Not many people in the camp ground at Mt Augustus Station, around 12 camps. Saw some photographs of the 2006 floods, the whole camping area was under a metre of water and yet this country is flat for as far as the eye can see. The amount of water involved is mind boggling!
Left Mount Augustus Tuesday for Meekatharra. All the roads into Mount Augustus are dirt, some better than others. We took a direct route to Meekatharra which involved lesser used roads and tracks that are normally only used by station workers and miners. About 30 kilometres out Bob had a tyre failure on his camper. By the time he realised what had happened the tyre was shredded. We got extremely dirty changing the tyre in the red bull dust. Then about another 50 kilometres I had a tyre failure on the caravan and once again shredded the tyre. It is very difficult to detect a puncture on a towed vehicle specially when travelling in loose dirt and sand as the vehicle is constantly pulling from side to side. We don’t know if we both had simple punctures that we didn’t detect and therefore ruined the tyre or that we had slashed sidewalls.
The slashed sidewalls is a definite possibility as we where traversing washed out river crossings with lots of rocks in the bottom, including some fairly sharp quartz. We got even filthier changing my tyre!
The country we are passing through is magnificent and ever changing. It is known as rangelands and is typified by coarse grasslands and stunted Acacia Trees. Occasionally there are large areas of gibber stones. Whilst the country is usually flat for as far as you can see there are often mountain ranges in the distance. The wildflowers are starting to come out but we are a bit early for the really spectacular show. We are also east of the main wildflower area and what we are seeing are mainly desert wildflowers.
We ran into several thick patches of grasshoppers and it was necessary to put the windows up to keep them out. These patches didn’t last long, maybe only several hundred metres but the road was literally alive with them.
Tuesday night we made camp just off the road about a hundred kilometres NW of Meekatharra. Easy to camp, just pick a likely spot and pull off. No problem with firewood either as there is a lot of dead gidgee wood available. Gidgee is terrific for cooking on as it burns very hot and makes terrific coals. In spite of the somewhat expensive outcome of destroying two tyres we all agreed that the days run was really good with the tracks being in mostly good condition and the scenery of ever changing country spectacular. It is much more enjoyable and relaxing driving on “a road less travelled” than the bitumen highway.
Wednesday morning dawned misty with the sun struggling to show through. We made Meekatharra, or Meeka as the locals call it, by late morning. Booked into the caravan park for one night. This would have to be one of the worst parks I have been in but we had a few things to do in town so needed to stay one night. It was then off to the local tyre guy to see what he had. Luckily he had a replacement for both Bob’s trailer and our van. So despite Vicki insisting I put clean clothes on this morning, after handling the tyre a bit and bolting it to the back of the van I was as filthy as before I changed. Mind you we are all pretty dirty anyway. The car is covered both inside and out with a layer of fine red dust, it gets over and into everything. The van is not too bad inside but knock against it outside and you risk getting a shower of bulldust.
Meeka is not a pretty town but it is relatively clean with not the usual litter you see in some towns. It sits at the intersection of several roads and road trains constantly come through town, in fact I have never seen so many road trains before. As well as supporting the outlying pastoralists there are many mines, mainly gold in the vicinity. There are the usual services and an adequate supermarket. Vicki’s birthday is in a couple of days and I’m not sure I am going to be able to find a suitable present in town.
The computer has been working overtime this afternoon. I obtained our permits (four in total) for the Gunbarrel, both Western Australian and Northern Territory. These are, in most cases including ours self issue in that you fill out an online form and your permit is immediately emailed to you. We then used Skype to calls Mums and other family members. At only three cents per minute landline call to anywhere in Australia this is cheap calling. Unfortunately calls to mobiles are still expensive. I then did some blogging, paid the credit card and answered a couple of emails. Wouldn’t travel without a laptop and NextG modem these days.
We will head off tomorrow for Wiluna where, as a condition of our permit, we have to report into the police station. We also have to report into the police station at Uluru after completion of the traverse. Of course if the police advise of unfavourable road conditions we will not proceed but otherwise it is then along the Gunbarrel to Carnegie Station to take on fuel. We have allowed up to fourteen days from Meeka to Uluru as we know some days will be slow going, maybe only 30 or 40 kilometres for the day, lots of big corrugations and washaways. I think there may be NextG coverage at Warburton and if there is I will post a quick blog. Will be reporting into VKS737 via HF radio most days so they will have a log of our progress.
Meekatharra, Wednesday 3 August 2011