Cape York via Simpson Desert 7 July 2015 – Day 35

Wednesday, Jul 08, 2015 at 23:18

Peter Beard (WA)

After a close to 500km drive from Eighty Mile Beach Pete has set up camp at Carawine Gorge, which is about 10km off Woodie Woodie Road and on the Oakover River. Looking at a map, it’s about half way between Marble Bar and Nullagine, only about 100km further to the east. It’s now 4:30 and Pete has set up the Tent Mahal, has got everything ready for dinner, opened a beer and downloaded today’s photos onto the laptop.

Pete’s cabin was comfortable last night and had a TV so after six weeks on the road it was back his Monday night ritual of ABC News, 730, Australian Story, Four Corners and Media Watch. Last night’s TV viewing was extended to include some of the Tour de France – until Pete started falling asleep on the couch and abandoned the Tour in favour of bed.

This morning, and after a warm shower, hot cup of tea and a room temperature muesli bar, it got to about 8:00 and time to get on the road. While dropping off the key at the office Pete spotted an espresso machine so he managed to have a takeaway flat white in his hand for the nine kilometre drive down to Great Northern Highway. After that it was a right hand turn and 50km down the tarmac to a left hand turn onto Boreline Road, and back onto the gravel. To go straight on across the Great Northern Highway from Eighty Mile Beach would take Pete down the Kidson Track to Kunnawaritji near Well 33 on the Canning Stock Route. With memories of the worst corrugations known to mankind still fresh from Pete and Ali’s 2013 trip on the Gunbarrel Highway, Tanami Track and Canning Stock Route (click here to go to the blog) Pete chose the right hand turn.

Once onto Boreline Road Pete stopped to air down the tyres from highway pressures of 36 and 40 PSI to dirt road pressures of 24 and 28, lock the hubs, engage four wheel drive and start heading south. About 60km from the highway is the old mining centre of Shay Gap.Shay Gap was a big deal in the 1960s and 1970s and huge amounts of iron ore was transported by rail to Port Hedland and transferred to ships bound for Japan.



Pete looked hard to find any sign of the old mining activity but, apart from the now-disused standard gauge railway line and a couple of paved access roads crossing what is no longer Boreline Road but now Muccan Shay Gap Road, there is little evidence. Pete has never been here before and even though Shay Gap might have once been Mount Shay it’s amazing how the bush soon reclaims the country and does its best to hide the scars man leaves behind.



From Shay Gap it’s only another 50 or 60 kilometres to Marble Bar Road and back on the bitumen, and from there it’s just another 40km to Marble Bar.

Marble Bar has the dubious distinction of being Australia’s hottest place but when Pete topped up the fuel and headed out to Chinaman’s Pool and Marble Bar Pool the temperature gauge on the sign that promotes Marble Bar’s claim to fame said the temperature was a mild 28 degrees.

Chinaman’s Pool looked like a good place for lunch of a mandarine and a boiled egg and then, after a visit to Marble Bar Pool, it was time to leave the bright lights of beautiful downtown Marble Bar for all the temptations and frippery Nullagine has to offer a man travelling alone.




Even though that sounds too good to wait for, Pete has decided to prolong the agony of Nullagine’s awaiting ecstasy and instead take a diversion east along Ripon Hills Road, then south along Woodie Woodie Road, then back west along the attractively named Skull Springs Road to Nullagine.

But the sun started getting low in the sky and the cattle started moving from their shady day-retreats to cross the road on the way back to their evening resting places near water so it was time to find a place to stop.Carawine Gorge looked as good as any – in fact batter than many – so here he is. Tonight a lamb casserole thawed overnight from the freezer, a couple of beers and bed. Hopefully by then the people camping a couple of hundred metres away will turn down the music and stop yelling at the kids. It is Bob Dylan on the stereo at the moment so could be worse, but this is the middle of nowhere and Pete would like it to sound that way.

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