Trip Leader: Pat O’Dowd
When: 29th June – 25th July
Location: Canning Stock Route North to South
Participants: Leaving Perth: Pat O’Dowd & Gary Izzard, David Igglesden, Richard & John King, John Holbrook Jnr. & Snr., and joining at Halls Creek, Malcolm & Trish Harrison, Bob & Bridget McPherson, & picked up along the way, Michael Gilbert.
The Canning Stock Route is, like the Goldfields Pipeline, one of the romantic sagas of early WA. It was conceived in the first decade of the 20th Century as a means of conveying cattle from the Kimberley to southern WA. Woven into the story of the CSR are mystery, murder, hardship and a Royal Commission.
Introduced cattle from Queensland had infested Kimberley cattle with cattle tick and a ban was put on them being transported by ship, thus bringing the tick to cattle in the south. It was reasoned (accurately as it turned out) that the tick would not survive the long journey through the desert.
The availability of water along the proposed route was investigated by surveyor Alfred Canning in 1906-07. Canning was then appointed to supervise the construction of the 51 watering points along the route which was carried from 1908 to 1910.
Apart from several natural rockhole “wells”, the standard construction consisted of a timber lined 1.8 m by 1.2 m shaft down past the water table with a windlass mounted over it for raising and lowering a bucket. The filled bucket was emptied into a pressed galvanised steel chute which discharged into about 10 m of semicircular galvanised trough.
The route was little used in its early life, partly because of fear of attack from the desert Aboriginals and partly because they vandalised much of the infrastructure. Refurbishment was carried out in 1929 and again in the early 1940’s, when it was thought it may be required to bring cattle from the Kimberley south if the Japanese invaded northern Australia. In all, the route was only used 55 times, the last drove being in 1959.
There is a thought amongst serious 4WDers, that until you have done the CSR, your CV is not complete. And so it came to pass, that on the last Saturday in June, in the year of our Lord 2013, seven intrepid people assembled at Ginger’s Roadhouse in Upper Swan, ready to tackle the CSR.
Trip leader Pat O’Dowd had his mate, Gary Izzard riding shotgun in his ‘Cruiser ute. The new canvas canopy hid the contents of the rear tray, but the sagging springs suggested they intended to travel in comfort, with all possible modern conveniences.
Also along for the epic journey were David Igglesden in his recently acquired Pajero, Richard King with his dad, John, in his 100 series ‘Cruiser, with John Holbrook Jnr in his Patrol accompanied by John Snr.
Stories of unseasonal rain in the preceding week closing sections of the CSR brought back memories of the last O’Dowd major event, the aborted Holland Track trip – cancelled due to flooding. Could this man sell his precipitation services to desperate farming groups by organising a trip to their area?
Pat had chosen to start the CSR at Halls Creek, which meant that at the end of a challenging journey, we could be home within a day.
PERTH to HALLS CREEK
Saturday & Sunday, 29-30 June. After the briefing, we set off on the four day trip to Halls Creek, via the Great Northern Highway. Being very close to the winter solstice, the window for travelling was only around eight hours, bearing in mind the desirability to have camp set up at night by last light, waiting for first light to pack up, pit stops, meal stops and refuelling stops.
The travelling schedule to Halls Creek had been carefully planned to have us arrive on Tuesday evening. This all went out the window on the second day, when on our short detour to Marble Bar, the comfort of a caravan park with hot shower as against camping on the roadside influenced us to have an early end to the day. We found “the hottest town in Australia” to be pleasantly tidy, a lovely main street with well cared for grass verges and median strip. The Ironclad Hotel was just that, clad in corrugated iron.
