Gibson Desert - Navigating the spinifex plains to Hideous Rockhole and Patience Well

Tuesday, Jun 15, 2010 at 00:00

Mick O

Patience Well, Gibson Desert



An early start to the morning was decreed so I was out of the cot 15 minutes after first birdsong. It was funny, that bird was quite vocal and then all of a sudden it went quiet. It appears that one particular member of the team was quite annoyed with our feathered friend chirping in a tree right next to his swag. Said bird was promptly showered with gravel prompting it to retreat in silence. Good one MJ. I stoked a roaring blaze before trekking off shovel in hand to greet the sun in a traditional manner atop the throne.




Camp staples of a jaffle and cup or tea or two and Scott and I swapped out one of the front tyres on the quad which has so many cords in it that it’s starting to look like a porcupine. It was not holding air so we’ve swapped over to one of the new tyres and wheels. Not only did we get it all set up, packed up and ready to go at 0830 when Outback Al notifies us that he has a puncture in the new tyre, the one we’d just changed. He’d only ridden 20 metres. He swears that the tyre must have been flat when we put it on so we called in the adjudicator who rules that it was indeed a flat tyre and that it belonged to Al. Another cord in the new tyre and then we were ready.



It didn’t take us long to realise that this was going to be a day of bump and grind. The vast oceans of spinifex with little clumps of trees on the high spots looking like an island oasis. We had little issue crossing the broad plains of spinifex with odd patches of dry mulga to relieve the monotony. While it was good going, the spinifex was very bumpy, especially for the quad riders who soon developed “numb bum” syndrome. It was another sunny day. Our vehicle tyres, once they broke the thin dry crust raised a fine powdered dust so it was that we spread the vehicles out a bit. Our first target was a set of breakaways that Al had identified on Google Earth which were located some 15 kilometres north of our previous nights camp. We made this breakaway ( 23°48'10.03"S, 125°40'40.07"E )formation and a huge low lying valley by mid morning. We explored one section of it and had a spot of morning tea while there. The composition of the surrounding rocks and some very obvious sink hole areas led us to believe that there could be a water hole or two around. We found a couple of likely areas with some leafy green plants within however no water.




We followed the valley west and tried to swing north by climbing a ridge line out of the valley to find our way blocked by dense thickets of mulga. There was nothing for it but to swing around in an arc and return to the valley floor. Unfortunately Scotty snagged a trailer tyre of a bit of shrubbery with devastating effects. Another quick tyre change....damn those splits! The country immediately atop the ridges was too unforgiving and we could make no further progress in that direction so we swung continued along to reach until the head of the valley and went out that way. The country was spread out and was fairly easy going for the convoy. It was lumpy though, particularly for the quad riders. I would quite often lose sight of Outback Al on big Red only to spot him a kilometre or more away to the side or behind, often sitting quietly on a hilltop meditating. “Enjoying the serenity” he described it as around the fire later that night. Escaping the dust more like it.


We reached Hideous Rock Hole ( 23°33'59.01"S, 125°33'37.78"E ) some 30 kilometres further north (so named by Alan McCall for Carnegies description of the Hideous old hag that had shown Carnegie the life giving water supply way back when) about 2:00 p.m. We quickly had a late bite to eat here and then explored the area. There can be no doubt that this rock hole was once a place of sanctuary for the native inhabitants and the sign of generations of ephemeral habitation were everywhere. Turning one stone over we found it was in fact a large piece of a grinding stone. In a patch of rocky ground, we also found other long grooves worn smooth into the stone by grinding.



The rock-hole had a bit of water in the bottom so we did our best to clear some of the muddy silt to deepen the catchment. We were amazed to find a fair sized frog in the bottom of the hole so he was rescued and returned once the excavations had been complete. He must have been a survivor indeed given the number of birds and animals that would water at this water. We had 13 kilometres to run to Patience and whilst reluctant, we opted to run late ignoring Mick O’s rule No 1. While it wasn’t necessarily the most arduous of travelling conditions, it still took us past then witching hour of 4:00 p.m. with 7 kilometres to run. Al Mac marked quite a few trees with survey tape every 500 metres of so to make it easier for future travellers to find the location. As if the gods were watching, at 4:05 p.m., Alan’s spring broke again. (I could hear the old 1970’s “Twilight Zone” theme music playing somewhere when Al told us the bad news over the radio. Thankfully the last kilometres were taken across various gibber and clay flats so we limped on in to Patience Well at 4:40 p.m. and quickly set up camp.



Patience Well sits amongst a grove of eucalypt. You’d probably call it a shallow depression, not a creek bed. Water would certainly flow down it after good rains but it is not much lower than the surrounding gibber flats. The treed area borders a large open gibber plain that was ideal for camping. There was plenty of dead timber about including many trees that exhibited a strange ringbarking type pattern around them. While this had killed the tree, it was hard to determine if it had actually been a deliberate act by man or something strangely natural.


What appeared to be a deliberate act though was the breaking of one of the boulders lined up as a marker on the plain a short distance from Patience Well. One rock had been broken in half perhaps by standing on it. Also left there was an empty bottle of Bombay gin. A little disappointing to find that visitors to such a remote and significant site would cause deliberate damage. While the fire roared and dinner (stodge) was prepared, the GDEC bush mechanics swung onto Coil repairs for the third time. Scottie has a split rim to remove and repair. I found that my small 150 watt inverter had succumbed to the rigours of the environment and crossed the Jordan. I had to borrow one from John and Suze. Another remarkable sunset and a crisp evening. This will in all probability be our last night with the McCall boys so a bit of a downer there.


''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
Lifetime Member:My Profile  My Blog  Send Message
BlogID: 4587
Views: 5246

Comments & Reviews

Post a Comment
You must be registered and logged in to post here.



Registration is free and takes only seconds to complete!
Loading...
Blog Index

Popular Content

Related Products (10)