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Chasing the Dirt – Carnarvon to Mullewa Bicycle Touring Note

Stone water tank, windmill and well

Symbols of the outback – water tank, windmill and a well

In July 2012 I had the opportunity to take three months long service leave and my plan was to use this time to challenge myself with a bicycle ride from Darwin to Perth via a mix of coastal and inland routes. Regretfully after only four days of riding through Litchfield National Park and having arrived at Adelaide River I had to bail to Darwin and eventually back to Perth as I had come down with a serious bout of influenza. It took me three weeks to recover before I was able to head out again, this time on a shortened ride of ~ 3,000 kilometres in Western Australia, the Chasing the Dirt – Out and Back to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) by Bicycle Tour.

This page summaries third leg of the Chasing the Dirt – Out and back to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) by Bicycle Tour, riding from Carnarvon to Mullewa through the Gascoyne and Murchison regions to Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) via the odd dirt road.

This leg was 1,111 kilometres and I took 15 days to get Mullewa. The break down of the tour is as follows. It is written in the present tense as I wrote the notes up each day in the tent using my Apple iPad 2.

Day 20 – Thursday August 30, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Carnarvon to Doorawarrah Station

Rocky Pool - Gascoyne River

Rocky Pool – Gascoyne River

87 km with 99 metres of climbing at an average of @ 13.2 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,427 km

It was good to get moving again today. Carnarvon is a nice town but towns are not what I am here for. Once I clear the town I was soon heading east into a headwind following at least in part the Kingsford Smith Mail Run. The mail run follows links between lonely outposts where the early mail drivers plied the outback delivering mail. One such driver was Sir Charles Kingsford Smith whose mail route I followed today.

Carnarvon agriculture

Carnarvon agriculture

Carnarvon agriculture

Riding the Kingsford Smith Mail Run

Riding the Kingsford Smith Mail Run

Riding the Kingsford Smith Mail Run

The highlight of the ride today was Rocky Pool. I am sure the people at the pool thought I was a little odd as I pulled up on my bike, got off headed straight to the water, off with gear (well most of it) and in I went. It was a hot day today (max on the bike was 41 C) so a swim was a welcome relief.

Rocky Pool - Gascoyne River

Rocky Pool – Gascoyne River

Rocky Pool - Gascoyne River

Rocky Pool – Gascoyne River

Rocky Pool is a freshwater billabong (would it be considered a billabong?) which is interesting as the eastern edge is dry sandy river bed as is the western edge. The southern edge was quite sandy; easy to access and water the shallow water but I guess there is a rocky bottom under the sand to stop the water draining away. [Update: I have since learn that the Gascoyne River is an upside down river and Rocky Pool is one of those spots where the river comes to the surface] Great spot anyway.

I had lunch at the pool and seriously considered finding a sheltered campsite, but it was really too early in the day to justify this.

I also topped up my water bottles. The water is okay but I think it has a very slight salty taste. Good for cooking at least.

The rest of the ride across Greys Plains was uneventful other than being stared down by one to many bulls for my liking. Lots of cattle wandering unfenced station land near the road. The road, the Carnarvon-Mullewa Road was bitumen all of today. The map suggests it should have been dirt. Will be interesting to see it stays bitumen all the way through to Gascoyne Junction.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Doorawarrah Station where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 21 – Friday August 31, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Doorawarrah Station to Gascoyne Junction

Stock warning sign

Stock warning sign … Came across this sign well after I had experienced stock on the roads so to speak

94 km with 146 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.8 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,521 km

Another day on the Kingsford Smith Mail run and on a road in much better condition that in Kingsford Smith’s day that is for sure. The road through to Gascoyne Junction is now sealed all the way. Currently there is little in the town: Shire office and workers campsite (not really a caravan park). If you get into town before 4:30 PM Monday to Friday there are vendor machines at the Shire Office. That is it in terms of facilities until the new roadhouse/tavern is completed in 2013.

I camped at the workers camp with the Gascoyne Concrete boys. Great crew … they feed me and feed me beers as well. Can’t complain about that!

Oh water is available at the Shire Office (outside tap) or from the workers camp if you are staying with the boys.

Abandon car in the outback

Abandon car in the outback

Abandon car in the outback

Abandon car in the outback

The only other highlight from the day was my first car wreck (anyone know what model it is?) … now I know I am in the outback 🙂

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Gascoyne Junction where there is Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 22 – Saturday September 1, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Gascoyne Junction to Minnie Creek Station

Wool Wagon Pathway

Distances are distances – I turned off after Mangaroon Station homestead

72 km with 112 metres of climbing at an average of @ 12.6 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,595 km

Late start this morning as I slept badly last night plus needed to lube the chain before leaving. The lack of sleep hurt later in the day. Today was the first day on a stretch of dirt that will extend to around 900 kilometres by the time I reach Mullewa. It was not a good start. Instead of taking the Wazza’s advice last night I went with the top road (Ullwarra Road) to Mt Augustus in case I decided to visit Kennedy Range National Park, which of course I didn’t. The better choice by all accounts would have been the middle road, the Cobra Dairy Creek Road which the boys are re-sheeting and bar 120 kilometres has all been done. So good quality dirt road as I understand it.

