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Published: November 27th 2011
WARNING – this is our diary – if you experience tinges of boredom, do not continue reading.
Sorry that this has taken so long - we have had other issues to deal with.
Well, after being back home for a few weeks, we thought it was time to write a final blog, so here it is….
With an extra night at Tom Price, WA, due to battery issues requiring the purchase of two new batteries, which John was able to get us at a excellent price, we finally headed out to Karijini National Park. WOW!! – Murray and Chris warned us that we’d enjoy it there. We spent two full days exploring the gorges. The gorges are between 80 to 100 metres deep.
Dave was dubious about his knee playing up with the steep steps but he managed and we did a Class 3 and Class 4 track into Dale Gorge to the Circular Pool, then Fortescue Falls, about 2 hrs by the time we had a swim at Fern Pool.
The following day we climbed down the ladder into Hancock Gorge to Kermit’s Pool. This involved walking through thigh-deep water to the “Amphitheatre” and spider walking with the gorge
walls only about 1200mm apart. The Weano Gorge track to Handrail Pool was also amazing, clambering down the edge of the small waterfall using the stainless steel handrail and rock steps bolted into the rock wall. Both these tracks were classified as Class 4 and Class 5 (Class 6 being for abseilers and rock-climbers who have obtained permits.) So we felt very fit and pleased with ourselves!
The Junction Lookout, above where the five gorges meet, was spectacular. There was a memorial there for an SES (State Emergency Services) person who was swept away by a flash flood, and drowned whilst involved with a rescue.
A quick trip back into Tom Price to stock up again, then we followed the station roads for 350km through to the Station where Murray and Chris are caretaking. We left TP at about 1pm, but didn’t get to the Homestead until after dark as Dave discovered another cracked spring leaf on the trailer. A temporary repair of using a tie-down to hold a block of wood in position between the spring and the trailer, saw us driving the last two hours very quietly. It was lovely to be greeted by our good friends, and
Karijini National Park
Climbing out of Handrail Pool
a yummy roast beef dinner!
This is isolation with a fairly large capital “I”. M and C are really enjoying it here, and so did we. The station is 1 million acres, and 100km from the nearest neighbour, 350km to the nearest town, Tom Price to the northwest, and 330km from the nearest town, Meekatharra, to the southeast. Nearly all of that is on metalled roads. The mail and ordered groceries arrive once a week.
We took our two campers out for two or three trips on the property, checking bores and tanks, and cleaning troughs, and looking at the interesting water holes, and landscapes.
Our stay with Murray and Chris was great, with Dave happily helping Murray who was working on Suzuki cow chasers and Dodge trucks. I was very happy brushing up on baking skills while I had the use of a lovely big oven, which I don’t have in the camper or at home. Chris is in charge of the homestead grounds and gardens and swimming pool as well as helping Murray on bore runs.
There is also continuous checking and maintenance on bores and tanks. There are over 70 bores on the property, some with windmills
and some with solar powered pumps. The station is 140km long, with the shire (Council) road running through it. There are over 700km of tracks throughout the station which require grading, and many creek and river crossings (most are completely dry at this time of year), and they make slightly challenging four wheel drive obstacles. The station has it’s own Caterpillar grader and bulldozer. As you can see reliable maps, vehicles and communication is very important as you can easily have a breakdown, and it’s too far to walk home.
The station is Govt leasehold, as are most stations, and the stocking rate is regulated by a Govt department in charge of the leases and ensuring the properties aren’t over-stocked. There are over 50 sites on the station where vegetation is monitored. The rate set by this department can vary markedly from year to year due to varying annual rainfalls, and in this particular station’s case varied from 12000 head of stock to 3500 due to the huge variation in rainfall some years. Rainfall here can vary between 50mm and 250mm per year.
There are no boundary fences on the property and the ranges form natural boundaries. There are fences
Dry riverbed prior to wet season
at the grids (cattle stops) on the shire road that do go for a long way, but do not complete the boundary. There are four sets of yards spread out on the property which have fenced off holding areas.
