Saturday, 20 August 2016

A caning on the Canning, part IV

We were warned by a couple at well 35 that an aboriginal funeral was taking place in Kunawaritji Community that day, and camping at well 33, some 8km's from town was probably not a good idea. The problem being, well 34 was a dust bowl of unhappiness and the CSR was lined heavy with spinifex all the way to 33, so our decision had been made. It was a quiet affair with no natives to disturb the peace. Well it would have been quiet until the mob in 2 vehicles, bundled with kids rocked up. Trying to chat with them, the Swiss couple seemed friendly enough, the fella from NSW didn't want to talk.

Shooting stars were everywhere on the CSR. I would often lie awake in the swag, staring to the heavens and I reckon I would see one every 5 minutes or so. This is probably how Brenda came to relay her story of min min lights when she was out at Murchison House Station the year prior. That became a source of fascination and eventually turned into jovial comments about alien anal probing just about every night by the fire. She so longed for contact, but I doubt that extended to probing.

Day 12 starts at the leisurely time of 0845. Time enough for the fuel to be open. The community was as to be expected, you can draw your own conclusions on that. But the fuel, phew! - the most expensive fuel I have ever purchased. Watching the dollars on the bowser swing past at 3.4 times the litreage was a sight I wouldn't like to witness again. The general store was also pretty barren. We were told, due to the huge influx of mobs from the region for the funeral, the store had turned over 16K worth of stock the day prior. Fuel, a pie and a loaf of frozen bread saw my wallet part with $425. The fuel was quality, along with the pie, but the bread was crap.

By 1000, we were finally under way and turned back onto the CSR. Just after we started, we stopped. Peter had a strange knock and we tried to identify the source. We spent nearly an hour and we think we traced it to the front eye of his left rear spring. A dose of silicon lube made it go quiet, but we were worried what damage may had been caused in there.

And so it was, back into that horrible soft sand corrugation. With no spare shocks left, I babied it to well 32. At 20Km/h it took an hour to travel the 20 odd Km's. So we stopped and checked shock temps again. Steve's well over 100 degrees, mine under 80. A group of two vehicles came in from the South, followed by 4 or so dirt bikes. Now that would be an adventure, the CSR on an enduro with support vehicles. After a half hour shock rest, we continued. Same shitty conditions, same slow speed. It doesn't matter where you go, there is always a funny bugger somewhere, as we found out on the way to well 31.

Arriving at well 31 around 1330, we found it to be a rather pleasant little spot. Lots of shady trees and open ground, perfect for a lunch stop. On the way back to the fridge I checked on all things suspension. To my absolute horror I found the shock I had just put in the previous night had now also failed. It was devastating. I broke the news to the group and they were just dumbfounded. I made the decision that my CSR race was run. There is no way I could risk the next 1000Km's with one failed shock. I consulted the maps and my best choice was to head back over that 2 hours of crap we had just driven, cross the desert and head to Newman for replacements. The others understood my dilemma and my reasoning. I told them I wasn't going back to the community today, I would camp here the night and start afresh in the morning. Steve said well stuff it, best we get on the piss then, a celebration of sorts. We had made a measly 57Km's for the day.

Although I do tell a horrible lie. The real reason for me deciding to bail out was to seek assistance for a horrible, nasty outback affliction I had been carrying for some time. The dreaded Black Fella feet:

Since leaving Broome 8 days ago, my quest for conserving water was working too well. I had used a total of 7 litres. Like scurvy when at sea, my self rationing of water led to this ailment that needed urgent attention.

So that was it. Dismayed, the group would spend their last night together at well 31, Peter, the true champion he is, got to work with the firewood. I said to Steve, screw it, lets make it jaffle night. So with crappy, undersized frozen bread, a can of irish stew, a jaffle iron and great company, we sadly tried to enjoy the best of a shit hand dealt.

The occasional rumble from somewhere behind my chair, which led to the Captain Flatulence title and some commentary on aliens helped a sad night to end well. Packing up in the morning was hard to do, but in the end, the group posed for a selfie:

Day 13 started in earnest at 0900. Whilst the main party turned West, I headed North East, dreading the thought of that horrible piece of track, 50Km's long back to Kunawaritji. Funny enough, the track being so poor, I couldn't even tell I had a non functioning shock. With regret, I listened to the radio chatter between Steve and Peter gradually become weaker, then intermittent, then silence. I was now on my own solo quest for Newman. Hoping like hell, the track from Kunawaritji to the Woodie Woodie road was in some sort of condition.

