Talawana Tales - West to Midway Well, Capricorn Roadhouse (Well 23) and the saga of the missing fuel

Tuesday, Jul 03, 2012 at 19:00


Tuesday 3rd July, 2012
Talawana Track west of Georgia Bore

It was a racing breakfast this morning to enable us to be on the track nice and early. Once underway, we wound our way west across what remained of the mulga woodlands and it wasn’t long before we dropped down onto the long, sandy straights of the spinifex and dune country. It’s pretty featureless in the initial stages with the spinifex plains disappearing off into the distance. The track was in good condition, closed in some areas but lightly corrugated and that’s a blessing. We passed the usual outback landmarks of the burnt out Landy, Prado and trailer and then it was in to Midway Well for morning tea. Midway was absolutely brimming with water, a far cry from my previous visits where all that greeted you were crudely dug holes down to a small, dinner plate sized pool. The finches were abundant and peeping indignantly at our presence. We took advantage of the locale to have a spot of morning tea, all very civilised really.

As we progressed further west, it was apparent that the Traditional Owners had been out patch burning. A great deal of the area was scorched but they never seemed to stray far from the track. Despite the clearance of a good deal of the roadside shrubbery, I managed to lose the drivers side mirror on one large dead stick. I saw the damn thing coming but had little enough time to reach out to pull the mirror in. Discretion saw me keep the hand in but get showered with broken glass from the mirror as a consequence of my driver side window being down. A five minute stop to pick the glass out of me, my clothing and the seat and I was away again trying to catch the lead vehicle.

Low on fuel and watching every drop switching between tanks. With sub tank gauge out, it was hard to judge when the vehicle would start spluttering and travelling at such low speeds (and in sand), I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to hit the sub button and bleed fuel through the system from the opposite tank before she conked out. The last 20 or so kilometres of the Talawana prior to reaching the Canning, I regard as a much more interesting drive and the highlight of the Talawana. The track winds its way through the dunes and then around the edges of many of the small dry salt lakes and pans that make up the north eastern end of Lake Disappointment. By the time we hit the Canning at Windy Corner, I had been on empty with the fuel warning lights on for over 70 kilometres. Talk about running on Vapour.

Heading south on the Canning we passed Curara Soak (Well 24) and then moved west through the low stony hills that punctuate this region. I managed to coax the tuck truck on and upon reaching Well 23 and the “Capricorn Roadhouse” we found a group of unhappy travellers. Some unscrupulous individuals had snatched four of the most recently delivered drums of fuel. It must have been a quick snatch grab with a trailer. Despite immediately fearing the worst, we found our two tins (400 litres) were still present, thank god! To facilitate the transfer of fuel from drums to vehicles, we used Johns home made 44 gallon Tanami pump to great effect although to my horror, the first thing into the funnel from my tin was two litres of bleep and water! We had the pickup pipe on the tanami set low and the first thing out was a pure sludge. Thank god for the “Mr Funnel”! That stuff in the tank could have led to a disaster of epic proportions with the common rail diesel. We pulled the intake pipe up higher and then reset, gingerly empting the drum. At the conclusion of proceedings, a visual inspection revealed the inside of the drum to be very corroded with a couple of litres of water and crap remaining in the bottom. If I’d had a cold chisel handy, I’d have put a few holes through the drum to make it unserviceable. I was somewhat bleep -off.

While we were stationary, I took the opportunity to swap mirrors from the passengers side to the drivers side. This will at least allow me to check the trailer on my side. After checking that our less fortunate fellow travellers had managed to make alternate arrangements for fuel (thank god for sat-phones) we headed off towards Georgia Bore some 22 kilometres further to the west. It was abnormally quiet on the Canning with not a soul camped at the Georgia facilities. The corrugations were horrendous. At Georgia Bore, the Talwana diverges to the west once more with the Canning running off to the south. For us it was futher west on the heavily corrugated Talawana until we reached a point where the track paralleled the course of the McKay Creek. Here we pulled into the scrub and found a campsite by the steep sided and dry expanse of the creek. With plenty of timber about, a good fire was soon underway and the steaks sizzling on the BBQ. It was a beaut sunset enjoyed with great company. We spent the early evening around the fire getting familiar with the small navigation tablets we had sourced for the quads. The snappy gum burnt well.

''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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