Instead I took the road which despite the Shire of Upper Gascoyne’s claims of “regular grading” hasn’t seen a grader in God knows how long. It is corrugated, sandy at times and generally rough and in poor condition. Not enjoyable dirt road riding, well not one conducive too good mileage or speeds. Still it is a dirt road and a interesting area. Ullwarra Road is part of the Wool Wagon Pathway which retraces the steps of the early drovers through this legendary sheep country (haven’t seen too many sheep but).

The Cobbled Road

Kingsford Smith Mail Run – An early road built to get the mail through – Cobbled Road

The interesting feature highlighted today was the Cobbled Road, created by pioneering “truckies” in the 1920s in response to teamsters and cameleers who saw the trucks as threats to their livilhood and hence made their roads impassable for the trucks. The truckies responded by building their own roads … I guess you do what you need to do when you are paid two cents per kilometre.

orange moon

Orange moon at Minnie Creek Station

Oh one last highlight of the day. As the sun set in the west a full moon rose in the east: the moon was an amazing orange colour as it picked up the rays of the fading sun. Beautiful.

There ends my first day as Burringurrah calls. I am yet to sight the rock as Lockier Range has blocked the view but hopefully tomorrow. I should be at Burringurrah in about three days all going well. There is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage here at Minnie Creek Station.

Day 23 – Sunday September 2, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Minnie Creek Station to Pritchard Creek

Ullwarra Road

A taste of Ullwarra Road – A good section BTW

80 km with 203 metres of climbing at an average of @ 13.0 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,673 km

Got away at a more reasonable time of 8:00 AM this morning and again headed north on the Wool Wagon Pathway (Ullwarra Road). Overall the road was in better condition today, but more undulations, so not much faster than the day before.

Mt Sandiman

Mt Sandiman – An important landmark for early century navigation

An interesting day today with my first engagement with station folk at Mt Sandiman Homestead. They where down on the road with the kids collecting firewood. Nice people. Just a bit further up the road at Mt Sandiman a couple of guys who work on the gas pipeline stopped to have a chat. They offered me supplies and water. Never refuse water out here so they kindly gave me 1.8 litres. Three handy 600 ml bottles. Interesting only one other car (there was around 15 today) stopped to see how I was – no offer of water but.

Cattle / Mustering

Cattle / Mustering

cattle yard

On from Mt Sandiman I came across some cattle not frightened by me so at last got a photo of same. Shortly afterwards I came across my first mustering operation. There was a road train at the yards being loaded with cattle; I assume for export.

Booroothunty Creek

The story of a man named Pat is best told on the banks of the Booroothunty Creek: May his soul travel the station country in peace.

From Mt Sandiman I came across another interpretative site at Booroothunty Creek. Very interesting reading.

cattle grid

A cattle grid on the Wool Wagon Pathway. Quintessential of the area. The fencing was probably wiped out by the 2010 floods.

From there it was much of the same, cattle grid, dirt road, undulation, cattle grid and on it goes. Now and then a nice creek (they are good lunch stops).

Mangaroon Station homestead gate

Mangaroon Station homestead gate – Technology well and truly passed its prime out here

Eventually I reached the Lyndon Station turn-off where I swung right and left the Wool Wagon Pathway. Passing Mangaroon Homestead marks the “plateau” of my ride so to speak as tomorrow all going well I will swing south-east on to the Cobra Gifford Creek Road which marks the commencement of the southern leg of my “Chasing the dirt” bicycle tour and the return to Fremantle. Mind you I am looking at approximately 11 days before I leave the dirt and the outback at Mullewa.

Pritchard Creek

Camped at Pritchard Creek

"Master Chef" in the bush

“Master Chef” in the bush

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Pritchard Creek where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 24 – Monday September 3, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Pritchard Creek to Wanna Station

Mt Thomson

Mt Thomson was a very important navigation point in days past

87 km with 169 metres of climbing at an average of @ 13.6 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,760 km

Got away again this morning before 8:00 AM which is handy for a reasonable day’s riding. The day started on Ullwarra Road which is in reasonable condition, similar to yesterday’s riding. As the day progressed I travelled on the Edward Gifford Creek Road and then on to the Cobra Gifford Creek Road and with the change in roads the riding conditions improved. Even the wind was favourable, changing to a north-westerly as I swung south – south easterly. My only concern is what does this mean for tomorrow’s weather? North-westerly are normally associated with rain and/or stormy weather. Whilst rain is very important here, it does tend to make roads impassable. Not handy for a cyclist.

