Quobba , Kennedy Ranges & Mt Augustus

Trip Leader: Martin , Karen and Locky Archer

When: 3rd July – 17th July 2010

Location: Quobba Station to Gascoyne River Areas, WA

Participants:  Archers, Vasiles, McCarthys, Keith, Michael, David, Chris, Daniel, Glenn, Harrisons, Keesings, Kingstons,  Lehmanns

The idea for the Quobba trip originated about 12 months ago when the TV program ‘Postcards WA’ featured Quobba Station in one of their segments. Some members mentioned that they had been through the area but I could not find anyone who had stayed there. So plans were begun to run a trip. These plans soon extended to include the nearby Kennedy Ranges and Mt Augustus. Neither of which I had ever visited. July was chosen because of the cooler, but fine, weather and it also encompassed the school holidays allowing more members to take the opportunity of joining in.

The trip proved popular and eventually I had to stop taking names after I had a convoy of 13 vehicles. Those that have run extended trips appreciate that this number of vehicles can prove a nightmare to organize camping locations and also present difficulties in communication when the convoy spreads out.  It also increases the chances of delays due to mechanical failures.

As the date got nearer couple of members withdrew for various reasons and some where to join up with the trip at later stages. So, on Saturday July 3, The Archers, Vasiles, McCarthys, Keith, Michael, David, Chris, Daniel, Glenn met at Ginger’s Roadhouse, Upper Swan for a respectable departure time of 8:00am. With everyone present and on time, we set off with a convoy of 7 vehicles along the Great Northern Highway eventually travelling the Brand Highway heading for Geraldton. We stopped at Badgingarra for morning tea and decided to stop at Dongara for lunch. When we reached Geraldton the convoy broke up to re-fuel at various service stations, before all meeting up at the 440 Roadhouse at about 2:30pm.

It was getting later than we anticipated so we decided to head for the Nerren Nerren Roadside Stop instead of the planned stop at Gladstone Beach.
Nerren Nerren Roadside Stop is a large camping area with toilets, water and solar lighting. Despite the size of the area, the camp ground was quite full. However we managed to find a suitable area in the bush land behind the main cleared area. The night was very cold but we had to forego building a fire because the local area had been stripped of any decent fire wood.

The next morning we set off at 8:00am, refueling at the Overlander and eventually arriving at Carnarvon before mid-day. A top up of all tanks for our Quobba stay before heading to the Gascoyne River Bridge where we found a suitable place for lunch. We were supposed to meet up with Terry, Theresa, Liam and Kelly in Carnarvon but failed to locate them by VHF or mobile. So I suspected they had already departed for Quobba. Sure enough we found them already set up near the Homestead.  Malcolm, Trish and son Ben had also arrived earlier and had their tent nestled amongst the bushes. Ben was staying at Red Bluff but came down to the homestead to visit his parents for the night.

There was plenty of space for everyone to set up camp to their individual needs, with the guys travelling alone choosing to set up tents in one particular area which was soon named Brokeback Corner.

Quobba camp ground was a pleasant surprise with large open areas of semi-grassed level ground with the occasional sprinkling of coastal bushes to break the breeze. There was a newly renovated ablutions block, located near the homestead, which was within ‘prolonged’ walking distance from the camp. A solar water system provided good hot showers, depending on what time of the day you showered. It was soon worked out that it was best to shower late evening or early morning when the electric boosters took over the water heating.

Monday was spent fishing at various locations along the Quobba coast with varying success stories. Michael was given a few introductory lessons from several of the guys to initiate him into the fishing fraternity. The lessons paid off with his first catch. Of more interest than the fishing was the whale activity just off shore. Humpback whales were frequently seen leaping out of the water while migrating north.

Richard and Helen arrived Monday afternoon after driving all day from Perth. They soon settled down to enjoy happy hour and a moderate but welcome camp fire.

