The Great Victoria Desert – Our Return Visit August 2014 Part 3

Friday, Sep 26, 2014 at 19:54

Stephen L (Clare) SA

With all vehicles refuelled for the next leg of the trip and stocked up with food from the very well appointed store, it was time to leave Tjuntjuntjarra and head further west and head towards the Connie Sue Highway. The road west was in first class condition and it was soon time to look for a campsite for the night. With another great site chosen, we all settled in to the usual routine and it was then time to all sit around the fire and talk about the days events and what would lie ahead.

Next morning was cool but as usual, the fire soon had everyone very comfortable and it was soon time to hit the track. The day’s travel was no different from any other, with perfect driving conditions and the most unreal display of wildflowers that made the countryside look at it’s very best. Road works had taken place the closer that we got to the Connie Sue and the last 20 kilometres or so was like driving on a true super highway, with the road wide enough to make any freeway look narrow. Arriving at the junction of the Connie Sue Highway, the tank shed that was previously known, as “Black Tank” has now been officially renamed, “Connie Sue Tank” and it was time for our morning smoko.

Heading north from the junction, we were all able to maintain a good speed for the driving conditions with this lower section of the Connie Sue a real pleasure to drive. We were soon back into the Marble Gum country again and how they add real contrast and character with their white motley bark in contrast to the dark red sand. A few members of the group had never been into the Neale Breakaways before, so we took the small detour off of the Connie Sue Highway and spent time exploring the area, as well as calling it our lunch stop, before all heading north again and on to our next stop at Neale Junstion. We all regrouped at Neale Junction and then we were all in for a real shock. The first few kilometres north up the Connie Sue was in fair condition and then it started…corrugations that did not let up at all until it was time to leave the Connie Sue and head into Point Lilian. Having driven the Anne Beadell many times and this our second time on the Connie Sue, we all could not believe just how bad the Connie Sue had become with many sections, my speed was down below 20 kilometres per hour, and the car would have shaken to pieces and I now rate the Connie as bad as the Anne Beadell highway east of Emu through to Mabel Creek. Another striking feature of the landscape now was the vast areas that had been stripped bare of all vegetation, from massive wildfires that had devastated a very large area of the Great Victoria Desert, extending well east to Ilkurlka and beyond.

With our camp set up and the fire going, I went for a walk around the area and the setting sun had everyone busy again cooking their meals over the open campfire. We set off next morning to drive the short distance into the dead end area of Point Lilian and set off to see the Aboriginal Rock Art Galleries. Being here before, it was easy to find the way to them, even without a GPS and we spent a good amount of time checking them out. Most of the group then went back to the cars, while a few of us followed the gully out and then headed for more high ground. The rock escarpments were spectacular and looking through my telephoto lens on my camera, I could see a small rock cairn on top of an unusual rock outcrop. Pointing it out to the others that were with me, we decided to make our way to the large rock and check out the stone cairn.

It did not take long to reach the large rock and the first thing that was evident, was that there had been countless campfires in the small overhang, with the ceiling covered in black fire soot. We then went to the top of the rock and we had unreal views out to the West and wondered if the rock cairn had been built by Aboriginals to guide them to this special little spot that would have offer lots of shelter when times were cold and wet. We followed a small sandy gully back to our vehicles and it was then time to slowly make our way back down the Connie Sue Highway to Neale Junction, where we had organised to have our lunch. It was a relief to arrive back at Neale Junction, knowing that we could say farewell to those horrendous never ending corrugations.

After our lunch break at the small dedicated camping area, we headed to Neale Junction to sign the visitors book, where we met 3 other travellers there who were returning to Perth after their big desert venture. The drive east along the Anne Beadell was just perfect, as the road was in just as good a condition as the lower section of the Connie Sue. The very reason for this is because Ilkurlka receives it fuel supplies from Kalgoorlie and the road is regularly graded to keep it in good condition for the fuel tankers that have to do the return drive. We checked out the stone arrangement site at the old airstrip along the way and then it was time to turn off the Anne Beadell and north to the Plane crash site.

The drive in was going quite well until there was a call out over the radio from John and that he may need a little help. I quickly turned around, and along with Larry, and Mick, we were able to get things sorted out and it was very interesting to see John in action, doing an on the spot fine welding job. From here was Fiona's highlight of the trip. A ride with Larry in his unimog! Camp that night was at the actual crash site and another great night was held around the campfire with great company. Larry received a phone call on his satellite phone that night, requiring him to head home unexpected the next morning. To make things get off to a great start for Larry the next morning, we woke to find both front tyres flat and seeing the Unimog in that position, gave the appearance of an elephant kneeling. With the right tools, Larry soon had both front tyres reinflated and we all said our farewells and wished him a safe trip, over the quickest route back to the Stuart Highway that I had mapped out for him. Next to depart was Peter and Bob, who went ahead to get the Donkey Shower heated up at Ilkurlka.

The final run from the Plane crash site to Ilkurlka was a very easy drive on the well-maintained road. When Fiona and I arrived, we decided to fill up with fuel last and headed straight for the showers. While Fiona was having her shower, I stoked the Donkey up and it was soon my turn for one of the bushes luxury, a beautiful hot shower. After refilling our vehicle, we then purchased a few special items from the store and before long; it was time to head further east out along the Anne Beadell. As with other trips, the road condition did not take long to back to a two-wheel track and the usual conditions of the Anne Beadell…corrugations. 50 Kilometres east of Ilkurlka, we stopped at Tjutatja Tank Shed for our lunch break before heading further east out along the Anne Beadell.

The Great Victoria Desert was looking at its very best and I was continually stopping to get as many images of what the driving condition on the Anne Beadell were like, so instead of more words for this paragraph, the following images will show those that have never travelled this iconic Outback Highway what they have missed……

West of the South Australian Border, it was time to turn off and visit Tjintikara Rockhole and a little further south for another great bush camp. Not long after leaving camp the following morning, it is time to sign the Visitors Book at Lens Border Marker, before continuing further east and crossing the Serpentine Lakes. Crossing the Lake, we detoured and followed the track north along the edge of the lake. Mick found a great spot for our morning smoko and we all wished that it was 4pm, rather than only 10.30am, as this spot would have made the most perfect location for a camp, overlooking the Lake. The day continued, and so did the corrugations and once again, another perfect camp was found on the edge of the Anne Beadell. Conditions the next day were much the same, with more great scenery along the Anne Beadell, with our only deviation, the short drive into the actual Voakes Hill, a location that I had been before, but no one else in the group had been before. Views from the top of this high sand dune gives unrestricted views in all directions out into the vast Great Victoria Desert and one must admire the early European Explorers that ventured into these remote areas, not knowing where they would find the next water and how long they would be in this at times very dense vegetation, while the traditional Aboriginal people that roamed these lands were at harmony with this landscape. After lunch at Voakes Hill, it was time to head off and our next turning point, Voakes Hill Corner.

The following images are now travelling the Anne Beadell Highway towards Voakes Hill Corner, and to the end of Part 3.

In my final Blog for our great trip, we head south from Voakes Hill Corner, then follow BMR 3 to near Annes Corner, and follow seldom used track to reach Len's 300 Mile marker and locate the tragic remains of a plane that crashed in 1988, claiming the pilots life.

Stephen Langman

September 2014

Smile like a Crocodile
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