Anne Beadell Highway 2010

Saturday, Nov 13, 2010 at 01:00

Stephen L (Clare) SA

Anne Beadell Highway Trip
10th – 16th August 2010

After 6 Days on the road since leaving our home in Clare SA, it was time to start our next part of our trip and head back to South Australia via another of Australia’s classic true Outback Highways – the Anne Beadell Highway. The 1300 kilometre odd drive travels directly through the heart of my favourite and Australia’s largest Desert, The Great Victoria Desert. It only seemed like yesterday when we were last here in Laverton, but in fact it was twelve months. With a minimum overnight temperature of just 2.7º C and a slight dew of the car, it was time to head off for our last showers for a few days and breakfast in the camp kitchen, before packing up the tent and heading out on the road signposted to White Cliffs.

Departing Laverton with not a cloud in the sky, the same could not be said as we headed east into a very low bank of cloud and it was not very long before we had to use the wipers, just what we wanted so very early into the trip. Our first stop for the day and time for a cuppa was at the old Yamarna Homestead, which can be described as if the place was hit by a bomb. After our smoko and a look around the scattered remains, it was back on the road and heading into finer weather. We arrived at the old Yeo Homestead at lunch time and only wished it had been a few hours later in the day, as this very quaint spot makes a great spot to camp for the night, complete with a shower, so who said you have to rough it in the bush. After lunch and signing the visitor’s book, we headed out with clearing skies which made travelling this section of the Anne Beadell just perfect. The wildlife in this section of the Great Victoria Desert was very plentiful, with many sightings of Kangaroos, Emus, Camels and countless varieties of birds which added to the atmosphere of travelling. Around 48 kilometres west of Neale Junction we came to a large cleared area with lots of timber. Not wanting to take our chances like last year when we arrived at Neale Junction to find the camping area with lots of campers, Fiona and I decided to call it a day at 4pm South Australian time. We soon had a great fire going and settled in to enjoy the solitude of the area. When it came time to log onto the VKS 737 Network, I logged our location as a matter of safety seeing that we were travelling solo. The night was just perfect as we sat around the campfire and completed our journals of the day before turning into the swag and watching the fire slowly die down as the wood was slowly burnt, to leave a great bed of coals for the following morning.

After a very cosy sleep in the swag, we woke to a perfect morning and a very cool minus 3.1° C with it still being minis 2.7° C at 8.00am. It did not take very long to get the fire back into life and we could have spent all day here, as the campsite has that perfect feel about it. Making the most of this location we had a very late start to the day and finally were on the road by 9.30am, taking around an hour to reach Neale Junction. No other campers had stayed here last night and the remains of the campfires here had not been used for quite some time. Resigning the visitor’s book, we headed further east and within a short distance of leaving Neale Junction, the road was in first class condition and it was like driving on bitumen with the added bonus on unreal scenery and many flowering native plants and remained like this all the way to Ilkurlka. Out first stop for the day after leaving Neale Junction was the Aboriginal ceremonial site north of the old Airfield.

This site was very easy to find and by the very well worn and used paths, this site had been visited my countless tourists over the years. The down side to any popular well visited site is that you never know just what stones were put there by Aboriginals for ceremonial rituals or White people destroying the natural history of the area. Returning the very short distance to the main track we met our first solo vehicle travelling west. After the usual greetings and discussing track conditions, we were informed that there were 2 vehicles about 30 kilometres ahead of us, also heading east but one was towing an Off Road Camper, while the other was towing a Caravan. Bidding our farewells we headed further east on the best track for the whole trip and in no time, we were soon at the turn off to the Crashed Plane site, so like most Anne Beadell Travellers turned off and headed north out to the site.

Around 3 three kilometres from the turn off we were nearing one of the sand dunes when we were approached by the two vehicles that we had been previously told about. Pulling well off of the track to allow the two vehicles to pass safely, the driver of the first vehicle in a giant F250 Crew Cab stopped alongside of my vehicle and the first words that he said were, “you must be Steve from ExplorOz”. I could not believe what I had just heard and it turn out it was Stewart, EO Member “Black Cobra” from Perth travelling with his friend John, who were both members of the Wanneroo Wanderers 4 Wheel Drive Club. Stewart had read my comments here on the forum about our intending trip and the approximate dates that we would be out on the Anne Beadell Highway. After a good chat we said our farewells and proceed to the crash site.

