Great Sandy Desert - Rain in the desert (Day 3 of our quest for Dragon Tree Soak)

Friday, Jul 09, 2010 at 00:00


Friday 9th July, 2010
Rocky Knoll, GSD
7 km west of DTS cut line.
19°22'24.45"S, 123°17'34.71"E

A day of adventure today with varied track conditions and a lot of rain. I awoke this morning to find I’d slept through a fairly heavy shower of rain during the night and didn’t hear a thing! It left enough water pooled on the quad cover to use as wash water. I managed to get a fire going (with some persuasion) and helped finish off Scotties repairs and STB (Sacred Tyre Business) and eventually hooking up the wounded trailer back onto the Guppy. For some reason I thought it was Saturday only to find out this evening that it is in fact Friday. Time doesn’t mean a lot out here, everything revolving around the times that the sun rises and sets.

It was a gloomy day as we continued our journey east through some absolutely wicked country. The landscape changes so much and so rapidly. One moment you’re pushing through spinifex and holly leaf grevillea to find it morphing into dense thickets of mulga and gidgee and equally as suddenly into more open areas of burnt out acacia. Occasionally there were open groves of desert walnut trees (Owenia reticulata). All of it involved a lot of off-track work through soft, heavy sand , heavy with moisture that is after the abundant rain. Some areas of old burnt timber were so thick as to be frustrating and forced us to head to the top of the seif dune to our south just to get clear of the cursed stuff. It clawed at the car and quads every inch of the way, the high pitched screeching of it passing down the duco making you cringe!

At one point we hit a cut line that had been topped with gravel and as a consequence, our track improved in quality no end, if only for a few short kilometres (the 'topping off' of the track marked this section as being a major hall or access track way back when). Running down the slack of the dunes, this section of track split an area of wide open grassland and being up front, John mnaged to scare out a bustard or two in his passing. The good conditions didn’t last long though and the track soon deteriorated once again. From examinations of maps and old survey liners, we had hoped that the track would have improved in condition once passed the 123rd meridian. Unfortunately this wasn't the case.

We had been subject to intermittent showers all morning yet the temperature remained at 27C making it extremely muggy. Riding the quads and exposed as they were, the girls were saturated and cold by lunch time. We took a quick lunch break which allowed the girls to change clothes and boots. We were eastward bound again by 1:30 p.m. The track afforded us reasonable time despite the twists and turns and "off track" tranches as were required every now and then. Around 3:00 p.m. a massive storm front crept up from behind us eventually swallowing our small party. The leading edge of the roiling mass crossed at a diagonal so the cloud mass to our right (south) was actually well ahead of us before the actual front hit us. This simple mercy gave us a chance to pull up and watch in awe as this seething black mass descended upon us. We experienced tumultuous rain for 15 minutes or so as we all sheltered in the vehicles and waited for it to pass. The downpour thundering on the roof of the vehicles was deafening and when it finally passed, the surface water and remaining runoff was simply amazing. Amazingly, a small washaway near us filled with water draining from the surrounding country and flowed to a single point before all the water was simply absorbed at a vorocious rate by the insatiable sands.

The rain had left things quite slushy and not knowing what further weather to expect, we spied a series of small rocky outcrops a couple of hundred metres to our north. This higher, more solid appearing ground was to be our camp for the night. It was however a treacherous track undertaken to reach the knoll with the vehicles sinking deeply into the boggy soil. Our only relief was when we actually hit the rocky outskirts of the rise. Despite being only a few metres higher than the surrounding country, this small hillock provided enough flat-ish areas to park the vehicles and would keep us above teh flooding downpours of any further storms.

Despite the threatening skies (and oppressive humidity), in no time at all we were perched in our chairs on top of the low hill with a beverage watching the bands of rainstorms forming in the distance around us.Jaydub and Scottie managed to drag in the sodden branches of a long dead Desert Walnut which to our amazement, Gaby coaxed into a respectable fire (with the help of some of Jaydubs patented firelighters!) As the sun sank low on the western horizon, a crack in the clouds allowed teh entire area to be bathed with deep, golden light. The contrast in the countryside around us was immediate and made for some stunning sunset shots. Despite the hardship (lol) I managed to knock up a spag bog for dinner. We’re all knackered so retired to bed early, just on eight bells as I finish this days journal offering. Bloody hell it’s humid. Anything left out in the open has attracted a cover of moisture, including oneself. Mores the pitey, the breeze has dropped right although the skies are clear and the stars ablaze. That's a fair degree of compensation in my opinion. Here's to tomorrow.

''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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