Great Sandy Desert - A "snakes hiss" and on to Paraku (Lake Gregory) via Balgo and Mulan.

Sunday, Jun 07, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O

Sunday 7th June, 2009
Paraku (Lake Gregory ) Via Balgo and Mulan
20 10 53.73 127 32 11.63 Od. 206957

There was great excitement about the camp this morning as just before departure, Michael J went for s stroll into a small gully running south from our plateau campsite for a last minute leak. While standing quietly relieving himself he glanced to his right and realised he was urinating on a 7 foot snake that was not exactly happy about the warm bath. Well Michael reckoned it stopped him in mid stream and all appendages automatically retracted into his body as he leapt backwards and headed the short few metres back to the campsite hollering and shouting. The culprit turned out to be a fine specimen of a black headed python. They are very similar in colour and shape to the Woma, in fact close relations but for the black head. This particular fellow was in prime condition at more than 2 metres long and as thick as a coke can in the middle. He was fairly non-plussed about the early morning sprinkle and provided some great photo and video opportunities. Still being cold he was a bit sluggish but could move well enough when he wanted to. That was the fourth snake in two days. More than I’ve seen in the past 4 years of outback travel. Michael’s rude shock certainly adds new meaning to the old Australian euphemism of “Syphoning the python”.



We had roughly 50 kilometres of travel north to reach Balgo and being a Sunday we expected everything to be shut. The countryside was again wide open spinifex plains and occasional rises until we could see the Pallotine headland in the distance slightly to our west. As we drove closer, we realised that we had ever so slowly been climbing to find ourselves on a ridge line looking across a wide valley with the Pallotine Headlands on the far side. The vista was amazing. Flat topped mesa and worn pinnacle stood out in the valley between the two promontories, and the cliffs on our side were rugged and dotted with caves. A sure footed wallaby bounded up the rock face and away when we arrived. I was also blessed with a mob of brumbies running across the plains below galloping into the distance. The colours were incredible added to by the mottled effect of the occasional clouds. The backdrop to our vehicles that were parked on the edge of the ridgeline was stunning. The wind was whipping about making it hard to offer commentary on the video camera.



We were also shocked to find that we had Telstra 3G coverage so everyone got busy making phone calls as we bunched up and drove into Balgo. The Palotine monks had a tight grip on Balgo until the present day so you would expect it to be functioning a little better than many other communities. Outwardly it appeared as any other but being a Sunday, there wasn’t much movement. After getting a little bamboozled in the town and heading out to the airstrip, we eventually found the road to Mulan. We took morning tea by the track just west of town before heading the 38 corrugated kilometres to Mulan. There were large tracts of water by the roadside in many places. We reached Mulan at 10:30 a.m. and went to the general store where Peter fixed us up with fuel and camping permits for Paraku and Handover. Diesel was a mighty $2.80 per litre so it was very expensive taking on 103 litres.

Our local guide then showed us out to Lake Gregory and the camping area at Handover. Once in recent memory this might have been on the shores of the lake but over the past 5 years, the lack of rain coupled with the obvious shallow waters have caused the lake to recede several kilometres. Our intended waterside camp was in fact a good 2 km from the the lakes current muddy shoreline. The camp area has several shade shelters and rudimentary drop dunnies on top of which sit 44 gallon drums with a hole cut in the top (the seats having long perished in the sun). It is surrounded by grassland and white gums. No firewood and the water tank was empty. “Yeah we’ll get that filled for you” our guide de’ campe informed us. I won’t be holding my breath. The grass and spinifex are punctuated by the ubiquitous red termite mounds.



After set-up it was a lazy afternoon with a nana nap and book reading in the afternoon. A frenzy of wood gathering saw a nice supply of exceptionally dry eucalypt, the best timber we’d had in days. Dinner around the fire followed by a few tall tales and cool beverages. T’ was a full moon that rose in the early evening just as the sun was setting in the west. Both spectacular. The night silence was broken only by the wind and the occasional honking of swans in their nocturnal flights to places unknown.

''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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