The Plan was to do more than just the Gus Luck Track.
The Trip was planned for four and half days from 22-26 October 2020.
We would spend the first night at Mindebooka Rock, south of Doodlakine. The next morning we would travel to Merredin, then Sandford Rocks where would try to find a part of Hunts Track. On to Southern Cross, via Kodjerning Well and Moorine Well, both part of Hunts Track. From Southern Cross we would head to Yellowdine and start the Gus Luck Track. We expected to have a few challenges to follow it all the way to Goongarrie (we did) from where we would drive to Coolgardie to refuel. South to Gnarlbine to pick up Hunts Track to Yerdanie. On to to Karalee Rocks for a flying visit before stopping at Morlining Rocks. The return to Cockburn would be via Burracoppinn, Merredin, Bruce Rock and Beverley.
A detailed description of the Gus Luck Track is on the Wells and Tracks website.
We departed The Lakes just after 2.00 p.m., sadly without Elvis Mestric. His radiator blew on the way to the Meeting Point. Better to happen then than during the Trip many kilometres from a service centre.
Our route took us through interesting salt lake country south of Doodlakine/Kellerberrin, arriving at Mindebooka with plenty of time to set up a comfortable camp. The roaring easterly abated by early evening, allowing us to have a fantastic campfire.
Aaron Howell was driving his well-appointed Nissan Patrol wagon, Greg Barndon was in his Colorado. Scott Overstone, despite having purchased a Nissan Patrol only days before, chose to use his well setup Jimny for this Trip. Corey Rees was towing a trailer behind his modified 100 series and Kerry Davies was in his bog standard Nissan Navara. Peter James and Lone Nielsen joined us late afternoon/evening in their Hilux, towing a Bigfoot camper trailer. My much-hammered Rodeo would need to get me through.
On Friday morning we departed Mindebooka and found the Bruce Rock-Merredin railway access track. Though this track leads to Merredin I decided to branch off early so we could visit Totadgin Rock and Well.
This well was refurbished in 2016. We left Totadgin on the Merredin-Bruce Rock Road. Our pace was restricted by roadworks so it was an ideal opportunity to stop to view a couple of interesting engineering structures. We had pulled off the road at a Main Roads WA Network Performance Site and, coincidentally, the Merredin Solar Farm, the largest in Western Australia was in the paddock immediately to the west of where we had stopped.
A number of Trips over recent times have been routed through Merredin. It is now compulsory to stop at Merredin Bakery. What a thriving business! Indicative of what happens when a good product is offered at a fair price. Non stop foot traffic. That front door just kept on banging.
We left Merredin for Burracoppin, Westonia and Sandford Rocks. Hunts Track is close to the Rocks but it is overgrown and impassable – as we found out after only a few hundred metres of bush bashing.
Hard on vehicles, particularly mirrors, the A pillar and anything hanging off the vehicle such as an awning. Back to the bitumen.
Our route took us past Kodjerning and Moorine wells – both part of Hunts Track – to Southern Cross.
Aaron had mechanical issues, consulted Medicar (his vehicle builder), and delayed his departure from The Cross in the hope of being able to rectify the issue. He continued to Yellowdine with his vehicle problem still unresolved.
The Yellowdine rendezvous was a refuelling point, after which everyone gathered in the open area opposite the roadhouse and had lunch.
The issues with Aaron’s Patrol persisted, despite our best efforts to rectify the matter. The vehicle was stalling at low speed and when changing direction – something we would be doing a lot of during the Trip. The MAF sensor was removed and cleaned with hand sanitiser (evaporative alcohol). We had ran out of fixes and he wisely decided to head back home. After the Trip we found out that it was the Steinbauer Performance Module and the issue could have been resolved by isolating the device. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The remaining vehicles headed off on the adventure.
First stop was only a few hundred metres along the way. The main parts of the water harvesting complex at Yellowdine are still intact, if a little rundown and overgrown. The dam at Yellowdine Station was an important stop for the steam locomotives on the Southern Cross to Coolgardie railway.
The run up to Duladgin is easy – it is a wide, well formed dirt road with minimal corrugations. We stopped at Duladgin Well and then visited the grave of Thomas Davidson, a pioneer prospector. It is good to see that his grave has been noted by Outback Graves.
