This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

1 Comment

2007 Travels May 11


We seemed to have adopted a pattern of one walking day, one driving day. Today was another driving one, but John needed to refuel Truck first at the Resort’s garage – $1.50cpl.

We headed west from Arkaroola, with the two vehicles.

Track to BollaBollana

First stop was not far, only about 5kms out, at the Bolla Bollana ruins. There had, briefly, been a copper smelter here, in the late 1870’s.


The most obvious remaining feature was a conical structure which was probably a kiln for making fire bricks for the smelter structures. It remained fairly intact. There were, in fact, lots of old bricks scattered about the ruins.

Slag heaps and scattered bricks at Bolla Bollana

A straight channel in the ground may have been some kind of underground flue, connecting the smelting furnace with the chimney that would have been there. We presumed it had collapsed in on itself.

Bolla Bollana was in a valley – at the moment  with a dry creek bed. There was a waterhole nearby. This presence of water, which was scarce near the actual copper mines further  north, plus  nearby timber, explained why the smelter location was here, rather than at the Daly and Yudnamutana mines.

Copper was mined throughout these parts, in the latter part of the 1800’s. It never ceases to amaze me that such deposits were even ever discovered in such remote and inhospitable parts, let alone mined. Mining companies were formed, came and went – often with little return and considerable loss to those who were shareholders. Places like Yudnamutana were such a huge investment, in terms of human effort and suffering, for – often – so little return.

We wandered around the smelter site for a while. Apart from the kiln and channel, there were a few piles of stones/bricks about. This was not all due to the ravages of time: parts of the structures were demolished to be used elsewhere.

The original intent was to smelt the copper from a number of small mines in the surrounding ranges  – the Freeling Heights. However, the smelter was not particularly successful, only managing to process a small quantity, and it was superseded by a new one built at Yudnamutana, after a process was developed that was not as reliant on timber (for charcoal) and water. Then the whole lot were superseded by the shutting of the mines!

The structures that remain are interesting. There would have been a small settlement, too, of workers and families, maybe some sort of store.

I found the scattered mallee type trees here, really interesting, with their upper coloured branches.

Next stop, another 12 or so kms further on, was at Wheal Turner – again, the remnants of a copper mining operation, this time on a hillside. There was an ore crushing plant here too. There were foundations of buildings evident.

Wheal Turner ruins

Then it was on again, seemingly further into the wilds, to the extensive ruins at Yudnamutana, at the edge of the Freeling Heights.

Freeling Heights
The mud map we were working from……

The drive in here was a really pretty one, the track winding through valleys, often fairly open ones, but then passing through narrow gaps where creeks had cut through ridges. Were we so inclined, and had there been the motivation of no vehicle access, this would be a great track to walk.

The remnants of what was a fairly intensive and spread out mining operation are spread out over several clusters here. But the main focus was the former settlement at Yudnamutana, centred around at least four old mines and a smelter.

Yudnamutana around 1900 (Wikipedia)
Yudnamutana now

A few kms further around there had been a number more mines, making the Yudnamutana smelter an obvious choice. The task of carting ore to Bolla Bollana – in the days of horse and cart, would have been really onerous.

Brick ruins and old Cornish boilers

At Yudnamutana were parts of buildings, old mine boilers, and a most interesting, forlorn cemetery, where there had been some restoration work done.

The most intact  head stone there was for a James Greenwood, who died in 1903, after he broke his leg whilst down a mine shaft. He could not get out of the shaft unassisted, and so died down there. His body was found some ten days later. Another marker was that of a woman shot by her husband.

We spent several hours wandering about here, and had lunch too.

The Yudnamutana copper field was mined from the 1860’s, but was rather stop-start, due to frought and water shortages, mining companies running out of money, and the general difficulty of the remote area. In 1910, a  smelter was built here, but some sources indicate that it was never actually fired up. Mining ceased in 1912.

We noticed signs of fresh pegging in places around Yudnamutana . Looking for uranium?

On the way back to camp, detoured a short way to visit NooldooNooldoona Waterhole. Try saying that three times!

Walking into NooldooNooldoona Waterhole

This waterhole was one of several that were, essentially, deeper places in the creek beds, that held water long after the creeks had dried up. As such, they are vital to the wild life of the area.

After decent rains, this would be part of the waterhole

There was very little water in this one. It would be worth a return visit after decent rains, whenever that might be.

Yellow footed rock wallabies hang out in the rocky surrounds. I was surprised how fat the ones we’d seen in the area to date, were.

One fat yellow footed rock wallaby
Nup, don’t want to know those people…..

Another campfire night. The skies were clearer than they had been for the past couple of nights – we could see a lot of stars. It was not as cold, either, surprisingly, given the clearer skies.


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.