Friday, 30 October 2015

Ennuin or Annoyin?

14th - 18th October:

Adding value to my nights under canvas tally for the year, I decided a prospecting trip was in order. Just prior to my Marble Bar trip, I took Minelab up on their offer on the re-introduction of the GPX-4500 detector. Its a good, proven machine. Having a couple of weeks annual leave, I spent one of those overseas which left me with a week spare. On my return from offshore, it took my a couple of days to sort my crap out from the week prior. The forecast was showing a cooler patch and it wouldn't take me long to pack. So the decision had been made. Time to get the 4500 dirty at last.

Not having a lot of time to research productive areas and not wanting to hit the fabled wide loads and road works on the Gt. Northern Highway, I thought I would head up around Southern Cross/Coolgardie way. Tenegraph showed me South of Southern cross was probably the area to be. However it was all live tenements and I didn't have the luxury of time of seeking permission to be there.

Looking North of Southern Cross, I found Ennuin Station had some pending ground. Very near to the Birthday Mine that I went to visit a couple of months back, but a locked gate kept me out. When there I also noted some old diggings, so it has to be worth a look I guess. See Mud, Mountains and Mines (August 2015 entry)

So first up a little history about Ennuin: 

During 1871 G. Lukin and D.B. Clarkson overlanded sheep from Toodyay to 'Yilgarn Station', now known as 'Ennuin'. Very limited water and drought caused the sheep to be sold  Much of the Area is unsuitable for pastoral industry because of the difficulty of obtaining reliable water. Also, sandplain vegetation has poor grazing qualities. The few sheep leases operate in woodland valleys where saltbush (Atriplex spp.) provides palatable food. However, these stations are hardly viable and have been abandoned on a number of occasions.
Source: WA Museum

The station has been destocked and the Leaseholder has joined the land for Wildlife program:

http://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/management/off-reserve-conservation/land-for-wildlife


The station, which has a part of the Highclere Hills run through it (formerly known as the Yilgarn Hills), was one of the first discoveries of gold in the State back in 1887, at a place to the South of my planned destination. More research of the Birthday Mine produced the following: 

Underground mining at the Birthday Mine between 2000 and 2010 has yielded over 160kg of gold averaging over 14g per tonne of material excavated. The most recent production was an 18 month period between January 2009 to May 2010, wherein a total of 2,164 tonnes of ore was mined with ore grade between 4g to 26g per tonne, and averaging 15.5g per tonne. During that period, it produced 1,135.64g of gold from areas within the Birthday Mine lease which grossed $1,466,359 at gold prices of $1,208.00 per oz. 
Source: Infinio Group market report 


The little geology information comes from a brief site visit by a Perth geologist in 2012. The mine is located in the northern section of the Bullfinch Greenstone Belt, containing layered amphibolite and banded iron formations. Shearing within the amphibolites host the primary gold. The mine is near an ultramafic inclusion within a larger sequence of basalts. Parallel shearing hosts most of the gold, with quartz veining with oblique cross cutting veins playing a more minor role. The geologist noted visible gold still lining the underground workings which had not been touched.
Source: Mindat



So I was sold. Off to Ennuin to see what I could find. It also provided a good base should I get sick of the place and decide to move further North, towards Mt Jackson.

A late start and I finally hit the road at 1130. I tried making contact with the leaseholder unsuccessfully for permission to camp. If he reads this, he will be glad to find the only evidence I left behind were some footprints and some buried ash. On the road and it was a lot more pleasurable drive then the Gt. Northern, but it had me getting a bit weary. I made the decision to stop off at the IGA at Kelleberrin for an "energy" drink. 10Km's from town, I spotted a stranded motorist and stopped to provide assistance. When I arrived, a plume of black smoke was pouring from under the partially closed bonnet. I grabbed my extinguisher. When I got to the vehicle with extinguisher in hand, a grader driver had also stopped and was emptying his 4.5Kg dry chem into the smoke. Once he had emptied the extinguisher, then the flames started. Originally just a few flames licking out from under the bonnet, it progressed to total devastation. Once it gained a hold in the interior, it was all over. I emptied my 1Kg dry chem at some stage and noted that an extinguisher of this size is probably good for bugger all.










The above photos being taken much later on from when I arrived. Pictures were a last minute activity. First priority was to see if we could put it out. On that we failed.

Speaking with the driver he told me he was over heating and trying to limp it into town. It never made it. It must have been bloody hot. Whilst we were attempting to douse the flames, the engine at one stage tried to self start. When the tyres caught fire and started "exploding", we decided moving back a little was probably a good idea. You have to feel sorry for the fella. It looked to be in great condition before hand and when he mentioned he wasn't fully insured. Nothing I could do, I departed. Parking the car 100m downwind and leaving the door open was a mistake. The noxious, toxic smell permeated every nook and cranny of the Paj and took some days to clear.


