Canning Stock Route Day 3 - Wiluna to CSR Well 3

Saturday, Jul 05, 2003 at 00:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Day 3 - Saturday 5th July
Start - Wiluna
Stop - CSR Well 3
Trip Odometer - 216.4km
Stopped time - 3 hrs 15mins
Moving average - 34km/hr
Moving time - 5hrs
Max speed - 85.3km/hr

After a breakfast of egg jaffles we lifted camp at 9am. The Goldfields Highway is still dirt but its a fast wide graded road and we averaged 93km/hr in this section towards Wiluna. Unfortunately, at that speed its a bit hard to miss the wildlife - and the roos were everywhere. In all our travelling, we've actually never killed a roo before today although we've had plenty of near shaves. This one didn't stand a chance. Luckily for us it was only small and did no damage so we managed to keep it quiet from Leah who would have been distressed to know that Daddy killed a kangaroo!

If we hadn't been on contract with Hema to supply an accurate bottom to top plot file we would have taken a bypass track direct off the Goldfields Highway to North Pool, totally bypassing Wiluna. We were really tempted to do that last night for our camp and then backtrack but had run out of daylight. We have kept the waypoint however for future sorties in that area.

These sorts of options become apparent when you travel in moving map mode with good detailed maps loaded on your laptop in front of you. My job on trips is passenger, navigator, cook, nurse and mother so I have to be able to make quick decisions based on reliable information. We used to leave the laptop in the backseat doing its job quietly, but now we have it upfront and use it to truly navigate [note - this laptop mount was custom-made by David and is not commercially available].

On reaching Wiluna we were surprised to find a sparkling new store called Gunbarrel Groceries on the corner of Wotton Rd and the Gunbarrel Highway. Locally run by David Betteridge and his wife this store really does cater for the Canning or Gunbarrel tourist. They have only just opened this season and it is apparent that they need to advertise that these new services are now available. I purveyed the store in detail and found an excellent range of meats in cryovac packaging, and an excellent range of supermarket goods and even fresh fruit and vegetables. I would highly recommend people give them a ring and make an advance order so you can travel light from home to here and then pick up your goods in Wiluna. The community run Wiluna General Store also still operates but seems it will end up servicing the locals and the Gunbarrel Groceries will cater to the tourist. Both sell fuels.

Whilst in the store I met Tony the CEO of the Wiluna Shire and made ourselves be known and then switched hats to Track Care and discussed the 2004 signage project. So it was 10.30am by the time we left Wiluna and hit the very start of the Canning Stock Route.

The mapping survey required that we:

1) recorded an accurate plot of the entire CSR route on GPS through OziExplorer
2) marked waypoints in OziExplorer for every track junction
3) recorded odometer readings in hard copy on a spreadsheet between every junction and point of interest
4) obtained hand-held GPS readings for each well on the CSR
5) photograph each well using digital high-resolution
6) marked waypoints in OziExplorer for every Point of Interest and relevant campsite

This just simply meant that we couldn't move the vehicle without it being recorded on paper and confirming that the computer had saved the GPS plot. At the end of each day we had to carefully save each waypoint marked by day and download photos off the camera to the computer and save into the relevant day file. We simply take the memory card out of the camera and insert it into a card-reader connected to the laptop to copy the file across within seconds. [PostScript - I took a total of over 1000 photos on this trip]. I also keep a small spiral notebook with a short diary of each day's events.

To drive forward from the Gunbarrel Groceries we were mindful of the need for absolute performance of our recording gear for the 2 main tasks - the Hema survey and the ExplorATHON. With 2 GPS units each unit had its own task, plus acted as a backup for the other plus we set the car's odometer for the entire trip as the main distance control.

Setting out from Wiluna to the north the road ahead is wide and graded - hardly what you expect. If you aren't careful you could miss the turnoff to Well 1 altogether as we did, because it isn't signed and you hardly feel as if you are on the stock route at all. Because we had never travelled the Canning we were relying on good information to ensure we knew where we were going. Loaded on the laptop, we used the Hema GDT series NW map plus the 250K NatMap raster maps, plus the WestPrint CSR Map and the book by Ronele and Eric Gard - The Canning Stock Route A Travellers Guide (which I had used extensively to prepare for the trip). I didn't have the RAC map of the CSR nor the Australian Geographic book and map but I obtained access to these during the later half of the trip. So, even with all this gear, we missed the turnoff. After finding the track however, its just a short trip out to this totally ruined site and then you have to back-track again to the main track.

Finding the turnoff to North Pool is also a bit of a mystery, with a maze of tracks leading off to the left. The main track, once you see it, is rather obvious however as its been graded by Telstra workers. North Pool was absolutely quiet on this lovely Saturday - it was certainly too cold to expect the locals might be swimming. We enjoyed about ½ hr here but Leah missed it as she was already asleep.

After backtracking onto the main track again we turned right onto a minor track on the right - marked with a large yellow sign this is the start of the vehicular track along the CSR. Whilst we stopped to take a few photos a convoy of 5 vehicles popped out of the trees ahead of us and passed through the junction obviously just nearing the end of their CSR trip from north to south. But rather than turning left towards Wiluna they swung right onto the main track towards god knows where. After some banter on the UHF radios we overhead their realisation that they were heading the wrong way. This is an area where your sense of direction obviously gets a bit muddled. We watched them turn around and head in the right direction but they still stopped to talk with us to check they were going the right way.

Then it was our turn to get confused again. Looking back, it was a stupid mistake to make, but at the time we seemed to think that finding wells was not going to always be straight-forward. The Hema GDT map doesn't provide a GPS reference for Well 2, whereas one is listed on the Westprint map. The position of the dot on the Hema map also seemed to indicate that the Well lay in the centre of the junction and the description on the map indicated it was in ruins so we anticipated that it would be hard to find. How wrong we were!!

Setting off with GPS in hand, we all walked off in search of the well site. After a few hundred metres David realised it was much further away and that we should drive. Rather than mess up the plot file for the recording of the route in our car, we opted to take Chris's car only and left Graeme and Leah with our car to have a snack, whilst Chris drove David and I to find the well. It wasn't long before the GPS was pointing off into the scrub and we couldn't drive any further. So the boys got out to walk. Chris gave up after a few minutes and came back to me waiting in the car, and David continued on. He reached the well took a waypoint then came back to the car about ½ hr later saying the well site was right on the track just ahead of where we'd left our car. A huge waste of time and a lesson for this trip that things were going to be obvious and less adventurous than we had expected.

I made a note for Hema to remove the notation that this well was in ruins - it is operating perfectly and the water even tasted fine.

So once we found Well 2, we simply followed the track and came to the Granites (Well 2a) which has a good small camp/picnic spot opposite a rocky outcrop with cairns at the summit. In hindsight, we should've stopped here but at only 3.30pm we thought it was a bit early. The weather looked excellent so we continued onto Well 3, which is prone to being very soggy even after the slightest rain and sure enough as we reached this area the weather changed and looked almost certain that we'd have a wet night. The water from Well 3 was putrid, which is a great shame as this well has been fully restored. We moved on to higher ground for our camp that night and watched in awe as the moon displayed the largest moisture array we've ever seen. For dinner we ate creamy mushrooms drizzled over mashed potatoes. Mushrooms keep for about a week when travelling if kept in an airtight container in the fridge. Sautéed with garlic, white wine and cream (200ml UHT packet stored in tubs not fridge) its a quick and very tasty and fulfilling meal when served over potatoes. Kids love this meal too.

First camp on CSR, Well 3 fully restored

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