Roads and Tracks We Have Traveled (Part 7 The final entry)

Friday, Jun 01, 2012 at 03:28

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

This will be the last in the series of ‘Roads and Tracks We Have Traveled’ and so I will look at one of the many great tracks in Tasmania and then a quick trip back to the Central Desert region of WA.
Tasmania is a great place to visit during the milder months of the year and there are several of my favourite drives I could comment on. The one I have chosen is the drive to the top of Ben Lomond in the North East of the Isle. We had made our way down from the Mt William NP to camp at the small seaside town of Scamander. The next day we decided on the 300klm round trip to Ben Lomond fully aware that it would involve a steep climb to the top. The drive commenced on a winding dirt road through beautiful bush country along the Scamander River and over several small creeks. Now and then it would open up to farming land, where the colours, rich and somber just contrast so much with those of the rest of Australia. We continued along the back roads reaching the South Esk Valley and passing through Upper Esk, Roses Tier, and Upper Bassington (great names) before making our way along the well formed but twisty road into the Ben Lomond NP. From here the road climbed steadily through the tall timbers , the under story covered in bracken and ferns with layers of large moss covered rocks as we closed in on the mountain. A stunning drive.

Eventually we reached the base of the mountain and above loomed the huge expanses of dolomite rock that is Ben Lomond standing some 1575 meters. The road (which can be snow covered in season) snaked its way to the top through six hair pin bends, with steep drop offs alternating on the passenger side, then the driver’s side. There was room to pass an oncoming vehicle but you had the strong feeling that that was the last thing you wanted on this road. This is ‘Jacobs Ladder’, a great drive up and even better coming down in low gear both ways. If you are squeamish of such climbs this is one that will make or break you, certainly Brenda has declared that this time was her last. At the top is the snow and ski resort, closed in February as we found out. Just before the resort you are able to stop and marvel at the extensive views and to peer across at the pillars of dolomite. From the resort you take a two klm walk to the cairn at the top. How they manage to ski over these rocks always bewilders me, because believe me if there was one rock there were thousands of them to scramble over. There are ski lifts but cross country skiing is certainly very popular here.

As we walked the cold wind whipped at our clothing, but the walk itself was absolutely stunning, the beautiful alpine moss in and around the small tarns and water holes, the lovely colours of the lichen, reds, oranges, yellows and browns on the rocks, and you soon forgot about the wind. Great photo opportunities all the way and not to mention those at the summit as you looked in every direction across this high plateau.

Back to the vehicles and time to take another look at ‘the Ladder’ from atop before the slow descent to the bottom, the challenge was for Brenda to take some video with the camera as we drove down, - it didn’t happen. Mind you during ski season buses traverse up and down this road several times a day.

The trip back to camp took us back through the park and around through the historic township of Evandale, along the Esk Highway, through St Mary’s and down the steep Pass back to Scamander. This completed a great day, the climb up and down Jacobs Ladder would have to rate as one of those very memorable drives. We certainly enjoyed it.
The Hunt Oil Road.
We are now back in the Western Deserts of WA, a vast contrast to the above Tasmanian experience. This was in 2008 and we had driven the Nullabor North to Rawlina rail crossing, then up the Connie Sue including a detour out to Sidney Yeo Chasm) to Warburton . Over the next three days we would drive the less used Hunt Oil Road to meet with the Gunbarrel some 280klms North.
Having spent an interesting night at the camp ground, we refueled with diesel , 91 liters at $2.32 pl and drove the 120klms along the Great Central (highway) Road to reach the turnoff to our next adventure. The first 20 klms was well maintained, not unexpectedly as a local Community existed nearby, but from there on it improved as the track that we were expecting, looking more and more as an interesting drive. As we made our way a few klms North the country began to take on a drier look and large expanses of spinnifex plains began to appear. The track itself had sections of washouts as well as stretches of spinnifex covering. Although quite dry there were plenty of small flowering plants among the scrub. One of our party, David found the ‘Ippsy Ippsy’ plant that he was familiar with. It is a long stemmed invasive plant with a sticky white fluid oozing out of it when broken open. This can be applied to a cut or scrape to provide a seal over it and apparently has an anticeptic effect as well. When first applied to an open cut it stings a little but does provide a sealed coating keeping the area clean. We were all madly trying to find a raw area of skin to try it out. Along the way we came across a water bore with a hand pump, of coarse we all had to try it and yes water appeared. That night we camped in an open area with a cold wind blowing. In such cases you make the best of it, a good fire to prepare your meal on along with a warming fluid or two, just to round off a great days drive.

