Jacko’s August Travels North

Our trip north was a dash to Narrandera for night 1…turned out to be
0c in the morning though. Then a long drive to Bourke and it was 1c the
following morning. Then we went on a bush road to Hungerford just over
the Qld border for some much better weather of mid 20s daytime, and cool
single figures overnight, so we stayed 2 nights at th CP….$11 per
night for power and full bathroom facilities….fantastic, but the pub
meal in the town of 9 permanents was superb. Currawinya NP was nearby,
so we explored the past of this vast sheep station, now NP

Shearing stands at the old wool shed -Currawinya Station

More bush road to Thargomindah for a snoop, then on to Quilpie on
another dirt track to camp on the banks of the Bulloo River. Nothing
better than a freedom camp with big camp fires for 2 nights. We had been
to Quilpie before, but didn’t see the Amy Johnson tribute, so nailed it
this time. An amazing adventure for a young British aviator in the
1930’s trying to beat a Bert Hinkler record crossing to Australia.

We have spent another 300km on a dirt bush road today from Quilpie to
Blackall where we will stay 2 nights…to do some washing and re-stock.
This “Channel Country” in Qld is amazing and challenging, for its
remoteness, flatness….hence the channels when it rains, and for its
harsh dry climate.

Here is photo of Blackall’s version of the Black Stump….this one
a survey peg from the 1860’s, but since blackened. All black stumps have
the common thread of marking the edge of nowhere!

Blackall’s black stump

Also some pics of the partially resurrected plant, funded by a
$100,000grant from PM Hawke, and massive vollunteer input from the local
community. The buildings have been recovered from desolation, and much
of the working plant stripped and overhauled to safe working order. The
plant was the only scouring plant for hundreds of kms, and sheep would
be herded for shearing and scouring from surrounding farms. Water at 58c
from the Great Artesian Basin (capacity…170,000 Sydney Harbours!!) was
heated and maintained at 60c for scouring, and the entire plant,
including workshop, and amenities, was run by steam from 2 boilers, and
the giant flywheel….returned to working order today. It is all started
up (now small diesel steam engine) to show the plant in running order
for every guided tour….every hour! They even have a dozen or so
merinos on hand to show what they would have looked like.

With the advent of synthetic fabric and subsequent demise of the wool
industry, hastened by the uncontrollable menace of wild dogs, there are
NO SHEEP in western Qld any more, now turned over to cattle. The
Blackall Woolscour Plant closed in 1978, and the town virtually
deserted. It is now making a steady comeback.

Nice town, with obvious civic pride and certainly RV Friendly

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…and so …. The Journey Begins


19th May 2017 – Barry and Denise, pictured with friends Val and David, taking the first step in their epic adventure to challenge the legendary Canning Stock Route.

From all the blokes at OM:NI DC – wishing you a safe, interesting and fulfilling journey  ……..

**The road goes ever on and on
                     Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can.
Pursuing it with eager feet,
        Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet,
            And, whither then? I cannot say.

**J.R.R.Tolkien – (Lord of the Rings) circa 1954

Saturday 3rd June 2017
Wiluna, Western Australia – the gateway to the Canning Stock Route and Well No.1

Canning Stock Route

GEM OF WISDOM: THE CANNING STOCK ROUTE

 

  1. WHY

Alexander Forest’s 1879 expedition to the Kimberley  discovered vast tracts of excellent pastoral land. The West Kimberley was settled from access to the west. The East Kimberley was settled from Queensland and NSW, with herds of different cattle in the thousands coming from the east coast. Shipping to Perth from Wyndham was expanded to meet the needs of a 5-fold population explosion in WA from 29000 in 1880 to 161500 by 1901, created by “Gold Fever” from Halls Creek to Kalgoorlie.

By the early 1900’s, movement of cattle from east Kimberley and NT to Wyndham was banned due to an outbreak of cattle tick, so the cattlemen were facing ruin unless they could market some cattle in WA. Several cross country routes to ports south of the tick exclusion zone were tried without much success. Finally, under pressure from the cattlemen, a Government expedition across four deserts was agreed to. These are Little Sandy Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert, and Tanami desert.