Monday, 1 July. From Marble Bar we planned to take a short cut back to Great Northern Highway, past the site of the short-lived, model town of Shay Gap. We were aware that this short cut, which would save us 145 km, had been closed during the past week due to rain in the area, but reports said it had been re-opened to 4WD’s. We soon came across a water crossing, about 200 m wide. While we were pondering about tackling it, a road train came through showing us the water was only about 300 mm deep. So we proceeded, congratulating ourselves, thinking that was the water done and dusted. To our dismay, about 50 km further on we came across what turned out to be the De Grey River. While not a raging flow, the current was, nevertheless, very strong. Gary did a recce, which indicated the water depth was around 750 mm. On the positive side, there was a submerged concrete causeway, invisible because of the silt load in the water, but we could see where it emerged up the other bank, even though it there was no evidence of it on our side. Our dilemma was to forge on across the river or lose considerable time by retracing our steps back to Marble Bar Road, which would mean instead of saving 145 km, we would have to do an extra 245 km. To show that he was a trip leader who led from the front, Pat said he was going to have a go, well aware this could be an early end to his dream trip down the Canning. We had our hearts in our mouths as he ploughed across, the water surging over his bonnet and Pat fighting the current trying to wash him downstream. But he triumphantly emerged on the far side, with the only “damage” being wet feet and his headlights full of water. It was not an exercise for the faint hearted, but the rest of the convoy steeled themselves and followed him across.
We stopped for a quick look at the Shay Gap townsite. Evidence it had ever existed was very difficult to find – the company had certainly met its obligations in cleaning up after it had exhausted the nearby ore body.
We rejoined the Great Northern Highway and by nightfall had reached a point about 50 km east of Broome, where we found a small clearing off the highway to set up camp for the night.
Tuesday, 2 July. We had originally planned to take a detour for a fleeting visit to the boab prison tree at the junction of Derby Highway and Gibb River Road-and to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. The latter two proved to be such magnificent geological structures that we finished up spending about two hours at each.
Darkness was approaching, but after giving some consideration to camping just past Fitzroy Crossing, we decided that a hot shower (maybe the last one for quite a while) was too inviting, so we pressed on to Halls Creek. On reaching Halls Creek at 8-15 pm we were greeted by a couple of familiar, experienced, grey nomads. Malcolm and Trish Harrison, in their Isuzu camper ute, were joining us as a finale to a three month trip through the North West. Also waiting to join us were a couple of wannabe grey nomads in Bob and Bridget McPherson, driving their 76 series ‘Cruiser.
Wednesday, 3 July. The morning was dedicated to making final preparations; topping up fuel, water and provisions and a final check of vehicles. Although a number of wells have been refurbished, the water quality is not guaranteed, so trip leader Pat had stipulated each vehicle had to carry 100 litres of potable water. Also enough auxiliary fuel had to be carried to get through the longest stage without supplies of 1100 km. While some provisions were available at a couple of Aboriginal communities along the way, these were only going to be used for replenishing perishables. So with the fuel, water, food, camping gear, etc all vehicles were very heavily laden.
CANNING STOCK ROUTE
DAY 1 – Wednesday 3 July
We left Halls Creek at 11.30 am, heading back down the Great Northern Highway to Tanami Road where we aired down. The commencement of the CSR was 150 km to the south, but a short detour off Tanami Road was another of the geological marvels in this area, the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater. We trekked up to the rim of the crater. Weathering over the past 300,000 years has reduced the depth from about 200 m to 20 m, but the 850 m diameter gave an indication of the enormity of the impact. After setting up camp, it was approaching sunset, so we returned to the top of the crater to watch the sun disappear below the horizon in a cloudless sky, at the same time being “entertained” by a couple of ultra lights swooping over us. The clear and moonless night sky revealed a wonderful array of stars, not normally visible with the background glare of suburbia.
DAY 2 – Thursday, 4 July
We left the Wolfe Creek Crater campsite, heading for the Aboriginal community of Billiluna, which is at the northern end of the CSR. On the way we stopped at an abandoned station homestead, which comprised a large central communal area, with presumably bedrooms incorporated on the verandah. We were intrigued by a derelict caravan, entirely sheeted in corrugated iron.
Some topped up with fuel at Billiluna. Despite its external appearance the general store was neat and well stocked.
