Western Australia Trip 2012 – Part 10 : Canna to Caron

Saturday, Dec 15, 2012 at 17:29


We spent two pleasant days at Canna, exploring the many tracks around our camp, revisiting the orchid trail, and the big rock behind the village church. Around our camp were big patches of everlastings, mostly yellow but with some pinks and whites as well. When we looked closely we also found numerous mantis orchids whose shape and striped petals remind us of circus clowns. Up around the rock the soil was very dry but we were still able to find a few cowslips and donkey orchids. While we were at the village we tried out the new amenities block and were very impressed with the hot showers running off a big tank, all for a small donation.

At the “Old Camp”, although we were camped away from the main camping area near the old hut we nevertheless had some visitors. One chap walking his dog saw our trailer and came over to have a chat about it – those Road and Track trailers may be old but those who have owned one all think they are great, and we have to agree. Another couple with a smallish fibreglass slide-on also stopped by for a chat and ended up camping nearby.

The old hut had a sad tale to tell of Frank Macklin. He was an English ex-serviceman who lost his wife and child in A WWI air strike. He worked on farms around Canna, and on the railway and retired to the old hut to live alone with his dogs until his death in 1968 aged 85. The hut is made of corrugated iron and by modern standards offers few comforts. But there was a stove and a bed and little shelves to make life that bit easier. Nearby were some of the cactus plants that must have been planted to provide fruit. Fortunately they have not spread much, and serve as a poignant reminder of just how hard life must have been, especially in dry times.

John’s early morning walk on our final morning at Canna turned up an unusual find – a big swarm of honeybees festooning a low branch, and reminding us that it was now early September and spring was not far away. After packing up we drove up to the village to top up our water bottles, and while we were there we learned that there were a few wreath flowers a few kilometres west of the village. Of course we went out to have a look and there they were, not many and not very big, but wreath flowers all the same.

From there we continued on south, stopping at Morowa where there is a good supermarket and bakery. From Morowa we headed out to Koolanooka Springs to another big free camp area. Three years ago we were there and the mine on the road out to the Springs was abandoned. Not so now, it was a hive of activity. We learned later that there was a viewing platform for visitors. There was also a very new railway line that wasn’t there on our last visit, and too new to show on any of our maps.

Koolanooka Springs however hadn’t changed. When we arrived in the early afternoon there was only a single big motorhome there, so we had a choice of sites across the gully and in among some of the best everlastings that we have seen so far. We found a spot at the end of a track and manoeuvred Troopy into the limited open space, avoiding rocks and fireplaces while doing our best to avoid the flowers. It was hot and quite windy so we settled in some shade to read until the afternoon cooled off. But we had no sooner sat down than visitors arrived, checking out tracks as we had done an hour or so earlier. Of course a chat was in order, as it was for another couple looking for a secluded spot. Then a young couple on pushbikes came by and they had lots of questions about 4Wdriving and camping, so we really had a very social time of it.

In between chatting we managed to go for a walk among the flowers, following wallaby tracks and keeping a sharp eye out for snakes. (It was September and hot!) It was wonderful finally to be among masses of flowers - yellow and white pom-pom everlastings, and bright yellow Podolepis daisies that made a beautiful display though the warm weather was quickly drying them off. Back at camp as the day cooled we had a small fire to keep us company while we watched the stars and listened to the vast silence.

A fairly recent addition to our camping kit has been a folding metal surround wind-break cum fire-guard that fits around our little folding BBQ. It protects the fire from wind and reflects a lot of heat out the front of the fireplace. It also makes having a fire much safer as it limits sparks flying out, and not for the first time we were pleased to have it given the amount of dry vegetation close by.

As we set off next morning we noticed that someone had dropped some tourist brochures that we picked up to put in the bin. But we noticed they covered the local area and included a guide to a local tourist trail.

So, on a whim we opted to be guided by this fortuitous discovery and set off to the east following the new railway to see if we could catch a glimpse of new mining activity. The good gravel road soon became a new bitumen road flanked by big new power lines, all suggesting a big development somewhere out in the heat haze. Even so, we were surprised when, nearing the Karara iron ore mine, we were brought to a halt by a checkpoint. We were politely but firmly invited to accept an escort vehicle to guide us through the next few kilometres until we left the mining lease at another checkpoint, which was beyond the very new mining village. It was explained that this was a safety precaution as heavy machinery could be using the (public) road. Apparently the mine is partly Chinese owned and is just coming into production. So after waiting a few minutes our escort vehicle arrived and we dutifully followed his flashing light, though there was no sign of any other vehicle, much less heavy machinery. He led us out past the new village built to house 1300 workers to the next checkpoint. There we had a chat to a charming NZ lady who had worked in the mining industry in NW WA for several years and really enjoyed the work. She warned us to watch out for emus on the road, and to stop for a wreath plant at a certain spot – which we did.

We turned south past Karara homestead and stopped for a cuppa under some big trees in an area that looked as if it had been used as a roadworkers camp. We hadn’t seen any emus on the road but several were parading along the fenceline that bordered the road there. That spot had a maze of tracks that went well back from the road and it would have been a good overnight spot it had been later in the day. But it was still morning so we continued on, following the guide in the brochures, turning east at the next intersection heading for John Forrest lookout.

Although it was only about 7km out to the turn off (which was not very well marked, and nowhere near where it is shown on Hema maps) it felt further, passing as we were through what felt like quite remote country. The track in to the lookout was in good condition and climbed up onto the flank of the hill on which the lookout is located. Near the end of the track is a sizeable picnic area that would be suitable for an overnight stop. Given the remote feel of the area we were surprised to see another vehicle at the small lookout parking area.

There is a marked but unformed walking track up to the lookout so, despite the day now being quite warm we made our way to the top, and were well rewarded for our effort. We looked out over a sea of mulga towards a distant eastern horizon of low ridges. Here and there we could see mining structures, and a big white ribbon of salt flats marked the extent of Mongers Lake. The rocks underfoot had that tantalising glint of ore that has attracted prospectors and miners alike to this country.

From the lookout we followed an old overgrown vehicle track that took us back towards the picnic area. We cut across country to get to the parking area where we had left Troopy, then we drove the short distance downhill to the shaded tables at the picnic area for lunch.

Our next stop was at Camel Soak a few kilometres to the south, where we found a big camping area (complete with newish toilets) and with quite a few caravans set up. Camel Soak is a big granite rock with pools of water dotting its surface, the deepest pool being home to some very big tadpoles. Water seeping out around the base of the rock created ideal orchid habitat and we spotted some onion and vanilla orchids there. In earlier times these pools of water must have been a welcome sight to camel teams hauling goods over long dry stages through the mulga.

We briefly considered stopping there overnight but it was a busier spot than we would normally choose so we continued on to the next point of interest, a lookout over Mongers Lake. This involved a short walk to the edge of a low cliff, where unfortunately trees blocked much of the view, but we could see enough of the white salt pan to realise that it was a very big, albeit dry, lake.[Image not found]

Orchid Ridge tempted us but we found only a weedy patch of woodland on a low ridge surrounded by wheat. From there we made our way by back roads (all in very good condition and some recently sealed) to the Caron Reserve. The main attraction there is a very large historic water storage roofed over to reduce evaporation. There is a small camping area adjacent but the sole occupant was using a noisy generator so we continued down a side road for a short distance until we found a disused track through thick scrub that gave us a secluded spot to spend the night.

It had been a busy day, full of new sights and experiences. We were very grateful for those serendipitous tourist brochures – we hope whoever lost them had as enjoyable a day as we did.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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