The big significant event today is that I started heading south and now the homeward leg has begun. I am quite happy about that.

My goal for this ride is to visit Burringurrah and today I got my first sightings. It is a very impressive rock! Hopefully tomorrow I will be at its foothills and the day after I will be able to complete the summit.

Shady creek just at lunchtime

Shady creek just at lunchtime

Today was mainly about kilometres but I did managed to jag a nice shady creek bed just on lunchtime and thought myself pretty lucky, but lo and behold a few kilometres down the road, about 41 km north-west of Cobra Station Stay where the Edward Gifford Creek Road crosses the Lyons River there is a very nice billabong. By the look of it, this is a permanent waterhole which is not marked on my maps. A very nice camping spot and possible water source. It was really too early in the day for me to stop riding so I reluctantly moved on after having a nice chat to a guy who had stopped to have his lunch there. He is travelling north photographing birds. Interesting guy to talk too.

Off course I didn’t find a campsite anywhere near is good but that is the decisions one makes.

Windmill

Typical but critical outback scene … this one was disabled due to de-stocking of the station I suspect

Cattle trough

Cattle trough – dry due to disabled windmill – de-stocking program I guess

Off to Cobra Station – ‘Bangemall Inn’ and on to Burringurrah tomorrow. Not sure yet wether to camp out close to the summit track or go on to Mt Augustus Outback Tourist Complex and stay two nights, using the next day for an unloaded tour of Burringurrah.

I have heard that Cattle Pool on the Lyons River has a lot of reeds making swimming there difficult and the road into Edithanna Pool is in a pretty bad state (too early in the day anyway). Neither possibility is very inviting 🙁 Will just see how the day goes and decide later on.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Wanna Station where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 25 – Tuesday September 4, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Wanna Station to Burringurrah

firearms in use

mmm this is on Cobra Station which is DEC controlled …. hope those shooters now where the road is!

69 km with 179 metres of climbing at an average of @ 12.6 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,828 km

As I suspected the north-westerly brought some rain early in the morning but by around 6:15 AM the rain had gone and the wind had swung to a nasty south-westerly and I mean nasty. It was painful riding into it for the first 20 kilometres or so in the morning.

Cobra Station - Bangemall Inn

Cobra Station – Bangemall Inn

Cobra Station - Bangemall Inn

Cobra Station – Bangemall Inn

Cobra Station - Bangemall Inn

Cobra Station – Bangemall Inn

Having broke camp and enjoyed the sign about wandering cattle I reached Cobra Station – Bangemall Inn (Cobra Station Stay) and called in for a drink and to make use of the phone box. An hour and half later I was on the road again! Colleen and Lara who was helping out are very friendly people. Colleen introduced herself the moment I arrived, offered me a cuppa and biscuit and sat down for a chat. What great hospitality! I ended up having some lunch, reading a local history of the stations and chatting with the ladies. I regret not getting there later in the day to enjoy staying the night and sharing a three course meal with everyone: it is a station stay so meals are shared with the guests. I seriously suggest you try and make it there if you can. Well worth it in my view.

cows rule

Cows rule …

Colleen also kindly offered me the opportunity to fill my water bags with the sweetest well water on offer … make sure you leave a donation in in the RFDS tin in return for the water. Such a different attitude from my experience at the Billabong Roadhouse. Colleen also told me the water at Mount Augustus Tourist Complex is bit salty, so filling up here is probably the better option.

Burringurrah 01

Burringurrah comes into view

Getting closer to Burringurrah

Getting closer to Burringurrah

Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) - The Destination

Burringurrah (Mt Augustus) – The Destination

Once I dragged myself away from the Cobra Station – Bangemall Inn it was back to playing in the dirt and wind until Burringurrah well and truly dominated the horizon (the photos do not do justice to its size and dominance).

I decided at this point to head for Beedoboondu (Flinstone) where the summit track trailhead is located to camp here and to summit Burringurrah tomorrow. Whilst it is illegal to camp within the national park I really didn’t see any option if I was to be able to summit Burringurrah and then get on to Mount Augustus Tourist Complex. Also I suspect that the no-camping rule is really about camper-vans and the like and not cyclists and bushwalkers. That said I had heard that the DEC volunteer here is rather zealous so hopefully I have found a well hidden campsite that will also allow me to hide the bike and gear for the summit tomorrow.

