Pierre Repaire - Newman - Karijini - Millsteam

Pierre Repaire

Fully equipped for our Northern adventure the 6 cars Ian and Nina, Jim and Joy, John and Pauline, Keith, Karl and Dawn left Muchea 5th July 2008 at 8.30 am camping the first night at the Granites - and it was freezing. We needed all layers plus beanies.

Next morning everything was very damp with dew and needed drying off to some extent before packing up. On the way fuel stop at Meekatharra where we had to wait a long time to pay and then Wiluna.

A little drive around the town then to book in at the hotel where we sorted out rooms. Jim and Joy, John and Pauline and Karl had decided to carry on up the Stock Route looking at Wells l to 5 before meeting us at Well 6. The evening at Wiluna was a great "cultural experience".

The Geraldton 4WD Club people with Ian Stockridge arrived soon after us and we met them all and rooms were sorted out before the special even BBQ.

I interesting to hear from the Hotel owner who had been there for 17 years and told us about the water (Wiluna sitting over a huge artesian basin, the mining for all sorts of minerals including Uranium, and the local history. We had comfortable rooms with even shampoo, soap etc. provided.

Next morning breakfast was served from 5 am but we were about last! Breakfasts included 3 eggs, rashers of bacon, sausages etc. all in king size serves.

We left Wiluna in 2 convoys (Subaru4WD Club, with Brett and Robin with us and the other group with their trailers and equipment a bit later. Along the track we visited Lake Violet Station with Brett and Robyn hoping to visit friends who unfortunately were not available.

We also stopped at the Granites station and paid $20 per car and $30 per trailer to help the owner keeping the tracks graded and in repair. Very friendly people.

CSR - Well 6

We all arrived at Well 6 at about the same time and set up camp.

The group of the Geralton 4WD Club were very well equipped with special fire powered hot water heaters for dishes and showers and it was fascinating to see the camp ovens and plates producing and sampling the gourmet food.

The next three days kept all the men busy repairing the Well using recyled plastic sleepers with every piece of machinery available for every sort of job. (Just as well for me!)

The evenings were hilarious especially on the Wednesday evening to celebrate the completion of the Well repair and Jims team the loo lighting and the very xxxxx job of cleaning out the enviro loo!!!!!! A horrible job well done. It was overflowing and who would have done these most important jobs otherwise ??? While the men were working there were many vehicles passing through going both ways along the CSR. Some left donations to help with the repairs and all appreciated the work being done.

So Wednesday night was celebration night - and what a celebration. Finishing the Well and loo repairs and Robyns birthday. What a bush party under the beautiful white gums and lit up with powerful lights , decorations and a piñata. Starting with Champagne and nibbles and carrying on with sparklers, poppers, magic lights, and drinks. It really was a great night and almost freezing night temperatures (ice on bowls).

Thursday was a rest day and David arrived just in time to meet everyone and see all the gourmet food being cooked and in the morning before leaving we had group photos taken by David who said that was his contribution. How many cameras - ? Who knows ! Just one after the other.

So we all left at different times. Ian, Nina, Jim and Joy heading off exploring, John and Pauline further up the CSR ( celebrating Pauline's 70th birthday!), our group heading to Serpents Glen and the Gero group to Virgin Springs.

Carnarvon Range

The track was wash aways, rocky, sandy, smooth, corrugated, straight, twisty - all sorts and my car was the lowest not yet being lifted and some of the Gero group were towing trailers so we were driving carefully. Unfortunately I again had a problem being lower than the other Subarus and the others were all heavyweights.

I was trying to be careful and slow and driving on the mound and flat but unfortunately hit some outcropping rocks!! Next thing the power light started flashing which meant TROUBLE. The transmission.

We were near M6 rock pool and had stopped to see it and David, Keith and Karl quickly put a tin underneath to catch the oil. Yes, I had damaged the gear box plate. So it was the dirty job to drain the oil, remove the plate and patch the hole with epoxy and seal the plate to the body with silicone and replace the oil with Davids special gear box oil.. So the car was driveable and we continued the short distance to Serpents Glen. As we were stopping a drip could be seen and it meant trouble again - the patch had cracked. Out with the ex-biscuit tin again to catch the oil - fortunately not a lot had been lost.

