Rudall River - Running the gauntlet west to Tjarra Pool and Hanging Rock

Friday, Jun 25, 2010 at 00:00


Friday the 25th June, 2010
Hanging Rock
Rudall River National Park.

It was an ill wind that started to blow late in the afternoon yesterday. I had hit natures anti-inflammatory hard and it worked. A can night was called but by 7:30 p.m. the wind was building out of the south east and howling down along the gorge towards us. The fire was a bed of red hot coals fanned by the wind which cut through everything like a knife. As a result, the entire crew had retired to the warmth of their respective tents by 8:00 p.m.

I had concerns about the large, 2 piece awning as the car was parked across the wind with the open face of the awning facing into it. Alas, it wasn’t long before the constant buffeting caused my fears to come to fruition with the two halves of the awning separating along the 40 mm Velcro strip with a report as loud as the crack of a rifle going off. Fumbling for my shorts and boots I was down into the biting gale and decided to drop the entire annex. This went well and the wind actually helped as it forced the awning onto the side of the vehicle and kept it in place. I had to drop my roof tent first of course. By the time I had the two awnings separated, John and suzette had arrived to help. The crack of separating canvas had roused them having been clearly heard at their camp 100 metres or more away and against the wind at that! We stuffed the awning holus bolus into the back pod and then I got John to hold the ladder as I drove the vehicle around 90 degrees and put her nose into the wind. A much better scenario.

The wind was incredibly strong and even from this nose on position, the vehicle was buffeted and rolled from side to side. I had to climb down a couple of times during the night to secure items I’d remembered were out and ensure their safety in the gale. With the canvas whipping and cracking, I reached for the trusty ear plugs to get some sleep. The rocking motion must have been comforting as I soon dropped off.

I was up early as I had a lot of packing to do. The wind was still present but not as savage as it had been during the night. Alan had survived unscathed but looked a little weary from lack of sleep, the whipping of the tent fabric keeping him awake. Fire was near impossible but we got one going for tea and wash water and had the racing breakfast of fruit and cereal. The billies had to be placed about 60 centimetres down wind from the actual fire just to get enough warmth such was the strength of the breeze.

Packing got sorted pretty quickly and we refigured the quad back to the box and rack situation, the pillion seat going back into storage. A cairn was constructed under the tree and a jar and not left therein. Fitting GDEC group photos were taken about the cairn and with the Pinnacle as a back drop and at 9:10 a.m. we were off backtracking along our inward path. Gosh what a difference it is after 4 vehicles have steamrolled a track. Even the crossings were a lot easier. We stopped outside the mouth of the 2nd gorge and John and Al ran me in to the pool they had discovered yesterday on the quads. What a great site it was. A deep circular pool perhaps 20 paces across, shaded by gums and protected on its southern and north western sides by rocky walls. The donkeys and local wild life had been making good use of it as a local water source as was evident by the myriad tracks about.

On our way back out of the gorge, we visited the cave which was situated on the eastern wall of the gorge, near the entrance and overlooking a now dry pool of significant size. The cave itself was quite substantial and its high roof disappeared into a deep crevasse metres above our heads. The entire ceiling was black with the accumulated soot of what may well have been eons of passed habitation. Now it was a home for many bats self evident by the agitated chipping and clicking in the darkness above us (and the musty smell of guano on the floor). Near the cave entrance, I noticed a collection of rocks in a crevasse above the cave. It was apparent that this was not a natural situation, the rocks having been placed for the protection from the elements that the crevasse provided.On inspection they were revealed to be a selection of grinding stones and grinders put there for protection by natives long past. The cave walls also had several examples of art. It certainly provided a good place to shelter from the biting south easterlies that we’d been experiencing. I’m glad I got to hobble in and enjoy the groups discoveries as they were truly a great find and I would have forever regretted not seeing them. This gorge is in fact the north eastern end of the Yandagooge gap, that elusive opening we had searched for in 2008. The Yandagooge Gap is one of the only features currently named in the Throssell Ranges. The Gap is a wide, rocky valley that runs through the Throssells for approximately 5 kilometers in a south-westerly direction (roughly 236 degrees from the north eastern side) across the main range. On its south-western side, “The Gap” (22º 23' 51.68" S 121º 56' 2.17" E) is a wide low valley that is very hard to detect. As you move through the valley to the north east, it becomes increasingly narrower until it exits through a narrow, winding gorge into the plains on the opposite flank of the range. The valley channels rainfall into the Yandagooge creek which flows north east out of the park boundary and into what is now the Kintore Uranium Lease. The gorge where the creek exits the range is situated in the shadow of Darlsen Pinnacle.

The gap is hard to spot on the western side due to low sandstone ridges largely obscuring the valley. It is indeed spectacular country but its sheer ruggedness provides a barrier to exploration. Many major gorges feed water down from the high plains of the Throssells and into the Yandagooge and I reckon that many of these gorges will also support seasonal water.

On returning to the vehicles we continued picking our way along our path to our previous camp on then onto the old survey trail we had located. This took us through some thick, clawing scrub eventually reaching the Turtle Pool track well to the north. This appeared to have been recently graded. Knowing this territory from our 2008 travels, we turned right and headed out towards claypan. The old clay pan track had been fully graded. New buildings were being constructed and could be seen tucked off amongst some of the low hills. Unfortunately, this site sits right on one of the most significant art sites in the area. What will become of this I wonder as we rip the uranium out.

Reaching clay pan we trailered the quads and then headed down the main Rudall track to Tjarra Pool where we found a bit of water therein, a far cry from the dry dustbowl of last year. Two Landrovers from QLD were already camped there but we managed to find enough room to swing the vehicles about and park for a bit of lunch. Then it was on to the south west and the winding rocky track to Curran Curran and hanging rock. I’d forgotten just how overgrown the track was, amazing how you forget these things. I suppose that when remembered in hindsight, romance of the adventure tends to overshadow the realities of the actual time and so it was that the condition of the track came as a bit of a shock, similarly for our trip into DQB a week or so past. Until now, if anyone had been to ask me about the track conditions I‘d have said it’s a great is not (DQB)! It’s rocky and difficult!

Five kilometres prior to Curran Curran we passed the old bush sign extolling “You are lost”. It’s getting pretty rusty. Reaching Curran Curran we took a quick walk up the rocky gulch to find that the circular rock pool had a bit of water in the bottom, certainly more than last year. Travelling the dune country further to the west, we encountered what would be the biggest mob of camels I‘d ever seen, easily 50 plus animals. While they provided an amazing sight as they trotted off and crossed a sand hill to our north, I couldn’t help but be concerned at the amount of damage such a large mob of marauding feral animals would do. The effect on local water sources would have devastating consequences on indigenous wildlife.

The tracks across the wide, unnamed creek just prior to Hanging rock had been washed away. As the lead I managed to come to a halt on the second crossing sinking into the deep, loose sand. Not too serious though and on reducing tyre pressures and throwing a bit of shrubbery underneath the tyres, I extricated myself on the first attempt. Negotiating the dense scrub on the other side of the creek, we hit the Hanging Rock clay pan at 4:30 p.m. a little late and in clear breach of Mick O’s Rule No. 1 (no travel past four bells)! There was a biting wind sweeping across the clay pan at the base of the rock. There was a paucity of fire wood, and despite a mercy dash along the track in the fading light in MJ’s troopy, we failed to locate any timber of consequence. It was cans in a fast fire and quick to bed due to the chill factor of the wind.

''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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