Gibson Desert - North into the unknown....the adventure begins!

Wednesday, Jun 09, 2010 at 00:00

Mick O


Today saw us pack up camp and eventually push north west for our assault into the Gibson and the search for Carnegies Deep Rockhole’s. Alan (Equinox) McCall had done a lot of research and meticulous planning around this subject over many months leading up to this time and was to be our leader into the unknown. He had identified numerous possible sites for the rock holes along the path of Carnegies travels of 1897.

It was a magnificent sunset that greeted those first out of the cot this morning, the sun highlighting the clouds in gold and red. We managed to get camp squared away and be on the track by 9:15 a.m. (notwithstanding a bit of chicanery at the Canadians expense) and headed back out into the plains to the west of the Bedford’s. This was cross country travel again, initially backtracking northwest along the original route into the Bedford's and then veering off on a more south westerly run along the western edge of the ranges along a route that we had scouted yesterday on the quads. Somewhat wisely, this south westerly tack allowed us to skirt the thickets of dense scrub that we had encountered yesterday. While this was Spinifex country, we were aiming for a point that allowed us to round a gap between some significant dunes which would then give us access to the plains to the south. Gaby rustled up a large Bustard along the way. We navigated the dunes through the gap that Gab and I had located and after a few short kilometers, we came across the remnants of an old track that took us west and onto the main Warnnum-Patjarr Road.




On reaching this main road, we set the quads out front to lead and set the pace for our leisurely cruise north west through the sand hills to the old Gunbarrel. It was truly beaut country. We reached the Gunbarrel Highway in good fashion and then turned west to Million Dollar Corner for a few photos and then onto the corner of the Gunbarrel Hwy and Patjarr Road. Here we found a shelter 100 metres or so off the road and a couple of tanks full of lovely fresh rainwater ( 25° 3'35.38"S 126°42'24.50"E ). While some took the opportunity to have a cuppa, I engaged in some frenetic activity to hook up my pump system which I’d been meaning to complete for days. The rainwater looked and tasted fresh so we pumped a few litres into the main tanks. It was still lightly overcast with a cool wind as we headed off along the the Patjarr Road but not before almost losing Outback Al.



It was an interesting start with “outback Al” heading off towards Perth on the quad at right angles to where we wanted to go however with a bit of encouragement, he was soon back on the right track. The road to Patjarr as in fair condition and we actually had a budget hire 4x4 full of locals pass us at one stage. We only headed 12 km towards Patjarr and then pulled over to mount a fruitless search for the Tika Tika Rock holes. Despite a good search of the area on the quads, we came up empty handed. Another one gone the way of antiquity.



TikaTika was to be our jumping-off point for the Gibson so at exactly midday (WA time) we turned right and followed Equinox out cross the spinifex plains. The going was good. At times we’d encounter stony rises where speed would pick up.In the early stages we picked up a track here and there which provided the odd kilometer of easy going. The country was a revelation. It was wide and open and often providing vistas from rises that were sometimes 30 metres higher than the surrounding countryside. Mulga grew in copses or large tracts that appeared to be slowly growing outwards meaning that in many thousands of years, this open country may well be woodland. Thankfully for now it’s mainly open Spinifex plains. There were the odd stony wash away to negotiate and one had to be vigilant for the ever present Mulga stake but overall we made good time. The quads interspaced themselves between the vehicles occasionally being turn indicators for the back markers (Scotty and myself). We only had one dune crossing for the afternoon. Surprising to us all was that the gravely crust of the country we were traversing gave way to a powder fine sand that made going difficult no matter what position you held in the convoy. It almost sucked the vehicles down at times.



Later in the day, Suzette sounded the alarm that her quad was overheating. On checking, it was bone dry. Thankfully, the quad gauge alerts the rider to a heating problem and Suze, realizing that something was amiss, promptly shut the quad down and left the blowers on. Out came the eco billies in record time and water was soon boiling away. The radiator access is tricky at the best of time but when you’re trying to get hot water in, it resulted in some quick improvisation with a funnel, hose and the trailer to get the water in. Thankfully there appeared to be no damage to the quad engine so the only thing lost was a bit of travel time, phew. When we finally got going, we had only gone a kilometer when the same thing happened again. Scotty D, ever glad to be out from behind the desk of his day to day calling, soon diagnosed the problem as a dodgy fan sensor not activating the fan and cooling the engine. The damage was done travel wise though and with it getting late in the day we located a nice little copse of acacia to camp in. The soft sand is treacherous under foot but we have a fantastic little camp site, a great fire and an amazing sunset. I never get tired of the clear horizon and pristine colours of the afternoon and evening skies out here. It is so crisp and vibrant.


It was a hearty feed of steak and veg for dinner with a glass or two of red. Tomorrow we mount the search for Carnegies Deep Rock Holes in earnest.





''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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