North on the David Carnegie Road

Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 00:00


Thursday 31st May
Claypan on the DCR
85km north of GCR
S 26.35.371 E 124.13.494

It had been a crisp night with a bit of dew about this morning. Marginally woolly heads on us but a few cups of tea in front of a stirling fire got that sorted. On the GCR in good order and east to the Tjukayirla Roadhouse where we fuelled up and had the worlds best burger as an early brunch. It was a few short kilometres further west to the turn off to the David Carnegie Road (DCR). We arrived to find a well graded track heading north. The condition of the track indicated that it had not seen much traffic and although the shrubbery was encroaching in some places, it remained a great drive all the way to Empress Spring. We managed to surprise quite a few bustards along the way on of which was right beside the road when he pulled his “I am at one with the sticks” routine and froze. He was duly photographed. With the road in such good condition it wasn’t long before we found ourselves at Empress Spring.

Empress Spring was named by Explorer David Wynford Carnegie as “a humble tribute to the world-wide rejoicings over the long reign of our Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria.” David Carnegie was shown this water hole by local aborigines on his exploratory travels in 1896. Carnegie and his companions arrived at the spring, guided by a captive aboriginal on 10 October 1896 after many days without finding water. Here they stayed until the morning of 16 October 1896.

Empress Spring is a large underground cavern in a flat area of rock. The openings are several holes in the rocky surface the largest of which a steel cross-member has been placed across. From this hangs a chain ladder that allows you to descend about 10 metres to the cave floor.

The main cavern is perhaps 10 metres across with a high domed roof. Leaning against the walls heading towards lower positioned entrance holes are several long tree trunks into which steps have been roughly hewn. These provided much earlier access to the cave. The cave roof was blackened in places by aboriginal fires lit over thousands of years. . I headed down the angled stope like grade at the back (east of the cavern intending to find the tunnel but found it was a bit constrictive for a bloke of my size and the tall thin bloke wanted no part of it. No doubt this place played a central role in the lives of the nomadic inhabitants for countless millennia. It would be one water source that would also be well protected from use by wildlife and in later years, the introduced pests like camels.

Clambering back out we had a cup of tea before continuing northward. The track deteriorated to nothing more than wheel tracks one past empress Spring, overgrown in many cases and with high spinifex but still comfortable to drive on. We stopped on many occasion to pull dead timber and shrubbery off the track rather than drive around it and degrade the integrity of the track. Some kilometres on we hit a traffic obstacle we could do very little about. Possibly one of the biggest and thickset camels I have ever seen. This boy was huge and was heading south down the road towards us. We stopped with a view to taking a few photo’s and with the wind behind him, he didn’t seem to scent or hear us, continuing to lumber towards us as if it was his god given right and that we should pull over to let him pass.

Hw was a big boy with heaps of condition and I’d say he had a fair bit of age on him from the size of his joints. Eventually, he decided the patrol was not going to give in and he turned and plodded north again. His years of experience had not taught him to vacate the track though and he jogged in front of us for quite a few kilometres until a subtle ‘nudge’ convinced him to get off the track!

It was mid afternoon when I spied a small claypan a hundred or so metres off to the east. It had a trace of water aty one end and there were a heap of birds gathered for a drink. The pan was backed at the east by some mulga and sand dunes. A brief council and we decided that an early day was called for. Cautiously we picked our way through the scrub to the pan and then drove around it to the far east where we found a bit of shelter amongst the spindly trees.

It proved to be a great camp site with plenty of dead timber about. The soak at the western end of the claypan afforded a good opportunity to watch wildlife arriving to drink at sunset. The moon rise was absolutely spectacular with the monstrous orb emerging above the horizon, pink initially, then purple and finally emerging into Gold.

''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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