HOLLAND TRACK and WIDGIEMOOLTHA – NORSEMAN TELEGRAPH TRACK (Trip 554)
APRIL 27 – MAY 4 2021
Trip leader: Malcolm (Mal) Fulwood
Co trip leaders: Bob and Cathy Stuart
Steve and Sue Clark
Keith and Jo Low
Day 1 –Tuesday, April 27th
Perth to Lake Ewlyamartup
Myself, Bob, Cathy and Nick met at Yule Du Roadhouse and travelled to Arthur River where Keith and Jo joined the group.
Following the introduction of convicts in Western Australia, labour to the Swan River Colony in the early 1850s, the road from Perth to Albany was completed and a number of small settlements sprang up along it to support pastoralists who had been granted grazing leases in the area from as early as 1854. Arthur River gradually developed into a thriving centre with a police barracks and gaol (1866), the Mount Pleasant Inn (1869), St Paul’s Church (1885) still surviving to this day as remnants of the original settlement, and a post office, blacksmith, doctor and trading post also being built around that time. By the end of the century it was the major centre in the area.
The towns post office originally operated out of the inn. Mary Ann Spratt was appointed as the post mistress in 1866. The post office itself was not gazetted until 1892 which was the same year that the telegraph line was connected. The first telephone subscriber service commenced in 1913.
When the Great Southern Railway opened in 1889, much of the existing trade moved to new railway towns further east and many of the centres along the old “Coach Road” closed. (Thanks Wikipedia)
After Arthur River we visited Lake Queerarrup in the Woodanilling Shire.
Nearby was Kenmare Hall built voluntarily on donated land and used as a school from 1921-1944.
Next was Woodanilling’s Giant Salmon Gum thanks to Keith. When measured in 2006 it’s vital statistics were:
Diameter at breast height 1.55m (normally 0.8-0.9m)
Circumference at breast height 4.86m
Height 34m (normally 24-30m)
From here we travelled on back roads to Old Eticup 8km west of Broomehill.
Eticup was a thriving settlement with two stores, an inn, two blacksmiths, a church/schoolroom and resident’s houses. The settlement declined when the Great Southern Railway passed six kilometres to the east and most of the town’s businessmen transferred their various trades to Broome Hill, the siding which became a town. The settlers at Eticup included the Garritys, Krakouers, Carmodys, Tylors, Rogers’, Nelsons, Browns, Whittons and various landholders on surrounding properties.
The Eticup Memorial commemorates the little settlements’ rise and decline in the 1880’s. Located outside Mrs D Dennis’ fence on the Broomehill/ Kojonup Road, the plaque shows the location of the settlement’s stores, inn, blacksmithy and houses.
The Eticup Cemetery is a small cemetery, one of a few reminders of the small village of Eticup, 6km west of Broomehill. It is located on the eastern side of the Greenhills Road and north of the St Peter’s Church site, which is on the opposite side of the road. There are believed to be 29 graves in the Eticup Cemetery but only four bear headstones. David and Rudolf Krakouer of Broomehill who accompanied John Holland were born in Eticup.
The Daily News 30 June 1915 stated that Rudolf was the main organiser and financier of the expedition.
From Eticup we went south on Flat Rocks Road to see the Old Wadjekanup Bridge at Hayfield Reserve and then onto St. Peters Church at Pindellup.
In Broomehill we enjoyed meeting Jim and Annabel at The Jones Building built in 1911 included the General Store, Bakery, Butcher, Jone’s Emporium and an office of the Union Bank. Today it is a popular culinary destination. Taste or buy local wines (eg. Wadjekanup River Estate), learn about Broomehill’s past.
We had the obligatory group photo taken at the Holland memorial and visited the site of the Alpha Hall from where the Holland Track party were farewelled. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the Museum as our itinerary was altered due to a Covid- 19 lockdown.
We hit the “Track” at about 4:30 from the Great Southern Hwy and after 20kms deviated to Lake Ewlyamartup for our first night’s camp where Steve and Sue were waiting to join us.
Day 2 – Wednesday, 28 April
Lake Ewlyamartup to Emu Rock
Most of us rose around 6am as Malcolm wanted to get away by 8am, if possible, and we didn’t want to disappoint him. There was a lovely sunrise over Lake Ewlyamartup to inspire us, but Malcolm’s target wasn’t quite met – a few last-minute things delaying our start until just after 8:15am. Put it down to first morning rustiness!