Wildflower on Cobra Station

Wildflower on Cobra Station

 

A little background on Mt Augustus or Burringurrah as it is known by Aboriginal people in the area. Burringurrah is the world’s largest monocline, being twice the size of Uluru. Burringurrah is 715 metres in height and 1,105 metres above sea level.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Burringurrah where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 26 – Wednesday September 5, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Burringurrah to Mount Augustus Tourist Complex

Aushiker on the summit of Burringurrah

Aushiker on the summit of Burringurrah

19 km with 12 metres of climbing at an average of @ 12.4 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,847 km

Survived the night unscathed at Burringurrah and was on the summit trail from Beedoboondu (Flinstone) at about 8:00 AM. The summit climb is not too difficult but my cycling shoes where not idea for the descent! Anyway the summiting of Burringurrah took about 4.5 hours in total. At the base I got talking to Ian and Denise whom I met again and had dinner with at the Mount Augustus Tourist Complex. Very interesting couple who are flying in Ian’s home built two seater plane to Broome from Albany. What a cool way to see the outback! They are also cyclists and have done a bit of touring so a nice way to spend an evening.

Burringurrah summit trail climb trailhead

Burringurrah summit trail climb trailhead

View as one climbs the Burringurah summit trail

View as one climbs the Burringurah summit trail

A taste of Burringurah summit trail - rock scrambling

A taste of Burringurah summit trail – rock scrambling

More rock scrambling on the Burringurah summit trail climb

More rock scrambling on the Burringurah summit trail climb

Getting closer and closer to the summit of Burringurrah

Getting closer and closer to the summit of Burringurrah

Pausing to take in the view on the climb to the summit of Burringurrah

Pausing to take in the view on the climb to the summit of Burringurrah

Made it - The summit of Burringurrah

Made it – The summit of Burringurrah

View from the summit of Burringurrah

View from the summit of Burringurrah

Another view of the Burringurah summit trail climb

Another view of the Burringurah summit trail climb – heading down now

Another taste of the Burringurah summit trail climb

Another taste of the Burringurah summit trail climb

The folks at the Mount Augustus Tourist Complex are really nice and as my ride is in support of Cerebral Palsy kindly upgraded me from a tent site to a bunk room so I could charge up my electronics, plus they kindly helped out with the clothes washing and other little things. A very nice gesture indeed.

The complex is a pretty good setup but do not expect drinking water (it is bore water here with a defininant salty flavour) unless you wish to pay for it. I am taking some tap water from here to top up one water bag which I will use as cooking water until Bilung Pool and/or Murchison Settlement.

Goolinee Pool (Cattle Pool)

Goolinee Pool (Cattle Pool)

With the summiting of Burringurrah and chatting at lunch plus a quick visit to Goolinee (Cattle Pool – water tasted okay too) the riding was a short 19 km.

However the roads today are not in great nick, but hopefully in better condition tomorrow as I head off to Burringurrah Aboriginal Community (general store) and Landor Station before picking up the Dalgety Downs Landor Road which brings me out at Bilung Pool.

The next part of the adventure starts tomorrow with around six days on the dirt before popping out at Murchison Settlement and then another three days through to Mullewa where the outback adventure ends and the final leg through the wheatbelt country starts.

That ends the day and this touring note from the room at the Mt Augustus Tourist Complex where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 27 – Thursday September 6, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Mount Augustus Tourist Complex to Waldburg Station

Burringurrah in the morning light

Burringurrah in the morning light from the Mount Augustus Tourist Complex

76 km with 134 metres of climbing at an average of @ 11.5 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 1,923 km

Back on the Kingsford Smith Mail Run today riding the Cobra Mt Augustus Road and then on to the Landor Mt Augustus Road, which passes through the Burringurrah Aboriginal Community. The road was marginal until the Burringurrah Aboriginal Community and then has been pretty good since. It seems that the Shire of Upper Gascoyne is working on the Landor Mt Augustus Road repairing damage from the 2010 floods.

Mt Augustus Tourist Complex

Mt Augustus Tourist Complex

Landor Mt Augustus Road

Landor Mt Augustus Road

Prior to reaching the Burringurrah Aboriginal Community I had an interesting experience, being stopped by two detectives from the Carnarvon police. They where in the area getting a feel for who was around. Anyway they took my details, had a chat and moved on. I guess it is good that the Police know I am in the area and where I am heading.

After that chat I continued on to the Burringurrah Aboriginal Community hoping to grab a drink and whatever at the store and to phone Anne. Well the store had not long shut for lunch and it seems they have “business lunches” at Burringurrah Aboriginal Community as the shop was expected to open in about “two to three hours”. So I gave that one a miss and moved on to the Telstra pay-phone: that was out of action as well. So other than friendly people at Burringurrah Aboriginal Community there was not much joy to be had.

