Gus Luck Trail and Beyond

Trip Leader: Malcolm Harrison

When: 24th Sept – 4th October, 2010

Location: Menzies area WA

Participants:  Malcolm and Trish Harrison, Michael Gilbert, David and Laura Igglesden

24/09  Set off early Friday morning leaving Mandurah at 7:30 for the meetup at the Caltex Stn on Great Eastern Highway. Malcolm checked his details when we got there and realised it was a 9:45 meetup and not 8:45. As it turned out, it was even later than that as Michael called and said he had forgotten his flask and was returning home to pick it up. In the meantime David and Laura arrived only to discover he had forgotten his wallet (and pillows). 
No problems, there was an op shop over the road so I went off to look for ‘goodies’. 

We eventually left about 10:30 having arranged to meet up with David and Laura for lunch in Kellerberrin. Discovered another op shop there, but it had closed for the day (it was only 1:30), country hours eh? Quick stop in Merredin for arvos, I did ask a of local shop owner if they had an op shop in town, but although she had run a business there for 50 years didn’t know where the op shop was! Headed on to Yellowdine, turning off to Weowanie Rock. Quick sticky beak at Thomas Davidson’s grave whilst we let the tires down. Picked ourselves a nice camping spot at the base of Weowanie Rock and proceeded to make ourselves comfortable. Michael discovered something else he had forgotten – olive oil – so he had to scrounge some for the rest of the trip : )

25/09 Saturday  was the usual beautiful morning and after breakfast and dishes, David took us on a GPS guided walk over the rock to check out a well. Despite walking up and over, round and about, didn’t find a well, but it was worth the picturesque exercise. We had just decided it would be an afternoon of R and R when the peace was disturbed – was that Sam we could hear booming over the radio? Within half an hour, all hopes of a quiet afternoon had disappeared when Stamps’ Trip group (on a Southern Cross Trip) descended on our tranquil camp. Big hugs and greetings all around – long lost family! Perfectly portioned out cake from Pasc was a real treat. 
When our camp returned to peace and quiet a little siesta was had by some. Later Laura was instructed in the art of lighting the campfire by the ‘boy scouts’.  A lovely dinner followed by another stroll up the warm rock to watch a full moon rise, a couple of shooting stars and a satellite. We found a dam full with large tadpoles, I just hoped (hopped, haha) we weren’t going to be camping there when they metamorphosed into frogs and marched en mass down the rock.

26/09 Sunday morning  found Laura feeling unwell with a cold, but she put on a brave face and we set off on time, crossing the trans Australian railway. Passed Lake Eva (salt) and stopped for some photos. Quite pretty. Skirted several rocky outcrops, having morno’s at Darrine Well. Tried out David’s ‘shower cap’ style collapsible washing up bowl/bucket – it got the tick of approval. Lots of consulting the tracks on our various GPS maps. Despite everything saying we should bear left, no one believed it was correct so the majority vote was to bear right. The track got narrower and more overgrown, eventually coming across a low overhanging dead branch. David and Malcolm got out to break it off, David having so much fun he rolled around in the dirt on his back, much to the mirth of Trish.  
Eventually we made it to Rowles Lagoon after a quick lunch stop in the bush. Plenty of flowers around and several more wells and rocks and graves. All quite individual and interesting. David’s brother Paul came up from Kalgoorlie and saved the day for Laura with supplies of Codral so she could soldier on. (He was favoured with her presence in his car the next day.) A cosy evening was had in Michael’s camp which was very ergonomically set up. However, his dust sheet must have been put down over the entrance to a scorpions hole. We took it in turns lifting our feet out of the way of the scorpion as it walked round and round in circles. Later we returned to our own tents, leaving Michael to spend the night with the stinging critter. 
Punishment for bringing ‘junk’ food out on camp – 55% chicken fingers no less!!

27/09 Monday  saw us having a leisurely start, leaving camp at 9:00 on false trail No. 1, followed by false trail No.2! Went back to original plan and followed Way Pts taken from google earth. Headed NE past disused Carnegie Mine site and caught up with Sam’s grill’s bigger brother.(another trip story)
Had an interesting rummage around the rubbish that had been left behind. Took the track to Ora Banda where we convinced them to open at 10:30 for us. A couple of beers and bowls of chips went down extremely easily. Trip Leader insisted Michael bought a publication (excuse the pun) of Australian Bush Pubs and we made a pact to visit every one. One down – 44 to go! Then left off the Broad Arrow Road and headed north. Came across an old haul road and had to breach an embankment to cross it. Continued on following WPs to Vetters sand hill. In reality a sand quarry, where the boys had a ‘bit of fun’. Headed east across Laverton/Kalgoorlie rail line to the black top where Paul had to leave us to return to Kalgoorlie. Drove north for about 15 km and took a track on RHS through a gate and headed NE across gas pipe line to Dead Man’s soak for the night camp. Passed grave of P. Mack “killed by blacks on 14/7/1896” by his own hatchet. 
Lots of very large lizard tracks. Good camp fire – Michael back on 100% food.

