Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Bungle Bungles

Sunday, 20th June 2010

Took a run out to "Old Halls Creek", only 16 kms out of Halls Creek, but what a road! Narrow, twisty, rough and cattle trucks, I had to head for the bush a couple of times to avoid being run off the road.

On the way is a side-track to the "Walls of China". I wasn't expecting much, but it is actually quite impressive. It really looks like it has been built by humans and reminded me of the photos I have seen of Aztec ruins.

Anyway, made it to Old Halls Creek and it's a bit of a shambles. The "Lodge" has a display of old vehicles and machinery, but anywhere else it would be called a junk-yard or a tip.Not a very salubrious spot. The original settlement has just about all gone except for some street signs that the local historical society have erected. One ruin which does remain, it the old post office which was built from an adobe-like mixture of spinifex and ant-bed. It has eroded a lot from the weather, but has now been preserved under a roof. Built in the early 1900's according to the sign, I would have thought we had more sophisticated technology by that time, but maybe the remoteness of the area left no other choice.

Just a few kms off the track is Caroline Pool. It is shown in the camps book as a stop, so I checked it out. Very nice spot. The wet season hasn't been over all that long, so there was still plenty of water in the pools, but I imagine it would dry right out in the dry season.

Stayed for a couple of nights so as to have a chance to do a bit of exploring. There is a fairly high hill right next to the camping area, so I climbed up to get a view of the surrounding area. To my surprise, from the summit I could not only see Old Halls Creek, but Halls Creek itself, 16 kms away.
Tuesday, 22nd June 2010

Just a quick stop in town to buy bread and milk and off on the road. I have been using cryovac-ed meat, which only needs refrigeration, not freezing and I am amazed at the difference in attitude by some butchers. I stocked up with a load in Gawler (about $150 worth of meat) and the butcher didn't charge me anything for cryovac-ing it. I noticed when I was in Alice Springs, that a butcher there was charging 30c a bag, which is probably not too bad, but the guy (the only butcher) in Halls Creek wanted $2.00 per bag, so he got nothing - that's just ridiculous. At that rate, I might buy a machine when I get to a decent size town, I believe Sunbeam have one for about $150.00

Up the highway, and the scenery is magnificent. I may have mentioned it before, but this is my favourite part of Australia for scenery. I was going to camp at the Spring Creek campsite, right opposite the entrance to the Bungles, but I pulled into the Ord River site, 7 kms earlier, just to check it out and a couple of people told me that the Spring Creek site is usually chock-a-block, so I set up here instead. I last came through here in about 2001 and they have built a bridge over the Ord River since then, and blocked off the old ford across the river - probably got flooded too many times. I stayed for a couple of nights and then into the Bungles.

Friday, 25th June 2010

The road in is 53 kms and caravans are banned. I can well understand why - it takes a good two hours to get in and a couple of the creek crossings are really steep. One strange thing I noticed was that the signs said that all vehicles had to engage 4WD "to save the road", but didn't say anything about reducing tyre pressures. I noticed that the majority of vehicles didn't drop tyre pressures, but I dropped mine to 24 psi. Gives a better ride, reduces damage from sharp stones and gves better traction, as well as being kinder to the road surface. The road is pretty rough - a genuine 4WD only track. Somebody said it was as good as it has ever been, so it must have been crook in the past.

The camp sites are fairly large, good shade, fireplaces, toilets, untreated bore water on tap and they drop off a bit of firewood each night. $11 entry fee and $11 per night to camp - reasonable I suppose.

Saturday, 26th June 2010

Did the southern section today, Domes Walk, Cathedral Gorge and Piccaninny Creek. Now don't get me wrong, the Bungle Bungles are very impressive, but I have previously seen the "Mini Bungle Bungles" in Hidden Valley in Kununurra and that reduced the impact a bit, but it is still well worth the visit.

I took loooots of photos, but here are some of the better ones. I'm thinking of putting all of my photos into a Picassa Album, but it will take a bit of time, so watch this space.

