Saturday, 9 May 2015

Muddy waters of the Murchison

Wednesday 8th - Thursday 16th April, 2015

So with Easter now done, its a day at home to pack the camper and take the little one back to Murchison House Station to chalk up some more nights under canvas. Its a bit odd. Here I have a camper valued more than my vehicle and this year to date I've spent all my time away in a swag. But with 9 days and two of us, the camper is the perfect choice. Not to mention the weather.

As per typical, the weather a week beforehand was forecast to be good. That subsequently changed as time bore on and we left on a wet miserable day for the 6odd hour drive to the Station. The trip up being rather uneventful excepting some very heavy rain between Jurien and Dongara. The only thoughts on my mind on the trip up was being able to find a decent camp spot (Easter was fully booked) and being able to get set up before any weather came in.

Heading in to Kalbarri from the highway, isolated showers were greeting us and I was starting to dread getting set up for the night. then my fears grew bolder as I turned onto the track for the station.

It should make for a fun drive in towing the camper, but I now wondered what the state of the camp ground would be. It looked worse than it was, there was a good layer of slush on the road surface, but apart from a couple of smaller spots, it was firm underneath. However, after the 4Km entry, both the car and the camper were now covered in mud, which inevitably means I will also be covered in mud as I have to lean up against the side of the ulti nose cone to get stuff out. That is where the gull wing doors of other models come into their own.

Noting from last years experience of being so far away from the toilet block, I wanted a closer spot this time round. Into the camp ground and I find the first "patch" up for grabs. So I drive down there, have a bit of a walk around and work out where I am going to park. The ground here is a bit more on a slope than I would have liked and not the clean river sand as further into the camp ground. But I decide I'll put up with those hardships for the benefit of a closer toilet. The ground is a bit muddy here but I hope that the rain will be gone in a day or so, the mud will set and all will be good.

So into set u mode we go. K provided some good help when I was putting up the awnings. I chose both front and rears due to the weather, but decided I will go to walls only if the weather dictates the need.

What surprised me was the height and flow of the Murchison River. At its present status, there is no way we would be using the yaks. We can only hope the level recedes during our stay. I have shot a video of the flow as below:

The bridge just up from where we camped was to be my water height marker for the stay. The river wasn't high due to the recent local rainfall. Unfortunately TC Olwyn had crossed the coast 3 weeks beforehand and dumped its bundle into the Murchison catchment. Then TC Ikola reduced to a low off the Southwest coast and dumped more rain in the catchment whilst we were there. Subsequently, the water level rose every day until 2 days before we left, where it finally started to recede.

After the rainfall from TC Olwyn, the flies had bred up to a nuisance level. The locals telling us they were the worst they had ever seen. These were to affect both this and my final April trip. Although somehow I managed to not pull a fly net out for our stay here at MHS.

So the afternoon was over, camp set up sort of done and before we knew it that day was done. A quick meal, the sound of pitter patter rain drops on canvas and a fast flowing river at our doorstep had us both quickly in the land of nod.

Thursday and I decided that with the weather still looking ominous, we would have a day at camp preparing all the equipment for a wet stay. I had decided I need yet another fridge as the 40L engel wont cut the mustard for 3 people on extended stays. not that I need such a large unit when I have the ulti with me as it has a 70L evakool fitted anyway. I decided on the Waeco CFX50 for a number of reasons. Firstly, its physical size and the space I have to mount it in. Secondly, the results of power consumption I have seen on the cfx60. It arrived the day before I shot off for the Easter trip and I hurriedly removed my old slide, fitted the new one and had the fridge operational just in time for our first journey. The plan was to leave it in the car all April. That way I could make an appraisal of its effectiveness. Noting, it was run on 240v when possible. But not on this trip or the one to follow.

K seemed to spend most the day in the ulti playing movies on her tablet. I tried to get her to make some friends with the kids further down in camp, but she seemed reluctant to do so. I put the solar out, but it was wishful thinking. The cloud cover just too great to provide me the energy needs I required. So the trusty old generator got a bit of a workout that afternoon on both the camper and the aux battery in the Paj.

In between my OCD of having camp and its bits in the right place, I took a stroll around the Station with a camera in hand and fired off a few shots:

K eventually went and found the Station owners daughter and did what ever kids do. Though she was not gone for long and I wondered if anything had happened. I never got to the bottom of that story. So I convinced her to come for a walk downstream with me, outside the Station boundary. All was good until she slipped on a mud patch and went down like a pack of spuds. The slight graze on her hand was of little importance compared to the embarrassment of dirty pants. I am not allowed to tell this story, so one day when she reads this and sees the pictures, I guess I'll be in big trouble. Anyway, it was nice to get some pics of the river scenery downstream.

The muddy pants:

and the downstream view

Its a pretty place here. The river widens and is channelled by a rocky outcrop with shear faces:

All this can be accessed from Kalbarri via a sandy and rough track. One day I'll have to drive it myself. It has numerous places to free camp as well.

