Saturday, 24 October 2015

Mucking about in Marble Bar, part II

August 29- September 7.

Marble Bar van park was a bit of an ordinary affair. But to be fair, it was very, very quiet, the toilets flushed and I had my first hot shower in 5 days. Just don't rely on the camp kitchen for cooking duties. It was only $20 for both of us after all. Upon arrival, we knocked on the door and the daughter of the owner, who emerged half cut, told us to pick a site and pay in the morning.

In the morning, we couldn't raise anyone, so we left without paying. We came back later in the day with the funds and they were surprised by our honesty.

We headed up to tank hill bright and early for the view and made our coffee and toast for breakfast. An hour later and we headed out to Marble Pool, where the Jasper rocks gave the town its name:

I wish I had taken a picture of a sign on the way in. There was a list of things one is not supposed to do in the reserve here. Walking ones cow in the reserve was one of those prohibited activities. What the?

We then shot out to the Flying Fox Gorge. A methodology of getting supplies from one side of a gorge to a mine on the other side over the Coongan River. From there we shot up to Glen Herring Gorge. Here we met our newly acquired friend we met at the airbase the day prior. We had a chat for a bit, then ventured into the Gorge. Lots of water greeted us and it left us a great sign of things to come:

An hour later and we headed towards Spear hill. Stopping off to take a snap of another reptillian that was baking in the middle of the road. Do you know how hard it is to make it poke its tongue out when you have a camera in hand?

We went in search of a couple of abandoned mines nearby but came up empty handed. At this point we decided that Spear Hill probably didn't offer much, so we bailed on that idea and returned to town. On the way we stopped in at the Comet Mine museum.What a remarkable little place that was. Full of Mineral samples, relics of yesteryear and the elderly care taker was a wealth of information on the history of the operation. It was a bargain for the $3 entry price:

 Gold was discovered here in 1936 by Tommy Starr, and was mined till 1955. The old processing plant makes an impressive sight, its 75 metres smokestack the highest in the southern hemisphere. The old mine managers house has been converted into a small mineral museum, generously financed by a local mining company. The plant can only be seen from the road, and the many tunnels through the mountain are out of bounds as its now the home of the rare Pilbara Ghost Bat. 

Source: Mindat.

Inside, I took some pictures of a few interesting items. First up, an old Whites metal detector. Only one dial to use, a volume knob. Just a speaker on a stick in all reality:

But what caught my eye the most, was a few photographs of the airbase we visited yesterday. This put some of the items we found out there into some perspective:

Note the 100LB'ers being readied for the Liberator Bomber in the picture above. And an aerial shot of the base below:

From there we decided to have lunch at the Ironclad Hotel. The French barmaid could sell ice to Eskimos. However, she made sure we asked for baby bacon on our burgers. Lucky she told us. Whilst eating our burger and washing it down with a beer, I looked at Trev and said "did you just see that"

A joey kangaroo just hopped through the bar and went out into the street. It appears the publican is nursing two of these joey's, one being recently attacked by a dog. He brought out a bottle of milk and Trev went to give it a feed whilst I chomped on my baby bacon. Unfortunately, the joey wasn't interested.

Lunch done and we again headed out of town towards Hedland. Stopping off at Doolena Gap, we were a little disappointed as it was dry and looked nothing like the picture we saw in the Comet Mine museum.

Whilst Trev was trying to feed the Joey, he was talking with the publican who was giving him the good oil on a place called One Mile, supposedly one of the best gorges in the area, but little known apart from the locals. Here I consulted the maps and noticed a One Mile Creek a little further up the highway. So we went to investigate. Finding a little used station track, we turned in.

It seemed to fit the description perfectly, Scratchy sections of vegetation opening up at times to a little worn track. We came across a couple of diggings and got out to investigate. Nothing of interest here and the creek was bone dry. Continuing on further through a more heavilly vegetated section, we started to climb. At the top of the climb we were just under the top of Doolena peak. The track here took a steep ceclime into a small valley. Trev was not 100% convinced we should go down. An investigation on foot of the track showed it to be not too bad at all. So trev went down and I stayed up top until I heard of the result.

The track ended in this little valley, but the gorge was a good 15 minute walk from that point. Perfect for a 6 pack and a swim, but not for an overnight camp like we had hoped. So Trev came back up again. half way up, the dmax spat the shaley Pilbara stone from its wheels and refused to go forward. So I walked down to assist (note to self - a handheld in this situation is invaluable). Trev had taken a line that put front and rear opposing tyres in small holes. The combination of lack of momentum, holes and loose stone conspired against forward motion. So the only solution was to back down a bit and have another crack, with a bit more speed and a different line. This worked a treat, but it was still surprising how much traction was lost to the loose stone. Recovery not required, we ventured back out to the highway in pursuit of another place to camp.

