Simpson Desert and Batten Hill Trip, 2007- Part 6 Exploring around Gem Tree

Saturday, Apr 28, 2007 at 14:54

Member - John and Val

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Now it was time to literally move on and enjoy the next stage of the trip with Kevin and Megan. We had a good run out from Batten Hill and along the Plenty Highway towards Alice, stopping a few times for photos. Although the corrugations were not too bad, great clouds of dust rose from the vehicles. We arrived at Gem Tree by mid afternoon and the rest of the day was spent in the laundry doing many loads of washing, making phone calls and reorganising and cleaning Troopy. We spent time with Kevin and Megan debriefing and planning the next stage of our trip together.

The following couple of days were declared a rest day, time to adjust and put the past couple of weeks into perspective. Kevin and Megan decided to do some fossicking at a nearby site and we opted to go exploring along some of the local tracks. We started by travelling down the Pinnacles Track passing through some attractive country and occasional good camping spots. One spot we particularly liked was near the southern end of the Pinnacles track where there were stretches of green grass, lovely gum trees for shade, and a big wide sandy creekbed to explore. From there we headed east along the Arltunga Tourist Drive, taking in a few side tracks here and there. We found a lovely spot to camp for the night, well back from the road beside a dry creek with ghost gums and lots of birds for company. Not that there was any passing traffic. The HF reception was still poor though we may have heard Mike as he reported his progress exiting Batten Hill south on the Hay River Track.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the poor HF conditions, we took a small part in helping an injured hiker in Kakadu. Travellers in Kakadu had come to the aid of an injured hiker and were attempting unsuccessfully to get help via VKS 737. We were able to relay their call to Adelaide (which was being run from Perth!) then to Derby where we again relayed calls until a hook-up was arranged between police and rangers who organised help for the folk in Kakadu. This was an interesting experience in which we were only too happy to assist, and thankfully our radio performed well throughout.

We had a late start the following morning – there were so many birds to watch and interesting cloud formations threatening rain, although none fell. After wandering round on a maze of tracks for a while we made our way to the start of the track up to Cattlewater Pass. We crossed the Hale River at Ambalindin before stopping to check out a small rocky knoll with white ochre outcrops. In among some big clumps if spinifex we were surprised to see many snail shells – presumably native land snails, but it seemed strange to see them in such a dry place.

Continuing north through mulga and huge spinifex clumps we suddenly came upon 3 vehicles stopped in the track. An elderly couple in an X Trail were towing a small camper trailer that had lost a wheel. The other two vehicles had stopped to help. As the wheel came off the trailer the thread on the shaft holding the bearings had been damaged. We were able to contribute a small file and after much patient filing to repair the thread the hub could be reassembled. This took a couple of hours and it was after lunch before the repaired rig with its shaken occupants could become mobile again.

They were uncertain how they should proceed, so, as we were in no hurry we agreed to follow them up Cattlewater Pass. Although we had driven the track from the north just 12 months earlier we barely recognised it now, travelling from the southern end. It was rocky in places, sometimes sandy and with occasional big side slopes; all up rather more difficult that we had remembered. Still we took our time and sat some distance back from the other couple, not wanting them to feel pressured into hurrying or driving beyond their capabilities.

All went well until we got a call over the radio – the camper trailer was stuck going up a particularly steep section of the track. We went forward and found a very anxious driver sitting in the vehicle with his foot on the brake. He didn’t know how to stop the vehicle safely on a slope – and he was busting for a leak. Thankful for our 4WD driver training, we were able to rectify the stopping problem then snatch their rig over the big boulder that they were hung up on. The poor fellow was so grateful and eager to help us stow our gear away that he grabbed the handle to open the big back door on Troopy – whereupon the handle snapped right off! He was now so mortified, and with his confidence near rock bottom we continued to follow them until they turned on to the Plenty where hopefully they could get back to conditions closer to their comfort zone.

We then turned back for a short distance until we found a good spot to camp in a big clump of gidgee. There was plenty of wood so we had a cheery campfire to ward of a few drops of rain. It had been an eventful day, and even though we had only covered a short distance we were rather weary.

The next morning saw us back in the Alice by mid-morning. On the way into town we dropped in to a 4WD wreckers and were able to pick up a “new” handle for the back door. There were some oils and tools to buy and another flat tyre to mend. Back at the caravan park the first task was to change Troopy’s oil after which there was a session in the laundry. Shopping, refuelling and repacking kept us occupied throughout the afternoon and by the end of the day we were finally ready to set off for our crossing of the Simpson Desert.

After dinner we caught up with Kevin and Megan. They had met their 9 year old grand-daughter Steph, at the airport and she will be with us for the desert crossing. We would have liked to do the same for our eldest grand-daughter who is a similar age, but for an extended off-road trip there really isn’t room in the front of Troopy for more than two adults.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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