After 2 hours, I passed the community and headed West. In the beginning, the road wasn't too bad, now travelling parallel to the dunes in the swale. But the further I travelled, the worse it got. A car full of black fella's that had overtaken me earlier was parked up on the side of the road. I stopped to see if they needed assistance, which they didn't. 2 old females, skin more weather beaten than my oldest pair of leather boots are peering into the open passenger window, checking out every bit of content I had in view. Cunning buggers.....They asked for a lift to Marble Bar. At that stage I was unsure if I would go via the longer but smoother route to Marble Bar or via Skull Springs Rd. They instantly made that decision for me.

Half way to Punmu and I wasn't having fun. I had to reduce my speed to 80Km/h max and upon sighting corrugations, even further. Hitting corrugations would kick the arse end out and was a scary prospect. More than a few times stability control kicked in to bring me back onto the straight and narrow. After Punmu community it got worse. Having no plan on where I would camp, I was hoping I could make for near Telfer and get coms with the outside world. Driving into the setting sun was a pain and once I saw bars on the phone, I started checking places out. Numerous gravel pits turned out to be non starters, cause I had no coverage inside them. I eventually found a turn out, about 20m off the road with coverage at 1745. Telfer mine being 10Km's to the South West. A late one, but I had coms and was off the road. I had made 320Km's for the day, the biggest day I had done in the last 8 days.

As it turned out, a friend was on a business trip in the area. He would be in Newman in 2 days, coincidently when I predicted I would arrive. He arranged to bring me a set of new rear shocks. I cant thank him enough for that. Dinner and a few beers done, I lit a small fire and was burning off some rubbish. I hear a car coming from the East and it stops 400m from camp. I just knew it was a car load of black fella's. Car doors were banging and I was just hoping they wouldn't drop in on me, with empty tinnies and a cask of red on the table. Then I see a headlamp walking towards my camp. So, quickly off with the lights and extinguish the fire. Another car then also came and stopped. The headlamp turned back to where it came. More door banging and crap, me sitting in dark isolation. And about an hour later, both cars drove past, I'm guessing not seeing my car in the bush. Phew. I had no nulla nulla in my possession so if it turned ugly, it would have been white knuckle on black chin. Not a pleasant prospect.

Around 11pm, sort of half asleep in the swag, staring to the heavens for aliens, yet another car came from the East and also stopped at the same place, 400m away. More door banging and the like, I was now wide awake. Wondering what the hell was going on down there. Another tense hour passed, and it too finally drove past at slow speed, not dropping in for a cuppa. Phew #2. It ended up being a pretty restless night, cause not long afterwards, out of nowhere a huge desert wind started to blow. It must have been 30Kt's.

Day 14 and making a coffee in the morning was a pain. This massive blast of wind was throwing fine desert sand everywhere. My coffee that morning was crunchy with a slight hint of camel. At 0900 I was back on the road, heading east to see what the source of all the fascination was the night before. Then all was revealed. The car full of all sorts of crap one would expect of an abandoned vehicle from a desert community:

So back on the road, I travel another 33km's and then hit the graded and well maintained superhighway being the Telfer Mine road. My corrugation issues now sorted for a while. Another 107Km's down and I crossed the Gregory Range and made the Woodie Woodie road.

40 Km's South I then turned onto Skull Springs Rd for Nullagine. The road was undergoing road works and was far smother than when I last came through in October. The 140 odd Km trek not too bad at all, still at reduced speed though, and I will be so until I get a functioning shock once again.

I made Nullagine at 1500. Emptied the groups rubbish from the CSR I had carried out, and celebrated with an ice cream from the general store. I managed to get Steve on the satphone. I was as relieved to hear all was going well for them, as much as they were relieved to hear I was now only 200Km from Newman. I had spent an hour in the town with calls and internet updates, then proceeded to a little water hole I had found when up here in October, Cadjeput Rock Hole.

Arriving at 1600, I had made 330Km's for the day. With the wind still howling, and finding water in the rock hole, I also got a load of washing done. The only problem was with that wind. No way would I light a fire tonight. In fact, due to the wind, I had to wear my winter jacket for the first time. So with an early night, and an easy trek tomorrow, I slept with ease.

