Trip Leader: Not Sure.. Diana?
When: 17 July – 23rd July 2004
Location: Ninghan to Walga Rock to Murchison to Kalbarri
Participants: Diana & family, Terry & family, Trevor and family, Rick Ellis & family, George and Linda, Hansen Family,
Saturday 17th JulyFinally the great day had arrived! After much planning, pre-trip meeting shopping and packing, the first day of 8 had dawned, even if it was rather cold and misty! After a late start from Ginger’s Roadhouse on the Great Northern Highway, the 6 vehicles settled into convoy mode, and the radio chatter started. We soon came up short behind the biggest truck part I have ever seen. It was being carried on the back of another enormous vehicle, with front and rear escorts, as well as a ‘chaser’ vehicle moving oncoming traffic off the road. Fortunately he pulled off the road and so the long queue behind him was able to pass.
Due to recent rains, the countryside looked lush and green, and you could have thought you were lost in either England or NZ. Although it was too early for the Spring flowers, the signs were there promising a great show. The road was in excellent condition and a good cruising speed was maintained. Terry was “tail-end Charlie”, a position he maintained throughout the trip, and was subjected to much good-humoured teasing about his vehicle’s speed capacity.Late morning tea / lunch was enjoyed in weak winter sunshine in the grounds of Miling Primary School. While the adults made a start into Diana’s never ending box of tangerines, the children tested out the varied play equipment and got to know each other a bit. It was wonderful to watch 11 children, with ages varying from 2 to 14 and a fairly even mix of boys vs girls, getting along so well together. This friendly spirit was sustained during the entire trip, and was a clear indicator that such ‘family / children’ orientated trips really work! Three cheers for the intrepid leader, Rick, for getting it all together.Yet again we came up behind an ‘Oversize Load’, this one being 5 swimming pools stacked inside each other on the back of a huge truck. It took quite a while for all 6 vehicles to pass it, but finally we were clear. Imagine our dismay later on when this same load rolled into the town at which we had stopped to refuel! Thankfully, the driver was due for a break, and so we were able to pull out ahead of him.Finally turning off the sealed road, we headed down the first bit of ‘real’ road, and proceeded in a dust convoy to the homestead at Ninghan Station. Much chat and social interaction with the station owner followed, with the viewing of his chunk of real gold nugget. We then went off “down the road a bit” to find the suggested campsite. “A bit” from a man whose lands are vast, proved to be a darn long way! It was decided to retrace our tracks and camp nearer the homestead to facilitate the following day’s activities. A delightful spot at the base of a small mountain became our home for the next 2 days. While the children scaled the ‘mountain’ for the first of many times, camp fires and evening meals were prepared.The sun set a graceful pink on the first night, with the promise of great experiences ahead.DianaSunday 18th JulyToday was o slow start for most. A few keen early risers climbed to the top of the hill at 6.30. With a strong smell of bacon & eggs around the camp fire the late risers camp to life. The girls built a cubby out of dried bushes – fortunately well away from the fire area. The boys decided to build their own fire dragging branches to the site with towropes. Most of the day was spent around the campfire watching the boys work and the young ones trying to climb to the top of the bonfire.The afternoon we took a drive to the lake, or at least attempted to. It had obviously grown legs and walked, as we could not find it so returned to camp for a game of Bocce. Ric, Terry and Trevor took out the prize.Sunset at Mt Singleton with a glass of wine with cheese and biscuits was an enjoyable event with a few uninvited flies coming to the annoyance of some. On the return trip to camp Trevor managed to get the first flat tyre of the trip.In the evening the boys bonfire was lit. Guy Fawkes would have been proud of the blaze. With a ‘no singing’ ban in place it was a quiet and early night. Off to Cue in the morningGeorgeMonday 19 th JulyWe awoke to a lovely sunny day with a light breeze blowing. ..Liam and Blake couldn’t resist the lure of a final climb up the rocky slope which had provided all the children with a challenge the previous day.All were ready to depart by 10.00am.Stopping in at Ninghan Station to pay our fees we were treated to an impromptu information session by the manager, marvelling at his amazing bottle collection and the spectacular gold nugget he so willingly passed around…We left the station behind around 11am, stopping at Paynes Find for some to fuel up.Departing this little settlement by 11.45 we headed for Mount Magnet where we had lunch and stocked up on bread and milk while some of us enjoyed a welcome hot shower at the roadhouse.Travelling up the bitumen out of Mount Magnet around 2.45 we observed how attractive the terrain looked, with vast expanses of