On Tuesday we headed in convoy for a tour of the 60 kilometres of coastline between Quobba and Gnaraloo. Morning tea was held at Red Bluff where we found the camp site full . However the location was a wonderful secluded bay with mainly reef beaches. The big attraction for the surfers was the amazing continuously rolling surf just off the reef. We headed for Gnaraloo for lunch, and although the Gnaraloo property had some wonderful coast line, the restriction on coastal access for visitors made it difficult to locate somewhere for all to stop for a break. There was no access to beach areas and insufficient space at beach car parks which was already taken up by others; this lead to our convoy breaking up into groups and having lunch in various locations along the coast line. After lunch we began heading back to Quobba in groups, each exploring different locations along the way. Once back into Quobba territory, leaving the Gnaraloo restrictions behind, we explored the coast further.. finding some amazing beach and cliff edge scenery.

Wednesday was a relatively easy day with most of the party travelling to Carnarvon for lunch at a Banana Plantation owned by Jason’s cousin. On the return drive to Quobba some checked out the Bibbabarra artesian bore which expels water which is too hot to touch, from the ground . We then went on to the Quobba blow holes. The blow holes where in full flight with water shooting 6 to 10 metres high. The whales were also putting on an aerial display out from the blow holes. The sea was a hive of activity with flocks of sea birds chasing schools of fish skating the surface.

On Thursday most of the party did their own thing, fishing, sight seeing or just relaxing. A weather front had come in producing some drizzle and overcast conditions. However, during our stay at Quobba the weather was generally fine. The breeze changed direction over the 5 nights which caused some confusion as to which side of the camp fire to sit. During the night the wind increased and by the early hours of the morning had turned into a gale. Jane commented that having spent several years in Port Hedland this wind was comparable to any cyclone. 

With little protection from the wind most people had to make some attempt to batten down tents or dismantle camp and seek refuge in vehicles. Terry, not wanting to disturb his family while they attempted to sleep through the storm, improvised by attaching a snatch strap between his car and Jayco. This was to maneuver the camper so it didn’t cop the wind side-on. Friday morning was ‘move-on’ day so needless to say, camps were packed up very quickly in the difficult conditions.

It was arranged that everyone make their own way from Quobba to Carnarvon for refueling and re-stocking of food supplies before meeting at the BP Roadhouse at 11:00am.

Richard and Helen departed for Perth because Helen was not feeling 100%. They were substituted by Guy and Wendy who arrived from Perth after missing the first week due to work commitments. The club’s new sat phone got its first use the evening prior when Guy phoned from the Overlander to organize a meeting point.

Once re-stocked with the essentials of camping life (Chocolate, wine, beer, bread and milk) the convoy headed east along the Carnarvon-Gascoyne Road. Rocky Pool was just a half hours drive from Carnarvon where we stopped for Lunch. Rocky Pool was originally intended to be our camping spot for the previous night. However; the area has been taken over by the Water Corporation who no longer permit camping in the area. Which is why we decided to have the additional night at Quobba and then head directly to Bidgemia Station near Gascoyne Junction.

We arrived at Bidgemia Station by mid-afternoon. The camping area surrounded a hay shed and renovated shearer’s quarters which are now used for tourist accommodation. There was a camper’s kitchen, toilets and showers. Hot water was supplied by way of water being fed through steel drums over a log fire. A simple but very effective way of supplying ample hot water for everyone to shower. Being situated on the edge of the Gascoyne River, there was ample dead wood in the river bed to make healthy camp fires each night. A chat with the owner of Bidgemia, Lachlan McTaggart , who is also the shire Deputy President, revealed a station track that headed towards the Kennedy Ranges, cutting off about 10km from the main road. Lachlan also gave directions on accessing the western side of the Ranges which is not publicized like the eastern ‘tourist’ side.

