Surveyor's General Corner Part 4 An objective achieved

Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 at 07:07

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

July 2012. We are now away from the tourist buses and heading down the Great Central Road driving West and about to pass through some of the prettiest scenery you can imagine. It is only about 180 kms to Docker River and the Kaltukajara camp ground from the Olgas. The road is looked after but constant traffic on the sandy surface creates corrugations, but this time they weren’t too bad and easily negotiated at 60 to 70 kph. Scrubby vegetation with the pale dry spinifex with the approaching low hills of the Petermann Range, bright red sandy road and the occasional desert oak trees all combined for a great drive. Closer to Docker River there was a magnificent patch of white gums and the burnt out areas simply accentuated the brilliance of the colours. It’s just a very pretty drive.

Just on 40 kms short of Docker River we stopped at Lasseter's Cave for lunch. Sited just a coupe of hundred meters off the road it makes for a great diversion to the drive and a little bit of Australian history to absorb as well. Thecave itself is quite small and overlooks the broad dry river bed. We climbed the brilliantly ‘sparkling’ quartz and sandstone rocks above the cave achieving excellent views of the surrounding country side including a grove of the small white snappy gums.

We called into the Docker River community but it was all but deserted and the store closed, it was Saturday afternoon after all. Out to the camp ground (Kaltukajara) this being our second visit here (last time 2005 just as a lunch stop) and unfortunately little has changed. It is in a great location and when set out had excellent facilities, large concrete fire surrounds, individual flushing toilets and showers all set beneath lovely desert oaks. At some stage however it seems to have been abandoned and water supply cut off (maybe lack of funds?) , whatever the situation it’s a real shame. More disturbing however is the fact that the toilets have continued to be used to the stage that they are now completely choked and it is difficult to imagine that they will ever be usable again. It still remains a very pleasant place to camp.
We had been told by Tim (Mintabie Store) that there existed a sizeable deposit of quartz crystals close to the camp ground. Dennis and I headed off in the direction he had indicated following an almost indistinguishable track, we walked for several kms but never got close to what we thought to be the obvious location in the distance. The ladies dropped off early in the walk obviously seeing the futility of the walk – they are often more perceptive than us guys…. On our return we found them deep in conversation with some fellow travellers. Nevertheless the walk was invigorating, the spinifex very prickly and at times the track simply vanished, what else do you need for a little exercise?

Next morning we had a visit from a very black dingo/dog (?) as we packed up for the short drive over the WA border to find a camp site close to the Wingelina turnoff, a distance of approximately 54 kms. This would put us in easy driving distance of the Surveyors General Corner the next morning. Once again a lovely drive with the Roberts Range in the distance to the North and the Deans Range far to the South and passing closer to the Schwerin Mural Crescent (so named by Giles in 1874 after an European Princess) it was just so pleasant taking in the natural beauty of the area. The colours were just magic, reds, browns, oranges, with several shades of green vegetation, the occasional burnt out area and those impressively shaped white gums all beneath the brilliant blue of the sky. On a couple of occasions we came across a forest of young desert oaks straddling the road. With plenty of time we simply meandered along taking it all in , what a way to travel. Just near the turnoff we located a road repair area, not the most salubrious at first sight, but well off the road and easily big enough for the three vehicles. A bonus was the ‘Phase’ quarry, with its’ colourful but very sharp and splintery rock, we passed on the way in. This allowed the opportunity for some fossicking during the afternoon, this being right up my alley. The flies were now becoming a problem and the wind was a lazy one, it preferred to blow through rather than around us. A fairly relaxing afternoon followed. Mark decided to make a loaf of bread, it was a great success and enjoyed as a complement to our late afternoon session.

We were up at 6.30 the next morning, still dark and quite chilly (unheard off) ready for a 7.30 start to reach the Irrunytju Community by 10 am as arranged. What a great drive, we thought perhaps a track but should have realised roads out here to communities are now graded and looked after. So we had a wide graded and at times heavily sanded road to drive on, dust was a problem for much of the way causing us to fall several kms behind. This was however a real advantage as we experienced a great nature drive, birds and animals galore in the early morning. Plenty of nankeen kestrals, brown falcons, major Mitchell cockatoos, honey eaters flitting among the low wattles and bell birds along the edge of the road. Dingos were seen, one simply sat on the edge of the road and watched us go by, it was almost tempting to stop and pat him. Closer to the community several herds of camels ran parallel to us. The road was originally put in by Len Beadell, one of his famous markers still prominent.

On time (10 am) we reached the Community and met the administrator, Shane who provided us with a mud map with directions out to the corner, a dista nce of 11 kms. There were locals present who were keen to guide us out (for a fee) but we made do with the map provided. We exchanged $100 per vehicle for the privilege, it seems a lot and it is but is a consequence of people in the past ignoring the requirement to obtain a permit, such actions all but closed off the right to visit this point of interest at one stage. We wanted to be here and were happy to pay the fee.

Interestingly there are in fact two markers some 150 meters apart as the three borders do not all meet at the same point. A small covered area with a tank attached, I think mainly for the honey eaters drinking from the leaking pipe, and the two markers is all that exists here. We recorded our presence in the visitors book, stepped over and in the three states (WA, SA and NT) took the required photos and drove away. Perhaps a little disappointed it was so easy to access but then again glad we had been able to do so. I’ve now been to all the corners, reached the East, West, Northern and Southern points of the continent, visited Lamberts Geographic Centre as well as Mt Kosciuszko, so well satisfied, although we will revisit the ‘tip’ this year and I’ve still to reach the source of the Murray.
Our permit entitled us to exit the area via the Blackstone Warburton Road. On the way through we called in on the closed Blackstone (Papuankutja) Community stopping first at the modern police station where we met officer Fred (who professed to loving this area and had been stationed here since the late 1990’s) who chattered with us before contacting Janet(Arts Adm’r) and arranging for us to visit the Arts C enter. Unfortunately most of the community members were off on a 3 day ‘health walk’ but we were able to view some of their excellent art work ranging in value from $6,000 down to $75. We were quite taken with one artist ‘Lance’ who had remained behind and was working on his painting, a very detailed landscape replicating the rocky out crops of the local area. He anticipated it’s value at about $4,000 when finished. It was a very appealing piece of work in progress. Before leaving we all managed to purchase a painting, mine is now hanging on my wall.

From here we drove toward the community of Mantamara (Jamieson) passing beside the low range of rocky hills, richly coloured a dark chocolate brow n. It was a great scenic drive. Another 130 kms of now quite dusty road, occasionally dodging abandoned vehicles we reached the outskirts of Warburton and entered the community from the South. We were totally disorientated, especially when we wrongly entered the abandoned section of the town (there has been quite a bit of new housing development taken place). Eventually with some help we found the right road and the Road House camping area. It had been a long but extremely rewarding day as we set up on the green grass pretty much ready for a shower and a quite drink. Access to the community out here seems to have changed since our last visits, previously all purchases were made from the road house but this time we were actually directed into the community to buy at the local super market. And as they usually do they had an extensive range of products. So a quite large purchase of supplies as our next stage was to tackle the abandoned section of the Gunbarrel, the Sandy Blight Road before eventually making our way to Kings Canyon where one of the group would depart for home . At this stage where the rest of us would end up over the next 4 to 5 weeks was any ones guess. All along, so far, the weather had been mainly fine but quite cool and the ladies were agitating for a warmer climate and the chance to go swimming. Needless to say they were shortly to get their way.
Additional Photos:-

We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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