Translation: Possibly good camping

Translation: Possibly good camping

Creek - Flood 2010

Remnants of the 2010 floods

Rocky creek - Landor Mt Augustus Road

Rocky creek – Landor Mt Augustus Road

From there I continued my day long battle with headwinds and variable road conditions. Why is that when the road is rough the headwind drops off and when the road is good, the headwind suddenly fires back up again? Seriously it did that all day … ugh.

I also stopped at some granite rocks on the side of the road looking for gnamma holes (water holes). The Aboriginal markings for water where present suggesting that these rocks do hold water at times but the holes where dry when I visited. Oh well will have to wait to Bilung Pool to get water. I see that the map also shows Mt Gould Police Station (historical) has water, but as I didn’t verify this, I will stick to my planned route.

Lizard at the gnamma holes

Lizard at the gnamma holes (near the rock)

Aboriginal markings for water

Aboriginal markings for water

Gnamma hole

Gnamma hole (dry)

Expecting to take another two and a bit days to get Bilung Pool, particularly if this headwind holds. At least today I did manage to squeeze out 76 km and hence reached my goal distance of 75 km (allows for a water safety margin at this distance).

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Waldburg Station where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 28 – Friday September 7, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Waldburg Station to Dalgety Downs

The bite of the outback

The bite of the outback

101 km with 128 metres of climbing at an average of @ 15.2 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 2,025 km

What a day! With a help of some reasonable roads and a tailwind for most of the day, I cracked my first 100 km on dirt roads for this tour. Now tired but happy I did that. Makes reaching Bilung Pool tomorrow a real chance.

Today I departed ways with the Kingsford Smith Mail Run Pathway finishing off the 28 kilometres of Landor Mt Augustus Road before swinging to the west and joining the Dalgety Downs Landor Road for the rest of the day. It was here that I really benefited from today’s north-easterly which help push me along for most of this section. Dalgety Downs Landor Road is in pretty good nick, having experienced some TLC courtesy of the Federal Government’s Roads for Recovery program of recent years.

Drum on a wire - Gascoyne River at Landor Station

Drum on a wire – Gascoyne River at Landor Station

Drum on a wire - Gascoyne River at Landor Station

Drum on a wire – Gascoyne River at Landor Station

Drum on a wire - Gascoyne River at Landor Station

Drum on a wire – Gascoyne River at Landor Station

The highlight of the day was crossing the upside-down river, the Gascoyne River (the river flows mostly underground with water coming to the surface at numerous places, hence it looks like a sandy dry river when really it isn’t) just south of Landor Station homestead. At the crossing is the remnants of a “drum on a cable” or flying fox that was used to get the mail across the flooded river in times past. I guess they use satellites instead to have emails “jump” the flooded river.

Landor Creek

Landor Creek

From the Gascoyne River I arrived at Landor Creek just in time for lunch. The creek is a nice spot, but if you wish to draw water here I suggest doing so from the upper-reaches as the pool is accessed by cattle from what I saw. Filtering and/or purification is something I would also do before cooking with it or drinking it.

Changing landscape on the Dalgety Downs Landor Road

Changing landscape on the Dalgety Downs Landor Road

As the day progressed the terrain changed becoming more undulating with numerous small rocky outcrops scattered either side of the road. An interesting change.

Once I ticked off 100 km just after 4:00 PM I looked for a suitable camping spot amongst the sparse vegetation. What I thought was an okay camping spot on Dalgety Downs turned out to be a fly camp. The flies where so bad, easily my worst day, that I had to delay dinner to well after dark as thankfully flies do not have fly by instruments clearance.

On the positive side I took the opportunity to take some photos of the some of the interesting tree forms nearby and a dramatic sunset.

The day of the triffids

The day of the triffids – Dalgety Downs

Head in the sand

Head in the sand – Dalgety Downs Station

Running Man

Running Man – Dalgety Downs Station

Sharing dinner with the flies - Dalgety Downs Station

Sharing dinner with the flies – Dalgety Downs Station

With the cloud coming over and the wind dropping I do wonder what tomorrow holds. A cooler day and a tailwind would be nice 🙂

For interest sake Dalgety Downs is 10,000.00ha (24,710.54 acres) in size and as at October 2012 was on the market for an asking price of $2,500,000. There you go: an opportunity of a lifetime 🙂

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Dalgety Downs Station where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 29 – Saturday September 8, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Dalgety Downs to Wooramel River

Wooramel River

Wooramel River

76 km with 225 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.0 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 2,100 km

Hello from mozzie central, aka Wooramel River Gorge. The noise from the mozzies going berserk outside is amazing; far worst that what I experienced in the Northern Territory for sure. It will be a hot nights sleep as I will have to be shut up tight unless the wind picks up. Of course the wind has dropped off which does not help.

