This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2004 Travels September 1

WEDNESDAY 1 SEPTEMBER   WARBURTON RH TO WARAKURNA RH   270kms

It was the first day of spring. The morning was warm enough for us to go back to wearing shorts, which we hadn’t been in for days.

Through the day there was some fleecy cloud build up.

John had not set the alarm last night so we slept late. By the time we got up at 8.30am, the other campers that had been here, probably about six lots, had left.

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Morning at Warnurton camp

Went to visit the Art Centre, which had been promoted in some of the literature we had. It had a very impressive gallery collection of a representative sample of the art from the Lands and its associated communities. It made for really interesting browsing.

We sifted through the unmounted canvas art works they had in a pile, for sale. Bought three acrylic on canvas works. All very different. One had an orange background, reminiscent of the desert sands, and showed shapes and patterns representing a water hole and people meeting there. A multi coloured one represented foods, with flowers and ants. A somewhat larger one of predominantly purple, pink and black tones had patterns of shapes – I really loved that one. All came with provenance about the artists. We parted with $480 – very reasonable prices, we thought.

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One of our new art works

Had a very interesting talk with the lady running the Art Centre. She was quite adamant that the people had to be organized by whites, or nothing was achieved. She said that the local CDEP scheme was being made into a “must work for 20 hours a week” rule. Otherwise, no benefit would be paid. She was rather sceptical that this would work – said it would mean that even more of the teenage girls would get pregnant, to get benefit money that way.

But she felt that there were some positive aspects in the area – the people still had much “culture” and connection to the land. But they steal. Her view was that, despite all the car wrecks, indigines never die by the road, even though they do not go out equipped for remote travel. But four white fellows had died – she did not say over what time span that was.

We noticed that the fuel bowsers at the roadhouse were inside really heavy steel cages. No self serve around there!

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High security fuel bowsers

There were notices on the roadhouse doors – “No Kimbie, no enter”. i.e. no little kids with bare bottoms were allowed in. The circumstances that made such a notice necessary did not need  much thinking about!

Today was a much more leisurely day and thus very enjoyable. I think that even John had concluded that yesterday was too much!

We were able to doodle along, actually stop to take photos and to have some walks around.

John emptied the jerry can into the fuel tank.

The road was more corrugated.

We “lost” 90 minutes today, by going east.

Ate our packed lunch beside the road, and walked around, looking at plants and the scenery in general.

Saw more camels.

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I tried to take a photo that would be suitable to enlarge for our wall at home – of Truck, van and the “desert”. Actually, said desert continued to have lush growth and lots of flowers!

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Then, we came up over a low ridge and there in the distance was the Rawlinson Range. The country had changed from the dune type arid lands to a much more classic Central Australian appearance. It was wonderful.

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The ranges made the last section, coming into Warakurna, delightful.

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Refuelled at Warakurna Roadhouse – $1.50cpl. Filled the jerry can too.

We set up in the roadhouse camp ground – $16 for the night. The campground was alright.

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Warakurna camp

This afternoon and evening was much better. We were able to relax before tea and I could take my time cooking it.

Travelling corrugated roads had become very tiring and we had an early night to bed.

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2004 Travels August 31

TUESDAY 31 AUGUST   LAVERTON TO WARBURTON ROADHOUSE   570kms

Another early start, on a cold but sunny morning. There was some cloud about.

Now we were embarking on the dirt road to the north west. The Great Central Road, loosely and erroneously called by some, the Gunbarrel Highway. It was pretty good quality though. We were mostly able to bowl along at 70-80kmh.

I had wanted for years to drive this road. It had been on the original plans for 2001.

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On the Great Central Road – at last!

The lush growth of bushes, grasses, mulga continued – and regular wild flowers in bloom, as were a lot of the shrubs. If I’d been driving and on my own, I would have stopped a number of times to photograph some of these – beautiful and unusual. But, unfortunately, John was in no-stop mode. So we missed many opportunities to stop and savour this different environment.

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We encountered a group of aboriginals with a broken down vehicle. Stopped – cautiously – to see if they were alright. They had a car and trailer and there were problems with the trailer. There were four adults and three children. They had been broken down there since yesterday, they said. I could not work out why someone just didn’t take the car and drive for assistance! Maybe they just didn’t think of that? I gave them some fruit and fruit box drinks, for the kids. We took a message for them – to the next roadhouse – Tjukayirla – to be phoned back to Cosmo Newbury settlement to send out help for them.

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Stopped to eat lunch at the Beegull Rockholes/caves. These were natural depressions in the rock, which held water for a long time, and so were valuable wells for the traditional aboriginals – before cars and roadhouses!

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Beegull Rock Holes

We had a bit of a wander around here, whilst eating. It was nice to have a break from Truck!

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Cave at Beegull Rock Holes

The terms of our permit – WA stretch – had been quite adamant that we were not to stray from the road, make any side detours, or camp except at the roadhouses. So we were conscious of this limited access. However, the Rockholes were marked on the map we were following, and its notes indicated exploring here was alright.

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Outlook to the north

There was very little other traffic on the road.