28/09 Tuesday  there was a cold wind and after a cold breakfast decided we all needed a jaffle or 2. After David’s 4th jaffle, we set off.. stopping for several flora and fauna shots. Michael was becoming a bit crackly, so was adjusted when we had a look around an old salt dam, his aerial that is. We took off down a fence line rather than the main track to Pianto Rd which was not ‘roof topper’ friendly.    Mornos at Pianto Rd junction, yet more wild flowers, little blue ones which looked like the circular blue sweets in the liquorice allsorts tin. 

Back on the hard top for a while brought us into Menzies. A quick refuel at the roadhouse, interestingly covered (totally) in licence plates. The boys chatted up a local who was painting the outside of her house whilst they waited for the pub to open! Quick beer with David and Laura before they departed our company to spend a night in Kal before heading back to the Big Smoke. We were down to 3 – Malcolm, Michael (Leyland Brothers ?!) and Trish. Off we went to Lake Ballard. There we found a little sandy hollow looking out across the lake toward the surreal hill jutting out of the lake bed to pitch our camp. We scrunched out on to the salt flats to get a closer look at the sculptures by Anthony Gormly and met up with a camera crew taking tourist photos for the Menzies Shire tourism promotion. Amazingly they asked us to ‘pose’ for them, so lookout, we could be in the tourist literature and their website. Malcolm baked a great chocolate cake in the camp oven that night which we thoroughly enjoyed.

29/09 Wednesday  we signed all future Talent Rights away to the film crew and set off to get another bush pub crossed off the list at Agnew. Headed N towards Mt Ida and stopped for a panoramic view of Lake Ballard from Snake Hill. Many old mine workings alongside the road and came across a one and a half metre goanna (bungarra) waddling across the track. It didn’t run away (or sign its talent rights away) when we approached to take photos. Carried on a minor track to Ida valley homestead, not deserted but very isolated. A narrow straight track lead out, which was mostly smoother than tarmac. A bustard walked across the road in front of us and a number of feral donkeys brayed loudly as they ran off. There are many operating wells between Ida and Sturt homesteads. We picked up the tourist Agnew Loop at the Agnew road and headed NW to Agnew Hotel stopping at various points of interest at Doyles well, Poison Creek, Lawley (once 8000 population, now only a few bits of rubble and the old Police Station remain) and Lawley cemetery. Pulling in at the Agnew Hotel for a beer and to get The Book autographed, the landlord commented on Malcolm’s parking style (reversing in). Malcolm informed him where that he was taught to drive it is the way you are taught to park!! Only a couple of miners (who are also made to reverse park – BHP) and a couple of prospectors there. We left to set up camp at Wanjarri, after the signing of the book (2 down, 43 to go) but decided it was too late in the day so we headed back to pick up a small track across to the Goldfields Highway. 

Hard to find, but eventually OziEx showed we were on the right track… just as a mining vehicle stopped us and asked us to follow them as they escorted us off their lease!!!! Made a quick camp at the Pinnacles Rd Junction and although a few cows eyed us up for a while, they moved off. Dinner superb as usual, good to see Michael still off the 55% stuff.

30/09 Thursday  we set off S on old Agnew Rd and turned NE towards Goldfields highway to start the Darlot Loop. First part of track was bad until we passed Wundara Outpost. On arrival at the blacktop and with the Kookynie Grand Hotel on the agenda, it was decided we should head straight to Leonora, leaving several points of interest to check out for another trip. After refueling in Leonora and picking up a few fresh groceries, we headed out to the old regional centre that had been called Malcolm. All that is left is a sports ground! I had to console Malcolm with some chocolate. Finding the Kookynie Grand Hotel looked like a dead loss on the outside, but proved delightfully characterful once inside. A couple of beers, a yarn with the owners (and the autographing of The Book – 3 down, 42 to go), a few photographs depicting life in times past and we were on the road again, determined not to leave it too late. We picked up plenty of firewood on the way, (we had bread to bake that night). Niagara Dam was easy to find, and we found a place to camp with a handy fire pit close by. Bread was a success, surprisingly as I had been rather relaxed with the flour, yeast, salt, water ratios – something to do with the Kookynie hospitality I suspect : )