On Saturday, David, Chris, Michael, Daniel and Liam woke early in order to drive to the Kennedy Ranges and take photos of the hills during sunrise. The rest of us got up at a more respectable hour and headed for the Eastern Side of the Ranges via the station track which crossed the Gascoyne and Lyons Rivers. We visited the various gorges and the day was spent climbing the rock face and taking in the magnificent views. Fortunately we did not have to camp at Kennedy Ranges because we found that most of the camping ground at Temple Gorge was full due to the Western Australia 4WD Club having 11 vehicles with camper trailers settled in. Karen and Jane had a chat to their members while the rest of us negotiated Temple Gorge.

The following day (Sunday) some decided to have a day exploring the river bed at Bidgemia while the remainder headed for the un-publicized tracks on the Western side of the Kennedy Ranges. Keith took the opportunity to be Martin’s navigator because Karen decided to stay at the camp. The tag-alongers included Jason, Jane, Michael, David, Guy and Wendy. Despite not being referenced by DEC or sign-posted from the main road, the track exploring the western side does have an information board erected near an abandoned homestead prior to the track crossing the Gascoyne River. After exploring the ruins of the homestead we proceeded across a wide expanse of the Gascoyne River which leads onto a hill called ‘Khyber Pass’. The terrain here was sparse and rocky and named after the similar barren landscape between Pakistan and Afganistan. However, once over the hill and heading towards the Ranges, the landscape changed dramatically with western edge of the ranges providing the occasional sheltered oasis of river gums and running creeks. We discovered some exceptional camping spots that were duly recorded on Oziexplorer for future trips. Wildlife and livestock were abundant through the area. Euros (somewhere between a kangaroo and a wallaby) were running everywhere and some not afraid to stand their ground on approaching vehicles. We continued on the track until after mid-day when we decided to have lunch then do an about turn and head back to camp. On the return leg, we came across the 11 vehicles from the WA 4WD Club who were heading north with their trailers in tow. Our 5 vehicles had to find safe ground to pull off the track to allow them to pass. Upon arrival at Gascoyne Junction we found most of our remaining party having a Sunday Session at the Gascoyne Junction Hotel. There was no arm twisting needed for us all to join them in a ‘responsible’ drink before heading back to Bidgemia.

Sam and Pasc were with those that had stayed behind at Bidgemia. This is their account of what they got up to while the rest of us explored the western side of the range.

Woke up to a beautiful morning. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Our group stayed back at camp while the breakaway group went to the west side of the Kennedy Ranges.

We had a leisurely breakfast and then all went for a walk to explore. The farmer had quite a lot of old machinery around, this included the shearing shed, old windmills and something that resembled a slaughter house for the sheep. From old machinery and buildings we walked to the banks of the Lyon River that runs into the Gascoyne River. It was dry and hasn’t had water in it for over 18 months. We walked through here and saw many interesting paper bark trees. We followed a large lizard trail for a while and then lost it. On the way back to camp we found a dead Wedge Tail Eagle and we were going to get our forensics experts to investigate what happened to it but we ran out of time. On our way back to camp we walked past an old, huge wood oven that we presume was used to cook meals for the shearers. From here Kelly and Locky led us to the farms’ junk yard. We could have spent days here just fossicking around. They had so much gear from yesteryear to the modern day, there were old cars, washing machines, bottles, ovens, sewing machines and much more. We walked back to camp, stoked up the fire and baked bread, damper, scones and cheeseymite scrolls which were all enjoyed before and after dinner. 

What a great relaxing day we had……………Sam and Pasc Vasile.

The following day (Monday) we casually packed up camp for a 9:30am departure to Mt Augustus. Although gravel with some rocky bits, we found the roads in the Gascoyne area to be well maintained and free of corrugations. The only things to watch out for were the occasional dips at creek beds and rivers. We stopped at Cobra Station early in the afternoon for Lunch. We had all packed lunch for the trip, so in return for using the camp ground as a lunch stop we thought it polite to free the historic Cobra Bangemall Inn of its drumstick icecream supply. The most expensive drumsticks in the state at $5 each. But who can complain when you’re in the middle of no-where.

