The Hunt Oil Road WA - North to Mt Worsnop (remote outback travelling at its best)

Sunday, Jun 29, 2008 at 00:00


Sunday 29th June, 2008
Mt Worsnop – Hunt Oil Road WA
26 09 10.39 S 124 46 5.57 E

Up at the crack of dawn, jaffles for breakfast and on the road by 7:30 a.m. Such was our speedy morning. The condition of the road north deteriorates somewhat, particularly after the Kampa turnoff. Whilst overgrown with spinifex and the larger acacia on occasions,, the underlying surface remained good. In a few areas the track had been washed out but was easily navigated. It was fantastic driving despite the odd patch of rough stuff, spinifex and the likes. Thankfully the camels have done their part in keeping the track detectable. Their preference for walking down any track, no matter how faint meant that you could always make an educated guess as to where the track was or had been.

We stopped at the overgrown and scrub infested airfield that is marked on Hema maps (26 30 27.698 S, 125 22 43.298 E). With a bit of imagination you could define the edges of it but it’d be a hazardous exercise putting a plane down on it these days. The track crosses the southern end of the runway on a straight line of about 297 Degrees and about 200 metres past, veers to a more northerly bearing of 330 Degrees for the next 44 kilometres.

Ten kilometres on we reached the hand pump and found it to be in working condition producing good quality water. There were a few leaves and pieces of grass but overall it was clear and sweet (26 25 41.099 S, 125 19 38.399 E). We took the opportunity to top up general purpose (GP) water as well as both 5 litre garden sprayers, our spinifex fire extinguishers. A snappy morning tea break and then it was on to the Tjirrkali turnoff. This was a further 10 km on from the hand pump with the track spearing off to the right and disappearing across a distant ridge. The intersection is marked by a few signs and provides a back way across to the Heather Hwy and either the Gunbarrel Hwy or Warburton.

It was another 24 dead straight kilometres to the low range of hills that marks the centre of the first of the Hunt oil drilling camps. There are a confusion of old tracks here. On arrival at the base of the hills, there is an old oil drum marking a branch to the left. We continued on past this over the hill as if heading on a northerly track to the old drilling campsite 10 km distant. Once on the crest of the hill you can see the exposed red bluffs running off to the west. A hundred metres further on is a track to the left which takes you the short distance into the caves (26 09 16.402 S, 125 09 33.098).

The northern side of this low range has been worn into a series of bluffs which are punctuated with caves of varying sizes. They are a great haven for wildlife as was evident by the roo poo and tracks worn in thecave floor. I think the lack of available water in the region resulted in it not being a preferred place of habitation for the aboriginal peoples. While in n o means definitive, there are no clear evidence of their presence from times past. Gaby and I spent a good while climbing through the many caves and caverns seizing on what photographic opportunities we could. In one cave we looked up to see the belly of a small goanna exposed by a 50 cent piece sized hole. I couldn’t resist giving it a tickle with a twig which didn’t faze it at all. Scott, having been bitten by the red wine monster the previous evening, took the opportunity to have a little ‘poppy nap’ in the cruiser (soft!). We hade lunch in the shade of the spindly acacia trees before heading on.

I used the maps I had made from Google Earth images to good effect. They were spatially accurate but geographically, it was often hard to align actual physical features on the ground with those on the map. For example, what appeared to be a large pinnacle type formation on the map was actually no more than 5 metres high. Obviously the angles and shadows at the time the photos are taken play merry havoc.

We departed the caves on a westerly track. The runoff from tumultuous rains has resulted in much track erosion but again, we had little difficulty in navigating them. The road was quite sandy, overgrown with spinifex and overhung by larger flora although there were occasional patches of open country. We saw the signs that this was an area of plenty with dingo prints and quite a few roos hopping briskly away from us when disturbed. There was one red kangaroo with a very white face which was an odd look.

After 35 kilometres the road veers south to negotiate the many small salt and samphire flats of Lake Gillen before entering the rocky outcrops of the Sutherland Range. The most impressive landmark here is Mount Worsnop, a flat topped mesa rising some 60 metres from the surrounding plain. The numbers of camels in the area was simply amazing and once we entered the broad flat expanses between the ranges, we encountered huge mobs of 20 and 30 beasts.

The sun was getting low by this stage so we decided to camp just off the track 300 metres to the east of Mt Worsnop. As camp setup took no time at all, we decided to off load the ATV’s and use them to explore the area. This was the first time they’d been off the trailers so far on the trip. I’d managed to lose the key to the safety cable so there was a bit of cursing as we cut that off with a hacksaw. The quads were covered in a good centimetre of fine dust and sand which was soon brushed away though and carefully cleared from the instrument pod. Both units fired up at first turn. We rode them over to the base of Worsnop climbing the talus slope as far as we were able and then climbed the low rocky walls to take in the sunset and surrounding countryside. The vista was impressive. 5 kilometres to our north, Mount Allot and the Sutherlands. To our east, more rocky ranges, red buttes and open plains. To the west, vast plains stretched off to infinity. From our vantage point we were able to count hundreds of camels roaming the country individually and in large mobs of 20 or more.

It was a fantastic place to watch the sun set, and the colours on the bluffs and ranges deepening as the shadows lengthened. We were very reluctant to head back but common sense dictated that we best negotiate the decent while we had some light. We circumnavigated the mount before returning to camp and settling in. Dinner of ham steaks on the BBQ plate with fire roasted vegies. Successfully cooked a zucchini in foil by the fire and the second disaster of the night occurred when I managed to drop one off the plate into the fire. Thankfully it was a spare.

''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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