This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels May 10


It was another overcast day.

We had planned for this to be another Gammon Ranges NP day – getting in before the Park was closed.

The Italowie Gap walk beckoned. This stretched from Grindells Hut trail head, south through to Italowie Gap, on the Copley road. It passed McKinlay Springs and for some of the way followed the gorge of Italowie Creek.

Unfortunately, the logistics of this demanded a vehicle at each end of the nearly 16km long track. Walkers sure as hell do not want to turn around and walk back again!

Rather than use both our vehicles, which would involve initial shuttling back and forth, and have legal issues – in that M’s Troopy only has two seats and seatbelts – we decided to only use Truck. I would drop the other two off at the Grindells Hut end of the track, then drive Truck, with its seats and belts for three (in travel mode we leave the rest of the back seat at home to make room for more gear!) to the other end of the track. This would give me some time to doodle about on my own, indulge in taking photos, and – importantly – save my Achilles from another huge walk. It was still deciding whether to continue to sulk over the last one, or cheer up and forget it!

Along Mc Taggarts Track
McTaggart Track to Grindells Hut

After parking Truck at the Italowie Gap trail head I would walk north and meet the hikers coming the other way and return with them. I did not mind back tracking – things look different coming the other way…..

And thus it worked out. I really enjoyed being able to stop and take photos whenever the urge struck – that was a luxury.

Distant hills glowing in a patch of sunlight….
Weather undecided….

I eventually parked Truck and walked up the Gap track for about 4kms, before meeting up with them.

Start of the Italowie Gap track

Yet again, I could dawdle and take photos and just look about.

Native cypress pines. Track just to the right of the creek bed

I wasn’t focussed on making too much distance, knowing it would be doubled. Sat on a big rock and ate my packed lunch, enjoying the surrounds and solitude – totally only bush noises around me.

I wondered what had caused the hollowed out base of the old tree in the creek bed

The section I covered was a really attractive part of the walk, beside or along the dry creek bed, with red rock walls on either side and lots of vegetation.

At times it required fairly close attention to where I was putting my feet, especially on the rocky creek bed sections.

Advisable to stop walking before gazing at the scenery, on terrain like this….

The others  had made good time, including a lunch stop, so I was a little surprised to meet them as soon as I did. They had really enjoyed the walk, and the sense of meeting a challenge. They’d had some uphill and then downhill sections to do, whereas I got to walk the flat part!

Going back the way I’d come was not at all boring – it was a lovely part of the track, and it did look different! So, I did a fairly respectable walk of about 8 kms.

Through the day, the cloud cover occasionally broke up a bit and there were patches of blue sky, which brought out the colours in the gorge better, for photos. I was sorry that we’d not had a properly sunny day for this jaunt.

On the way back to camp did another firewood gathering stop.

It was quite chilly around tonight’s campfire. As usual, we rehashed our day. John was really pleased with his walk performance. I was happy that the Achilles did not seem to be worsening, despite the walking on uneven ground.  This mix of driving days and walking days seemed to be working out well.


2007 Travels May 8


Today was more overcast. I hoped that was not ominous.

We got up slightly later than usual, perhaps due to lower light levels, and didn’t get away from camp until 10-ish. Later than ideal on a day of planned walking.

We drove back south to the National Park, and took McTaggarts Track in as far as Grindells Hut.

This relic from the earlier pastoral period stands in a natural pound, surrounded by bare ranges and with a fabulous outlook. It actually has a rather grisly history, at odds with the beauty of its setting, involving the murder in the area of a local pastoralist, possibly at the hands of his father in law – Grindell.

Left Truck at Grindells Hut and set out to do a circuit walk – along Balcanoona Creek to the junction with Worturpa Creek (where we reached from the other direction the other afternoon). Then would follow that creek up past Weetootla Springs, to McTaggarts Track. This would be easy, but scenic walking, along some of the road we had driven in on, and take us back to the Hut and Truck.

Track alongside Balcanoona Creek

Yet again, the practice didn’t quite follow the theory!

The walk from the hut, along Balcanoona Creek, was really pretty, as was the way up Worturpa Creek to the Weetootla Springs. When it is so arid, such occurrences of water in the landscape are extra attractive.

Following Worturpa Creek

The Springs were like a set of rock gardens, with water features. Not for the first time in such a setting I had the thought that I’d love to be able to replicate them in the back yard! There was a lovely selection of plants growing around the little pools.

A rock and water feature like this would be great in the back yard!

We browsed about the Springs for a half hour or so before it was time to move on, with the bulk of the walk still ahead of us.

