The Pilbara - The Oakover River Country to Rudall River & Hanging Rock.

Saturday, Jul 04, 2009 at 00:00

Mick O

Saturday 4th July 2009
Hanging Rock, Rudall River National Park
22 30 18.26 S 121 39 57.0 E

A day of achievement today despite the gloomy weather. We’ve covered some amazing country, completed three “to do” things from my list and set the stage for some excellent exploring and travelling next year. The sunset from the sides of Hanging Rock was memorable. Not as spectacular as some but different and memorable to say the least. Both Al and I summitted two of the highest peaks out this way and whilst they aren’t the Himalayas, there was a sense of achievement none the less. As I type this by the campfire, the bats are chipping overhead and a waxing moon sits high above the rock, its silhouette stark against the moon lit white clouds. It’s cool without being cold and the first of the magnificent eucalypt logs is just starting to catch, the deep bed of coals providing a vermillion warmth.

Our day began with an early rise to a gloomy day. No rain although showers could be seen falling in the distance around us. It was cool and there had been intermittent showers during the night. Thankfully the breeze was enough to snap the tent fly and thereby dry just about everything out. Al had the fire going pronto so a cuppa was in the offing as we packed the tents away. Once the R.T.T. and Al’s ground cave were away, I finished the job of seasoning the new jaffle iron with oil and a red hot fire before introducing Al to the masterful art of Jaffle making. Let me tell you, the Braised Steak & Onion jaffle was ART I say, ART! It was spectacular. Golden brown on both sides with absolutely NO charring. Who’s the king I ask, who? It was indeed one of the finest examples of the jaffle making art to have emerged this week, and from a newly seasoned iron none the less. I had to celebrate with a second cup of tea.




We were on the road at 0800 a.m. and a few short kilometres later, we crossed the Pearana creek, turning left to follow its course a couple of kilometres to the magnificent Pearana Rock Hole. What first drew our attention was a stack of neatly packed drums of Jet A1, all empty, and numerous pallets. Moving past these we encountered a high rocky wall that led to a magnificent pool water sheltered beneath large gums and surrounded by red, granite like walls. The dark expanse of water, maybe 30 metres across appeared deep. Black “tide” marks on the surrounding walls showed just how high the pool had been before the last three years of drought. It still has many years water to provide though such is it’s depth and breadth. The surrounding low ranges provided ample sign of kangaroo and as we explored, the bellowing and growling of dispute could be heard echoing down the many low canyons as nearby camels “discussed” an issue. This is the sort of place I could spend a week or two. It is much more inviting and attractive than Carrawine. The maps indicated that many of the surrounding creeks supported rock holes which bore the names of Fig Tree Rock hole and many more. A great place to base for ATV exploration.

Our destiny lay elsewhere so after wandering among the gums and some of the largest and gnarly looking fig trees I have seen to date, we headed back out and south through the low ranges towards the Oakover, We passed through Gregory Creek, no doubt a reminder of the Gregory brothers who were prolific explorers of the Pilbara. Then it was onto the plains, our height hitting the high 400 metre mark. We sighted a few mobs of camels and numerous bustards some of which took wing from the side of the road, others did the neck puff thing and strutted as if they were the lord of the domain and we interlopers should bow. Hmmm very hard to make a 3.5 tonne Nissbeast travelling at 40 kph pirouette in an instant. Lucky King Bustard didn’t end up as dinner!


On reaching the Oakover delta, the road crests the plateau on the eastern side and follows the eroded landscape for some kilometres giving you a grand view of the valley below. The extra 40 metres in height gives a magnificent vista across the Gum filled hollow, an obvious haven for all life in the area as the scores of cattle and wildlife attest. We disturbed many a roo, proud reds, blue flyers and white faced euros. One large Feral cat made me wish for a bang stick. The road then descends into the valley winding through the gums and crossing many of the tributaries that feed the mighty Oakover. We’d found that many of the tracks have been regraded or aligned since the last Natmap reconciliation. There are also many bores and tanks unmarked, which can create some confusion. We had a few short exploratory detours but remained pretty much without incident.



The track heads south on a bearing that takes one to the west orf Mount Hodgson. Here the track is long, straight and in great condition as it crosses vast open plains of grass and spinifex. The altitude id getting towards 500 metres and Mt Hodgson can be seen quite clearly to the east. At one point, I was able to see Bocrabee Hill directly behind Hodgson on the far east. It wasn’t long before we disturbed a group of wild horses, all in magnificent condition. Our track soon veered to the east once we passed Hodgson and then bought us directly under it on its southern side as we made our way east to Christies Crossing. Once past Hodgson, the track dips again into the Oakover and as we dropped into the floor of the river, we disturbed a magnificent Jabiru and many Herons quietly stalking the many pools along the river floor. We had barely climbed out the other side of the creek when we spotted a couple of donkeys, a mule or two and a mob of camels, talk about a feral-fest!

