Dampier to Millstream

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July 26th 2014
Published: July 26th 2014
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First of all I must tell you about the Sherlock River. On our way into Karratha and Dampier we crossed over the Sherlock River bridge. There was water on both sides as far as the eye could see and masses of black swans swimming about. Of course we were moving too fast, there was nowhere to pull over and we had a prime mover with three trailers up our rear. Missed that photo opportunity.

Also our friend Sheryl wanted us to steal the Red Dog statue for her partner Shane so he could have it in his lounge room. We decided it was a bit risky and would increase fuel consumption too much.

First thing on Sunday morning in Karratha we headed off to Harvey Norman’s looking for a digital SLR camera, they were having a big brand sale. The camera we have been using is a Panasonic Lumix GMan gave me for my birthday about 5 years ago. It has been a great workhorse but as I am trying to get better photos of flowers and birds we really need better equipment. Also every now and then the screen blacks out in the top right hand corner then suddenly clears. If you take a photo with the black screen it shows in the photos, some problems methinks. He decided to give me another camera for my upcoming birthday.

We found the display cabinet and selected the two possible models one a Canon and the other a Nikon. We had quite specific requirements – two lens deal, movie and stills and if possible panorama capability. We eventually managed to get some assistance and after lots of explanations and playing with cameras we selected the Nikon at $1099. I then asked what kind of deal the assistant would give me if I purchased a two lens pack AND a single lens pack at $799. We ended up coming away with the two cameras, three lenses, two 16 gig SD memory cards and three year extended warranty’s on both cameras for $1949 instead of $2448. So GMan got his birthday present early as well. The only thing we missed out on was the panorama. We will try out our tablet and see how that goes. Gill’s i-phone does very good panoramas.

Needless to say the rest of the day was spent charging cameras and reading how to operate them, then rushing outside to try them out.

Monday morning it was raining and we headed off north again and went into Cossack. This is an old port which was heavily used up until the 1930’s and eventually died completely. When Chris first visited in the 1970’s it was still derelict, but when we were here in 1990 some of the buildings had been restored and we were able to access them. Today not much more restoration has happened, in fact some of them have gone backwards and you can only access the old gaol with its information display and part of the old customs house. The rest are all closed off and are used as B&B’s etc.

We wandered about with our new best possessions around our necks and discovered just what wonderful photos they can take.

Next we headed to the Millstream Chichester National Park and took the most northerly entrance through Warambie and Pyramid Stations. We did this deliberately because this is the route we took in 1990 and the scenery impressed us so much it was still vivid in our minds.

Pyramid Station grows the best Spinifex grass we have ever seen. Each individual clump is large but when they join together and make circles they can be 8-10 feet wide, really impressive.

Immediately the landscape grabbed us in again. At first the Spinifex plain with views of the hills in the distance followed by the hills and began to travel up the road which has been engineered along the top of the Chichester Range, it was as we remembered – magnificent. No photo does it credit, but we did try and have added a few photo’s here.

As we headed up the hills I asked Graham if he remembered the trouble with had with the original Brutus when we were travelling through this landscape in 1990. He certainly didn’t so I reminded him about how he used to boil and we would stop to let it cool down before going on again. After the third time we removed the thermostat and ran the vehicle for the rest of the time we owned it without a thermostat. He is still running about in Kalgoorlie Boulder, whether he has a thermostat or not we do not know. He is now 34 years old.

We were anxious to get to Python Pool where we had camped in 1990. The access road had changed and the road was unfamiliar. As we were trailing Trevor the Tracker we decided to find an authorised campsite and come back another day. The one really close by, Snake Creek was closed (thank heavens Chris would never have slept) so we had to move another 69 kms to the only one which is now operating Miliyanha near the original Millstream Homestead. For the first time on this trip the toilets are less than reasonable. We have set up our boggy tent and have our porta pottie for our personal use. The camp kitchen here is excellent here though and it is a generator friendly site.

On the way we stopped and photographed fabulous Stuart Desert peas, always a beautiful sight.

As we were paying our camping fees we asked about Crossing Pool which we noticed is completely closed and out of bounds. This is the pool which everyone recognises as “Millstream” palms, ferns, paperbarks etc. When Chris first visited it in the 1970’s it was lush with paperbarks, palms, water lilies, ferns and bubbling streams. Judy and I were discussing this site on the phone recently and she mentioned that it was compromised because they were taking too much water for the surrounding towns, I also remember those stories on the news. The Camp host explained that this was incorrect. The river which feeds this waterway altered course after one particular storm about 12 years ago and despite trying to reroute water to Crossing Pool the area has deteriorated to such an extent it is now unsafe because of falling limbs. DPaW has realised they cannot change things and have accepted they need to let nature take its own course. Sad really as it was truly beautiful.

That night we sat outside with our sat phone and ate dinner. Wrong, the mosquitoes were the size of B52 bombers. Before we head out this evening we will ensure we are covered as much as possible and the rest is saturated with anti mozzie spray.

On Tuesday morning we headed off and did the Homestead walk. First we visited the original homestead where information displays are unattended but interesting next to the original kitchen. Chris just drooled over the Metters no 6 cooker and if possible wanted it taken home. It was a beauty. Much better to carry in the caravan than a brass dog statue.

