Its been ages since I have actually got off my back side and blogged!! As you've gathered, we have been up the Tanami, soaked up Broome, stayed longer in Port Headland than was necessary due to me getting a stomach bug, and finally landed in Tom Price, our western most destination for the trip.
Tom Price was a welcome stop on the trip. An odd stop though I must say. Russell and Linda are relatives of a good long time family friend. Although we had all been at various family gatherings such as weddings etc, we had never actually met as such. We arrived and the rest is history.
No quite. Russell is a mad engineering type who has lived for the last 20 years in the haven that is Tom Price. Surrounded by all of the engineering facilities provided by a dedicated mining town, he has been able to indulge in one of his passions. Radial engines. When we arrived he was busy doing the final preparations on his latest creation, a 100% scratch built 9 cylinder radial engine utilising Over head Cam 600cc Honda XR600 barrels and heads. Its fed by an intercooled supercharger and run by a Mega Squirt ECU. WhatÃ¢ÂÂs itfor?? Just for fun he tells me. Its to big for a boat and not really aircraft worthy, the props just for fun(and cooling). I suggested strapping it to the back of something with big wheels and taking it out into the desert or down a beach!!!
We were also treated to a guided tour of the local secrets. Betsie got a rest on the back lawn and we all piled into his Disco and headed on out. Wittenoom, a long since abandoned Asbestos mine was the first destination. A deserted sealed road up the gorge past deep blue swimming holes and gravel banks flecked with bright blue chips of asbestos were what greeted us. We went right up the to the old workings and around the old mine village at the head of the valley. Such a pretty place, and so ghostly after 40+ years of abandonment. Not somewhere you should be on a windy day perhaps, and a bit of sensible caution around stirring up to much dust is probably advisable. The call for lunch was made by one of the big deep blue swimming holes and we spent an hour or so cooling off. We also headed up to the summit of Mt Nameless and Mt Sheila to take in the vast surroundings. An awesome few days in excellent company, not something we will forget in a hurry!!!
With time rapidly marching on, and lots still to do, we had to say our good byes and hit the road. The plan is was to head in to Newman, fill up every available container we had with good water, load up on as much fuel as we could squeeze in, fill the fridge and cupboards and head on out into the desert again for a few days. We wanted to do a bit of the Canning Stock Route. For those that cant be assed googling it, surveyed and created in the early 1900s, the scale of the Canning Stock Route is epic. It runs for almost 1800 kilometres, crossing 800 sandhills and four deserts in one of the most inhospitable environments on earth. 52 Wells were sunk along the route to sustain the mobs of cattle on their journey South.
The plans was to join the CSR at Well 23 by coming in on the Talawana Track and travel up to well 33, before heading back out on the Telfer mine road. It was roughly 700km off road between fueling points, most of that was going to be bumping along at 15kph over endless hundreds of kÃ¢ÂÂs of corrugated track. By track, I mean just two corrugated wheel tracks through a desert that stretches out in every direction as far as the eye can see. Why not do more of the CSR you might ask? Most people bump along it for about 3 weeks to get from Wiluna to Halls Creek, requiring usually at least one pre arranged fuel dump. Not many people attempt it alone either. The section from 23 to 33 has a couple of restored wells, is less popular/travelled than the section from well 33 to Halls Creek so potentially in better condition and we were told its goes through some spectacular scenery, not just desert with rolling sand dunes one after another. We had mountains, salt lakes, table lands, black wood forests, desert oaks and even a cave thrown in for good measure!!! Add that to the Talawana track and you've got yourself a good solo mission for 5 or 6 days. The heat was intense, 35 to 38 degrees out side at about 10am. We were up to 43 in the truck on the second day. Luckily we hit well 26 at about mid day which had plenty of water for a cool off. Its amazing how quick your clothes dry in that sort of dry heat.
The reward at the end was Carawine Gorge. A magic place with running water after days in the desert heat. We spend the best part of the day there swimming, doing the laundry and checking over the truck. It was while I was under the truck doing a spanner check I met my first red back spider. Well, it actually met the blunt end of my 32mm ring spanner I should say. It was just hanging out under the truck on the side wall of the rear tyre. I was lying underneath checking the suspension bolts and spotted it next to my head........ Later that evening I got talking to our Ã¢ÂÂneighboursÃ¢ÂÂ and they mentioned another pool that was worth a visit before we left the area called Running Waters. Apparently it was another spring fed pool with clear blue water that was around 25 degrees, surrounded by giant paper bark gums. He gave me some sketchy directions, which I only half listened to, as I was sure I would find it on the map and work it out as you do. What I didn't realise was that when he said Ã¢ÂÂ small unmarked road off the main roadÃ¢ÂÂ, he really meant Ã¢ÂÂtwo wheel tracks with grass down the middle that head off into the desert, off a little dirt roadÃ¢ÂÂ. It took some finding, and it wasn't until we met up with another vehicle that had also been camped at Carawine Gorge that same night and compared notes and maps that we eventually found it!!! By this stage I was starting to get a bit edgy about fuel. I had put 20L in at $3 a litre at Punmu as a safety net to get to Marble Bar, not intending to do some more beating around in the bush looking for cool stuff!!!!!
We made it to South Headland this evening, fuelled up with good fuel at a normal price of $1.74 per L, re stocked with food, loaded up with some bottled water for special treats ( all the towns run on bore water and it tastes salty and strange if your not used to it!!) and headed up the road a bit to a 24hr stopover camp at De Grey River. All the main highways over here have these campsites. They are like an large rest area with a toilet block and a couple of rubbish bins. The idea is you drive all day, rock on in and choose a corner, set up camp for the night as ya do, and head back out on the road the next morning. Its just what they do over here, and the entire country is set up for this kind of travel, its incredible, especially when you think of the drama we have trying too find somewhere to camp on a road trip in NZ!!! Anyhow, I digress. We are heading back up north to the Kimberly to do the Gibb River Road and eventually end up in Darwin. From there it is probably time to think about finding our way back towards Hervey Bay.
If you have noticed that Betsie is sporting tape on the headlights, its because its holding the drivers side headlight lens together!! Road trains are brutal and we got peppered the other day, smashed the headlight and put a chip right at the top of the windscreen, in a mongrel place that I canÃ¢ÂÂt get too with my windscreen repair kit. PIA!!! I have marked the crack, and it hasnÃ¢ÂÂt moved over the last week of corrugations and heat so it might be ok. Other than that, I swapped the tyres around, and fitted the two that had been on the rear for quite a while to the front. For what ever reason they have worn in such a way, and been fitted in the correct way, to now make the steering pull to the center of the road. Tempted to swap left for right and see what it does. Wheel alignment still measures ok and all bushes are good, the only thing that's changed is the tyres. The only other thing I have done that is note worthy is park it up on a steep bank and squeeze an extra 750ml of oil into the transfer case and about the same into the gearbox. Being over full has shut the transfercase up heaps, it starts to complain a bit in the heat after a few hours at constant 110kph. The Aussie L.R guys reckon the extra oil volume means the temp stays down a bit, so taking their advice.
The mission continues...................