And so it was, back on the road for a refuel at Southern Cross. It must have been the stiff tailwind, because I used a lot less fuel than I normally do to get here. A nice bonus I guess. Being 1630, I needed to make a move. I had an unexplored camp site to find. I passed the gate to Birthday Mine and found them to be open. Someone must be working here again. I note there was $200K expenditure spent on the lease in 2014/2015, maybe the Singaporean Leaseholder is getting ready to fire up again? Passing the old diggings, I took a side track that should get me out of the live mining lease. Not too far down this track, I found a nice little clearing, timber aplenty at 1745. Just in the nick of time. Time to set up before dark. I noted the flies were a bit friendly and had a beer or two getting my camp organised.





A quiet night, bush Tele in the foreground, dinner cooked and a few drinks, I retired to see what the area had to offer for a detector in the morning.

In the morning I awoke and got the coffee on the go. Putting the panels out and generally just sorting out those bits of camp I didn't get to the previous night. Noting that the flies were very cuddly, the fly net came out and was to be my companion for the remainder of the trip :(






Not really in the mood for breakfast, I decided to get the minelab out and assemble it. Seeing as I was on my own, and in unknown to me country, I decided to take the track and work areas to the side of it, until I had some knowledge of the topography built up and assuring ones self his navigation skills are up to the task. Plotting my camp on the map, I knew I had a lot of area I was allowed to be in to the North, East, and somewhat to the South:





A few hours in and it was time to return for lunch. Finding some good flat grounds, with lots of quartz chunks provided me with no reward however, but I was building up my knowledge of the area. Lots of the place was heavily vegetated, and this vegetation dictated where one would traverse.


By  now the flying sultana's were becoming troublesome, eating a sandwich a mission in itself. A few hours of ginning around camp and I headed out again in the afternoon, this time the Minelab left behind. I wanted to crest the hill to the rear, into the live lease, to both reconnoitre the ground and to see if I could obtain a visual of the surrounding area. Making a straight line through the vegetation was impossible. Lots of deviations both left and right, sort of got you heading on the bearing you wanted to begin with. Half way up the incline, the vegetation thinned out and made for a much easier traverse. What I noted in this area was a lot of evidence of prospector diggings. Not of the shaft variety, but of the detector's pick. Whether it is productive ground or just hot rock I am unsure. But the ground here was devoid of quartz and banded iron aplenty. The view blocked by vegetation was a bit disappointing, but through the trees I could see what looked like reasonably flat country all around and a salt lake in the distance:






I was now about half way to the trig point as marked on the map shown above. To get to the trig point meant descending this crest and ascending another through heavily vegetated ground. I decided I couldn't bother and a few beers at camp were in order.

On account of the fly's and the heat, I'm wondering if Ennuin Station should be named as per the title of this entry. Annoyin, most certainly. I still have tinitus ringing in my ears from all those flying sultana's. By 1900, the sun had set, the very little bit of moon had risen, the flys had finally buggered off and the fire was lit. Just bliss. Time to get dinner on the go and relax in the solitude with some tunes and a glass of red.






Friday morning and I rose late after a good nights sleep. About to get the coffee on the go, I noticed it felt a bit warmer this morning and the flys were off to a great start:





I have been hearing the odd dull bang in the distance every now and then. It reminded me of a car door being slammed shut. Before prospecting duties, I went for a walk to investigate on the track I had driven in. The track had a junction in it that I cant remember seeing when I drove in. Hence, getting ones bearings on the ground before venturing too far away is good advice to follow. A kilometer or so down and I reached the junction where the old diggings started. There was no one around. The noise could only be coming from the Birthday Mine, another couple of kilometers away. So happy in the fact I was still here in isolation, I returned to camp to get the detector ready.

Today I had decided to head South West, up the hill towards the Birthday Mine lease. Crossing some water courses I find a well defined track heading East. Obviously the track from that junction I didn't remember. The ground well over grown, made navigation a mission. Here, the ground is full of Banded Iron, some of them giving off good signals. I cracked a few open and decided it was just hot rock due to the iron content. Every now and then, some patches of quartz was revealed between the trees. Trying to get from the present location to these patches was difficult, having to go around in circles to get to the area. Detecting these area's didn't bring me any joy. I noticed quite a lot of ground diggings and scratchings here too. The ground obviously well hit by detectors in the past. So the question is: Has anyone found paydirt here in the past or like me, just dug up hot rock? If they had found some gold, even though well picked, the amount of vegetation gave me hope there is no way in hell they could have found it all.


