Canning Stock Route - Well 45 towards Helena Spring and some off track exploring.

Friday, Jun 12, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O

Friday 12th June, 2009
On the track to Helena Spring, Great Sandy Desert
21 22.516 S 126 07.082 E
Odometre: 207389

Authors Note:-

On this day, I reluctantly left my travelling companions of the past weeks. I don't intend to go into the reasons in this blog but there is certainly a lesson there. I continued on alone for a few days from this point before later teeming up with other disaffected members of our original party. Although tinged with concern for my fellow travellers, it was a relief to be away and on my own as I have been in the past. Read on............


I tried to keep the farewells fairly light and happy because it was so hard to say goodbye to such nice people. I know they wil be OK as long as John is around to fix everything that breaks, provide light and stop for wood. I did feel very much like just taking them with me but I know they’ll be OK and I have assurances that they will not follow The Captain anywhere off track unless Mr Magic is there. So there I was hitting the track as a solo vehicle at about 7.30. I must confess it was like having a weight lifted from me. You tend to forget just how much energy you expend to manage the ego’s of some. Even the car felt lighter as I headed south towards Well 44.






The CSR south proved to by closed in by dense shrubbery in many places but the driving was excellent. Some light sand dunes and then was the turn-off at Gravity Lakes. The lakes contained a fair sheet of water left in them and with the near full moon setting behind them, they made for a spectacular photo. Blue sky, red earth, green of the bush, the pink water and the moon. I climbed the rocky knoll on the south eastern side of the lakes and sat for a while with the 300mm lens. A great site and a great sight! The rocky knoll cliffs although only 4 metres or so in height, are riddled with deep caves and caverns that provide shelter for local wildlife. Some were quite long and had I not seen so many snakes so far on this trip, I might have been tempted to crawl into a few. Best not to temp fate I reckon, especially this far from help!




After that the country became a hodge-podge of big dunes and swales with the track often consisting of deep sand. Many of the run-ups were closed in by shrubs or had a hard left turn making it difficult to get up. Not for me so much but I envisoned the vehicles with MRF’s and in particular the Captains vehicle having lots of trouble. I reached Well 44 at 9.20 a.m. snapping a few quick pictures and deciding to head off track to search for the Burnagu Soak some 5 kilometres to the south of the well. I turned off two kays west of the well and climbed through the amazing spinifex and gum country. I had to travel a bit west as the soak is marked as being in the midst of a tight packed dune field. This allowed me to cut the number of dune crossings to get into an appropriate swale to then back track to the east and hopefully the soak. As with most markings on the maps, these are only "aproximate" positions and although I searched the area, I found no sign of a soak of any kind. My visions of another Gulvida type soak shattered, I beat a track back to the Canning.






Rather than do the long run to the south, I opted to head straight on utilising an old disused track I located that ran due west to the main, westerly section of the Canning, the Well 44 bypass. The spinifex was high so on reaching the CSR, I did a quick undercarriage clear before heading south. No signs of the other vehicles. The country was spectacular, the dunes mighty and the corrugations unbelievable. Very rugged going ideed for period of time. I ran into two vehicles heading north just before the Helena Springs turn off so imposed upon them to pass along a messgae to J & S that I was diverging from the main track and heading out east to Helena Spring.


So it was a short time later that I realised just how little the Helena Spring Road has been used in recent times. The first 17 km were tortuous and I had difficulty in finding the overgrown track as I plunged through the dense brush. Thank god for scratch–pro I say. The duco was copping a pounding and the relentless scrub was so thick that it even tore the shovel from its mounts on the side of the roof rack. Thank god I heard the heavy whack against the rear window as it went down and stopped to retrieve it. At the 17 kilometre mark the track improved no end ironically just short of the first major sand dune crossing. The view over the ridge was breathtaking with the ubiquitous spinifex of the broad swale being replaced by golden grass. The track was clearly defined and easy to navigate. It really lifts the spirits to see such magnificent country. At 22 km I reached the turn into the Warrabudda Soak and headed in east the 4 kilometres to the soak. Again very much overgrown and unused especially when approaching the actual soak area. The soak itself was impressive being a couple of hundred metres across and having a good amount of water in it. This circular depression held water of a vivid blue, the surrounding edges being a ring of pristine white salt punctuated by long dead, salt crusted trees. I climbed a ridge to the north to get some great views of the soak and the surrounding countryside being keenly watched by a hawk or falcon in a nearby tree. The salt crust surrounding the soak had ample sign of emu, camel, dingo, bustard and other native wildlife. Small dotterell like waders darted about the shore. An amazing sight out here in the middle of nowhere.





I decided to try and get a few more kilometres under the belt towards Helena so returned to the main road collecting a bag of firewood not long after resuming my eastward drive. I lost the track on many occasions having to get out and walk the area several times in an effort to relocate it. I’m not sure if I‘m following the actual track a one made since by simarly lost individuals...who knows? In one area the country changed to plains of salt crusted and tee tree infested pans. Camel sign was everywhere which further confused the track issue. I spotted four large dromedaries not long after, one of whom was horribly lame in the front left leg and could hardly walk. It looked in great condition regardless. One of the beasts threw out its tongue and throat sack grumbling its indignation loudly as I approached. I wanted to get off the salt area to camp and eventually found my way out into the dunes again. I camped at 4.30 p.m. on the track in a small bowl surrounded by dunes. The fire was soon going but I must confess, I was rooted. I had a quick hot shower which always lifts the spirits and makes you feel better. There were some bands of cloud moving in at sunset so that should make for a warm night. I have had a lot of spinifex ingress into the radiator area despite the screen so a cleanout and re think about the mesh is in order for tomorrow.


I managed to get a few calls out on the sat phone and found Suzette and John still only just reaching well 43.Two wells in the day...they’ve had problems and I bet I know what they are! The bats are flying about. I hope a camel desn’t wander up the track into my vehicle tonight. Thank god I’m up high. T’is a warm night.



''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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