Theresa kindly offered to make some notes and produced this account of the days adventure;- 

Early rise to a brisk, chilly morning. Sam was up in the dark, getting the fire roaring for the others. 9.30am departure from Bidgemia Station. To quote Liam : “I hope the next place is as good as this one!”
About forty minutes along the route we stopped to investigate some fossilized marine-life, immortalized in rock from 300 million years ago. The shell fossils in particular were plentiful. The surrounding area must be a real magnet for geologists

En route the undulating countryside was most attractive, with ubiquitous sprinklings of white rocks contrasting against the deep reddish brown earth tones. There was some evidence of rain; puddles scattered here and there; even a little water in Dairy Creek, but sadly for Sam, no cheese factory!

We stopped for lunch at Cobra Station; namely the Bangemall Historic Inn. 

Charles Kingsford Smith had had a significant role to play with the mail run from Carnarvon to Bangemall.

It was exciting to finally catch the first glimpse of Mt Augustus with all its interesting colours and textures. The pinks and greens of Albert Namatjira’s landscape paintings could be found around every turn. After stopping at Emu Hill Lookout to take a few photos, we ambled along on to our destination.

Arriving at Mt Augustus Outback Resort around mid-afternoon, we were warmly greeted and provided with a group area with Mt Augustus as its backdrop, the changing hues of the sunset enhancing the rock’s beauty.

A husband and wife volunteer couple visited our campfire to tell us all about the different walks awaiting us the next day.

Hot showers followed by happy hour and camp oven dinners ended another very pleasant day in the Gascoyne.

As mentioned by Theresa, the colors of Mt Augustus, particularly during late afternoon where spectacular. The following morning the sun cast a brilliant red glow over the mountain making the early morning rise out of bed compulsory to take in the spectacle.

Tuesday at Mt Augustus was Wendy’s turn to make notes;-
This was our explore day of the Mount Augustus National Park. Basically we split into two groups. The Keesings, Michael Gilbert, David Igglesten and visitor Chris and son Daniel all headed off to climb the summit. The balance of the less adventurous being the Lehmann’s, Archer’s, Vasile’s, McCarthy’s , Keith Parker and Glen Bignell opted for the more scenic 40 km loop road that runs around the base of Mount Augustus.
The climb to the summit takes around 6 hours and can be quite difficult in several spots. All those that attempted the summit managed to do the return trip in good time. With the exception of David and Chris who became separated and Chris ended out having a blow out with his climbing boots, however they managed to return back to our camp before 5.00 pm.

The scenic road had many stop off points that included some medium walks (2 hours return) and short walks to investigate varying stone structures and Aboriginal engravings. We had lunch at the parking area for the summit walk and welcomed the exhausted trackers at the end of the climb.
On the return trip to the camp we stopped to pick up fire wood on the side of the road to ensure that we had a fire to quell the cold night air. Once we were back at the camp the fire was cranked up, we had showers and enjoyed our usual happy hour which extended into the night. Great day had by all.
Guy & Wendy

Once again it was pre-planned not to have to drive too far between camps. Having been on some trips where it was necessary to rise early and pack quickly for a long drive I wanted this trip be relaxed and enjoyable. Therefore, departure from most locations was arranged for 9:30am with about a 3 hour drive to each location allowing for a stop here and there. The next camp was Bilung Pool which is located on the Wooramel River crossing on the Carnarvon – Mullewa Road 275 km south-west of Mt Augustus.

Again, gravel roads were in excellent condition and it was difficult trying to keep speed down to preserve tyres. We reached Bilung Pool just after mid-day and found a number of travellers enjoying the location for lunch. Bilung Pool has a steep gorge wall along the southern edge of the river. There was water in the lower area of the gorge, and is constantly used by goats and cattle. Although the picnic location was very picturesque, Glenn was sent further down the river to see if there was a more suitable camping area. He found a site about a kilometre west of the road which overlooked the river from above the river gorge. We were all soon set up for an afternoon of exploring and happy hour camp fire relaxation. The sun and cloud system put on a spectacular sunset.