 

  1. WHO

Alfred Canning, an inspecting surveyor with the WA Department of Lands was chosen to lead an expedition into the feasibility of a stock route from Halls Creek to Wiluna. He was the obvious and ideal choice as he had recently led the successful 4 year survey of the 1900km long rabbit proof fence from Esperance to Cape Keraudren.

He assembled a team of 8 men – 2 drilling/ boring experts, 2 camelmen, himself as leader, Hugh Trotman as his trusted assistant, a general hand, and a cook. To carry the provisions, equipment, water drums, boring plant etc, he determined he would need 22 camels and equipment for them, and 2 horses with saddles. All up including salaries for the men…..Pounds 3495!

Rations per man per week were 10lb flour, 10lb meat, 2lb sugar, 1/4 lb tea. It was anticipated killing wild animals would provide some supplement.

 

  1. WHEN

Canning and his crew left Wiluna on May 29, 1906, with the charter to survey and document a stock route to Billuna, some 1860km north east on the Tanami Desert track – SHOW ON MAP. The remaining 190 km to Hall’s Creek was already established. The track had to be capable of supplying sufficient feed and water to support a herd of 800 cattle. Water supplies were deemed to be necessary ideally no more than 30km apart, the distance it was expected cattle could travel daily. The route had to avoid “poison bush”

They arrived in Hall’s Creek on October 29. He blazed 31 trees on the upward and return journey, marking significant features for the future. He ascertained that 51 wells would need to be sunk to supplement several permanent water soaks. Later this became 54 wells. He used aboriginals he “conscripted” on the way to help find promising water sources, but never took them beyond their “traditional lands”. Surveying a satisfactory route was made more difficult by the need to find satisfactory feed as well as water. Some 1000 substantial sand dunes to cross was also a factor in route selection. The party met some resistance from local aboriginal tribes and his most trusted borer, Michael Tobin was killed (speared) in one altercation.

The party stayed on Flora Valley Station south of Hall’s Creek to let the Summer/ Wet season pass, and set off, re-supplied, on the return journey on Feb 18, 1907. This time, they herded 20 wether goats for fresh meat, and this proved most successful. They mainly returned via the same track they had created, but the wet season had transformed the parched desert into luxuriant grass and herbage. Route changes were made where summer water courses had changed the navigable landscape. More experimental bores were sunk to ensure all 51 wells were identified, surveyed, marked and logged. Again the local aboriginals were very useful in identifying existing and possible new water sources.

The party reached Wiluna on July 1, 1907.

In his comprehensive report soon after, Canning concluded the mission a success, and detailed plans showing a compass traverse of the route and well co-ordinates.

He concluded in typical Canning style – “I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, A W Canning.

 

  1. THEN WHAT – 1908

Canning had returned in triumph to wide praise and adulation from the Premier, all members of Parliament, the Civil Service, and the public.

All but Edward Blake, the cook on the expedition, who was concerned about what he perceived to be ill treatment of aborigines. He pursued the issue with high ranking Civil Servants, relevant Members of Parliament, and a broad based attack in the press.

Eventually, on Nov 15, the Minister for Lands asked for Canning’s comments. Canning responded that the claims were “nonsense”, and because Blake “had little experience with natives”, his perceptions of certain events were wrong. There had been no mistreatment of person or property.

However, Blake’s allegations were quickly picked up by all newspapers, and with pressure building and opinion divided, the Government instituted a “Royal Commission to inquire into the treatment of natives by the Canning Exploration Party”.

The drawn out process of charges and witnesses and cross-examination exonerated Canning and his expedition party of all charges, but the recrimination continued in the press and public domain. The Government allowed the turmoil to subside but still planned for the Canning Well construction Party to proceed.

 

 

  1. WELL CONSTRUCTION, 1908 – 1910

Canning left Wiluna on March 28, 1908 disappointed with the accusations and antagonistic towards the press for not publishing his refutations of the accusations, but determined to accomplish the project aims.

This was a massive undertaking, but with experience from the original exploration expedition, he left well prepared.

“The 73 camels bulged with gear, 23 men plodded out, and Nipper controlled a herd of 500 goats for fresh meat.” This trip, they had to carry heavy boring gear, and well construction material including bracing, windlasses, buckets, and troughing for all the wells, to enable all the cattle to be watered in good time. Routine was soon  established with the well construction team at a well site while the bulk of the party moved to the next to do preliminary work and source suitable timber for well supports and gantry, thus “leap-frogging” each other.

