Great Sandy Desert - Wapet Track - A night at the Rocky Knoll & Clarence's lucky escape.

Monday, Jul 21, 2008 at 00:00

Mick O

Monday 21st July, 2008
Lee side (west) of the Rocky Knoll
22 08 2.68"S 123 49 53.94" E

A very interesting day to say the least largely centered around the exploits of “Clarence” but first things first. The wind howled last night. A few times I thought I was at sea the car rocked so much. I left the elastic tautening cords in place across the inside of the tent to prevent the canvas whipping too much but even that was not enough at times. The fly straps sounded like drum beats rippling staccato like on the tent sides. I was forced to get up in the early hours, don my clothes and jacket, find the gaffer tape in the front seat and then climb the car sides to stick the offending straps to the side of the tent. That’s use number 748 for gaffer tape! It helped a bit, so did the earplugs but even with the tent faced into the wind, nothing could stop the buffeting. I got a bit of sleep though. Reluctantly got up at 0630 am to face the day. Well reluctantly is not the right word. I had to bolt down the ladder and then at break neck speed, collect the essentials such as shovel, loo paper and bomb aimers chair and bolt for the nearby gully. Near broke an ankle in desperation but made it none the less. A two day special for me. Scott was working on a four day explosion!

The wind was still howling over breakfast so we elected not to fix tyres and head for Xmas Pool instead. An interesting aside, as we sat around the fire a full sized commercial passenger jet flew over head at about 500 metres, gear up and flying slowly. Could only be headed for Telfer. We found Xmas Pool dry. It was fascinating none the less, to see the inscriptions from early explorers and the deep grooves in the rock where the locals had ground down the coloured rocks and ochre for their paintings and body adornment.

The long grooves had been formed over god knows how many years and were impressive to see, particularly with a coloured rock in place. We found a track heading north to what we hoped would be Trotman’s Cave, a place reputed to have great art. The track instead led us to a second water hole filled with water and then after some searching, we found our intended destination. It was more a large cavern than a cave and the art work was of poor quality. During the search I located a strange rock. It resembled a stone tennis ball embedded in rock and half exposed. I’ve kept it as a souvenir and will have to make some enquiries as to how such a geological phenomenon occurs.

After our excursion we headed north to Telfer where I found the mine to be in full working order and not shut as I’d been led to believe. We had to clear the security station and I made a few phone calls home having mobile coverage briefly. Then it was out a short cut marked by a three stone cairn to the Punmu road and our homeward leg began. About 30 km later we spied a young aboriginal bloke walking west along the road. We slowed down but he made no effort to flag us down. A fire was burning in the scrub behind him, so we moved on. Eleven kilometers later we came across the wreckage of a Toyota ute on the left hand side of the road. It was a mess it having speared off the road after losing control on a sharp bend and then hitting large limestone boulders at the roadside. I put two and two together and associated the young bloke to the car even though the ute had Qld plates and was well equipped, not like you’d expect from a local.

Fearing the young bloke may be concussed, we drove back to the 11 km and found Clarence still wandering west. I offered him a lift to Punmu and gave him a litre and a half of water which he downed in good order indicating he’d been without a drink for a while.

Couldn’t get much conversation out of him other than he had been heading to Hedland and ran off the road. My alarm bells were ringing! On arrival at the scene of the accident, we found a vehicle full of elder women from Punmu being driven to a meeting. Their driver was Nicki from Newman who filled me in that Clarence had stolen the vehicle from Punmu the previous night and that these women were his mothers group, aunties, grandmothers etc. There was wailing and young Clarence was copping an earful. I offered to drive Clarence back to the coordinators office at Punmu and to the medical centre to get checked out. He appeared in good order which was a miracle in itself considering the state of the car. We salvaged what tools we could from the scene and bundled then into Scott and Gaby’s car and headed east. Clarence was very quiet, obviously anticipating the bollocking he would get on his return. The vehicle belonged to the community coordinator who was due to leave the following week. He wouldn’t be driving that vehicle back to Qld, that’s for sure.

We arrived about 2:40 p.m. and deposited Clarence. I spoke to the coordinator, Tony and filled him in on the circumstances of the accident, the condition of his vehicle and returned his tools. We then headed to the shop which his wife opened for us. The transformation internally from my last visit was astounding. No more mouse plague, well stocked and clean. Miracles performed by this husband and wife team over 18 moths. They’d had enough though and were headed for Qld. We were back on the track at 3:00 p.m. and headed east to Lake Auld where we took the back route up the Wapet Track to the Bore and tank. The bore pump appeared to have been disconnected from the windmill and there was no water in the tank or trough. There was a lone camel hanging around but no drink for him. We headed on to the rocky knoll. The Toyota ute Johnno Timmers and I had seen two years previously, abandoned in the middle of the track, right on the corner was still there although pushed to the side of the road and strangely enough…burnt! I took a photo to show John. On reaching the knolls, the wind was howling so we tried to find shelter in the lee side of the Knoll. Pathetic supply of firewood so tea took a long time. We reek of smoke from the circular nature of the wind at our location. Scott and I took in the sunset from the Knoll and attempted to capture the golden hue on the horizon. Dinner was snags, a lamb chop, spuds and carrots. A somewhat smokey flavour imparted by the crap timber he had to burn. Miraculously, the wind has died off. There is another lone camper on the other side of the hill. A fellow in a small canter type vehicle with a 44 gallon drum on the rear, heading west apparently.

''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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