There were lots of abandoned vehicle bodies – burnt out and ratted for parts. Later, we were told that there was a major loss of face for the locals if they abandoned a vehicle that had broken down, only to have someone else get it going! So they burnt them, to make sure that did not happen! Face was a very significant driver of behaviour in indigenous communities.

There were so many car bodies that some humorist had attempted to number them, with white paint.

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We stopped – too briefly – at Tjukayirla Roadhouse. Got fuel – $1.50cpl! The roadhouse appeared well run by the Blackstone community people.

I had planned that we would stop in the campground there, for the night. 300kms from Laverton seemed like a good day to me, on the unsealed roads. But John was determined to push on to Warburton.

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After Tjukayirla, the road was very corrugated for quite some time. That slowed us down and made for unpleasant travel.

There were some small herds of wild camels beside the road.

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We stopped again for another group of aboriginals, whose car was still burning. They were a ruffianly looking lot. They asked if we had cigarettes and Coke. Couldn’t help them on either count, but I went to the van to see what I could dredge up, as a gesture. They crowded me at the van door and seemed unduly anxious to get a look into the caravan. I suspected they were hoping to spot some alcohol – don’t know what might have happened had they done so! I gave them some water and a packet of rice crackers. I was sure that was not what they were hoping for – they did not look impressed! We agreed to take a message to Warburton for them, and were quite relieved to drive away from the group.

We were still driving when dark came, at about 5.30pm. That made driving harder.

We had been going through dune country for some time by now – but the road remained firm, if corrugated. The country was still interesting, even though I was totally fed up with the long driving day.

It was great to come over a dune and see the lights of Warburton in the distance. But it took ages to actually get there – one could see so far out there!

The roadhouse was shut when we got there. There was no answer when I tried what appeared to be the manager’s house.  So we proceeded to set up in the camp area behind the roadhouse. There was a big gate that we had to open.

After some setting up, I went to the toilets – only to discover they were locked. Made sense in a place like that. Luckily, I then saw the manager coming out of the back of the roadhouse, and he got a key for us. I passed on the message from the stranded group.

We paid $18 for the night – and had power.

We were even able to watch The Bill on TV, though the image wasn’t great.

The nearby community seemed pretty quiet, through the night. Some occasional raised voices and barking dogs.

It had been a very long day. Far too long to be enjoyable. I did not like sitting cramped up for such a long time, without much chance to exercise and get the blood circulating again. We had driven , in one day, what I’d intended would take two. It seemed a shame to rush, in this way, a route that we were unlikely to drive again, but I was, literally, not in the driver’s seat.

We were in bed by 10pm.

It was a cold night, but not as bad as the previous three nights had been.

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2004 Travels August 30

MONDAY 30 AUGUST   SANDSTONE TO LAVERTON   405kms

It was another early departure from camp, on a cold morning.

The road east to Leinster was excellent.

We drove into the settlement, which was off the through road, for fuel, and to have a look around. It was a purpose built modern mining town, similar to Tom Price. There were lots of trees growing, though, and it was quite a pleasant place.

Fuel was $1.22 cpl.

Then we headed southwards, to Leonora.

The country had enough jump ups and breakaways to keep from being monotonous. There were still lots of wildflowers and generally green bush.

We had a quick walk around in Leonora. This was another of the old gold mining towns of the 1890’s. We visited the Tourist Information Centre.

Leonora was renowned for the great Sons of Gwalia gold mine.

We drove out to Gwalia – the old mining settlement, now a ghost town, established around the mine, on the outskirts of Leonora. The mine began in the 1890’s, and lasted until 1963. Herbert Hoover was an early mine administrator here, before he went on to become President of the USA.

We spent over an hour at the mining/historical museum at Gwalia. It was quite fascinating and I certainly could have used more time there.

We were shown over Hoover House – the former mine manager’s residence.It was quite grand, especially for these parts. It had now been turned into a B&B establishment, and was quite well done.

I loved the little miners’ cottages there, that were now being done up by some locals.

The Sons of Gwalia mining company revived mining at Gwalia, in the 1980’s. They went for open pit mining, and so there was now an impressively deep pit there, where the first mines were shafts.

Ironically, just as we were driving into Leonora, we’d heard on the radio news that the Sons of Gwalia company was going into administration! That probably would not bode well for the future of the revived operation.

Got fuel at Leonora – $1.16cpl. In these parts, we were topping up wherever we could.

I had hoped to stay at Leonora overnight, so we could have more of a look around the area, but John decided we would push on to Laverton.

Laverton was another town dating from the gold finds of the 1890’s. It still serviced mines around the district, as well as the surrounding cattle stations, and the local aboriginal communities.

Topped up the fuel again there – $1.21cpl.

Went into the privately owned Laverton Caravan Park for the night – $22. Bit costly, although the park was quite pleasant.

We were able to stay hitched up.

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Laverton Caravan Park

Went for a short walk around the town. A little bit of exercise, after a long day spent mostly driving.

It was a cold night.

Watched the last of the Olympic stuff on TV. Thank heavens!