It was getting quite a bit warm and I found that whilst the scrub was a bit of a pain, it also provided some relief from the sun. I chased a few of of these quartz patches up the hill to the blow's they originated from. But I was unrewarded. Good looking ground. The lights were on, but nobody was home:






I noted although my intended destination was to the South West towards the mine, the scrub sent me to the South East. I was on the South East edge of this incline, probably about 2/3rd up and spotted what looked to be a tank on a small rise further East in the distance Stopping for a drink, I spotted I had parked up beside a Sandlewood tree. Its nuts had lost its orange colouring, but the foliage is quite a different shade of green to the rest and they stick out prominently. Sandlewood grows naturally here and has provided employment to the old cutters for about a hunderd years. These days the price of sandlewood is like gold. There are still sandlewood cutters working in the goldfields area. I took a picture for my mate Bruce, who was asking me about them last time we were here:





I must look into why sandlewood is so popular for incense. I collected some samples once and burnt them, expecting to find that unique smell permeate the air. All I could small was bushfire. Maybe its a different species, maybe post processing? Whatever, without having done any research on the topic, I am at a loss as to its value. Enough of the flora lesson.......As it's getting quite warm now, I decided to return to camp for lunch.


A cold drink down, the flys well and truly troublesome and trying to chase some shade, Lunch seemed such a chore. I think it took me a couple of hours to build up the courage to even make a sandwich. But courage I did find. I'm not sure if the hardest task was making the sandwich free of winged sultana's or trying to negotiate the fly net to eat it.

The heat and the flys sapping my motivation, I hung around at camp for a few hours. Later in the afternoon I decided to head out on that track to find the tank I had spotted earlier. I couldn't be stuffed dragging the detector along, so it was just a reconnaissance hike. I found the tank about a kilometer from camp:






You can see the hill in the background from where I saw this earlier in the day. The tank being in very good condition, obviously not that old. From here piping led down the hill to a bit of structure so I went to investigate that. Finding the remnants of a bore that fed the tank. The windmill now long gone, the pump was in place. So I tried by hand what the windmill would do. A bit on the stiff side at the start, I got it pumping and spilled the underground water at my feet:






Hot, sweaty and tired, I returned to camp. That was enough for one day. Time for a shower and a beer. Then to wait for those blasted flies to bugger off so I could start dinner. The bit of colour in the sunset made the beer go down a treat:






And pretty soon afterwards it was time to start the bush telly again:





Another blissful night, dinner and dishes done, time to stare into the fire with a glass of red. So I had to make a decision - do I stay in the morning or head up to Mt Jackson. Whilst I had found nothing of worth to date, I couldn't say I had hit it hard either. The hour or so of packing camp to drive 50 odd Kilometers to unknown ground, only to have to set up camp again for a few hours of detecting, just didn't seem worthwhile. So I decided to stay the last day here and go home with the knowledge that at least I gave it a good shot. Glass of red done, it was time to burn down the fire then lights out on another day.


Saturday I woke early (like 3am early) to water the Acacia's. I don't think I went back to sleep. Approaching dawn, the birds fired up and killed any chance I had of returning slumber. It was here I noted the fly's were being their frustrating selves between 0517 in the morning and 1850 in the evening. Certainly not giving one a reasonable break in between these hours from the little bastards, nor giving ones ear drums much of a chance to recover from the high pitched ringing they left behind. Not to mention the occasional hacking one up, that got under the fly net and decided having a look at your tonsils was a good idea.


After breakfast I headed out to the flats once again like I had done on the first morning. The ground at least looked promising. In places, I found my boot prints, so when seen, I moved away for more unexplored country. A couple of flat open pieces were very soft to walk on. No doubt, when it rains, these areas become soaks. About 2 hours in, I headed East and at some stage I fired up the GPS to see where I was. I noted I was about 40m from the bore I had tagged the afternoon prior. So I made my way over and connected all the dots onto how this land was linked. 3 Hours gone now, I returned to camp. It was bloody hot today. Every now and then above the foliage I could spot the hill, the base of which I was camped at. A few days in and I had built up a good visual knowledge of the landmarks needed to navigate back to camp without the use of electronic devices.

Back at camp, it was very hot. 2 cans of drink went down in no time. Just too hot to do anything else today, I chased the shade and read the minelab owners manual. Don't tell anyone this bloke actually read a manual:






You would think I would have no interest in flys by this stage, but I spotted a custom paint job blowie that just needed to be recorded for posterity:






And seeing I had the camera out, it was time I recorded myself, fly blown and hot to blazes. Chasing shade, awaiting cooler weather. A sombre time in camp:





I decided another shower was the go. Pulling the water from the car, the container felt quite hot. The fridge thermometer telling me it was 41 degrees ambient. Mind you, this is in the car, not outside temperature. I doubt it was that warm outside. The shower I had was bath tub warm. Even though it was hot, the warm shower hit the spot, removing all the built up sweat and red dirt. I felt a million bucks afterwards.

