Friday, 25 April 2014

Murchison Meanderings 2014

First up, some detail on the Murchison River:

Murchison River - Wikipedia

And so it was that I had to look after my daughter in the April School holidays. So let me see, spend the time couped up at home or go on a road trip. Well, the latter was a no brainer. Not wanting to do a travelling trip this time around, I wanted to be set up the same day as leaving home and park up for 8 days. So I did some thinking and research and came up with Murchison House Station. For 2 people it was dirt Cheap at $16.50 per night for the two of us with toilets and showers provided. Turned out to be a good call too. Not only was it School holidays, but also Easter and then into the Anzac day long weekend. Kalbarri township was heaving. Whilst the station campground was busy, I would have hated a caravan park stay in town.

The first couple of days of the holidays was for getting everything ready. Changing camping gear over for an 8 day unpowered stay, shopping, know, all the chores one has to undertake before hand. We left on Wednesday 16th April for the 6 hour journey to the station. The weather cool and dark on departure, but not long into it clear skys. The clear, hot and dry weather stayed with us until departure day - yeah! Lunch and fuel in Geraldton and off we go again. Turning onto the Kalbarri Road Someone calls my name on the UHF. I state to Kaitlyn that's a bit weird, but obviously not for me. Then I hear "sharkcaver are you on channel". Then there is no mistake, its for me. Turns out Onslow  (a fellow paj enthusiast) and his wife spotted me towing the ulti through Northhampton and followed me up. I pulled over for a bit, had a chat and found his plans were to overnight in Kalbarri, then head off to Shark Bay. They said they would come round for a drink that night.

Arriving at the campground and finding a suitable position for the ulti was a bit of a challenge, but I got there in the end. The soft river sand was a bit of a challenge getting into and out of, but by late afternoon we were set up. Kaitlyn gave me some relief by making friends with the fellow kids in the campground. They would play together the whole time we were here.....bonus.

Camp set up:


Kaitlyn was in bed by 2000 and I sat up with some red waiting for Onslow. Unfortunately he never made it till the next morning. When he came in, the gate was closed and a sign read "homestead closed" so he turned around. Dont know why that sign is there. It was there when we came and there when we left. Anyway, they dropped round in the morning for a chat on their way to Shark Bay. So that was a nice touch.

4 English backpackers being 1 guy, 3 girls arrived late arvo and set up 2 small dome tents just to the rear/side of my main awning/screen room. They were a bit on the noisy side but buggered off to the camp kitchen for the evening. I never heard them return. At 0200 I woke to an alarming sound of what I thought was a female in distress. Sitting bolt upright and listening to what was going in, I wished I hadn't. It was the sounds of sexual distress. The finale about an hour later ended with the girl calling out for her god a few times. Ah well, Easter is a religious time after all and I think he gave her some eggs!

Today being Thursday, we just hung round the camp, had a bit of a paddle and then Kaitlyn linked up with her camp friends and the Station owners daughter. They made a cubby just below our camp. I spied Kaitlyn painting the entrance with river mud and a stick. As one does.

At this stage, my immediate camp consisted of a van downstream and a camper upstream. The van had another one of their friends join them. They were a bit painful to be honest. One of the female poms voice bounded through the night and her constant cackling was getting to me. It reminded me of listening to Dame Edna. Unfortunately I had to endure this till the day before we left. Oh well, suppose you get that with public campgrounds. Upstream, we had harv's in his pmx camper. He dropped in for a chat. He was having some solar issues and I was explaining some technicalities to him and showing him my equipment. Foremost was the fact his redarc wouldn't accept solar. Upon investigation of his panel, I had the problem solved. He had LV panels - 15Voc. I had seen others with the same issue. The redarc requires 17.5V to kick the MPPT function into action. He needs to get 21Voc panels like I have if he wants to use the redarc. As luck would have it, he had another solar controller, so all was well.....or so I thought at the time. The weather for the last 2 days had been hot. And the night times very nice indeed. T'was also a full moon, so plenty of light available.

Unfortunately, the moon rose later and later to the point we were in bed before it rose. Another cooked breakfast and a play with the girls for Kaitlyn before we headed into Kalbarri for some lunch. I could then send a text to Alli to find out when she was in Geraldton. She was joining us for Easter. Kaitlyn and I had some lunch at the chippy then she went to play on the swings whilst I waited for an answer to my sms. We stayed there for an hour and a half and got no text. I was thinking that maybe she was now at camp waiting for us to arrive. So we headed off. Just out of town, I got my reply. She was later than I had expected, but now I had an estimate of when she should get here. So at my determined time, we drove to the entrance to the station to meet her. 20 Mins later and we were together again.

Back at camp, Kaitlyn again played with the girls, mainly with the goats whilst Mum followed with the camera.

I dropped over to see how Harv's was getting on and brought a panel with me. I proved to him the redarc was fine by attaching a set of my panels. I also took some measurements on his panel and it was about 30% of what it should be producing. He was going to have some Issues as time went on. We went to bed before we saw the moon.

Saturday dawned to yet another cooked breakfast and Kaitlyn went off for the Girls. Harv's  battery was now down to 20% so I let him use my cars panels whilst we went into town. On the way to town, I picked up my first cache for the trip:


Lunch again at the chippy, then off to see some of the coastal sights and pick up a few more caches. We had to stop at Red Bluff for some time as Kaitlyn frolicked on the rocks and waves. I bagged a cache in the interim.

