27-Sep-2003 -- Roy and Yvonne Duperouzel and Ron and Lyn Mitchell, from Western Australia, chose a three-day long weekend to try to get to the confluence at 32° south and 120° east or in layman’s terms, to a point about 75km south east of a little mining town called Marvel Loch.
In the global scheme of things, Western Australia is the largest state in Australia and at 2,526,786 square kilometres; it is nearly twice the size of any other state in the country and therefore, has plenty of confluences still to be visited. The state of WA is so vast that it can take several days just to drive to the nearest border.
The confluence we chose to go to was about 440km from the capital city of Perth, where we all live. Having done lots of navigating using our GPSs, laptops and chart plotters through our sailing exploits in yachts, we packed up our camping gear and left well equipped to find our land-based confluence.
We travelled in two four-wheel drive vehicles laden with plenty of food, bush survival gear and even some bottles of champagne that we planned to open when we finally got to our confluence.
The small convoy left the city on a Friday afternoon about 3pm and headed east along the Great Eastern Highway for 325km, passing through wheat farming country before turning southeast at Southern Cross (named after the well-known constellation in the southern hemisphere) for the short 33km run to Marvel Loch, a tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gold mining town.
From there, we turned south again looking for Banker Mount Day Road but because of recent mining activity, the two vehicles had to head across country for about 8km, skirting around tailing dumps from the mine sites and avoiding old vertical mine shafts dating back to early last century.
Using the GPSs to maintain our course, Roy and Ron had to walk in front of the cars in places, to find the best way through the low scrub and groves of small gum trees while Yvonne and Lyn drove the vehicles. The group’s persistence paid off and they soon came across the graded gravel track known as Banker Mount Day Road.
The two vehicles followed the track, avoiding rough spots and washaways from the last major rains and passed through sand plain country dotted with bright purple and yellow wildflowers.
After 42km, the convoy arrived at the Vermin Proof Fence that edges the eastern boundary of Jilbadji Nature Reserve. We stopped to take some photos at turnoff and while out of the cars, were startled to see a 1.2m dugite snake slithering across the sand just metres away from us.
Dugites can be aggressive snakes and their venom is neurotoxic and procoagulant, which means a snakebite victim suffers from progressive paralysis and blood that won’t coagulate. There have been fatalities from dugite bites but an antivenene has been developed to counteract the affects of a snakebite. Needless to say, we gave the dugite a wide berth.
We followed the access track south along the fenceline for about 17km before stopping at the point on the track that was closest to our confluence. We set up our tents in a nearby clearing and prepared our gear ready for our walk through the gimlet scrub to get to the actual confluence point.
(Gimlet trees are from the Eucalyptus family and are found in the south west of Western Australia. They grow up to 20m in height and the timber was used in the early settlement days to build farmhouses, sheds and other outbuildings. The trees are so named because the younger trees often have a strange twisted growth to their trunk, similar to a gimlet tool. In spring, the bark goes a shiny coppery bronze colour that makes the trees look quite distinctive from the rest of the surrounding bush.)
With excitement mounting, we set off at a brisk pace with two GPSs and a compass, preoccupied with thoughts of making sure we didn’t get any bush ticks on us. And, having had a close encounter with a dugite earlier that day, our eyes were firmly glued to the ground watching for anything that moved.
We meandered through the bush, picking the trail of least resistance through the scrub and low brush but constantly heading towards our confluence point. The distance from the track was only about 700 metres but we still found it quite hot walking through the bush. Fortunately, the ground was flat and it wasn’t too hard to make our way through.
At last we arrived at the spot where the GPS showed the figures we wanted – S32° 00 00 and E120° 00 00! We couldn’t believe it – we had actually arrived at the exact spot. We compared the two GPSs and were delighted to see they both read the same information. It was true. We had traveled nearly 420km and after all that planning and preparation, we were finally there.
It was time to uncork the champagne and celebrate our good fortune and our excellent navigation skills. We also took great pains to record the happy event on our two cameras, just to make sure that we did have proof that we made it.
Still on a huge natural high from having achieved our goal, we headed back to the campsite for a delicious dinner roast beef and vegetables followed by apple pie all cooked in camp ovens over the open fire.
Next day, we headed even further south and joined the Holland Track, named after John Holland who put the track through in 1893 to allow prospectors a quicker way through to the lucrative goldfields around Kalgoorlie and Boulder.
The Holland Track is a popular four-wheel drive track and we came across lots of other convoys of vehicles, including a convoy of 40-year old Citroen cars. We followed the narrow track through water holes and rocky outcrops for more than 100km to the farming town of Hyden where we rejoined the bitumen for the final trek home.
Having successfully reached our confluence, we were extremely proud of being a part of the Degree Confluence Project and would recommend it to anyone to become involved in such a remarkable global project.
Notes: GPS EPE 1 metre. Altitude 400 metres above mean sea level which agreed closely with the topographic map we were using.