The next day saw the track varying immensely from washouts, to gravel and stony surfaces and some stretches of sandy track, all the time passing through beautiful country side with magnificent coloured vegetation . Once again spinnifex was prominent and on numerous occasions covering the track, at times making it a little difficult to define it. After 34 klms we reached the turnoff to the 1980’s drilling camp. The track in commenced very roughly almost begging us to abandon the attempt, but we pressed on and after about one klm it improved significantly. After 10 klms we reached the old site. Not much left, a skeleton of a windmill, the shallow but dry dam, a few pieces of iron and scrap and the capped drill well site. An inscription on the seal revealed it was 1769 meters deep, spudded on 26 09 1984 and capped on 13 11 1984.

Returning to the junction with the Oil road we stopped at the low escarpment riddled with shallow caves. On inspection they revealed that they were well used by bats and as a nesting Sanctuary for Fairy Martins . The surrounding scrub was well patrolled by many Little Wood Swallows. It is curious that out here in the vastness of this desert country that even a small variation to the landscape becomes a significant place to spend the best part of an hour or so exploring. To us it is an unwritten agreement that it is never (or seldom) a matter of getting from A to B but to take time to enjoy what is in between, even though we still had a long way to go on this trip..

A few Klms North we entered what was obviously wetter country side as we drove between large lakes (too far away to be seen though), the scrub became much richer looking and now large herds of camels appeared as opposed to the one, two or three we had encountered earlier on. We continued on past Mts Warsnop and Allot and into Alexander Springs. Just short of this we had passed the remains, just another ground plaque, of Hunt Oil Camp No 8. Now, Alexander Springs provides permanent water to the area, with a small running creek and accompanying small water holes. It is a pleasant surprise but more so to the 1874 exploration party of Alexander Forrest, providing life saving water for his party. A plaque on site records the event . What a pretty spot, running water and a chance to wander the creek bed and splash in the water holes. Should be plenty of bird life around here on dusk and early morning but apart from a few Singing Honeyeaters, little else. On arrival we lunched above the area disturbing two wandering dingos who appeared over the rise before spotting us, obviously we upset their intentions as they turned and retreated from whence …… We moved down closer to the water and set up for a pleasant and shelteredcamp.

On the final day along this track we were further rewarded with challenging washouts, much closed in track scratching the vehicles and again with spectacular coloured vegetation. Now the spinnifex often reached above the bonnet and just before lunch we stopped at the scant remains of a surposedly burnt out Nissan , a timely reminder of the danger of, and need to constantly clear out underneath when driving through spinnifex. Further on we came across a disused air field with the usual decaying fuel drums. The final 20 klms along this largely rough section of the track and then onto the Gunbarrel Hwy. Today we average just 27klm p/h covering 125Klms, yesterday we travelled a mere 90Klms. Our anticipated camp for the night was to be Geralton Bore at the junction with the Gunbarrel, but on arrival a family were already set here, a few words of greeting and then we moved on. The last thing they needed was a convoy of four vehicles, three with trailers crowding them out. They were nice people but I think they were relieved. We drove a few Klms West until we found a clearing suitable to camp.

The Hunt Oil Road, a great track encompassing both recent and early history, wild life and brilliantly coloured vegetation. Yes there were certainly times when you needed to take extra care but moreover it was a just a great drive. Worth doing again? The answer is yes I would.

For more roads and tracks we have traveled you might like to refer back to my blogs on ‘ Darwin Via The Dirt’ series.
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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