As the cattle stray between the stations, when mustering is done the other station either comes to pick them up, which could be as in this case over 500km round trip, or the cattle can be sold by the neighbouring station and the money paid to the owners of the cattle.
It is said in the Australian outback, that if you wish to see what your beef tastes like, you go to your neighbours for dinner!
The whole system relies on honesty and co-operation between neighbouring stations.
While we were there the shire grader came to do the annual grading of the road. The grader tows a trailer carrying a large diesel tank, generator, spare oil etc, and behind that is towed the Toyota Landcruiser. The grader at the boundary of the station (which is also the Shire boundary), was operating .. 425 km from its depot. That is equivalent to driving the grader, towing the trailer and Landscruiser from Cape
Murray and Dave - Mr Fixits
Reinga to Auckland, on a metal road, with no shops let alone lattes or icecreams available. The driver cooked his own meals on the side of the road, and slept in his swag on the ground when he finished for the day. He has no toilet, just a spade, does not use signs or orange cones, as you’d have to blind not to see the dust from several kms away, and he may, on a good day, see one or two cars. He does a 9 day fortnight, then has 5 days off. You would have to enjoy your own company!!.
The mustering, which hadn’t happened for a while, is done with light aircraft, (there is one parked in a shed) and 2-door Suzuki 4x4s, 1000 or 1300cc modified into cow chasers The cow chasers have an outer steel frame to strengthen them, and steel plates across the front, and are used instead of quad bikes and horses because the terrain is too rocky and rough.
As Don had told us to treat the place as a National Park and to go anywhere we liked, Dave and I spend two nights camping in the bush, near the north eastern boundary.
“Bush” is a relative work. Although it is native bush, it is really what we would call sparsely covered scrubby areas and is nothing like the lush bush we have in NZ. We set up camp in a dry creek bed out of the wind. There was no sighting of cattle there, but we did see several donkeys, and signs of camels and kangaroos, and of course, plenty of friendly Australians (flies).
After two and a half weeks here, with Murray and Chris, who have looked after us fabulously, we are on the move south again.
Thanks also to Don, Ashley, part owners of the station, and Badon for giving us this experience.
We headed south west for 430km , 7 ½ hours, (averaging 58kph) via station roads towards Gascoyne Junction, stopping overnight to “bush” camp with a nice campfire.
We hit the main state highway south at Carnavon and headed south to Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve and the Telegraph station. This is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Site.
The Marine Reserve covers 1,270 square kilometres . It is one of only a few places in the world where living marine stromatolites can be found. Other locations
Suzukis instead of horses
for stromatolites include an underwater site (6 metres deep) in the Caribbean, Persian Gulf, and in the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Hamelin Pool contains the most diverse range of stromatolites in the world.
So, what are they? The stromatolites in Hamelin Pool were discovered by surveyors working for an oil exploration company in 1956 and were the first living examples of structures built by cyanobacteria The cyanobacteria living in Hamelin Pool are direct descendants of the oldest form of photosynthetic life on earth. Fascinating! Yes, we found it so!
The stromatolites are similar to 3,500 million year old stromatolite fossils found in many places around the world. Stromatolites are an example of the earliest record of life on earth. Hamelin Pool is hypersaline (it has approximately double the salinity of normal seawater), providing an ideal environment for the Stromatolites to grow, and inhibiting other marine life which would normally feed on the bacteria. The cyanobacteria live in communities on the sea bed at densities of 3000 million individuals per square metre. They are the simplest life forms to use photosynthesis to provide food and oxygen. They provided the early Earth with most of its oxygen atmosphere billions of years
I think this is a Ring-tailed Dragon
before plants appeared. Very fine particles of solids i.e. sand, crushed shell etc. are trapped by the sticky bacteria, to become cemented with calcium carbonate produced by the bacteria, thereby building up the stromatolite structures. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the details).
Hamelin Pool Telegraph Station is a fascinating historic museum that pays tribute to the regions telecommunications endeavours back in the 1800s. Housing the telegraph station and post office, you can find out how signals were transported down the telegraph wires to post offices for translation.
In 1964, the Station’s claim to fame was as follows:
“This article is from page 2 of The West Australian newspaper of Friday 10th April 1964.
