Gibson Desert - Old Gunbarrel Hwy near the Van Der Linden Lakes

Friday, Jun 04, 2010 at 00:00


Old Gunbarrel Highway some Km north of the Van Der Linden Lakes

What a great evening as we shared some fellowship around the fire nestled under a majestic stand of Desert Oak, the surrounding sand hills sheltering us from the desert breeze. It was a fantastic day of travel that saw us presented with the opportunity to pay homage to Saint Len of the Outback Highways on many separate occasions, opportunities I might add that we relished. We’ve met up with our companions in exploration, the McCall boys and have a big day planned as we head off into the desert in search of Alfred Gibson.

It was a cool morning that saw me awake early and lying awake fending off the cold and the need to climb down the ladder until I could wait no more. Returning to the warmth of the Roof Top Taj (RTT) I uncharacteristically fell asleep again to be roused by Scott and Gaby getting the fire going about 6.50 a.m. Now there was something that was indeed rarer than rocking horse poo. The Canadians beating everyone up!! A snappy breakfast and we were back on the Giles Mulga Park Road heading north at 09:00 a.m. Again the road east was in superb condition allowing good time. We had a few laughs along the way as we saw an old GQ Patrol beside the road in very distinctive livery that was familiar to us all. As we neared the Great Central Road, the rise of a sand hill presented us with a spectacular vista north to the the SchwerinMural Crescent. The area was named by Ernest Giles on his first, ill-fated attempt to get west. Borrowing from his journal of the 21st May, 1874;

“The country, as I have said before, was excellent and good for travelling over. The crescent-shaped and wall-like range running from the Weld Pass to Gill's Pinnacle, and beyond it, I named the Schwerin Mural Crescent; and a pass through it I named Vladimar Pass, in honour of Prince Vladimar, son of the Emperor of Russia, married to the Princess of Schwerin”.

He certainly had a touch of the romantic about him all right. Just before the GCR we turned onto an old, no longer used section of track where two km further along we were rewarded with a Len Beadell Plaque. This was a replica of the original visited by myself in 1984. What was then the main track (and a T intersection) has been cut off by the newer sections of the GCR.

After the obligatory photo stop, we retraced our steps and onto the GCR where we headed west for the short, 18 kilometre hop to Warakurna and the Giles Meteorological Station. We were the only vehicles in town as we pulled into the red stained buildings of the Warakurna Roadhouse. What a depressing place. Diesel was $2.00 per litre. It took me a while to squeeze 140 litres into the back tank but $294 dollars later, I was topped up and ready to go. Heading off to scope out the Giles station, I left me hat on the trailer...silly boy and on realising after pulling up at the station, had to backtrack hurriedly to the intersection (only a kilometre) to retrieve it. The place (Giles) has changed significantly since my last visit in 1984. The country club where we enjoyed the hospitality of the staff back then, is now a store room. The missile remains are still in situ but Lens grader has been given its own shed and is now sitting out front in a protective cage. All hail.John was able to give us a full working history of these olds diesels and the use of a small motor to prime and kick the main engine into life. Sort of reminded me of priming and starting the old Sherman tank engine installed in the bowels of the Paddlesteamer Wanera many years ago. It frightened the crap out of me every time.

Our journey west resumed soon enough and we had a little difficulty in identifying the actual turn onto the Old Gunbarrel as the course of the Great Central has taken more than a few twists in recent years. Not even the Hema maps are up to date with it. Faith in the GPS gods was rewarded though and we soon found ourselves paralleling the Rawlinson Range on a track that was nothing more than consistently shocking corrugations punctuated by short, reasonable sections of road. There were many stony and sandy creek crossings as the higher hills we were atop, drained their way north towards the Rawlinson’s. It was never the less, magnificent country. We stopped for lunch in a roadside clearing before heading on to Mt Forest at the north western end of the Rawlinson’s and yet another Beadell marker. From here the track makes a pretty dramatic veer to the south west and back into the dunes of the desert. What a joy. The track improved somewhat as the “local traffic” usually only rounded the Rawlinson’s. Throughout, spectacular groves of Desert Oak abounded, the picturesque glades beckoning you to stay a while and enjoy the remote peace. Alas, we had a meeting to attend and had to push on west.

At about 3.30 p.m., I picked up the first scratchy calls from Alan McCall on the UHF and as the signal strengthened, we met he and John on the track some 15 minutes later. After introductions all round, we backtracked east some three kilometres to a camp site JW had located in a glade of Allocasuarina Decaisneana. It was a beaut spot to set up camp amongst the dunes and it saw frenetic activity early in the evening as the quads were unloaded and prepped for tomorrows activities. Poor Equinox. After so many years of travelling alone to be surrounded by a hive of activity and cacophony of sound LOL.

That evening we gathered around the NatMaps of the area and planned our route. EQ had pre-planned a route through the jumbled dunes that lay to our southwest so it is bound to provide a most interesting days travel tomorrow. Dinner and a few laughs around the campfire was inevitable. Tomorrow the challenge begins. A million stars, the wind sighing through the desert oaks, an adventure beginning, it doesn’t get better than this.

''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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