Monday, 28 May 2018

Lucked out at Leo

May 14-19 (with a side journey until May 22 - see its-got-knobs-on-it)

With a week off and perfect cool weather predicted, it was time for another prospecting adventure. Problem being, I couldn't leave on the Sunday due to work commitments, so that meant potentially fighting the Monday morning traffic to get out of the city for the big drive to leonora.

With a new battery installed after "Mowing the Spackman", I felt confident this trip should be a little less eventful. However, packing the car on Sunday, I noticed my tyre I plugged on the Spackman a month beforehand, had decided it was now not going to hold pressure. Great. It had been fine for a month, and now late afternoon just before I depart it decides to let go. So I had another go at it and I will monitor its performance on the trip.

Meeting John on the road on Monday at 0600, we navigated our way to the hills without too much traffic drama to contend with. John was flagged by a passing motorist so we pulled over. Unfortunately, his jockey wheel on the camper didn't like road speed and it was now not rolling very well. So we pulled it up and continued eastwards, there wasn't much we could do about it now.

Stopping in Cunderdin for a coffee, I confirmed more pressure loss on the dodgy tyre, but although a little low, we pushed on without re-airing. We then made Bodallin where John stopped for fuel and I put more air in the tyre. Another stop for fuel in Kalgoorlie, and more air, we hit the road North for Leonora.

I had a spot marked for a camp, however on arrival, around 1630, I couldn't see the track on the ground. It may not exist any more? So we find a track on the opposite side and go searching. We see a ute with his camper parked nearby as we venture down a side track, obviously hunting the yellow too, so we move some distance away and find some relatively flat, open ground to make camp for the night, just inside the boundary of a tenement. We can walk the few meters into open ground in the morning. Perfect.

John sets up his camper, and I elect a basic setup - just the swag - in case we don't like the ground in the morning. With 876km's driven, we are a little fatigued and get dinner and a fire underway.

The next morning after breakfast, I thought I best have a look at this tyre of mine. losing pressure again overnight, I removed it from the vehicle for a better look. It seems to be, any plug I put in the hole, gets pushed out. Ginning around for a while, inserting multiple plugs, and testing with soapy water, I finally manage to get the thing to seal. So back on the wheel goes and its time to put the detector on the ground.

So it's now 11am, half the day is done and I finally get to do what we came for....detect for yella. With such a late start to the day, we don't venture far but I get a call on the radio about 1500. We have a visitor: Alexandre, a French prospecting back packer. I am about a kilometre away and slowly make my way back to camp. We spend the rest of the afternoon talking bullshit with Alex and listening to his stories of the few nuggets he just found up at Meekatharra;

A couple of beers to wash the dust down and with time up our sleeve, John decides to do a roast for dinner. Alex stays to be fed and watered. he has no fridge, so fresh food and beer is a luxury to him. Each beer I give him, I mention that's another nugget he owes us:

Then it's another splendid night with a few bevvies by a warm fire. This is livin:

The next morning, Alex says my front left is looking a bit low. Christ almighty, what have I done to piss the tyre gods off:

Upon investigation, I check the pressure and yep it's low. I find I have staked yet another sidewall on the MT51's. Not a good look for them, 2 trips, 2 stakes. Sure, I ventured cross country to get to our campsite, but not very far and I was very careful. Not careful enough obviously. The pissant sized twig that penetrated the tyre was disappointing too:

Checking the right rear I repaired yesterday and I'm stunned. The vehicle hasn't moved at all and the plugs I put in are now sitting 2" proud of the tyre. How the hell does that happen? self extracting plugs......

With 2 tyres down, there is only one choice for me now: I have to go to town for a tyre repair. John and Alex go off to prospect and I get things ready to go into town. Eventually I find someone who can help me out. A cantankerous old bugger, not very friendly and not all that willing to help. he tells me, remove the wheel and when he finishes his cuppa, he will have a look.

So, on the street verge, I pull out all my equipment, jack the vehicle up, remove the plugged wheel and roll it in. His cup of tea now finished, doesn't change his demeanour, and trying to make small talk whilst he is removing the tyre is like pulling hair. This should be fun.

With the tyre off, he tells me the carcass is stuffed internally and it requires a new tyre. How lucky is that, he just got 2 new AT's during the week in my size. So I agree to the $300 replacement. Once fitted, I'm about to wheel it out when a delivery arrives. Now he has a conundrum to deal with. Look at my next tyre or have me wait for an hour whilst he unloads the truck.

I say, hey, why don't I unload the truck for you whilst you repair my 2nd tyre. This triggers a new reaction: I am now his best mate. So with the 2nd wheel off, I leave him to repair it, whilst I unload cages of empty gas cylinders with his forklift. This is fun, I haven't driven a forklift in 15 years.

With the 2nd tyre now repaired, Russell, my new 74 year old mate, finishes the load of the truck whilst I pay my dues. He doesn't charge me for the second repair as I helped him out. How cool is that. So if you have tyre issues in Leonora, go see me mate Russ at LDC.

I am gone for hours and return to camp late afternoon. perfect time for a nice shower. Totally over it all by now, i'm not prospecting today so I wait for John and Alex to return. Another great sunset and another great campfire:

It's now Thursday, and although we planned to leave on the Sunday, I suspect John will leave on Saturday if we luck out. Waking to another cool, brisk morning, its time for coffee:

We have our breakfast and all go our separate ways. I decide to ascend up the slope as the flats hadn't done anything for me yet. Every now and then I get a glimpse of Alex, but John is nowhere to be seen. A few hours in and i'm at the crest. Just then I get a call from john: Alex has found a piece on the flats - go figure...I went high! But instead of coming back down, I decide to carry the detector and make my way to the old Jasper mine a few Km's away.

