Cover Photo: Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater. Taken by Jenny from the wiljen DJI Mavic Pro Drone.
9th to 12th of June 2019.
Nyarna to Halls Creek, via Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater. By Will.
Our Journey so far, Blue represents Vehicle Travel, Red is the Canning Stock Route.
Thanks for doing all those fantastic CSR Blog Updates Jenny, makes me want to do it all over again ! Not far to Halls Creek now but first we must do the side trip to Wolfe Creek Crater.
Nyarna Lagoon was great, could have spent a week there, sadly lots of feral cats that need eradicating.
From Nyarna (Stretch Lagoon) to Bililuna it’s a corrugated 18kms, Max decides to cycle it & team wiljen plan to meet up with Max at the Bililuna Community Store just before 12 noon where we’ll stock up with some much needed diesel, junk food & frozen chicken for tonight’s curry. Once the Cruiser pulls into Bililuna I head straight over to the fuel bowser ($2.60 per litre), while Jenny pre-pays for diesel & buys a couple of pies. Max is sitting under the Shop veranda chatting to a few local aboriginal kids already onto his second meat pie with tomato sauce, while a few community dogs loiter around waiting for crumbs.
It’s 11.50am when I finish fuelling up, I take the pre-pay fuel card into the Shop to get my $10 card deposit back & notice that the Shop shuts at 12 noon. Quickly I call Max in (we both thought the Shop shut at 1pm) and we both race around the small but well stocked Community Shop getting our badly needed supplies before closing time…whew, that was a close call. We were nearly out of fuel & food.
With Max’s bike loaded onto the back of the Pussy Wagon we head off towards Wolfe Creek Crater National Park. Bililuna to the Wolfe Creek Crater turn off is 40kms. After the CSR the dirt road seems like a highway. Sadly the 25kms into Wolfe Creek is another story. Initially you get lulled into a false sense of security with a half decent dirt road, but after 5kms it deteriorates into a bone shaking, corrugated mess. This had our well worn shock absorbers fading quickly and banging about like bulls at the gate in a rodeo. All we could do is drive slow on deflated tyres.
At Wolfe Creek there is a Free Camping area with near new drop toilets, finding wood so close to the Camping area is near on impossible so we decided to forego the campfire. Late afternoon Max & I walk the 1.5kms to the Crater, while Jenny rides Max’s Dutch built Santos Fat Bike (Jenny’s knees are really starting to become a serious hindrance to her mobility).
First order of duty once we arrive at Wolfe Creek is to sort out some lunch & claim a camp site. Max is excited to have bread for sandwiches, usually we only have flat bread for “wraps”.
The 3 of us have the whole of the caldron shaped Crater to ourselves. The Sun is low in the western sky. Jenny has the Mavic Pro Drone ready for launch, Max and I decide to walk to the epicentre of the impact zone. The Crater is nearly 900 metres across and science puts the impact timing at around 300000 years ago. The Crater was “discovered” in 1947 during an aerial survey, though only officially reported about in 1949. Obviously the local Aborigines have known about it since the Dreamtime. Must admit it is pretty special, particularly on sunset.
The walk in was moderately hard but well worth it, Jenny managed to take some amazing Drone footage (which has been posted on YouTube). Max & I climbed back out to the top of the Crater Rim just in time to view the stunning sunset. Then it was back to the campground for chicken curry and an early alcohol free night.
Day 46 since leaving Mandurah. Tuesday 11/06/19, Wolfe Creek Crater to Halls Creek. 140kms, max temp 33C.
This is it the last day of travel with our adventurous cycling mate Max. At 8am Max cycles off for the Tanami Road / Wolfe Creek Crater intersection. We are in the Landcruiser & on the rough dirt road by 9.30am . We rendezvous with Max at the intersection and head into a side road that leads to a derelict long forgotten Roadhouse. Amazingly the Tour Company called the Spirit of Adventure was there sorting themselves out for another long arduous 16 day trip down the CSR. We have seen these guys in their 5 specially modified Mercedes G Wagons 3 times during our trip. They were happy to see us and shouted us all a beer in celebration of our epic finale to our CSR Tour. Thanks Spirit of Adventure Dudes & Dudette. We enjoyed your company.
It was a bit of a noisy night with some other Campers partying on a bit to long, but we returned the favour at 6am by making lots of noise as we made coffee & had breaky.
