and the Premier of Western Australia, Sir James Mitchell. The agreement set out the border as being a line determined by the 129th meridian east longitude. However, the agreement required that the boundary be defined by lines running north and south from independently fixed points at Deakin and Argyle. When survey work began on the South Australia – Northern Territory border in 1963, it was quickly realised that the earlier agreement precluded the possibility of these lines meeting exactly.

"Precise survey methods confirmed this and in June 1968 two monuments approximately 127 metres apart were erected at the junction of the boundaries. This ceremony was attended by the respective Surveyors General, H.Comm from Western Australia, H.A. Bailey from South Australia, and P.J. Wells from the Northern Territory. The monuments common to all three jurisdictions was named Surveyor General's Corner at the suggestion of the Director of National Mapping. One interesting piece of trivia is that fewer people have visited this site than have been to the South Pole."

Source: http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/geographic-information/dimensions/border-lengths



The freshly graded road stopped at the border – it went from smooth to corrugations in less than a metre. This is consistent along the entire border – cross from WA to SA on the Anne Beadell Highway and the track turns from a rocky trail to two wheel ruts in the sand. Coming back along the Tanami Track the track turned from corrugated nightmare to graded highway at the NT/WA border. Obviously the grader drivers have strict instructions and a GPS.

Also, there was Telstra mobile phone coverage when we passed the communities on the WA side of the border but in SA and NT there was none. We suspect Telstra doesn’t discriminate but that the WA government contributes to having the network extended out to these communities. If that’s the case then well done WA. If not maybe the SA and NT governments need to have a talk to Telstra.

The trip east through the far northern reaches of South Australia is through amazingly beautiful country. Not a desert, not by a long shot. The black granite ranges continue for hundreds of kilometres, the Giles Mulga Park Road winding through them and across valleys of spinifex with great stands of eucalypts, and desert oaks, looking like something out of a Dr Seuss book, standing eerily in the middle of nowhere. Many small communities dot the road, all with amazing names. Pipalyatjara, Pulaputa, Aparatjara, Umpukulunya. Too hard for a whitefella’s mouth to get around. At Kanpi we had to brake quickly to avoid a black and white mongrel dog that dashed out to chase us. At the same time a car came in the opposite direction so the dog didn’t know which of us to chase first so he stopped in the middle of the track dithering and barking. It must have been sheer delight for a car chasing dog to have two cars to chase at the same time – we only saw about 10 cars today so the poor beggar must have a long wait between chases!



Talking of cars, we have kept up our counting cars game of yesterday. It has been a big tally of dead cars today. A total of 198 cars – 62 Holdens, 50 Fords, a smattering of Mitsubishis, Valiants and Toyotas and the outliers worth mentioning today are a Rambler Ambassador and an International truck. The “unknown” tally today is at 54.

The rain of late last week is still evident out here, the track is dotted with wide mud holes, some still full of water. We have needed to be alert the whole way, the last thing we need is to come across a mud patch unawares and join the smashed cars on the side of the road. One mud hole covered nearly the whole road, and as Pete skirted around it the car lurched alarmingly to a steep angle as the driver side wheels hit the bank and the passenger side skipped into the mud hole. Scared Ali because she was looking at the map at the time but the car managed to keep all four wheels pointing downwards.

Ou

So tonight we are camped next to Mount Fraser just over the Northern Territory border. The track turned even worse once we crossed the cattle grid that marks the border here and crossed form SA into NT, we are in Mulga Park Station so the dead cars have ceased and the live cows have begun. Our dinner of lamb shanks and vegies (straight from the freezer) is once again washed down with a cold beer. We are now waiting in anticipation for the moon to rise.

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