The rest of the afternoon spent managing where the genny put its output. With the river being so high, the causeway for access to the "4WD" side of the property was unavailable, namely due to now being underwater. So this meant every afternoon and morning, a whole swathe of campers would set up and break camp. The numbers in camp during the day thinned out, but the numbers in the afternoon (and night time arrivals) and in the mornings meant the camp site was pretty well full.

Friday and I am awoken to birthday greetings from K. I tell her we will go out today. I want to see the Geraldine mine with the river being so high. the Geraldine mine has had a chequered history. Being financially viable one minute, then broke the next. On sold to other partners and the process repeating itself. Funny how things don't change. Mining seems to be a constant cycle of boom and bust as evident in the present moment with Iron Ore. Anyhow, one of the biggest hurdles with the Geraldine mine was its ability to be flooded quite easily from the Murchison's flow. I still haven't found the remnants of the original mine that came from the discovery of Galena by AC Gregory in 1849. if anyone has some leads on this, it would be valued if you could pass some info to me. It must be on the banks of the river somewhere here.

as mentioned in an ABC article from 2011:
A chimney, shafts, a powerhouse and a cemetery are among the remnants still standing strong at the sites
 The link below giving a bit more on its history and location of the bits I wish to find:

Geraldine Mine

 So I'm guessing the chimney as mentioned in the ABC article is Warrabanno, but where are the rest of the bits? I have found remnants of later operations, but would really like to find the original stuff as in the photo's in the above link.

Anway, we shoot off to Warribanno and snap some pics. The weather looking a bit dodgy, but we avoided getting wet:



Then I recorded some shots of the nuts and bolts of the operation. Inside the stack looking towards the bottom and the flue, the intricate stonework can be seen:

 And a description of the site layout, the flue tunnel and the flue itself:


 I will reproduce a link to a PDF I included in last years entry on the place. If you have the time, enjoy a bit of history and like to know the technical aspects of the smelter, it makes fascinating reading:

Warribanno PDF

From there we shot out to the mine again as I wanted to see the area with the river being so wide. It didn't disappoint. Finding a few old shafts and diggings I didn't see last time I was here:

The view of the now wide river near the original mine:

I thought we would round the trip off by a visit to Galena Bridge and some more shots of the river:

On the way out, I travelled down a side track and found the remnants of a much larger operation. Obviously much more recent than the original mine but I can find no mention of this operation. A large pit, now flooded, would possibly be a nice little swimming hole in warmer weather. But I do not have enough knowledge if Galena (lead ore) has the toxicity of the metal itself, so unless I can find further information that the risk of heavy metal contamination is not present, then I would think one should err on the side of caution and not swim in there.

So we headed back to camp. The clouds looking towards camp looked very dark and ominous. A few showers were encountered on the road back. Turning onto the station track though and you could see mother nature had dropped its bundle. Large pools of water now covered the track. The camp site was full of mud that had washed down all over the flooring from the down pour. We heard they got 30mm in an hour. It was now genny time again. We got that running then went into town to find a place we could have a birthday dinner. Once we had booked it was back to camp. K played with some kids for a bit, then we got our showering duties fulfilled and headed into town for dinner.

K ordered the kids menu spaghetti, whilst I opted for a "special of the day", filled chicken breast. Whilst I looked at everyone else's plates turn up, full to the brim, I was shocked to see two little chicken marbles on a hub cap arrive for my dinner. Even K's meal was three times the size of mine. Disappointed as it was my birthday, it wasn't without surprise. I seem to have a knack of ordering the most piddly meal on the menu in any establishment. After she had eaten, K left me on my own so she could play with some kids in the creche. Happy birthday to me!

The track back in on the drive home looked a whole lot different at night. Apart from flinging more topside under and against the side of the Paj, it presented no drama.

Another night under canvas done.
 The sun actually started to poke its head out Saturday morning and I could deploy some panels at last.

But it was very intermittent. K hooked up with some kids who were camped further up the site. whilst the river was flowing, its width had created a narrow sheltered section from the current. So yep, you guessed it....Kids + muddy water = lets go swimming. I brought her yak down for them to play on.




 We went into town for some lunch and upon our return, she spent the rest of the day playing with the other kids. We were greeted with a spectacular sunset that evening:


Sunday and K hooked up with the kids again. Chatting with their parents, they were going out to do the loop walk, so we tagged along with them. It was a late start. The road in was a damn sight better this time around (last year and 17 years ago, it was a shocker). But the flies which I haven't mentioned a lot of were pretty bad. Alas, I still made it without a fly net or swallowing one. Mind you a lot of swearing and cursing was done when they either made their way into your eyes behind your sunnies or decided investigating your ear passages was a good idea. One of the women in the group copped one though. Hacking as best she could, it wouldn't dislodge from half way down her throat. So the only way out was to wash it down with a mouthful of water. She wondered how many dead animals it had been sitting on beforehand.

Being so late, we made lunch in the car park before venturing off. We could only go about 3km's out as the track was closed due to the swolen river. But we had a good (if somewhat annoyed) hike.