blue sky contrasting with the vibrant red earth…. So typical of the Ossie outback and don’t we love it!Passing through the wonderfully historic settlement of Cue we arrived at Lake Nallan (some 11km north of Cue) at about 4.00 pm and set up camp. What a delightful spot! Plenty of trees, barbecues, space to spread out and a lovely lake full of quite clear water. Frith, Nikki and Jade donned bathers and braved the cold while Kelly paddled at the edge. Jaime and Lewis stood enviously on the muddy shore in their gumboots…The older boys tried their hand at catching some marron (no luck unfortunately) while the others played cricket with the Dads. Liz made the most of the many photo opportunities. ..The lake’s only permanent resident provided us with some entertainment, apparently not relishing the invasion of his “domain”…After tea everyone enjoyed a rousing camp-fire singalong, with the children featuring prominently. All seem keen to get some lyrics printed off for future such gatherings!Most retired gratefully around 9.30. A pleasant finish to a most relaxed day of travel and sight-seeing. Little did we know what the following few days had in store for us….TeresaDay 4 Tuesday 20.Fine rain woke us up at 5:30. After breakfast played a game of cricket, and the boys kept trying to aim the ball at the grumpy mans caravan! The grumpy man thinks he owns the lake!Left the campsite at 9:30AM and stopped in Cue for fuel. Headed off to Big Bell abandoned township on unsealed but well graded road. It was like driving into the wild west. The hotel was still standing but vandals have caused much damage, so now it fenced off. It is rumoured to have the longest bar in Australia! We imagined Terry coming in to “have a drink with Duncan” after a hard week in the mine! Township was built in 1937 and had 850 people in it’s heyday including a theatre, church, and school.The side road was the shortcut to Walga rock, but we elected to take the “longcut”! Coming out on the Cue Dalgaranga road, it was again wide and smooth but would be extremely slippery in the wet. Beautiful red brown dirt, and grey green tussock.Hansens almost hit one of three kangaroos before turning off to Walga rock, which was a most impressive 2km long monolith with Aborigine paintings on it. Stopped for lunch, and the big kids took off straight up the rock like mountain goats. The smaller kids went next, but found out it’s easier to go up than to get down! Malcolm rescued a few, as it was quite slippery with a run off At the top. The view was awesome from the top – we could see right across to Wurrah rock.Left shortly after lunch for the meteorite crater, which is 21 metres in diameter, and an interesting story to tell. But the greatest attraction was the pole in the middle of the crater that the kids tried to climb. Jade was up the top like a little monkey, and Duncan followed suit. Luke made a very brief attempt, but settled for the first couple metres.Then off again at 2:15, and the pressure is on to get to Murchison before nightfall. We cam down this HUGE road to a tee junction, and then realised it was a runway after seeing a small plane in the shed next to the road. A great opportunity for another photo with all of the vehicles alongside each other with our headlights on, and then a big sprint for our vehicles when we thought we heard a truck coming! .Turned left and began the Mount Wittenoom road past the Wooleen woolshed (a famous shed due to its construction). It soon started to rain, and we got to Murchison river with the sunset in front, and had to take another photo going through he water! Then got to another tee junction that told us we had another 57km to go, and we thought we only had a few km’s to go. All part of the great adventure, and off we set again. Got to Murchison at 6:15 amidst light rain, and had a memorable evening trying to set up tents and trailers in the dark and the strong wind; very memorable!Pleased to have dinner at 8PM, and everyone pretty early to bed.A great day!!Day 5 Wed 21st – Murchison SettlementWe awoke surprised to find that the two tents had survived the windy conditions overnight. We gathered behind Keesing’s Queen Mary (out of the wind) with bacon, eggs and pancakes being the common fare. The kids (helped by Terry – the biggest kid of all) discovered a great playground, which was surrounded by memorial gumtrees – a tribute to the lost souls of the Murchison (many of them quite young). As the rain started to set in mid-morning we headed over the polo-crosse field to the purpose built museum and many of us found the memorabilia of the area quite fascinating.After a late morning tea the weather seemed to have cleared and the whole group set off for a drive to the Errabiddy Outcamp to investigate the remains of Mary Watson’s house and read about her lonely life. We continued along the red dirt road and took a meandering climb up a nearby hill to get a spectacular view of Errabiddy Bluff. As we started back to the settlement some of the group spotted caves at the top of a hill and we stopped to explore. The climb up and down proved to be a slippery situation with lots of loose rocks. It took a while to get some of the