Connie Sue Highway - south to Rawlinna via Premier Downs (and on to Cocklebiddy)

Wednesday, Jul 15, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O

Wednesday 15th July, 2009
Cocklebiddy WA



Well a day of firsts in that I have completed the last of the Beadell Tracks, the Connie Sue as well as crossing the continent north to south (albeit on a bit of an angle) and also crossing the Nullarbor north to south as well. In reality it was a day of grinding, slow travel across rock strewn tracks and through puddles of muddy water. We got away from our dew sodden camp site in good time. The rain had held off during the night which was s good thing Our chosen campsite was indeed fortuitous as in only a few short kilometres, the spindly acacia disappeared as we entered the limestone strewn plains. Old man saltbush and blue bush became the norm as did mobs of fat sheep and cattle and long puddles of water becoming more frequent on the track as we travelled south. The path south was littered with large areas of exposed limestone making for really slow travel, as we negotiated the rock strewn track.





It wasn’t long before we came across the forlorn remains of the Premier Downs station which stood out starkly on the eastern skyline. The neighbouring bore and tank are still operating making it a key watering location for the local cattle. In all directions you could see the columns of dust rising from the mobs of cattle wandering single file towards, or away from water. If any plant life existed here, it had long since gone making the outlook bleak and windswept. They were indeed hardy people who lived out this way. Several of the outbuildings remained intact but the main house had long ago fallen from. The old station is a testament to the harsh environment. The track in is difficult to find and the old fence has subsided in so many places that it no longer provides any barrier to the wandering stock. The bore has no apparent valving system resulting in a constant overflow. With the hundreds of cattle watering here, the surrounding ground has been churned into a quagmire.


After some very slow going, we reached the old Railway town of Rawlinna at about 11.00 a.m. immediately spending a bit of time looking around the old buildings. We were amazed to find we had 3G coverage. We had been advised to take the Haig-Cocklebiddy Road rather than the track heading south east through Arubiddy. The conventional wisdom was that the Arubiddy track was difficult to find and negotiate. We were not able to identify the start of this track amongst the spider web of roads and tracks around Rawlinna so at 11:00 we headed out east along the Trans Central road. A fantastic 70 kilometres on a well maintained, gravel surfaced road taking in Gunnahdorrah along the way. We reached Haig in no time, finding just a sign, rail crossing and another 3G tower in the distance. We had lunch at the intersection, booked a motel room for the night at Cocklebiddy and caught an east bound freight train speeding past. Found a backpack at the intersection with paperwork etc. Headed off on the stony and puddle filled track south towards Cocklebiddy at 1:00 p.m.


We passed through several well maintained dog proof fences, the graziers intent on keeping the hungry dingoes and wild dogs from their stock. The amount of wildlife was amazing. Huge mobs of roos, emu’s, horses, the odd feral cat and circling above, the king of the raptors, huge Wedge Tailed Eagles serenely soared looking for prey. When you consider the number of people we saw on the north-south trek it is obviously not an area visited all that often.


There were quite a few low, circular claypan type areas that drew a lot of water from the surrounding countryside. They also drew all the grasses and larger green plants creating saucer shaped green oasis in contrast to the flat greys of the surrounding saltbush country.The track wound around the edges, or across many of these claypan areas but you could never get much speed up due to the ubiquitous rock. After 5 fences and gates, we finally reached the grey ribbon of the Eyre Highway at exactly 4:00 p.m., turning west and heading the 11 kilometres to Cocklebiddy and the motel room we’d booked from Haig. Cocklebiddy, has a population of around 9 people with a large motel and roadhouse with a dusty caravan park next door. The “caravan park” is more like an extended car park with donger toilets and showers. Isn’t it funny, there is nothing at Haig but a sign and yet it has 3G coverage. Cocklebiddy, a roadside stop and facilities for travellers, has nothing. Work that out?!.


You can never undervalue the restorative qualities of a hot shower and a shave. Clean and pretty, we headed to the “licensed restaurant” attached to the roadhouse for dinner returning and watching the news, out first update in 10 days. Meals were very expensive for relatively modest fare but that’s what you expect in the middle of the Nullarbor.


''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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