Canning Stock Route - Stampedes, corrugations, Gulveda Soak and a donut disaster!

Tuesday, Jun 09, 2009 at 00:00


Tuesday 9th June, 2009
Well 49 Canning Stock Route
20 09 49.98 126 40 54.72 od 207071

It was a great day today with all manner of countryside traversed mingled with the odd mechanical issues and a donut disaster (I can’t even bring myself to type the “T” word). We have reached the Canning albeit not as far south as we’d hoped but there is the comfort of having water present from the restored Well 49.

The day began with a roaring fire, a breakfast of jaffles and tea and then the final pack up. We had decided to leave Paraku as there is nothing much else to be taken care of and no water available so we can’t shower or wash clothes as intended. We took the lake route through the grasslands that fringe lake Gregory. The drive took us past vast mobs of horses. In many places the tall grass had been trimmed back by the horses giving the place a look of manicured perfection, the red of the numerous termite mounds contrasting the green grass and surrounding sweet gums. Several mobs of Brolgas took flight as we approached hooting derisively as they headed further along the lake shore. Many of the swales of the surrounding dunes were obviously overflow areas for the lake when high and as a result were spinifex free and were filled with sweet green grass. Here and there we saw small groups of feral cattle left over from the pastoral lease days.

The track followed the lake fringes and then on the south west side, followed the south west arm of the lake to Yenpu (Pronounced Yenboo). Here another overflow area formed a vast grassy plain free of termite mounds. Mobs of feral cattle wandered, a mob of a hundred horses thundered along the lack edge spooking an even larger mob of cattle.Brolgas drifting effortlessly overhead. The sand dunes on the south west edge of the lake provided a better vista of the lake. At one point I found myself surrounded by a mob of hundreds of stampeding cattle that had been running by the lake shore. They thundered up over the sand ridges to find me and the vehicle forcing them to veer around both sides of the Patrol. It was an amazing spectacle with the drum of their hooves, the bellowing and roaring of the bulls.

The wildlife whisperer, Michael J spotted a dingo as he drove into the old yards at Yenpu. Here, it was a different country again, the eucalypts of Handover being replaced with tee-tree melaleuca scrub. We had morning tea there in the scant shade provided by the scrub and then headed off west towards the Canning.

The track west was in good condition comprising largely a sandy track with occasional limestone rises and humps. Easily driveable and allowing good time across the flat sandy country and sparse Jarni groves. It was worn but little used therefore largely free of corrugations. We met the Canning just after 10:00 a.m. and headed south. The corrugations were horrendous, much worse than I remembered from the ‘06 trip. They shook the bleep out of everything. Within 5 kilometres, the computer had shut down, the GPS had shaken itself off and the Video camera refused to work under such harsh conditions. God only knows what the contents of the fridge will look like!

Because the hummer sits a fair but wider than the normal vehicles, Peter soon lost his mirror and snorkel on the left hand side. He was not a happy boy as he stalked back along the track dealing out destruction to the offending stick (now that’s a funny video to watch!). At well 50, we visited the well site and then returned to the nearby trees for shade. Peter’s truck refused to start prompting a quick mechanical inspection by John and Peter. The rest of us headed off behind Willie to search for Gulvida Soak. Willem swore he remembered the location so off track we went. After ploughing through the dense scrub and sand hills for several kilometres until we came across the well worn track to Gulvida that departs from Well 50. Perhaps we should have checked the map. What a laugh.

On finally reaching our intended destination we found a parking area atop a low water worn set of cliffs about 5 metres high. We picked our way down the gullies and onto a sandy bottomed water course that headed southwest into the low range. Here and there were pools of water, their muddy red colour matching the surrounding rocks and earth. Great sheets of sandstone and conglomerate lay across the creek bed in places their faces often having been worn smooth and shiny by the relentless action of sand, wind and water. Many slabs revealed the fossilised remains of ancient seafloors and occasional marine creatures.

We encountered quite a few large pools and were forced to walk out of the creek bed around them. It was quite a contrast to see a sheet of water in the lee of arid, barren bluffs and high spinifex covered hills. The worn cliffs consisted of sandstone and softer lime-white substrate that tended to erode at a quicker rate forming small caverns and caves. As we wandered further, the creek became more confined, erosion over the aeons having etched a narrow gorge into the range. Here the water completely filled the gorge meaning we had to wander along the cliff tops some 5 to 8 metres above. Thick stands of Native fig gave us an indication that this more sheltered environment enabled the water to remain for longer periods of time.

Wandering along the top of the gorge we reached the highpoint of the hills giving us a view along the length of the valley towards the vehicles. Wandering back across country, we soon reached our parking area and headed off along the track back to Well 50 and the Hummer. Mr Magic and Peter had isolated the issue pardon the pun, as it was one of Pete’s isolator/kill switches malfunctioning and not allowing the motor to start that had caused the problems. Probably the fearsome corrugations on the way in. We had a bite of lunch in the shade of the trees just east of the Well 50 site and then headed back out to the Canning intending to head further down to well 49.

As if god truly decided to mess with Pete today, more disaster awaited on the 7 km trip out ot the main track. On the plains several kilometres eas of the well, a vicious stake leapt out and assaulted both passengers side tyres of the Hummer. The front tyre survived but the rear was destroyed. Travelling 40 metres or so behind, I saw the tyre let go and blow a column of dust metres into the air above the Hummer. I knew straight away that we wouldn’t be fixing that one. So it was that a halt was called while Pete and Sandy got down to work. Suzette walked the 600 metres or so back from the Magic Mobile to help while I also got an instant lesson on how the bits and bobs worked on the tank. They are bloody big tyres let me tell you. Although it wasn’t a hot day, the sun was remorseless when your working in it and Peter and I were soon down to our shorts. Suzette and Sandy came up with the solution by holding a piece of shade cloth above us as Pete and I laboured. It made a world of difference.

By the time we were ready, Willem had long ago decided to head on with the lead vehicles leaving us to sort out the wheel change. It was close to an hours work by the time we were squared away and had located and perused the offending stump. The key issue is that the Hummer is a good 90 mm wider per side meaning that it tracks all that closer to the edge of the track or the danger zone as any outback driver will tell you. Not a lot you can do about it except be extra vigilant.

Being down the back end, I stopped each time I saw a decent bit of dead timber and had a good supply of quality wood on the roof rack by the time I pulled in at Well 49 to find most other camps set up. The Well at 49 (LAMBU) has been fully restored in 2001 but is minus the whip pole, windless and troughs. The remains of the originals still lie nearby. The lonely grave of Jack (Rahal) Smith who died on 23rd May, 1939 aged about 70. He was employed as a cook with Boss Drover George Lanagan and Ben Taylor at the time of his death. The grave is marked by a cross and rough hewn posts. The side rails and post tops have been eaten away by the local termites and damaged by past fires but the grave and its marker etched in old tin sheet endures. The well is surrounded by tee tree which provides ample shelter but offers scant timber for the campfire. Thankfully I’d gotten the bag full prior to my arrival.

It was a shower for me and a snappy feed and then clutching a refreshing beverage and a camera, it was over to the Hummer where Peter, George, John and Michael were replacing the destroyed tyre. The hummer wheels are an engineering feat in their own right with the self inflation system, run-flats and armour plating. It’s an amazing process to watch. It took a couple of big men to wrestle the run-flats back in and then Peter had the torque wrench out for the finale torquing up the countless nuts on the splits. Thirsty work indeed and I was only holding the camera. It all ended well though.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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