Karlamilyi (Rudall River) - An "OH SHIT" moment near the Desert Queen Baths!

Friday, Jul 06, 2012 at 00:00

Mick O

Desert Queen Baths,
Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park. WA


We were up early into a beautiful, still dawn. The first effort of the day was to try and capture the early morning reflections on the still waters of the waterhole. The galahs and pigeons arrived for water early and were a pleasure to watch as we settled in for breakfast. All that was left for us to do was to square away the last of the equipment and then hit the track. It had been a beaut couple of days spent enjoying the tranquillity of Tjarra Pool but now it was time to move on.





We slowly wound our way out to the main track where we headed north to meet the Desert Queen Baths turn-off some 20 kilometres distant. The road was in fair condition as this section is not as sandy as the south sections. We reached the DQB intersection in good time and as expected, it was a very slow trip in. In my opinion the track into Desert Queen Baths has gotten worse since 2010, if that’s possible! The flora is making a noticeable comeback and the bare red earth that greeted us along the Broadhurst Valley in 2009 now sports a healthy coverage of green. The 17 kilometre trip east is certainly an experience and as the driver, a good deal of your time is spent in the mirrors watching your trailer tyres, lest they pick up a stake along the narrow track.


We arrived to find the main camping sites at Desert Queen Baths (DQB) taken. There were two vehicles set up near the gorge entrance and a further four vehicles back under the trees of our usual campsite. We pulled back and set up under the big eucalypt 150 metres to the north. It didn’t take us long to have camp set, the quads unloaded and the fireplace cleared and set. Taking a walk over to the main pool we found it absolutely brimming with water, the fullest I’d seen it since 2006. Three Goannas Pool was so full that water still trickled down the creek filling all the rock pools north towards Rooney Creek. It looked great. The resident Willy Wagtails were working overtime worrying the local insects and letting all and sundry know just whose pool this was!






In the mid afternoon we decided to make a quad excursion over to the mighty dunes of Pyramid Point. While it’s only a short ride, It is a great trip covering some diverse countryside. We picked our way down to Rooney Creek and were hard pressed to find a suitable entry point from the southern bank. Eventually we made a very sharp decent into the creek, travelling east along the sandy bed for a distance before climbing out onto the northern side.

We were negotiating a stony area when John radioed “I’ve done an axle”! Turning around quickly, I was left in no doubt he’d done something alright, bleep what a mess! The front right hand tyre of the quad was protruding outwards at a very funny angle with the front of the quad sagging down on top of it. John quickly identified that the retaining bolts on the lower control arm had come undone allowing the bottom of the wheel to slip outwards. Luckily he’d stopped instantly so hadn’t suffered any damage to CV joints, axle or boots. This was going to be an interesting repair exercise as both John and I had left out tool bags back at camp. This meant we were going to have to fix the problem using only the manufacturers’ under-seat tool kit, the bare essentials. With no jack, a bit of outback innovation was needed to get the front of the stricken quad up off the ground.


Having substantial bar work on the front of my quad, I pulled squeaky (my quad) up to the broken machine (Leaky) nose to nose. Then, grabbing the largest rocks we could find, we popped these under the front end of my machine to prop the front end. Wrapping Johns winch cable around the top bar of my protection work, we used his quad winch to slowly lift the machine. up enough to straighten the wheel. John managed to straighten the wheel and reseat the bolt. Using two spanners joined together end to end for extra leverage, he managed to produce enough torque to crank the bolt in hard. Leaky was in serviceable condition in 20 minutes flat. As John said then and there “It always pays to go quadding with a friend”.




Mishap dealt with and video proof that you can deal with a disaster using the manufacturers tool kit, we continued on with our ride. A short distance on we encountering a set of vehicle tracks and followed them a distance, finding that the driver had been marking a trail with tape. Following the trail to its conclusion, we found the party had camped near the entrance to “the Gap”, a most interesting discovery.


A very small gap allows access into the area that holds Pyramid Point (or PP for brevity’s sake). It is a space only 200 metres wide where a creek splits the end of the rocky range and the start of the huge dunes. By ducking through this gap you can move to the north west around the dunes to arrive at the base of Pyramid Point. The other option and our preference, is to head into the dunes on a north-north-east bearing. After negotiating three dunes you find yourself on the ridge of the highest dune. From here we rode west along the ridge top until we reach peak of the dune directly in front of the rocky prominence that we’ve dubbed Pyramid Point. The dunes here are easily 100 metres high, nearly as high as the ramparts of the Miles Ridge to the north.



Heading through the gap and into the dunes, we reached the crest of the dune above PP in the late afternoon with the setting sun deepening the colour of the sands to blood red. Standing atop this dune and taking in the scenery around you, it dawns on you just how big this monster is. OK it’s not the mountainous hills of sand of Namibia but by Australian desert standards, it is bloody huge! The sides are so steep that the dune is only climbable by cresting it a kilometre back and then following the ridge top along to the zenith. It is always a great place to sit and contemplate the last minutes of the day.



With the sun rapidly setting and the cool wind starting to bite, we headed back down the dunes and picked our way towards camp. Crossing the wheel marks again, we opted to back track along them to see where they originated. Who ever had driven this route reminded us a bit of ourselves, ballsy and with a good eye for the land. The driver had carefully weaved their vehicle safely across rough ground with hardly an issue and ensuring minimal impact to the country itself. The tracks emerged near where the main track crosses the Rooney Creek giving us the opportunity to pick up a bit of firewood on the way back.




A lovely meal and evening was spent by the fire.



''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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