This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

2004 Travels August 31

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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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