Carnarvon Mullewa Road - Distances of Dirt

Carnarvon Mullewa Road – Distances of Dirt

Carnarvon-Mullewa Road Road Conditions

Carnarvon-Mullewa Road Road Conditions – Nice to Know 🙂

Today I left the last of the minor roads that I will be riding on here in the outback, going from Dalgety Downs Road to Dalgety Downs Glenburgh Road and then on to the major secondary road, the Carnarvon Mullewa Road (aka the Wool Wagon Pathway). I will remain on the Carnarvon-Mullewa Road until Mullewa now, about four days distance. The funny thing about today is that the road quality deteroriated once I turned on the major secondary road, the Carnarvon Mullewa Road. I had expected it to be better! At least for some of it the Shire of Upper Gascoyne had a grader in action but after I caught and passed the grader it was not fun. Ah well, such is the joys of chasing the dirt.

Bilung Pool

Bilung Pool

My plan today had been to ride to Bilung Pool and then take the rest of the day off, but once I got there, saw how little water there was and given the lack of nice camping up above the pool I changed my mine, deciding instead to have a wash in the pool (it was way too cold for swimming) and to collect some water before moving on. As it turned out a lovely couple from Rockingham turned up so I spoke to them for some time. All up a nice break from riding.

Wooramel River - Water on a floodway!

Wooramel River – Water on a floodway!

Once I got moving I only did another 15 or so kilometres before coming to the Wooramel River, my first actual river crossing (i.e., the floodway had water on it). That was exciting 🙂

Given there was water here I searched around for a camping spot near the water without luck. Deciding to ride on, as I cleared the crest there was a track off to the left. Hmmm worth an explore? Yep it was. I ended up finding another track again to the left which took me to a ridge overlooking a very beautiful spot further upstream. A beaut camping spot which I now believe are known as the Wooramel River Gorges, except you really need a free standing tent here. As I set up camp I watched the cattle enjoying the water below me … very peaceful indeed so all up a good move moving on after lunch.

Wooramel River camping location

Wooramel River camping location

 

Wooramel River - Happy cow

Cattle grazing the Wooramel River

Another two days riding should see me in Murchison Settlement subject to roads and winds. Hopefully a north easterly tomorrow 🙂

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Wooramel River Gorges where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 30 – Sunday September 9, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Wooramel River to Mt Narryer Station

26th Parallel South latitude

Leaving the North-West at the 26th Parallel South latitude on the Carnarvon Mullewa Road

96 km with 198 metres of climbing at an average of @ 13.0 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 2,197 km

Funny day today. I achieved far more than I expected and am now in a good position at having a go at getting to Murchison Settlement a little earlier than normal to allow for a bit of housekeeping/rest before pushing on to Mullewa.

The Carnarvon Mullewa Road, the Wool Wagon Pathway has been hit and miss today with more miss than hit. Today was the first time that had me pushing the bike, twice in fact due to the sandy conditions. Winds where light as well offering no advantage or disadvantage either. So despite all that I managed to tick over 96 km. Had no desire but to go for 100 km.

So to the ride. Well having survived the mozzie invasion of last night (the wind came up and they moved the on) and the later than normal arrival of the flies in the morning I get away at a reasonable time to fight the road, dragging out a mere 11 km in the first hour. It was not looking good, but things did pickup.

ET Hooley Stockwell No 19

ET Hooley Stockwell No 19 Channel

ET Hooley Stockwell No 19

ET Hooley Stockwell No 19

ET Hooley Stockwell No 19

ET Hooley Stockwell No 19

I came across ET Hooley Stockwell No. 19 which has been restored by a couple of 4WD Clubs. Very interesting indeed and well worth a stop if you are in the area.

The next highlight of the day was again crossing the 26th Parallel South latitude and hence left the north-west of Western Australia and entered the Murchison or is it the mid-west?

Historical Gate

Historical Gate

From there I stopped off at the historical cattle gate on Mt Narryer Station. Prior to cattle grates which are by the way whiz bang in the Shire of Murchison with bitumen laid either side, users of the road had to open and close station gates. At one time there was 100 gates on the road! There is an amusing story at on the information sign at the gate about the characters of the past: do stop and read it 🙂

From there I continued on until I found a spot to camp. Interesting the flies where notably less this evening … hopefully a positive sign of what is to come. Having lost my Sea to Summit Head net they have been driving me crazy, particularly when riding. Bushman’s while it works, still has flies buzzing around endlessly.