We were invaders in his territory – Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby

The very fit M was in the lead, and in possession of the map, and we followed her as she crossed the creek and set off.

After the Springs, the track soon went on to open, steep hillsides, and could be seen sidling across the steep slopes ahead, for quite a way. I’d thought, from my memory of the track map, that we would be following a shaded creek valley, not playing mountain goats on this sort of going. But the leader – and the map – was very quickly too far ahead to argue with!

Looking back at Weetootla Springs

Eventually M stopped to let the two of us catch up, and have a rest, and a consult. We realized that we had, in fact, taken the wrong track back at the Springs and were now well and truly along the Monarch Mine Track. At least, we knew where we were, even if it wasn’t where we had intended to be! There was not much choice now but to push on.

I do not like these tracks that are long climbs up ridges, on narrow trails, with big drops below. Don’t do uphill well and heights make me dizzy. So this section of the track was not very pleasant for me. In such terrain, one can’t take their eyes off the track to look around at the country – I am often prepared to take the risk of tripping over a rock, to gaze about, but not when the landing is likely to be a very long way down.

Track up on the hillside, disappearing into the distance. I did not sign up for this!

Eventually we reached the top of the ridges where we could look across to and down on the rugged and  dramatic ranges that surrounded the central pound.

The others well ahead of me – as usual…..

Found the mine remnants. This had been a copper mine – a very small operation that only went for a couple of years. The little ore they did find must have been taken out by horse, or donkey. There had never been a roadway up here!

Monarch Mine

The mine was yet another indicator of how far men were prepared to go and the hardships they would endure, to chase precious metals. It struck me that we’d experienced two ends of a spectrum, this year: the vast open cut iron ore mines of the Pilbara, compared to this little mine, probably operated by only one or two men. The contrast could not have been greater.

Ate our packed lunches up here.

Reptile near the Monarch Mine

From the Mine, the track descended on more gentle terrain back to Grindells Hut. Downhill, I like!

We must have walked about 11kms. John was very pleased with how he went on the tough terrain. My Achilles was not happy – I hoped I’d not fired it right up again. I reckoned our walking muscles were getting into shape – fast!

Last section – down in the pound….

Then, since we were here and there was still some of the afternoon left, we drove the “inner circuit” – along the one way Worturpa Loop Track to Gammon Yards and via the loop track back to the Lochness Well camp area. The scenery was interesting and there were some pleasant stands of cypress pine trees.

That entire loop is one way only – which should in itself be a give-away that it would be no picnic! It had some “interesting” 4WD sections. I definitely do not like places where you climb a steep hill towards what is obviously a vertical drop at the top – with no indication whether the track, at the top, turns right, left, or goes straight on! Until you are right on it! The long, block like nose of Truck did not help either. M was following us, in her Troopy, and did fine with the driving – but having us in front was a bit of a guide. To date, her 4WD experience had been on much more flat country, like Arnhem Land, not on roller coaster tracks. I reckoned we would fix that while we were here!

The Lochness camp area was by Balcanoona Creek, with some vegetation – mostly cypress pines – around it. No facilities, but a pleasant spot.

Then back out McTaggarts Track to the Arkaroola road. It was getting dark by the time we turned back onto the main road.  Made a quick stop to gather some more firewood, heaving it up onto the roof rack, where the mesh base of this would stop it falling through – the best sort of roof rack to have!

Had our usual campfire before bed – weary bodies sitting about it, dissecting the day’s experiences.

I was trying to work out how many years it had been since John and I had done a walk this long and demanding? Maybe 2002 – five years? No wonder we were feeling it!

We packed a lot into today, including a couple of notable wildlife encounters: a yellow footed rock wallaby at Weetootla Springs (no hairy nose!) and a most unusual reptile with patches of bright orange and black patterning, on the very dry hillside near the Monarch Mine.

Knowing that there was still so much of interest to do here, we decided to extend our stay – due to end on Friday – by another four days.

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2007 Travels May 6


We had an early start this morning, getting up at 6.45am, to get fed and ready for the Ridge Top Tour, which departed from the Village at 8am. We walked up there from camp.

The Ridge Top Tour, which cost us $99 each, is a special feature of Arkaroola and worth every cent. In my opinion, it was a must-do for every visitor to Arkaroola.

The resort’s special open backed 4WD vehicles traverse tracks across some of the most ancient landscape parts of the place. The open sides also facilitated tourists taking photos.