Natures Window lived up to its reputation again:

And K seemed to love the hike. (I think she was distracted by the company of the other kids):

Mind you, she did have a fall and fell into some mulga stump, cutting and grazing her leg. A bit of a grizzle and a band aid and she was on her way again. Thank heavens for the kiddy distraction. But one of the funniest things I have seen was an elderly English tourist. His wife had brains, she wore a fly net. He obviously didn't have one so did some compromising on the trail:

It seemed to do the job for him, but it brought tears to my eyes.

By the time we had returned to camp, it was near 5pm, so another day is now blogged.

Monday and we headed out to Pt Gregory. The pink lake was in good form this time around. I did wonder how it would fare after all the rain, but alas, that didn't seem to affect it.

Then it was off into town for some lunch and a swim:

As we were cleaning K up for the journey back to camp, a cray boat docked and I watched at least 20 crates of crays be unloaded, getting ready for their flight to Asia (something like 90% of our cray catch is exported):

We stopped in a few places in Kalbarri for a look. The Zutdorp monument is fascinating should one care to read. This whole coastline is littered with the wrecks of early maritime explorers and traders. Zutdorp and Batavia (whilst not technically on the coast) are two of the more prominent ones in the area. Relatively speaking, HMAS Sydney isn't that far away neither.

The view of the muddy flood waters of the Murchison making the sea was impressive:

and the charter boats arriving back into the soup:

Back to camp and the gate keeper was doing a splendid job:

So whilst here, I better grab a couple more pics of discarded equipment laying about the station:

sure is nice and cosy in that armoured vehicle:

And another day was done.

Tuesday and we got up early to see the pelican feeding in town. It has been an interesting experience seeing how the river had risen overnight every time we stepped out the ulti in the morning. But today, there was evidence it was now going down. It was going to be too late to be of use to us. Once in town it was unfortunate that the pelicans were not to be seen. They hadn't come in for the last few weeks we were told. No doubt, the flood waters had brought in a plentiful bounty for the Pelicans, so they saw no need for a handout. We spent the day bumming around town. K played in the sand, swam in the water and I just sat back and played with the camera.

I had bought her a souvenir soft toy turtle which she just loved. So much so, she made a turtle in the sand. Surprisingly (or not), 3 weeks later as I write this report, I don't see said turtle no more.

Early afternoon and we headed back to camp. K played with the kids and I just did what ever one does back at camp. I cant recall now, so it was obviously nothing too exciting.

Its now Wednesday morning and our last full day here. I convinced K we should go out to Hutt River Province. This is a property that has sort of officially seceded from Australia. It came about after the farmer had planted 10,000 acres of wheat. Just before harvest, a quota was introduced by the Government and "Prince Leonard" was told he could only sell 100 acres worth. So you could imagine the financial ruin he was to face. He studied the laws, lobbied the Government and even took it to the Privy Council, discovered an old law back from the Magna Carta days, and lawfully seceded from the nation of Australia. Interestingly, he is recognised in some government departments as being an independent sovereign state. ATO have even recognised him as being a non citizen and tax laws do not apply to this "enclave"

To us, its all a bit of fun really.They have their own currency and postage stamps. They will grant you a visa for visiting and will also stamp your passport.

Have a bit of a read here or check out their own webiste:

Hutt River Province

and now what the place looks like:

K posts a postcard with Hutt stamps to mum. It took about two weeks to arrive:

We spent a few hours checking the place out and chatting with "Crown Prince Ian" before I decided we should go to Lucky Bay for lunch.

Unfortunately it wasn't lucky for us due to the very stiff South Wester. It was a pleasant drive, but not the place to be unless you like being sand blasted. So we stayed for a bit, had a play, then choofed off back to the main drag for some wind protection and lunch.

So we headed back to camp. To make the chore a bit easier tomorrow, I removed the awnings and started getting things ready for our departure. After dinner, it was only appropriate to toast some marshmallows we had bought on the way home.

Another trip comes to an end. Thursday is spent breaking camp ready for the long haul home. The only thing of note on the way home was K's yak departing the ulti roof at highway speed. Its a real bugger of a yak to strap and always has me worried. I had just travelled an hour at highway speed without issue. Then we are held at road works. Held for more than 20 minutes too. What a joke that was. Anyway, back under way and once I get to highway speed I just happened to notice the departure of the yak in my wing mirror. I pull over, but I cant turn around. Stopping for so long, a line of cars and trucks a mile long is behind us. The yak sits in the middle of the road on the other side. Thankfully, no one comes the other way before I can turn around and pick it up. It has cracked the plastic, rendering it almost useless. Right on the keel fin, where the first thing it will hit in the water will be the repair. So capping it will not fix it. I need to put some thought into the matter.

Thanks again to Belinda and Callum for having us.

The running tally for nights under canvas 2015 is now 14. Home for two days (one to clean and unpack the camper, the other to repack the car for another adventure), and April part III is almost upon me.

Trip stats:

257L diesel
Average 14.2l/100Km
Fuel cost $346
Accommodation costs $132

Worst fuel consumption Geraldton - Perth 17.6L/100Km
I don't know why, but this leg is always my worst. Wind maybe?

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