Trip 100 – Wildflower Trip

28th August 2015

Trip Leaders Tony & Stella Weldon

Our group of seven vehicles assembled in Mundaring with trip leaders Tony and Stella Weldon. A leisurely 10am start saw us heading towards our lunch spot at Goomalling. We picnicked beside the disused railway station which was bathed in the bright sunshine which we enjoyed the whole weekend. Arriving at the caravan park in Dalwallinu at 2.30pm gave us plenty of time to set up camp. The Swifts arrived late in the afternoon to complete our party. We all enjoyed a very nice evening meal at the Wheatland Motel, kindly organised by Kirsty who manages the caravan park.
Saturday start was only slightly delayed by Henry’s flat battery, however, after a quick stop in town to pick up the Weekend West, 8 vehicles headed south to Pithara, then to Petrudor Rocks where we had morno’s and a walk on the rocks, spotting many varieties of wildflowers. The Wattles in particular were stunning. On to Kalannie, via the Rabbit Proof fence, we looped around Lake De Courcy and found a pleasant clearing for lunch. Our next stop was the Rockhole – a man made fresh water hole established for boundary riders travelling the Rabbit Proof Fence. Heading back to Dalwallinu we stopped in town at the Old Well and then on to our final stop at the Walk Trail behind the hospital. Spectacular wildflowers at each stop!
Our evening sundowner was held between two camps (taking advantage of their awnings) before adjourning for a late dinner.
Raylene and Neil Hewer

Sunday
Light rain overnight and a misty morning but clearing to a sunny day.
The convoy left Dalwallinu Caravan Park not too early and commenced on the Great Northern Highway travelling north before turning onto Nugadon West Road after problems with Linfox Truck. Passed an airstrip and on through salt plain country now filled with water from recent rains. Acacia was seen hedging the road edge as we turned into Gunyidi- Wubin Road to travel to Mia Mia Reserve for morning tea and a wildflower check. There were many orchids including Bee, Donkey and Spider Orchids and also lovely displays of yellow, white and purple flowers. The convoy continued along the Gunyidi- Wubin Road to Thomson Road then onto a gravel road through more salt plain country and on to Buntine- Marchagee Road. Buntine is another small town too close to a large town to survive and is slowly fading away. Continued on same road to Buntine Rock Reserve and drove up the entry road to set up lunch camp below the main rock. Everyone enjoyed walking up the rock to see the 360 view and see the wildflowers with some keen explorer’s finding the Gnamma Hole.

Set off again to the Buntine East Road, then Manual Road edged by Acacia shrubs also Quondong Trees, left turn to Wubin Rocks Road before joining the Great Northern Highway to head south to Wubin. We visited the Wheat Bin Museum where there is a comprehensive collection of memorabilia from the pioneering days including farm machinery and vintage cars. At the Visitors Centre there is a District rock collection and samples of jewellery made from semi precious stones. Three Wreath Leschenaultia plants are fenced off nearby. Two trucks transporting huge Haulpacs captured everyone’s attention as they drove north. After the break some members toured Wubin while the rest head back to Dalwallinu for afternoon tea and to pack up to leave Monday morning.After dinner everyone sat round the drum campfire and enjoyed socialising before heading off to bed. End of a great weekend.
Ann and John Kelly

Monday
Most of the Club Members returned to Perth, however, before we could set off on the second leg of the trip north our vehicle needed an unexpected wheel alignment. Thanks to Neil Hewer who thought our front tires didn’t look right. This was arranged on Sunday for 8am Monday so there was no significant delay. The Mt Augustus and Millstream party of the Days, Kelly’s and Weldon’s went our separate ways at 9.30 to regroup at Morrawa. The drive to Mullewa where we refuelled was very pretty. The crops were looking good and the roadside was bordered with pink poker flowers, melaleucas and acacia.

After Mullewa the road for most of the distance to Murchison was black top with about 100km midway a good gravel surface. This road was edged with purple mulla mulla that in some places was like a purple haze across the ground. There were also large swathes of yellow and white everlastings.

The Murchison Settlement has a good camp ground with nice facilities. We set up on the grass under the trees and enjoyed a drink as the sun set. A lone polo player cantered around on the polo field next to the camp practicing his chukkas.