Further along we took a slight detour to have a look at Stretch Lagoon, a lovely spot to camp, but it was too early in the day to stop. We pressed on to Well 51, the last of the wells installed by Canning. The well is in ruins, although the windmill, which was installed at a later time, was spinning, achieving nothing.
We moved on to Well 50, off the main track and also in ruins. Camp was made at a nearby clay pan, obviously a very popular venue, judging by the amount of animal droppings we had to clear away. A pleasant night was spent around the camp fire.
DAY 3 – Friday, 5 July
We backtracked to the main route with the next stop being Well 49, which has been restored. Nearby was the grave of a drover, who passed away in 1939, from injuries received in an accident.
A little down along the track we came across a burnt out Ford Explorer. Any useful parts had been removed, but it was disappointing to see it being used as a receptacle for bottles and cans.
En route to the next well were two parked vehicles, each with a single occupant. The mystery was solved when a little further along we encountered a young Victorian lady walking towards Halls Creek. She told us she had been walking for 60 days and expected to make Halls Creek in a further four days. Her original support had pulled out at Kunawarritji, so she had been walking forward for 10 km then returning to retrieve her vehicle. Then she met a couple who volunteered to support her for the rest of the way, hence the two vehicles we had recently passed.
We moved on to abandoned well, Well 48, then nearly missed Well 47 because it was not signposted. It was also in ruins.
We stopped at restored Well 46 to refill our nonpotable water, then made camp nearby.
DAY 4 – Saturday, 6 July
On the road by 8.30 am. Another burnt out vehicle, a Jeep, reinforced the message to reduce fire hazards by clearing away any vegetation accumulating beneath our vehicles.
Next came Well 45, also in ruins. Further along were the Gravity Lakes Caves. We clambered over the rocks to see some rock art in a few of the many caves. The well worn rocks on the entrance to some caves suggested they had been used for many years.
We moved on to Well 44, another in ruins, where we stopped for lunch.
After lunch we progressed to Well 43, another in ruins, then to Well 42, a silted up tank.
Camp was made just beyond Well 42.
DAY 5 – Sunday, 7 July
We were ahead of schedule so Pat declared we could sleep in for an extra hour.
Well 41 has been restored, so we took the opportunity to replenish our supply. The CSR has seen some highs and lows; the grave of Michael Tobin near abandoned Well 40, reminded us of some of tragedies associated with the establishment of the stock route. He was a member of the original survey party and died after being speared.
We had lunch at Well 40, then moved on across Tobin Lake. The lake had dried out after recent rain and there were multiple parallel tracks, some very churned up. Pat chose the wrong one and quickly had the ‘Cruiser sitting on its undercarriage, at a very unstable angle. It took two hours and four vehicles to extract him. The episode resulted in a change of geometry to one rear spring, but it did not appear to affect the driveability of the vehicle.
Soon after Tobin Lake we found a pleasant spot to camp.
DAY 6 – Monday, 8 July
Awoke for the first time to a cloudy sky, no doubt the reason for the unusually warm night. As we were having breakfast, a north bound vehicle stopped to tell us about the challenging conditions they had encountered further south, with a lot of water over the track.
Once again a late start. We soon came to Well 39, another in ruins, although, unlike most others, the start of the timber casing was recognisable.
En route to Well 38 we stopped at another prominent rock outcrop. No significant caves or paintings this time, but John King did find some aromatic leaves to flavour the scheduled evening roast.
At 11-30 am Trish announced we had crossed from the Great Sandy Desert to the Gibson Desert. Our maps showed that we had been in desert since the start of the CSR, but the country was not the barren landscape most of us expected. While spinifex was ever present there were many varieties of trees; including eucalypts, acacia, mulga and desert oaks. In places the desert oaks were so evenly spaced and sized they appeared to be part of a reafforestation programme. The lush vegetation in some areas was an indication of the ability of this country to produce when it receives rain. While there was evidence on the ground of plentiful wildlife, it appeared most were nocturnal, as all we had seen were a few camels, several dingoes, a bustard and a few other birds.
