Gibson Desert - Midway Well Talawana Track - Corrugations, dust and mechanical difficulties!

Thursday, Jul 09, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O

Thursday 9th July, 2009
Near Midway Well, Talawana Track WA


What a day. Corrugations surmounted, mechanical difficulties overcome and a few kilometres covered (too few but that’s a story I’ll get into later). The dingo returned during the night and pinched a plastic bag containing laundry powder. He didn’t take it too far before dumping it and belting off, probably looking for water to wash out his mouth. That’ll teach that poaching pooch! The wind remained fairly warm throughout the night and a band of cloud again provided a spectacular sunrise. What a way to greet the day.


After breakfast we had a quick bucket bath and then I took some time to fit a seed screen to the front of the vehicle remembering the high spinifex I encountered on the Talawana some three years back. We were back on the corrugations heading towards well’s 23 And 24 a tad after eight bells . They were horrific, equally as bad as the sections of the Canning north and south of Well 33. I had the tyres at 20 and 16 psi to ease things but we were still travelling at 20 kph or below. In one particularly bad section west of 23, someone had recently driven off track creating a path that others had then used. While the going was a lot easier (and quieter), I can see it becoming a many tracked section like the Gunbarrel, each of the many tracks running parallel eventually becoming just as bad as the others.





We stopped briefly at the ruins of Well 23 and then headed on into the sandy country that shelters Well 24. On the 500 meter entry track to 24, I suffered one of the perils encountered when running the tyres so low, a puncture in the front left tyre. Only a single plug thank goodness and we were back on the road in good time having a brief break at Well 24. The thick grass that had been surrounding 24 on my last visit is all gone leaving a water filled hole in the middle of a dusty bowl. The low red ranges surrounding the southern side of the hole add nterest to the area and some wag has marked “Well 24” on Camel bones heaped in front of the well. We waited here for three other vehicles to arrive briefly saying hello and swapping some info before we headed off again on the short hop to the Talawana turnoff and hoping to be away from the damnable corrugations. Into the low grevillia like scrub we went reaching the turnoff a few short minutes later and then continuing east. The track improved no end. The first seven km comprise rocky sections with sand and saltpans. Great stuff. Then it’s through the rugged red ranges that border the track before hitting the large open sandy plains stretching eastwards. The corrugations were mild and easy to get on top of. The occasional patch of rock is easily negotiated. Around the Curara soak, the track twists and turns to get around some dune ends and cross's the occassional soak and saltpan area. We spotted a couple of camels silouhetted against the blue sky on dune tops around us. They moved off once they got a sniff of us though.




The country east was largly clear and regenerating after an obvious fire within the last few years,certainly since my last visit in 2006. The wide sandy flats had low soft spinifex and only the beginnings of acacia and mulga type scrub. Many of the shoots were dying back due to the harsh conditions. The track was in excellent condition comparatively speaking that is! We made good time reaching the cut line and adding a card and exploroz sticker to the jar attached to the post there. We had intended to make Midway well and/or the windmill our lunch destination arriving hopefully about 1.00 p.m. It wasn’t to be though for as we entered the dune country about 6 km short of the turn to midway, I heard a booming noise from under the vehicle. I thought it best to stop and check it and just as well I did. Peering under the vehicle from the rear it became obvious what the issue was when I saw the 80 litre subtank hanging down below the diff centre. bleep ! Capitals for that to! Climbing into the confined area beneath the car I found that both rear mounts on the tank had broken and the rear of the tank had dropped away from the floor pan. The front was hanging on but that wouldn’t remain the case. Decision time. I had wire with me but nothing substantial like a good length of No. 8. Wiring the tank back in meant that it would still move considerably fatiguing the front mounts until they snapped as well. As the mounts (or half off them were still under the bolts, I could get a welding rod in there by dropping the rear of the tailshaft and may be able to weld them back together.


Using a bush welder would mean an ugly job though. In the end I decided to drop it out entirely so Al and I got to draining the tank. The fuel pump only removed half the contents before refusing to move anything else so while that was happening, I had Al scout a suitable spot in the track where the bank on the right hand side was high. I then got him to dig the soft sand out of the right hand wheel track commensurate with where the tank would sit in the vehicle. I then drove the right hand wheels up onto the side of the track and we had an improved work space. Still tight but do-able. Sacrificing one of the collapsable buckets, I used the jack to level the tank and then began the labourious task of removing the 40 odd litres of diesel that were left. I drained it into the bucket and then slid that out the rear to Al. I would then crawl out and help him fill the main tank. Gradually lowering the jack to improve the angle we salvaged all fuel and almost filled a jerry can as well. I think there must have been closer to fifty litres left in the tank.


After that it was just a matter of locating and disconecting the fuel transfer pump wiring and tubing. A guard had to be taken off first to get to the pump. Then it was time to disconnect the filler and breather tubes as well as the pipes and wiring at the sender unit. With that out of the way I undid the front mounts and slid the entire unit backwads, dropping it into the gap and sliding it back to Al at the rear of the car. With all the frigging around and repacking the vehicle, awning etc, it took a little under 3 hours to get it out and roped to the roof rack, all hoses plugged and all wiring wrapped in plastic and cable tied to the chasis work. After guzzling a fair bit of water we were on the track again at 3.30 p.m. heading in to Midway well.






I found that the well had been dug out further since I had located it and done so in 06. There is a second larger hole there now that forms a wide burrow down to a small pool. Hard for a Camel to get to but easy enough for birds or small animals. Plenty of dog prints around. I hope no cats though! We opted to head for the nearby windmill and tank hoping for water to at least clean off the diesel and dust with but it became apparant that it would be a one star camp location according to the warning posted at the intersection. On a piece of pipe, someone had also lodged an exploroz sticker. Ha, beaten to it...outrageous!


We drove into the windmill site regardless to find the mill spinning madly but not producing any water. Nearby was a frame for a hot house and I was wondering just what on earth you’d try and grow out here other than the obvious “cash crop”. We have headed back down towards the Talawana pulling in about 1.2 km north of the windmill. Just far enough to escape the incesant squeeking of the windmill turning. A real bush camp. Can night as we’re both a little tired. Got onto Al McCall on the satphone and asked him to update the exploroz site with Rudall conditions. Feeling good. Another crisis overcome. New maxim...”If it bumps or booms and it shouldn’t.....check it pronto”!



''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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