16-Dec-2004 -- The Confluence Crew consisted of Chris Roberts, Matt Parker, Richard Hall and Steve Parker and our simple goal was to reach a previously undocumented confluence somewhere in the vast Western Australian outback. We had two days for the trip and somehow, we succeeded.
We initially had a look at reaching 27°S 114°E, which is south of Shark Bay on the Tamala Station, but after talking to someone from Tamala we realised it was beyond the scope of our quick trip. So we settled on 26°S 115°E which seemed to be more within reason.
On Wednesday, the 15th of December, we set off from Perth at 5:00am, right after sunrise. The drive to Geraldton was very easy going, and we got there in time to eat a leisurely lunch. Unfortunately, when we went to start the car and drive off, the car wouldn’t start. A friendly RAC man determined that the alternator had died a fair way back and there wasn’t enough power left in the battery to start the engine again. So we spent the two and a half hours the car was at the mechanic’s seeing the sights of Geraldton and thinking how incredibly lucky we were that the car hadn’t broken down while we were out in the middle of nowhere.
Once the car was fixed we continued driving north, now slightly behind schedule. We travelled up the North West Highway until just past the Overlander Roadhouse where we left the sealed road and went east on the gravel Byro Woodleigh Road. 110km later it was dark and we had reached Yalardy Station, whose property we believed the confluence to be on. We had a chat with the owner, Lloyd Kempton, who pointed us in the right direction to the corner of his property where the confluence was.
From the Yalardy Station house we went back to the Byro Woodleigh Road and went north onto Gilroyd Road, which was the main road many years ago. We soon hit the end of the Yalardy Property and found ourselves to be about 17kms directly to the east of the confluence. There was a track following the fence-line west, but it was almost completely overgrown and we could only get the car about 100m down it. As it was cool at night and walking the path was easy going, we left the car there and set out on foot. A few hours later we were only about 10kms east of the confluence and so we set up our tent for the night.
At 4:30am we were up and off again, leaving most of our luggage at the campsite we continued to follow the fence-line – which seemed to be heading straight for the confluence. About 6km from the confluence the fence-line curved off and so we left it and started following the GPS device. At about 1km from the confluence we hit the edge of the Yalardy property and crossed over into Woodleigh. The track heading south along that fence-line didn’t seem too overgrown and if it is quite clear all the way back to the Byro Woodleigh Road, it might provide far better 4WD access to the confluence than the way we came.
One more kilometre of tracking through the scrub and red dirt and at 8:45am we found the confluence, which looked exactly like the previous 17km of bush we had walked through. With much excitement we took the required photos and then sat under a bush for something to eat and a good rest. A few kilometres back Richard had sprained his ankle and so we had been moving a lot slower since then.
On the way back we continued to move quite slowly and it soon became obvious that we were going to run out of water well before we would get back to our supplies at the car. Sitting under one of the few big trees we came across we decided to ration the water we had and get back to the spare water at the campsite (where our tent was) as quickly as we could. Which wasn’t easy in the rapidly intensifying sun.
By 2pm we had reached the campsite and were now only 7km from the car. After a good rest under shade we continued with what water we had left and made it another 2km before Richard’s ankle and everyone’s dehydration meant that we couldn’t continue like this. Setting the tent cover up to provide shade, Richard and Chris stayed resting there while Matt and Steve continued to the car to bring back water for the others. Richard and Chris rested for a few hours and then, once the sun was setting, made it a further 2km down the fence-line before they met Matt and Steve coming back with vast quantities of water. Once everyone was refreshed we made the final few kilometres to the car under the cool of night. From here it was an easy drive back down the Perth.
Even though we thought we had taken enough water for the walk, we failed to allow for delays and so found out how quickly a situation can become extremely dangerous in the outback. If you are trying to reach any confluence in outback Australia, make sure you always take many times more water than you think you will need or else you run a very real risk of not making it back. And, like we had done, make sure several people know where you’re going and exactly when to expect you back by.
Coordinator's Note: Please take note of these guys' experience. The Australian outback is incredibly harsh and huge. ALWAYS let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back, take water and above all be aware of your personal safety.