So it was time to set up camp and "wait and see". After a combined effort removing the plate again and see that the patch had cracked despite me trying to drive carefully and avoid rocks Keith drove over a very rough track to Virgin Springs knowing the Gero group had all kinds of gear and calling for help. Before Keith left it was all hands and bodies under the car to finish draining the oil and remove the cover to find the hole. Well done! and thank you all.

Later on Keith arrived back with Brett and Mike (they had all travelled over a very rocky track - where I definitely was not going. Brett had cleaned up the plate and re-plugged the hole on both sides with 2 pack epoxy (like a sausage roll - cut off a piece and mix to use) and he was laden with all the group's spare oil. After the plate had been cleaned of all the old silicone around the edges and replaced with more to seal it, David was again under the car to refit the plate. The last lost bolt had been eventually found, then they had to replace the oil again using the special filler (using part of my water syphon, a used jelly container and tape) because the filler was so difficult to get to.

Then to try again - light still flashing !!!! Maybe needs to be reset by the dealer? Turn off and try again - yes!! it drove off and still runs through all gears.

So now I must drive carefully again trying to avoid rocks (as I do) otherwise the filler could crack again and then get it brazed at Newman and refilled again with gear box oil. The guys were interested to see the underneath off an auto gear box.

But thats not all. On sunday Keith was going to put the spare fuel in my car and I needed a special filler - no go -so modification came in again. This time a cool drink bottle from the bin (who will empty it ???) top cut off and perfect funnel to tip fuel from my can into Keiths can into my car.

Next day was a rest day and Karl and David went off to Virgin Springs and other interesting places (again over that rocky spot) to see the other group. Keith went rock climbing, I checked out the Rock art and secret rock places. Karl is a super rock climber and the day before we spotted him right at the top waving to us. He said there was an old campfire up there and a fantastic view all around. On ground level just sitting surrounded by rugged red hills and grasses and small trees whispering wind (cold) and silence is so special.

Newman times

Next day at 9am we were packed and ready to leave when I started the car and the dreaded power light was still flashing. no worries just add some more oil. Still flashing all the way along the track , gently over rocks, burn over the sand hill, creep over wash aways, rattle over corrugations. No worries - heading for Kumarina and we'll all fill up.

(expensive?) Visited Neds Creek station and had a chat and on we went to get fuel we were all on nearly empty. Watching the gauge get down to quarter full we pulled into Kumarina to see a sign - "pump not working" No icecreams either!

Next fuel was Newman/Capricorn so we had to drive VERY carefully. 408 kms from Serpents to Capricorn. So we were on the bitumen and David was measuring distances and consumption and different speeds. I was on empty and waiting for the light to come on and thought the light was broken. Eventually the light came on and I went 70 kms until we reached Capricorn - so that is something to know.

When we got to Newman and settled into the Caravan Park we set about trying to find someone to braze the gear box cover. No go. The mine was closed for maintenance and all mechanics were out there. So off came the plate again (Dave' s an expert) and the guys found a helper who had a man working for him and would help us - so it was brazed for a slab of beer and Dave put it on again. and filled it with new oil.

The light was still flashing and did so until I arrived home - perhaps 3000 km later but thats another story. Down thank David, Keith and Karl and all the Gero people for their wonderful company and help that was desperately needed. PS I also had a flat tyre later on and these great people fixed it for me.

We explored the local area whilst repairs were made. We visited Silent Gorge, Cathedral Gorge, and Opthalmia Dam. Two days later it was great to be joined by Josan, Tom and Jenni heard the full story involving Dawn’s automatic transmission, repairs etc. The next day the BHP Billiton Mt. Whaleback Mine Tour, which departs from the Visitor Centre once a day at 9:30am, provided us with the opportunity to see an explosion from a safe distance as well as to take in the incredible size of the operation. This mine is the largest Single Open-Cut Iron Ore Mine in the world but there are many smaller mines in this area as well..

The next section of the larger trip had 7 participants in 6 vehicles. Lunch at the nearby Silent Grove gave us our first small scale introduction to a Pilbara Gorge. We camped at Wanna Munna that night which is a superb spot with hundreds of examples of ancient Aboriginal rock carvings. A number of the group later rated this as their preferred camp site of all those used.

Wanna Munna was a substitute for the original plan to camp at the Munjina East Gorge. We checked the latter out the next day- the views were spectacular but the setting was very exposed to the strong winds. All agreed we had made a good choice.