The Domes

Cathedral Gorge

Piccaninny Creek

Sunday, 27th June 2010

Did the Northern section today, quite different to the southern section, not so much of the striped formations, a lot of conglomerate sandstone (looks like natural concrete).

Mini Palms Gorge. A very tight squeeze getting in here. Some people who are a little more robustly built would have trouble getting through.

Echidna Chasm. This was amazing. I have been to Standley Chasm near the Alice and it has got nothing on this. The chasm is a fault in the rock and goes for about 5 or 6 hundred metres back into the cliff. at times it was less than a metre wide and about 200 feet deep. I am not claustrophobic, but even so I could feel a little of what sufferers might feel. The light levels were very low, even though it was the middle of the day, but hopefully you can get an idea of the perspective. (The photos will probably be a lot clearer if you click on them)
Monday 28th June 2010

Drove out this morning and the track seemed even rougher than going in. The place seems incredibly popular - as I was driving out, I crossed 21 vehicles and 3 tour busses going in.

Fueled up at Turkey Creek (now called Warmun after the locals), but at $1.90 per litre, only took on enough to get me to Wyndham. Stopped overnight at Dunham River campsite and cleaned about 50 kgs of dust out of the van. Can't do much for the outside as yet, that will have to wait until I can get to a spot with plenty of water.

Tuesday 29th June 2010

I was listening to the ABC news this morning at 7:30 and they happened to mention that it was 4.3 degrees in Perth at the time. I hopped out and checked my thermometer and it was 22 degC here at the same time. It's getting up to about 32 degC here during the day, and surprisingly, it is still a bit humid, the dry season hasn't fully kicked in yet.

I have stopped at a roadside rest area just south of Kununurra for a couple of nights and than I will be heading across to Katherine and then on to Queensland.

See you soon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Out of the Desert

You Little Beauty - it's warm again. I pulled into Halls Creek this morning and it's 29degC - the first time I've been warm since I left Port Augusta. The journey so far . . .

Thursday, 27th May 2010

I pulled out of The Alice this morning to the news on the radio that the over-night temperature had got down to 1.1degC - brrrr - that's cold. I think I may have mentioned previously that I have left my run north a little late - about 4 weeks late!

20 kms out of town and on to the Tanami road. They don't muck around with distances out here, 700kms to the WA border and 1120kms to Halls Creek - and no towns in between unless you count the aboriginal communities. Whew! talk about getting away from it all!
Only 123 kms from Alice to my first campsite - Charlies Creek, a roadside rest area. Pulled in and set up. There is a good looking hill just a km or so off the road, might have a go at climbing up there and having a look around. Lots of traffic on the road, but I think most of it is going out to the aboriginal communities at Papunya and Yuendamu.

An old fellow (72 he tells me) called Kavern (pronounced K'verrrn) has pulled in, heading the same way as me and he says he is happy to travel along with me for a while, he's heading up to the goldfields to do some fossicking for gold. I don't know how suitable his caravan is, it's an old Roma standard and I can't see it taking the corrugations too well - Oh well, I suppose he knows what he is doing.

Friday, 28th May 2010

It rained all night last night so I'm a bit suspicious about what the road is going to be like. Got out of bed this morning and couldn't see the tops of the hills. I don't think I've ever seen this sort of thing in this sort of country before. Three or four vans and campertrailers went through this morning and came back this afternoon. Finally, about 4pm, a guy pulled in and told us that the road was closed the other side of Tilmouth Well (the end of the bitumen) and that there was a road train down to the axles between Tilmouth and Yuendamu. The road is only expected to be closed for 24 hours, but I think I will wait for a few days for it to dry out a bit.

The temperature is not too bad during the days, about 17-18 degC, but as soon as the sun goes down it gets really cold. Luckily, there is plenty of firewood nearby and we sit around the fire after dinner and tell lies to each other. No phone (therefore no internet), no TV and it is hard to even get any radio reception, so I'm going to be really cut off for a while.
Monday, 31st May 2010

Some of the vehicles that have come through from the West in the last few days have been covered in red mud from top to bottom, but yesterday we noticed a couple that seemed relatively clean, which is an indicator that the road may have dried out, so bright and early (9:30) we set out. Still 60kms to the end of the bitumen, but the road is only one lane, and when the road trains come through, I pull right off the road and let them have the lot.