Back on the highway, some of the surrounding hills had been cleansed of vegetaion by bushfire. It provided  remarkable contrast to the vegetated ones and they looked very eerie in their naked state:

Soon after passing the Doolena Gorge turn off, I spotted a track on the left. We turned up this to investigate and found a freshly graded track. It split into 3 forks. Trev took one, I another. Here we met head on and again fluked or camp for the night:

From what I can gather from my gps maps and a tourist one we picked up in Newman, this site is known as Long Pool. And a great little sight it was too. Right on the banks of a large body of water, nice shady gums and grass to walk around on instead of the spinifex in the surrounding area. There appeared to be 3 main sites. Just after the middle one, a large bovine had decided to finish its life here. We walked to the first sight, but 50m parallel to the dead cow, a horrible foul stench filled the air and made ones eyes water. I can still smell it now as I type. Due to the prevailing wind, this stench wiped out the usage of the first sight and I decided I wasn't going the middle one neither, cause if the wind changed....well you know the story. So we picked the not so nicest last site, being the greatest distance from the dead beast and upwind.

Gathering some wood, we got the fire going:

Here was the first site we had experienced a mass of birds at sunset like one would expect to find at an isolated waterhole. It must have lasted an hour or so and was as noisy as hell, but enjoyable all the same:

We got some coals going and fired up the oven for a roast. Trevs method is surely different to mine, but the results were the same - bloody awesome.

And so ended day 6. A total of 166Km's. The smallest travelling day of the whole trip.

Packed up in the morning and we decided to take a side track back to the main road. Traversing through some very interesting auiferous looking country, we came across some old ruins from prior workings. Then onto a cutting beside the river. Our progress at this point was halted as we could not cross the river bed, where the track now lay. I stopped in the cutting for a picture and found a few railway dog spikes. Obviously part of a rail transportation network associated with the ruins.

So turning back, we hit the main road once again, to vere off a little while later onto another dusty road for Coppin's Gap:

What a remarkable place this turned out to be. Lots of water and a great little oasis to escape from the heat.

Finding some more examples of Marble Bar Jasper:

But we have a long way to go. We have to be home in Perth in 3 days, so it was back to Marble Bar for the long haul South. Stopping in at the old battery, we bid Marble Bar adieu:

The panorama of the surrounding scenery becomes consigned to memory:

Leaving Marble Bar behind on the Rippon Hills road, we passed more spectacular scenery:

These reminded Trev of some old valley in the U.S. that I cant recall the name of, scene of many an old western movie. You could easily picture an old donkey and even older, wirey old prospector in bib and brace overalls trying to make his living on the end of a pick in this type of terrain.

Turning onto the Woodie Woodie Road, we get to the Carawine Gorge turn off and make our way in. What a crap road. Not so much in regards to the road surface, but the blind crests and twists and turns, which dictated slower speeds and faster wits. A sign post stated there was a polished glacier to see, so we went in for a look. A bit of a rocky, spinifex covered track brought us to an outcrop of unappealing value. We were headed back to the main Carawine road in no time flat. Bad choice of words really, because a little further on, at the entrance to the Gorge, Trev mentions on the radio something about a flat. Ah crap.

3pm and 35 degrees in the shade and Trev does a tyre in the middle of a cleared patch with no shade whatsoever. We have no choice but to remove it where it is. Someone had left us some rubber sheeting just for the purpose. A bit of a precarious lift with the jack, and keeping a keen eye on the Dmax from slipping off, we get the wheel changed. Unfortunately we cant get enough lift to get the new one on, so we had to deflate it. No drama here though, just pumped it up with my onboard air. This wasted an hour of travel time.

We are both pretty damn hot at this stage and attempted to plug the punctured tyre, a nice slit in the tread. With multiple plugs and we could get it to hold about 10 PSI, but the more we inflated, and the more we plugged, the more the tread bulged and let all our hard won gains out. It was a useless exercise.

We now had some unknown country to traverse which we were led to believe was a bit ordinary with no other spare for the Dmax. It was going to be an interesting and careful ride back to Newman.