On the 26th January 1993 Goldfield Air Services plane VH-FYZ made a forced landing and how no one was killed is a miracle and the skill of the pilot would have been tested as he brought the plane down on virgin country. Signing the visitor’s book and looking around the site and the small sand dune just behind the crash site makes one think of what would have been going through the people’s minds on this plane as the underbelly scraped the top of the dune and went crashing through the undergrowth before finally stopping. After lunch it was back over the soft sand dunes and to our next location just before reaching Ilkurlka. Previous waypoints that I was given for Kurna Gnamma hole led us to a flat location right on the edge of the Anne Beadell Highway.

Without that valuable information, this location looked just like anywhere else along this section of road except that this Rockhole held life giving water that the local Spinifex Aboriginal people had used for countless generations and we would have driven straight past without ever knowing it was there. It was now just after 3pm and we were soon at Ilkurlka Roadhouse where we again ran into Stewart. We filled up with Diesel at $2.45 per litre making sure that we would get through to Coober Pedy with still over 80 litres of diesel left in our fuel tanks. We then spent some time in the shop buying souvenirs and booking into the camping site for the night, as this would be our last chance of any showers for a good few days to come. Also in the camping area were Stewart and John, so it was great to catch up again with them and we all had a great yarn around the campfire until past 10pm when we called it a day and went off to bed.

We were awake by 6.30am and it was still dark, so we stayed in the swag until 7am and headed straight over to get the fire going again. There was a slight breeze and this kept the overnight minimum temperature up, with it only getting down to 2.7° C last night. We packed up our swag and put the awning away before heading over to the fire to have our breakfast. Again it was another slow morning and after our farewell to John and Stewart, we left Ilkurlka by 8.50am.

Not very far out of Ilkurlka the corrugations started which heralded the start of lower tyre pressures and a slow pace of travel, but the scenery sure made up for what the corrugations were doing. Stopping at one of the roadside shelters for smoko, a quick inspection of the vehicle resulted in the quick replacement of one of the screws that was securing my driving lights bracket, so it shows you that you must carry spares for any occasion.

Before reaching the Western Australia / South Australia Boarder, we located 2 more important place of Aboriginal importance; being a black oak tree that was used to make two Woomera’s and a short distance the first of many Coolamon or Pidi trees.Even though we were only given the waypoints of one Coolamon tree, out eyes spotted a number of these Marble Gums where the bark had been removed to make these multi purpose vessels, from carrying food and water, to the carrying of young babies.

At 2.50pm it was time to again sign other visitor’s books at Len Beadells marker on the Border of the two states. Crossing the Serpentine Lakes it seemed too early to call it a day, so we pushed on for another 10 kilometres and then found one of the best camp sites that we would stay at along the Anne Beadell. Prior to this location, there were large sections of spinifex very close to the track and a few small cleared camping locations. This special location was large enough to fit the biggest of groups, no spinifex, lots of Black Oak and that very special feel about it. Even though it was only 3.45pm, we were not going to let this special spot slip by, so we parked the vehicle alongside a Black Oak that would offer a little protection from the slight breeze that was blowing and soon had everything set up and a great fire going to sit by and relax.

Making the most of this special camp, we went for a little walk and soon found the remains of other unlucky campers that also liked this special location. I say unlucky in the sense that we found at 3 separate locations that contained various components of vehicles that had suffered from the constant corrugations, including 4 shock absorbers, one metal bull bar and one rear wheel carrier, all cracked and broken. My heart felt very sorry for these unlucky travellers and my thoughts now concerned me on just how bad were these corrugations going to get, seeing that we knew that the worst was yet to come around Emu still another 2 days of driving from here. Returning to the fire, we heard some chatter over the UHF radio and immediately picked the voices of both Stewart and John who were at Serpentine Lakes looking for a site large enough to take their camper trailer and caravan. Putting out a call for them, I soon had Stewart on the radio and told them about our great site and around 5pm they made it to our location and we again had great company for the night around the campfire.