Day 15 was a relatively easy day. Into Newman at 1200 I visited the tourist bureau, the 4wd shop and then the supermarket. I even caught up with my old school buddy, Brent, whom I hadn't seen for years and just so happened to be on his FIFO roster, working in town. At 1430, I got a call from my mate that he was staying at the cappy, had my shocks and would be in town in a couple of hours. I said great, lets have a meal and some beers at the cappy then. So I just bummed around for a couple of hours and made my way to the Capricorn Roadhouse.

He arrived about 1/2 hour after I got there, I grabbed the shocks and headed for the bar. A great night with good company, excellent food and beer in glass for a change. Whilst they had paid accommodation at the cappy, I rolled out about a Km to the Capricorn Bronx. A place full of old car wrecks and rubbish strewn everywhere. But it was a place for the swag. 210Km's done for the day:

My plan had been to maybe hang around the gorges of Newman for a week, maybe even head up to Mt Meharry then head home. But my shocking mate, planted the seed over dinner - why not go up the CSR and catch up with the party. Bloody brilliant idea, exactly what I will do.

Day 16, an early rise, I met my mate for breakfast at the roadhouse at 0730. Whilst chowing down on a bacon burger, some locals came in and were straight to the bar for emu export at 0800. We just looked at each other. Breakfast done, my mate departed South and I changed a shock in the carpark:

The locals, now finished with their export kept coming over and hassling. One asking for a lift - car in the air, wheel off and shock on the ground. Another asking for a phone. Just bugger off will ya.....

With the shock now done, I decided to spend the night at Kalgan pool. A few crappy corrugations on the way in, and a few shallow water crossings and I found a perfect little spot a couple of Km's from the pool itself - which incidentally was probably a good thing as I found out someone else was parked up at the pool. What a magic little site. Clear running water and a spectacular view of the Hamersley Range. Arriving early @ 1400, I had time and water to do laundry and remedy those Black Fella feet. Only 62 Km's for the day:

With a nice little fire going (yes "Harry", I used the bow saw), I didn't realise but I had my latest night of the trip. The last of the lumber burnt out at midnight so I trotted off to the swag.

Day 17 and I headed back for Newman. Some more supplies and sustenance via garlic cheese toasties from Subway, and I was on my way. Destination Wiluna. Now on the blacktop, with no stability issues, I cranked the music for the first time in a long while and before I knew it, some 250Km's later, I was at the Wiluna North rd. I thought I'd try Steve on the Sat phone. It connected and he answered. They were having a lay day at Durba Springs....bastards....Anyway ensuring they didn't need any supplies, I informed them I would meet them at well 6 and proceeded to North Pool, outside Wiluna. The biggest day for a while at 490Km's.

On day 18, I got underway at 0900. Heading into Wiluna to take on a full fuel load, the target being Well 6, some 250Km's up the CSR. I had noticed on leaving Kalgan, that new shock was knocking a little. So I checked before I left Wiluna. The mounting nut had come loose a little, but the knock was still there after re tensioning it. By now, well and truly over all the shit I had endured, I said stuff it, well 6 here we come. Time being 1100.

I bypassed well 1 as I knew we would all visit that on our return. Lots of (now dry, thankfully) bog holes were traversed and we came into some rocky hard country. Stopping at well 2a, it was now 1345. The well, made into solid granite, would have been quite a chore in the day to dig/blast/ remove rock:

I note the abundance of Sandlewood throughout this whole rocky region. The amount of rock in this region was just out of this world:

The rocky ground disappeared once descending a rocky incline and led into sandy plains with the occasional small dune to traverse. Unfortunately, the sandy plain was full of sharp corrugations:

But onwards I forge. No knocking shock nor corrugation can stop me now.As I come into proximity of well 3 at 1530, I cant work out where the well is. I poke the nose down a track and disaster rears its ugly head yet again:

On the most pissant of tree root, I had staked a tyre. I was on the far South Western edge of the Gibson desert by now and all I could think of was the Gibson's history. On Ernest Giles' 2nd expedition, he left the main party in the Rawlinson Ranges (near Warakurna on the Great Central rd) by a tank they had dug, whilst he and Alfred Gibson scouted forward in search of water. Gibson rode off into the desert never to be seen again and Giles barely escaped with his life returning to the tank. I had taken every blow on the chin till now, but this was my last straw. All I wanted to do was shut the car up and become a part of history like Gibson or Boguki and just walk away from it all.  I was over it. I would shove the CSR up Canning's camels arse had he been around.


