Saturday, 6 June 2015

Alice Springs to Mount Augustus - the remote way.

So after a weekend of relaxation and restocking in Alice Springs we headed west in to the McDonnell Ranges with ten days worth of food, fuel and water stopping at the various access points to the lofty ridge including Glen Helen where we had called in our own van almost exactly four years to the day before. 
We stayed the night at Redbank Gorge and then picked up the Gary Junction Rd - a dirt track that headed out towards the Great Sandy Desert. 

The trusty Landcruiser easily handled the conditions and the sturdy trailer continued to perform well and provide for our needs at a range of overnight stops where the true silence of the desert was almost deafening. A good range of wildlife was spotted - wild camels, wedge tailed eagles, the odd kangaroo and most notably at Jupiter's Well a large flock of noisy galahs who crowded the trees waiting for scraps as we ate and then next morning congregated on the half oil drum we had filled from the hand pump. As a result of the good water supply we had enjoyed a rare shower the previous night courtesy of the on board gas heater and water pump and were able to top up the 30 litre spare jerry can. A puncture picked up the previous day was plugged and we set off again with the intention of picking up the Kidson or Wapet track out to the coast. A deep sandy section had us bogged briefly until lower tyre pressure provided better traction and the night out in the bush was defined by the ghostly call of numerous dingoes within yards of our camp. Huge termite mounds were also a feature of the superb desert scenery but before long a mining company sign advised us that the route was closed until further notice. 

We had called in at some of the remote aboriginal communities where dilapidated houses, numerous wrecked cars and seemingly despondent locals were a predominant and troubling sight. Fuel could be bought at a high price and we purchased the odd treat from the sparsely stocked shops that were usually heavily barred and secured. Punmu was in a similar vein and had a school staffed by young Australians who were friendly and full of hope but again there was on overwhelming sense of futility about people continuing to live hundreds of miles from any source of employment or other support. 
After passing the Teifer gold mine we emerged on to a sealed road and stayed two days at the refreshing Carawine gorge where a huge sea eagle passed overhead with a large fish in its talons, jabirus fished in the shallows and again galahs and a range of other colourful birds took advantage of this unspoilt oasis.
A night of civilisation at Marble Bar gave us the chance to go and see the eponymous outcrop of marble that straddled the river and enjoy a cool beer in the tin pub although the camp site was busy and noisy in advance of an indigenous funeral due the following day.

Thus after a week in some very remote country we pulled in to Port Hedland where again 4 years ago we had called in search of rear brake pads and a fix for seized calipers. The huge piles of salt shimmered in the hot sunshine and we were lucky to see the huge Gaia Petraeus iron ore carrier escorted in to the vast port.
After a resupply in the shopping mall we turned off the main road for a memorable night at Balla Balla Creek just a couple of miles from the sea and enjoyed a remarkable sunset.
Millstream Chichester National Park was a good stop with a couple of walks available and the old homestead to explore - most of the old farm machinery had been made in the north of England at a time when it was months by sea to get down here and these stations would have been even more isolated.
Whilst heading to Tom Price we saw one of the huge ore trains that constantly supply Port Hedland and had a noisy night on the town site as many mine workers use it and their shifts start early!

A couple more nights of peace and quiet in the bush saw us arrive at Mount Augustus,a geological oddity that claims to be the largest rock in the world and rises to over 3000' above the surrounding semi desert landscape. The station provided a rare grassy campsite and welcome showers and we decided to have 3 nights there as there were numerous walks and sights in the area - the best being a day walk to the summit following a superb gorge up and a rocky trail down. The night skies were awe inspiring as there was no moon and as usual we enjoyed a fire and dined well.

With limited battery power and internet allowance I will come to a halt for now - we are back in Melbourne in a comfy hotel after 7 amazing weeks on the road and I will describe our journey south to the Nullarbor and then east back to Victoria in a day or two - apologies for the long gap since the last post but as a look at the Spot locations here will show you we have been a very long way from civilisation. 

Perhaps the adventure can best be appreciated by looking at the bumper crop of photographs here.

Home in two weeks but a few adventures planned for the interim - regards to all for now.

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