By about 4pm, it had started to cool (relatively speaking) and the shower had certainly perked me up. So I got ready to head out for about an hour, seeing as it will be my last time to use the minelab for some months. Heading South back up "Birthday Hill" I got about 20 minutes in and then started to get rained on...WTF? Turning around, I looked back towards camp and the hill I was camped at the base of. A big black cloud had started to roll in. Whilst I had no issue getting wet myself, I wasn't too keen on giving the minelab its first bath, so I called it a day. On the hike back, the blackie decided it would rumble on. I just hoped I could get back to camp before it beat me:






But beat it I did. Scrambling around camp I started making preparations for a deluge. When I arrived here, the ground was firm. The red dust held in a solidified suspension from previous rainfall:





But a few days on the ground, breaking the crust under boot, reverted it back to its fine red dust origin:





The issue here being if that deluge did come, then camp was going to become a quagmire. I sat in my chair and watched the events unfold, beer in hand. As luck would have it, the thunder and the rain passed to my West and to the South. I was saved:






Being hot and sat in my chair somewhat prematurely, my daily beer ration doubled today. Now I just had to endure the attack of the flies until I could light the fire and get the last supper under way. There was so much timber laying around, I still had a good stockpile from the previous night. Not that I had to walk more than 20 meters to grab more if so desired.






Beer rations consumed, dinner and chores out the way, I spent the last night just like all the rest. Glass of red in hand, staring into the fire until I thought it was noddy time.


Sunday dawned and I awoke early (not 3am early). Coffee being consumed, I started to pack for the journey home. My time had come to an end. By 0730, I was done and on the track out. Stopping at the old diggings for a look and a few pictures:











You could see a water course on this hill and the hole above was directly in its path. No doubt colour had been found by panning this water course and holes dug to trace the source. But I did wonder how the hell they ever got on when it rained. This hole would provide the perfect basis for a well. Not something I would think very appropriate for a working digging.

As usual in the environmentally friendly practices of mining in days gone by, loads of old equipment laid scattered about the place. Rehabilitation wasn't a word back then. But it does give rise to investigate what lays around and a photo opportunity or two:
















Moving on, I stopped at the open gate to the Birthday Mine. I decided I would poke my head in and say G'day (and probably run for my life when a shotgun wielding bandit chased me off his lease). Walking up to the mine entrance, I could see no signs of life or vehicles up by the donga's. They may have left yesterday for a day off? Whatever the case, I returned to the vehicle. Approaching their camp whilst occupied may have been a bad idea, but being found there when the camp was unattended may have been a lot worse.


Heading South, I stopped at the main gate. There is (or was, as its now archived) a cache here. So I thought I would find it anyhow. Suspecting the cache being at a prime location, I was stunned to find the GPS had me 20 meters away in open ground. It certainly couldn't have been where the GPS was telling me, but it also wasn't where I expected it to be. I left empty handed.






On the other side of the road, a large cleared paddock, obviously full of stock at some stage in the past. It was a blanket of yellow. Just not the yellow I was after:





Heading South again, I came to a road junction I wanted to check out. I was going to cut through this road last year from the other end, but a no through road sign and time constraints meant I didn't take it and went the long way around. See "Up the guts of the Goldfields" (July 2014). I have since had some intelligence given to me by George and Rod, fellow Goldfields explorers, that this road if dry is fine. So I have a day to kill to get home and there is nothing like gaining your own knowledge, so I ventured off.

Being dry, the road was fine to traverse. It wouldn't be too much of an issue even with the camper in tow. But it was a bit windy and twisty. A few of the bends could have you thinking of the best line to take for the trailer. There was evidence of what could be instore should it be wet:






The road traverses lake Baladjie to the North and the huge granite monolith can be seen in the distance:






Soon enough, I had made the end and was now into the wheatbelt. It was slow going, due to the bends, but I'm sure it shaved both time and distance off compared to the long way around. At the end, I proved the no through road sign was a fallacy (as I had suspected in "up the guts")





So it was time to make for Mukinbudin. Typical wheatbelt gravel roads that are in just the best condition and with their familiar wildlife. In this case, a double header:





Passing Chiddarcopping reserve was certainly different. Such unusual landscape from the plains, rolling hills and granite outcrops of the area:





And by 11am I was in downtown Muka. I decided to grab a burger with the lot at the cafe, seeing I had not had breakfast and would be Skipping lunch for the drive home. let me tell you, the $14 burger was bloody awesome. No doubt I'll be back for another.

Whilst here I stopped in unannounced to DX Grunts place to see if he was home. Sorry Rossco, tried to contact you via social media an hour beforehand once I got phone coverage back. As luck would have it, he was home. A quick chat and he headed for work whilst I headed for home.

After that, there was not much to report. The Prado BBQ had been towed away and I got home around 3pm. Just enough time to unpack the fridge and the car and make preparations for that dreaded four letter work tomorrow.