Well 38 proved to be a rock hole, about 10 metres below the surrounding country. Presumably, in days gone by there would have a windmill to raise the water to the cattle herd.
Well 37 was in ruins, but, unlike many others, the shaft had not completely collapsed, water was visible, and it was easy to picture it when it was in operation. Nearby were graves of three men, speared during the construction of the well.
An early end to the day was decided, when we came across a grove of desert oaks, adjacent to Well 37, making an attractive place to spend the night. The clouds that had been around all day suddenly became more ominous and rain started falling, fortunately, it was shortlived and not of great inconvenience.
DAY 7 – Tuesday, 9 July
A late decision was made to have a rest day. Rain was still threatening, but after a few spots, the sky started to clear. John King declared it Pancake Tuesday by making us all pancakes, although he forgot to bring the maple syrup. Son, Richard, showed us his culinary skills by cooking us up a chocolate cake and damper.
With David in the van using some electronic wizardry, we went searching for trees blazed by Canning and others, without luck. But we did find the grave of a cameleer, a member of an oil search party, who was speared in 1922.
DAY 8 – Wednesday, 10 July
An 8.30 am start again. A little way down the track we found another burnt out conveyance, this time a motorbike.
The shaft of Well 36 was basically still intact; with water about one and a half metres below the surface.
The next well, Well 35, was just a shallow depression. But a 225 mm diameter PVC casing was installed adjacent to it in 1985 by a group from Geraldton and once again indicated the groundwater level was around one and a half metres down. A rusted out steel bucket and the remains of the cattle trough indicated its earlier history.
We stopped at Well 34 for lunch. This was yet another well in ruins. No trace of the original Well 33 was in evidence. However, in the not too distant past, a windmill equipped bore and fibreglass storage tank have been installed. We took the opportunity to top up our water containers. As well as the windmill and tank, other work has been carried out in the vicinity, notably delineation of camping areas by Koppers logs and also a concrete pit, possibly restoring the well, before deciding to go with the windmill and tank.
The Aboriginal settlement of Kunawarritji was 7 km further on; with facilities for our last refuelling, provisions shopping, a “civilised” shower and laundry before Wiluna. We had travelled 950 km since leaving Halls Creek, but there were still 1100 km to reach Wiluna.
After getting our needs, we returned to Well 33 and made camp for the night.
DAY 9 – Thursday, 11 July
Decamped and moved on to Well 32. Just a depression in the ground with some scrap iron scattered around.
Up until this time we had seen very few vehicles travelling north – possibly because of the temporary closure of the southern end of the CSR three weeks ago. Last night we shared our camping area with a group of 5 vehicles and we now are starting to regularly encounter more north bound traffic. Fortunately, so far, all appear to be equipped with CB radio, tuned to channel 40, so we are able to warn each other of our presence.
The area in the vicinity of Well 31 had lush vegetation, indicating water was close to the surface, however all that remained of the well was a shallow hole and some scrap metalwork.
We went searching for a cave near Well 30, where Canning was shown water about 10 metres down, but along a side tunnel. None of us was prepared to confirm it, after a consultation with our CSR information book referred to King Browns frequenting the area around the entrance.
Well 30 was in the middle of a clay pan, and yet another well in ruins.
We made camp about 10 km beyond Well 30.
For the previous 8 days the track had mainly been red sand, sometimes smooth, but large sections corrugated. Today we came across some more extreme corrugations and long sections of rocky road. By good luck, or by good management, we have been fortunate not to have a puncture.
Our official scorer informed us we had crossed XXX of the 997 primary sand dunes on the track.
It is apparent that the track pioneers did not follow Len Beadell principles; between wells; the track zig zags and doubles back, often without apparent reason. Large sections of the track are through dense, reasonably high scrub, which must have presented a challenge to keep a herd of cattle intact.
DAY 10 – Friday, 12 July
Packed up and on the move by 8.20 am.
On the way to Well 29 we stopped at Thring Rock for the hardy to climb and get a panoramic view of the countryside.
