Great Sandy Desert - Whau Whau Well to the Canning, K-Mart and Punmu - A thousand dollar day!

Thursday, Jun 17, 2010 at 00:00

Mick O

Thursday 17th June, 2010
Some km west of Punmu on the Telfer Mine Road
21°57'15.34"S 122°59'46.51"E


Well it was certainly an early start this morning. Having left Outback Al and Scotty waxing lyrical around the fire the night before, I slept like a log to awake an hour before birdsong and to the distant roaring of camels. We were breakfasted (jaffles again) and packed and ready to go at 8:00 a.m. Scotty pulled the Gupster around to the tuck truck for an interior blow out and then we were off....sort of. It was only a few hundred metres to the Whau Whau Bore (23º 04' 40.58" S, 125º 16' 42.23" E) so this prompted a stop and a few photos. The bore was "spudded" on the 29th April 1970 and capped once the drill team had finished. One sleeved bore remains with its capped poly-pipe bore casing visible. There is a second hole nearby that is flush with the ground and covered by a piece of steel plate. There is a hand stamped plaque mounted on a star picket nearby that lists a bit of detail and the names of the drill team involved. The water level is not that far below the surface so it could provide water if you were carrying a bore dropper and plenty of rope. The quality of the water is not known.


As we headed north, the Gary was a mixture of light to medium corrugations, a few washouts here and there and a lot of narrow passages through thickets of mulga. Many dead branches littered the track which we didn’t have the time to clear. Len must have enjoyed making this road as he kept to the higher gravel rises and there were precious few Sandhill’s to cross. There was one windy section through a patch of dunes and then once again we were into the vast open plains and low, undulating gibber rises. Here and there the odd camel stood to watch our passing but little else in the way of excitement.


The corrugations started in a meaningful way about 20 km short of the Gary's meeting with the Jenkins Track prompting a stop to dial down the tough dog shocks down to zero. With the dampening effect of the shokers reduces, they make a hell of a difference in dealing with the corrugations. The pounding of the vehicle is reduced significantly. There is the necessity to watch for big bumps and rises though. At just after 11.00 a.m. we reached the intersection and the wide expanse of the Gary Junction (Jenkins Track) Road. It was a short hop down into the dune country that held the silver oasis of Kurnawarritji or "K-Mart" as we've dubbed it these days. It is amazing just how far you can see the tell tail signs of the community from the higher points approaching the Canning intersection. The community was easy to detect from many kilometres due to the glint of sun across iron and glass surfaces. On reaching the Canning, we made a right and headed up to Well 33 and the sweet water that fills the tanks there. It was a bit of a saga filling as the flow rate out of the tap is so slow but I managed to take on 120 litres of good water which will negate the need to filter and pump at Desert Queen Baths in Rudall River NP.


Once filled we took the 4km of corrugated Canning back to the intersection and then into Kurnawarritji. The new store is open and 'herself' actually looked happy this year. That’s the third year I’ve seen her and the first time she’s actually been smiling (although she did admit it was forced). The new store is a revelation with fridges and shelves and visible stock. We grabbed a few items and a 100 litres of fuel at $3.30 per litre. A pie or two for lunch and we were off (the co-ordinators had their house burnt down in December by locals looking to burgle $46K worth of cigarettes. Not finding the ciggies, the decided to burn the place). The road west was in good nick and we passed Scotty and Gab while they had a driver change. Just past the rocky knoll, S & G called a puncture on the right rear of the Troopy so we returned to give a hand while JW and MJ headed on to Punmu to organise fuel. The dune sizes beside the Wapet are impressive. We saw the sacred Toyota just past the Wapet turn and then on passed Lake Auld and the giant anthills that dot its edge arriving at Punmu at 2.15 p.m., just as JW had rustled up the coordinator to open the bowser.


It was a bit of a disappointment this year to find fuel prices at $3 per litre at Punmu up from $2.80 of last year still it’s 30 cents a litre cheaper than down the road. It took nearly an hour to get the four vehicles filled. I took on 227 litres in vehicle and quads or $681. JW’s bill was over $900 dollars while my total for 100 litres at Kurnawarritji and 227 litres at Punmu was $1010... bleep !!! I haven’t worked the fuel stats yet but they won’t be good! The store was opening so there was a line of locals outside when we arrived. Some more essentials, the store having an even better selection of fresh produce than Kmart. We escaped at 3:20 p.m. and headed west. We got a bit of distance under or belts and then found a track off to the right that led to an old an old scrape area nestled between a couple of dunes and well hidden from the road. There were a few gums about that provided a picturesque aspect to the camp. We went to collect some wood using the MJ troopy as a chainsaw. As a result I managed to puncture my leg from one spear-pointed branch. Shooters had been active in the area as we found a few recent camel carcases festering nearby. At least they gave Gaby something to play with (photograph). A can night called to allow for an early start tomorrow and hopefully beat the crowd to DQB.


''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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