So in the end, I found no gold, but at least the 4500 is now dirty. I cant wait until April or so before I can go again. It just gets too hot and uncomfortable between now and then to go out.


Another 4 nights under canvas brining the running tally to 39 for the year. I write this, just before I publish the entry, on a wet soggy Friday night. In the morning I head to Dwellingup for an overnighter. This will be informal Canning Stock Route planning trip number one with Steve and Georgie from the Paj forum. And will add another night under canvas. Being an overnighter, I wont be publishing anything about it here, but I will include the night to the tally in advance. So I will have 40 done come Tomorrow night. Getting closer to target 50. Wish me luck!



Trip Stats:
5 days duration
926Km travelled
100L fuel used
for an average of  10.8L/100Km
cost of fuel $135


Not sure what happened here with my consumption. I used far less going to Southern Cross than usual, only 39L. Last trip I used 46L for the same route. The return trip back to Perth  was at the normal rate of 11.5L/100. Noting I had no load on the roof this time and the Prado fire showed me I did have a substantial tail wind.





Footnote: The Dwellingup overnighter did go ahead and that extra night under canvas was secured. I have decided to tag a brief note about it onto this post. As luck would have it, we missed all the rain too. Nothing of worth to report from the trip, except to say, we didn't get much CSR planning done. Thanks to Steve for his excellent navigation and to Georgie and mate Carl for their company.

A few selected shots:






Georgie runs out of gas, Finishes his eggs with a blow torch:






Carl mows the grass:






Dwelly Hills:






What goes down, must come up:





And Georgie gets his cross member hooked on a stump and runs out of traction:







Steve comes to the rescue with the winch:




Dwelly Trip stats:

420Km's Driven.

Fuel used (estimate at 11.5l/100): 48L
Fuel cost estimate (at 1.38cpl): $66

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Mucking about in Marble Bar, part II

August 29- September 7.


Marble Bar van park was a bit of an ordinary affair. But to be fair, it was very, very quiet, the toilets flushed and I had my first hot shower in 5 days. Just don't rely on the camp kitchen for cooking duties. It was only $20 for both of us after all. Upon arrival, we knocked on the door and the daughter of the owner, who emerged half cut, told us to pick a site and pay in the morning.

In the morning, we couldn't raise anyone, so we left without paying. We came back later in the day with the funds and they were surprised by our honesty.

We headed up to tank hill bright and early for the view and made our coffee and toast for breakfast. An hour later and we headed out to Marble Pool, where the Jasper rocks gave the town its name:





I wish I had taken a picture of a sign on the way in. There was a list of things one is not supposed to do in the reserve here. Walking ones cow in the reserve was one of those prohibited activities. What the?

We then shot out to the Flying Fox Gorge. A methodology of getting supplies from one side of a gorge to a mine on the other side over the Coongan River. From there we shot up to Glen Herring Gorge. Here we met our newly acquired friend we met at the airbase the day prior. We had a chat for a bit, then ventured into the Gorge. Lots of water greeted us and it left us a great sign of things to come:





An hour later and we headed towards Spear hill. Stopping off to take a snap of another reptillian that was baking in the middle of the road. Do you know how hard it is to make it poke its tongue out when you have a camera in hand?





We went in search of a couple of abandoned mines nearby but came up empty handed. At this point we decided that Spear Hill probably didn't offer much, so we bailed on that idea and returned to town. On the way we stopped in at the Comet Mine museum.What a remarkable little place that was. Full of Mineral samples, relics of yesteryear and the elderly care taker was a wealth of information on the history of the operation. It was a bargain for the $3 entry price:




 Gold was discovered here in 1936 by Tommy Starr, and was mined till 1955. The old processing plant makes an impressive sight, its 75 metres smokestack the highest in the southern hemisphere. The old mine managers house has been converted into a small mineral museum, generously financed by a local mining company. The plant can only be seen from the road, and the many tunnels through the mountain are out of bounds as its now the home of the rare Pilbara Ghost Bat. 

Source: Mindat.


Inside, I took some pictures of a few interesting items. First up, an old Whites metal detector. Only one dial to use, a volume knob. Just a speaker on a stick in all reality:





But what caught my eye the most, was a few photographs of the airbase we visited yesterday. This put some of the items we found out there into some perspective:





Note the 100LB'ers being readied for the Liberator Bomber in the picture above. And an aerial shot of the base below:





From there we decided to have lunch at the Ironclad Hotel. The French barmaid could sell ice to Eskimos. However, she made sure we asked for baby bacon on our burgers. Lucky she told us. Whilst eating our burger and washing it down with a beer, I looked at Trev and said "did you just see that"

A joey kangaroo just hopped through the bar and went out into the street. It appears the publican is nursing two of these joey's, one being recently attacked by a dog. He brought out a bottle of milk and Trev went to give it a feed whilst I chomped on my baby bacon. Unfortunately, the joey wasn't interested.