Our route initially traversed local roads best approximating the Holland Track, before we headed east on the Katanning-Nyabing Road. Our fuel stop in Nyabing became a morning tea stop as we waited for a lady to open the small but interesting museum for us. Most of us left not only with a better knowledge of Nyabing but with a souvenir stubby holder commemorating Nyabing’s centenary in 2012 – they had over-ordered them, and our host was quite keen to see a few out the door. We were also impressed by the pub – or more correctly the Nyabing Community Hub – across the road. It was part-funded by R4R money which can’t strictly go to a pub – so the very modern double-facaded building with a function room, office spaces and accommodation just also houses a bar! Resourceful and creative.
Not far east of Nyabing we stopped for a short walk to Holland Tank which was more historically significant than impressive. Whilst brim full after recent rains the water was far from potable. A small plaque on a stone near the road had been placed for the centenary of the Holland Track in 1993 and was the first of a number of identical plaques we saw along the way during the day, and the remainder of our traverse of the Track.
By the time we stopped for lunch at Holland Rocks, north-east on Pingrup, it had actually become quite warm and brimmed hats were the go. These rocks are the home of another example of excellent stone masonry to collect runoff from the rock for water supplies. After lunch we made a short diversion to Silver Wattle Hill where there were purportedly remnant tracks from Holland’s initial endeavours. This seemed unlikely and we certainly found no evidence of them though, in the search, several of the group walked along a foot track which followed Holland’s original route and which had been walked by a group of Newdegate school children as a bicentenary event in 1988. The plaque commemorating this appeared pristine, belying the fact that many of these school children would now have their own children of a similar age to what they were then.
Among our other stops were the interesting ruins of public buildings at Lake Biddy, and Dragon Rocks, which give their name to one of the larger reserves in the Wheatbelt. Along the way, Keith invented the word ‘swiggle’ – from ‘swerve’ and ‘wiggle’ – when Malcolm’s advice to go ‘straight across’ a crossroad appeared a little inaccurate from further back in the convoy.
After skirting Lake Carmody – named after one of John Holland’s team – we were later into camp at Emu Rocks than intended, around 4:45pm, having covered just under 300km for the day. The area surrounding the rocks had been burnt by a very severe bushfire early last summer, but there was already a green swathe of regeneration returning to make the area more pleasant.
As campfires had not been allowed at Lake Ewlyamartup, we enjoyed our first campfire of the trip. There was absolutely no need to get close to the fire as it was a beautiful balmy evening, so there was plenty of room in the circle for the usual evening banter and discussion of what lay ahead.
Day 3 – Thursday, April 29th
Emu Rocks to Bush Camp
We left our overnight stop at Emu Rocks after a peaceful night’s sleep, albeit a little cold.
Earlier at Emu Rock, Cathy showed me the blasted water hole, apparently used for trapping water and used by the crew erecting the Rabbit proof fence.
Lignotuber and other long words were thrown around over the radio by people that know much more about plants than myself.
We visited Sheoak Rock and found a large surveying point with a plaque Hyd- 33 Trig Point.
We travelled through some very challenging spots and were very thankful for our recent addition of a 2” lift.
Next, we found a Mallee fowl nest and, did you know maintain their nests at 33deg?
We quickly learned that Bob needed his cuppa tea every 2 hours, he has a light that illuminates on his dash every 2 hours and MUST NOT BE IGNORED.
Just short of 50km it was time for lunch firstly with a visit to the top of Mount Holland and after being blown away we moved on to the nearby gnamma holes. These hollows were a term used by the Nyungar people to refer to the water sources in rocks. Apparently, the Nyungar people would stress the rocks by lighting fires and making these holes larger, so they could store more water.
Bob and Cathy got bogged at 73km and was snatched out by Nick (well done Nick), note to Bob – listen when told not to take the track on the right.
Steve had a fuel container on the roof of the car, which decided to leak through the breather hole and cover the roof and side of the car, so down came the container. Steve grabbed the siphon hose and with a strong pump broke the handle from the pump. Bob showed us his $9 pump, which we all thought may be used to enlarge a part of his anatomy.
Keith and Jo showed us their eco boil kettle which quickly boiled with a few sticks – brilliant; I think this would be a good raffle prize. Hint hint Marie and Peter Cole.
We arrived and turned left at the state barrier fence, which is 1170km long extending to the Zuytdorp cliffs north of Kalbarri. Initially the fence was used to prevent rabbits from moving into the state and today plays an important role in preventing large migrations of emus and wild dogs crossing, which attack livestock. Apparently, there were traps placed along the fence to trap the rabbits for dinner – yumm. Funds ran out for this fence and was never completed.
