Carnarvon to the ramparts of the Kennedy Ranges (a tale of bleating goats & communal camp fires)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 00:00


Tuesday 23rd May 2006
Kennedy Ranges NP

We were up and into the packing at a reasonable hour. Our neighbours were a bit ahead of us. After packing I had my shower and we headed off back into town to get a replacement camp chair for the one that had given up the ghost the night before. I also purchased a new jaffle iron and gave a sorrowful, sombre farewell to the old faithful. After this it was out on the highway the few short kilometres to the Gascoyne Junction turnoff.

I reckon the W.A. roads department must love playing mind games with road uses in the outback. Though marked as bitumen for 24 km from the main highway, you actually turn onto dirt. So…being the wise outback driver you let you tyre pressures down to accommodate the gravel and sand surface only to find that bitumen starts 8 km later. It continues for 50 kilometres and then becomes sand and gravel again. Passed plenty of big transports coming in and one fool in a landcruiser ute doing at least 120 kph on the dirt. There was also a prime mover that went past us at about 90 km billowing huge clouds of dust behind. So much for safe driving! The dirt lasts 60 km and then it is a newish 50 km section of bitumen into Gascoyne Junction. What a thriving metropolis that is. Enough said. We lunched by the Murchison River at a picturesque little spot before then forwarding the broad sandy expanse and continuing north. The Murchison had a good flow of water in it considering its desert country. It was only 6 inches deep over the causeway but it was at least 70 metres wide so that amounted to a fair bit of water flowing sluggishly towards the sea.

In anticipation of the nights cooking fire, and you must realise that both John and I had been working ourselves into a keen state of excitement over the prospect of having a fire and being able to cook a BBQ tea (plus Bacon and eggs in the morning), Amanda and I located a grove of stunted eucalypts and piled what wood we could salvage from the trees, onto the roof rack. It was a race to get it on top of the vehicle before you were mugged by the local termites, but we managed to get a good load. It was interesting to see the way that the termites attacked a dead tree while still standing. The deposit their dirt cladding as in their mounds around the outside of the branches as they hollow them with their boring. As a result some trees looked like clay sculptures of trees being totally encased in clay and standing upright.

It is only a 48 km drive to the Kennedy Ranges National Park and the escarpment that forms the range is visible on leaving Gascoyne Junction. It doesn’t look that imposing from afar but once we started driving the 12-kilometre entrance track, things began to change. Huge slabs of sandstone have sheered off the escarpment walls to form impressive cliffs that tower above the surrounding plains. Large canyons run inwards from the western buttresses of the range. The other impressive thing is the myriad colours of the rocks and cliffs themselves. Pinks and reds, orange, brown and iron stone through to whites and yellow.

We arrived at the Temple Canyon campground not long before 2 pm and found John and Julie setting up camp. The volunteer “Campground Hosts” Richard and Margaret had arrived just that week ands we were informed that we would have to ignore the recent campfire sites in each camp area as only one “communal” campfire was allowed. The nerve (lol). We were indignant but determined never the less. As our recently purchased meat had not yet frozen properly in the Engel, I decided to run the generator for a few hours while we set up camp to take the pressure off the battery and give a bit of added oomph to the fridge. It went well and I think its quality and quietness impressed John. We decided to do the temple valley walk while the genny was running and so the four of us headed on the 2 km trek into the gorge. It was an enjoyable walk hopping along boulder strewn creek beds and admiring the sheer walls of the canyon as they closed in around us. The rocks were of all different hues and textures, many containing fossilised remains of sea creatures and their burrows. It took us 40 odd minutes to reach the end of the gorge where we found a delightful rock pool full of clear water. There was green algae on the rocks and walls of the water hole which indicated that it was of good quality. Being a very hot afternoon, the temptation for a dip was there, but not acted upon.

In the latter stages of our return walk, the load thumping of a generator could be heard echoing down the canyon. As we were a fair way from camp and could still hear it, I realised that it wasn’t mine. Sure enough on returning to camp we found a very noisy, and no doubt inexpensive generator thumping away so loudly that we could barely hear ourselves speak. The ironic point of the thing to my mind was that said genny was located in a $30K plus Kimberly Camper trailing a $100K plus 100 series Landcruiser. What sort of bloke spends 140K plus on an off-road outfit then ruins it for everyone by spending a buck fifty on a noisy GMC generator. We at least were a party to the conversations in the camp that owned it because they had to shout at each other to be heard. – Whankers!

It just wouldn’t be a day in the bush without rain would it and sure enough, as then late afternoon come around, the clouds closed in followed by a few brief showers. Not particularly heavy but enough to soak everything and prompt the awning to be put up hurriedly.John also managed to save my wood from one of the members of the noisy genny camp who were just out for a stroll and filching the stuff from the communal campsite.!

John and I got the fire going. It really is an unalienable right of all Australian males to light a fire and then play with it. It’s got to be poked with sticks, the coals shifted to achieve just the right consistency of heat, twigs added and removed to allow perfect symmetry of flame. This just doesn’t feel right being done on a “communal” fire, there has to be a sense of proprietorship. Something that allows a bloke to stick his head up proudly and proclaim to the world – “I am man…see what I have done". I’ve made fire!” W.A. National Parks just don’t get it. Never the less we got a sufficient blaze going to cook dinner (lamb and honey rissoles ala Carnarvon Woolworths). Just before it was served though, “genny-rage” got a hold of me and I had to go ask the bloke to turn it down. He mentioned mine being on and I said that I’d turned it off at 5.00 p.m. as it was an unwritten rule that you never encroached on sunset and that if he’d had a decent unit, he’d have heard mine wasn’t going. He did relent though and turned it off, much to everyone’s relief (there was actually cheering and applause from the surrounding camps!).

We had a very enjoyable evening around the fire being joined by other visitors. Both Julie and I took advantage of the coals to burn off and season our most recent purchases (me – Jaffle iron and Julie – cast iron cookpot).

''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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