Darwin via the Dirt (part 4) The Binns Track & Davenport Ranges

Sunday, Jun 27, 2010 at 10:00

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

This was now day 13 since leaving home and we were hoping for some exciting new experiences as we approached one of our prime target areas of the trip. I have to say that the area didn't disappoint us, in fact it was one of many highlights. I've just finished reading Mick O's blog on the Gary Hwy and Veevers Crater and it reminded me that when we were there in 2007 I referred to that area as "Natures Garden". Here we were again prepared to argue that the Davenport Ranges, although different, was truly an extension of "Natures Garden". The colours and richness of the vegetation was just stunning.
By lunchtime we had turned off the Plenty, crossed the wide dry Plenty river bed with it's rich red and white coloured rocks and headed 37 kms north to Box Hole Meteorite Crater. At this stage we were unsure if we could enter Dneiper Station to locate the crater, but signs guided us through the gate by-passing the homestead. We had arranged to meet up with our friend and previous traveling mate David (who managed to get time off - some how- from work in Alice Springs to spend the next 9 days with us. He in turn brought along Koen - a young Dutch backpacker making his way to Darwin and then home to Holland. What an experience it was for him to get out into the real outback and away from the bitumen, he had a ball, bogging the vehicle in deep sand, swimming in waterholes, traipsing over rough spinnifex cover hills as well as putting up with three smart are....s teaching him as much "strine" as we could think of. By the time he left us he had a notebook full of sayings and their interpretations as well as an appreciation of a Aussie beer around a good camp fire.

The crater was about 180 - 200 meters across, with a variety of coloured rocks including interesting pieces of quartz. Lunch and another 20 kms where we camped near a small creek on McDonald Downs Stn. The now full moon made another spectacular rise through the trees. From here on the Binns track became a little challenging with sections heavily washed out for about 7 kms. At this stage we reached a bore fed tank with overflow for the extensive cattle yards. Close to 20 white necked herons flew up into the surrounding trees on our arrival and zebra finches returned to drink from the overflow. The Bundy river bed was another challenge, wide and very sandy, in fact it was 3 - 4 dry channels, it was too much for koen's first attempt at 4wd driving (unfortunately he was still in 2wd). The track varied over rocky terrain to a narrow sandy two wheeled track hemmed in by richly coloured foliage, wattles and flowering spider grevillias, a bit "scratchy-door-us". At this stage we had travelled 60kms in 3 hours but with lots of stops - great stuff. After the lunch stop David detoured around a particularly rough section and ended up several kilometres away and in an aboriginal community. The presence of the community meant a graded road and corrugations were the go as we crossed the Sandover river bed and headed east for 28kms along the Sandover highway before again turning north toward Murray Downs Stn, still a graded road. Total distance today 173 Kms.
The next day we entered the Davenport Ranges NP and made our way towards Old Policeman's Waterhole. Most of the day was spent negotiating an interesting track in and out of the park. Beautiful scenery, low hills covered in spinnifex, low flowering yellow wattles, holly grevillia and many varied small flowering plants. We passed and stopped at several lovely waterholes, a cold swim in one for David and Koen, before following the track into and along a shallow flowing creek bed. Eventually we climbed over the ridge lines and came upon an old disused mine , obviously quite substantial with the remains of quite a bit of equipment and deep shafts.

Still 33 kms from Old Policeman's Waterhole we left the park and travelled through open station country and aboriginal land, part of the extensive Kurindi station, the homestead was over 100kms west towards the Stuart Highway, emphasising the sheer size of these holdings. Plenty of donkeys and a few dingos along the way. Back into the park and immediately more stunning scenery with greens and reds of spinnifex against rock and with large tracks of that flowering wattle shrubbery and stunted eucalypt.
A few kilometres from the camping area decision time. A sign "Frew River Camping 17 kms, No trailers, experienced 4wd drivers only". Thankfully it was late in the afternoon so straight on to the Old Policeman's Waterhole and camp ground. (Nevertheless the challenge was there so tomorrow..... ). Meanwhile a large tree lined waterhole with short green grass to its edge presented as the camping area. A couple of good pit toilets and a table or two made this a very pleasant spot for a couple of nights. In a situation like this it takes us just a couple of minutes to lift the lid of out Outback Slide on and we are ready for a cuppa. But first Brenda and I and Alison decided on a swim, I might say refreshing but bloody cold would be a better description, so it was a short dip, for me anyway. After much cajoling --no body else would go in. A clear night sky, still with a near full moon, the effect was to create a marvellous reflection on the waterhole with even the stars twinkling on the water - a once only sight and very compelling to watch.
The rest day actually gave us time to do some washing and clean dust from the interior of the land cruiser before relaxing and reading in the sun. During this time I followed the waterhole to its end and around the other side finding the stone ruins of the original homestead (1890s), abandoned because of a 5 year drought and trouble with the aboriginals. Close by the remains of the police station abandoned in 1922. A very pleasant 1 1/2 hours walk, with plenty of evidence of wild donkeys
About mid afternoon it got the better of us, yes time to tackle the 4wd Frew River track. A reasonably challenging track, mostly over rocky terrain with a few sharp rises to the ridge lines. Great views over the surrounding country side and many stops for photos, hence the 2 hour drive took us 3 1/2 hours for 47 kms. About 2/3 through we managed to squeeze past four vehicles making their way to the waterhole and they to were relishing the drive. So far the Davenports have lived up to our expectations.

It's now July 1st and the wind is up and the sky looking quite threatening. Members of the group we met yesterday informed us that the Binns Track we had travelled had been closed due to heavy rain. So on to Whistle Duck Creek, some 93 kms on a good dirt road, past Epenarra Stn (where the road north to the Barkley Hwy has been closed) and then Clough's Bluff before turning back into the park for 27 kms to the other camp ground. I think it was this stunning drive in that convinced us that this was another of natures gardens.

Whistle Duck Creek camping area is set out in individual camp sites, well separated, with the two best of these already occupied (one large one with a small tent only) however we eventually found an area where we could comfortably fit 3 vehicles and although not on a waterhole close to it.Camp established, we set off following the creek to the main water hole (Irrmweng), wrong again, it led entirely in the opposite direction and after much scrambling over steep gullies and very rocky hills we opted to retrace our steps. The vastness and sameness of much of the country re-enforced the notion of how easily you could become disorientated. Our reward however was the discovery of several waterholes with 10 to 15 meter cliff faces and wonderful reflections. Back at camp and a nine hole mini golf game distracted us from the encroaching weather. Tarps to sit under and shield us from the blustering wind were erected, but it amounted to little more than spitting rain. This was an ample excuse for a beer and wine or two and a nip of whisky (not that we needed an excuse).
The next morning we drove around to Irrmweng waterhole and spent a good hour there watching the many honey eaters, painted finches and kingfishers ply the water for food and drink. Back tracking out to the road heading west and the Stuart Hwy, we were surprised as it wound it's way through the low ranges, twisting and winding through more delightful scenery. Crossing a substantial creek and through Kurindi Station (with it's many cattle trailers) the road eventually opened up to the flat and relatively boring country that straddles the Stuart Hwy. 80 kms now to Tennant Creek and the promise of a shower and stock up. This now is the first time we have travelled over 60kph is days. A roast of lamb for tea tonight and Alice Springs has been deluged in rain, the Plenty and Binns Track closed, we have been lucky we have been in front of it.

For sure the Davenport Ranges are well worth a visit.
More photos;

Updated 18th May 2012.
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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