Hooray, arrived in Onslow on the coast this afternoon. Found the only accommodation in town, $245 a night thanks to the Chevron gas hub development nearby. We might have been able to get a tent site at one of the caravan parks, but after many days in the bush, a chalet was very appealing. Onslow Sun Chalets
Last nights campsite was nice, a typical beside the road camp made better by the VeggieCruza being able drive just that bit further from the road for privacy. A little depression filled by the recent floods gave us some washing water, and the brilliant hard dry jam wood makes a lot of heat with little wood.
Packed up and on the road by 8:50am, we cruised along at a good speed. We found a 24 hour roadside camp at a river crossing and checked it out. What’s that smell? Hot trailer brakes again? This is seriously frustrating. They seem to need almost daily checking and readjustment, in particular in bad conditions such as mud and dust. But given they are supposed to be off road brakes, it’s pretty disappointing Alko!!
I also found both spring shackles loose on the trailer and one spring bolt broken. Not having any replacement, we Shuffled the axle forward a little and tightened it up. The roads haven’t been that rough, but shows the importance of daily vehicle checks armed with spanners to retighten everything. Something not to look forward to each night especially with all the mud caked to the components.
There’s certainly something about this section of road between Nanutarra and Paraburdoo. I don’t recall any trip along here which has been trouble free.
But for now it’s catching up on 266 emails, mostly deleted, showers and becoming civilized again. Fish and chips from the pub tonight!
Made our way along Pingandy Road to the Meekatharra to Ashburton Downs station road. It was a little wider, but no better condition. Plenty of dips, floodways, wash always and muddy spots that kept me on my toes. There was a massive bog hole on Pingandy Road that you might want to check out, but not if you’re thinking of travelling these roads. YouTube link to the boggy hole video
The VeggieCruza has front and rear diff locks, which were frequently engaged this trip. This means that all four wheels rotate exactly the same, despite and soppy mud, airborne wheels or other difficulties, providing maximum traction. Dragging the trailer is a disadvantage in such situations, but we’ve got through, unscathed!
The drive alongside the Ashburton river can be boring. The road is too far from the river to ever get any benefit of viewing the river and the flat floodplains are uninteresting, particularly combined with hard driving conditions. The big landscape IS big and frequently changing.
A roadside coffee break late morning was really nice. Mud was building inside the mudguard of the left trailer wheel, compacting and acting as a break over bumpy ground. Left alone, the heat can build up on the tyre rubbing on the now baked mud and cause a blowout. Not sure if the trailer axle has moved backwards. I’m not thinking so, but it needs watching.
At the Ashburton Downs Homestead, visitors not welcome, we turned north with only 57km to go to the bitumen road. In between was the fast flowing deep running Ashburton River and a floodway to cover. Convincing myself the travellers from Adelaide had got through the day before and it was likely the river had dropped since their passage, and I couldn’t see any sign of them floating down the river or a recent rescue, I engaged low range and entered the fastest deepest water I have ever crossed.
The water on my side was a little higher than Kerry’s side, as where the water hit the concrete floodway, a ‘bow wave’ formed, making it deeper. Before we got too far, I checked outside and found the water lapping the sidesteps on my side, not quite high enough for he body of the car to be pushed by the current, but very close. I’m guessing it was 200mm deep, but flowing very fast.. The crossing was about 50 metres long, and yes we made it. Sorry, no photos, we were rather preoccupied with our safety. On reflection, I am never ever going to cross a river like this again. It was really dangerous. We crossed safely, but I’m not going into such fast moving water again.
Eventually the bitumen Nanutarra to Munjina Road appeared. We’d completed an epic run of 1000km of dirt roads through some pretty spectacular and testing situations.
4WD turned off and front hubs disengaged, the VeggieCruza was released from those shackles and took to bitumen roads again. I still only sat on 80kmh, the comfortable maximum of the last days. How on earth I drove 600km from Kennedy ranges, several hours west of Cobra, to Tom Price all in one day with Chris and Cass is staggering. No wonder they don’t like my holidays! A lesser distance has taken three days this trip.
We’re camped up off the road around behind some trees. Few travellers are on the road after dark, and our dim camp lights and low campfire make us invisible should anyone be on the road. Today we saw no other vehicles on the dirt. Within a minute of arriving at the bitumen, we saw two, and then four or five an hour after that.
