Mid West (Perth to Newman)

Thursday, Oct 20, 2022 at 05:07

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

Newman is the largest town in the East Pilbara and is a little over 1100km north of Perth, travelling via the Great Northern Highway through the Mid West region. For some people, you can probably do that in 2 day's travel passing quickly through New Norcia, Paynes Find, Mount Magnet, Cue and Meekatharra. But for us we took 11 days with a few worthwhile side trips and off-highway diversions making the total around 1500km. In this blog, we'll show you some Mid West highlights for those enroute to the Pilbara. If you wish to learn more about what to do in Newman, we've dedicated a separate blog for that in Eagle Rock and Kalgan Creek 4WD Circuit

Our trip to Newman began on a Saturday with a breakdown just 30km from home. It's such an unusual story so we've included the detail here. We were on our way to find the cheapest fuel along the way out of Perth (but only needed to top up about 90L as we had recently installed a long range tank and had a capacity for 270L). We were cruising happily along the freeway when the cruiser gave the dreaded signs of running out of fuel. Luckily, we managed to take an exit off the freeway and get to within 1km of a service station. We flagged down a lift with an empty jerry can and once the additional fuel was in the tank we drove to the same service station to continue adding fuel to see how much was needed to get the tank back to full. We could then do some maths and try to figure out what had caused the problem. We were very concerned because what lay ahead was a very remote trip and no chance of fixing this on the go so we drove back home...

More brains were needed to solve the problem. I joined a 200 series Landcruiser Facebook Group and within an hour of posting our predicament had a couple of useful replies suggesting it was a broken wire in the pump located at the top of the main 90L fuel tank that works on a venturi system to bring fuel from the 180L long range tank into the main tank once the first 90L has been used. With a bit more research David was happy to learn it was an electrical switch mechanism and being an electronics engineer he was confident that he could fix it, so he decided he would pull out the pump himself. The first challenge was to drop out the tank so we could get that started.

Because we don't have a hoist, the only choice was to use jacks. And the fuel had to come out of the tank in such a way we could put it back in. David came up the idea to drain out the fuel into jerry cans. He setup the air compressor to create a vacuum in the fuel line to bring the fuel out via the disconnected line in the engine bay (see video below).

With the help of a mate, the main fuel tank and the fuel pump canister was removed and sure enough a faulty blue wire was causing the pump not to work - exactly as described on the Facebook Group. The Facebook group also said the wire could be purchased from Toyota but they charged for a whole assembly including the pump. David found the wire online for $35 with free delivery. A few days later, the part arrived, he installed and tested it and confirmed the pump was working. He could then put the main tank back in, and refill with fuel on Monday afternoon.

All photos on this blog appear as cropped thumbnails - tap an image to view full dimensions of the original photograph.

We restarted our trip on the Tuesday morning. Whilst we were aiming to reach the Kimberley we were giving ourselves 3 week's to get there to avoid any potential overcrowding and chaos during school holidays.

Leaving Perth heading north along the Great Northern Highway you travel through the North Western Wheatbelt and then enter the Mid West. It is easy to stick to the highway and just blast along but if you have the time, as we did, you can poke around and explore unexpected granite rocks, unusual relics, cemeteries and abandoned gold mines. We really enjoyed taking a full week just to get up to Newman.

Here's the track log showing our 7 day journey to Newman. Remember you can click to see Overnight Locations, and investigate each daily segment and driving statistics as well as zoom or enlarge the map to fullscreen.

Day 1: Tues 5th July. Travelled 334km. Perth to Paynes Find. Stopped at Bindoon, New Norcia, Dalwallinu, (plus all the highway rest areas in between for documentation/verification of Places). Camped 12km North of Paynes Find.

Day 2: Wed 6th July. Travelled 233km. Paynes Find to Garden Granite Rock via Mount Magnet tourist drive, including Warramboo Lookout and summit of the hill, Natural Amphitheatre, Lennonville Cemetery and townsite, and then a scenice/shortcut via Pinnacles Rd (which didn't say restricted access from the end we come in from but went directly into the Comet Mine Site which was restricted so when we rejoined the main road found we were trespassing so don't follow us!). Was a great way to get to Garden Granites Rock though. Loved it here. Stayed 2 nights and ventured around on our MTB bikes to explore other rocky outcrops nearby. Excellent spot.

Day 4: Friday 8th July. Travelled 161km from Garden Granite Rock via Cue, Big Bell, Afghan Rock, & Milly Soak. Camped at Lake Nallan (a noisy roadside camp but pretty and dependable).

Day 5: Saturday 9th July. Travelled 123km from Lake Nallan. Stopped to explore the Lake Nanine Townsite, and spent time in the main street of Meekatharra at markets, buying fuel and groceries and documenting/updating Places. Camped at Peace Gorge just 3km west of Meekatharra. Highly recommended.