younger members of the group back down the hill but we made it back to camp before the steady drizzle set in for the afternoon.Most of the group at one stage or another took refuge in the Queen Mary. There seemed to be twelve occupants in the camper trailer for most of the afternoon and at some stages all eleven of the children present were on board, so imagine Teresa’s afternoon! Thanksto the Keesing’s for their hospitality. Terry & Luke whipped up a little damper (cooked to perfection) to warm our bellies. At dinner time Rachel and Trevor discovered that their tent had turned into lake Theunissen and managed to take refuge in the shell of an on sight caravan which was under repair. After a late damp dinner and a huddle around the fire in the steady drizzling rain most opted for an early night. In the remaining tent it was not a long night’s sleep, however, as at 3am Malcolm & Liz discovered that lilos do float but doonas get really soggy and took refuge in their car. (With 5 to fit in, even the Pajero was not the roomiest of places).Day 5 of the trip was a great day of exploring the nearby area and a great opportunity to see the extremes of weatherThursday 22nd July. Murchison settlement to KalbarriToday we awoke to more drizzly rain. The Hansens’ (all 5 of them) had spent half the night in the car after their tent got wet. This was an area that did not get any rain….There were no phones so a weather report was difficult to get from anywhere. When asked when the phones were expected to be fixed the reply was “ I think there is a technician coming up next Tuesday” I spent much time between the roadhouse and shire office trying to find out if we were able to get going. The only way of getting a weather report was at the shire office where they were trying to make regular contact with surrounding station owners by UHF. We were starting to get the idea that going north was definitely out of the question. But south was still unknown. The dirt roads were getting wetter by the minute and the nearest bitumen is about 200km in any direction. After a little while we were given the “all clear” … as long as we go straight away. Our concern was that if they closed the roads we may not be able to leave for many days.This area had not had rain worth mentioning for 5 years, and last time it rained like thiswas 11 years ago.By 9.30 we had packed, paid, fuelled up and set off to Kalbarri where we were hoping for Blue skies. On the way we stopped at Ballinyoo bridge built in 1932 and is the oldest concrete bridge outside Perth metro area. We also stopped at Meka station to photograph all 6 vehicles side by side on the wide road that is also an airstrip.An intersection near Coolcalalaya station which was a mud bath saw adrenalin levels reach a bit of a high, a little bit of skill and a large amount of luck saw all members through without much drama. The daily highlight for most was the way Terry manoeuvred his caravan around the tight muddy corner.We proceeded onwards and for most of the day drizzly rain continued. It was a long day due to road conditions and all troops were still in good spirits when we arrived at Kalbarri …. Still raining…..The days’ travel was an interesting one on the wet and muddy roads although everyone seemed to enjoy the trip. Trip leader confirmed that all members passed their mud-driving badge with flying colours.The tenters (Hansens’ and Theunissens’) booked a cabin and after showers and a feed we were ready to reminisce over a later than usual happy hour about the days events.Rick Ellis.Friday 23rd JulyThis morning everyone rose and had a casual breakfast by about 9:00. It wasn’t a very energetic start; most of us were tired after a long day driving the day before. The Hansens’ and Theunissens’ had to pack up fairly quickly because they had to be out of the cabins by 10:00. Everyone else had a very lazy morning; the older boys fished, and Nikki got tonsillitis.After a late lunch, everyone left the campsite at about 3 o’clock to either go to Rainbow Jungle bird park or to the beach. All the kids were mucking around on the rocks and in the water, catching crabs and having swims. While we were at the beach, Trevor decided to go for a surf. When he came in from the surf, we noticed numerous amounts of cuts all over his feet and hands, they didn’t look too severe and he wasn’t in any pain so we didn’t worry. Trevor had only just realised as we got near the cars that he had gashed his foot open. He could peel back a slab of skin and see the bone in his foot. Trevor then had to go to the doctors to get it stitched up. That kept everyone entertained for a while accept for Terry who couldn’t bear to watch, and he was the man with the camera.While Trevor was at the doctors, everyone else headed back to camp to get ready for a feed of fish & chips at Finlays. Trevor got back just before we left for Finlays, and so over a big feed of fish and chips, he had the best topic of conversation. The very loud chef was having a go at all the South Africans, Dianna being one of them. All in all it was a great night. We left Finlays at about 8:00 and nearly everyone went to bed soon after.Luke Ellis and Daniel Hansen