In the footsteps of Carnegie - Day 16 Through the Stansmore Range to Warri Peak & Carnegie Bluff

Thursday, Aug 08, 2013 at 17:00


8th August, 2013 - Carnegie Bluff, Great Sandy Desert

Tonight finds us camped in the vicinity of a distinctive red bluff we believe to be Carnegie Bluff. A feature named after DWC it was visited by the explorer Michael Terry back in the 1930’s. We have set up camp on a small laterite plain less than 800 metres from the bluff as it presented the first and best opportunity to camp.

I was out of bed at sparrow’s fart finishing off the quad by reinstalling the protection plate; fixing another couple of punctures and seeing just how much diesel was slopping about. I wrapped a few rags around the fuel sender unit on the top of the tank to soak up the fuel and build a dust and moisture barrier to confine the leaking diesel as best we could.

Larry and Peter headed off early aiming to move towards Kiwirrkurra as quickly as they could. The remaining vehicles headed out at 08:30 a.m. while the quads headed off south along the bottom of the range. We had to follow the creek out for a distance to avoid the sheer walls of the creek at the base of the range. No more than 500 metres from camp we found a triple grindstone lying in the sand.

The eastern edge of the range is simply amazing, the sand ridges run right up to and against the edge of the range along its length. In some areas, water and wind have kept the sand at bay forming little valleys between the end of the dune and the rocky talus slope of the range, making for great riding. There were several mighty gorges heading into the ranges which made for interesting riding as we crossed the washed out creek beds. No doubt further investigation would have revealed water up there. These gorges were not as benign as Wilson Glen as far as gaining entry and the difficulty precluded us from exploring along their length (on this occasion).

Over the UHF we could hear the vehicles making very good time. So good in fact they passed through Warri creek well before us, despite having four times the distance to travel. They did have Larry’s tracks to follow though. An earlier start meant that the sand of the dunes was firmer as well. The support convoy was to head south and round the bottom of the range; we were to follow Carnegies route and take a short cut through the range to Warri Peak. We weren’t 100% sure on Carnegies mark for his turn west into the hills but Alan’s punt paid off. He chose the right valley to head up providing some interesting quad riding as we negotiated gullies and steep hills along the way. We finally reached a place where the surrounding bluffs matched a sketch that Carnegie had drawn during his journey in 1897. The description of Warri Peak provided by Carnegie also matched the area we had reached.

With that determined we were able to get the quads to a plateau below the peak itself walking up the last of the steep, loose, rocky slope to the peak. Strangely we found that loose rocks had been stacked on top of the peak itself. This was not to form a cairn but rather looked as if designed to enhance the height of the peak. Munching on a muesli bar we drank in views of the surrounding countryside. Amazingly there were camel tracks running either side of the peak. You could see where they had negotiated steep sections and almost slipped off. There would be no recovery for the beast if that had been the case, it would have been a fatal fall. Very distinct trails on the southern side of the peak heading down into the Valley. Over the UHF radios, we could hear the chatter from the vehicles making their way south, the flatness of the country to the south allowing clear reception despite Larry and Pete being more than 50 kilometres away. Not bad reception for a 5 watt hand held UHF.

Leaving the peak we steered through the remaining hills and onto the plains west of the range, where nature has really done its work. Where the eastern side is high and rugged, the western side has been worn away to nothing. The plains were choked with dense wattle and spinifex, and pushing our way through we came across the remnants of a long disused track. We followed it due south for a number of kilometres until we intersected the more recent wheel tracks laid down by Larry’s big Unimog. We tied off a few lengths of surveyors tape to nearby bushes to let the support crew know that we had passed that way. We could hear them scratchily on the radio and heard that Al had staked a front tyre on my truck and had put three plugs in it to stem it. They were still five kilometres away from us. We proceeded south a further five kilometres, stopping by some shady trees on a dune top for a bite of lunch. I had a puncture on a rear tyre but the hole eluded me. Thankfully it was a slow leak.

Moving on, we crossed an area of claypans and both Al and I had to deal with punctures. I found the puncture that had eluded me earlier, a sizeable gash on the sidewall that took four plugs to stem. It held for the rest of the afternoon. Many of the dune corridors resembled soak areas covered in grass rather than spinifex. They were also quite potholed as if the whole area had been walked over by cattle. It was obvious that the area would hold water for a longer period than the sandy regions and this had caused subsidence of the soils. It was quite rough riding, many large pans to our west offered better riding conditions but we ignored them and kept true to our course.

Our last 15 kilometres were principally in a straight line towards the Carnegie Bluff. The higher dunes afforded a spectacular view back across the country to the north, the imposing ranges and Warri Peak. To our south-west was Carnegie Bluff some 15 kilometres off. Al had a few overheating problems and we found that his radiator was choked with plant material and dust easily remedied with a nozzle and John’s compressor. It’s a temporary fix though and will have to stripped down in the morning to give it a good blow out.

We are camped under a bluff with a fantastic moon. A magnificent evening with Venus up high and the faintest cuticle of the moon setting above it. If you looked carefully enough you could detect the pale disc of the moon silhouetted against the deepening night by the faintest ring of gold. It was simply amazing and I wish I’d had the camera equipment and skill to catch it. We had a canned dinner by the fire in the last light of the day. It is such a magnificent night that I have taken the fly off the tent and am lying staring at the Milky Way. It is only 7:00 p.m. and we are all in bed exhausted. All things considered it was not a bad day’s travel, not too difficult but a lot of walking and very warm. I’ve drunk over 5 litres of water today and there are similar conditions to contend with tomorrow.

''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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