Surveyor's General Corner Part 5 Abandoned Section of the Gunbarrel Hwy.

Friday, May 31, 2013 at 01:57

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

Continuing the story :-
We had reached the corner markers and made our way, through extraordinary pretty country to Warburton. From here we set off the next morning heading East along the Great Central Road and looking for the designated turnoff towards JackieJunction. After a futile search of several tracks leading off in all directions and none of them showing on the GPS, we returned to Warburton and headed North West towards the Gunbarrel.
After 8 kms we located what appeared to be a track seemingly heading in the right direction and took the option to take it. Shortly we came across a local utility carrying several aboriginal ladies, guestulating wildly at the first two of our three vehicles who drove past. Brenda and I stopped and spoke with a delightful young lady who indicated that we shouldn’t proceed. Apparently we were not to travel along this track. Then I mentioned to her that we were heading to Jackie Junction and after conversing with her elders they obligingly agreed that this was the way and waved us on. There was great excitement. We thanked them and drove on, it was not long before we understood their concern, yes, in places the track was there in others very difficult to determine and very often well overgrown. The track had not been used for some considerable time. Wash outs, virgin spinifex, fallen trees and numerous detours made for a slow but enjoyable drive (except for the one spiked front tyre). Eventually we came to a large burnt out area, just the place for a bite of lunch . Five hours later and only 57 kms clocked up we turned onto a roadway, well maintained and leading towards the Gunbarrel Hwy. A further few kms and there was the Jackie Junction sign post, standing alone on a vast arena of golden spinifex .

Wheel tracks indicated a likely camping area among low trees and scrub, about 200 meters off the main track. It was tight for the three vehicles, two with camper trailers, but well sheltered. We cleared an area of encroaching spinifex and in doing so disturbed a legless lizard ( Bard’s I think). What a great days driving, we couldn’t have wished for better and only the one incident with Mark’s front tyre. Magic scenery and a little challenging as well. Along the way we came across a very distressed camel squatting on her knees alongside of the track and virtually unable to move even though we were driving right beside her. A sad sight but without the means to help her out of her misery we had but to drive on.

Next morning overcast and windy, we took plenty of photos of the old sign post before heading off along the “Old Abandoned Gunbarrel Highway” in the direction of Giles. The road was so good it even had a ‘Roads to Recovery’ sign on it. We set our goal for Mippultjarra Rockhole about 89 kms away, but despite numerous photo stops (interesting country) we reached it within a couple of hours. No sign of an actual water hole, just a couple of large water tanks and a shelter. Opposite was a road heading west out to a distant Community so we followed it for 12 kms looking for the Tikatika Rockholes. Mark and I walked through shoulder high spinifex towards a low depression covered in scrub, a likely location, but no luck at all. Back on the main track for another 9 kms to BM 482 and the famous ‘Million Dollar Corner’ sign of Len Beadell, only the barely discernible sign remains.Camp sites were impossible to find among the spinifex until some 29 kms further on we reached a road junction with a well defined unmarked road leading off to the right, obviously to another community. This we hoped, would be the end of the maintained roads and the start of a more adventure some track with only 167 kms to Giles. It was, although the Gunbarrel at this end was never a challenge. It also provided a very good camping spot among the scrubby trees.

The camp was basically beside one of the dry Van der Linden Lakes. We walked through the scrub and desert oak trees to the lake bed, now just a dry grassy depression. Several large ‘swirls’ were evident in the sandy soil, obviously a popular retreat for camels. Highlights of the days 140 km drive, - certainly not the track itself (better than the dirt roads at home). However lovely roadside plants highlighted by the red sand (not a lot of flowers though). In the latter part of the drive beautiful sandhills and large stretches of golden spinifex and if you looked at it towards the sun it became a silver shimmer, magic colours. We followed the footprints of camels on the road for a good 10 kms and then as we crested a sandhill there they were – six of them.

As soon as we left the intersection the next morning we were no longer on a road, much to our relief. We stopped for another view of the extended lake system and walked across the sandhill where we spent about an hour bird watching along the more defined dry lakebed. The track narrowed and became sandy as it wedged between sand dunes. Again I’ll say it “another one of those prettiest drives”, this is what makes traveling out here so worthwhile. Narrow valleys of tall spinifex and low scrub with yellows, browns and greens dominating the colour. The lovely hearth myrtle bush was ever present and at times became the dominate bush. Viewed up close it’s tiny red and white flowers are absolutely beautiful. We crossed sand dunes and entered in and out of small forests of desert oaks – lovely trees.

We were unable to find Len Beadell’s ‘Blazed Tree’ amid a burnt out area, but a few kms on we came across the first of two of his markers (now replicas). Lunch under the desert oaks among their fallen cones and then a walk to the top of the dune to view the vastness of the desert. Len Beadell worked alone at times in this environment as he surveyed this road in March 1958, in doing so he ran out of water and was helped by an aboriginal family. Along the way several camels, a couple of dingos and several brown falcons watched us pass by. Several kms of white limestone and then back into sand country as we reached the turnoff to Lake Christopher. We turned off the main track for 3 kms to the edge of the dry lake and located an excellent camp site among the mulga scrub. Although dry most of the clay surface was covered in delicate succulent plants. A walk along the lakes edge again revealed small secrets, the swirls in the sand made by wind blowing the collapsed stems of spinifex and cob webs with the waiting spider dangling above our heads for example.

As we woke this morning we were aware that this would be the last day on the Gunbarrel with only 69 kms before we reached the Great Central Road again. We still clung to the hope of some challenges today as the track was to parallel the Rawlinson Range, but apart from crossing several small creek beds, little else. The track firmed becoming gravelly and at times rocky and of course corrugated. More camels along the track and then we met several on coming vehicles, the first in four days of travel. We stopped and chatted for quite a while with one group slowly making their way to the West coast. It is interesting to meet people and share experiences and swapping yarns with them.

All too soon this section of our trip that we spent months anticipating was over. Was it what we had expected? – well no—was it difficult or challenging? – no, would we do it again? – certainly would The scenery was just magic.

Next in the series "The Sandy Blight Road'
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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