The gravel road north of Mullewa is mostly good and we travelled at a comfortable distance from each other’s dust cloud. Shortly after leaving Murchison we detoured to the historic Irrabiddy Out Camp but due to the deteriorating road conditions did not go the extra uncertain kms to the Lookout. Paper maps, Oziexplorer and Garmin all gave different distances! In 1921 May Watson, an 18 year old new bride, lived at this out camp with her husband who was a Station cook. Only the chimney and framing remain of the old house. The isolation would have been extreme.

Soon after returning to the main road we read the sign explaining about the replacement of the 100 gates with stock grids. We estimated there were at least 100 cattle grids. The story is that a wool carrier in the early days travelled with an aboriginal boy whose job was to jump off the wool truck to open each gate along this road. The driver slowed near the gate, the boy jumped off and opened and closed the gate. He then had to run to jump back on the truck. Some grids were smooth to cross but most needed a slower speed and were rough.

The roadside was bordered by purple mulla mullas and other spring blooms. We saw several wedge tail eagles, some parrots and many small birds. We enjoyed a lunch stop at Bilunya Pool which is in a tributary of the Wooramel River. This seems to be a favourite camp stop judging from the amount of old campfire settings. After leaving here we saw the first Sturt Pea blooms but in days to come we did not see many more possibly due to the lateness of the season.

Mount Augustus campground is a somewhat green oasis at the base of the largest single rock in the Southern Hemisphere. Campers enjoy green lawn and filtered shade from the surrounding trees. It is unfortunate that the amenities in general here are in need of upgrading to current tourist expectations.

Stuart and John climbed to the summit of the mountain on Wednesday and arrived back at camp 6 hours later exhausted from the heat and the difficulty of the climb. Ann and Margery relaxed at camp while Stella cleaned out the new “off-road” camper for the second day in a row and Tony tried, with limited success, to block up all the holes in the floor which were letting dust in. Unfortunately the camper proved to be a dust vacuum cleaner and we suspect that some of the roads will need resurfacing as much of the dust had appeared in our camper. After all this, Tony and Stella took a short drive to see some rock carvings and a few scenic places at the base of the mountain.

On Thursday we moved on to Tom Price, and more dust removal, along a winding and sometimes rocky road that crossed several dry and rocky creek beds. The scenery was amazing and the same profusion of flowers rolled out like a carpet. At Tom Price Tony had the clutch checked as there seemed to be a problem, but that was quickly resolved. Our vehicles fuel usage was studied though they seemed to meet manufacture’s specifications although at times the Challenger seemed to drink more than expected for its towing weight and driving conditions. John discovered the Prado also needed a wheel alignment.

On Friday we left Tom Price for Millstream as this was the terminus of the Dalwallinu and Beyond Trip. Tony and I planned to return on the North Coast Highway and the others intended to return to Karijini and home on the Great Northern Highway.

At Millstream there are now only two designated camp grounds, one near the old homestead and the other a few kms. away where it is very bare of tall trees and aptly named Star Gazers. We set up camp in the first area a long way from the drop toilets but did not realise that the pumps from the Bore Field used to send water to the Karratha area would run all noisily night . No, very noisily especially when the wind blew from their direction.

By now we are a little tired of dust finding its way into everything, even the fridge seems to have picked up dust.

The old Millstream homestead is now a museum with each room filled with memorabilia of station life or with aboriginal artefacts and explanation about the tribes that lived in this area many years ago. We met the current DPaW Ranger who was showing some volunteers how much water weed should be removed from the streams that bubble through the oasis. Even though it is an introduced plant that is capable of choking the native water plants some is retained as it has become an essential habitat for butterflies and other insects.

This was a very relaxing weekend. The Snappy Gum scenic drive was lovely and the Deep Reach Pool on the Fortescue River was a welcome relief from the unfamiliar heat. However, the slippery rocks claimed Ann’s record of the Kelly trip when she slipped and the tablet went for a quick swim.

On Sunday Tony and I left the group for the city lights at Karratha while the Kelly – Day party quietly celebrated Father’s Day with strawberry crepe’s and other delicacies. On the way to Karratha on a mostly bitumen road, we detoured to Python Pool. The drive in is very winding but scenic and the pool is very prettily placed at the bottom of a steep cliff that would look magnificent with water cascading down the wall in the Wet season. Now it is sluggish and beginning to grow algae. Camping is not permitted.

We enjoyed sunny weather, good company, and interesting countryside and there were no major incidents to report. Thanks to those who came with us.

Stella and Tony Weldon

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