Canning Stock Route - Well 43 to (near) Well 38

Sunday, Jul 23, 2006 at 00:00


Sunday 23rd July
Near well 38 Canning Stock Route (Ghost gum corner)
S 21.56.583’ E125.30.737’

We were up before six. It had been a cold night and for the first time it had left heavy dew. We were resigned to a later start to allow the tent to dry out so the BBQ plate went back on the fire and bacon eggs and tomatoes were soon sizzling. I’m sure that every dingo within 4 km was drooling as the smell of cooking breakfast wafted over the countryside. There was a bit of a breeze that assisted the drying out of the tent. Johnno put on his mechanics’ hat again and crawled under the front of the vehicle to reassess and reposition the bull bar. I also found that the welds were cracking across the top where the central pipes of the bulbar are mounted. Great!

I must confess that I enjoy working the dune country of the Great Sandy Desert. It’s attention demanding but scenic and we made good time without pushing it. The track between the dunes was often straight and devoid of corrugations so you covered the ground fairly quickly (I must add for the uninitiated that an average of 20 kph overall is very good going on the Canning). We passed our first group of three heading in the opposite direction after only 25 minutes on the road so we partook of an obligatory 15 minute stop for a chat and a durry for JT. We reached Lake Guli and well 42 about 10.00 a.m. Some wag had placed a camel skull atop a post nearby adding an extra sense of desolation and hardship about the place. The well, like most of those on the canning, was in ruins but that water was present just beneath the surface was obvious. As at most wells, you can hear the finches chirping in the shrubs, their need for water on a regular basis lets you know that it is available nearby somewhere.

We continued down the track twisting and turning over sand ridges, often tracking west along their bases before turning sharp left and crossing through a slight depression at a dune end and then tracking back east to tackle the next obstacle. At one point we found very fresh camel tracks that prompted a quick scout over the top of the dunes to see if the elusive beasties were still in the vicinity. Alas no.Well 41 is restored but is full of rancid water so we bypassed that and continued on to well 40 and Tobin’s Grave. The area around Well 40 is inundated and has formed a small lake of brackish water. Some 300 metres or so past this is the lonely grave of Michael Tobin, a stockman who was speared by an aboriginal at the well on 06/04/1907. He managed to shoot and kill the aboriginal who lies in no known grave. It’s another lonely place to lie but he has more visitors than most I’d imagine.

We had lunch by the Well 40 lake (S 21.40.045 E 125.47.227) and had a chat with a group of four vehicles who were also heading south. They’d let us past while they were in well, 41. All Nissan drivers and two Navaras amongst them. At 1:30-ish we continued south and onto Lake Tobin, a huge expansive salt lake. Our 16 km trek across it was marked by pristine white, blinding salt, occasional copi islands of red sand, termite mounds and then magnificent stands of desert oak on the far side a few kilometres short of well 39. The red dunes and spectacular oaks made for magnificent scenery and if hadn’t been so early in the day we would have been tempted to stay a while in their shade.

Well 39 was in ruins but the original well, although silted up, remains. It contains water and supports the local wildlife. We were soon on our way again. The track wound it’s way through a small low range of time worn rocks which prompted a photo stop ( S21.48.623 E 125.35.540) . We passed another tag-along of six vehicles heading north. We stopped for firewood soon after and had quite a good load on as we scouted the countryside for a suitable bush camp. In the end we have camped in a grove of ghost gums some distance, perhaps a few kilometres short of well 38. A great spot and the best fire of the trip so far thanks to a dead gum nearby. We could barely lift one of the large logs but it’s on the fire as I type.

We were showered and had tea on the plate (Tandoori chook on rice with yoghurt, lemon and chutney) as the sun set. Later on we placed the world second largest log on the fire and ended up sitting well back from the fire enjoying the evening and a few scotches.
''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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