Lunch done and we again headed out of town towards Hedland. Stopping off at Doolena Gap, we were a little disappointed as it was dry and looked nothing like the picture we saw in the Comet Mine museum.




Whilst Trev was trying to feed the Joey, he was talking with the publican who was giving him the good oil on a place called One Mile, supposedly one of the best gorges in the area, but little known apart from the locals. Here I consulted the maps and noticed a One Mile Creek a little further up the highway. So we went to investigate. Finding a little used station track, we turned in.




It seemed to fit the description perfectly, Scratchy sections of vegetation opening up at times to a little worn track. We came across a couple of diggings and got out to investigate. Nothing of interest here and the creek was bone dry. Continuing on further through a more heavilly vegetated section, we started to climb. At the top of the climb we were just under the top of Doolena peak. The track here took a steep ceclime into a small valley. Trev was not 100% convinced we should go down. An investigation on foot of the track showed it to be not too bad at all. So trev went down and I stayed up top until I heard of the result.

The track ended in this little valley, but the gorge was a good 15 minute walk from that point. Perfect for a 6 pack and a swim, but not for an overnight camp like we had hoped. So Trev came back up again. half way up, the dmax spat the shaley Pilbara stone from its wheels and refused to go forward. So I walked down to assist (note to self - a handheld in this situation is invaluable). Trev had taken a line that put front and rear opposing tyres in small holes. The combination of lack of momentum, holes and loose stone conspired against forward motion. So the only solution was to back down a bit and have another crack, with a bit more speed and a different line. This worked a treat, but it was still surprising how much traction was lost to the loose stone. Recovery not required, we ventured back out to the highway in pursuit of another place to camp.




Back on the highway, some of the surrounding hills had been cleansed of vegetaion by bushfire. It provided  remarkable contrast to the vegetated ones and they looked very eerie in their naked state:




Soon after passing the Doolena Gorge turn off, I spotted a track on the left. We turned up this to investigate and found a freshly graded track. It split into 3 forks. Trev took one, I another. Here we met head on and again fluked or camp for the night:





From what I can gather from my gps maps and a tourist one we picked up in Newman, this site is known as Long Pool. And a great little sight it was too. Right on the banks of a large body of water, nice shady gums and grass to walk around on instead of the spinifex in the surrounding area. There appeared to be 3 main sites. Just after the middle one, a large bovine had decided to finish its life here. We walked to the first sight, but 50m parallel to the dead cow, a horrible foul stench filled the air and made ones eyes water. I can still smell it now as I type. Due to the prevailing wind, this stench wiped out the usage of the first sight and I decided I wasn't going the middle one neither, cause if the wind changed....well you know the story. So we picked the not so nicest last site, being the greatest distance from the dead beast and upwind.





Gathering some wood, we got the fire going:




Here was the first site we had experienced a mass of birds at sunset like one would expect to find at an isolated waterhole. It must have lasted an hour or so and was as noisy as hell, but enjoyable all the same:

video



We got some coals going and fired up the oven for a roast. Trevs method is surely different to mine, but the results were the same - bloody awesome.





And so ended day 6. A total of 166Km's. The smallest travelling day of the whole trip.





Packed up in the morning and we decided to take a side track back to the main road. Traversing through some very interesting auiferous looking country, we came across some old ruins from prior workings. Then onto a cutting beside the river. Our progress at this point was halted as we could not cross the river bed, where the track now lay. I stopped in the cutting for a picture and found a few railway dog spikes. Obviously part of a rail transportation network associated with the ruins.




So turning back, we hit the main road once again, to vere off a little while later onto another dusty road for Coppin's Gap:





What a remarkable place this turned out to be. Lots of water and a great little oasis to escape from the heat.





Finding some more examples of Marble Bar Jasper:




But we have a long way to go. We have to be home in Perth in 3 days, so it was back to Marble Bar for the long haul South. Stopping in at the old battery, we bid Marble Bar adieu:




The panorama of the surrounding scenery becomes consigned to memory:





Leaving Marble Bar behind on the Rippon Hills road, we passed more spectacular scenery:




These reminded Trev of some old valley in the U.S. that I cant recall the name of, scene of many an old western movie. You could easily picture an old donkey and even older, wirey old prospector in bib and brace overalls trying to make his living on the end of a pick in this type of terrain.

Turning onto the Woodie Woodie Road, we get to the Carawine Gorge turn off and make our way in. What a crap road. Not so much in regards to the road surface, but the blind crests and twists and turns, which dictated slower speeds and faster wits. A sign post stated there was a polished glacier to see, so we went in for a look. A bit of a rocky, spinifex covered track brought us to an outcrop of unappealing value. We were headed back to the main Carawine road in no time flat. Bad choice of words really, because a little further on, at the entrance to the Gorge, Trev mentions on the radio something about a flat. Ah crap.




