Karlamilyi (Rudall River) NP - The Desert Comes Alive - To Tjinkultjatjarra Pool via Punmu & Telfer

Sunday, Jul 07, 2013 at 05:00


Saturday 6th July, 2013 - Tjinkultjatjarra Pool

Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park

Of the many camped at the Well 33 Hilton, we were the first to stir. Very early that morning, Larry was spirited away by Alf for some form of ‘Secret men’s business’. With Larry back safely in the fold at 08:30 a.m. we set off to cover the last kilometres of the Canning to The Kidson Track, heading west towards Lake Auld and the community of Punmu.

The first few hours passed uneventfully as the big tyres ate up the rocky track. The Kidson was in good condition, deteriorating mostly around the access tracks to outstations and communities. Arriving at the Rocky Knoll, we were rewarded with a view west across Lake Auld, before descending to the lake basin to meet the WAPET Track. Here at the northern extremity of Lake Auld, the country turns to broad samphire and grass plains that form ribbon-like lake beds. Extending north and then stretching to the east, these lakes become the Percival Lakes. At one time, rich with native wells and soaks, the crescent of lakes formed a migratory path across the vast expanses of the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts for the nomadic inhabitants. Many of the wells were recorded by surveyor William Rudall in 1896 during his search for the missing men of the ill fated Calvert Expedition.

Overlooking the northern shores of Lake Dora, the Aboriginal community of Punmu has come on in leaps and bounds over the past five years. The store remains well stocked and run and on our arrival, I ran into Don Graham of Tasmania, a bloke I'd corresponded with often over the years but never met. Don and his mate had travelled up from Tassie to help build a shed to serve as a wet season store for the community. We were able to inspect at the latest work funded under the Gillard Government’s school halls program, a shade sail across the basketball court. While costing less than $100K, should normal mortals see fit to install such an awning, the Australian taxpayer forked over $1.0 million for the privilege. Remote community or not, in a town where even a basic house can cost over $500K to build, this was a monumental abuse of taxpayer trust.

It was very quiet in the community due to footy carnival at Parrngurr (Pronounced "Bungah"). We had hoped to speak with the community elders regarding latter stages of our trip but most of them had made the trip south for the weekends festivities. We would call back on our way through in 10 days time.

Fuelling up we grabbed a 'dogs eye' and sauce at the community store before heading back onto the Telfer road. We managed to locate the short cut across to Telfer with little trouble. The bypass track was in good condition but was inundated by water in many places. It seemed a fair bit of water had fallen recently. We had a bit of lunch by the roadside and paused briefly again on the outskirts of Telfer to take advantage of the 3G connectivity, before continuing south towards the Kintyre Mine.

There were quite a few big puddles on the road. It was great to be driving through the Paterson Ranges, and see the low dome of Moses Chair appearing on the horizon. Crossing the Coolbro Creek signified the end of the sandy country and the start of the rugged Throssell and Broadhurst Ranges. There was plenty of water about and the country had exploded in greenery as the moisture revived the arid land.

We followed the wobbly tracks of a bicycle for many kilometres finally catching the rider a good few kilometres north of the Rudall. Eddie the Frenchman was heading down to the Talawana, negotiating the rough Rudall track. He wasn't too pleased to find out that the worst was yet to come with the southern lengths of the track being a sandy hell. Knowing that the southern hand pump was kaput, we topped up his water supply and gave him some fruit for his journey ahead.

The road from Telfer is in good condition although showing signs of damage from the recent tumultuous rains. The road facilitates a heavy stream of traffic to and from the Kintyre Uranium Lease site on the northern edge of the Karlamilyi National Park. At the access point to the lease, the road forks with the track into the National park deteriorating rapidly into sandy, washed out ruts. Familiar landmarks like the Kintyre claypan were now small lakes with waterbirds waded in 30 centimetres of water. The land was coming alive, the effects of the rain obvious everywhere.

Knowing good timber would be scarce around Tjarra, we pulled off for a wood stop. On making my way back, a mound of heaped gravel left by grader provided a bit of a bump to be negotiated. Taking it on the angle to minimise impact, the vehicle lurched with an almighty bang similar to a shotgun discharging. Wondering what in hell I'd broken, we inspected the rear suspension to find that the drivers side airbag had blown off its mounts and was now sitting 3 metres back. Damn. Closer inspection revealed that the top and bottom mounts had been misaligned meaning they were offset by several centimetres. The bag appeared undamaged and, on retrieving the errant rubber sausage, we tentatively made our way along the rough stony track to Tjarra.

It was very slow going with many boggy patches and the odd pool of water. The seven kilometre track into Tjarra is particularly rough, as it weaves across the quartzite country to the Watrarra Creek. Long pools of water extended either side of the Watrarra Creek crossing. On arrival at Tjarra Pool, we found the waterhole brimming. So much water had fallen that many of the pools along the creek had joined into a single expanse, hundreds of metres long and more than a metre deep. The place was simply vibrant.

The lower levels of the sandy bank, our normal camping spot, were inundated with water. Fellow travellers had beaten us to the sandbar site so we camped on the upper sections, forming a loose circle around a central campfire. We had camp squared away in no time, and set to unloading the quads in the dying light. A can night was called, the simplest of culinary affairs. It's good to be back.
''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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