After 31 wells were completed, supplies were exhausted, as were the men, so on July 28, 1909, Canning reported his position and distributed his remaining material up the route before escaping to Halls Creek to rest, recuperate and prepare his return after the Summer/ wet season to complete the remaining wells.

In Feb 1910, the Construction Party set south to complete the remaining wells, with 50 bullocks and 150 goats as auxiliary food supplies. Progress was swift to complete the outstanding wells, but then hampered by damage to the earlier wells by the natives. The team finally arrived back in Wiluna on March 12, 1910, and promptly cabled The Secretary for Mines” in his inimitable style – “WORK COMPLETED – CANNING”

A substantial report followed, giving the depth to water, the storage at the well, and the flow rate at each well, together with cattle feed available at and nearby to the well. He also described the journey between each well and the terrain nearby. He estimated the droving journey with a full herd would take around 2 months.

 

  1. WHAT THEN
  • Only 8 herds were driven between 1911 and 1931, mainly due to destruction of well infrastructure by the aboriginals and lack of maintenance. There was also a fear of the natives, who killed 2 drovers on the first drive in 1911, and another geological explorer later.
  • William Snell led a “Re-construction Party” in 1929, and added 3 further wells just out from Wiluna. Snell was a bushman/ cattleman, and his work was slow and “rough”. The party returned to Wiluna well short of the planned refurbishment. During the layover period, his work was inspected and found so inept that Canning was recalled to re-do and complete the task in 1930. Spasmodic droving resumed, but limited to 600 head.
  • Major maintenance and reconstruction was done after the bombing of Darwin in WW2, as the CSR was seen as an escape route for people and cattle to the south, should the Japanese invade.
  • Last of 30 droving crossings was in 1959, by which time road transport was well established.

 

  1. WHAT NOW
  • The CSR is considered to be the most challenging and remote 4wd adventures of its type in the world
  • Around 300 vehicles attempt it each year. It is mainly over the highest level native title land (right to exclusive possession), and pastoral lease land, so several permits are required and strict protocols must be adhered to.
  • Most of the culturally significant aboriginal sites near the stock route have now been closed to public access, due to the impact of a few idiotic travellers.
  • Self-sufficiency is a must as there is no routine “recovery” available on the CSR
  • Denise and I, with close friends Val and David Edwards are leaving Melbourne on May 20, to be in Wiluna June 5 for our adventure, crossing the Canning Stock Route. We are experienced and well prepared, adventurous but not fool-hardy. We plan to take 3 weeks on the CSR, but are prepared for the unforseen, and provisioned to cope. We are excited but take on this adventure with some trepidation.

Jacko’s Journey update …. Burketown to Atherton Tablelands..

TopEnd2
The brand new wharf and pontoon at Burketown on the Albert River….said to be the best barra fishing in Australia.


Burke and wills last camp before their final, failed assault to reach the Gulf…beaten by the wet season and their lack of bush skills. We had a few tears at the campsite .3
Morning coffee on the way to Normanton from Burketown4
Termite mounds next to our morning coffee stop.5
Replica of Kris the 8.63m croc shot near Normanton when it was legal……the largest salty ever recorded.6
The Gulflander train that stills run to and from Croydon for tourists.7
Sunset on the beach opposite the CP at Karumba.8
Part of the remaining fishing prawning fleet still operating from Karumba.9
Our campsite at Karumba.10
Cobbald Gorge – some of the grateful girls with our tour guide Ron…..an amazing 3 hour tour……followed by dinner on the restaurant deck with a couple we met on the tour…..from Montrose.11
Infinity pool, pool bar, dining patio at Cobbold gorge.12
In the little 10 seater electric boats on a tour exploring this amazing gorge. A must on all bucket lists.

….to be continued…..

We made it to the top end!! Aug 8th 2016

We made it to the top end!!
Aug 8th 2016

…to be continued….

Jacko’s Journey continues…..Mount Isa onwards…

TopEnd…. just a couple of ‘hard time miners’….

1Panorama of MIM massive underground lead, copper & gold mine.
2
Our campsite on the Gregory River, the best freecamp we have ever stayed
at. We went upstream and drifted down the crystal clear waters at our
leisure, and basically did nothing for 2 days.