We stopped for the day at a lovely open area at 3.15pm
We all set up our camps and sat around a lovely campfire and Malcolm opened a nice bottle of Merlot which we christened our new mugs that Malcolm had given to us on the first evening from Broomehill.
Day 4-Friday, April 30th
Bush Camp to Victoria Rock
At about 445am we were woken by the sound of rain, being unsure how heavy it would get or how long it would continue it was a case of gathering up gear that was out in the open, dismantling tents and packing up just in case the rain got heavy. As it turned out the rain didn’t last long. By 745am we were mobile.
We haven’t come across much traffic on the track but today we passed one south bound vehicle and were aware of a couple of north bound ones. Being on the designated channel (28) helped us be aware of and communicate with other travellers.
The track was very dusty at times and we had some tight turns to negotiate but had less deep ruts and less mud holes than yesterday. A couple of times it seemed the bypass tracks were in worse condition than the original track.
There have been a number of fires through the area – some patches have good amount of low vegetation regrowth but in other areas no regrowth evident yet. Another day of not much wildlife: we saw a butterfly, a few lizards scurrying over the rocks, some donkey droppings and we heard a couple of distant bird calls.
We stopped at Centenary rocks then Agnes gnamma hole that contained some water but wasn’t full. On to Krakouer rocks where it was time for more exercise. We arrived at our camp at Victoria Rock at 4.20pm so we will walk the rock tomorrow. Just as we arrived at camp Nick discovered he had a stake in side wall of tyre so as well as setting up his camp he had a tyre change to do.
Cathy and Bob
Day 5-Saturday, May 1st
Victoria Rock to Cave Hill via Coolgardie.
- John Holland, the leader of the team that blazed the Holland Track in 1893, first sighted his final destination, Bayley’s Find, from the highest point of Victoria Rock.
- Saturday Morning – woke up at camp (Victoria Rock) to a balmy 5c morning – AND dew on Roof top tent was frozen.
- All walked up Victoria Rock – named after the Queen, possibly by John Holland.
Continued on with the final day of the Hollands track.
Stopped at Gnarlbine soaks.
- Explorer McPherson was saved by an Aboriginal boy who led him to water here.
- The Soaks were used by Forrest and other explorers.
- The end of the Hollands track was at the Old Pioneers cemetery iv Coolgardie – where is the grave of John Holland who died aged 80 in 1936.
- The Wardens house overlooking Coolgardie was closed.
- Eagerly awaited hot showers in Coolgardie were not to be as:
- Rec Centre only open Mon-Fri, due to Covid (must be worse at weekends)
- Caltex had showers – but hot water system was broken…
- Who needs a shower every week anyway!
- Left Coolgardie along a Woodline; one of the many old railway formations that were used to cart timber back to use in mines to use as timber or to burn in steam engines.
- Impressive stone walls constructed on Rock to fill a dam that was used to get water for steam trains on the Woodline.
- Beautiful Woodland scenery along the way.
- Spotted on old wood carting railway wagon along the way.
- Continued on Woodline formation to Caves Hill – arriving early for once, at 3pm.
- Camped on Sandy side of hill; some walked up over Cave Hill to view caves the other side.
- Fine sunny weather all day; despite Bob repeated saying there was something ominous over his left shoulder.
Thanks for great trip.
Day 6-Sunday, May 2nd
Cave Hill to Bush camp on the Telegraph Track
We woke to a beautiful sunrise and Keith cursing…no gas left. We think it was just an excuse to have morning fires to warm us up, after a few cold nights. The quiet sun arrested the sky but there was very little birdsong to accompany it.
First stop was a visit to the other face of Cave Hill and the wave.
The Cave was well set up with protective walkway and to the right the rock wall had amazing tiger patterns with the water flow wore orange and black stripes. Only a few flowers were still in evidence, bright and eye catching, not difficult for our eagle eye Cathy to spot.
Keith checked out the wave feature, which seems to be a regular element of erosion on these rocks.
Our next stop was Sunday Soak with a huge amount of rusting debris leaving us guessing its history. There were also 2 graves of unfortunate gold diggers who ran out of water within close proximity of supply. How often do we hear this? A number of suspicious extras to the tale left us wondering about the real story, with two others of the group surviving to claim money on the sale of a lucrative gold mine.
Then, off to Wanaway Well situated on a puzzling corner turn. It was a huge wooden well structure into which we deposited a few rocks to test the depth in the darkness (so not quite so deep now). A nearby more modern concrete trough catered for stock, but had not been used for a while.
