Canning Stock Route Day 10 - Durba Springs to Well 20

Saturday, Jul 12, 2003 at 00:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Day 10 - Saturday 12th July
Start - Durba Springs
Stop - Well 20
Trip Odometer - 181.8km
Stopped time - 2hrs 22mins
Moving average - 28.1km/hr
Moving time - 6 hrs 28 mins
Max speed - 62.2km/hr

After a delightful stop at Durba we lifted camp to continue our northbound trek. The campground was much quieter now that Treks About Australia had moved on the day before and it seemed that the other campers were either staying another day, or were going to have a late departure so we timed it nicely to get away from other travellers and get a clear run for the start of the day at around 8.50am

Only 20km (40 minutes) up the main track from Durba we came to the turnoff on the left to Diebel Hills (marked with just a white tin lid). We were interested to explore this area and had read in the Gard's book "The Canning Stock Route - A travellers guide" that there was a spring to be found near the summit of one of the peaks. So with that to find as our main aim off we set.

We hadn't expected such a wonderful drive - it was very scenic and a couple of fun dunes to cross along the way. The instructions in the Gard's book led us up the garden path, but maybe that's just my odd interpretation of them. Anyhow, for the life of us we could not find this spring!! If we didn't have Leah with us, we certainly would have been a bit more exploratory and actually climbed all over the place for hours, so we wanted to be sure that we found the exact hill before we set climb piggy-backing our 15kg lump of a wiggling child in a windy gale up a steep and rocky cliff with no walk trail. There were a couple of confusing tracks that didn't agree with the descriptions in the book, and no obvious walk trails found at the end of any of them. So, we gave up on finding the spring and simply enjoyed the place.

We explored to the far end of the range by vehicle and found what could only possibly be described as a basic campsite on rather uneven ground quite some distance from the range, but under some scrub which offered a little shelter. We didn't feel it rated a campsite marker (as indicated on the current edition of the Hema GDT NW map sheet) but we did happen to disturb a herd of 15 camels nearby which was a worthwhile sight.

Finally, David handed the driving seat over to me for the backtrack out of Diebel Hills some 2 hours later and rejoined the main CSR track with David begging for me to stop and swap drivers again! Not that I'm a bad driver (really, I'm not, I was having a ball) but David is a shocking passenger! He was moaning about being car sick - but I think that was because he couldn't take his eyes off the computer screen in front of him, rather than looking out the window. So, I have only managed to drive about 25km of the CSR - whoopee do - (must talk to the accountant about the possibility of ExplorOz2 - the backup vehicle)!

Well 18 was only 14km on and is reconstructed (July 1999). It is not "fully restored" as the map indicates, ie. the windlass, whip pole, troughs etc have not been restored, but the well hole itself is of excellent construction (thanks to Ken Maidenment and his team). The water was very clear, but did have a slight salty taste, but certainly drinkable. This well is also well known for having frogs in the corners of the wooden framework, hence its nickname "Frog Well".

Another 3km up the track and the turnoff to the right to Onegunyah Rockhole is easily seen. The winding track leads 5km through scrub and finally we were exhausted and ready for a lunch at what we expected to be an oasis. Not so, happy campers, the rockhole was putrid this year, with just a mere puddle of water remaining where a deep rockhole would normally be.

Obviously no rain has reached this area for quite some time. Like everywhere we've seen water, there were hornets, so we could not stay long near the rockhole. In fact, the area was swarming with bees, and flies as well as the hornets. There were also finches by the hundreds, but they quickly dispersed as we came close to the water. There was copious amounts of excrement from various animals who use this waterhole and for that reason the flies were everywhere. I quickly searched the walls for aboriginal markings and found 2 items of rock paintings.

We then moved the car further back under a bit of scrub for shade to have lunch. It was searing hot and as a campsite, this place offers nothing of interest other than a flat clearing suitable for large groups but no shade. Obviously in a wetter year, the place would seem different with the rockhole offering a cool place to rest just a few metres from your camp.

Between here and Well 19, we marked a couple of decent campsites in clearings under desert oak trees (that we hope Hema will put onto the next edition of the GDT NW mapsheet). With increasing visitor numbers to the stock route, we are all encouraged to select campsites away from well sites, and part of our mission on this trip was to identify and mark some good spots where campsite symbols could be placed on the map).

So moving on we came to Well 19 on the edge of a claypan, which we expected to be dry (as indicated by reports in the Gard's book) but was actually quite full, although the well has collapsed and all that remains is a scum filled depression with broken remains of troughing, a wheel, sign and possibly the original well lids. No usable water here.

43km from the turnoff to Onegunyah, we came to the edge of Savory Creek. The track swings to the right and follows alongside the edge of the creek for 1.2km until you meet the main crossing. This is marked only by 2 stick markers in the mud to guide your exact entry from the southern bank and if you look closely (through binoculars or camera lens) you will actually see the sign on the northern bank confirming that this is Savory Creek. I say this because, I the navigator, had to prove to the argumentative driver that this was indeed the crossing. He believes in following tracks... and really wanted to continue further along the edge and as I said, you could miss the crossing if you didn't know what to look for.

At the time of our crossing, we were solo, and the creek was reduced to just 2 channels with a central "sand-bar" in the middle. The crossing was very obvious once you got started, however the dropoff is quite sudden and the vehicle made a great thump as the rear end connected with something solid but the rest of the crossing proceeded calmly.

Once on the other side, the track comes to a fork. To follow the CSR you VL here. Has anybody explored the track SO? The warnings about saltbog in the Gard's book put us off venturing along the track at 4pm in the afternoon when we just wanted to find a camp for the night.

500m from this fork you come to a junction where the CSR heads of to the right, but the left track leads in 100m to an ideal campsite under desert oaks. Why didn't we camp here? "There must be something better/closer to the water/better view/..." said the driver, so we marked it, and drove on.

At 5.20pm we had found the next campsite at Well 20. (Actually, we passed another excellent campsite just 2km on from the last good one but it was occupied, and we also explored the track out to Lake Disappointment before the Well 20 turnoff and it was no good for camping either).

Although it was a very late arrival, it was picture perfect and we highly recommend Well 20 as a campsite. It might sound as if I'm always commenting on errors found in the Gard's book, but it is very outdated now and I know they've been working on a new edition but for the time being as a reference I think you should all be aware where it is quite wrong. So here goes another complaint - the book states that the 9km long access track to Well 20 will take you an hour each way and that it is simply not worth the drive. We timed our trips both in and out and it took just 22 minutes each way. So please don't be put off by what you read in that book - it really is a worthwhile trip out to see this well, particularly if you stay and see how beautiful it is on sunset.

The Well itself however has caved in and there is no water or frame to be seen. There is just a star picket with a rusty illegible sign, bits of old tin and the full length of the trough filled with sand with spinifex growing out of it. The campsite is small and peaceful beneath 2 desert oaks in the centre of the turning circle.

David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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