3pm and 35 degrees in the shade and Trev does a tyre in the middle of a cleared patch with no shade whatsoever. We have no choice but to remove it where it is. Someone had left us some rubber sheeting just for the purpose. A bit of a precarious lift with the jack, and keeping a keen eye on the Dmax from slipping off, we get the wheel changed. Unfortunately we cant get enough lift to get the new one on, so we had to deflate it. No drama here though, just pumped it up with my onboard air. This wasted an hour of travel time.




We are both pretty damn hot at this stage and attempted to plug the punctured tyre, a nice slit in the tread. With multiple plugs and we could get it to hold about 10 PSI, but the more we inflated, and the more we plugged, the more the tread bulged and let all our hard won gains out. It was a useless exercise.

We now had some unknown country to traverse which we were led to believe was a bit ordinary with no other spare for the Dmax. It was going to be an interesting and careful ride back to Newman.


Job done, we rock into Carawine, hot and bothered. This wasn't to be our camp for the night, but at 4pm in the afternoon, I convinced Trev on the idea. It was a remarkable spot after all:




Looking for our site for the night, Trev noticed a fellow camper fishing,who  had inadvertently hooked a Pelican. I think he was about to go see the fella and tear strips off him, but I had to remind him it wasn't like he hooked the Pelican on purpose. Well I bloody hope not. Anyway, whilst they were trying to get the Pelican in to remove the lure, the line broke and the poor Pelican was free. Free to spend a miserable life with a lure stuck in its throat. A sad and unfortunate incident.

We picked our camp and whist I went for wood whilst Trev started to set up. On return once I parked up, Trev made some comment on where I had parked not being to his liking. Being 1700 now, desperately needing a beer and well over heated, my face and back now covered in termite crap, bark and dirt stuck to my sweat from loading timber on the roof, I retaliated. It was time to walk away. I grabbed a beer and a chair and sat alone contemplating unloading the timber for the fire and to get a chance to cool down a little.

All was good. A couple of beers later, we sat by the fire and had an enjoyable night in a spectacular part of the country.




Day 7, 310 Km's for the day, 1 flat tyre and camped up not where planned. But it was a hard place to dislike.






The cliffs were spectacular at sunrise, a vivid red. It really brought out their colours.




I wont mention who the big girls blouse was that was having a hissy fit about some wildlife in the back of the Dmax. I thought it must have been a snake going by the carry on. It turned out to be a stick insect...ha, ha.

Packing up, Trev being shit scared of his partner giving him crap forever about not being able to fold up the dunny tent, he put in a determined effort. And effort does not go unrewarded. He had done it. Saved himself about 12 months of ridicule I guess. It was such an achievement, we had a photo shoot of the moment:









Departing at 0745, we were back on the twisty, blind crested road for home. Stopping at some of the large termite mounds on the way out:




Back onto the Woodie Woodie Road passing through a remarkable feature known as The Sisters:




I will leave to your imagination my thoughts on the matter, only to state that if they are sisters, they obviously had different fathers of differing genetic stock.

We turn onto the Skull Springs Road, ever mindful of the tyre situation on the Dmax.
Rounding a corner we spot this unusual bird in the scrub:




I said it looks like a cross between an Emu and a Malleefowl. Trev appropriately named it a Malleemu. Turns out it is an Australian Bustard, commonly referred to as a brush or bush turkey. To my mind, the Malleefowl is the bush turkey. So now I have a touch of confusion going on. Which species is the actual "Bush Turkey", the favoured food source of many an early inland explorer and native? When I started this blog, I never intended it to become a source on flora and fauna.

We crossed the Davis River, and a picturesque place it was:




Soon afterwards, we turned off into Running Waters, our intended camp for last night. Gingerly, Trev traverses the slow rocky track in and we stop short and walk the small distance to the water. Wow, what a remarkable place. I know Carawine was an unscheduled and delightful place to stop, but we both agreed, this was the favoured waterhole of any we were to visit on this trip.








Spending nowhere near enough time here, we had to move on. So much distance to travel and so little time to do so :(


It was then we moved onto Skull Springs:




Skull Springs itself wasn't much but a few streams of the Davis River:








We ventured out the other side and discovered a substantial old mine at the base of a hill. Tracks leading off everywhere, we made a u-turn and turned back onto Skull Springs Road. Here the road deteriorated. It made the Roy Hill to Nullagine Road a highway. Lots of holes and bumps and lots of crappy blind crests with hidden corners underneath them. Maybe it was due to us pushing the envelope a bit? I almost come a gutzer on one corner after a blind crest. Too much speed to dig the steering wheel harder to the right, I had to manage the task of letting the paj drift to the left, but not so much as to put a wheel off into the spinifex, potentially going off the road and scratching the lid. It was a little bit of a heart stopping moment, but all's well that ends well. We stopped in at the 20mile State Battery for some pictures of what remains of the machinery at the site:








All throughout this whole Pilbara area from Newman onwards, spot fires were seen in the distance:





This one, as it turned out was very near Nullagine township. Approaching the town, we could even see the flame. But Nullagine bound we are:




One can imagine the airfilter maintenance I need to do on our return.