01/10 Friday It rained quite a bit during the night. Slept in hoping the rain would stop but no sign of it abating so we had to knuckle down and decamp in the drizzle – at least it wasn’t cold. Checked out the dam, which has some interesting history, being modeled on the Mundaring Weir Dam,  before we departed passing through Menzies again. Pub still closed so we drove on to Hospital Rocks. The sun came out and it was decided to open up the tents and dry things off whilst we walked up the rock. All the rocky hollows were full from the rains, and as the Leyland Brothers had raced off, I returned to Pedro to retrieve our very muddy and sandy dish cloths, and all purpose wiping down rags. Back up the rock again and I proceeded to rinse the cloths clean, even finding a larger hollow to strip off and have a bit of a rinse off myself. Found Malcolm and told him he needed to do same, not impressed! 

The sun was still shining when we clambered down refreshed and less dusty, to enjoy the damper with some smoked ocean trout. Packed up the now dry tent and rooftopper and headed west into the rain again. Found Mt Elvire homestead. Now deserted and run by DEC, cute little setting, various little buildings. Someone already camping there showed us around. Drove further on to explore the ‘Mount’ . The boys managed to navigate of the rocky incline before it became a mere goat track about 10 metres from the top. We setout on foot to enjoy the panoramic views of the dry lake. As we could see rain approaching again we returned to camp at the old homestead. We decided to be wimpy and camp in a little hut, rather than risk tenting it again in another possibly rainy night. It felt quite odd preparing dinner under a roof. The Leyland brothers played poker dice so noisily it scared a large centipede out of its hiding place. Malcolm was the only one willing to risk life and limb removing this wriggly thing from the premises. When we retired to bed, our mattresses laid out on a ground sheet in the corner of the hut, I admit to feeling a little apprehensive about the rest of the centipede’s rellies that might come out later to take revenge. So I found a couple of elastic bands that I wrapped around my pyjama sleeves just in case my arms escaped from the doona during the night!

02/10 Saturday –Phew no multi-legged visitors during the night, no rain either. With no tents to pack up we were on the road again by 8:00. The Leyland brothers did a tot up of the mileage ‘done’ and ‘still to go’ to guestimate fuel reserves. “Plenty” was the verdict from TL. Stopped under a nice shady tree for morno’s only to discover a hoard of red tailed black parrots were also resting there. Anybody within cooeee would have been able to hear their objections. Arriving at Lake Deborah, we witnessed a ‘domestic’ between a couple of stripey tailed lizards on a hollowed out log. Someone obviously wasn’t doing their fair share of the housework! Several babies looked on. It is quite a nice area with spacious clearings for camping. Continued south towards Bull Finch. Good views over the salt lake, reminding us of the frozen lakes in Canada! Even though the Bull Finch hotel wasn’t listed in the Bush Pubs book, we felt obliged to call in and watch the first quarter of the grand final replay. Camped at Baladjie Rock. The largest rock we have checked out so far, with the largest infestation of flies. Even TL hung a large branch of gum leaves from his akubra. Quite a few caves, and incredible views from the top. 

Looking NE it is salt lake.. and SW.. green farmland – hmmm I wonder what came first? We camped near a perfectly positioned fallen rock . When Michael started up the fire under the lip of the overhanging rock quite a few bats were smoked out. Felt very somber, last night of the camp always feels like that for me.

03/10 Sunday  In the morning Malcolm boiled up the billy for the last time and filled the flask, were reluctant to bring out any food as there seemed to be  little respite from the flies. Remembering to pack Doug, we kept fingers crossed our last 20 litres of fuel would get us to Merredin (only joking). We decided to take the scenic route home, thereby delaying the inevitable unpacking/cleanup at home. We detoured off Gt Eastern Highway to the Mundaring Weir Hotel (what a bad habit we have picked up) for a quick beer then on to the dam wall for picnicking on what we thought was our last morsels of food, but it was a fine feast. Even a 28 parrot wanted in on it and took food out of Malcolm’s hand. Drove home winding through the hills giving Michael a nostalgic commentary about the area where we used to live.

04/10 – finds us still cleaning the dust off and out of Pedro. When can we go again?

Malcolm and Trish Harrison

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