For the final time we load Max’s bicycle onto the back of the team wiljen Pussy Wagon and drive a relatively fuss free 2 hours on ok’ish, dusty, Tanami Road into the once wild Outback town of Halls Creek. Jenny & I book into the Kimberley Hotel ($204 per night) & Max checks into the slightly less expensive Halls Creek Motel ($185 per night) it’s now full blown tourist season up here so don’t expect any significant discounts. After a couple of nights rest & recouping the 3 travelling Amigos go their separate ways. Max on his bike to Darwin, via the Duncan & Buntine Highways. Team wiljen towards Kununurra.
Surprisingly the wretched Bush Flies have finally disappeared & that first real shower in weeks was rather nice.
Great trip, would travel with Max any time, thanks for the great CSR memories Mate.
For the purpose of trip simplicity & distance accuracy, team wiljen are calling our CSR Tour Route from Gunbarrel Laager Camp Wiluna (10kms east of Wiluna) to Nyarna (Stretch Lagoon, 18kms south of Bililuna).
From Bililuna to Halls Creek via Wolfe Creek Meteor Crater NP, it’s a further 213kms of ok dirt road driving along the Tanami Road.
Let’s get the statistics out of the way first before I give you my CSR Tour thoughts & opinions.
Keep in mind that we did do a 1 week side trip to Newman & Karlamilyi National Park (Rudall River). That side trip isn’t included in these stats.
*Total Distance including CSR side trips like Breaden Pool, etc. = 1537kms.
*Days on CSR, = 32. (include days getting to Halls Creek, then it’s 35 days).
*Kilometres on Bicycle by Will. = 500kms, yes exactly “500” I suffered through the last 18kms of deep boggy sand north of Well 49, averaging 6km/h to get my 500kms. (34% of CSR).
*Kilometres on Bicycle by Max = 1064kms (average comes to 34kms per day, 70% of CSR). Huge effort ! If we had enough supplies & time I have no doubt Max could have cycled the whole CSR.
*Kilometres for the wiljen Pussy Wagon Landcruiser on CSR: 1537kms (averages out at 48kms per day on CSR), Jenny would have driven about 1200kms, with 500kms 4WD’ing solo through all types of off road terrain. Nyarna (Stretch Lagoon) to Halls Creek via side trip to Wolfe Creek Crater NP = 221kms, Max cycled a further 38kms.
That’s one long rough track & long amount of time for 3 people to be out travelling in the desert. The wiljen / Max dynamics turned out good. I doubt there are very many people on the planet who could handle Jenny & I day to day for that long. There was never any disagreements or heated arguments but there were “discussions” mainly to help keep the trip moving smoothly & make sure the three of us were on the same page. At times those pages were printed in different colours but the words were the same.
For me (also Jenny & Max) the main problems were the Flies, they were in plague proportions & spoiled lots of our down/camping time. Running out of supplies was annoying, but often there was a substitute like using powdered milk once the UHT Milk was gone, eating lentils instead of meat, drinking water at night instead of a few beers.
Not being able to contact family & friends while on the trip proved to be a bit of an issue. The Sat Phone we borrowed wouldn’t work, needs a firmware update, but to do an update on Immersat you need a Windows PC. In hindsight we should have checked it all & activated it a week prior to leaving home. Keep in mind it’s seriously expensive to make a call on the plan we opted for. We were also carrying 2 Personal Locator Beacons & 1 EPIRB between the 3 of us.
Lastly worrying about the Landcruiser, primarily the ARB Rear Diff Lock leaking lots of Diff Oil. The scratches to the paint & wear marks/stains to the interior. Keep in mind Jenny & I have owned this car from new since 2002. Lots of time, effort & dollars have been invested into it. The middle of the range Iron Man Suspension (with approximately 80000kms on it) didn’t hold up so well to the excessive corrugations. The Foam Cell Shock Absorbers would fade and the springs would bang like crazy, particularly the front left one. Once on the Gibb River Road it seemed better but I intend to change them out for higher quality components once I get home.
High points of the CSR for me, the Night Sky, so many stars, the wind would drop and it was very tranquil sitting by the fire looking up at those Bazillion Stars.
