Great Sandy Desert - Sandy Blight Junction Track NT

Wednesday, Jul 23, 2008 at 00:00

Mick O

Wednesday 23rd July,
Sandy Blight Junction Track (77 km in)
023 42 6.08s 129 17 39.62e


It was a chilly and windy start to the day. Jaffles for a breakfast then on the track at 9:15 a.m. (central time) intending to be in Kiwirrkurra in time for opening. As is mostly the case, the roads are in the worst conditions closest to the communities and we weren’t disappointed here either with the track badly corrugated and in poor condition. There were plenty of camels about to delight Gaby so her camera was clicking.

At Kiwirrkurra we headed straight to the store and organised our fuel at $2.80 a litre then took a look at the Gunbarrel Road Construction parties old ration truck that had caught fire back in 1960 as Len and his crew were moving westwards and constructing the Gary Junction Road. The truck has been relocated to Kiwirrkurra as a tourist attraction. Leaving Kiwirrkurra it was back onto the Gary Junction and east towards the border. Almost immediately the first large hill you encounter is the mesa like, steep sided Mount Webb which was described thus by explorer David Carnegie in 1897;


"Mount Webb is flat topped isolated, rocky sided, innocent of all vegetation, of sandstone topped with quartzite, standing out with imposing clearness some 500 feet above a plain of spinifex and Mulga scrubs”.

David Carnegie – Spinifex and Sand


Continuing, we travelled a magnificent scenic stretch of road passing through the Desert Oak forests of the Dover Hills . From here the the road is long and straight until the impressive ramparts of Mount Tietkens so named after William Henry Tietkens, the faithful right hand man of Ernest Giles and an explorer in his own right. It was only 11 kilometers from the moint to the northern territory border but we were to strike one more impediment to the journey, namely the carcass of a recently killed camel lying smack in the centre of the road.


At the border we stopped and viewed some more Len Beadell markers then continued on, the impressive rise of Mounts Leisler and Stricklan becoming more prominent as we progressed.Mount Leisler plays an interesting role in the outback legends and myths particularly surrounding Lassiter and his gold reef. In 1930 when Australia was in the grip of the Great Depression, Lasseter succeeded in securing £50,000 of funding toward an expedition to relocate his fabled reef. Unusual for the time, this expedition included motorised vehicular transport and an aircraft. Accompanying Lasseter were experienced bushmen Fred Blakeley and Fred Colson, as well as a prospector, an engineer, an explorer and a pilot.



The group endured great logistical difficulties and physical hardships, and on reaching Mount Marjorie (now Mount Leisler), Lasseter declared that they were, in fact, 150 miles too far north. Exasperated, Blakely declared Lasseter a charlatan, and decided to end the expedition. The expedition parted with Lasseter at Ilbilba however, he insisted on continuing onwards. Accompanied by a dingo-shooter named Paul Johns, Lasseter, whose behaviour was later reported as being increasingly erratic, set off towards the Olgas. One afternoon Lasseter returned to camp and announced that he had relocated the gold reef, however he refused to reveal its location. Johns, who by now doubted Lasseter's sanity, accused him of being a liar, a fight ensued, and Johns left Lasseter to his own devices. Lasseter himself vanished into the desert sands.


We reached the junction of the sandy blight at about 1:00 pm and had lunch at the site of the Beadell marker post. While sitting on the drawbar of S & G’s trailer, staring at my vehicle, it dawned on me that something was amiss. The entire spare tyre, rim, stub axle, hub and bearings were gone, the draw-bar forward of the cargo box bare! In their place, a hole 10 cm across was the only reminder of where my spare had been mounted! Bloody Hell. On checking the sides of the trailer, I saw another small dent in the outside of one of the guards where the tyre had clipped the guard while exiting. It could have been a lot worse. Thank Christ the tyre had been staked and ruined at Rudall River! I can’t believe my travel companions missed the near new tyre, rim and stub axle lying on the middle of the road though! The corrugations were extracting a toll on the trailer once again with the mudguard supports beginning to crack along the welds once again.



With nothing for it we headed south onto the Sandy Blight and what a corrugated hell it was. The road travelled roughly south west past Mount Strickland and the community of Kintore before reaching the base of the spectacular Mt Leisler with its ramparts looking like Masada. The track was narrow and heavily corrugated. A few kilometers south of Mt Leisler is Tietken's Blaze tree rediscovered by Len Beadell and his party in June 1960. The tree was blazed by Tietkens in 1889. It has since succumbed to the ravages of time and termites and now lies beside the road. Once again we crossed the tropic of Capricorn as we headed south. Passing the remains of a trailer abandoned by the track we salvaged a few bits of scrap iron that may come in handy later. It was here that S & G realised that their beloved Canadian flag had vibrated off the vehicle, complete with the vehicle's radio antenna as well, a true tragedy for them.



The Sandy Blight track is narrow and windy often following a sand dune for kilometers before crossing and then heading back along its length, somewhat reminiscent of many sections of the Canning. There are a a few shortcuts over the hills, one of which I took only to narrowly miss colliding with the body of an old XC Ford panel van left to quietly rust by the side of the track. The track is a monument to vehicles of the 60’s and 70’s and even includes the remains of a very early 70’s slope back school bus. The camels were plentiful and looked every inch of the lords of the desert as they moved amongst the desert oaks. As the wind was still quite strong we have camped in a grove of acacia and desert oak. The wind seems to have died off a bit but the tight packed mulga are providing additional shelter. It was a pork madras curry for dinner fleshed out with sweet potato and onion and the last bottle of wine drunk as a suitable accompaniment.



''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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