Karlamilyi (Rudall River) NP - The Yandagooge - Exploring east to Camel Valley

Thursday, Jul 11, 2013 at 05:00


Wednesday 10th July, 2013 - Yandagooge Gap

It had been a mild night with the wonders of the universe laid out in the night sky above us. Magnificent star-scapes and the absolute silence of the desert night.

A beautiful desert morning, there were a few scattered clouds as we got breakfast away and prepared the quads by measuring and evaluating their fuel usage, something that will be vital for us in our Carnegie expedition. Today’s activities would re-trace our 2008 expedition along the ramparts of the Throssell Range towards Camel Valley.

We cleared the campsite at 9:00 a.m. and near the entrance to the gap, spying a lone bull camel wandering across the entrance to the gap. Our route took us east, hugging the hills and often riding on the rocky talus slope where the going was easier. We stopped and explored many gorges in a vain attempt to find water. One of the finds of our 2008 expedition was a gorge and chasm in which we located a good sized cave. Entering the wide sandy confines of the gorge entrance this year, we found a large pool of water. Had it not been for a layer of clay on the bottom of the pool, the sandy soil would have soon soaked up the precious liquid.The pool was well patronised by the local animals including camels. The rock holes further along the gorge were all dry. Climbing the western wall, we examined the cave with its fire blackened roof and fading art. From its mouth you had a commanding view of both the gorge and out across the expanse of the main valley. Obviously a place of shelter from the driving winds for nomadic groups moving in concert with the ebb and flow of known water and the availability of food.

From examination of satellite images, we knew that the eastern edge of the ranges were formed of ribbons of minor hills or ranges running parallel. This meant that behind what appeared to be an unbroken hill, lay a valley and often more gorges penetrating inwards and splitting the hills behind. As these were not visible from the floor of the main valley, the only way to get a look at what lay to the north was to scale the sides of the range and peer into the pound and valley areas behind. It was a very enjoyable ride, much of the gnarly scrub that clawed at us in 2008 having been burnt off in recent fires.

We stopped for a morning tea break in the shade of a few spindly eucalypts taking the time to boil the billy and enjoy the solitude. Few if any people visit this part of the park, the lack of easy access deterring all but the hardiest traveller. Continuing, we soon reached the shallow gorge formed when the entire cliff face had fallen away from the valley wall leaving huge, jagged boulders we dubbed the Roman Ruins. Various termitaria resembled stone lions and other ornaments further accentuating the ancient civilisation feel of the place.

"We investigated one area where giant slabs of rock had slid away from the valley wall allowing the wind had to carve caverns from the white, chalky substrate underneath. On arriving it appeared as if one such cavern was guarded by ancient statues of lions, the termite mounds making a convincing facsimile that didn’t require much imagination. (22°25'49.88"S, 121°57'49.39"E ) "

Journal Entry - 19th July 2008

Exploring the jagged, jumbled gorge behind I spied telltale signs of water and investigating further, locating a rockhole in a crevice high on the cliff walls. It yielded 10 litres of clear water for us leaving plenty more for the locals. It was a good find and the sheltered position deep in the crevasse ensuring that the water may last well into the hotter times.

As we progressed, the valley narrowed, the walls became steeper and more rugged and forming the tight pinch point of ‘Camel Valley’. Back in 2008 it became obvious to us was that many camel paths radiated out from this pinch point across the floor of the main valley to the west. At the narrowest point, the paths converged into a single track and headed deep into the narrow confines of the gorge;

“So well worn was this path that it seemed to have been made for the express purpose of hikers. Rather, it was a migratory path through this narrow, winding valley allowing access from one valley to the next. It was even more incredible considering that the camel is always considered a beast of the open plains and desert. You never imagine them making a precarious climb along narrow rocky valleys and passes.”

Journal Entry: 19th July, 2008

From the point where the creek spills out onto the plain, it progresses east into the range growing ever tighter. We located the remnants of the old mining camp left some 40 years previously and then headed east, plunging into some steep rills. Both Suze and Dingo abandoned quad at one stage, Al helping to haul old squeaky over the top of one particularly steep climb.

It didn’t take long for us to reach a point in 2008 where the confines and nature of the terrain meant that ATV’s could go no further. Here we broke for lunch before continuing on foot. Unlike previous journeys, the gorge floor was littered with pools of water, some quite substantial in size.

“With the GPS in hand, continue along the camel path on foot. The track continued along the gorge and climbed its high sides leaving the creek bed below. I took the opportunity to walk the creek bed finding numerous large, dry rock holes. About a kilometer along the gorge, we reached an obvious high spot on the trail and were able to look down in both directions. Here we climbed the steep walls to the east and on reaching the summit of the range, gained a magnificent vista across the next valley. This valley extends to the south where it opened out onto the vast plains that would eventually reach the Watrara Creek and its ephemeral pools. To the north it tapered and led off into many narrow gorges and chasms all of which would lead to other such valleys, one of which we knew held the pinnacle. In various places across the width of the valley, you could see Camels foraging amongst the sparse vegetation. It was a fantastic place and we were very reluctant to climb down again. I built a very small cairn (not visible from below) on a GPS mark (22°26'3.47"S, 121°58'47.41"E). It was very tempting to continue on along the path but we had little in the way of water and food with us so we decided to head back to the quads. On arrival there, we had lunch, sheltered from the wind behind the machines.”

Journal Entry: 19th July, 2008

Picking our way carefully along the rugged trail, we soon reached the saddle, the highest point of the trail. From here you get impressive views across scalloped hills to the east and back along the rugged mountainous path to the west.

We climbed to the summit above the saddle and took in the view of the valley below. It was a lot greener this year, the rain promoting new growth throughout. Retracing our steps, we climbed down to the gorge floor exploring the many waterholes along its course before returning to the main trail and the quads.

It was eleven kilometres back to camp, the distance disappearing quickly beneath the wheels of our quads. It was a warm day and arriving home in the late afternoon, a cold beer was a refreshing treat. Towards 4:00 p.m. a dark thunderhead rolled through bringing a brief shower. The majority of the storm clouds remained off to our south providing a spectacular rainbow. I whipped up a hearty feed of devilled snags for dinner. Lightening and thunder could be seen and heard off in the distance making for a spectacular light show in during the night.

''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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