To wrap up the day, I had my first mechanical issue of the Chasing the Dirt tour. My saddle managed to come out of the saddle rails. No damage down, well to the bike at least, but now have a bit of fine tuning to do to try and get the saddle just right again. A job for the morning.

I also made an error of not accepting an offer of water from the Officer in Charge of the Burringurrah Aboriginal Community Police Station. I realised when I got to camp that I am border line with water for tomorrow’s ride. I really like to have a few litres on hand just in case. The rule is never refuse the offer of water!

The failure of the water filter does not help either as I could have filtered my cooking water and used it as backup drinking water. I have boiled some which hopefully will cool down by tomorrow in case I need it.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Mt Narryer Station where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 31 – Monday September 10, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Mt Narryer Station to Murchison Settlement

Murchison Oasis Roadhouse

Murchison Oasis Roadhouse

48 km with 122 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.2 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 2,244 km

Short day to day as I really needed a “rest day” of sorts. I got into Murchison Settlement before lunch and got set-up in the quite nice little caravan park behind the Murchison Oasis Roadhouse ($10 for an unpowered site on the grass).

Whilst getting setup I got talking to Marg and Nigel who kindly invited me to lunch. I spent a lovely couple of hours (they are amazing travellers) with them and then visited the local museum and generally lazed around at the roadhouse reading the paper etc. All up a lovely relaxing afternoon: just what the doctor ordered.

Now that I am all loaded up with water I found out the 202 kilometres to Mullewa is actually 100 kilometres of bitumen and 100 kilometres of dirt so maybe carrying more water than I need. Anyway will take it and see how it goes.

Whilst it is basic here (showers, barbecue area,and grass, drinking water) the roadhouse has some basic supplies and I think it is well worth a stop. A nice break from camping out in the bush.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Murchison Settlement where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage.

Day 32 – Tuesday September 11, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Murchison Settlement to Billabalong Station

ET Hooly Stockwell No. 9

ET Hooly Stockwell No. 9

83 km with 88 metres of climbing at an average of @ 13.9 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 2,327 km

The changing face of the Carnarvon Mullewa Road

The changing face of the Carnarvon Mullewa Road

The good news first. The first 53 kilometres south of Murchison Settlement is now sealed and they are currently, thanks to a Federal Government Roads to Recovery funding grant sealing another 10 kilometres. The bad news is that the adage “good road, bad wind” well and truly applied today. I actually did well up to lunchtime averaging around 16 km/h and covering 60 kilometres. After lunch the south-westerly which I had been riding into all day stepped it up a notch or three and by 3:00 PM I was looking for a track off the road to find a camping spot and my average speed had dropped to 13.9 km/h. It just was not my day for riding and my first early stop due to the riding conditions.

Carnarvon Mullewa Road morphs into the Jiggernoo Emergancy RFDS airstrip

Carnarvon Mullewa Road morphs into the Jiggernoo Emergancy RFDS airstrip

Carnarvon Mullewa Road morphs into the Jiggernoo Emergancy RFDS airstrip

Carnarvon Mullewa Road morphs into the Jiggernoo Emergancy RFDS airstrip

That said it was an interesting section of the Carnarvon Mullewa Road with one section of the bitumen at Jiggernoo widen and constructed as a Royal Flying Doctor Service emergency air strip. There was also a couple of other highlights. The first being an old stone water tank where the windmill once drew water from the well. It was the first stone water tank I had seen and the first well. Sadly it was no longer working.

Stone water tank, windmill and well

Stone water tank, windmill and well

Stone water tank, windmill and well

Stone water tank, windmill and well

The other highlight was my lunch spot, the E. T. Hooley Stock Route Well 9 which has been restored by the North West District Riffle Clubs Association. Also nearby is a historical sheperds stockyard. So an interesting place of history.
After lunch I had for the first time a flock (?) of emus running alongside me instead of diving off into the bush. Of course I tried to get the camera out to take a photo and the battery at that moment decided to die. Ugh.

ET Hooly Stockwell No. 9

ET Hooly Stockwell No. 9

Historical shepherds (sheep) stockyard - low fence

Historical shepherds (sheep) stockyard – note the low fence

Finally not long before I decided to camp I passed Ballinyoo Bridge which was built in 1912 and is the oldest concrete bridge outside of the Perth metropolitan area. Regretfully the Murchison River wasn’t looking great at this spot so I only paused for a photo.

Ballinyoo Bridge

Ballinyoo Bridge

Squirt Lube roadside application

Squirt Lube roadside application

Oh I also did a chain lube on the side of the road this morning. Meant to do it yesterday in camp. The Squirt Lube is working well so far. Will be interesting to see how much the chain has worn when I get home.

It will be interesting to see what the weather holds for tomorrow. I suspect any thoughts of making Mullewa tomorrow are now dashed.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Billabalong Station where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage but 1,000s of flies!

