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Scott & Gaby's Australian Adventure

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Canning Stock Route (CSR)

Written on: Monday June 18th, 2007

Make sure you check the previous blog too.


The CSR was started in 1906 taking four years to complete. The purpose of this route was to move cattle from the north to the southern regions through three deserts. To do so 50 wells needed to be dug to water the cattle along the route. It stretches 1700 km over the arid heart of Western Australia. The wells were constructed by drilling, blasting and digging until water was found. The deepest is 104 feet. Water for the cattle was usually lifted in 200 litre canvas bags that the drovers carried. Attached was a cable running through pulleys and hauled up by camels. When the bag of water reached the top it was swung out and emptied into the troves. Many well have collapsed now and are in ruins, but some have been reconditioned by 4wd clubs and still have good water. As you can imagine back then the intrusion of the white man did not go over well with the aborigines and they often burnt them causing problems for drovers who then had to push the cattle onto the next well. Men were attacked and speared to death along the way and aborigines shot. Not a place we would like to travel then. In 1955 this fellow became very ill while moving 500 head of cattle at well 20. By the time he was able to draw water almost half of this mob died of thirst. There are many interesting stories like this along the CSR. It is the longest stock route in the world, most of it passing through uninhabited but vegetated desert country. There are at least 900 sand dunes to cross, and in our case some required more then one attempt. This is considered the most isolated track in the world. This track does not get used in the summer here. The poor bugger that travels on it first usually late April early May have a terrible time with tall spinifex (grass) that can block the vehicles rad in less then 10 minuets. We saw two burnt out vehicles on the first stretch of the CSR. We needed to prepare for over 2000km of travel due to side tracks planned. Our supplies consisted of 20 days of food & water and we carried 190 litres of diesel in the tanks plus three 20 litre jerry can, with a planned refueling half way at an aboriginal community.

We had planned to leave Wiluna at the start of the CSR but the route was closed due to rain the week prior. When it rains here the track condition become poor and you can get bogged (stuck). So we had to take a 250 km alternate route which is where we had our first flat tire. Our wheels are designed to be able to remove the tube via a split rim system so we patched the tube on sight. The detour brought us onto the CSR at well #5 and our first night was spent under some spectacular white gun trees. (Eucalypt tree) The next morning we continued on crossing sand hills and passed two dead camels on the track, two 3 foot monitors (lizards) and a Kangaroo with a Joey (baby) in it pouch. We could not see much of the Joey other than its legs sticking out. When nearing well 12 we were looking forward to setting up camp and enjoying the site to ourselves, however we discovered with disappointment well 12 was already occupied ( bugger). We met two Aussies (Michael and Hugh) and by the end of the evening over their camp fire we shared their chocolate and Gaby?s Baileys. Yes Gaby did share. Travelled 131 km in 7 hours. The next morning our destination was Durba Springs a beautiful natural spring oasis nestled along a gorge. On the way there we passed a mob of seven camels and then later one big male camel decided to run in front of us on the track. Camels have a very peculiar stride. Their front and back leg on the same side move at the same time and when they are running in front of you it is quite comical watching their butt sway back and forth.

A little tidbit; Camels are a feral animal that were introduced into Australia in the 1800s. They are descendants of those released by their owners when the camel trains that supplied expeditions of the outback were replaced with motor vehicles in the 1920s and 30s. These are the one hump animals (Dromedary) and are considered the most pure camels and are now exported to the Middle East to improve their local jean pool.

When we arrived at the Spring we met up again with Aussie friends and shared the camp fire over dinner. They ate steak, potatoes and carrots, and we ate chilly out of a can, yum yum. The next day we back tracked and did a side trip into Calvert Ranges which has a lot of aboriginal paintings and etchings dating back 3000 to 5000 years ago. Michael & Hugh invited us for dinner when we get back. It took us two hours to go 37 km traveling over corrugations and sand dunes, big sand dunes. We got hung up on one dune and after 6 attempts we let the air out of the tire to 27 psi and up & over we went. Again we followed a camel or ,moose as Gaby has been accidentally calling them, for a few km before it left the track. (we have the pictures to prove it) You see, we are polite and wait till they get off the track unlike some Aussies who give them a like nudge. We spent some time locating aboriginal paintings painted on rocks and by the time we got back we were late for supper. Michael had already given up on us (Hugh did not) because it was dark but when we came back we got that ?your late for supper? look from Michael who had been slaving away making a delicious meal. He is the master chef of the outback and even bakes his own bread but Hugh is the master fire maker. Why do you think we keep hanging around these guys. Not only that, but their shower sure beats our black bag. They have a small shower stall size tent that is open at the top. To heat water they have a bucket of water which circulates around a device that is hooked up to the engine cooling system making it warm and pumped through a shower head. Who?d of thunk it, only the Australians? So Gaby had a wonderful shower under the stars.

The next day we went our own ways. Scott and I walked for a few hours along the gorge and scrambled up passing several pools and went to the top of the ridge. We then continued up the CSR and along the track we found a jar that travelers leave notes in. We ripped the front cover of our note pad that had a picture of the Canadian flag on it, and left a note on it hoping Michael and Hugh would see it, saying where we were heading. (We did not want to loose them, they are good cooks you know).

We camped at Lake Disappointment, Not the kind of lake you?re thinking this one was a salt bed that very rarely sees water.

The next morning we woke up to a mob of nine camels. Three were running after each other fighting for the harem. It is not the most attractive sight watching them with their lips flapping up & down and foaming at the mouth. It is said that you know when you?re to close to a running camel when you windshield get pelted with gooey white foam. This stretch of the CSR was rough and corrugated and we could only travel 20kph. We saw 10 more camels along the way and spent the night at Georgia Bore, which is a well sunk in the 70s for the use of a survey crew exploiting for oil.



From Deborah and Mark & Family on Jun 18th, 2007

Oh My! That is quite a story. Is it all true? Mr. Barnes and Snake would be very proud of your talents of story telling, grammar, spelling and entertainment factor!!! Loved the photos -- the best one is the camel / mooses' ass!!!! News from our home.... Brent graduated with honours from the University of Guelph - Bachelor of Commerce Degree. Very proud! Our Anniversary plans are confirmed. Remember to keep Saturday, July 28th OPEN -- you may still be sleepy - but NO WORRIES - we are picking everyone up and bringing you home again. Will give all the details when you arrive home. Look forward to reading the continuation of this amazing and riveting story. Cheers! Deborah