After some considerable time here, we ventured on to the natural bridge (and another cache)

Kaitlyn chucked a sad over nothing:
(nothing unusual and nothing to see here: move along)

With the late start, time lost during lunch and playing at Red Bluff, I picked up another cache just down the road at Pot Alley, then we headed back to camp. We will do Port Gregory tomorrow.

Sunday dawns and I have a chat with Harv's to see how he is getting on. He decides to put his battery on the stations charger. My panels gave him a slight top up, but by morning he was so discharged, this was the only option. However the station only has a 2200mA charger. This would take some time. We shot off for Port Gregory. I stuck my nose into lucky bay, but decided against it as we wanted to make our destination. We arrived in the small town and had lunch on the beach. Kaitlyn really wanted to have a swin, so we spent some time here while she played in the surf.


On the way out, we took a few shots of the Pink Lake:


From there we headed out to the Lynton ruins which as it turns out, we didn't take any pics to share.....But google is your friend:

google images: Lynton ruins

Anyway, I picked up another cache whilst here, then we headed off back for camp.Harv's has purchased a 20A charger in town and should be right now.

Monday comes and we bid farewell to Alli. She has to work tomorrow. Kaitlyn catches up with the girls for a bit, then I grab her for another adventure. The chimney and gorges tour. I head out to Warribanno chimney first up and bag another cache. An interesting read on the smelter can be obtained here:

Warribanno chimney PDF

The remains of the chimney are about 1/3 of its original height. As it's high on a prominent hill, it stands out for some distance. The story got me intrigued, so I went searching and found the Geraldine Mine the ore came from for smelting. There were people camped nearby, so I didn't explore as much as I wanted, but I'll come back another day. And a bonus, a nice place to free camp for the future.

Some further reading here:

Geraldine Mine

 A few shots I took:

Then it was time to move onto Gorge country, Ross Graham lookout and Hawks head first up. Its just amazing how much water this river holds considering the minuscule rainfall the catchment area has had since last winter:

On to Natures window. I have to say, its a bit disappointing in that its been 16 years since I was here last and the road in is only sealed for about 1/2 the way. The fees DEC have collected over this time should have provided better access by now. Not that I had any troubles mind you - I measured my rear shocks temp at 82 deg's (I was hauling at 80+ Km's though), but the amount of sedans and back packer vans struggling with the shitty road was staggering. So you cant use the argument that sealing the road will increase numbers. They still go, but one wonders how many drama's they must have out there. Mum had here pic taken here at 8 years of age, so it was only fitting Kaitlyn had hers taken here at 7:

Now out of time, we returned to camp leaving z-bend for another time.
Tuesday was a slow day really. I found there was a cache about 1km from my camp down river, so Kaitlyn and I took a hike. At the site, a young fella and his other half were chillin out and doing a bit of fishing. I saw a few nice Black Bream landed. Took me a bit and I got a bit scratched up doing so (I always go the hard way) but the last cache for the weekend was bagged.


And looking back towards camp:

I have to say I was pretty happy with the solar. I had 2 x 120W portables, one for the car (I had a fridge running in there) and one for the camper. For the 9 days My solar kept me self sufficient - gotta be happy with that. I did some testing on one day (was partly cloudy). The panels input 47Ah and I consumed 16 over that same period. So I obtained all but the 3:1 ratio required to keep at a level standing. The 3:1 ratio coming from an average of 8 hours productive solar sunshine/24 hours of consumption.

Though here things went astray for me. Getting the car out from the camper, I elected low range to minimise chopping up the soft, deep sand. Once out and going back into high, I suffered the dreaded center diff lock flashing light.  I just had to live with it till I returned from town. Another trip to the chippy for lunch and Kaitlyn hooked up with a similar aged girl for a spot of Jetty Jumping and swimming whilst I baked on the beach providing supervisory duties. I sent Alli a text stating we would extend our stay another day, as Kaitlyn was just having too much fun. When we returned to camp, she played with the kids whilst I emptied a $30 can of contact cleaner (cheap North West prices hey) into every gearbox and transfer case plug I could find. All to no avail. I will have to sort this one out back at home. I was a bit concerned in pulling the ulti out without low the next day. I am pretty sure it defaults to 4wd, just high range and no center diff lock.

Another slow start on Wednesday and Kaitlyn spent the day playing with the kids again, and I went for a 3Km paddle downstream.I found a nice sandy landing, ported and had a quick swim. Back to camp and I spent a leisurely day starting to get things ready for packing in the morning. And that was about the lot.

Thursday came, Kaitlyn took off and I spent the next 3 hours packing and hitching up for home. I'm sure Kaitlyn has had the best camping holiday ever. So much so, we will return. We hit drizzle once we got to the highway and it didn't let up till Leeman. Interestingly, after some lunch in Geraldton, the flashing center diff lock lights returned to normal. That's a concern for me now as one: I don't know what caused it and two: when will it happen again? Imagine being stuck in low range country without low range......A bit of a concern till proven it was just a glitch.

Some shots around the station:


The weekend was a good taster for the Murchison. I have it in my head to follow some of A.C.  Gregory's explorations by following the Murchison as far East as I can, then up through the middle, into the Pilbara and back home via the coast. Some more stuff to mull over and research for the future.
The station offers camping outside the camp ground on their property for a fee. Whilst I reckon this would be great for a day or two, having 2 girls and no toilet or shower facilities for longer stretches would see them struggle a bit I think. I saw so many people pull up to the homestead, and whilst the camp ground was pretty busy, I believe most have gone to the other side. It must have had a hell of a lot of people over there. I'd just like to extend my thanks to Belinda and Callum (whom I didn't get the pleasure to meet) for their hospitality. It was a truly unforgettable week. Cheers.

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