Apart from a short distance at the start, the route is not open to the public – the only way to travel it and see some truly spectacular country, is by this tour. Given the rather “hairy” nature of parts of the route, it is not surprising that they do not allow unsupervised travel on it. One puts a lot of faith in the track knowledge and driving competency of the tour guides!

John and I had done this tour before, on a previous visit, but this whole area was new for M, and we were more than happy to have the four and a half hour experience  again.

The whole journey was so unique and so breathtakingly spectacular. This was one experience that was made for superlatives.

The route climbed the tops of ridges, with vistas to Mt Gee and Mt Painter, then ultimately climbed steeply – and I mean steeply – with sheer drops each side – to Sillers Lookout.

Sillers Lookout. The vehicle goes up there and turns around!

Here were 360 degree views, back over the ridges we’d traversed, across the Freeling Heights and the deep Yudnamutana Gorge, and over the flat country to the east and Lake Frome.

Dry salt Lake Frome in distance; Yudnamutana Gorge in foreground

Here also was where our driver had to execute a multi-point turn around, without us on board, in a very restricted area.

Mt Painter was the site of the early uranium discovery and workings 1923-24, and then later 1940’s workings.

The track we had taken on the Tour was actually built by Exoil NL when they were exploring the area in 1970. Arkaroola were able to take it over and keep it as a very special experience.

We had morning tea provided at Sillers Lookout, where we spent about half an hour. Then retraced the route to the Village. This was not a track to be driven at any speed, incidentally! Crawling along definitely called for.

Morning tea at Sillers Lookout

On the tour, we learned that kangaroos have a hairy nose; euros and wallaroos have a partly hairy nose; wallabies have a dog like nose. Identification by this method does assume that one is close enough to the critter to inspect said nose!

There had been recent renewed prospecting for uranium in the region, which was of concern to the Arkaroola people. Marathon Mines was rumoured to have found good quality uranium under Mt Gee. But because of some Heritage listing, they would have to tunnel under, for about 8kms, to get at it. Even the prospecting and sampling was causing obvious damage – we saw signs of this in places along the track, as well as places where sample bags were stacked, awaiting transport. Some of the Ridge Top Tour route is outside the actual Arkaroola property. It was mining companies in the 50’s that first put in a number of the tracks around Arkaroola.

Angled rock beds evidence of a convoluted geological past

The whole area was very dry. The last really good rains had been in 1974! But that is within the normal climate parameters for this area. There was a small amount of rain a little while ago.

We arrived back at the Village at 12.30pm.

After a quick lunch at camp, we unloaded the stuff carried in Truck  on the back passenger seat and in the floor well – stored it all in M’s tent. Then the three of us were able to pile into Truck, drive back down the Balcanoona road, then drive the 13km track into Weetootla Gorge camp ground and trail head, in the Gammon Ranges National Park.

From the camping area, we walked along Balcanoona  Creek, criss crossing it a few times, then through the little, narrow gorge section that is called Hells Gate and on to the junction where Worturpa Creek came in on our right.

Walking track beside Balcanoona Creek

There was a small waterhole in the creek there – very pretty.

We retraced our route, back to Truck. It had been about a 5km walk, in total. The sun had been at a good angle to show the valley features.

More of that tilted rock strata

It was an attractive walk, and comfortable going. We were “wearing in” our walking muscles again.

On the drive back, we stopped and collected some firewood from the roadside. It was convenient just to be able to throw branches and small logs up on top of the roof rack – with its sides, the timber would stay there for the drive back.

Back at camp there was a brief flurry when M could not find her watch. After much hunting about, it was found at the back of the back seat in Truck – must have fallen out of her pocket while she was riding in the back seat.

Then more seriously, John could not find his wallet anywhere. This was a step up from the regular “Have you seen my glasses?” This caused a huge hunt and a degree of panic, especially as he couldn’t really remember when he last had it.

Eventually John walked up to Reception with the intent of posting up a notice. But the wallet was there! Some wonderfully honest person had found it lying by the side of the road out to the south, driven back to the Village and handed it in. John worked out that he must have left it on the shelf-like front mudguard of Truck and driven off. Eventually, after a few kms, it had vibrated off and fallen by the road side. That was a real scare!

After tea, we sat around the camp fire that John had lit in our fire pit, watching the moon rise, studying the stars, and dissecting the day that was. It had been a big day.

I was already into camp mode – yawing my head off by the campfire, going to bed between 8 and 9pm. Back home bed around midnight was my norm. It must be all the fresh air and exercise – plus not spending much time under artificial light – made me really tired, really early. Or just in synch with the natural world?