The Gunbarrel to the Canning Stock Route via Glen Ayle - Wells 9 to 12.

Saturday, Jun 02, 2007 at 00:00


Saturday 2nd June
Well 12
Canning Stock Route

A good start to the day having largely taken care of all vehicular business (refuelling and repacking) yesterday afternoon. A brisk shower and breakfast and we were on our way west on the Gunbarrel covering the 30 kilometres to the turnoff to Glen Ayle Station and its access route to Well 9 on the Canning. The station track was well maintained with the route often marked by hand painted signs on old windmill blades at most intersections. We had to keep an eye out for wandering cattle and eventually reached the station which is roughly the halfway mark in the journey to the Canning. There is a simple honour box for your $20 fee for using the private track through to well nine. Heading off, the number of windmill blades increased to ensure you didn’t get lost on the confusion of Station tracks.

Well 9 sits at the site of Weld Spring which was discovered by Alexander Forrest on exactly this day 133 years before (2/6/1874) while on his explorations north. The well itself has been restored in recent years but there are no troughs or bucket present. The site also supports a more recent bore, tank, windmill and yards as used by the station. The nearby Weld springs produced a flow of clear water surrounded by tee tree like scrub. The water was alive with frogs and the surrounding trees with birds (and those zebra finches). We had a morning tea break here before winding our way north on the Canning.

The track towards well 10 was well defined and used still copping a lot of station traffic. Stopping for a ciggie break for Hugh, we flushed out a quail and her miniscule chicks, no bigger then a 10 cent piece. There were also plenty of bustards in the offing as well. Sitting on a low red rise and surrounded by stunted acacia, Well 10 is in a state of collapse, the troughs and surrounds in ruin. Heading north we started to traverse a bit more sandy country before entering a saltbush pan in which the ruins of well 11 sat. The original well timbers are worn but still intact and there is water about 1.5 metres down. In the bushes at the end of the trough hangers, the desiccated remains of a cow lie, an indicator of just how far the beasts can wander and a testament to the harshness of the country. It must have suffered with the water it needed just that little out of reach.

Having travelled passed the Carnarvon Range to the west we wound our way through the sandy country along the eastern boundaries of White Lake and Lake Aerodrome, two impressive salt lakes. A good vista over Lake Aerodrome was gained as we crested a high dune before plunging down to drive along the lakes shore.

Once past the lakes, the country was predominantly the long parallel dunes of the desert country. We found ourselves turning and crossing many of the red, spinifex clad ridges until in one broad swale, we found the fully restored well 12. Twelve does not have a windless or new troughs but the timbers have been replaced and the well sealed by a pair of heavy steel doors. The original bucket sits at the wells edge as a marker. A short distance east of the well stood several magnificent desert oaks which looked like a perfect spot to pitch camp for the night. We had picked up firewood on the way so after a brief look at the well and surrounds, photographing the wells single inhabitant, a brightly coloured gecko, we pulled back and set up.

After dinner, we were sitting by the fire watching the last of the sunset in the fast fading light, enjoying a refreshing beverage when Hugh began to wax lyrical about the isolation and how incredible it was to be in the silence of a place that was possibly hundreds of kilometres from the nearest soul. We were both contemplating those thoughts when the sound like rolling thunder could be heard in the distance growing ever louder. Sure enough, through the gloom a pair of headlights crested a distant dune and rumbled over the corrugations towards us. So much for the isolation! The vehicle, a Troopy high roof camper (obviously ex-Brits) pulled up near us. “At least it’s got Victorian plates on it” I thought but even that didn’t come to pass. Scott and Gaby were from Canada and were completing a journey right round and through the country. We invited them to our fire and they quickly produced chairs, two tins of Stag Chilli and a bottle of Baileys. We liked them immediately!

''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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