The track into Weowanie is the start of the real Gus Luck Track. It can be very sandy and, because it crosses the southern extension of Lake Deborah, it can sometimes be impassable. We pulled into Weowanie, walked to the summit and had a look at a number of water catchments.
Past Weowanie the Track does a dogleg to cross the Yellowdine Vermin Proof Fence. A short distance after this we stopped at our campsite on the last night of the 10 day Touch the Desert Trip in August 2020. During that memorable night heavy rain made it difficult to get out onto the Track in the morning, although Brad O’Neil managed to do it (unwittingly) in 2WD.
Ten kilometres later we crossed Eva Lake, a potential track blocker in wet conditions.
Not far past Eva Lake a large fire in 2019 had devastated the country. The burn extended seven kilometres to the north towards Darrine.
The cover of the rockhole at Darrine has names scribbled all over it, dating back many years. Two and half kilometres from the rockhole the Track reaches the Trans Australian Railway. We followed the railway east for another couple of kilometres to the crossing.
Six kilometres along the Track from the railway is a blazed kurrajong tree. This tree is easy to spot – the bright green kurrajongs stand out from the dominant eucalypts and acacias.
Easy driving on the Track to Ullambay Rockhole.
Two hundred metres before the ‘main intersection’ at Wallangie there is a grave of an unknown person. It was here, in 1910, that Albert and Len Ives found the body of the unknown pioneer. They buried it at this site. In 2005 the name of the rock was changed from Ive to Ives Rock.
The plan was to camp at Wallangie. The challenge was to find a suitable site. After a bit of driving around we made do at a spot to the west of the dam.
The push along the track continued early the next morning.
The incongruity of emerging from a rough, twisty, small track onto a wide open, well formed, major haul road as we did just before 71 Mile Rock was repeated at the Mt Walton Haul Road – just after 71 Mile Rock.
A couple of kilometres after the haul road the Track has been washed away for about 100 metres. The two vehicles towing negotiated it with ease although it might be a bit more challenging if wet.
After another couple of kilometres the track swings away to the left. Clearly most of the traffic follows this direction to the north. But it is not the Gus Luck Track – despite all the tyre tracks. Our route was straight ahead on a track that did not look at all promising.
We stayed on this overgrown, narrow track for just over seven kilometres until our way was blocked by large fallen trees. A 200 metre cross country jaunt took us out to a good track that joined with the Gus Luck Track a kilometre further on.
A huge swathe of country has been burned between this intersection and Pilarning Rock. At Urdardunging 1500 metres further on we walked over to a grave. Difficult to determine whether it marks the resting place of a human or an animal. I note that it is not listed on Outback Graves.
We stopped 500 metres short of Turturdine Rock to look for Nearanging Rockhole. After a minute or so of walking in the general direction of where it was expected to be we found what we were looking for.
We then moved onto Turturdine for lunch and a look around at the rockhole and some rock etchings/graffiti.
There are a few tight sections on the drive to Coonmine but overall the Track is quite easy. At Coonmine the historic Gus Luck Track heads north-east to Split Rock, however, it has been lost – no track exists. The track east to Coolgardie North Road is an old station track.
Finding the Lost Track
It is at Coolgardie North Road where most people finish the Gus Luck Track, however, we intended to complete as much of the track as we could through to Goongarrie. This entailed a 13 kilometre drive north to Split Rock to see if we could pick up the Gus Luck Track there. The track into Split Rock from Coolgardie North Road is not the Gus Luck Track and the historical track between these two points has been lost.
However, I was excited to find the Track leading to the east of Coolgardie North Road about 600 metres north of the track leading into Split Rock. We made a tentative entry and after a short distance it was clear that a viable track existed and was heading the way we wanted.
After nine kilometres the historical Track is impassable (Point A), however, we were not disappointed as this was our first ‘re-discovery’ of the Track.
From this point we followed an old fenceline to an old boundary track (Point B) that took us north back to the historical Track at Point C.
At Point C we found the Gus Luck Track heading east, after Corey put up his drone. We walked along the ‘track’ sighting a number of artefacts that confirmed it was indeed the historical Track.
This overgrown Track is impassable to vehicles. It comes out at Wangine, at a point where, during our August 2020 Trip, we followed it west for 500 metres.
What was the best route to Wangine? There was no short route. I decided to head north along the old boundary track with a view to coming out on the Davyhurst Road. We would then have to head south-east to Wangine – a total detour of 34 kilometres.