Job done, we rock into Carawine, hot and bothered. This wasn't to be our camp for the night, but at 4pm in the afternoon, I convinced Trev on the idea. It was a remarkable spot after all:

Looking for our site for the night, Trev noticed a fellow camper fishing,who  had inadvertently hooked a Pelican. I think he was about to go see the fella and tear strips off him, but I had to remind him it wasn't like he hooked the Pelican on purpose. Well I bloody hope not. Anyway, whilst they were trying to get the Pelican in to remove the lure, the line broke and the poor Pelican was free. Free to spend a miserable life with a lure stuck in its throat. A sad and unfortunate incident.

We picked our camp and whist I went for wood whilst Trev started to set up. On return once I parked up, Trev made some comment on where I had parked not being to his liking. Being 1700 now, desperately needing a beer and well over heated, my face and back now covered in termite crap, bark and dirt stuck to my sweat from loading timber on the roof, I retaliated. It was time to walk away. I grabbed a beer and a chair and sat alone contemplating unloading the timber for the fire and to get a chance to cool down a little.

All was good. A couple of beers later, we sat by the fire and had an enjoyable night in a spectacular part of the country.

Day 7, 310 Km's for the day, 1 flat tyre and camped up not where planned. But it was a hard place to dislike.

The cliffs were spectacular at sunrise, a vivid red. It really brought out their colours.

I wont mention who the big girls blouse was that was having a hissy fit about some wildlife in the back of the Dmax. I thought it must have been a snake going by the carry on. It turned out to be a stick insect...ha, ha.

Packing up, Trev being shit scared of his partner giving him crap forever about not being able to fold up the dunny tent, he put in a determined effort. And effort does not go unrewarded. He had done it. Saved himself about 12 months of ridicule I guess. It was such an achievement, we had a photo shoot of the moment:

Departing at 0745, we were back on the twisty, blind crested road for home. Stopping at some of the large termite mounds on the way out:

Back onto the Woodie Woodie Road passing through a remarkable feature known as The Sisters:

I will leave to your imagination my thoughts on the matter, only to state that if they are sisters, they obviously had different fathers of differing genetic stock.

We turn onto the Skull Springs Road, ever mindful of the tyre situation on the Dmax.
Rounding a corner we spot this unusual bird in the scrub:

I said it looks like a cross between an Emu and a Malleefowl. Trev appropriately named it a Malleemu. Turns out it is an Australian Bustard, commonly referred to as a brush or bush turkey. To my mind, the Malleefowl is the bush turkey. So now I have a touch of confusion going on. Which species is the actual "Bush Turkey", the favoured food source of many an early inland explorer and native? When I started this blog, I never intended it to become a source on flora and fauna.

We crossed the Davis River, and a picturesque place it was:

Soon afterwards, we turned off into Running Waters, our intended camp for last night. Gingerly, Trev traverses the slow rocky track in and we stop short and walk the small distance to the water. Wow, what a remarkable place. I know Carawine was an unscheduled and delightful place to stop, but we both agreed, this was the favoured waterhole of any we were to visit on this trip.

Spending nowhere near enough time here, we had to move on. So much distance to travel and so little time to do so :(

It was then we moved onto Skull Springs:

Skull Springs itself wasn't much but a few streams of the Davis River:

We ventured out the other side and discovered a substantial old mine at the base of a hill. Tracks leading off everywhere, we made a u-turn and turned back onto Skull Springs Road. Here the road deteriorated. It made the Roy Hill to Nullagine Road a highway. Lots of holes and bumps and lots of crappy blind crests with hidden corners underneath them. Maybe it was due to us pushing the envelope a bit? I almost come a gutzer on one corner after a blind crest. Too much speed to dig the steering wheel harder to the right, I had to manage the task of letting the paj drift to the left, but not so much as to put a wheel off into the spinifex, potentially going off the road and scratching the lid. It was a little bit of a heart stopping moment, but all's well that ends well. We stopped in at the 20mile State Battery for some pictures of what remains of the machinery at the site:

All throughout this whole Pilbara area from Newman onwards, spot fires were seen in the distance:

This one, as it turned out was very near Nullagine township. Approaching the town, we could even see the flame. But Nullagine bound we are:

One can imagine the airfilter maintenance I need to do on our return.

But we make the 140Km deviation of Skull Springs Road, Dmax tyres still going round and round, and head south at Nullagine for the Roy Hill stretch.

