Canning Stock Route Day 8 - Calvert Range to Durba Springs

Thursday, Jul 10, 2003 at 00:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Day 8 - Thursday 10th July
Start - Calvert Range
Stop - Durba Springs
Trip Odometer - 100.1km
Stopped time - 3hrs 5 mins
Moving average - 19.1km/hr
Moving time - 5 hrs 14mins
Max speed - 59.3km/hr

Thankfully, Leah slept well all night and awoke this morning with a normal temperature of 37.5°C and appeared totally recovered with renewed appetite and energy to burn.

We decided to pack up and begin our tour around the base of the Calvert Range following the 18km loop road (including turn-offs) around the entire range. We skirted the range to the north and circumnavigated the range in a clockwise direction.

The Calvert Range was once rarely visited, and we certainly didn't expect to see other vehicles in here, however my mid-morning another 2 convoys of vehicles had arrived and their UHF traffic could be heard. The track is just wheel tracks on a flat sandy base with the occasional rocky gibbers, but vegetation grows thickly on either side of the track and in some places will scratch the sides of the car terribly. The spinifex is much taller than the vehicle but the range is easily seen the whole time.

After following the track a little to the north it swings east and using information given to us yesterday we pulled off and walked in along the range to find Calvert's Cave - a small waterhole.

The track then swings south-east and another track to the east heads off away from the range and the main track. This track is not fully drawn on most maps and in fact goes out to another range called Constance Headland. Due to the extreme remoteness of this range, it is not recommended that people attempt this trip without very careful planning, however on this day we knew of 2 vehicles about to head out there and another solo vehicle tackling the trip tomorrow.

Following the main track around the Calvert Range we began to head west again through the Skeleton Pass and then starting tracking north to the main junction. In the final kilometres to the junction, there are 2 turnoffs on the right, the first from this approach leads to the best rock art and pools to be found in the Calvert Range.

The track leads in for just 200m, ending in a very small carpark. This spot is not suitable for camping. Undefined walk trails lead up gorge with aboriginal rock paintings on both sides of gorge walls, rock pools are also in another smaller gorge that leads off to the RHS.

So by midday we had completed our circuit around the range and felt that we'd seen a good slice of what was there. We were keen to have a rest day at Durba to give Leah a chance to recover and David was getting an ear-ache too. We had tried to locate Sunday Well but this has all but disappeared but the general location appears to be the salt flat depression with some scrappy ti-trees that the track skirts around about 14km from the main CSR junction.

It was 1pm by the time we reached the CSR again and hit the traffic! We were caught behind 2 very slow moving vehicles towing trailers. It was getting too hot in the day and none of us felt up to the steep walk to reach Canning's Cairn just 9km from this junction. The stone cairn is easily visible high on a ridge top and about 3m tall is 62m above the surrounding countryside. It was built by Canning and his party in 1906. We stopped to take some photos and admired the views of Durba Hills in the distance.

Just after a rocky creek crossing (dry) we spotted the unmarked track on the right off to Biella Spring. We love gorge walks and it was reported by the Gards' in their book to be just a ½ hr walk from the carpark at the head of the gorge to reach the spring. The drive into Biella follows a faint rocky path that twists and turns across the creek bed numerous times before finally ending at the head of the gorge after about 2km. Biella is about an hour walk from the parking area across a rocky flat river bed until coming to much larger rocky boulders and a small spring. We found some rock art on the left wall of the gorge when first starting the walk. I then walked for 45minutes with Leah and gave up feeling unwell in the heat. David continued on for another 15minutes and came to the spring and took photos. Back at the carpark I took my temperature to find I was running a temperature so finally the flu had done its rounds of our family.

Another vehicle followed us into Biella and they left just ahead of us. They were driving much slower so we caught up to them pretty quickly. It was nearing sunset and we still hadn't reached Killagurra Waterhole which is was Cannings Water 17, just before Durba Gorge, which was Water 18. There is a 4 way junction just 8km on from the Biella junction and turning right here leads 1.5km to Killagurra. On the drive in I remarked how pretty this place looked and that we may as well camp here, rather than Durba. Then we turned the corner and found 3 vehicles had also just arrived and were in the process of selecting their campsites. It really is a small area for camping and not wishing to intrude we decided to take a quick look around and then move on to Durba. I happened to overhear one of the ladies refer to one the men as Anton, an unusual name but one I recognised. I had just been thinking about a friend of mine in Perth who was pregnant but I hadn't seen since the announcement so image my surprise when I realised this was her parents! We made ourselves be known and had a breif look around but unfortunately due to impending darkness had to move on without taking a walk further along the gorge, which I believe is quite lovely. I have read however, that this is a sacred aboriginal site (but no signage) with rock paintings to be seen further up the gorge. Even so, it is visited frequently because most people would have no idea of the area's significance.

After backtracking to the 4 way junction on the CSR it was just a a matter of minutes before reaching Durba. This is the most popular of all camping areas on the Canning with ample room stretching out alongside the creek on grassy banks beneath red rock walls. The creek water is clear when collected although appears still and green in the creek so we did not drink it. There is an elevated toilet block at the back of the camp with 2 rota-loo toilets. This was a Track Care project and a donation box and commemorative plaques are nearby. The walk track for access further along gorge leads off at the end of the camp to the SE. Rock paintings and drovers initials carved on gorge walls are easily seen from the campsites.

As expected, there were many campers already well setup and beginning dinner when we arrived at dusk at Durba. The Well 12 restoration party and their 10 vehicles were here, as was the slow moving vehicle we had encountered at Biella, plus the 2 vehicles with trailers. A little later on, 2 of the 3 vehicles in the Toodyay group we had meet back at Well 6 also arrived so it was almost a full house with 16 vehicles and close to 60 people (one vehicle was an Oka full of passengers from Treks Across Australia, which bumps the numbers up a bit).

We still hadn't collected any firewood so we had to make do without a campfire, although it seemed every other camper had one blazing.

We have a demo unit of a new camp cooking invention called the BBQube. It's a stainless steel box that opens up on legs. You place heat beats in the bottom and you place your meat into a grill rack (there are various ways to use the grill, and even a spike for chickens or roasts). The grill rack can be placed on top, or set to rotisserie (operated by batteries). It has 4 sides that fold up to create a wind-break and it cooks slowly ensuring the meat is delicious and tender.

I had trialled it a few times at home to see if it was worth taking because I didn't want to take something I didn't believe I'd use when packing space was at a premium for a trip like this. For my test at home I cooked pork spare ribs with a simple marinade sauce and they were unbelievably yummy so we made sure we brought along the exact same thing. I also layered capsicum and strips of fresh zucchini on the grill to complete the meal tonight. So, even though we didn't have firewood, we had the next best thing. Probably a good invention for this sort of environment where firewood is scarce or in national parks where open fires are banned.

That evening we were invited to a "concert" by the Treks Across Australia group, which started at 7.30pm just after dinner. The kids thoroughly loved it and we had 2½ yr old Leah, 6 yr old Joel, 8 yr old Hannah in their kiddies camp chairs clapping after each performance. Tonight Leah heard the song "Home Among the Gum Trees" and saw it performed with the actions for the first time and was impressed! I think she's already forgotten about Hi-5.

And so the end of a very full and interesting day on the Canning Stock Route. We went over to the Toodyay group's camp after all the kids had gone to sleep to find out about their last few days and find that one of their group (the "blue ute", a brand new Nissan Navara ute) had set off to Constance Headland and they were to wait for their return at Durba.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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