Rudall River NP - Quad bike expedition into Yandagooge Gap - Day 2 (Photos & Video)

Friday, Jul 18, 2008 at 00:00


Friday the 18th July, 2008
A small, unnamed gorge on the eastern side of Yandagooge Gap
(22 22 40.70”S 121 54 18.80” E)

It was a cool and windy morning as we climbed the nearby hills to survey the surrounding countryside. We have a bit of country to explore today sp the mornings activities involved preparing the quads for the expedition. My machine is loaded to the hilt with 2 cans of diesel and one of water (a total of about 52 kgs) as well as the compressor and navigation computer mounted on the front rack. On the rear rack I have all the camping gear plus food, dunny seat and billy. Scotties rig has two spare tyres, one can of water, his wife and the chairs. We’re not making that mistake again! If you roughing it, you may as well be comfortable at days end, that’s the chairs I’m talking about, not the missus!

Following a bit of pfaffing about the camp, we were finally mounted and away by 11:30 a.m. heading south into the unknown. The track was so overgrown with shrubbery that it was easier to push along off track. This area was covered by a green carpet of knee high grevillea which gave way in places to patches of spinifex and thick stands of acacia scrub. It took time to find gaps and weave a path through the impenetrable walls of scrub. Often I’d find a well worn camel trail and quickly plunge along it hoping that the dromedaries had forced a wide enough gap through the scrub for the ATV’s. We found an old bore casing which contained water but at a good depth (over a 4 second drop for a small stone). Given the radium levels detected around here in the original surveys, I’m surprised they hadn’t permanently capped the casing.

Needless to say the first hour on the quads was tough and exhausting and amounted to 5 km only, walking pace. We had expected better on the quads. This is vehicle speed. We took a quick lunch in the meagre shade of a mulga tree consisting of a warm sandwich and few gulps of tepid water, the drink bottles having been at the mercy of the noonday sun. Then it was off again, the track having long since disappeared. The maps I’d made for the TrackRanger mapping program using Google earth images were accurate as far as my intended route was concerned but in reality, the actual terrain in front of you is often very hard to reconcile with that of the two dimensional computer image. Of most difficulty is judging the actual height of geographical features. What looked like an imposing set of hills, might only be 20 metres high! A deep rift or gorge that appeared in the two dimensional photograph to extend up from the floor of the main valley, may in fact commence many metres above you, therefore being shallow and of no benefit when it came to being a likely place to find water.

The valley in which we are travelling is broad and flat and some five kilometres wide. It was bordered on either side by low stony ranges. As we moved south, the valley opened out into a large basin extending to the east-west. We skirted across this to join another distant range and found ourselves in another valley of narrower confines. This valley was about two kilometres in width but the bordering hills were more impressive. The gorge runs to the south-east so I took a tack that matched that direction but kept us in the centre keeping an eye on either side for unusual features or gorges. Initially we were again forcing our way through

unrelenting mulga scrub that seemed keen to drag both us and our equipment off the quads. Thankfully respite came in the form of a large tract that had been devastated by fire. This good fortune afforded us 15 minutes of easy going which equated to three kilometres. At one point I found what appeared to be the world’s toughest tree. It was an ancient eucalyptus that had withstood just about every calamity that could be thrown at it. The main trunk of the tree stood about 10 metres high and to all intents appeared dry, burnt, sandblasted and dead. There was not a single limb left anywhere up its length. Then at the very top, a single branch jutted upwards with a ball of leaves about 2 metres across. This unlikely growth was so round and uniform it looked as if it had been recently manicured by some crazed outback topiarist! Never say die!

The larger flora consisted of Mulga (acacia), Bloodwood, Kanji and the occasional stands of Teatree and Melaleuca. The eucalypts consisted primarily of a white trunked variety in the rocky hills and around water courses as well as several varieties of Mallee and whipstick out on the plains. Of course do I need to mention the ubiquitous spinifex?

As we plunged into the scrub once more, I spied a twin topped mesa in the distance and immediately made a bee line for it. Scott and Gaby had found a mother camel and her newborn calf. While they investigated the camel, I steered the ATV up the mesa and then along its top to the southern end to be richly rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding range and in particular, our intended course into the gap. It was also possible to discern the remains of the mining track that I’d charted on Google earth. At this point I was very impressed with the accuracy of the Google earth maps I’d made using the Trackranger program. These consisted primarily of Jpeg images of the area lifted from Google Earth and calibrated. The two and three kilometre scale images were particularly accurate but the larger files allowed for greater discrepancy when calibrating and accuracy suffered as a result. They remained a great visual aid despite the difficulty in judging terrain height mentioned earlier.

Once down to ground level again, I found both front tyres which had been staked by thin timber that had been sharpened to needle points by fire. How you ask? Well, just light a match and hold it vertically for a few moments, letting the flame burn straight up. Then blow it out and remove the outer ash. Presto! The match has a sharp, tapered point. Now multiply that by the number of branches there are in thick bush. Easy math really. Thankfully, the damage was quick and easy to fix with plugs and the tyres were pumped back up to 7psi in no time.

Plodding on we reached a low line of hills that cut across the valley in an almost east-west line. The southern side was sandy, the northern, a low line of red bluffs that had been blown into arroyos’, gullies, caverns and caves by relentless wind (22°22'27.13"S, 121°53'11.47"E). We opted to track east along these cliffs to bring us closer to the eastern wall. We surprised more than one roo along the way, the caves providing obvious shelter for the local wildlife. Amazingly, some of these wind formed caverns resembled open mouthed skulls as photos and video attest. It was quite eerie.

The wind had picked up significantly by this stage so I hoped we might find a sheltered camp site along our route. On reaching the end of these bluffs we were able to squeeze across the last of the low ridges and then track the main eastern wall of the valley. At about 3:30 p.m. Scott was attending to a belt problem on his ATV, while I explored a small canyon system and found a lovely campsite under the northern wall of the gully. It provided reasonable shelter from the wind, a suitably clear site for the tents and an abundant supply of wood for the fire. All ticks in the box for a nights stay as far as we were concerned. It didn’t take long to get the tents up, wood collected and some of the days dust removed with Tay’s towel tablets…a miracle of modern science. I’ve used the old damp towels as a wrap for the baileys bottle which has then been placed in the windiest spot I could find up on the gorge wall. Hopefully evaporation principals will chill it down for tonight. The days riding, while only 30.6 kilometres in total, has left us stuffed and an early night is assured.

We were rewarded with an amazing moon rise in the early evening. A incredible sight as this huge golden orb rose majestically above the surrounding stony, blood red ridges.

''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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