We didn’t stop at Wangine, choosing instead to find the Gus Track Track at Point E. It was at this point I had seen an overgrown track heading towards Lower Goongarrie in August and I was confident it would take us through to the boundary of Goongarrie Station (now owned by Department of Parks and Wildlife and run as conservation reserve and campground). A number of times during the five kilometre push that confidence was tested as the track became tighter, more overgrown and, in some places, nearly non existent. However it eventually intersected with a wider track (Point F, see below) that reconnected with the Gus Luck Track at the entrance to Goongarrie Station. Our second successful re-discovery.
From this point we were familiar with the Track, having done it in August, albeit in the opposite direction.
The sun was low on the horizon but as it was behind us it wasn’t affecting our driving vision so I pushed on to Goongarie. We found an acceptable campsite on a side track and set up a comfortable camp,
Corey surveyed his tally of damage – punctured tyre (sidewall), broken spare wheel carrier and broken awning mount. Hopefully his Road Trip would improve.
We had finished the Gus Luck Track with the following results:
Distance travelled on Gus Luck Track
Yellowdine to Wallangie – 88 km
Wallangie to Coonmine – 71 km
Split Rock to Point A – 9 km
Point E (Pipeline Track) to Lower Goongarrie – 5 km
Lower Goongarrie to Goongarrie – 30 km
Total – 203 km
Length of Historic Track determined
Coonmine to Split Rock – 16 km
Point A to Point C – 5 km
Point C to Wangine – 9 km
Wangine to Point E (Pipeline Track) – 4 km
Total – 34 km
Length of Gus Luck Track
Yellowdine to Goongarrie – 237 km
Detours – 77 km
In the morning we would move on to the second phase of our Road Trip – Hunts Track.
Leaving camp we visited some pioneer graves and the historic abandoned townsite of Goongarrie. Our route took us through Ora Banda and onto the Coolgardie North Road.
We stopped at a quirky art display on an unnamed claypan. No name, no commentary. Very clever use of gum boots.
On arrival at Coolgardie we called into the Pioneer Cemetery – not to be confused with the Coolgardie Cemetery. After refuelling we wasted no time in heading south to Gnarlbine.
There are two wells at Gnarlbine. The lesser known and lesser visited well to the south is not one of Hunt’s.
We left the second well, retraced our route on Victoria Rock Road north for a couple of kilometres and turned left onto Hunts Track.
During our expedition to re-create Hunt’s Track from Gnarlbine to Yerdanie in June 2019, Scott Wilson used satellite imagery to predict the presence of a woodline along the track about 5.7 kilometres east of the turnoff to the Prince of Wales mine. Old spikes, cans, tobacco tins, and, further into the bush, evidence of railway sleepers and more artefacts confirmed Scott’s brilliant interpretation.
I decided to try to re-locate this old woodline. The task was made easier by a ‘File Tree’ that someone had created to mark where the woodline crossed the track.
We had lunch at the Prince of Wales mine. Although abandoned, and risky for for the unwary, it is subject to a number of active tenements.
Just as we were leaving Prince of Wales to resume our journey along Hunts Track, Greg called over the radio that his Colorado had a flat. With everyone helping we were on our way again in less than five minutes. Not quite Formula 1 standard but still impressive.
As I predicted, we had a few issues getting the long Bigfoot camper trailer through a stand of regrowth. Future travellers should now have no issues.
Yerdanie Rock and Well
We climbed to the top of the rock. Great 360° views. Clearly there had been showers recently at Yerdanie. I have never previously seen water at the summit.
We searched for the recently re-discovered Hunts Well. With the drone up we eventually succeeded in finding it.
We left Yerdanie for Karalee, reaching Great Eastern Highway after seven more kilometres of Hunts Track. The day was quickly coming to a close so it was straight down the blacktop to Karalee.
We had time for only a flying visit as it was late in the day. The track west out of Karalee is rough and overgrown in places. We reached Morlining Rocks and selected a campsite.
In the morning we walked to Morlining Well before continuing on the track to Yellowdine.
Diesel was cheap at Yellowdine (106 cents/L) so most took the opportunity to top up and inflate tyres to highway pressure.
We followed Goldfields Road to the Rabbit Proof Fence Interpretive Site at Burracoppin and then visited Hunts Well only a short distance west.
The Road Trip finished at Merredin.
© Kim Epton 2020-21
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