Through some pretty interesting country, I find the old pit and marvel at all the work that had gone into it, only to eventually abandon it when the gold run out. Its the story of the Goldfields - no environmental protections in those days and no rehab required. the Goldfields is literally just big holes in the ground - irreparable damage to the landscape forever:

But I do wonder how rich this mine once was.

So I decide to return the 1.6Km's as the crow flies back to camp. There will be no yellow for me today. 500m or so from camp, I see the fella who is camped close by us. So I go over to introduce myself and scare the bejesus out of him. We chat for a bit. he has been here for a month now, and all he has found is very small stuff. So it is present - he and Alex has found it, but John and myself, with our particular detector, is going to struggle with this fine stuff.

I make camp around 1500 and call it a day. We are 4 days in after leaving Perth and really only have a day left if John decides to leave Saturday. It's going all too fast. When Alex and John arrive back at camp, we check out Alex's find from today and some of the better specimens he owes us for eating all our food and drinking all our beer:

And guess what: another perfect Goldfields sunset and campfire to boot:

I wake up at 0300 cause the vegetation needs some watering. So I decide to get a star trail pic on the go. The results are pretty good if you ask me:

Then I am up at 0600 and John is quite surprised to see I have beat him up. Normally, he is up hours before me and gets an hour or two in swinging the stick before I even think about getting out the warm swag.

John has decided: He is going home tomorrow. I am in two minds about this, I dont want to go home early, but this will allow me to conquer part II of this trip. I need to find a bottle of cognac in the Great Victoria Desert. Although the 4-5 degrees overnight are leaving me a bit concerned about sleeping rough in the desert.

Being the last day on the ground, best we make it count then.

A semi reasonable effort was put in. I decided on staying on the downward side of the slope today, as that's where Alex found his piece a couple of days back. Today though wasn't my day. Bloody hot rock...Tune my detector as much as I can and I cant tune out all this hot rock. Every few feet, a new rock, kick it out the way, sweep where it once sat, then re sweep where the rock ended up. Frustrating as all get out it was.

To cut the tale short, in the end I gave up. I was just wasting my time. And what's worse, when I  returned to camp we find out Alex, the Frenchman (that ate all our food and drunk all my beer), found another piece. Grrrrrr. Another very small specimen, but.......

So with a fading sun, it was time for the fire again:

This time. Alex was in for a treat. A camp oven roast on our last night:

Whilst we watered ourselves by the fire waiting for the roast to cook, one cant but help think how lucky we are:

And soon enough it was dinner time:

So how does this work then? The French, renowned for their culinary prowess, and Alex has never seen anything like it. A one pot meal on the fire. And his thoughts on the taste.....Bloody good! I have to admit, it was too, so too the crackling. No left overs tonight to be had.

However all good things come to an end. John is up early and on the road at 0800. I have lots of crap to pack and it takes me till 1000 before I'm ready to leave. Alex leaves (no doubt to find another food source) at the same time. Hoping like hell a small nugget will find my way, it doesn't. But at least the car starts this time.

It's been a pleasure to meet you Alex. Anytime you want to go out with us, let us know. I'm sure John and myself would welcome you back again. And to John, thanks for the great company, as always.

So here, we take a little side diversion. I wasn't ready to go home and decided to drive another 350Km's cause I had a French theme going. I was after cognac. You will have to read  its-got-knobs-on-it, a tale all of its own.

3 days later, and I'm back on the road for home. I phone John and he is home safe. He cant believe I did what I did - he really wasn't keen on me doing this, and I certainly understand why.

A lame old man decides it's time for a beer at Kookynie Pub. So lame and sore after my desert trek, the thought is to have dinner here too. However, it's only 3pm and the kitchen doesn't open till 6. By that time, I wont be able to drive, so I have my pint and head for Niagra Dam for the night. As I leave, I find out how Willie, the resident horse, got his name. It cant have been my smell, it must be my good looks that brought him to attention.

So with camp set up at the dam, I cooked my dinner and celebrated with some cognac, something I couldn't bear to touch the night before in the desert.

I had the best nights sleep. Anything has to be better than a thin mat on the ground, with no blanket or bag to keep warm in the middle of the desert in sub 5 degree temps. Just the thing I needed for the 10 hour drive home.

And by 4pm, I was home. Certainly not richer in mineral content, but hell was I on a high. The first priority was to log the cache. Then brag about my efforts to the geocaching community. I guess only they would truly understand the effort required. So much so, the week spent prospecting takes a back seat to my endeavour of collecting the cognac. After all, that's all I will remember in time. What a beauty: 3rd to find in 15 years, the first on foot. I'm still on a high and now I want more.

Trip Stats:

8 nights under canvas
2411km travelled
276L fuel used
Best consumption: 10.8L/100, Worst 11.9L/100
for a trip average of  11.44L/100
cost of fuel $419
new tyre in Leonora $300, repaired tyre $0
camp fees $0 - No camp fee's out here 👍.

The running tally of nights under canvas now stands at 18
(this includes the side journey to Nichol's Knob - see   its-got-knobs-on-it)

Trip vids:

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