We refuelled at the Auski Roadhouse which is at the north east corner of the Karijini National Park. Our travels then took us along the northern boundary. Most of the group did a brief foray into Yampire and Wittenoom Gorges. The latter was clearly very spectacular but there seemed a degree of inconsistency in various information sources as to the safety or otherwise of visiting there.

Karijini National Park

The road to Hamersley Gorge took us through some spectacular narrow winding rock passes. Camping at the gorge itself is not permitted so, based on Simon’s advice, we camped outside the National Park. This gave us a good start to visit Hamersley Gorge the next morning. This set the basic pattern of our visits with lots of climbing on rock faces and swimming in the very cold water by the more adventurous. Karl clearly has rock wallaby in his ancestry as every time we turned around he was scampering up another cliff face.

We checked into the Eco Lodge later that day for the first of our 3 nights within Karijini itself. We experienced very cold nights with overnight temperatures of around 2 degrees. As we could not have a campfire we huddled around Dawn’s citronella lantern after dinner till the firstperson yielded and went off to bed, generally about 8 pm.

Over the next few days, we managed to do day trips to all the gorges within Karijini. The roads within the Park were predominantly badly corrugated but manageable. Each gorge had distinctive differences from the others though all were well worth seeing. Josan was busy keeping a record sheet of the expanding number of bird species we sighted on our visits and round the campsite.

At Dale Gorge we met up with club member Bob Harrison. He was scheduled to be acting as a DEC volunteer host. Unfortunately for him, a change in family circumstances meant he had to cancel these plans and return to Perth the next day. The Dale Day Use Area also included a photogenic dingo who was unfazed by the presence of people to the extent of standing in the middle of the road whilst the buses and other vehicles drove around him.

We marked our last evening at Karijini with a very pleasant dinner in the resort restaurant. Keith set off early the next morning for the long drive home. The rest of us headed out of the Park a little later for the drive to Tom Price. By this stage we had travelled approximately 400 km in or skirting the park since we fuelled up at Auski.

Millstream National Park

We left Tom Price Caravan Park after breakfast. Some of us ended up leaving around 8:30 to visit the local bakery, then we all drove up Mount Nameless (the highest drivable mount in W.A) for some great views over the mine and Tom Price. We had got permission to use the private rail access track which passed near Millstream the day before and it was in much better condition than the tracks around Karijini. On it we passed a 2.4 km long ore train. We stopped for lunch near the banks of the Fortescue River and were surprised by the number of wildflowers around. Tom noticed one of Dawn’s tyres looked flat so he changed it with help from Karl. We made it into Millstream and headed for Crossing Pool which sounded like the nicest spot to camp and arrived around 3:30. There are only 10 campsites after some recent cyclone damage and six were taken but luckily we were able to convince Rob & Carol our camp ground hosts that we could squeeze in. Karl braved the cool water and went for a swim. We then all gathered with the other campers for nibbles and stories of everyone’s travels.

A lot of birds making a noise at sunrise most of them were so small they were hard to spot. It had been warmer overnight only dropping to 5 degrees, and we all sat on the banks of the river bird watching until after morning tea, when Josan, Karl, Tom & David decided to walk the 3.4 km trail to Millstream station homestead whilst Jenni & Dawn drove around. This proved to be a lovely walk along a couple of creek beds with towering paperbarks and river gums and local Millstream palms. We all had lunch at the Millstream homestead which is now the visitors centrethen did the 750 m walk around the grounds which crossed many small crystal clear creeks flowing out of a water lily covered pool, very relaxing. Tom set a cracking pace back and we made it in 45 minutes but were all hot & sweaty so we decided to go for a swim ( I only lasted about 30 seconds before heading back for shore). Drinks and nibbles again with a different group of people (two in a Forester from S.A). With a campfire not being allowed we sat around Dawn’s little citronella lamp until bed time. Up early with the birds again but we didn’t stop to admire them as Karl was heading off back to Perth and the rest of us wanted to get to Warroora station. We left around 9:00 but took the scenic route through Millstream to a couple of look outs finally reaching the main road to Pannawonica. We refuelled at Pannawonica and enjoyed a very cheap subsidised, $1.34 per litre and became a four car convoy as Karl had left us that morning to head home.