Day 6: Sunday 10th July. Travelled 209km from Peace Gorge. Took the Ashburton Downs - Meekatharra Rd turnoff from the Great Northern Highway and visited Bilyuin Pool & then turned onto the Peak Hill - Three Rivers Road where we spent half the day exploring Peak Hill, a former gold mine townsite with excellent building remains and even the open cut hole is filled and quite a sight from the drone as you can see in the photos.

We continued on looking for camps but eventually decided to explore around the Gascoyne River. When zoomed in close on the EOTopo map you will usually find some permanent water pools with names and so we aimed for Tibingoona Pool but had never heard of it. We tried a few tracks at the crossing that didn't lead to much but eventually found a track on the north side of the crossing that let us follow the river for quite some way. We followed the track to the end where we found a great camp on the permanent waterhole and put up the drone for a better look.

Day 7: Monday 11th July. Travelled 308km from Tibingoona Pool passing Three Rivers Station to join back onto the Great Northern Highway, stopped at Kumarina RH, and Capricorn RH to gather updates and explored more rest area opportunities along the way. We bypassed Newman and continued north on the Marble Bar Road for about 40km to our camp at Sandy Creek - a small tributary off the Fortesque River. We ended up staying at this camp for 5 nights, using it as a base to explore the Newman area and rest. Leaving the camper trailer setup whilst we did day trips.

Day 8: Tuesday 12 July. Spent the day in the township of Newman where we setup our computers in the Dome cafe and caught up on customer service, and compilation of the data we'd been collecting. We also stopped in at the Newman Visitors Centre to get as much information as possible about visiting the waterhole sites, Hickman Crater, Mt Newman etc.

Day 9: Wednesday 13 July. Leaving our camper trailer at Sandy Creek, we started the Eagle Rock to Kalgan Creek 4WD Circuit around 7am and didn't get back until past sunset at 6:30pm. The circuit should be done in an anticlockwise direction, starting with the northern end of the loop (Three Pools Road) and finishing with the Kalgan Pool Track. An application to drive over the BHP Railways must be obtained before doing this trip. This can be obtained online or in person at the Newman Visitors Centre.

Click here or go to the bottom of this page and click Next Blog to read about our day trip on the Eagle Rock & Kalgan Creek 4WD Circuit

Day 10: Thursday 14 July. After such a huge day, we thought we should have a rest day of sorts. So after a bit of a lazy start we thought we'd drive back into the Newman township and do the drive up to Mt Newman. This is documented in the tourist pamphlet as a short 4WD hill climb to a carpark and then a 1.3km hike to the summit.....no warning of just how extreme the 4WD track is, and the hike is even harder.

It's a seriously steep and rocky 4WD ascent to 500m and then another vertical 500m ascent on foot that was quite exhausting following only rock cairns every 50m for navigational aids and trying not to roll over on the loose rocks and avoiding the prickles of the spinifex everywhere. And just when you think you've reached the summit you realise that's just the first hill to reach the saddle - there's more to go.

I gave in to a bit of whingeing and moaning but David pushed me on. The views at the top are worth it but coming down is a mission to stop your feet from slipping out beneath you on the loose rocks and the extreme descent angle so we made some walking rods from branches and got to the bottom unscathed. Not a rest day activity but totally worth it. We had hoped to also drive out to xxx but after this experience we were done for the day and decided to do a bit of shopping in Newman again as we needed to do a gas bottle exchange, find MTB inner tubes and silicon repair goo, plus engine oil for a top up.

Day 11: Friday 15 July. The BHP Railway permit includes access to explore Hickman Crater and Punda. For details of this trip, see separate blog Hickman Crater & Punda Petroglyphs & Rockhole

Day 12: Saturday 16 July. We were done exploring and now it was time to rest. We also had a lot of content to compile so we wanted to sit somewhere enjoyable whilst we were working. We decided there was no better place in the Newman area than to go back to the camp sites with running water along Kalgan Creek. We packed up and by 9.30am pulled into the rope swing camp to find it empty so we claimed it. We ended up staying here for 4 nights and every day people would pull in to see if there was a vacant spot but kindly everyone left us alone and found other camps. We had a lot of fun here - bit of work, bit more driving and filming the river crossings with the drone, some trail running, some swimming, and we even did yet another day trip back into Newman for supplies to prepare for going onwards to the north and to make calls to check in with the kids back home and other domestics (payments, rubbish disposal, water fill up).

Come back to see any new blogs we've added for the continuation of our trip further through the Pilbara, and onwards into the Great Sandy Desert via the Kidson/WAPET track, the Gary Junction Rd, West McDonnell Ranges, Yulara/Kata Tjuta, Great Central Road, Goldfields and Wheatbelt.


David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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