Canoeing the gorge in Lawn Hill NP……a close second to Karigini NP in
the Pilbara for spleandour and challenge.

5Lawn Hill Gorge at sunrise…..left camp at 6am to ford across a river
torrent in the dark up to my waste, then scramble up a nearly vertical
rock face for 300m to be there at dawn for this shot…..how good is
Lawn Hill Gorge???

6Our bush campsite at Adels Grove, the main camp to explore Lawn Hill
NP……..had a campfire every one of the 4 nights there.

7Main street and pub at Burketown on the Gulf….a lovely small town with
great civic pride.

8Burke and Wills camp 119, the last before their final 3 day attempt to
reach the Gulf…which failed due to wet season swamps and impassable
river crossings. There were 15 trees “blazed” at this camp site but only
a few remain. It was truly humbling to be at this famous site where they
had used 3/4 of their supplies, yet had the return trek to endure and
finally perish.

9….to be continued

Jacko’s Journey – The Simson and Beyond – continued……

Barry & Denise, our intrepid travelers, are on their way to cross the Simson Desert then heading further North. I’ll be adding to this post when he is able to send updates of their journey……Admin.
thumbnail_IMG_0304
15June2016    Had five great days in Mildura catching up with friends from our farming days, then two long drives to make Coober Pedy yesterday. Sadly the weather has thwarted our flights over Lake Eyre and Painted Hills and we are stuck here waiting for friends to catch up for the Simson Desert crossing hopefully starting Sunday.
CP hasn’t changed much since we were here 5years ago.

299Crossing Bloods Creek, soon after leaving Mt.Dare at the start of the Simpson Desert Crossing. It was unexpected, and the water was over the bonnet before David took this photo. The first100km or so is crossing rough plains before reaching Dalhousie Springs,
where the 1100 sand dune crossings commence.

Below – Camp at Dalhousie Springs and an 8.00am swim before leaving.


Cresting a dune. You can’t see the track ahead………….Cresting a dune. You can't see the track ahead
Nearing the crest, trying to maintain momentum with no wheel spin……..Nearing the crest, trying to maintain momentum with no wheel spin
Descending a dune………….Descending a dune
Often as hard on the way down with deep corrugations and ruts to contend
with………Often as hard on the way down with deep corrugations and ruts to contend with
Great camp in the shelter of one of these massive dunes……..Great camp in the shelter of one of these massive dunes
Sunset over a saltlake from the hill……..thumbnail_Sunset over a saltlake from the hill
Crossing a dry saltlake….and they weren’t all dry!Crossing a dry saltlake....and they weren't all dry!
Ripping through mud at the end of another saltlake crossing……..Ripping through mud at the end of another saltlake crossing
Another camp with magnificent wildflowers everywhere over the crossing.
Now a green desert………..Another camp with magnificent wildflowers everywhere over the crossing. Now a green desert.
At the bottom of the final 40m dune known as Big Red. Note the spectator
vehicles on top watching the sport………At the bottom of the final 40m dune known as Big Red. Note the spectator vehicles on top watching the sport.
Part way up, bouncing, swerving, cheering……..Part way up, bouncing, swerving, cheering.
Just before the final successful ascent…..thumbnail_Just before the final successful ascent

That’s it for the Simpson, a truly memorable experience with great
friends Val and David Edwards. We loved the challenge, the excitement,
the remoteness, the green landscape with so many wildflowers, the
camping where tales were swapped and good food and wine
consumed……..all and more than we hoped for.
B.J.

** Stay tuned for the next episode in the adventure as Barry & Denise head further north…… Admin.

Jacko’s Journey – The Simson & Beyond

Barry & Denise, our intrepid travelers, are on their way to cross the Simson Desert then heading further North. I’ll be adding to this post when he is able to send updates of their journey……Admin.

thumbnail_IMG_0304

15June2016    Had five great days in Mildura catching up with friends from our farming days, then two long drives to make Coober Pedy yesterday. Sadly the weather has thwarted our flights over Lake Eyre and Painted Hills and we are stuck here waiting for friends to catch up for the Simson Desert crossing hopefully starting Sunday.
CP hasn’t changed much since we were here 5years ago.