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2004 Travels August 29

SUNDAY 29 AUGUST   GERALDTON TO SANDSTONE   510kms

John had insisted that we set the alarm, so as to get an early start. It went off before 7am. We were back driving by 7.30.

Nice day today – chilly to start, but with blue skies.

From Geraldton, headed west. Again, this was country we had travelled before, as far as Mt Magnet. Back in ’93 we had driven that route, and earlier this year we went as far as Mullewa.

There were lots of wildflowers in the wheat belt country, out to beyond Mullewa. They became fewer once we transitioned to the mulga country, before Yalgoo. But it was a pretty drive.

We had a quick look around Yalgoo. Back in ’93, after John “caught” the gold bug, we had camped here for a few nights – in a no-star caravan facility. Now, the new caravan park looked fine. It had to be an improvement on where we stayed before!

Yalgoo seemed tidier than I recollected. We refuelled here – $1.19cpl.

Stopped at Mt Magnet to eat our packed lunch. Topped up the fuel there – $1.22cpl.

There was a convoy of huge loads assembling at the Mt Magnet Roadhouse. We were told that police would escort the convoy northwards. It looked like mining gear.

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The Oversize sign does not really seem adequate

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The road to Sandstone, from Mt Magnet, was lovely to travel. It appeared to have been rather recently sealed. There was not much variety in the scenery. There were just enough very low hills and scrub covered dunes to stop it being flat.

The Sandstone Caravan Park charged us $16 for the night. There was no paper in the Ladies’ toilets, and they were a bit grubby, though not very old.

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Sandstone Caravan Park

We were able to stay hitched up.

Went for a walk to have a look around the township. It looked to have some interesting historical aspects, but having dawdled for the Olympics, we now had no time to stay and investigate. That was rather a pity. It would have been much better to have had more time for this segment of the trip. There were some dramatic rock formations in the area, apparently.

Sandstone had some very attractive old buildings. The town dated back to the early 1900’s, when the whole region was subject to gold rushes and mining.

As we walked, John attracted a very friendly little dog that persisted in accompanying us. But the town was not very large, and his owner found him, as we walked around.

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John and friendly dog

Today it was announced that there would be a federal election on 9 October. We would be home by then. I wondered if it would be too late, by the time we got home, to arrange to work in a polling booth on the day? I always found the work interesting, and the money didn’t go astray, either.

It was a very cold night.

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2004 Travels August 28

SATURDAY 28 AUGUST   CARNARVON TO GERALDTON   480kms

We were driving out of town about 8.30am.

There had been some short but heavy showers as we finalized the pack up – a personalized farewell from Carnarvon!

Today’s was a fair old drive, in terms of distance, but routine. All done before.

There was a head wind, all day, which was a bit tedious, and chewed up the fuel.

There were wonderful wildflower displays all the way, which made the drive more interesting.

There was quite a lot of surface water still lying about.

The Galena free camp area, by the Murchison River, looked pleasant for an overnight stop. It was very large.

We passed a stone wall/”gateway” at the turn off to Shark Bay and Denham. Was that there before? I could not remember.

In view of the head wind, thought we should top up the fuel at the Billabong Roadhouse – $1.20cpl. Not too bad.

At Geraldton, went into Sunset Beach Caravan Park, for the night. It was a Big 4 and after discount cost $17.65. It was really nothing special. I thought Drummond Cove might have been a better place to stay.

The mandarins we bought from Morels a couple of days ago were all going bad. It looked like we got a dud lot. They were probably windfalls. I was very annoyed about that – hate feeling that I’d been conned!

Refuelled and also filled the jerry can – $1.12cpl.

Bought fish and chips for tea. We’d had to unhitch anyway – no drive through sites – so going out to buy these was not an issue.

It was a really cold night – down to about 4 degrees! We were not used to this.

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2004 Travels August 27

FRIDAY 27 AUGUST     CARNARVON

Yesterday ended our second week of camping here, so the rate for tonight went up to $17.

Cleaned and packed up the outside stuff.

Drove into town to pick up my photos. There was still no faxed permit. This delay was normal, from what I heard. It was not going to deter us – I had tried to do the right thing.

Refuelled truck – $1.14cpl.

We had a farewell drink with E and D. It had been pleasant to spend some time with them, here.

My back was hurting – think I kinked it when doing the cleaning!

There were showers of rain through the evening. Last time we left here, it was wet, too.

John actually said that he wished we were going out to the Blowholes to camp for a while! This amazed me – I’d have thought it was too basic for him. Tempting as the idea was, for me too, we only now had about three weeks before the time we’d told L we would be home. This year, the timing could not be flexible, as she was moving back home to Nowra. John wanted to visit his family in Canberra, on the (roundabout) way home, too.


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2004 Travels August 26

THURSDAY 26 AUGUST     CARNARVON

I did the washing.

Drove into town, where I did food shopping.

Put in a final film roll for processing. The travel permit from Alice Springs had not arrived by fax, yet.

We bought a big bag of mandarins at Morels – a farm outlet.

I took back the library books.

After lunch, John and D bowled.