Northern Safari – Getting Back

Mitchell Falls Campground to Willare

I left the Mitchell Falls Campground about 6.45 a.m., refuelled at Drysdale River Station (diesel $2.05) and was on my way by 10.00 a.m. Not a race but no reason to hang around either.

The right rear tyre blew tyre between Kalumburu Road turnoff and Mt Barnett Roadhouse. It had been on the vehicle for only 750 kilometres – since I replaced the bulging sidewall tyre at Mt Barnett on the way up. Not happy! Effectively I had no spare tyre. I called into Over The Range Tyres a few kilometres further along the Gibb, chatted with Neville and bought a Mickey Thompson 285/75/16 with 50%+ tread for $100 plus fitting of $65. Good value considering the location.

It was dark when I pulled into Willare and forked over $35 for an unpowered site. Basically paying for a shower! So I had two of them, one at night and one before I left in the morning. Still didn’t expunge the feeling that I had been ‘touched up’. I may be out of touch with prices but I’m certainly not out of touch with reality.

Willare to Sherlock River

Drive, refuel, drive, refuel with a break at South Hedland to buy food.

The small stopping place at the Sherlock River Bridge was a pleasant place to stop for the night.

Sherlock River to Minilya

I made an early start and deviated off the North West Coastal Highway on to the Roebourne Wittenoom Road to get to Millstream.

Eight kilometres into the Millstream Chichester National Park is picturesque Python Pool. This secluded, tranquil pool in the Chichester Ranges is at the base of a seasonal waterfall.

About 15 kilometres after leaving Python Pool I stopped at the rail crossing at Barowanna Hill and struck up a conversation with Rob, an engine driver for Rio Tinto who was there to investigate someone tampering with the railway.

We watched the train slowly haul 140 wagons up an almost imperceptible slope. The train had an all up weight of 35,000 tonnes and the driver had to very gradually apply power till the train reached a speed of 20 kph, otherwise the draw gear could be torn apart.

The train was hauling iron ore from Yandicoogina Mine, Australia’s largest iron ore mine, 95 kilometres north-west of Newman in the Hamersley Range. In 2015 Yandi (along with Nammuldi Mine) become the first mine in the world to move and load all its ore with fully remote controlled trucks. The trucks are controlled from Perth, 1200 kilometres south.

As the train got over the ‘rise’ it picked up speed and was soon out of sight on its way to Rio’s massive port at Dampier, a journey of 450 kilometres.

I moved on to one of Western Australia’s jewels – Millstream.

The Millstream wetlands are a system of permanent river pools and springs in a semi arid tropical locale. These isolated wetlands are fed by permanent springs emerging from the Millstream aquifer at Deep Pool and Jirndawurrunha Pool. The aquifer is a large body of underground water contained in porous rock. Quite remarkable in such an otherwise arid environment!

The date palms at Millstream were originally planted by pastoralists. From the homestead they spread throughout the delta, and then spread both upstream and downstream along the Fortescue River. The Parks and Wildlife Service has been waging a 30+ year battle against the spread of these invasive date palms.

Date palms compete with native vegetation such as paperbarks and river gums. They are also a severe fire risk because they have a resin in their trunk that burns very hot and destroys native trees.

The date palms at Millstream have been felled, poisoned and even relocated to Perth gardens in an attempt to eradicate them.

It would seem that the Parks and Wildlife Service is slowing winning the war.

I travelled into Pannawonica to refuel. The location of the servo is a closely guarded secret.

There was little of interest on the return to Perth other than to confirm that Nanutarra is a ripoff. Fuel at Nanutarra Roadhouse was $1.85. At Pannawonica (way more remote) is was $1.61.

Overnight at the Minilya 24 hour Stopping Campground and then into Perth.

Getting There

Gibb River Road – Mitchell Plateau

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