There is an old saying “Red morning, Shepherds Warning” and this was later to be so true. There was a very slight breeze all night and we woke to a very red sunrise which looked very pretty, with the down side that the sky was filling quickly with heavy cloud cover. Seeing that the last two nights we had company, we have all decided to now travel as one group, so with a good start to the day, we were on the road by 8.30am. Not long after leaving camp I soon found more good examples of Coolamon or Pidi Trees, some right on the road, while other a short distance from the track, but once you know the size of tree to look for, they were very easy to see. The further east that we travelled the intensity of the corrugations were slowly getting worse but my main concern now was the weather conditions, as the sky was now looking very threatening with the occasional single drop of rain on the windscreen. It soon became time to leave our vehicles and head off on foot in search of another location that I was told about in my pre trip preparations. Armed with GPS, PLB, camera’s, compass and water bottles we all set off over the sand dunes in the hope that the information that I was given was correct. Arriving at the coordinates that I was given and the location was in a dense stand of Mulga, so now came the fun part scouring the area as there were no visible signs of any aboriginal activity in this area, so we decided to head another 500 metres in a southerly direction in the hope of finding something. Crossing more sand dunes and walking into a sea of vegetation it was time to admit defeat and started back on a compass bearing to where we had parked the vehicles. As we walked slowly back, my eyes were continually scanning the area directly in front as we walked and then luck was on our side in the form of an Aboriginal directional marker stone. To the average person walking through the bush they would be just strange stones but my eyes knew immediately what they were. Altering our course to the direction in which the stone was pointing, we were now travelling slightly north east. Over the next few hundred metres there was another marker stone and Stewart went ahead to gain a better view of the surrounding area from a large sand dune that we were approaching. From on top of that dune, Stewart could see a large rock covered claypan. On reaching the top of this dune, I could see many marked stone sites and knew immediately that this was a very special location of Aboriginal importance. After spending quite some time here taking nothing but lots of photos it was time to head back to our vehicles with a slight drizzle of rain to keep us company.

We had been away from the vehicles for more than two and a half hours, so everyone had a late lunch before returning to the corrugations and our next intended waypoint, an Aboriginal Native well that would not have been used for a very long time. Arriving at the closest point to this waypoint and a little distance in front of Stewart and John, Fiona stayed back with our vehicle while I set off only on a compass bearing, as this location should have been very close to the road and over one small sand dune. Setting off at a quick pace and at the top of the dune I almost walked into a resting camel and I do not know who got the biggest shock and the down side was I did not have my camera with me to prove the encounter. At the bottom of the dune I noticed a large flat area with one section lower than the rest with lots of grass grown in the depression. Walking over and inspecting the depression I could see immediately what it was, so I told Fiona over the UHF to let the others know this was the location and hurried back to Fiona and the vehicle to collect my camera, GPS to Mark this location and wait for the others to arrive. When the others had arrived, we all walked over to the location and there were a number of small holes that had been dug by animals also in search for water at the site.

By mid afternoon the weather had changed for the worst and it was now very windy and raining. Around 20 kilometres west of Vokes Hill we came across a solitary healthy looking cow and how she was surviving out hear was a mystery. Seeing that we had lost time at the Aboriginal sites, we decided to push on to make camp at Vokes Hill and finally arrived to a wet and muddy camp at 5.30pm. The other were some distance behind us, so Fiona and I set up our awning for a little cover from the rain and got the fire going. The wind and rain made for a very sombre camp that night and by 8.30pm everyone had retreated to their camps and called it a day. There were a few good heavy showers throughout the night and even though we do not like to camp out in the swag under the awning in such conditions, at least the rain falling on the canvas awning sounded very nice.

