Monday, 15 August 2016

A Caning on the Canning, part I

19th July - 12th August

18 months of preparations and we were under-way. Unfortunately 6 months out, I had to fit out a new vehicle for the trip (see  on the fritz     x marks the spot,) so that kept me pretty busy for the last 6 months. The participants were Steve (mr mankini) and Brenda (snoozy) from Perth, the trip organisers. Then we had Peter (harry) and Willie (wilma) from Victoria joining us. Oh and of course myself (captain flatulence). We all ended up with trip names and they will come to the fore in due course.

Weighing in at a measly 3.34T minus personal gear was always going to be a challenge. But that's the nature of the Canning. Near 1900 Km's of desert and one has to be self sufficient. That means weight unfortunately:

But the necessary food and fluids were taken care of:

Team Peter was the first to leave, having a far greater distance to travel than us. The plan was to meet them at Halls Creek on the 23rd July. Steve was the second to leave, about 4 days prior to myself. The plan was for myself to high tail it to Broome to meet up with Steve and Brenda on the 21st.

Just before I left, Steve told me he had cracked a windscreen on the Saturday, just short of Newman. As luck would have it, not only did Newman have stock, but they could fit it on the Sunday. So he trotted off to Kalgan Pool for the night. The next day he sent me a txt, telling me to bring shock washers. His shock washer had inverted and he made one of his spares fit. I took the advice. Just as well too.

The first day (Tuesday 19th) I made near 850  Km's and camped up at Bilyuin Pool. A fairly uneventful trip. About 15Km's from the main highway, just after passing the 26 degree latitude:

Worse news was to come. Steve had blown a line on his remote res shock. He would be waiting in Broome for new ones to be airfreighted in. That left me with some nagging doubt, I had the same shocks fitted, but worse, I had them both front and rear.

Just enough time to grab some wood for the fire, I comfortably fell asleep in my camp chair, glass of red in hand (nope - didn't spill any) by the dwindling supply of timber for a bit before retiring to the swag. The next morning and the view was delightful:

A quick couple of coffee's and I was packed and on the road again by 0830. A rather uneventful 700Km journey followed. Stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn, I had Leo on the phone for a bit. I explained that today I had been fighting a crappy, gusty head wind, fuel consumption was high and the dreaded torque converter was spending a lot of time unlocked, raising the tranny temps.

The phone call and the headwind had put me behind schedule. Not having a prior camp selected, I pushed on towards Pt Hedland. Not many opportunities for pulling off the road, the vegetation thick to the road edge with spinifex. At 4pm, I decided the first opportunity I saw to get off the road would be camp for the night. The Turner river came into view, but the limited tracks into this area seemed to be locked up with mining ventures. At about 1715, I found a road on the left and took it. Travelling down a little way to check out a river crossing, it turned out to be nothing of interest, but two mine vehicles travelling in the opposite direction got quite a fright when they came round corners and saw approaching traffic - IE me. So I did  u-turn and found a clearing about 150m from the highway. It would be a busy night, listening to all those road trains, but I was set up just before dark. No chance of a fire tonight, but the Chichester Range in the background, full moon and all made a stunning backdrop:

Up early in the morning, well before sun up, I scored a nice shot. An aircraft leaving a glowing con-trail, just as a road train passed:

Day 3 and destination Broome to meet Steve and Brenda. On the road at 0730, it was another 700Km day. Coming into Hedland, I too saw the brunt of a road train, with a chipped windscreen. Fuel and breakfast done with 600Km's to go to that great little town in the Kimberley. Once in Broome, a quick shop at the supermarket and I made camp with Steve and Brenda at 1615. His airfreighted shocks hadn't made it to town, so we hoped they would arrive tomorrow. Being full moon and low tide, it was staircase to the moon night with a few bevvies before hand:

I reckon we had the best vantage point in town for the show that night with very few people to boot - bonus!

