Lake Eyre and then where? (Part 4 The Sandstone Belt and a Minor Disaster)

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 04:27

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

The road into Salvator Rosa is part of a circular 280 klm (approx) tourist drive,for most, drivable by 2wd but best suited to 4wd. Commencing with narrow bitumen just south of Tambo it passes through grazing land before the inevitable dirt. Most of the outward section had been recently graded but varied in condition, several sections were quite sandy with many patches of bulldust.
During the two days on the Tambo Common the discussion turned to the possibility of exploring parts of the Carnarvon Sandstone Belt. In particular Salvator Rosa and Expedition Pass NP's. Local advice indicated the only impediment to entering Salvator Rosa was if it were wet. The discussion centred around the possibility/probability of thunderstorms. However we were so close and I have always wanted to explore these areas, we were committed.
We met, and chatted with, a couple coming out of the park pulling a large off road van, they were rightly concerned about the weather as well. After this encounter the road became a track as the roadr ran through the western section of the national park before turning east and then south along the Cungelella Station Road. Obviously little used the road accommodated grazing stock and gave access to private properties. Just before the park entry point we passed a large water storage, Lake Salvator.

All along this stretch we would see the long low sandstone escarpments hugging the skyline - the occasional bottle tree added to the panorama enhancing our expectations of large sandstone cliffs with their eroded shapes. However we seemed to be moving away from them as we drove the last few klms into the park and into a neat open campground surrounded by open forest and on one side a low hill of sandstone. Not quite what we expected but a very pleasant spot with only one other established camp - although within a few minutes another vehicle arrived and began what seemed to be (for them) a painful task of setting up camp.

The Nagoa River passes close to the campground. The track across it and access to the park proper had suffered flood damage with the wooden slatted carriage way virtually hanging downstream leaving a crossing with a sandy bottom. The water was quite shallow and the sand firm enough to drive over.
That afternoon we waded the crossing and walked a couple of klms along the track, basically bird watching. The heavily grassed and timbered vegetation was home to many finches and wrens. The Double Barred Finches flitted on the track surface just in front of us as we walked, the wrens flying into the protection of the grass and bracken. The best outcome occurred when the male wren appeared and put on a show for us, yes, as we had hoped he was the Red Backed Fairy Wren, always an alluring sight.

Preparing tea that evening over the camp fire we were treated to the presence of Kookaburras often, too friendly Currawongs and a large family gathering of Apostle Birds. Next morning they insisted on sharing our breakfast, snatching a piece of toast out of my hand - they lost my respect for them after that. A female Wallaby complete with Joey graced the edges of our camp, actually you couldn,t wish for a much more pleasant setting.

The next day after a relaxed morning we took the 10 klm drive down as far as the old Cattle Yards before returning along the same track. Several places of interest along the way centred around the river, springs and the isolated outcrops of sandstone, eroded down over the eons of time.

The day was fairly warm, in fact quite hot but as we stopped at Belinda Springs, which runs into Louisa Creek that feeds a large volume of very cold water into the Nagoa River, we found it mostly overgrown with bracken and reeds there was little to see. Next stop was the stock yards and peat bogs (known as Major Mitchell Springs - it was here that he camped back in the 1840's) at the end of the track. Beautiful red Grevillias grew here on the rugged sandstone outcrops but you really had to look for them. Homoranthus Hill is a short walk and climb for quite expansive views over the surrounding parkland. Back to Louisa Creek junction with the Nagoa River we took the opportunity to have a wallow in the warm shallow water washing off the dust of the last few days.

Refreshed we next stopped at Spyglass Peak, walking into its base but hesitating climbing too high. Back to camp after pleasant day and a relaxing drink around the fire shared with you know who!!!

So ..... off to achieve my long term ambition to visit Expedition Pass and Robinson's Gorge. The drive to Springsure (174 klms) involved retracing our steps 50 klms roughly and then north to the Dawson Development Road which mostly follows the Nagoa River. It was a pretty drive, the road flanked by flowering wattles and views of the river. This section was 130 klms of dirt and probably the most heavily bulldusted road we have ever traveled.Springsure for lunch, then 140 klms along the Dawson Hwy through Rollestone to the turnoff south at Bauhina onto the Fairfield Mapulu Road. here we were confronted by a road closed sign but we were assured by a local lady that the closure referred to a side road and that 3 weeks ago she had driven this road collecting Census forms and that it would be OK. Well it was and a very pretty drive at that - through station country passing stock trucks before climbing into the hills - even had phone reception with some Telstra towers. The road surface was mostly well graveled except for stretches of hard dried black soil, well chewed up from a previous wet. By now we had entered the Banana Shire (Republic) and it was after 5.00 pm, so with the most northerly entrance to Expedition Pass NP only a couple of klms away (but still 25 klms to campsite) we stopped at a lovely site on the banks of a heavily eroded creek for the night.

That night the weather reports on the ABC indicated widespread and local thunderstorms - sure enough about midnight a clap of thunder, I swear right above us, followed by heavy rain continuing for the best part of the night. Our first thoughts next morning were to stay put for another day, but the road in front of us had just been graded, looked OK and the park entrance was only 2 klms away. If we got into the park we could enjoy walking etc and stay until the area dried out. The track into the park however was little used and did not look at all inviting, in these conditions. A few klms further on the road had deteriorated and we slipped and slid through a loose clay surface eventually finding a drier entrance to a property.
About 3/4 hour later a couple in a Hilux churned up the hill and indicated that the road ahead continued to be passable with the main entrance to the park 15 klms away. The track in was sandy and rocky - and they had had no trouble negotiating it that morning. unfortunately by the time we got there the Rangers had closed the road into the NP, there had been more rain ahead of us and we had no option but to continue on. Then the inevitable happened, a sharp rise in the road turning to the right just over the crest and we continued on in a straight line - into the ditch. A strange feeling, slowly sliding and tilting - no control now - fearing that the vehicle would tip I had time to tell Brenda(not that she needed to be told) to brace herself and hang on.

The photos show the result. After 2 1/2 hours of digging sludge in bare feet we managed to get the jack under the front of the rear spring on the BBQ plate. As it slowly sunk into the mud the rear and front wheels both raised about 2 inches, just enough to get some 2 metre saplings and a tarp underneath. (Oh if only we had Diff Locks fitted!!!). This worked, and eventually we were able to back out onto the high part of the road.
Nowhere to get off the road to camp and 40 klms to the bitumen we had a slow and careful trip - two very dirty, wet, tired travelers eventually made it to Taroom and the tick wash facility. 20 minutes of high pressure hosing ($1.00 well spent) before we set up in the camp ground with rain falling again. Never the less a hot shower and a juicy steak for tea and 'we were over wet dirt roads' for a while.
It just goes to show that you should stick with your first instinct - we should have remained by that lovely creek for an extra day.
Brenda has decided that Expedition Pass is off the agenda - I'm not so sure. It will be an interesting discussion next time we travel by this area - probably later this year.
Next day our outlook improved immensely as we pulled into Isla Gorge, always a great spot to stay over with one of those views that you just kill for..... good company and a shared bottle of wine with an elderly couple (a bit like us) camped next to us and all was on track again.

Quick update Val has just informed me that the flower at Homoranthus Hill is a CALYTRIX TETRAGONA
Next part - homeward bound via NP gems west of the Great Divide.
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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