Next morning the wind and rain from last night at least kept the temperature up and the overnight minimum was only 6.1° C but everything was very wet. We had a clear sky directly overhead, but there was another cloud band coming in from the west and a slight breeze again. We were all heading east by 8.40am and the corrugations were the same with no break in the conditions.We were at Anne’s Corner by lunch time and the wind was still blowing. It was while we were stopped here that John had noticed a crack developing in his tow bar, caused by the extra length of his hitch and the constant corrugations.We tried in vein to undo the hitch, with a good spray of CRC but the nut holding the hitch hid not want to budge. After lunch and back on the road heading east, there were again quite a number of Trig points on the taller sand dunes and more good examples of the Len Beadell Stone markers alongside of the track. During the afternoon we came across the remains of Jayco that did not make the distance and from receipts still inside it, it had only been here around two months. This again brought home the sad facts of life of knowing that what ever comes out here must be in first class condition and capable of handling constant corrugations for day after day. Not long after leaving this site, we again had to stop for John so he could tape up another widow that had broken from the close vegetation on the track. We made it to the Emu Camping site in good time and still quite windy. This was the first time that we did not mind the wind, as it quickly dried out the wet canvas on the awning and the sway from last nights rain at Vokes Hill. After everyone had their camps set up, we all headed off and had a great collection of Mulga for yet another great campfire. Once again the lure of the fire had us all talking past 10.30pm before calling it a day and wondered about how bad the corrugations were now going to get heading towards Tallaringa Well.

The wind did die down during the night and after packing up our camp, we all headed to the smoothest section of dirt out here… the Emu Airfield. We Stewart ready for take off, we all headed for the most important remains out here and the reason why the Anne Beadell was constructed, the sites of Totem’s one and two.These two locations were the first places on the Australian Mainland where Atomic devices were detonated and sadly not the last.

More great scenery was encountered during the day and the corrugations were good. At this point in the trip we knew that we only had just over another day of similar conditions and it would be all over.To minimise the impact of these corrugations it was a slow pace of travel, anywhere from 20 kph to 40 kph. At least at these very slow speeds it was a great chance of admiring the scenery. Arriving at Tallaringa Well around 4.30pm well called it a day.

How the site has transformed from when Len Beadell rediscovered this location in 1951 that was first discovered by Richard Maurice in May 1902.The site then was mainly covered in Native grasses but now is covered in quite thick vegetation. The well contained no water when we visited the site but when Richard Maurice first discovered the well; he commented that the water was of good quality but slightly brackish and provided about 4500 litres per day.

By 8.40am next day we were all back on the corrugation which would last like this for most of the day. Late in the morning it was times to visit the last of the Aboriginal sites along the Anne Beadell. Upon reaching the site my first words were that this was no way an Aboriginal site, it just looked so fake. My first impressing were that it was like a windrow, the stones all placed in a very straight line and from other Aboriginal sites that we had visited, it just had that White Mans feel about it. Sure there were some original Aboriginal Ceremonial stones there, but the majority of these stones had been placed there by stupid tourist’s intent on ruining a once important location. How true my words were when a few days later in Coober Pedy when viewing some original photos of the area, there was a picture of this site when first discovered by Len Beadell. The picture clearly showed only a few large stone and not in a straight line as just witnessed by us. After passing through the Dog Fence, we stopped for lunch and now knew that we were on the downward side of this great trip. The corrugations still continued all the way to Mable Creek Station and the moment that we reached the main track heading towards Coober Pedy, the corrugations instantly disappeared and it was back onto the smoothest of dirt road.We now could have picked up the pace of travel compared to the last seven days pace, but it was now the opposite. Stewarts Low Fuel light was now on and his gauge was below the E mark. Will he make it or will we have to shoot ahead and bring back a jerry of diesel was now on Stewarts mind. Slowly but surely we made it into Coober Pedy and headed straight to the Service Station where we only required 102 litres of diesel, while Stewart needed 270 litres as he only put a small amount of fuel into his vehicle at Ilkurlka. From here we booked into the Caravan Park for a couple of nights and headed straight to the showers.

After seven great days out on the Anne Beadell Highway, we had encountered all types of weather, scenery and driving conditions. This like many other tracks that were constructed by the famous Gunbarrel Road Construction Party under the leadership of Len Beadell, Len named this track after his wife Anne and it is one track that any serious four wheel outback driver should seriously consider doing. Do your homework, know what to expect in the way of corrugations and you will be rewarded with driving one of Len’s famous highway.

Smile like a Crocodile
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