We reached Tilmouth Well, nothing there but a pub/fuel stop. Fuel was $1.90 a litre and we're only 180kms from Alice, so gawd knows what it will be further up the track. Lots of camels around, spotted a big bull just past Tilmouth that must have been at least 8 feet high to the top of the hump.

We got about halfway to Yuendemu and I stopped for a nature break. When Kavern pulled up behind me I commented that his van seemed to be riding a bit low at the front. We had a look and he had snapped his chassis rails both sides where the A-frame welds onto the chassis. The only thing holding his caravan together was the floor of the van. Well, I guess that answers the question bout the suitability of his van

I went into Yuendamu and spoke to the people in the shire works depot and they said they would go out and see if they could weld up his frame. I left my van there and went back out (50kms) to let him know that help was coming, but I don't hold out any great hopes. A normal van has 4-inch chassis rails (mine has 6-inch), but his were only 3-inch so even if he got the welded up, I can't see him getting far.

Some nice looking hills around this part of the country, reminds me a bit of parts of the Kimberley, but I reckon it'll get a lot flatter soon.
By the time I got back to Yuendamu, topped up with diesel ($1.90/litre) and hitched up the van, it was too late to make it through to where I'd planned to camp, so I pulled in for the night at the ruins of the Mt. Doreen homestead. No signs anywhere, but I found it just on last light and pulled in for the night.

Tuesday, 1st June 2010

What an interesting spot (well, I think so, anyway) lots of old bits and pieces and a good looking hill to climb.
At first glance, it looks just like any old abandoned place, but after having a bit of a poke around, I set off to climb the hill you can see in the background. According to the map it is called Wolfram Hill, and shown as abandoned mine workings, but I think they would have been looking for gold rather than tungsten so I have no idea where the name came from. The hill is riddled with old open cut workings and there is a tunnel into the side of the hill, but it looked waaaaay to unstable for me to go into.

There is obviously a lot of copper in the rocks from the colours and Google tells me there has been a bit of uranium exploration in the area.

Great view from the top of the hill. Not much as far as the general country, but surprising amount of detail around the old homestead. I was tempted to stay for a few days, but I told Kavern that I would be stopping at Renahan's Bore, so I'll push on just in case he gets fixed up and continues on. One of the amazing things is how green the country is after all the rain that has been through here. I expected it to be a lot dryer than it is.

Renehans Bore is quite a good little camp spot. The rest area is way too close to the road for comfort, the road trains kick up a hell of a lot of dust when they go through, but 200 metres back from the road, there are a couple of really nice areas near the old abandoned windmill and the later bore tripod. The water in the tank at the rest area is fine for drinking which means I won't have to use my own supplies, this means I can have a shower every night instead of just a wash and a shower every second or third day.

Lots of birds around, hawks, finches, honey-eaters, crested pigeons and of course, crows, but no magpies. I miss the sound of magpies in the mornings. Some sort of bird has made mud-nests under the roof of the shelter, but I have no idea what, can't imagine swallows out here.
Went for a ramble down some old bush tracks, but not a lot to see. Lots of camel tracks everywhere, some as big as a dinner plate. Lots of dingo tracks but I haven't heard any at night, they are probably a bit cautious about the amount of traffic. Each night there have been at least 4 or 5 vehicles stop here. This appears to be a popular route for travellers.

Tuesday, 8th June 2010

A week has used up my interest quotient here, there is only so much you can do when there are no natural features to investigate. No sign of Kavern, so I guess he must have turned back to the Alice. Hitched up and headed further up the track.

Lots of anthills around - black ants, not termites. I wonder if anybody has worked out how many billions or trillions of ants there must be in this country???

