Murray Sunset National Park - Bogged to the gunnels & a classic outback recovery

Sunday, Sep 28, 2008 at 00:00


Sunday 28th September

Emerging from the tent to another sunny day, an invigorating dip in the river got the blood moving. Our breakfast was disturbed by a group of canoeists pulling onto the sandbar for a breather just upstream of us. We were on the road by 10:00 a.m. and wound our way back past Jinkers Bend to the River Track heading south to the Chalka Creek Track and then inland to the Stockyard Track. There were plenty of lizards on the move and the amount of wildlife about was stunning. Bush chooks (“Running Ducks” or their more common name...Emu), stumpy tailed lizards (Shingleback)by the dozen and of course, roo’s. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous bunny appears to be regaining a foothold in the park. It’s the first time in a decade that I’ve seen them in such numbers, not as great as years gone by but they are there and all too plainly visible.

[gi]21420,304,251,L[/giWe hit the bitumen on the Wemen Road and headed back to Hattah where we grabbed a bit of mid morning sustenance and deposited the recyclables before heading across the rail line and west on the dirt towards Glencoe Station and the Murray-Sunset National Park. Heading off the main road onto the Last Hope Track, we passed through a variety of landscapes including salt lakes, samphire and copi plains, native pine and Buloke woodlands and mallee sand dunes. The wildflowers were in abundance; Pigface, portulaca, poached egg daisy, onion weed and native stock were blooming in abundance. The purple of the pig face provided a surreal and vista in many areas, particularly around the salt and clay pans.

There was no stock evident on Glencoe and the place looks run down. I must see if it’s still operating as a station or whether the National Parks have picked it up as an addition to their Mallee holdings. Regardless, the country looked good. The bird life was amazing with large flocks of Galahs, Corellas, Major Mitchells and Sulphur Crested cockies grazing. The bird on watch in the nearby tree would screech as we approached and a cloud of birds would fly into the air only to circle and land again to continue their grazing.

We got an impressive vista of the surrounding countryside from the top of One Tank Hill and then stopped at one of the small, pristine salt lakes and a long abandoned water trough by its shore. At the junction on the edge of the Raak Plains, we continued east on Pheeny’s rather than the Last HopeTank Track. This track skirts the edge of the Raak plain. In a lesson of what can occur in just a moments inattention, the track on the left hand side gave way pulling us off to the left into the boggy clay. I managed to correct it but in doing so, ]it flicked us to the right and I drifted just a few centimeters off the track and that was it! I managed to get the car straight but it was too late....we were heading for China. While the track surface is relatively hard and stable, on either side the crust breaks easily sucking you into a bog of loose sandy composite. This goo certainly arrests your forward momentum but then again any medium would once your bull bar sinks low enough to become a snow plow! We were in the bleep and in it deep! Luckily the passengers side wheels had stayed on the track but we were in a hell of a lean to the right. So much so that I couldn’t get my drivers door open, the mud pushing hard against it. I slipped it into low but that only drove us deeper. Time for some serious thought.

The solution came from a combination of measures and the patience to get all factors aligned. Firstly, we removed the spare wheel and dug a deep ‘T’ shaped trench some 15 metres in front of the vehicle. We wrapped the winch cable through the centre of the spare and around the tyre making sure that when it was placed in the hole, the cable was looped around the bottom of the tyre. The cable trench (the part of the trench that formed the ‘T’) was also excavated to nearly the same depth so the cable would not pull the tyre upwards and the wall out of the trench. The trench has to be deep of you’ll soon pull the wall out of the trench. Once this was completed we set about clearing the driver’s side of the vehicle from mud. It took a while to clear the wheels but when we finally had them exposed to the light, I deflated the tyres down to 15 psi all round. Finally, I trekked back to a copi island about 600 metres away and gathered what timber and scrub I could find. This was then placed in the newly excavated trench. We rammed the heavy, branch ends as far under the tyres as we could reckoning that with the mush underneath, we needed the thickest timbers to form the support.

Prepared, I crawled back into the driver’s seat, set for low range muttered a prayer and with me operating the winch remote and driving, Hugh walked beside the vehicle pushing the plant material down under the tyres with the shovel. Slowly the vehicle eased itself out and onto the track. It had taken a fraction over four hours of work but we were out. My back was aching. From there we retreated to a place of shade at the base of the sandhills and blew the tyres back up before heading on to Mildura. An unnecessary afternoon of hard yakka but lessons learned. The winch has finally been used in anger and another outback remedy for extraction tested and proved. Despite being exhausted we felt pretty good about things. Love the remote control for the winch. A real boon.

''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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