Rudall River NP - Quad bike expedition into Yandagooge Gap - Day 1 (& meeting some fellow explorers)

Thursday, Jul 17, 2008 at 00:00


Thursday 17th July
Bush Camp
22°13'21.85"S, 121°49'16.14"E

Today was a day that had the best and worst of everything. It has left us satisfied but exhausted and we are now deep in the bush, north of the Park and pushing slowly towards our destination, the Yandagooge Gap.

I was up early to commence the pack-up. It seems as everyone else at the Desert Queen's Baths (DQB) were leaving as well as all of a sudden, the camping area was empty. We hit the road at 9:30 a.m. and had only gone 800 metres when I heard the tell tale sound of air escaping a tyre at a rapid rate. I’d managed to stake a trailer tyre on a sharp turn in the track. The tyre was completely unserviceable with its side wall torn badly. A tube for this one I'm afraid. Another kilometre or two down the track and the gash in the right rear vehicle tyre that we had plugged so effectively days before, finally ‘spat’ the plugs. Attempting to re-plug the gash, we had limited success stemming the flow to a slow leak and opting to drive on.

A short distance later and we ran into Alan McCall and his father John heading in to DQB. We stopped and chatted for an hour discussing his success in locating Patience Well and other landmarks from Carnegies 1896 journey. Bidding them farewell, I only managed a further 2 kilometres before the rear tyre spat the second set of plugs. Prompting a laborious tyre change and some improvisation to mount the alloy wheel on the rear carrier. Due to the deep wheel nut recesses on the alloy rims, we had to create a couple of spacers by filing the thread out of two nuts. An hour later and we were on the way again, 12:30 p.m. and still only half way to the intersection of the Rudall Road.

We reached the main road without further incident and headed north. Our tracks at “Claypan” had all but disappeared as we passed, not surprising considering the soft conditions and the prevailing winds. Making a brief stop at the top (northern) water pump we found a survey camp set up there. They had disconnected the hand pump and dropped a poly pipe down the bore effectively preventing anyone else from drawing water from the bore.

We headed on past the Coolbro Creek and its picturesque waterholes (where Johno and I camped back in 2006). The area had been ravaged by fire and bore no resemblance to my memories of the area. A few kilometres later, I located the graded line that runs north-west from the main road about eight kilometres south of hill known as “Moses Chair”. I was running on memory from this point on . We followed the track in for some 20 kilometres, the first ten of which was in a general direction that could only be described as “away” from our intended destination. The graded line was soft and in many places, overgrown with scrub. At its end we struck the sand hills I remembered vividly from my earlier visit 2 years previously. The shifting sand had covered much of the track and it obliterated our vehicle tracks almost as soon as they were made. Despite this, the track was often in very good condition but I did a lot of stopping and starting, getting out of the vehicle to drag dead timber and other tyre endangering obstacles like camel bones from the track. Moving through some low rocky ranges, we entered the sand country once again finding that the track veered to a bearing that bought us towards our track junction. There were several sandy, washed out creek crossings to be negotiated but all in all, a very enjoyable drive.

On reaching the junction we sought, we found our intended track was entirely overgrown and had not been used in many years. Marauding camels had worn a path along the wheel ruts here and there, enough for us to head off at a very slow, stake and scrub conscious speed. It wasn’t long before we began paralleling a series of low rocky ranges, the precursors of the Throssells. Three kilometres in, the dreaded radio message was received once again, Scott had punctured a trailer tyre resulting in another quick wheel change.

It was getting late in the afternoon now but with nothing in the way of a suitable campsite evident, we pushed on. Our route was covered in a thick, low grevillea type gorse that we were forced to push through. Scotty radioed that I was dragging a stick underneath and on inspection, we found that the shrubs had raked two vacuum hoses from their mounts and connecting pipes. Thankfully the clamps were still attached to the tubing so Scott squeezed under and reattached them, hopefully in the right order. Some 12 kilometres and 2 hours along the track, I spied a lone stand of guns in the distance in a gap between two ranges and decreed that to be our camp site for the night. It appeared, and should have been a straight forward run of a kilometre to our intended destination, but that was simply not to be. Our “track” suddenly became a dry creek bed and then a wash-away with steep cut sides of 1.4 to 2 metres in height and getting narrower as we moved forward. Nature and the cyclonic precipitation that this region experiences at work!

Rather than attempt the near impossible feat of backing down the gully, I called a halt before the sides became so confining as to prevent even that manoeuvre. Not being able to turn the vehicles, we were forced to dig away an edge of the gully, collapsing it into the stream bed to form a ramp of loose soil, hoping to use this to drive out onto high ground. It took a couple of takes in the patrol and a bit more shovelling before we were both safely on high ground in the fast fading light. Scotty hit the ramp hard in second gear. The high top roof appeared to be on such an angle that both Gabby and I feared he might be tipping over. Thankfully the height of the vehicle appeared deceptive and he got up with a minimum of fuss, all ably captured on video by Gaby.

Released from the confines of the gully, we were able to move the remaining couple of hundred metres to the stand of trees and set up camp under the gums, a low range of hills to our immediate north east. A couple of local dingoes greeted us and the evening with their mournful howls. With it being near dark and we three all exhausted, we managed to harvest enough dead timber from the surrounding trees to support a small fire. It was a big stodgy meal of meatballs and pasta for dinner and a very early night as we are spent. I’m typing this from bed the next morning. During the early hours of the morning I heard the distinctive call of the nightjar, the night bird that had so fascinated me out on the Canning.

Go to the next day.....

''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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