STAGE 2 - The little Desert
Newman to Durba Hills - Western Australia
I'm still here!
Trouble with the fuses in the laptop adaptor has prevented me from sending emails for over two weeks. Hopefully the problem won't re-occur.
From Newman we headed towards the Jigalong Community about 120km east in the Little Sandy Desert. My short visit to Jigalong certainly created interest at the school and on the morning I left town, I took the camels to the school so the kids could see what they looked like loaded with saddles & equipment. From Jigalong we followed the track south towards the long abandoned rabbit proof fence. We stopped at 'Old Jigalong' at the remains of what would have been the fence inspectors house and in the days when this fence was maintained, this outpost was certainly isolated. Just south-east of Jigalong, the country changes dramatically. Walking up a rocky escarpment we suddenly found ourselves in undulating sandy country with dunes spaced every 2-3 kms running broadly south-west to north-east. The 'desert' had begun. There were still acacias and soft roly poly & goathead burr for the camels to eat, but the larger trees had thinned out and the spinifex was abundant. Occasionally we would pass through stands of desert oak and large areas where fires had burnt out all the vegetation probably 2-3 seasons ago.
For the next two days I was tent bound as light rain continued to fall. We attempted to break camp on the Friday but the sky continued to be overcast and by lunchtime it was raining again. There was a chance to catch up on some reading and extra sleep. Because I had lost time due to the rain, I decided to remain on the track for another two days, as we could make better time.
The desert winter is well & truly here. At night the temperature goes down to 4-5 degrees and during the day a very pleasant 20-21. The dew has been quite heavy and it is very hard to get out of the swag in the morning! Last night I was lying in my swag typing away at the laptop and was buzzed by bats, probably a bit confused at the blue light from the computer. Because of the cold and the dew, I make Mac a kennel next to one of the saddles to keep him warm & dry.
It was a clear sky last night but this morning down came the rain again. As I had arranged to call a radio station at 8.30, I waited to see what the weather would do but light showers fell until well into the afternoon, so it was another 'day off', repairing Bindii's saddle that had a 20cm tear in the fabric and replacing one of the wooden side-rails on Morgan's saddle. I had camped in a large stand of timber where there was good camel feed and plenty of saddle spare-parts. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will be clear so that I can be on my way towards the Canning Stock Route, however the main obstacle will be crossing Savory Creek which, unusually, has been flowing for 4-5 months and still has up to a metre of water in some parts. I should be able to find a way across somewhere but I have been across this creek before after rain and it was difficult to find a bank that wasn't too steep or too slippery.
We crossed Savory Creek where the water was about 7 metres wide and 40-50cm deep, flowing reasonably quickly and although the water was slightly salty, the camels all drank. After we crossed, Morgan decided, for no apparent reason, to throw his saddle onto the stoney ground. So suddenly I had 178kg of water, 35kg of saddle and various bits and pieces sitting upside down on the dirt and Morgan looking very happy with himself. It is quite amazing how a camel can rid himself of such weight so easily. But once the load shifts and becomes unbalanced, there is only one way for it to go - down. Apart from a bent steel 'freight frame', there was no other damage and after reloading we headed into the dunes. Due to the wet weather which had cost me 3.5 days since Newman & because the creek was flowing, I had decided to change my course and make straight for Durba Hills rather than go to Well 19 on the Canning Stock Route. I had to meet the re-supply crew on 21June so a direct route to Durba was more practical.
Canning Stock Route - Western Australia - End of Stage Two - 887km
I arrived at Durba on June 20th. There was no need to go to any of the three springs, as I had plenty of water, so I camped in a claypan where there was good camel feed. Also, I knew from a previous visit that the main springs would be crowded with 4WD's who seem to insist on camping right next the the water. It made me realise that the stockman's law of not camping next to your water supply seem to have been lost on the modern day camper. With the human presence and the noise from portable generators, I doubt very much that any native animals would venture into Durba Springs for a drink. On Monday morning a passing 4X4 party saw me shepherding the camels and we had a yarn about my trip. Thanks for their $200 donation to the RFDS.
Ridge Warburton and Murray Thomas are my re-supply crew and along with photographer Philip Quirk from the Wildlight Photo Agency arrived on Monday. We spent until Thursday taking photos as this was the official 'photo stop' for the expedition. On Tuesday I took the camels around to the smaller Killagurra Spring for a drink and to fill my jerry cans. In interesting thing happened here. Whilst the camels were standing about, a chap drove up and, ignoring the camels completely, raced up to Ridge & Murray and began inquiring about track conditions about the place and the various merits of his 4WD. He took little notice of the camels or me at all.
Now, I couldn't give a stuff whether he was interested in me or not, but I would have thought that he may have been just a might curious enough to ask a question about what I was doing there.
Leaving Durba, an encounter with a couple in a 4WD produced another bizarre experience. As I was walking past the entrance to the springs they stopped and asked, "Doing the Canning are you?"
Well, not really, I'm just heading up past hear towards Lake Disappointment and then east into the desert.
"I didn't know there was a track there, which one are you on?" No tracks, just straight across the dunes.
This was all too much for them. After explaining what I was doing, they asked if I was sponsored by anyone, which was a rather interesting question as the side of all the jerry cans, Spacecase's and metal boxes were plastered with sponsors logos. They were in the process of retrieving some money for a donation but when they learnt that I wasn't sponsored by a certain Australian geographical magazine, the money went back into the purse, windows were wound up and off they drove - the inference being that I was some type of fraud and as if I'd be walking across those dunes!
We headed north-east through the dunes towards the lower section of Lake Disappointment. It was my plan to cross the narrow section of the lake and then turn north again towards the Tropic.