1st May 2019
Gunbarrel Laager Travellers Camp – Wiluna
The time is upon us, we are finally at the start of our CSR adventure Ride/drive. Max made it three days early, what a machine. Did you know it is actually all uphill from Mandurah to Wiluna? We are now at 510 meters above sea level. True!
Mumsie cooked us our departure dinner, and we enjoyed that with my Brother, his wife and a couple of our nieces. It was very nice indeed. We were very tired, and feeling the pressure from the weeks gone by. Loosing Poppi has been tough on us, and did make departing a bit easier. We missed her running around the back yard.
Day one, leaving home, was pretty simple after a three day delay. Will had overcome all the trials of the Tracklander accessories, used to secure the gear on the roof rack. All food (6 weeks worth, we hope) is in the car, all the water carrying vessels are in the car (empty), and we feel as ready as we possibly can be. Max has been messaging regularly, and having a terrible time with flat tyres. This gave us a couple of emergency jobs on our way to meet him. Our plans have changed many times, leaving us with this final plan to reach Wiluna. Take the Great Eastern Highway to Coolgardie, then turn right to Kambalda, have a nice relaxing visit with good friends Nicole and Barry (previously of Norseman fame), then straight up the Goldfields Highway. It isn’t as exciting as our original three plans, but most efficient.
Getting through Perth wasn’t too difficult, as it was still school holidays, and traffic was a bit lighter. We also took some alternative routes, avoiding the freeway. After three stops, in Bayswater, Guildford and Midvale, we finally exited the metropolis, on our way. We didn’t drive fast, averaging 90-95kms an hour. We aimed for a well known, free camping spot, just east of Southern Cross, called Karalee Rocks. We’ve camped here before, and it is a nice, off the highway, camping spot, with a flushing toilet. The next option (about 50kms further) is Boondee Rocks, but light was fading, and time was against us now. Karalee it is.
It was a good first night out. We have developed a great “first night” strategy. Take out the stresses, and make things as simple as possible. So we bought a cooked chicken, some rolls and some salad, in Merredin, and had that for dinner. Will scrounged some fire wood, and we had a small ambience fire, ate our chicken rolls, and enjoyed the amazing Autumn night stars. We also drank our last beers and ciders (there wasn’t too many, we remember the port incident from our round Oz, motorbike trip), and had an early night.
Day 2 & 3 – It was a nice easy morning, at Karalee Rocks. Banana and plums, with coffee, for breakfast, pack up the tent, and into the day we drive. It’s not a big drive to Kambalda, so we have a short break in Coolgardie, eat a very average toasted sandwich, then carry on to Nicole and Barry’s. I really love the drive around this region, the Western Woodlands are beautiful. Deep red/orange trunks, neat symmetrical foliage, and amazing dark red dirt. My colours. Let’s not forget the huge blue sky. Kambalda is looking really nice, these days, and has all Nicole and Barry need. They are both working in Kalgoorlie now, which is about 55kms drive.
Day 4 is another cruisey day, with a brief stop in Kal for beer, and voting. We’ll be somewhere in the centre of the CSR, on Election Day, so have to do an early vote. Today is the first day voting is open, and Kalgoorlie is the only town we go through, that has an early voting centre. The other issue, is purchasing alcohol in Kal has big restrictions. You can’t buy it before 11am, and you can only buy 1 cask of wine, per person, per day. Luckily we were served by a logical, self thinking lady, who sold us 4 casks of wine and two cartons of beer. Not enough for the entire trip, but all we can fit in the car. I’m sure it won’t do us any harm to run out of alcohol.
We decided to camp at Lake Ballard, 50kms west of Menzies, on the Menzies, Sandstone road. Many times we’ve been up this way and never managed to see it. This time we’re going against our usual MO, of not backtracking, as we’ll be driving in and out on the same road, just because it is quicker.
The lake is a large salt lake, with lots of small islands within it. In 2003, the Inside Australiaexhibition was commissioned, and artist Antony Gormleyinstalled 51 sculptures over an area of 10 square kilometres (4 sq mi) on the bed of the lake. They were supposed to be removed after the exhibition, but are still silently standing on the lake. A nice tourist attraction.
Only a few other campers out there, probably because of the pesky flies, and we found ourselves a decent camp spot, with a fire pit and table. A pretty nice view too. Being environmentally aware, we pilfered wood from unused campsites, nearby, and had ourselves another good camp fire. We cooked a couple of lamb stakes on the provided hot plate, which were a little crunchy. Was it sand blown on by the wind (it was a bit gusty), or rust? Didn’t matter, we just ate it.
The wind never gave up all night, and we ended up with quite a bit of sand in our tent. Something to consider when picking sites from now on. Hhmmm. A cool morning, which Will didn’t mind, and burst out of the tent before the sun rose, to hike the first, and highest little island on the lake. He reckoned he almost burst a foofer, climbing it. Bloody hell, we lost our fitness fast. Just as he returned, I was starting the “rolling up” inside the tent. Will made coffee, I rolled, and everything came together like clockwork. Banana and plums for breakfast, a nice relaxing coffee and we looked at each other, and realised we could drink this coffee on the road. We have a big days drive to Wiluna.
The road back was quicker, with less corrugations on this side. Why? Not fucking idea, but my guess is loaded trucks go to Sandstone, and unloaded ones return….maybe! Our first stop was in Leonora, where we topped up the fuel and our bellies, with a freshly made hamburger, from the local cafe. I caught a couple of Pokémon, and then we continued on, north.
At around 3pm, we arrived at our campground, the Gunbarrel Laager Travellers Rest. It is 10 kms east of Wiluna on the Carnegie road, heading to the Gunbarrel Highway of old. It is the only spot to stay in Wiluna, and is pretty bloody well organised. Will and I got a room, last little luxury before the track, payed for dinner at the mess, and enjoyed reconnecting with Max. Dinner was bloody good, with a complimentary glass of wine and dessert. A few beers between us, discussing the plan from here, and off to bed as it began to get too chilly to sit outside.
All that is left, is to reorganise Max’s gear, and the car, and then we’ll be off. So it is May first, our planned start date, but we will spend today getting everything in order, so we can depart early tomorrow. CSR, look out, team MaxWilJen, are here! Woo hoo, what is in store for us?