Gibson Desert - Lake McKay and dunes to Dwarf Well

Thursday, Jun 04, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O


A pretty good nights sleep with the wind picking up a bit after midnight (I was reliably informed of this by Michael J that morning as I was sound asleep). We’ve traversed some beautiful country today pushing into the eastern extremities of the Gibson Desert to arrive at our destination, Dwarf Well in good time. A wind has sprung up and there are a few drops of rain falling. I don’t think there will be much in it and it’s still very warm.


I was out before dawn to get the fire going and start packing. Toast and coffee by the fire then the ablutions and pack up. I was ready in good time and finished off by sorting the vehicle into a better arrangement. We were buzzed by the same helicopter we had seen the previous evening and he returned back over our heads heading west about an hour later. I’d love that pilots job. We were on our way by 9.00 a.m. SA time, I just can’t bring myself to use W.A. time as it means it’s dark at 4:30 p.m! By the gods, I actually got 5 minutes reception on the Satphone but managed to get only answering machines back east.



The track west was a sandy narrow affair that wound its way through the sand dunes and their narrow swales and across the occasional rocky outcrop. On occasions we would parallel a dune for several kilometres to round the end into the narrow gap between one dune ending and another beginning, then back in the right direction along the next dune. It was while traversing one such stretch that I realised that I had left the lid off the general purpose (GP) water container on the roof and that the syphon hose was still in the outlet. Cursing my stupidity I alighted to find the hose still in place and on clambering onto the roof, managed to locate the errant lid wedged down in between the container and its holder. Thank the stars and all that. Amazing how a trickle of water down the windscreen can jog the memory. We encountered a trailer loaded with aviation fuel some 15 km along the track. At one point the swales became ever wider and were dotted with small claypans all holding small pools of water. I stopped and photographed one such area as well as marking it on the GPS. The water was unaffected by salt sitting on a sandy bottomed pan as it was.



Not long after, with Lake McKay crawling ever closer on the map, I crested a large dune to be confronted with a vast expanse of salt. Having arrived at the north-western corner of Lake McKay, the view north east across the never ending expanse of salt was dazzling to say the least. Our little convoy was dwarfed by the distances involved. I climbed the near by dune to take some photos and video before joining everyone else, (including three other vehicles) by the lake shore.

The track then followed the shore of McKay rounding its north western extremity and then heading north until a narrow, boot shaped arm protruded out of the main lake body to the west. Here we veered to the west and followed it eventually plunging off the samphire and back into dune country and the narrow winding sandy track. He tight little dune sets were often only 70 metres apart making for twisted driving surrounded by sand on both sides. Here and there magnificent groves of Desert Oak stood, juvenile trees were everywhere, their tall mop tops becoming the dominant feature.



We returned to the abandoned Troopy and GQ Patrol that the boys had seen last year and had some morning tea. After that the country became more open and the numerous anthills made for interesting driving. It was only a short hop to Dwarf well where the bore is in good condition and the bathtub still in place. I wasted no time in getting my washing done and out to dry. There is a warm wind that is pushing some stringy clouds east. Drops of rain are falling but I don’t think they are the harbinger of anything worse. An early stop to take care of ablutions while there is water available. I have reluctantly gone over to W.A. time.

Willem changed the trailer MRF to find the tyre completely stuffed so he is unfortunately down to one spare now. The afternoon bought intermittent spots of rain that were annoying enough for me to roll out the side awning to give me somewhere to work out of the rain. In one of the finer moments I clambered to the top of the tank at Dwarf well, forgetting my fear of heights. From me eyrie I was able to snap a birds eye view of the camp and surrounding countryside.


When the rain set in later in the afternoon, I retired to the awning where I cut up thick potato chips to have with the butter fish for tonights dinner. I used the little griller for the butane burner wrapping the fish in foil and cooking it thereon. A delicious meal. There is a constant beat of rain upon the canvas now. Bugger. I retired early while the more hardy souls remained under umbrellas and enjoyed a few beverages by the fire.
''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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