A little background on Billabalong Station (taken from The Road to the Murchison: An illustrated story of the district and its people narrated by Marion Nixon and R. F. B. Lefroy). Billabalong Station is one of the oldest stations in the Murchison (settled around 1880, maybe even earlier) and its

leases follow the Murchison River for forty miles and including sites of historical interest. Its country begins in the south at Woolgorong boundary, continues past Ballinyoo Springs, and on to Jiggernoo which was the home of the Boddington family (when they managed Mt. Aubrey Station). From there, Billabalong country continues on to another out camp, Wongoolia, which was the scene of the fatal shooting of a wanted Aboriginal outlaw, ‘Fat Charlie’ by Constable Gordon in 1903; it was at this same out camp that several cattle where brutally mutilated in 1907 by another Aboriginal, Boomer.

Day 33 – Wednesday September 12, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Billabong Station to Tallering Nature Reserve

Bush camp Tallering Nature Reserve

Bush camp Tallering Nature Reserve

76 km with 252 metres of climbing at an average of @ 10.4 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 2,403 km

What a day! Today was my slowest average speed for the Chasing the Dirt tour so far. Hammered all day by a moderate to strong headwind which for a moment there became a sidewind which was blowing me around a bit. To add to the wind pain, was the lousy road conditions. Crossing the Shire boundary into the City of Greater Geraldton only made things worse. Probably one of the roughest sections I have ridden on this tour.

The only saving grace today was hitting the bitumen 48 km north of Mullewa. Unfortunately the bitumen has a downside: 53.5 metre road trains (read four trailer jobs). Looks like I will be sharing my ride into Mullewa tomorrow with these boys and girls (The days of sharing the road with friendly motorists has come to an end me thinks).

Really not much else to the day’s ride … no photo opportunities, just wind, road and pain. Off to Mullewa tomorrow and hopefully a chance to get some washing done and the journal updated.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent at Tallering Nature Reserve where there is no Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage and not flies thanks to the wind.

Day 34 – Thursday September 13, 2012 – Chasing the Dirt:  Tallering Nature Reserve to Mullewa

48 km with 219 metres of climbing at an average of @ 14.7 km/h. Total kilometres to date: 2,451 km

Amazing what a difference a bit of bitumen and more friendly winds make. Okay it was a short ride but still it much easier going than yesterday. Also the four trailer road trains where very friendly and considerate, always passing as wide as possible. Cannot ask for much more.

All up the ride into Mullewa was not that exciting other than the Western Brown snake (Gwardar) which was crossing the Carnarvon Mullewa Road just out of Mullewa. I had to stop whilst it decided what to do. At one point it lifted its head and started towards me. Before I had a chance to go into full panic it turned its focus back to completely crossing the road. As it was the Police turned up at this moment and I think the vehicle vibration hurried it along. That was my excitement for the day 🙂

The change in landscape as I got closer to Mullewa was quite noticeable. The land went from the outback scrub of the days gone by to semi-cleared land to cleared land. No sign of wheat crops near the road but; just dry paddocks.

Mullewa. GJ Coop pretty much summed it I think. If you bypass it you are not missing much. All there is besides the caravan park and various government services is an Ampol service station come store, a BP servo, a general store/Post Office of sorts and the pub. I wouldn’t really on resupplying here.

To stay at the caravan park you need to go to the Ampol first to pay and get the code to the ablutions and laundry. $13.50 for unpowered site. The camp kitchen is basic but does have some power points so charging is possible. Really nothing of much here. The town really looks really run down.

Tomorrow I head to Morawa or back to Mingenew. Will decided in the morning when I have a handle on the winds. Either way is a day’s ride.

That ends the day and this touring note from the tent or rather the camp kitchen at Mullewa where there is Telstra Next G mobile phone coverage but not much else.

Your Turn To Talk

I hope you found this bicycle touring note of ride from Carnarvon to Mullewa an enjoyable read and hopefully informative as well. Please do share your thoughts on ride and/or riding this area with the rest of us by leaving a comment below 🙂

2 Responses to Chasing the Dirt – Carnarvon to Mullewa Bicycle Touring Note

  1. Jennie Haste July 10, 2013 at 9:51 PM #

    Once I have sold the children I would like to cycle this in the up hill direction (to Carnarvon). Since I have had no offers this has been most helpful in planning our camping trip to mount Augustus next week. Thanks. Brilliant. Avid cyclist, Jennie.

    • Andrew Priest July 19, 2013 at 7:22 AM #

      Sorry to hear of the lack of offers on the children 🙂 Thanks for the feedback but and I hope you and the mob enjoy Mt Augustus. A great place to visit for sure.

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