Anne Beadell Highway - West From Coober Pedy, our trip on the Anne Beadell begins

Sunday, Apr 16, 2006 at 00:00

Mick O

Sunday 16th April
Anne Beadell Hwy
20 km east of Annes Corner
S 28.55331 E 131.90883

It was a chilly morning when I crawled from the sack at 7 a.m. While Amanda showered, I packed and mopped out the tent floor. We were all stowed and I was showered and on then road before nine. Tried to fill the tanks with water at the 24-hour water hose in the main street. 20c gets you approximately 30 litres. Unfortunately for me it was a timed effort so I had no hope of filling the trailer tank. I topped off a 25-litre jerry though and with much cursing, left Coober Pedy immediately.

The dust started 2 km north of the town when we left the Stuart Hwy and headed west for Mabel Creek Station. It was 50 km down a good quality dirt road to the station homestead where a sign greeted us indicating the Anne Beadell Hwy. I must fill in some of the description of the signs, as I’m sure they fully intend to make travellers aware of what’s in store for them. You’ve only got to drive 500 metres from the sign along the track to get s fair idea as it disappears into a washout and gibber strewn gully. Things got progressively worse from there. Highway is a very “Loose” description. “Ill defined track” would be more apt. The road is largely overgrown by scrub and grasses and on several occasions, I found myself wondering if I was on the track at all. Thankfully the maps we are using are accurate with bore markings and gates. The station gates have been replaced with cattle grids and to prevent them from filling up, they are built up to a height of a meter or so with sharp earthen ramps either side. Most interesting to cross considering that preceding each ramp is a sharp turn off the track (indicated by signs thankfully).

The colours of dust today astounded even me. Deep red like a dark claret, light red, orange, pink, white, grey and brown. A heady variety, all of it fine and all of capable of pervading every crack in the vehicle and/or trailer. The country varied enormously to from almost woodlands to gibber plains, sand hills, limestone country and of course a combination of any and all. When you hit the dog fence at 50 km west of Mabel Creek, there is a 3 km southern diversion along the fence to the gate and then back again. This is the boundary of the Tallaringa Conservation Park and the fact that it is not grazed is soon apparent. The amount of native grasses and undergrowth is astounding compared to the other side ofm the fence. Again it was often slow going as the track deteriorated or made its way across heavy red dunes.

We had lunch “On” the track as the minute I tried to pull off anywhere, the surface crust broke and you quickly found yourself sinking into the sand beneath. While the jaffles were baking on the stove, I answered the call behind nearby bushes not to far off the track. I was contemplating the isolation of it all, being as it were, in the middle of nowhere when I noticed min front of me, footprints heading east. Bit of a shock really that someone had walked in this very spot at some time in the past. The prints were made in a wet period I’d say because they were deep and had filled with sand and dust over time. Not as isolated as I thought huh?

Anyway, we headed on into the Prohibited Woomera area and the sites of the totem 1 and 2 atomic bomb test sites of the 50’s. Though the area has recovered largely, there is still an absence of large flora such as trees. All those we could see were long dead and as you got closer to totem site, they all but disappeared having been vaporised and the area sterilized by the blasts. Sobering stuff to actually stand at ground zero where an actual nuclear weapon had been detonated.

The site of the Emu test centre headquarters, is in ruins now with no buildings remaining. The airfield is easily discernable and we had a drive on it before again continuing wets towards Volks Hill. The track became largely sandy again and while not as deep as a lot of Googs track, it was certainly challenging as it was more windy and contained a lot more nasties such as rocky patches and washouts. I thought I’d seen corrugations before but until today, it was apparent that I hadn’t. The corrugations on a road that has not been graded in 50m years are incredible. They are foothills in themselves and there is no right way to tackle them. Slow or fast, it hurts and jars both body and vehicle. While our speed was often down to 20 – 30 kph for most of the afternoon, even this caused problems on some patches. You could see where some vehicles had tried to drive off to the side but had ended in tears either bogged or flogged.

Were camped on a small rise overlooking a small saltbush plain. It was one of the few breaks in the sand dunes where we could pull off to camp so I took advantage of it quickly enough. The flies were atrocious so after setting up camp I donned hat and fly net and went for a stroll along the track into the dunes again. We’d been following closely a vehicle or two. The tracks looked like they were earlier today as no animal had yet walked over them. I saw a solitary dingo track and then plenty of fresh camel pads. About 1.5 km west of the camp I spied a large camel off to the left. He/she was huge and in very good condition. I watched him for a while until it got my scent and I thought then that it might be prudent to wander back to camp. No signs of must on its head/neck so nothing really to worry about.

It’s warm and neither of us felt like cooking so we waited out the flies and then had a meal of toast. Thin cloud was moving in at sunset and it was quite stifling. Funny sky. As I sit here, the moon rose as a huge golden orb, not quite full. It disappeared soon enough behind the murky clouds. There have been a few drops of rain and the wind has picked up a bit now. You can smell the rain in the air but I don’t think we’ll see a lot of it. Fingers crossed. We’re still a thousand kilometres from our destination with the entire bloody track to go!
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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