After some confusion with tracks, we headed to the “metropolis” of Widgiemooltha stopping at the garage/tavern for our lunch and connection to families, but also gaining some history from a local booklet. Widgiemooltha was a mining town,(gold and nickel) whose claim of fame was the Golden Eagle nugget. The locals also harvested salt from Lake Lefroy nearby.
From here was the start of our Telegraph Track adventure.
The entrance of the track began with a huge washout. Everyone made it with care, Sue and Steve even boasting that they had forgotten to change gear and did it in 2-wheel drive.
An unused mine was first stop, then the start of many telegraph leftovers, metal poles and cross pieces with and porcelain insulators. Although the going was slow and clearing constant from a relatively recent fire, we followed yellow and blue ribbons of an organised motor bike scramble through some beautiful bushland of Gimlet aglow in the sunshine and ribbonbark Eucalypts.
The rest of the day was negotiating and clearing the track until about 4, when we settled into camp and fire and a beautiful evening in good company.
Day 7 – Monday, May 3rd
Bush camp To Banks Rock on the Telegraph Track
It was an early morning rise with billys boiling and breakfast cooking on an open campfire.
At 8am sharp we left the bush campsite with a nice slow drive along the Telegraph track.
The track was getting much more challenging, which included tree pruning every 5 mins now. Malcolm was using his handy battery chainsaw and then a larger petrol chainsaw was needed as the track got much worse. Climbing over rocks, Up and down large washaways, around tree mazes and through extremely scratchy trees and bushes which left large pinstripes down the sides all our vehicles. We travelled approx 30km in 4 hours.
We came upon a particularly difficult area and Malcolm called over the radio for help from everyone and bring the chainsaw. We set about clearing the track of trees and brush whilst Malcolm walked ahead with Bob and eventually, we heard the shout “STOP”, the track ahead was impassable. We had travelled around 90 per cent of the telegraph track and gotten within a few kms of the road to Dundas.
There was no option, other than to turn around and travel back approx 5km along the difficult track to find the Old Hyden Norseman Road. We turned left onto the road and travelled west and the decision was made to try and make Banks Rock campsite.
We arrived weary after our 2-hour journey at 5pm down a good track to this lovely and unusual rock that looked like a wave breaking, but it had been a very hard day.
We set up camp and built a large campfire and retired to bed around 9pm with a lot more knowledge learned through the day about 4-wheel driving.
135km was travelled today and rain had been forecast for tomorrow.
Day 8 – May the 4th, be with you.
Banks Rock to Hyden and beyond
We woke just before 6am to light rain on our campsite. We quickly packed up camp, had our breakfast then we went for a walk around Banks Rock, what a beautiful sight it was to see waterfalls falling down the rock.
A decision was made early to head the 200km to Hyden to have morning tea at the bakery.
Afterwards when the rain became heavier, we all decided to head home along the Hyden Norseman Road, (which is a large improvement on the old road) although still gravel road.
We stopped for Bobs mandatory tea break at Forrestania Plots 1960-1967, there was a tin shed being occupied by a family in a trailer tent. The Shed was marked Forrestania pub but was infact Tom McDowell residence. Tom was the driving force behind the Forrestania Plots Project. Apparently, this area was a grand scheme by the West Australian Govt to establish 3500 farms of 250 acres, to be settled by Australian and English Migrant families, with financial assistance by the British Govt to grow crops. During the great depression of the 1929-30 the whole scheme was abandoned. By 1958 interest in suitable new farming land was once again growing and ways were found to make this acid type soil productive. Rottnest Island pines were planted and are still visible. 1961 to 1967 various cropping trials were planted every year. An election bought a new state govt which decreed that agriculture would cease. The land is now destined to return to its natural state.
We headed to the Hyden Bakery and had our last cuppa together and we all made our separate ways home.
We would like to sincerely thank Malcolm Fulwood and Bob Stuart for making this trip happen. We had a great bunch of people. We learned a lot from each other and this will be a trip to remember.
Outtakes and bloopers;
- Bob – 50/50% chance of rain from the left, this man that MUST take a tea break every 2 hours. Bob also got the only snatch of the trip for getting stuck in a large hole. Apparently, no photo (sadly)
- Keith and Jo – remember to check your gas bottles often because as they become empty and need refilling.
- Malcolm – Don’t forget to put the aerial up on the satellite phone.
- Nick – is such a wanderer that he needs to plot his path on a gps, so he knows where to return to. He also got the only puncture of the trip.
- Sue must learn to read correctly – the Mallee fowls tongue isn’t a constant 33deg it’s the nest. Steve maybe put the fuel canister upright to avoid it leaking, down the side of the car.
210km to Hyden