The Roy Hill Rail here looks mint. I bet the minesite has had no expense thrown at it either. Boom gates still in construction phase:

The view from the village some of the best to be seen in the area. I reckon I could chillax at my donga after a 12 hour shift here easy enough:

Before we knew it, we were on the black top again. The return stretch North of Roy Hill seemed a breeze after Skull Springs. I guess its all relative.

Seeing we have made reasonable time, we stop in for a quick look at Opthalmia Dam, North of Newman:

Then onto Capricorn for some more go juice. Pushing on and reaching 1715 in the afternoon, we settled on staying at Kumarina Roadhouse for the princely sum of $7 a head. A bargain - a hot shower, a beer at the bar and a footy final on the tele. What more could one ask for.

Day 8, being the longest distance to date, at a leisurely 580Km's.

I had a video call from home this morning, seeing as it was Fathers day. That was a nice touch. Departing at 0800, the plan for today being to make up some miles. So not a lot of sight seeing on the agenda. Crossing the 26th Parallel, we are heading home. Passing tough Meeka and Cue without stopping, we refuelled at Mt Magnet. A quick bite for lunch and we headed South again. Trev mentioned a campsite he had stayed at before and we turned off towards Yalgoo to see if we could make this location.

We had a quick look at Jokers Tunnel on the way.

Inside I found a large swarm of grass hoppers had made a home in the roof structure.

A bit further in on that and I found about a dozen little bats huddled in a crevice.

On the road out, another example of a Reptillian friend allowed me the pleasure of taking his photograph:

Prior to leaving the tunnel, we consulted some maps and I fired up WikiCamps. I found a site on the way to our planned destination so we decided to have a look. Whilst the Spider and the Fly had a great piece of artwork, it was a pretty ordinary place to camp. On the shoreline of a very dry Mongers Lake. So we pushed on for plan 1.

Time now being 1645, Heading East on the Warriedar Road was a challenge in the setting sun. So much so, you would have hit any roo before you even saw it. So speed had to be reduced. There was some good blankets of wildflowers still around though. This photo not doing justice to some of the better examples:

Unfortunately, time being against us, we had to leave the Rothsay mine for another time. We finally make Camel Soak at 1745. Against Trev's philosophy of not visiting the same place twice, he had been here before. He was shocked to find the place being all but full. Maybe due to being Fathers day? Last time he was here, he had the site to himself. We managed to find a place to camp for the night. Being almost dark, firewood was the priority and was aplenty:

Definitely feeling like being South once again, everything was dew soaked in the morning and it was a bit on the cool side. I woke well before sun up and took a walk over the rocky outcrop for a few photo's:

Our last camp for the trip:

Day 9 complete. The longest traverse for the trip, being 770Km's. More driving than sight seeing, but necessary to get home in time.

We could now almost smell home from here which brings about a sense of sadness. Packed up early and on the road by 0730. The plan for the last day was to hit the Midlands Road as an alternate route home. Unfortunately at Moora, we took a wrong turn and ended up back on the Gt Northern Highway well North of where planned. Then we hit the trucks, the road works, the wide loads that this road is notorious for. That split myself and Trev up. I had radio contact with him at Bindoon and it was there we bid each other goodbye. I arrived home at 1240 after a detour via Joondalup for fuel.

And finally on day 10, the trip has come to a close back in Perth after 390Km's for the day. Now for the task of cleaning everything up and putting everything away.

The year to date tally of nights under canvas now standing at a respectable 35. One up on last year with another 4 months to go. looking into it, I reckon I can see another 10 easily added to the total for the year. That now raises a challenge, can I hit 50? Its going to be interesting to see if I can squeeze another 15 in, but I now have a bar to aim for. Watch this space.

Trip Stats:

10 days duration
4066Km travelled
464L fuel used
for an average of  11.4L/100Km
cost of fuel $701.00

Lots of cleaning, lots of scratches but lots of memories and fun.

Thanks be to Trev for having me along and for TE in allowing him to go.
Thanks also be to Kim and Lyn. Your hospitality greatly appreciated.

To do all this in 10 days was certainly a mission. Its a mission I'm glad I did though. Till the next entry, be good.


  1. A great read once again Shane. Alas i've not managed very many days under canvas this year (only about a dozen or so), as I had to use all my A/L when my appendix tried (several times) to kill me earlier in the year.

    1. Thanks Jon. That's not good news re the appendix. I feel your pain. I had to burn some leave last year myself when my kidney tried to do the same to me. Worse than that, mine cant be removed and there is no guarantee it wont happen again. Its a time bomb, so I decided screw it. I'm going camping! If I fall over in the bush, solo or in company, so be it.