09-Jan-2004 -- My daughter Kate and I set out from Paynes Find (population 3 people and a number of dogs) at 4.15am on the 9 December after staying at the Paynes Find Tavern overnight.
Before leaving we filled the tank up with petrol. We were also carrying a spare 20 litre drum of petrol as we knew we were going beyond the range of the car’s petrol tank. We also had about 25 litres of water with us. This is a hot dry remote part of the country with a long way between settlements.
We travelled from Paynes Find along the Sandstone Road until the turnoff on the Lake Barlee Youanmi Road. At the turnoff, we passed the abandoned Youanmi Gold Mine at 6.40 am. For most of the journey, the vegetation beside the road consisted of low trees, with some grasses depending on the soil types. We did not see a lot of animal life apart from a few kangaroos and a large bird which stood about 1.2m high and which was walking along the road after Youanmi. I later found out that it was an Australian Bustard.
I set off from the car at 7.50am. Kate stayed behind at the car, being totally exhausted from confluence hunting the evening before (29ºS 118ºE). There was no shade so she “set up camp” under the car, she had visions of doing a spot of SMSing to friends but you guessed it, there was no mobile reception (for about 350km). Things were pretty quiet, so it was a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep. It was 40ºC in the shade. During my two hour forty minute absence, no cars passed and at one stage, Kate woke to find a kangaroo peering down at her.
The car was parked at the closest point to the CP – which was 8.76km to the north east. I used my mountain bike to ride to the confluence point. A fire had been through part of the route in the last year or so and as there had been some rain, there was fresh regrowth in the burnt areas. The final two kilometres of the ride were in country that had not been burnt. The trees also appeared to be larger than the ones at the start. The ground was quite soft and sandy – but still easier than walking all the way. I had reached my fourth confluence point. I took the obligatory photos, drank some more water, and then headed back.
The return trip was marred by having to repair my rear tyre along the way. I replaced the tube, and arrived back at the car at around 10:45am. I have attached a photo of the desert bicycle workshop. From the car to the confluence point I did not see any evidence of any person having been in this area before me – no tracks, no rubbish. It was an exhausting ride given that it was over two hours of riding through soft sand in up to 40ºC heat.
I got back to the car at 10.45am and we started the journey towards Southern Cross. We headed south past the eastern edge of Lake Barlee. The lake starts around 15km south east of the confluence point. This is a large salt lake – about 100km wide, and 80 km from north to south (made up of fingers of the lake rather than a conventional “round lake”). There is a photo showing Kate walking on the dry bed of this salt lake. At 1.30pm we passed the first (and only) vehicle for the day. The driver stopped his truck in the middle of the track – we gathered this was an indication that he wanted to talk. We introduced ourselves and we discovered that he was the property owner. His property station was reasonably large – being about 100km long. His was a very solitary existence and we chatted for nearly an hour before parting.
We had thought we may try to reach another confluence point along the way but the track was too rough and progress was very slow as we had to constantly stop and check the under-carriage of the car for damage and to see if any branches were caught underneath.
We arrived in Southern Cross at 7.30pm to be joined later by the rest of my family and a friend from Perth. We had travelled 561km from Paynes Find, and had only passed the one vehicle during the entire journey.