But we make the 140Km deviation of Skull Springs Road, Dmax tyres still going round and round, and head south at Nullagine for the Roy Hill stretch.

The Roy Hill Rail here looks mint. I bet the minesite has had no expense thrown at it either. Boom gates still in construction phase:








The view from the village some of the best to be seen in the area. I reckon I could chillax at my donga after a 12 hour shift here easy enough:




Before we knew it, we were on the black top again. The return stretch North of Roy Hill seemed a breeze after Skull Springs. I guess its all relative.

Seeing we have made reasonable time, we stop in for a quick look at Opthalmia Dam, North of Newman:




Then onto Capricorn for some more go juice. Pushing on and reaching 1715 in the afternoon, we settled on staying at Kumarina Roadhouse for the princely sum of $7 a head. A bargain - a hot shower, a beer at the bar and a footy final on the tele. What more could one ask for.




Day 8, being the longest distance to date, at a leisurely 580Km's.







I had a video call from home this morning, seeing as it was Fathers day. That was a nice touch. Departing at 0800, the plan for today being to make up some miles. So not a lot of sight seeing on the agenda. Crossing the 26th Parallel, we are heading home. Passing tough Meeka and Cue without stopping, we refuelled at Mt Magnet. A quick bite for lunch and we headed South again. Trev mentioned a campsite he had stayed at before and we turned off towards Yalgoo to see if we could make this location.

We had a quick look at Jokers Tunnel on the way.




Inside I found a large swarm of grass hoppers had made a home in the roof structure.
 



A bit further in on that and I found about a dozen little bats huddled in a crevice.








On the road out, another example of a Reptillian friend allowed me the pleasure of taking his photograph:







Prior to leaving the tunnel, we consulted some maps and I fired up WikiCamps. I found a site on the way to our planned destination so we decided to have a look. Whilst the Spider and the Fly had a great piece of artwork, it was a pretty ordinary place to camp. On the shoreline of a very dry Mongers Lake. So we pushed on for plan 1.







Time now being 1645, Heading East on the Warriedar Road was a challenge in the setting sun. So much so, you would have hit any roo before you even saw it. So speed had to be reduced. There was some good blankets of wildflowers still around though. This photo not doing justice to some of the better examples:




Unfortunately, time being against us, we had to leave the Rothsay mine for another time. We finally make Camel Soak at 1745. Against Trev's philosophy of not visiting the same place twice, he had been here before. He was shocked to find the place being all but full. Maybe due to being Fathers day? Last time he was here, he had the site to himself. We managed to find a place to camp for the night. Being almost dark, firewood was the priority and was aplenty:







Definitely feeling like being South once again, everything was dew soaked in the morning and it was a bit on the cool side. I woke well before sun up and took a walk over the rocky outcrop for a few photo's:





















Our last camp for the trip:






Day 9 complete. The longest traverse for the trip, being 770Km's. More driving than sight seeing, but necessary to get home in time.




We could now almost smell home from here which brings about a sense of sadness. Packed up early and on the road by 0730. The plan for the last day was to hit the Midlands Road as an alternate route home. Unfortunately at Moora, we took a wrong turn and ended up back on the Gt Northern Highway well North of where planned. Then we hit the trucks, the road works, the wide loads that this road is notorious for. That split myself and Trev up. I had radio contact with him at Bindoon and it was there we bid each other goodbye. I arrived home at 1240 after a detour via Joondalup for fuel.

And finally on day 10, the trip has come to a close back in Perth after 390Km's for the day. Now for the task of cleaning everything up and putting everything away.





The year to date tally of nights under canvas now standing at a respectable 35. One up on last year with another 4 months to go. looking into it, I reckon I can see another 10 easily added to the total for the year. That now raises a challenge, can I hit 50? Its going to be interesting to see if I can squeeze another 15 in, but I now have a bar to aim for. Watch this space.




Trip Stats:

10 days duration
4066Km travelled
464L fuel used
for an average of  11.4L/100Km
cost of fuel $701.00

Lots of cleaning, lots of scratches but lots of memories and fun.


Credits:
Thanks be to Trev for having me along and for TE in allowing him to go.
Thanks also be to Kim and Lyn. Your hospitality greatly appreciated.


To do all this in 10 days was certainly a mission. Its a mission I'm glad I did though. Till the next entry, be good.