The time to relax gave Glenn the opportunity to put these notes together;-
Another day in paradise – blue skies again! As usual, we all awake to find Terry around the campfire – does he ever sleep? The sun was about to rise and show off the Mt Augustus backdrop to this wonderful countryside – what a view!

Michael decided to kick on up north and visit Karijini and Millstream and departed at 08:00 in search of new adventure. The rest of us departed in eight vehicles to “somewhere south” at 09:10 but not before photographing Chris’s boots which were eloquently placed in the rubbish bin after they both blew out at the top of Mt Augustus.

South of Landor we stopped for ‘mornos’ at the Gascoyne River crossing where there was a old 44 gallon drum mounted on a horizontal wire rope and pulley system across the floodway. 

Used to transfer the mail in times of flooding.

At 14:00 we arrive at Bilung Pool and set up camp. Afternoon tea was hot scones freshly baked by Pasc with jam and cream for all – Yum!!
Everyone set up camp for the night and some minor repairs were undertaken on trailer wiring for tail lights and brakes which led us into happy hour and the usual dinner delights for all. Chris, Davis and Daniel went for their usual nightly walk and bought back photos of our neighbours – goats! 

Well, its lights out for all again except for Terry – does he ever sleep?

Camp was dismantled the next morning as we set off for our next destination; Wooleen Station in the Murchison. Today was Keith’s turn to click the biro into action and make some notes for the day;-
Left Bilung Pool roadside camp at 9:30am heading for Wooleen Station. Wasn’t long before we stopped at ET Hooley Stock Route Well No. 19 on the Mullewa – De Gray Stock Route established in the 1890’s. This is one of 52 wells dug by hand, being 10.5 metres deep and yielding about 550 litres/hr. This well has been refurbished and Sam demonstrated its use for us. Shortly after we crossed the 26th parallel, going south this time, arriving at Murchison Settlement in time for lunch. This was quite a surprise being a brand new rammed earth facility due to be officially opened the following day. Pies, chips, etc were purchased and all drivers had their ‘free’ coffee which unlike most other offers of this type was a proper cappuccino, flat white, etc, of your choice. The biggest surprise was the price of fuel…unleaded at $1.31 compared with the $1.96 at Mt Augustus. We all filled up!

Next stop was our supposed overnight stop at Wooleen Station but the camping area was minute and doubtful if we could all fit in so an executive decision was made by our trip leader and so we departed for destinations south. It had been planned to stop at Ballinyoo Bridge the following night so as it wasn’t too far we made tracks there. This turned out to be a great decision as it was a beautiful campsite on the Murchison River and there was actually clear water in the river! Many took the opportunity to take a bath but it was pretty cold. Plenty of wood in the area so a camp fire was soon burning and the usual assortment of camp ovens appeared. It was decided to spend two nights here as it was such a nice spot.

The next day (Friday) was spent relaxing and taking in the beauty of the area. Kelly tried her hand at river fishing and before long was pulling in Perch one after the other. This inspired the other smaller children to dig out their fishing rods. Before long, Locky and Lani were also pulling up fish. All the fish, being too small, were released back into the river. The kids went swimming again as the day grew a little warmer. As the afternoon progressed several of the guys had a game of bush boule’s. David and Chris explored the river further up-stream. Keith departed today to head to a friend’s farm to assist in erecting fences.

We were all treated that evening to a more than healthy share of Terry’s catch from Steep Point. There were enough Mackerel and Sweet Lip cutlets to feed an army. Each cooked their fish in a way that they wanted from grilled to baked. 

Fresh cooked fish on the last day of a 2 week outback trip… what more could you ask for? 
Thanks Terry.

Saturday was the day to head home. So camp was packed up by 8:00am for the long drive south. Although it took most of the day, the drive via Mullewa, Mingenew, Three Springs and through Moora on the Midlands Road was very pleasant with little traffic. After lunch at Moora, we headed to a roadhouse south of Bindoon where we bid our goodbyes to one and all.
*** Oziexplorer plots of this trip are available from Martin or the Trip Coordinator ***

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