We then headed off into the stand of trees next to the homestead site. As we neared the first of the trees Chris glanced to her left and did a double take. Right there were about 5 green bird flower shrubs she had been searching for since we got above the 26th parallel. Much excitement. Next bush to be tracked is the white dragon tree.

Once into the trees (river gums) we came across a small stream and photographed some new wildflowers before heading off. Then we became aware of the sound of fast running water and soon stepped into a wonderland of small streams with little waterfalls, ferns, huge paperbark trees, palms, native grasses, flowers and birdlife (very fast as usual). Everywhere we turned there were more beautiful things to look at and photograph. It was just like Crossing Pool used to be.

GMan used the telephoto lens and managed a photograph of a butterfly which we will send to Alan Graham for identification and have included here to prove how good the new cameras are.

We wandered a little further and came across a very large pool with water lilies. We sat on one of the benches adjoining and just enjoyed the view. Eventually we sauntered further down the trail over more streams and noticed that a lot of work is being done to remove the date palms. The date palms were planted many years ago and have been overtaking the natural vegetation DPaW want to remove them so that the native shrubs as well as the native palms survive. The birds are of Olympic racing standard and the only recognisable ones we have seen are crows, Pt Lincoln parrots and a grey cookoo shrike.

The track we were on lead back to the camping ground. Once there we read as usual before making a fabulous Thai green chicken curry for dinner, donning concealing clothing and applying all manner of personal pest control stuff. We lit Mt Romance Mozzie sticks and went out to eat and turn on the sat phone. All these preparations must have really frightened the mozzies because not one appeared.

As we sat there a large flock of little corellas landed in the grass next to us to feed on the grass seed. Neither of us had a camera. Chris eventually got slowly up and got the Lumix (closest to hand) and managed a great photo of two sitting on a branch.

Next morning we were up early and headed off to the Cliff Top lookout. We had no idea what we were to look at. When we ventured near the cliff edge we discovered we were looking down onto the Fortescue River. It is full of water with beautiful paperbarks, river gums and lots of native species right down to the water’s edge. Of course our photos were limited because we were looking into the morning sun.

Next we headed to Deep Reach. We camped there in 1990 and it is now a designated day use only sight. First thing we saw when we got there was a camper trailer with a couple of grey nomads who had stayed overnight. Philistines. The whole area is set up for picnicking and swimming with well constructed walkways etc. It is for the best as the area will be preserved for the future rather than being degraded by camping too close to the water’s edge as we did in the past which was the accepted practice then.

Then we headed towards Python Pool. On the way back we were stopped for an ore train again. Same thing happened on Monday. There were lots of workers around the crossing. I asked one why there were workers there as this was the third time it had happened to us and was told that they are setting up for auto haul – no drivers. Putting in cameras and controls. I remarked “Oh my brother will get the sack then” and when asked I said he worked out of Newman and yes this is his line. Hang in there bro, sounds like there might be a redundancy coming up.

Python Pool was lovely as remembered, but even with the new cameras we could not capture the whole of the pool in one photo and definitely not the height of the cliff face behind it.

Back to the main part of Millstream and we turned up Snappy Gum Road which goes up the west side of the Fortescue and crosses it then back to the homestead and camp site. There were all sorts of dire warnings about the state of the road and you needed a 4 wheel drive. Nonsense, a couple of slight bumps was all. When we got close to the river itself we got out and walked through the bush to the bank. First thing we saw was a single black swan. Snap. He obviously got lost on his way to the muster at Sherlock River to the north.

When we got close to Crossing Pool area we began to see the dead trees in the area which is all sealed off. However we also noticed the large amount of regeneration happening further westwards which must be where the river has diverted.

Further on we came across a Britz camper van which stopped to let us through. We got to the River Crossing and went through and decided to go back to get photos and to see where the camper had gotten too, they disappeared. Back we went and found they had alighted and were examining the crossing and admiring all the water gushing over the floodway and my it was moving. More photos then back to the camp site.

We are leaving here tomorrow 25th and heading for Carnarvon where we will stay one or two nights before heading off to Kennedy NP and Mt Augustus, so will be out of communications range again.

Very disappointed there was no message from lotto to say I had won.

Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 29


26th July 2014
016.5 Butterfly

Last time we were there we were shocked at the bad state of everything there, especially the homestead precinct. Of the two campsites then, one was full of noisy generators and accompanying unsociable behaviour. Python Pool was its lovely self, surrounded by rubbish, including used disposable nappies, making mounds around the "Take your rubbish home" signs. Appalling. Glad from your account that it is better now. I remember fondly my original visit when it was still a homestead and you could get beer from a servers at the homestead. Very welcome in the heat!
26th July 2014
016.5 Butterfly

The place is spotless now Shirley, the campground is for generators, but the sites are well spaced out and these days the gen sets are quiet. The loos were a bit wiffy at the campsite but elsewhere in the park they were just fine, it was the week after school holidays! No rubbish anywhere and those places where you parked close to the waterways have been moved back and everything regenerated. Python pool lovely.

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