The track to Bocrabee and Rudall was hard to discern and took a little finding. Once eastward bound, it was obvious we had left the well maintained station tracks. While easy enough to follow, the track became heavily overgrown, the acacia encroaching from the roadsides. The first few kilometres were punctuated by horn tooting to shoo cattle from the track but it soon entered the desert realms once again as we paralleled dunes of rich red sand. It was a lovely drive and a lot easier than I remember than when we pushed ourselves through the country as some of the first visitos in quite a while back in 2007. We followed the swales towards that rugged range of unnamed hills and then, turning around the head of one dune, there was Bocrabee before us, the clouds and sunlight playing over it in strange patterns. It almost appeared to be being swept with search lights at times. It was magic to see the bluffs of the hill light up with the rays of the sun as they made their way through a gap in the clouds. Pushing on, we reached the western end of the hill where we stopped for lunch, boiling the billy and making soup. Rolls with ham cheese and tomato followed before we set off climbing the north west edge of the hill. The sharp incline bought us to a rocky crevasse/valley in which several large fig trees provided a shady haven for the local roos. The walls of this rift were sentinels of rock some 5 metres high. The high end of the gorge saw them split to create a maze of gullies and crevasses . Climbing these again bought us to the top of the hill and a magnificent view west across the plains to Mt Hodgson some 25 kilometres distant. We located a cairn nearby and on investigating, I located a jar beneath it with a short note written in 2004. I added Alan and my details and the date to the note before adding a rock or two to the cairn and walking east across the hilltop. The views to the rugged ranges to the west and north were spectacular. Some wild cattle lazed in the shade of the bushes on the valley floor but we could see no visible signs of water nearby.

I reached the escarpment of the dent that gives Bocrabee its kidney shape. The ravages of erosion no doubt assisted by the rare, tumultuous rains was obvious. The far side to the west was higher than my vantage point and the fingers of rock shaping its walls were at least 20 metres high in places. Despite a thorough search, I could find no trace of foraging camels that had been so prevalent on my last visit in 07. The fossil record left on the face of the rocks was also amazing. Al and I descended along the north face and made our way back to the vehicle and headed south once more.

The tracks definitely bear no resemblance to those that may have existed in the past, They now cut east across the southern face if Bocrabee and into the Sandhill’s and rocky ranges again. It was fun retracing out explorative steps of 07 and a damn site easier than it had been back then. Still made the odd wrong turn and track choice finding myself on the northern side of the Acacia thicket that bordered the edge of the grassy plain. Thankfully I knew where I was heading this time so track located in no time and on once again towards Hughes Knob, Chinamans hat and the rocky path into Tchukardine Pool.

Tchukardine was empty when we arrived, the Dolmio jar I’d left was siting in the fork of the tree. Investigating it I found numerous notes including Alan and John McCall’s from 2008 as well as a card from CS Beadell and Mick Hutton about a month after I’d been there and left the jar. I re-entered my details on the back of my original note and then resecured the jar in the cairn at the base of the tree. Oh and the jar was jazzed up with an Exploroz sticker as well. Heading further west we passed through Meeting Gorge (explain who met) and then crossed the creek towards Hanging rock. We stopped and felled a dead eucalypt on the way knowing there would be little wood at HR.




We arrived at HR at 3.15 and immediately set up tents to let them air. The sky was still overcast and although a few drops fell on our arrival, they showed every sign of breaking up. Next on the “to do” list was to complete the ascent of HR along the same incline I had tried back in 2006. Being more foolhardy or determined i don’t know which) Al and I climbed the steeply angles rift on the western face of the rock. It went vertical over the last 10 metres which meant I had to utilise every crack in the rock I could. The last section required me to thrust my incredible bulk outwards and over a large boulder. I don’t know if the sweat I had to wipe from my brow as I crested the summit was from exertion or fear...probably a hearty mix of both. Removing my pack I lowered the rope to Al 10 meters or so below me and he sent up the piece of acacia I’d carried up. This wad then wedged as an anchor in a crevasse and the rope wrapped around a large rock before being lowered back to Alan who also clambered to the top several nervous minutes later. Photo’s video and a very small cairn, making sure that it couldn’t be seen from below but would appear obviously man made to anyone else foolhardy enough to climb the heights.

A nervous climb down and then we caught the sunset. I had been hoping that the sun would creep under the breaking clouds and it didn’t disappoint. The rock was illuminated firstly as the sun found a large gap in the clouds. Al and I then climbed the western face to gain a vantage point were we watched the odd ribbon of gold appear before the sky came alive in hues of pink. The scalloped clouds above us also had their undersides tinged with brilliant pink. A totally different sunset but one to remember, if not for the location alone.

Dinner was burgers and snags with fire roasted veg. A great cooking fire by Al. The moon is magnificent above us as is the silhouetted rock. The bats are working overtime and the unseen whir-bird is also rocketing above us on occasion. A great days travel.



''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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