W.A. WOMAN HELPS IN SPACE EMERGENCY
For almost four hours early yesterday, the accurate tracking of America’s unmanned Gemini space capsule as it crossed Australia depended upon a W.A. postmistress with only four months’ experience.
Mrs Lillian O’Donahue of Hamelin Pool, 170 miles north of Geraldton, was called on to relay vital flight information from Woomera to the Carnarvon tracking station after a thunderstorm cut telephone communication between Mullewa and Carnarvon.
While she passed on thousands of coded figures to the technicians at the Carnarvon station,
130 miles north, she had no idea that she was helping in America’s man-on-the-moon project.
The news that the two-man Gemini capsule was to be launched had not reached Hamelin Pool before the satellite went into orbit. “So that’s what it was all about – I had no idea,” she said yesterday.
“All I knew was that I was asked by the PMG to relay information because of the storm between Mullewa and Carnarvon.”
Mrs O’Donahue was first asked to help out about 10:30 pm on Wednesday.
She arranged a return single-line circuit from Mullewa through Geraldton, Northampton, Hamelin Pool and Carnarvon to the tracking station. From then until 3:45 am yesterday she passed on flight figures relayed from Woomera, and returned information gained by the Carnarvon station. In this time the capsule made three passes over Australia.”
Heading south we popped into Kalbari, Red Bluff and Port Gregory, a fishing village with a camping ground. Nearby is Hutt Lagoon, or The Pink Lake, The Hutt Lagoon is a superb example of a pink lake: a naturally occurring phenomenon that occurs when algae 'blooms' and produces beta carotene – a pigment that has become a lucrative
Bangarra (goanna) who lived next door to the house. Its about 1.2m long and wanders around the outside of the house "Keep the doors closed"
aquaculture crop. We thought we’d come back and stay here if we get back up this way, as it had a lovely feel about it, and we could drive up and down the beach and do some fishing.
On to Geraldton, a lovely coastal city with a beautiful beach and public walkway areas, and also the HMAS Sydney II memorial on the hill above the town. This memorial is to commemorate the 645 Australian sailors who were lost when the Sydney was sunk off the coast off Western Australia whilst engaging the German Raider “Kormoran” in November 1941.
The beautifully designed memorial features a silver dome of 645 seagulls to represent each of the lost Sydney sailors. The wall of remembrance shows photographs of the ship and the names of the Sydney crew. To the north, a bronze statue of a woman gazes desperately out to sea as she awaits news of the ill-fated Sydney.
Nearby is the stele - a single, dramatic shape representing the bow of the ship. The combination of these elements results in an extremely moving and fitting memorial.
Thanks to Jan and Andrew for your hospitality in Geraldton, it was great to catch up with
Technology in the outback
Murray and Chris at the internet cafe - the only things missing were coffee and muffins!
Down the new Indian Ocean Highway we headed, to stay with our friend, Wendy, in Greenhead, a couple of hours south. Here we enjoyed a lovely catchup and yummy roast pork dinner. Greenhead is a another lovely coastal village with the beautiful, safe Dynamite Bay (is it safe with a name like that?) Thanks again Wendy – great to see you.
On south to Cervantes Camping Ground, then a look at “The Pinnacles” .
Regarded as one of Australia's most unique landscapes, these incredible limestone spiers rise eerily out of the sand, some several metres tall. You can get up close to the Pinnacles on a scenic drive and walk trail that includes an amazing lookout over the Nambung National Park. It's believed the Pinnacles were created millions of years ago as seashells were broken down into sand and then eroded by water and wind.
Wanneroo City (on the northern outskirts of Perth) was our next stop for a couple of days while we repacked for return to NZ. Here we had a lovely evening out for dinner with Willie and Donna (ex-Keri Fire Brigade) and their two lovely daughters. Great to see you all. And thanks for your
help over the year. Also, thanks to Therese and David who are cruiser-sitting!
Well, home to the east island for a lovely long summer. It’s been great catching up with family and friends on all the isles!
God bless and Merry Christmas to you all!
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