The weather is warmer, but the wind has a chill in it out of the sun. After dark the wind drops and the nights are generally pleasant. Tomorrow will be Onslow. After that, not sure.
Jim let us know the road north of Mt Augustus had been opened, so that was the way we headed. But first Jim needed some more help figuring out stuff with his computer which I managed to achieve to his satisfaction. A quick live blog update and on the road at 10:30 am. I had no way of transferring these notes, written on the iPad, onto Jim’s laptop to allow uploading onto the blog site. That will have to wait until I can get wifi Internet access.
So it was back on the road again, VeggieCruza humming along, the road in good condition with only a few corrugations from time to time. The new tyres and Bilstein shock absorbers do a great job on an old truck.
Mt Augustus came and went. I’m sure it is an interesting place to explore, and it’s the largest monolith in the world. But frankly it looks no different to the other mountains around the area, bigger maybe, but nothing spectacular, not like that one in the Northern Territory anyway..
There was no one in the office at the grandly named Mt Augustus ‘resort’. Their green grassed campsites looked nice, and I’m sure the motel dongas were nice inside. We assumed the road north was opened, and slowly drove through the station yards looking for any sign of someone trying to stop us. The road was wider than I recall from nine years when I bought Christopher and Cassidy through the region in a memorable but not enjoyable journey. It was October, 42*C, and the first offroad trip for all of us. We’d camped in the oppressive heat at Kennedy ranges with little overnight respite, and I drove the kids 600km the next day to get to Tom Price and air conditioned accommodation.
This trip is better. The flies are around, but not intrusive, the days warm out of the wind, and the night temps around 13*C I’d guess, maybe a bit cooler. Towing the trailer slows us down apparently as we were caught by a couple from SA, bird watchers. Caring for Kerry’s tender back requires care on the numerous dips and floodways, there would have 100 of them today. We had lunch with the bird watchers along the track, then pulled over alone into a creek crossing at 3:30pm, giving us two hours to setup, cook and eat dinner in the daylight and dusk, before settling in for chocolate, blog updates and Kindle after 6pm. The SA couple pushed on, needing to get to Paraburdoo before the shops shut tomorrow.
The scenery through this Pingandy road is neat. Not spectacular, but interesting driving around through he foothills of the Hamersley Ranges. Big vistas, big landscapes, river gums marking the creeks. Very few animals around.
Tonight we have Water from the creek heated on the campfire, minimalist LED lighting, this is free camping at its best. The glorious big white river gums protect us from the wind and provide firewood. Braised steak and onion appeared from the Engel in a vacuum sealed bag and slow cooked on the fire. A little drinking water from our containers, the rest for washing from the creek. Last night we saw a shooting star and at least one satellite passing overhead, wonder what we’ll see tonight…
About 200 km today.
We saw one car on the road, the bird watchers
Just a quick update courtesy of Bangemall Inn owner Jim, who has been our gracious host here for a couple of days whilst we have been stuck due to road closures.
More updates later, but for now we are heading to Mt Augustus then north through Dooley Downs to Ashburton Downs station. the roads are classed as open to 4WD, so we hope to get through without causing damage to the roads.
Cobra is a great place to get away from radio, TV, mobile and most else in the world. We’ve heard we have a ew Prime Minister, doesn’t seem to matter much here.
Full day at Cobra station.
Populated by Jim, helper Rob, and visitor helper Pedro.
Jim took me back the few km to check on the condition of the road that had nearly stopped us yesterday. It looked pretty innocuous today, still sticky to walk on, but with much less visible water. We took some photos, then constructed an email to the shire CEO informing him of the problem section of the road. I spent a few hours helping Jim to get his Mac book pro working properly.
Had some lunch, helped the boys with some cementing of a sign, then mowed the lawn. Kerry rested her back and read her Kindle. A few travellers have started to come through from the west, Kennedy Ranges direction so we know that access is open. We hope to travel east and north but the information is scant. The Shire to the north has not updated it’s ‘road conditions’ report for four days. Time has less meaning to Jim, a day here or there.
The skid to the left is mine. Low speed, driving forward gently, and slowly we get dragged off line into the gutter. Kerry held the Jesus bar. What’s the Jesus bar?? It’s the grab rail on the dashboard, and it’s name called on frequent occasions in rough conditions.
I ran the car engine for a while today to charge up the batteries for the fridge tonight.
Dinner by the fire with the boys tonight, many tales told.