Little Sandy Desert - The Puntawarri Track - "An extremely Isolated & treacherous track!"

Thursday, Jul 10, 2008 at 00:00


Thursday 10th July, 2008
Bush camp south of Jigalong WA
23 26 17.39 S, 120 49 5.14E

That there are donkeys inhabiting this area is beyond dispute! The braying jackass that assaulted our ears this morning left no doubt as to who he reckons was king of the billabong! His call to arms at 4.00 a.m. was indeed loud and left me awake freezing. bleep it was cold. –4C on the temp gauge. I couldn’t even get out of bed for a pee I was that cold. Bought back memories of the nights on the Bolivian altiplano a decade ago. Finally emerged into a crisp dawn at 6.00 a.m. and answered the call. A salute to the rising sun as it were. Scott was up at the same time and soon had a blazing fire going. I’d pulled out the beanie and the gloves as they were needed.

It’s amazing what a difference a lick of sun makes and we were in short sleeves soon after the sun crested the sand dune and reflecting off the brilliant white guns of the Savory's tributary. Breakfast was a couple of cups of tea and a piece or three of toast. Managed to get hold of the New York traveler on Globalstar (amazing). After packing, we walked along the tributary on which we are camped until me found the main channel of the Savory. It was easy to judge the recent volumes of water that had scoured the creek beds by the fresh levels of erosion, newly exposed roots and felled trees. There was also an amazing amount of detritus piled up against the larger gums. There were still damp areas of the creek bed and here we found that the donkeys had again been digging holes into the creek bed chasing water. The sheer number of animal tracks was amazing. Camel, donkey, cattle, dingo, lizards, cat, bird and insect life all leaving their tell tale signs of intrusion upon the sandy confines of the creek.

We were on the road a little after 9 a.m. and I managed to get a hold of Anthony for his birthday. He had Pete following my instructions on a map to locate my position. Wished him a happy birthday and continued on along the eastern bank of the Savory. The creek sits in the base of a limestone valley that is often quite narrow. We took a rugged jump up onto the higher plateau for about 16km before jumping down again to wind between the rocky ridge and the white gums of the creek bed.

I found a soak and did a bit of digging down to about 50 cm with a lot of damp soil but no water. The actual crossing point of the Savory found us descending a steep rocky bank into a sandy creek with an immediate left hand bend into tee tree scrub. I managed to get round and then found myself on a fare angle before clearing. Scott did the same but managed to stake a trailer tyre somewhere in the process. 20 minutes saw us back on the track. The main channel of the creek is about 150 metres wide like so many of the wide shallow outback creeks. Once crossed, the quality of the track picked up and it was no time before we were in the ghost town of Puntawarri…and what a testament to government wastage it is.

The town comprises six houses still in good condition. We passed two magnificent powered bores 4 km from the town. There was a huge solar/diesel generator shed at one end of the settlement. The entire infrastructure was in place, power sewage, water and it was walked away from. The Deutz engine and generator were still in place as were 20 or so 185 a/h solar storage batteries in a conditioned and insulated container. All simply abandoned. Each house was of steel construction with insulated panels like those of cool rooms for the walls. A few windows had been vandalized but other than that, they would not have taken much to make habitable again. Even the gas ovens and stoves were still present. They just needed a gas bottle to be hooked up to. What a disappointing waste of tax payer resources. I’d love to know why the locals left.

We had lunch on one of the verandahs and contemplated the concept of waste before heading west again. The road was much improved having once been the hall road between the two communities. It traversed a variety of countryside including the dunes, savannah, gibber and occasional desert oak woodlands. At one point we climbed to 590 metres and came across as impressive vista to our west. We touched the tropic of Capricorn and took the celebratory photo. We spotted our first donkeys in a real “feral fest”. We traversed some wide open range country and were astounded by the numbers of mobs of camels. At one point we had a dingo, camels, feral cattle, 7 donkeys, two mules and some roos, all moving into the same frame. The numbers of camels were astounding. At least several hundred over the course of 20 kilometers. They seemed to be everywhere.

As if knowing that we had entered tropical climes, the first of the blackboy grass trees appeared at the exact moment of crossing the tropic. Once we approached Robertson Range we came of the high plateau to a sensational vista of mulga forested low ranges which we wound down and across headed for the ruins of Robertson Range Station. This being 12 km from Jigalong was our intended destination. On reaching the turnoff, we found several dwellings there so decided not to intrude, instead pulling off into bush-land a couple of km further towards Jig. Here we made camp amongst the mulga. I prepared Spaghetti Matriciana for dinner. An early night again as we are all exhausted. A bloody dingo pinched my soap during the night.

''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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