Riding with Max early on from Wiluna to Durba Springs. That was actually sensational, the track surface was generally firm (still lots of corrugated section). What killed the cycling for me was riding on soft sand with a Bike shod only with 2.8” Tyres. The bike set up was inadequate for the sand & dunes.
Though being forced by soft sand to ride in the car had it’s own positive, I always enjoy Vehicle Touring with my best friend & the woman I love, Jenny. We talk about the strangest things. Watching Jenny’s off road driving confidence build was satisfying too.
Some of the sights were absolutely awe inspiring, Lake Disappointment, The Reconditioned Wells, Durba Springs, Red Sand Dunes, Camels, Rocky Breakaways, Ancient Mountain Ranges like Breaden Range. Just the constantly changing colours, vegetation & landscape. Let’s not forget the people, firstly the fantastic people you meet along the track & just the fact there’s a lack of people out there. We would go for multiple days and not see another soul. I think 3 Days was our longest period without coming across a fellow traveller.
So should you do the “Canning Stock Route” ? I think YES ! But it isn’t easy & you do need to be prepared. Here are the main points you need to have covered. I’m not going to give every minor detail, just the big must does.
• Good Attitude.
• Fly Nets.
• Beer & Wine. (unless you want to run out ?)
• Multiple Cameras & extra SD cards.
• Method to communicate with Family/Friends at home.
• Allow for a minimum of 3 weeks, for a Vehicle based tour.
• Toilet Duties. How about this for an idea, if there’s no proper toilet collect up your dunny paper & burn it in your Camp Fire. No camp fire, then pop it in a small bin bag or zip lock and burn it on your next fire. Oh yeah don’t neglect to bury your solid waste…please.
• Rubbish, burn what you can & take the rest out with you. We burn our food cans as well to eliminate smell & fish them out of the fire to put in our bin bag. Sadly we saw multiple dumped beer cans & bottles at some Wells.
• Traditional Land Permits. Easy to organise online.
• Personal Locator Beacons & Sat Phone that works (ours didn’t).
• Multiple Maps & GPS Tracking Units. Max had a Garmin GPS which proved useful. Our standard windscreen mounted vehicle Garmin GPS/Camera was handy also. All our phones & iPads were loaded up with offline Hema Maps that showed our location on the map. We often referred to the Hema Paper Maps & Tour Guide Books we carried. The WikiCamps App was quite useful at times (downloaded the offline version).
• Water Purifier/Filter, between Max & Team wiljen we had two Platypus Filters, working in unison we could filter 20L of water in about 30 minutes. Only filtered water twice, generally we drank the Well Water untreated and didn’t experience any problems. Must mention Georgia Bore just south of Well 23 is exceptionally good water.
• Carry cash & credit cards.
Vehicle, I don’t feel you need to travel in a small convoy. Solo Vehicle Travel is fine:
• Make sure your Car is in tip top condition.
• Put on the best quality suspension you can afford.
• New high quality All Terrain Tubeless Tyres, backed up with two very good spares & multiple puncture plugs. Quality Air Compressor. Stay on the track ! We didn’t get any punctures & the people we met that did had left the track in search of fire wood etc.
• Tyre Pressure & Gear Selection, we ran 20psi in the front & 25psi in the rear. Nearly all Dunes were tackled in High Range 1st Gear. Some hardcore rocky sections required Low Range 1st & 2nd. Try not to cut up the dune & create divots for the next person to deal with. Jenny rarely ever got into 3rd gear.
• Drive slow, it’s not a race. Three weeks on the Track equals an average of 80-90kms per day. You can average 25kms an hour for you whole trip !
• Do not tow anything ! Take the tent, swags, RTT or if you have a Ute maybe a Slide-On Camper.
• Sorry to tell you but your car will get many scratches from the scrub 😦
• Decent UHF Radio. At times we were communicating with people up to 40kms away from our location.
• Adequate Fuel to cover 1000kms in harsh conditions, we set off from Wiluna with 145 litres of diesel in the Landcruiser’s two fuel tanks & 80 litres in 4 Jerrycans. Total of 225 litres. Our fuel economy varied between 15-18 litres per 100kms.
Thanks for tagging along virtually on this tour of ours. It’s been a little left of field and proved quite difficult to write about and update. Yes Jenny & I would do it again but would skip the cycling. Next up we get ready & conquer the mighty Gibb River Road in a travel weary 18 year old Pussy Wagon, back soon.