Cape York via Simpson Desert 2 June 2015 – Day 1

Tuesday, Jun 02, 2015 at 20:02

Peter Beard (WA)

Grey skies and showers over Perth lifted our spirits this morning as we headed up the Great Eastern Highway. The weather has been so perfect over the last few weeks it was almost a shame to be heading out of town. The cold front overnight fixed that, we are now delighted to be heading north and east to warmer climes. The Simpson Desert to Cairns, up to Cape York then across the Savannah Way and up into Arnhem Land then back home to Western Australia. After that, maybe the Gibb River Road again, we’ll see how we go for time.

We have got much better at packing – the trusty Landcruiser is comfortably full but not groaning with gear like our last trips. Every time we take a long journey we pare back on the luggage, experience telling us what we are likely to need and what ends up staying packed the entire trip. The only exception to that rule is the recovery gear, tools, spare parts and the emergency food pack. May they all stay stowed away until we unpack in six weeks’ time.

Our destination for the night is Southern Cross, a reasonably short trip of 380 km if taken directly up the Great Eastern Highway. But that wouldn’t be the right way to start an adventure for us – Pete has plotted a course along Goldfields Road, the old, original route to Kalgoorlie before the train line and Great Eastern Highway.

Our first stop for the day was at The Lakes turnoff to York – we needed to put the radio aerial up and Pete wanted to check that both batteries were charging. Ali bought a couple of Red Bulls for the fridge (the one thing we forgot was the cans sitting in the fridge at home) and we were quickly on our way, heading to York where the Goldfields Road begins.

It was nice and green out York way, seeding has commenced and many fields have a low, bright green cover of early shooting crops. Goldfields Road was easy to find on the eastern edge of York, a sealed road passing through Malebelling and the now abandoned Youndegin. The road is dotted with old stone and wood/tin buildings in various states of dilapidation. An old farmhouse near Belmunging Pool has a couple of walls standing, while the police station at Youndegin is in relatively good repair behind a high wire fence. At the intersection of Goldfields Road with the Cunderdin Quairading Road we came across a stone memorial to the early South Cunderdin Pioneers, proudly named on plaque.

The cloud cover persisted well past York, making driving easy and comfortable. We finally broke through to clear skies around the time the road turned to gravel just south of Tammin. We also picked up the east-west main railway line at that point, the track crossing and recrossing a couple of times before we linked back to the Great Eastern Highway at Kellerberrin.

Crossing the highway east of Kellerberrin, the Goldfields Road skirts the north of town making a beeline straight to Merredin. The track is well graded and wide, passing through well ordered farm country. An interesting rock formation – two massive granite boulders. one balancing precariously on the other, stopped us for a photo and stretch of the legs.

Confusion reigned at Hines Hill, the railway line splits into a couple of sidings and according to the Hema we needed to be on the northern side of it to keep to Goldfields Road. We couldn’t see an easy crossing, so we followed the railway line to the south until we ended up in a farm house’s back yard – the crossing not far from the start of their drive way.

Back on track we wandered into Merredin for a coffee and a break. It is quite a bustling town, the café was full and the staff cheerful, friendly and efficient.

Picking up the Goldfields Road again near Merredin Rock, we managed to stay on the gravel all the way to Carrabin, crossing the highway, railway line and now the pipeline a number of times. At that point we had to return to the bitumen, the gravel road behind fences and inaccessible.

Southern Cross is a neat little town, we are staying at the Southern Cross Motel – neat and clean but, as one wag on Trip Adviser quipped “hasn’t been decorated since 1984”. The beer at the Palace Hotel is cold, as is the air. It’s going to be nippy tonight, glad we have a bed rather than the tent.
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