Day 18 And we’re back on the bikes out of Carnegie Station and straight into a storm of flying bugs (Gnats?). Temperature is definitely dropping and we are adding some layers in the mornings! Northeast along the ‘Highway’ passing Mt Archie before turning east and into The Little Sandy Desert where we saw our first red sand dunes (as opposed to the white ones at Steep Pt.). Some fellow campers from Carnegie passed on their way east before we were halted by a flat tyre – not a puncture this time, but a tube failure – split. Repair complete, we headed on around Matty’s Corner (no mention of that in the track notes!). Shoes, gloves and helmet off for a brief lunchtime nap in the shade of the car after lunch wraps. Out of nowhere a yellow “Winding Road” sign warns that there are more bends – I guess the “Gunbearrel” is supposed to be straight, but as Caroline said – it sure has a lot of bends for a straight road!! After 105km of gravel road our day finished at Mt Nossiter where Craig added to the cairn on top – one small rock for man, one larger cairn for mankind!
Day 19 – Good thing about camping on top of a “mountain” overnight is that our day started with a downhill run – woohoo! We arrived at the WACA/MCG after 20km to find the ‘behind’ posts are missing, so it’s ‘goal’ or nothing on this field! At the 50km mark we stopped for a rest at Mt William Lambert (well it’s a mountain around these parts!) to news over the UHF from our fellow travellers ahead that there were plenty of doublegee’s (those bloody thorns) in the claypan area. At this we changed bikes as the mountain bike tyres/armour are more resistant to the thorns. After passing a truck wreck and the turnoff to Empress Springs, we arrived at the Mungilli Claypan to find it completely submerged and looking decidedly lake-like after the recent rain. So with the main track underwater we set off on the detour taking pics and vids from several angles. Our rest stop on the east side of the claypan included apple cinnamon cake – thanks to the oven at Carnegie Station 😊
We saw many spots where camels had slipped in the mud and one where we’re pretty sure it fell over! The bikes got well and truly filthy with the addition of red mud to the dust. After earlier laughing at our imagination of camels stacking it in the mud, we were sobered by the sight of a field of dead camels – possibly a whole family/herd that had been shot. While we understand they are essentially a pest, their slow, gentle nature and comical appearance seems in conflict to this awful scene. Soon after lunch we passed the shire boundary and there endeth the decent road! From here on the ‘highway’ is a 4WD track. Afternoon highlight was sneaking up on a live camel who didn’t realise we were behind him till we were very close – the wind finally doing us a favour! In many places we’ve seen these little lizards zooming across the track, but today we had one try and drag race us for about 10m at 23kph – sheesh those little legs were flying! We finally rounded the corner for the last 5km of sand and corrugations to arrive at Geraldton bore after a 103km day.
Day20 – The water here at Geraldton bore is great, so we made the most of it and filled all tanks!! With many side tracks and variable surfaces it’s often hard to know which is the best track to follow, meaning sometimes we go back and forwards between options to find the best ride. However, we’ve learnt that the camels seem to know the best option (they walk along the road a lot) so we’ve taken to simply following the majority of the camel prints as the likely best option!! After slogging through a particularly long patch of soft sand, we took the risk of going off-track and just making our own track through the spinifex, shrubs and dead trees. Adventurous, yes, faster, yes, less flogging the legs, yes…. but the risk of punctures, snakes and unseen ant mounds is higher, so we only do this if really necessary.
Arriving at the junction of the Gary Highway, we signed the log book, noting that a few days prior folks had to turn back due to flooding on the Gary Highway! The road started climbing towards Mt Gordon and Mt Everhard and the mountain bike suspension got a workout as we outpaced the 4WD. With nowhere to get off the track we just stopped on it and had lunch in the shade. Caroline did her tyre thorn check (which we now do at least twice a day) with the tweezers while we were off the bike seat and soon enough it was time to press on. With us riding ahead, we were able to scout the track for the support crew and radio back anything particularly nasty or noteworthy. After some more sandy patches we climbed the rocky trail to Mt Beadell and our camp for the night. A tough 91km day with the promise of another to follow.
For something different Day 21 started with a dawn ascent of Mt. Beadell. Ok, It’s not that big, we took the 10min stroll up a steepish trail on loose rock to the top to enjoy the dawn light on the red rocks and get a good look around the country. The wind was bitterly cold and as soon as we had checkout out the plaques and memorial to Len Beadell (who surveyed huge areas of WA) we headed down for a hot coffee and to prepare for the downhill run towards Camp Beadell.
Well, this was more like it, rocks, ruts, washouts and sand – not steep but really fun bike riding!! Meanwhile, Tony and Annie back in the car were rolling around in all directions!! We passed more rusty wrecks – a Citroen for crying out loud – before tackling the soft sand and dunes of the desert. This was just plain horrible with no adventurous options and little relief from burning legs – twice the energy burn for less than half the forward speed. To stop peddling meant to sink and it was very hard to get going again. After only 50km of riding we had to stop for lunch – we simply stopped on the track again and sat in the shade of the car. Resting peacefully, we all jumped at the sound of another 4wd barrelling along the track with Annie waving arms so the vehicle wouldn’t plough into us. The lone gent hopped out for a chat while we hastily cleared our things out of the way and moved the car as far off the side as we dare.
Underway again, we passed Len Beadell’s tree (with blaze and plaque) and made it to the junction of the Heather Highway where we had to turn right toward Warburton – the sign said 126km to go. Soon after the turn we found ourselves riding through 5ft tall grass and hoping there was nothing hiding underneath because we could not see the track – just the gap in the grass to guide us! We managed another 15km for a 87km day – probably the second toughest (after the Steep Point track on day 2). A nice flat spot clear of Spinifex was a pleasant place for a cold night’s camp.
Day 22 – It seems the Redarc battery manager in the trailer spat the dummy sometime yesterday and the display panel was just flashing and buzzing at us last night. So this morning, Craig had the tools out and the covers off to see what, if any, battery charging we had to keep our fridge/freezer running. Once the sun came up it became apparent that the solar was still charging, so we would be ok and we’ll check more in Warburton. 5 mins out of camp we surprised a dingo on the track so close we didn’t have time to snap a pic – hopefully good images on the GoPro – when I get to checking it.
Another 40km down the Heather Highway and the road was improved enough to change back to gravel bikes. While not as comfortable on the corrugations, they are lighter with less rolling resistance and while we may not move heaps faster we burn a lot less doing it! There seemed to be a hill every km or two for a while and stopped to snap a pic of the brown snake moving off the road before arriving at the junction with Great Central Road to the joy of seeing bitumen! A fast run on the blacktop was our only chance of getting to Warburton before dark, so we set off drafting each other on 5km rotations, ignoring the ache in our legs and bruised butts. 10km from town, the gravel returned (huh!) and we fuelled up on Snakes – the lolly kind – before sending the crew ahead to secure our camp spot in the compounded caravan park. After some horrid large stone gravel road, a water crossing and with fading light we arrived at the caravan park gate on sunset.
Day 23 – Rest day…ha… chores day. Some minor restocking food and supplies, fuel and some oil for the car, water fills plus the usual bike maintenance and washing. Hot salty ships for lunch with a burger was a yummy change. We explored the local art gallery and had a drive around what we can only describe as a sad town. We did find the local grocery store (better than the roadhouse) and even managed to get a replacement hose end without having to buy a whole kit! As the temperature dropped we submitted our NT border entry forms and abandoned the camp kitchen to crawl under the doonah to be ready for tomorrow’s 100km northeast towards the NT border.