Gunbarrel Highway - Carnegie Station a mysterious footy oval and on to a dusty and tormented Wiluna.

Wednesday, Jul 10, 1985 at 00:00

Mick O

Wednesday 10th July, 1985
Wiluna,
Western Australia.


We woke at 6.00 a.m. and had a quick breakfast of Jaffles before heading off at 8.00 o’clock on the last 150 kilometres of the highway to Carnegie. The Highway was still little more than a sandy track and there were plenty of signs left by the elusive dromedary’s along the road for big game hunters such as Bill and myself to follow. They certainly appeared fresh enough and after 15 kilometres of tracks we were rewarded with the sight of a pretty impressive bull specimen walking casually ahead of us. We snapped a few photos as he strolled out of our way not seeming in the least bit worried about our presence. A little further down the track we were rewarded with yet another piece of rare wildlife namely a Bustard (Plains Turkey). It really was a naturalist type morning.

A mystery of sorts as we came across a claypan that had dimensions roughly the same as a footy oval. Naturally someone had set up a set of goal posts at one end using the twisted local mulga. It appeared to have been there a long while, perhaps some leftover from the Beadell days and the Gunbarrel Construction Party. I can see some research coming up.

Carnegie Station was reached at 10.30 a.m. The track in for the last 100 kilometres had been pretty rough in comparison to earlier stretches of the Gunbarrel but it was by no means difficult. The old fellows we'd been following for the past days were also at Carnegie. They had a truly amazing set up on the back of an old international tray truck. Really top stuff and very inventive. Everything in its place and a place for everything. Both of us bought a Carnegie Station tee shirt for $10.00 that we considered a worthwhile investment even though the place would remain obscure to most people who looked at it.

The road from Carnegie to Wiluna was of good quality. It remained fairly narrow for 250 kilometres or so and I nearly struck several kangaroos as large groups of the animals were lying under road side scrub or sunning themselves on the actually road. There were a few rough, windy and rocky patches around Wongawol Station but nothing to concern us. Even the horrendous creek crossing that the R.A.C. map took some time and effort to point out was a real letdown, "Abandon all hope ye who enter here" the map had read. No worries at all. There were quite a few creek crossings to be made and several had semi-permanent water holes. We had lunch beside one such creek and held the rock skimming championship of the world in the water hole (Bill won the event because he has the longest arms). He also had the fortification given by the cup of coffee with a generous slug of good Irish Whisky provided by elderly gents at Carnegie.

The last 90 kilometres or so into Wiluna was a real contrast being at least 35 metres wide and in top condition. The best description uttered was “Jeez you could land a bloody Jumbo on this!”. We had to fuel up about 150 kilometres short of Wiluna but on arrival at 3.00 p.m. we still had half a tank and 20 litres in a jerry can on top The first thing that assaults the senses at Wiluna is the dust. We called into the police station and had a quick chat with Don Campbell whom Bill had written to from Melbourne prior to the trip.

We set up camp in the Caravan Park and did a load of washing before cleansing our bodies and souls. Then it was up to the “Whites bar” at the local hotel. There is only the one hotel in Wiluna, the other being destroyed by the locals in a riot several years back. The Aboriginals have the largest and main bar at the front of the establishment. The white population drink at a smaller bar at the rear. They say apartheid doesn't exist in Australia but here is an example of the closest thing you'll get to it. Still it makes sense seeing that the population consists of 850 aboriginal and only 40 white inhabitants. We had a chat with Don when we could get a word in and then hurriedly scoffed down the counter meal of the evening which was roast beef and vegies. It was a pretty rough meal by a lot of standards but good tucker to the starving of which Bill and I were classic examples.

We arrived back at camp around 7.45 p.m. and sat in the tent writing post cards. It was quite a change to be surrounded by noise again after the silence of the desert. By the morning I was wishing that I was back out there after being kept awake for most of the night by dogs barking, locals drunkenly fighting and a damn cat that insisted on using the fly of the tent as some sort of feline play ground. I also plugged in the fridge to charge it up over night so it kept on turning itself on and off all night. It makes quite a bit of noise. We met and had a chat with an elderly German couple who were from Brisbane and were also camped in the park. They were toying with the idea of doing the Gunbarrel so we told him of our experiences and left him with our map complete with minor adjustments and notations.
''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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