Great Sandy Desert - Hard travelling on the Anna Plains Track

Sunday, Jun 21, 2009 at 00:00


Sunday 21st June, 2009
Anna Plains Track, Great Sandy Desert.
20 00 1.10 S 123 07 16.38 E
Od ?? - due to instrument cluster failure!

I was exhausted when I went to bed. It was a magnificent night with the Milky way ablaze with stars and giving off such a luminescent glow that you could see by it. I slept with the end of the tent open to absorb as much of the splendour of the night as I could. It remained a temperate night with only the slightest of breezes. Woke a 4.30 a.m. to see the slim crescent of the waning moon rise. Mars was in her glory, bright red and hugely visible.

I was out of bed at 5:45 a.m. knowing that I had some house cleaning to do about the car before starting on the right front tyre fix. I knew it was going to be a travel day across arduous country and we wanted to get off as early as possible. We managed it to with us swinging back onto the track west at 7:30 a.m. to began retracing our route of days previous. Our first port of call was Aubs bore. We located the bore casing well covered by a PVC pipe cap and a 44 gallon drum. We ascertained that the bore was still deep so had little chance of lifting any water quickly. Ensuring that all the covers were securely back in place we continued on following our past tracks until I lost all instruments. A simple fuse problem that keeps blowing. Couldn’t find my 7.5 amp smalls so we opted to head on sans instrument cluster. At 11-ish we passed our old “spook tree” camp and took the opportunity to crawl about under the vehicles and clear all accumulated spinifex and plant material.

At 11:30 a.m. we reached the cut line intersection and turned south again retracing our winding route through the acacia thickets and across spinifex, turpentine and dunes. We decided to have lunch under the same tree we had done so two days previously. Plans changed within site of the tree when I staked the side wall of the left rear tyre….and I mean staked all right! There was a bloody birds nest on the first branch in such was the size of the tree that did the damage. The tyre was totalled, actually I could probaby fix it in an emergency but would need to use a thong on this one.. It’s a stitch and tube if needed. Lunch was had then and there while John and I used the high lift jack to get the rear of the vehicle up and then dug out the wheel from the soft sand under vehicle. We got the spare on and then enjoyed a pasta lunch ably and cheerfully prepared by Mrs Incredible. The scant shade offered by the Toyota was enough.

From there it was no time until we reached the Anna Plains Track turn. It was somewhat daunting as we wound our way through thickets of scrub. The twisting and turning took us more off track than on. In some places the track had all but disappeared. Thankfully there were the occasional Bench Marks indicated by a star picket and a white star shaped piece of tin. As we picvked our way cautiously west, the track was often so badly eroded that it had become nothing more than a deep gully often kilometres long. Such was the difficulty of the conditions that we had only covered a dis-spiriting 8 km after more than an hours driving. With 240 km to go things were shaping up to be a long and arduous trip!

As we eased slowly towards Yarrana heights, the track entered an area of vast plains and the odd rocky rise. The track condition improved no end. We stopped and climbed one small outcrop of rocks to gain good view all round before heading on past Battlement Rocks and then into the mother of all swales. This one was a beaut! It was a couple of kliometres wide, dead flat and the track could almost be classed as a superhighway compared to conditions we'd been travelling on previously. We went from 8 kph to 40 kph in the next hour as we stormed our way west mowing down the spinifex before us.

At just after 4:00 p.m. we came to a sombre reminder of the harshness of the condidtions out here. A burnt out landrover and trailer lay forlornly by the road. It contained a lot of possessions and a mortorcycle all destroyed by a later fire. From our recollections, we are sure that this is the site of two deaths of the occupants from thirst in the past few years. Sobering. We opted to camp in the lee of the dune on the southern side of the swale, in sight of the landy. Firewood was plentiful and in no time we had camp set up and grabbing our cameras, had nibbles and beverages high on the side of the dune as the sun set. Great stuff. A snappy tea for me as I’m pretty tired. I frugally washed a bit of dust off and then into bed. It’s 8:40 p.m. and I’m looking forward to a good nights sleep as we chase our second confluence tomorrow.

Now something to spook you!

I’d gone with the plan and got to bed early after a miserly wash. The journal was compete and I was drifting off. I could just here my neighbours as a low murmour in the background when there was a loud “ripping/zipping” noise right beside my tent.Well it woke me up all right and I lay there for quite a while wondering what it was that I’d just heard. I was wondering if John and Suzette had any super sized zips on the ultimate. As it was, it remained a mild night with a cool breeze springing up in the early morning. I was out of bed at six and over the fire, John told of a loud noise he’d heard during the night also. He likened it to someone ripping velcro apart except very loudly. The same as mine. A mystery animal and bird although I had heard some strange calls coming from a thicket just north east of our camp while taking sunset photos at the Landy wreck.

As we departed the next day, John and Suzette scared three bustards up from beside the track only a couple of hundred metres from our camp. The mystery sound was identified. What was strange was that notoriously shy and aloof Plains Turkey’s would go out of their way to approach two separate camps and announce their presence. Also that they inhabited the actual area and let us know. Now I’m not into the spiritual but…….who knows. Very odd behaviour by wildlife in an area of tragedy.

Authors Note: - History of the Land Rover wreck.

In 2007, two professional prospectors planned to drive into the Great Sandy Desert east of Sandfire, their vehicle of choice being a rebuilt Series Two Landrover . For two and a half days they “bush bashed” along a very overgrown Anna Plains Track. At 60km intervals they dropped water in case they had to walk out. After stopping for a tea break then started east again when within 5 km , accumulated seeds and brush under the vehicle caught fire. The fire took hold and set fire to the surrounding scrub and rapidly started to consume the vehicle and trailer. From the burning vehicle they recovered the satphone and used this to contact authorities. A rescue by helicopter was made some 65 hours later due to the logistics in getting a helicopter to such an isolated location.

I rest my case... ALWAYS BE PREPARED! It saved these blokes lives!

''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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