Great Sandy Desert - Mowing a path north towards Joanna Spring (through some harsh country)

Wednesday, Jun 17, 2009 at 00:00


Wednesday 17th June, 2009
Old exploration track 99 km north east of Wapet Track
20 23 53.22 123 24 29.79 od 208216

It was a tough day today with a whopping 82 kilometres covered for our 8 hours of travel. Our 9 to 5 grind involved a hell of a lot of bush bashing, some monstrous dunes crossed and a lot of guess work. On the way we surprised a wandering bachelor, mowed a significant amount of brush, climbed a high hill and suffered a couple of minor leaks in the black round things. We are all exhausted and dust covered after a warm day forging a path across the Great Sandy Desert.

The day began as usual. It had been a windy night and I lay in bed as little longer than usual hoping John would get up and light the fire. Alas he and Suzette were still in the land of nod when put my head out at 6:15 a.m. I soon had a fire going and was packing so I could enjoy a lengthy brekky by the fire. Suzette whipped up her classic morning fry-up for she and John. It was that good I was expecting to see truckies parachuting in for it. Toad in the hole with cheese for me. Yum.

After breakfast, Mr Magic decided to clean the air cleaners of the vehicle and whip up a reserve for the reserve to capture any lizards blood I was loosing from the cooling system. Some clear hose and a couple of plastic bottles later, there it was hanging in the engine bay near the twine. Magic stuff. The air cleaner was chockers with leaves and crap as I’d neglected to turn the snorkel head around during my earlier bush bashing forays. A bit more prep work in knocking the fire extinguishers down and we were ready to hit the track. We bade farewell to the Suzette Rock Hole campsite at 09:00 a.m. and headed north east once again. We were immediately off track as what had been the track was again supporting more flora than the surrounding countryside. This was to set the tone of the days travel, the only thing that varied being the thickness of the surrounding bush and the roughness off the terrain.

Only a kilometre from our camp we encountered a low range of red bluffs we have dubbed "Reserve Range" (after Johns mechanical efforts on the reserve tank). The hills consisted of a series of shallow, scalloped sandstone bluffs with numerous small caves, no doubt a haven for local wildlife. It was slow revving progress pushing through spinifex and scrub. At times the track would offer several hundred meters of fair going only to again become choked with wild poplar, holly leafed grevillea and acacia. The terrain itself varied from sandy spinifex country that was at times quite smooth through to hummocked old growth country that hadn’t seen the cyclic burning in many a year. The sandy patches offered proof of the diversity of life out here. The many tracks included Betong/Bilby like prints, bustard, dingo and of course the ubiquitous camel pads. In fact it wasn’t long before we surprised a solitary young bull camel. He was up wind of us and as the wind was so strong, he no doubt had problems both hearing and smelling us. In the end he got the message and lumbered off along the overgrown track making light work of the narrow twisting track in his comical square gated trot. We pursued him for some time, by virtue of direction not intention until he had the good sense to break right from the track. At the same time I spied a rocky area (and we love those low gibber rises let me tell you) so we drove both vehicles to the top to gain an appreciation of the surrounding country side. It was windy but we secured a great view of the country in all directions and even Mr Camel heading off across the swale to our south, the undisputed King of a lonely land.

When it came to the first of our dune crossings we found that the tops had been knocked off the dunes and small gibber gravel laid on the crests much like the Wapet. Proof again of the extent of the mining exploration up this part of the world in years gone by. Apart from the odd washaway hear and there, these were usually the best parts of the track. Just after leaving our high viewpoint, we realise that a fair bit of distance could be saved by crossing 6 km of dunes in a straight line to the north east, thereby cutting of a significant looping section of the original track. Off we went with tyres let way down. The dunes are incredibly steep and soft here so they can be quite treacherous. The Ultimate is loaded to the hilt with 180 litres of water so she was heavy. We managed to cross the distance without too much bother and met the track again saving ourselves a good 8 km in doing so. Also a good test of the dune crossings to come on the cut line.

The gibber rises always provided the best and easiest of the running for the day. Quite often the track was in the best condition also. It was on one of these sections that John discovered a leak in a front left donut. T'was not a big one but we mended it and took the opportunity to break for lunch at the same time sheltering from the hot day in the meagre shade offered by the vehicles. Trees are a rarity out here let me assure you. Not long down the track, my eye was caught by something I thought had exited the passengers window on my vehicle. It was however, my 20 litre water container and BBQ exiting the roof rack. Thankfully the crate in which it was sitting did it’s job and despite the 2.2 metre fall, not a drop; was lost. It was a bit of a job to hoist it back up though.

I developed a slow leak (10 psi per hour) in the front left a little ways further on but we were able to pump it up a couple of times and keep rolling to camp before fixing it. A pinhole stake in the sidewall just above the tread, perfectly angled.John had also developed a second leak in the right hand rear tyre. We pushed on till near five to get some kilometres under the belt before finally camping on a tight turn in the track on a rise, nestled at the convergence point of two sand hills. A nice little spot considering the brush infested swales that sit both behind and ahead of us for tomorrow.John and I fixed our punctures and then settled in to a lovely dinner. Chook and veg for me. Suzette has whipped up a self saucing pud with custard and cream for desert. You beaut. I think a spot of liquor Muscrat is in order for afters.

It was a big day. The kilometre-age and speeds may be low but the constant twisting and turning, the need for vigilance in watching the track, the bush, making split second decisions regarding direction as well as navigating and watching all vehicle gauges for 8 hours leaves one drained and exhausted. It’ll be the same for the next few days till we reach Joanna, the girl of our dreams.
''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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