Well 29 was yet another in ruins, but the greenery around it suggested water was not far below the surface.
Proceeding towards Well 28 we encountered a dingo by the side of the road. It appeared in very good condition, and was in no particular hurry to move on. Also saw numerous camels in the distance.
All that remained of Well 28 was a small depression and rusted out bucket.
Well 27 gave an indication of its former glory days, with its shaft still intact, water visible four metres down and collapsed metalwork above ground, much of it overgrown.
Moving towards Well 26, we came across a three vehicle convoy travelling north. We were bemused to see a soft roader Mercedes among them.
We reached Well 26, with plans to stay for the night; however the camping area was completely full. This well has been restored to its original working condition, with an operating winder for the bucket, chute and cattle trough.
It was getting late but we had to move on to find an overnight camping area. As dusk approached we were fortunate to find an almost perfect location, complete with shade trees, adequate firewood and a friendly dingo roaming the outskirts.
DAY 11 – Saturday, 13 July
We were making good progress, so all were happy to have a lay day in the pleasant camping ground we had found. Most of us took an extended walk around some “lakes” next to our camp. These were normally dry claypans, but were now inundated after recent rain.
DAY 12 – Sunday, 14 July
An 8.15 am start. We skirted the claypans to Well 25 only just over one km from our camp. Little of the well remained but much of the dilapidated metalwork was in evidence.
On the way to Well 24 we stopped to examine another interesting geological formation, a layered, friable siltstone of various colours.
Well 24 was just a depression, filled with water after recent rain, covered with a blue-green algal bloom with some scattered metalwork.
There was little evidence left of Well 23 apart from some metal trough.
Further down the track was Georgia Bore, installed by CRA some 25 years ago to supply exploration teams working in the vicinity. On vacating the area, the bore was equipped with a hand pump for use by the passing public. As with the bore at Well 33, there is a greatly reduced likelihood of pollution, so we took the opportunity to replenish our supplies.
As we headed towards Well 22 we came upon yet another burnt out vehicle, this time a Prado.
Well 22 was also in ruins, with its shaft collapsed as was Well 21.
As we proceeded towards Well 20 we came across a South African lady heading south, doing her fourth trip along the CSR, this time on foot. We agreed to meet up with her again at a campsite a couple kilometres further along. It turned out to be a very attractive location, overlooking the very extensive Lake Disappointment. We had an extremely pleasant evening around the campfire, mostly listening to Gaynor’s experiences on the CSR. She told us she had never seen the vegetation so lush and so many flowers.
DAY 13 – Monday, 15 July
An early morning walk on Lake Disappointment and then after sharing some special treats for breakfast, courtesy of the two senior members of the group, we set off at 10.30 am for Well 20, which is 10 km off the main track. Apparently this well was in good condition until 20 years ago, when it was destroyed in a bushfire. Only a depression and a length of trough remain.
We moved back on the main track, then took a diversion to the shores of Lake Disappointment to have lunch with a panoramic view of the lake. On the way to Well 19, we came across Savoury Creek, one of the watercourses flowing into Lake Disappointment. The track ran along the creek for several kilometres to a point shallow enough for us to cross.
After some difficulty we found Well 19, yet another well past its glory days. We buried some water for Gaynor and moved on until we found a place to camp for the night. Near our campsite was another burnt out vehicle, a Pajero.
DAY 14 – Tuesday, 16 July
We were on the road by 8.30 am and soon reached Well 18. This well has been restored, with water visible about 4 metres down, although there is little left of the above ground metalwork.
As we moved on, we came to yet another victim of the CSR, a camper trailer.
We then took a detour to have a look at Diebel Hills and spring. On the way we saw a promising cliff face which we explored for signs of artwork, without any luck. The track was extremely rocky in places. It terminated with cliff walls on both sides and a challenging gully in front of us. Forward scouts were dispatched and returned after half an hour, reporting finding neither a spring nor any artwork.