But as you can probably tell, common sense prevailed, with some difficulty I changed the tyre and decided to settle in for the night. I then went searching for the well on foot. It was 100m away, in another direction.  Grrrr......129Km's done for the day.

Whilst looking for the well, I spotted that un-talkative mob that had camped at well 33 with us, nestled in among the trees. The swiss lady was first to see me and I apologised for frightening the bejesus out of her, much like Paul the cyclist had done to Steve.

My thinking now was screw it. I will camp here till my party arrives. By the time the tyre was done, and all the gear packed away, It was too late and I just couldn't be bothered getting wood. So dinner and a few beers, off to the swag I went.

No awning tonight as I just couldn't be stuffed, I woke to the sound of rain on the swag in the wee hours. teriffic. Pulling the flap over, I nodded off again.

Day 19: In the morning, the weather not looking the best, and the swag quite wet, I changed my mind and decided to hit well 6. Still with one spare on hand, if the shit hit the fan today, I know at least my party is only a couple of days away. I grabbed a coffee, pulled the bedding from the swag and hit the road at 0900.

From here to well 4 (Windich Springs), the track diverts from the Canning, along station tracks due to errosion issues. It was slow going. Not only is there 5 gates to open (and close again) but there are numerous (sort of) steep creek crossings to traverse. I wondered how bad the actual Canning was:

Traversing over the Frere Range, quite picturesque in itself I came to a steep exit on Kennedy Creek and put slider cam into action:

Giving the CSR the pajero salute as I gained some air time.

From there I made Windich Springs, one of those things on my bucket list. A beautiful spot, a wetland of national significance. Named By John Forrest after his Aboriginal helper, Tommy Windich.

wiki: Tommy_Windich

But well 6 lures and I push on. Reaching the restored well 5 at 1445. A quick look here and I'm on the move once again. And I start to hear some scratchy radio coms. I call out "solo vehicle, northbound from well 5" and I hear a reply, it is Steve. What a rush that was. Not able to establish reliable coms, I push on and at the top of a rise call again. We have now made contact, they are at well 6, about 15 Km's away, waiting for me to arrive. I call them a pack of bastards, they are a day early and I wanted a rest day at well 6. But in all reality, I was just overjoyed to re-aquaint with my long lost party. Corrugations - what corrugations, I was now on a mission to catch up with the party, I never even felt them.

I arrive at well 6 at 1530. This will be a day to remember. 125Km's done and back with familiar company. The drama's since I left, now long forgotten.

Well 31 -  Newman:

Newman - Well 3:


  1. Thanks for sharing the journey thus far with its highs and lows, and especially this bit.

    What a magic little site. Clear running water and a spectacular view of the Hamersley Range.
    What an awesome camp/photo.


    1. Thanks Dno. Yes it was a magical place for sure. Reminds me a little of some of those spots I used to frequent on the East coast (sans the iron ridges), and I guess the Vic High country has similar scenes?

  2. Another great read, thanks for sharing & giving me an idea to put a diary in my truck to record my own little trips when i start going away, there is no way i would ever be able to remember every detail otherwise & i had never thought about carrying a diary to record such events until i started reading your blogs :)

    1. Thanks Brett. I don't write daily journals on the road. But I do take pictures and use the time stamp from that, along with my GPS log to work out what happened, where and when. But I do forget minor bits at times. Probably just as well or the "Caning" would have been in 10 parts :)

  3. Hey Shane, I am having a ball reading this sitting in a cottage in a tiny fishing village in rainy Cornwall. Will be back in Perth at the end of September when I hope we can catch up and do a few family trips together. Missing it terribly. (BTW, what was inside that abandoned car on the side of the road....?)

    1. G'day Eric. I would like to say sucked in, being stuck in rainy old Cornwall, but you are on holidays and I'm now back at work, so you would see the irony of that comment I'm sure. The car was just full of blackfella crap and 3 or so spare tyres. Nothing exciting really. The surrounding area full of dunny paper blowing around the place.

  4. Hey Shane.
    Good seeing pics of your time away from us.
    Glad you made it back and we finished the CSR altogether.
    Wouldn't have been the same without you (or your flatulence) mate.

    1. Here here to that. Yep, best we don't feed Steve baked bean, cheese and onion jaffles on the next trip hey!

    2. Yes, the cheese, baked beans & onions combo aren't the best things to give Steve if you want a fart free night.