Great Sandy Desert - A day of stakes, dunes and hard going (& a masterclass on outback tyre repairs)

Thursday, Jun 18, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O

Thursday 18th June, 2009

Camped on a Cut Line east of nowhere (60 km west of Warburtons "Joanna Spring") “Spook Tree” camp.

20 00 04.0S 123 37 31.8E Od 208280





An agreed early start to the day saw me out of bed at 5:45 a.m. only to see my well laid plans evaporate fast. Both front tyre had gone done during the night leaving the vehicle with a serious nose down attitude. I’d missed the original stake in the front left tyre with my plug and then the right hand tyre had a nasty little stake on the inside of the tyre that resulted in a slow deflation as the tyres cooled and contracted overnight. On the bright side, at least my bed on top of the car remained even and my sleep uninterrupted. I had them pumped up and plugged in no time flat (pardon the pun) and with the dingos breakfast (and a cup of tea actually) under the belt, we were on the track east at 7:15 a.m.







It was an overcast morning which lent a reddish hue to the early morning sky. It was also a lot cooler than previous days which was great for both men and machinery as we were slowly twisted our way through the scrub and tall spinifex towards the cut line. The route was often picturesque with the track taking tight turns through narrow dune slacks, often no more than a deep gutter between two steep sided dunes. Here and there tall eucalypts stood amongst the grasses giving an almost park like feel at times. It was easy to identify plenty of great campsites. The track was again largely overgrown and we were often forced off into the wilds to make our own way. Ironic really that an easier path is often found “off track” rather than on it. At times I was hugging the slopes of the dunes, driving on an angle as it offered the best, flora free running.







We completed our 19 kilometre run to the old cannabis farm in 1.5 hours arriving at 8:45 a.m. and spent the next hour picking through the ruins of what had once been a well run cropping venture. Ah these primary producers, certainly resilient and inventive. The would be cannabis farmers had used lengths of discarded poly-pipe bore casing to construct both green house and accommodation facilities. The exploratory bore casings had been tapped for irrigation and the remnants of poly-pipe and drip irrigation systems lay everywhere indicating vast areas of cultivation.. They had even improvised a singled bladed, man drawn plough to till furrows. The remains of the venture were truly amazing. I couldn’t help but wonder about the vicious murderer Bradley Murdoch who had been a drug runner from these very types of concerns and wondered just what the chances of survival would have been for any outback traveller unwarily stumbling in to such a venture. Pretty bloody slim I’d reckon. We salvaged a couple of star pickets and some tin for a sign. John located the main bore casings and dropping a small stone down. By timing the decent and using a bit of brain power to calculate velocity, we were able to gauge the depth of the bore...it was a bloody long way down!.






Our onwoods route followed the old cut line at roughly nor-nor-east for 34 odd kilometres to another cut line running east towards “Aub’s” bore. The dune crossings were endless and we soon lost count of the crests we topped. There were certainly a lot more to be negotiated than were displayed on the NatMap 250K maps. Many of the dune tops had been “knocked off” or cut through during the laying of the lines and as a result, they were now largely choked with bush, blown out and often very soft. In other places the line was in a great state, particularly in the larger slacks where the line had cut across gibber and laterite rises, the harder soil preventing the flora from getting a hold. Here and there we located old equipment lying forlorn and abandoned. A tyre and split-rim, a headlight, lengths of old runway plates and even an upturned trailer complete with the vehicle towbar attached.




I managed to suffer three stakes after midday, all within about 10 kilometres. Two tyres would require patching but I managed to stem the leak in the third tyre with a double plug. All damage was sustained to the front tyres and all stakes to the inside sidewalls….damn! I was an extremely tired and frustrated boy by the 3rd let me tell you, still I’m getting ahead of myself here. We located the Anna Plains Station Track intersection just on 12 noon and continued on a little while taking lunch in the shade of a large Native Walnut tree. From there it was only 6 kilometres and one staked tyre to the cut line intersection where we turned right and began our easterly run. I suffered a further two stakes within two kilometres as we punched our way through very thick and unforgiving scrub. With no viable spares and one front tyre leaking and dubious, an early stop was called to the day. At 3:45 p.m. we found ourselves camped in a dense thicket of scrub under a couple of large Adams Family trees or “spook trees” as we have come to call the large, twisted and eerie looking Desert Walnut trees.




After camp was bedded in, I prepared our tyre workshop and used my new R&R bead breaker for the first time to great effect. Probably the most perplexing sight to Mr Magic was my initial job of sitting there grating Lux soap bars into flakes to make a goodly quantity of thick soap paste for the tyre fitting. I was a keen student to Jaydub’s tuition on tyre changing. This bloke is amazing. Is there anything he cannot turn his hand or mind to fixing. He is in perpetual motion and generally has a fix in mind even before something has broken (well nearly). Every day in the bush is a master class in ingenuity and bush mechanics. Mind you he did like my steel coffee table which had been bought with a view to it being used as a work and tyre changing bench should the need arise. I had bought a wire brush which was fitted to the 18 Volt cordless drill and used to smooth off the interior side walls of the tyres to great effect. We then patched using vulcanising agent and large Rema Tip-Top radial patches. We managed to reseat with a minimum of fuss and inflating both provided an almost euphoric feeling of elation with our success at repairing to a tubeless state, two severely damaged tyres. Mind you we were dirty, tired and in need of a stiff drink!


The hard yards of the day meant it was a “can night” for me taken by the scant warmth of a weak fire, the best we could do with the poor offering of timber about our forced camp site. Later, it was time to clean up and a and use a bit of precious water for a billy bath before retiring. An early start again tomorrow and hopefully better luck with the tyres.







''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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