Back on the track we came across a temporarily abandoned forward drive 4WD van. A note on the windscreen was dated 11 days ago and pleaded with the passing travellers not to souvenir anything from it as the owner would be returning. So far this appeared to have been respected. The engine cover inside the cab was removed, indicating a mechanical fault with the motor.
Well 17 was a short detour off the track, along a very rocky access. Rather than a well, it was a rock pool, located in an extremely picturesque gorge, with lovely white gums. A small section of trough indicated its past history. Further along the gorge was reputed to be an area sacred to the local Aborigines, which we respected by not proceeding any further.
Another side track adjacent to the Well 17 access took us to Durba Springs, where waiting to welcome us was our wandering webmaster, Michael Gilbert. Durba Springs is an idyllic location, a shallow gorge with white gums for shade, a carpet of native couch grass and a spring fed creek along one face of the gorge. The setting was so peaceful we decided to rest up and spend three nights there; along with about 30 other vehicles.
DAY 15 – Wednesday, 17 July
Most took the opportunity to have a sleep-in before a two hour Michael Gilbert conducted tour to view some Aboriginal rock art.
The rest of the day was spent re-organising equipment and resting, except for Bob and Bridget, who disappeared and were next seen waving wildly from the top of one of the gorge walls.
DAY 16 – Thursday, 18 July
Once again a later start to the day. Another conducted tour by Michael Gilbert, this time a circle route to the west end of the gorge, along the top of the southern wall and return to camp from the east to view some spectacular rock formations and more Aboriginal rock art.
As a special treat, camp ovens were brought out to make some fresh dampers and bread.
Towards evening Gaynor, the track walker appeared and spent some time with us around the camp fire.
DAY 17 – Friday, 19 July
As we were about to decamp, rangers appeared to check our permits. All was in order.
On the way to Well 16 we stopped at Canning’s Cairn, located on a range of hills and 62 metres above the plateau. It was mountain goat country and John King sat this one out with the excuse he had bought his walking staff but forgotten his ropes, pitons and grappling hooks. From Canning’s Cairn there was a stunning view of the surrounding countryside.
We passed a, presumably temporarily abandoned, trailer and came to Well 16. The top two metres of the shaft had disappeared, but the remainder appeared in sound condition and water was visible three metres down. The surface works were in disrepair, but still basically in place.
Alongside the track as we travelled towards Well 15 we came across “Rankin’s Trolley”. In 1974 a Kiwi, Murray Rankin and a mate attempted to walk the CSR with lightweight carts to carry their equipment. The carts proved inadequate for the task, with sand destroying the wheel bearings and the attempt had to be abandoned. Rankin did succeed, with support, a couple of years later.
Well 15 has been restored, but the following two wells, Well 14 and Well 13 were just collapsed holes. The next well, Well 12, has been fully restored, including the cattle trough.
Again we were reminded of the harshness of the environment when we came across a wrecked camper trailer and burnt out Land Rover between Wells 14 and 12. The importance of monitoring the CB radio was reinforced when Pat almost had a head on collision with a north bound vehicle, which although CB equipped, was not paying attention to it.
We camped past Well 12.
DAY 18 – Saturday, 20 July
Left our overnight campsite at 9.00 am for Well 11, a short drive of five km. The well is located on the shores of Lake White and apparently only ever produced water of marginal quality. The shaft was intact, with water about two metres down. Surface works were just a reminder of what was there in the past.
The next well, Well 10, had a deep shaft which was intact, but the surface works had disappeared.
As we moved to Well 9, we were getting into station country. While the original surface works for this well had gone, the shaft was still intact. Nearby were some stockyards, with a windmill equipped bore and storage tank.
Also adjacent to this well are the remains of a stone fort, built by the John and Alexander Forrest exploration party in 1874, when they were being harassed by the local Aborigines.
The shaft of Well 8 was in good condition, but although the trough frames were still standing, the metal trough had disappeared. Well 7 was in similar condition, with the upper part of the shaft starting to deteriorate and water a long way down.
We had heard that there was a good camping ground at Well 6 and this proved to be the case, with a fully restored well and trough set in a grove of white eucalypts. We were entertained by a large flock of pink and greys, which descended on the trough for an evening drink.