Afterwards, its off to the Roey for dinner, followed by a few more drinks back at camp. Getting up in the middle of the night for those duties one must attend to, I couldn't get back to sleep. I saw 3 young indigenous fellows walk past at 0200 and I thought that was strange. Then I heard the distinct sound of a paj door closing. So I got up for a look. My car looked ok, but Steve's rear passenger door was open. I got him up and found his car had been rolled. Only a few minutes had passed, so we went on the hunt. We spied the low lifes on the beach, and when they eyeballed us, they bolted. Needless to say they are brought up chasing Goanna's so we had no chance. Back at camp, we found he had a lucky escape. Only a phone and an Ipod. We found the missing carton of bourbon behind a bush near camp - I had obviously disturbed them. But more disturbingly, we found their tools of trade they also left behind:

Steve had had a lucky escape. The car was full of other goodies, that if taken would have made the trip a whole lot worse. So far, we had both been stricken with rotten luck, but worse was to come. So with no chance of sleeping now, we had a coffee and sat up watching the sun rise over Roebuck Bay:

0830 and Steve got a call his shocks had arrived, so off to the boys at Broome ARB to have them fitted. Amazing service I must say, they even adjusted his handbrake. Thanks for the great service guys.

We hit the road for Derby and the Prison Boab tree. Unfortunately now fenced off so no chance of touch or feel. It was there I suggested we could hit Windjana and camp the night, then onto Tunnel Ck and Halls Creek the next day. The Napier Range looked fantastic in the setting sun:

Next morning, day 5,  I noted I too was now suffering the inverted washer, but I decided to see how things went. So we shot off on foot down Windjana Gorge and was not disappointed:

With some tyre pressure reduction we then headed off to one of my favourite little places, Tunnel Creek. We did the walk, coaxing Brenda through the rocky entrance. We could see the "red dots" in the middle of the cave as we were knee deep in water. I told them, you know what that is don't you? What we couldn't see with the naked eye, the camera doesn't lie:

450Km's later, we made Caroline Pool, on scheduled date, and finally met up with our companions, Peter and Willie:

The fire was already lit for us. Peter proved over the trip to be a demon on the chainsaw and was the undisputed campfire master. We laughed throughout the night watching the antics of previously bogged backpackers and the efforts they went to to get firewood, bringing back a telegraph pole sized log, they had somehow managed to let the mating tree depart with.

Day 6, being a short affair of only 175km, we stopped in at Old Halls Ck, where I paid homage to David Carnegie.

Wiki link: Carnegie

Both Steve and myself have visited Empress Spring at separate times, discovered by Carnegie (with the help of a thirsty black fella) near the start of his epic journey. It was only fitting to reach his end point. To those that haven't, I highly recommend reading "Spinifex and Sand', written by Carnegie, detailing this mammoth effort of his.

With a quick look at the China Wall:

We were on our way to Wolf Creek Crater and made camp around 1245. A nice early day. The entry road lived up to reputation. A taste of things to come. Getting a bit warm now, we retreated into the shade for the later afternoon to arrive. It was then we walked to the rim:

And over I went. Peter and Willie with me, Steve and Brenda staying up top. There was a cache here by Lyn,Pat and Nathan I just had to have. I have a few of theirs under the belt now and I wasn't leaving without a find on this one, my first for the trip. It was relatively easy to find, but the walk back up the crater wall kept one on his toes:

A lovely evening, warm temps and no flies, we start in earnest, tackling the CSR in the morning:

Tracklog: Black = solo, Blue = in company.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed part one and can't wait for the next instalment... You must have a terrific camera as your pictures were beautiful and the early morning shot was stunning . Have a safe and adventurous journey down the CSR. My step dad was a drover in old days gone by and was one of the last to take cattle down there. It's on our list to do.. Thanks for sharing. ��

    1. Thanks John and Sonia. Hope you enjoy the next parts to come. Next time I go down the Canning, it will be on a camel. I think it was just a very bad season this year.

  2. amazing reading. can't wait to see part 2

    1. Thanks guys. Hope you enjoyed all 5 parts.

  3. Great read, thanks for taking the time to put this together, looking forward to reading more,
    best barnsey

    1. Thanks Barnsey. Comments like that is the reason I put it together. Cheers.

  4. You've got me hooked Shane.
    Great pics and awesome reliving the memories of travelling with you, Steve, Pete and Willie.

    1. It was a great time. Thanks for being a wonderful travelling companion. It wouldn't have been the same without you all - mankini and all :)

    2. Yeah, had to love our last night on the CSR with Mr Mankini and our Alien Appreciation Society (AAS) alfoil-adorned selves. :)