Rudall River NP - Our First Quad Expedition - Desperate donkeys, fools gold and unmapped mountains!

Sunday, Jul 13, 2008 at 00:00


Sunday 13th July, 2008
Bush camp near Darlsen Pinnacle
22 23 54.301 S, 121 58 0.901 E

Another glorious morning in outback paradise. After breakfast, we packed up camp and I set up and plugged in the solar cells to keep the fridges up. With the perfect sunny days around here, it shouldn’t be a worry. I opted to pack up camp prior to leaving as it had been a bit windy during the day. Finally it was the rearrangement of equipment on the ATV’s and ever the improviser, Scott was cutting a new set of seals for the flat-pack fuel and water containers. Scott opted to lash the two spare tyres to the front of his ATV while I took the two spare fuel tanks and one water container. On top of this I sealed a pillow inside a couple of plastic bags and then placed it on top of the containers, lashing the Toughbook computer down on top of that. This acted as a cushion for the computer. Scott and I improvised a screen brace from Velcro. On the back racks, I had all the camping equipment, tents, sleeping bags and a milk crate in a purpose built canvas bag containing food, the billy and other essentials like a dunny roll!

By 10:30-ish we were packed and ready and headed off south, opting to follow the sandy course of the Yandagooge as far as we could. The wide sandy creek bed wove its way south bordered by tall gums and often thick scrub. The ravages of the passing fire had generally thinned out the flora and many of the eucalypts were now regeneratingl despite the dry. That the gums were in such good condition was a sure indicator that there would have been plenty of subterranean water in the area and sure enough, it wasn’t long before I located several large holes in the sand that had been excavated by the local wildlife. Some were more than a meter deep and two metres across and had a good supply of water in the bottom of them. They’d have cause a nasty mishap if we’d driven into one.

I think my Canadian compatriots were a little disbelieving when I indicated that these holes of these size were dug by animals but it wasn’t long before the proof was in the pudding. Coming around a bend we disturbed a mob of donkey’s right in the process of digging more holes. They use their sharp little hooves to kick away the sand and were not averse to getting down on bended knee to reach into the hole to drink or excavate further with their noses. The joy of not having to watch over their shoulders for large predators at the waterhole I suppose.

At times the creek had cut high steep walls into the soft sand of the surrounding countryside and there were many smaller tributaries coming from the hills to the east and west to join the creek. In times of good rain it was obvious that the Yandagooge would become a raging torrent carrying a good volume of water to the north. In some places the creek was up to 80 metres wide and divided by islands, the soil held together by the gum trees and plant life that had managed to stake a claim there.

The tyres of the ATV’s bit fairly deeply into the loose sand of the creek bed meaning it was easier going with them in 4 wheel drive. Despite the sandy bottom, we still raised a bit of dust in our passing which made me glad to be out front. Some kilometers south, with the creek narrowing, I took a squiz across a burnt off plain to our east. The range of hills a kilometer distant had a narrow watercourse running from its base to our creek. The creek had not managed to erode a large chasm into the hills as yet, rather it ran down a steep slab of granite like rock about 30 metres high. It seemed to be a good place to look for water so we made a bee line out of the creek and negotiated the washed out hills to its base. It was a steep but short climb into the main gully and it wasn’t too long before we found our first signs of water in deep rock crevices. Only 150 metres along we found a rock-pool of significant size full of cool clear water. The water appeared healthy and on having a taste, I noticed something odd. The mud on the bottom of the pool was covered with flecks of gold, all shining brightly in the shallow water and highlighted by the background of dark mud. Now I’m no geologist but that looked a little too good to be true so climbing above the pool, I found the whole slabs of rock thereabouts to be glittering with gold. Fools gold that is. Iron Pyrites I reckon. I picked up a hand sized rock of it and took a couple of photos before heading on.

There was another good sized pool at the top of the gorge although this one was dry.The gorge then opened out into another high valley with a small creek running along its bottom. The wildflowers were in bloom along its length making for a surreal contrast to the barren red rocks of the valley walls above them. I frightened a couple of nearby roos off before turning to take some photos to the west and then picked my way back down to the rockhole. From there we headed back into the creek and continued south. Some kilometers further along, with the creek narrowing, I drove out onto the western bank to try and get a better view of the surrounding countryside. To my shock, as I turned the ATV around, in the distance to the south I saw a large flat topped pinnacle jutting out of an equally high talus slope. I indicated it to Scott and Gaby and we all just sat there with the Quads idling while we tried to take it all in. Our destination had just been changed as we plunged back into the creek having taken a visual bearing and headed in that direction.

The going got pretty tough from here on in. The creek narrowed in many places and on several occasions we had to negotiate stretches of good sized boulders. Thank god for bash plates. We kept on selecting branches of creeks that would take us in the pinnacles direction, dodging the encroaching trees and scrub that was intent on trying to tear us off the quads. Finally, it was getting impossible to negotiate further as the creek became a high sided minor ravine. We managed to climb out on the eastern bank and found ourselves within striking distance of the pinnacle. From here we just had to negotiate the lower hills then climb the steep, spinifex covered talus slope as far as we could on the ATV’s.

From where we finally parked it was only a further 50 metres climb to the beginning of the sheer sandstone walls of the pinnacle (22 23 28.05 S, 121 58 0.02 E). It is much larger in height and circumference than Hanging Rock in the west of the park. The vertical walls of white and red stone stand about 30 metres in height, are sheer and offer no possibility of climbing (unless an expert with proper equipment).
As is the case with many of the rock walls and gorges, softer areas of white sand or soap stone have eroded forming large caverns at the base of the walls providing shelter for wallabies and roos. Some of these exhibit the strange “honeycomb” patterns caused by wind erosion. We walked right around the base of the pinnacle trying to see if there was anyway we could clamber higher up the rock face. Gaby explored every cavern trying to catch out any critters remaining. The views of the surrounding countryside were spectacular and we ended sitting on a cluster of room sized boulders. To our east, a creek had cut sheer walls into the hills just prior to spilling into the wide valley that we were now in. The deepening shadows looked like a prime spot to find water and a possible campsite. The decision was made to explore that direction next

We returned to the ATV’s, descended to the valley floor and had to push our way east though some thick scrub before it came too rocky for the ATV’s and we were forced to proceed on foot. At the base of the gorge, in the shadows of the high walls, we found a good sized pool of water. It was watched over by several well placed rock paintings in a small overhang 15 metres above the pool (22 23 28.16 S, 121 57 43.21 E). The floor of the gorge was good and wide comprising large exposed ribbons of granite and alternating stretches of sand. I pushed a further 250 metres inwards finding a magnificent pool shaded by gums. There was a cavern overlooking the sandy banks and it would have provided a great camp site if we could get access (22 23 40.35 S, 121 57 41.28 E). The water marks on the surrounding rocks showed that the pool would have been a metre higher at the best of times and would have been a magnificent stretch of water in that case. Returning to the ATV’s we headed back out and rounded the back side of the pinnacle pushing a kilometer further south through the spinifex.

I selected a campsite in the lee of a low hill that at least provided some shelter from the wind which had increased in intensity during the day. Gaby set a great fire and we quickly set up camp and enjoyed the sunset on the pinnacle and surrounding walls of the valley. Tins for dinner and a cup of tea topped off a great day of exploring.

''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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