DAY 19 – Sunday, 21 July.
We decamped at 10.00 am heading towards Well 5. There was a slight delay while John Jr was extricated from a disguised, deep ravine after choosing the wrong alternative of two tracks.
Well 5 was a very deep well which had been restored by one of the groups of enthusiasts who have made it their business to keep the CSR “alive”.
Well 4 is no longer accessible, but we moved on to the Well 4B, made a diversion to Windich Springs, then onto Well 4A. Both of these wells were constructed in 1929 and both are in ruins, although much of the trough remains. Windich Springs was named by John Forrest after an Aboriginal member of his party, whom he had deep respect for. It is a picturesque, extensive, tree lined, elongated body of water, although Canning had reservations as to whether it would remain a viable watering place in times of extreme drought.
We set up camp in an open area, equipped with fireplaces and a toilet, close to Well 3. It was an unfortunate choice, as the ground was covered in a variety of bindii about the size of a double gee, a real hazard for those in the group sleeping on the ground on air mattresses.
DAY 20 – Monday, 22 July.
Left camp at 8.30 am for the very short drive to Well 3. This well was restored by the Foothills 4WD Club in 1998 along with the metal trough and a fly pole and pulley.
En route to the next well we came across two cyclists heading north. Both were Canadian and seemed well equipped for the journey, with heavy duty bicycles.
Next came Well 2A, appropriately known as “The Granites”, because it is a hole blasted out of the rocky countryside. Collapsed corrugated sheeting indicated that originally the rockhole had been covered to minimise evaporation.
Well 2 was still serviceable, with a windmill mounted on it, which delivers to an adjacent tank.
As we travelled towards the southern end of the CSR, we were encountering long sections of very rocky track. There were also many washaways as a, result of the heavy rains in the area in recent times.
Well 1A, or North Pool, is a picturesque, natural, extensive body of water. It is about 20 km from Wiluna and these days is used as a picnic and swimming spot by the locals. It the past the adjacent commonage was used as an assembly point for the cattle herds, before being taken further south.
Well 1 was in a nice setting, surrounded by mulga. The shaft was still intact, but a windmill mounted over it and adjacent tanks were dilapidated and no longer in operation.
For our last night on the CSR, we camped close to Well 1. Vegetation caught up on the tree trunks indicated that the overland flow during the recent rain had been about 300 mm deep.
DAY 21 – Tuesday, 23 July.
We decamped at 8.30 am and moved into Wiluna. Pat declared that reaching Wiluna officially ended the trip and set off for home. The remainder of us decided to take a more leisurely approach to returning suburbia.
WILUNA TO PERTH
We had a quick look around Wiluna. Once again a country town which seems to have improved as the population declined.
Our chosen route to Perth was via Sandstone. This gave us the opportunity to visit the Lake Mason Homestead, which the Club was involved with some years ago as a restoration project.
The Kings had promised us that the road from Wiluna through to the Great Northern Highway at Paynes Find via Sandstone, although unsealed, was in good condition. This proved to be the case. It seemed a lot of Royalties for Regions money is spent on maintaining it, but we saw very little traffic on it to justify such expenditure.
Sandstone is a shadow of its glory days, with its permanent population being either 50 or 90, depending on whom you talk to. Once again a very neat town. We booked into the caravan park, which can only be described as excellent. The town museum was officially closed for the day, but it didn’t take any persuasion at the Shire Office for someone to open it for us allowing us to spend some time looking at exhibits from former days. The town is existing solely on tourism, as the one operating mine recently closed and outlying pastoral stations go elsewhere with their business.
In the evening, we all went to the one remaining pub in the town for a meal as a ‘formal’ celebration of our completion of the CSR.
Next morning we did a quick tour of the Sandstone Heritage Trail, taking in the old brewery site, an abandoned mine, the disused state battery and “London Bridge”, before heading home.
Our adventure down the CSR was over, but the memories will live on.