There is a large mine site up here called The Granites and just before I got there, there were these outcrops by the side of the road. Obvious to see where the name came from. The little sign on the fence says that these are Sacred Sites, so couldn't get any closer.Pulled in to Rabbit Flat Roadhouse to have a squizz. The guy who has run it for years and years has finally had enough and is closing down "at sunset on the 31st December 2010" according to the sign. He is not selling out, just shutting down. That will make the stretch from Yuendamu to Billiluna a long pull without any fuel stops, about 750kms. Perhaps the fact that he was charging $2.30/litre for fuel might have something to do with him closing???
Passed through the Old Tanami mine workings which are shown on my maps as abandoned, but there is a lot of work going on and there is a mill operating, so presumably the workings have been reopened.

Stopped at a rest area at the turn-off to Lajamanu, but I wouldn't recommend stopping there, it was a real shit-hole. The fact that there were dingoes hanging around the area was a bit of a worry in itself.

Onwards, ever onwards and so to the NT/WA border. The Camps book says there is a campsite here, but you have to be good to find it. No signage to indicate a rest area, but I found a track and about 500metres in, there are several nice spots.

Plenty of firewood close at hand but it is bone dry and burns very fast so have to collect a fair bit. The nights are cool and the days are fairly cool too, but worst of all there is a fairly fresh southerly breeze all day every day and I reckon the wind-chill factor is putting it pretty near freezing in the mornings.

Have had a little bit of cloud from the west in the evenings and have had the most magnificent sunsets for the last few nights.Tuesday, 15th June 2010

The road on the WA side of the border was supposed to be pretty rough according to "experts" who gave me their opinions, but I haven't found it to be so, It's fairly corrugated, but I have been sitting on 80kph with no worries.

I passed the turn-off to the Balgo community and hit the first hills I have seen for 500kms. Went for a bit of a wander and boy, it this area desolate, but amazingly still quite green.
Hit a small stretch of bitumen (about 500 metres) at Sturt Creek and there was a convoy of road trains assembling with cattle for the trip to Alice Springs. As I was passing, one of the drivers called out that there were two more coming. Thanks for the warning, these guys really throw up the dust. The road from Balgo through to Billiluna has been quite rough, but still fairly reasonable, nowhere near as bad as the Plenty Highway last year. Amazingly, as soon as I hit Carneya Station, one of Kidman's properties, the road became excellent limestone with no corrugations. Either the station works the road itself, or more likely, the Kidman name has got enough political pull to get the shire to keep the road up.

Finally, what I have been looking forward to, the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater. A very popular camp spot. There are about 10 bays for vehicles at the crater and every one of them was full every night, some with two or three vehicles per bay.
The crater is quite impressive, evidently it is the second biggest meteorite crater in the world after the Nevada crater (trust the Yanks to have the biggest). I went for a walk around the rim (about 2 hours). There were at least two "tag-along" tours that stopped there while I was there and several groups of vehicles which had come up the Canning Stock Route to Billiluna.

I stayed for three nights and took the opportunity to go and have a look at Wolfe Creek itself. The creek was bone dry, but quite big. It would be most impressive when it was flowing. Anywhere else, something of this size would be called a river, but because it is intermittent, it gets called a creek.
I don't know whether it is normal for this time of year, or because of recent rains, but there is an abundance of flowering bushes and shrubs the whole length of the Tanami. Wattle, Desert Roses, Grevilleas etc everywhere you look. Makes for a very pleasant trip.
I have had several tries at photographing the huge spiders I've seen, but the focus wouldn't work, and I've just figured out that I have to set the camera to "manual" or the autofocus sets itself on the web rather than the spider. Success at last.
Hopefully, I'll have reasonable internet coverage from now on, so I will be able to post a little more frequently. Incidentally, is anyone reading this??? or am I just doing it for my own benefit. If you enjoy my ramblings, drop a comment in or drop me an e-mail and let me know your thoughts.

I will spend two nights here in Halls Creek to do some washing and re-stock the fridge and then I'm off to the Bungle Bungles.

See you soon