Western Deserts - Kaltukatjara and Bungabiddy April 12 - 13 2018
  Tjukaruru Road, which becomes The Great Central Road when it crosses the border to Western Australia.
  A well groomed road. The couple of floodways are substantial constructions.
  We've seen a handful of vehicles. Mostly going the other way. We are easy to overtake as the road is wide and we are meandering at about 60 km/hr.

This bus belongs to "Go West".

We tried to wave it down and explain west is the other way.

We failed.

  The sandy creeks are fairly wide. With River Red Gums.
  We are within the Petermann Ranges. In the wide valley between two, roughly east - west ranges.
  Lasseter's Reef is either somewhere in the Petermann Ranges or further away in the Rawlinson Ranges.

He came to an unfortunate end when his camels bolted. He spent about 25 days in the cave about 100m along this walking track. Then tried to walk 140 km to Mt Olga. He managed 55 km with a bit of help but died.

Whether his reef is real or not is a mystery. Lasseter unfortunately couldn't remember where it was ......

  Presumably this caravan has been towed from Laverton, the other end of the Great Central Road.
  Nearing Kaltukatjara (Docker River) we see horses. Similar to Finke, but they didn't have a race with us.

Finke is in its own biogeographic regionalisation.

There are 89 such regions in Australia. The result of "a landscape based approach to classifying the land surface, including attributes of climate, geomorphology, landform, lithology, and characteristic flora and fauna".

We are now in the Central Ranges. The Gary Junction Road, which we join about 250 km north so we can head west, runs between the Gibson Desert and the Great Sandy Desert regions.

The most obvious changes we notice, they have to be obvious for us to see them, are in the ground cover and trees.

We think we are seeing something similar to the cane grass we saw on top of Simpson Desert dunes. We are seeing both spinifex and cane grass. Basically though, all we really know is "its different".

  The much maligned (in web pages) campsite near the community has a lookout platform.

A magic view as the sun set.

There's a rainbow in there somewhere.

Lasseter's Reef is at the end of it.

Is there anyone to tell us which end?

  A few minutes later.

Our vehicle is self contained. We have water, and a loo. We also tend to not light camp fires every night.

Which means as long as a campsite is reasonably tidy, including no used dunny paper festoons, we can be comfortable.

So the campsite taps that haven't worked for the last 10 years, or the flush loos that have no water and are reputedly not nice (we didn't look), and the campfire places full of ash, can be ignored. The solar for the bore is long gone.

What we didn't expect was 4G mobile internet through the tower in the community. Congested in the afternoon and evening but 3G was good and 4G good early morning..

We had a peaceful, pleasant, night.

  Simply watching the world change as the sun sets is sufficient.

The Petermann Ranges were once as high as the Himalyas. The Himalayas were formed 40-50 million years ago (Mya) at the boundary of the Indian tectonic plate colliding with the Asian plate (inter plate). The Petermann Ranges were formed 600 Mya when the Australian plate collided with the Indian plate.  However, the fold of the land didn't occur at the plate boundary, its about 1000km away, where the crust was thinnest and some faults existed (intra plate).

The formation is considered to be due to the Petermann Orogeny (big word for significant geological disturbance).

Being older than the Himalayas they've had time to erode, the high point is now only about 1,100 m above sea level. The surrounding plain about 500 m.

  With a quick run up the dune to the lookout before breakfast.

Sunset, as usual, was "better".

The ranges are comparable to the Himalayas as, despite the different mechanism for their folding the geological outcome is remarkably similar.

There aren't many examples of intra plate mountain formation. By chance we travelled west to east through part of the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgizstan.

How do I know this? I cheated and read a very technical paper titled "The anatomy of a deep intracontinental orogen" published in "Tectonics" in 2010. And attempted to translate the detailed technical geological language into something I could understand. I thought it an impressive paper. The conclusions, as with all technical papers, leave room for appropriate doubt.

Petermann was a 19th century geographer. The ranges were named after him by Giles, the first European to explore this area.

  We set off further westwards. We have been travelling in the space between ranges, parallel to them. There are occasional gaps which allow water to flow southwards.
  Tootling along, admiring the mountains.

Similar to Uluru there is little or no scree built up around the base. They rise sharply out of the surrounding plain. Mt Connor more or less had the last scree slopes we've seen.

There are also none of what I would describe as foothills. Those little hills in front of the big hills and mountains.

Perhaps that's why they don't look as big to us as we know they are.

Unlike Uluru and Katajuta (Olgas) which are sandstones these ranges are predominantly quartzite (metamorphosed sandstone). Temperatures were as high as 700 deg C during the orogeny. Nowhere near enough to melt, and cooled at a couple of degrees per century.

Far to the east, Uluru (90 degrees) and Katajuta (15-29 degrees), were tilted, but not heated.

  Not far. We've travelled about 7 km to the border.
  And another 16 km to our turnoff.
  We went past the turnoff a bit.

The Schwerin Mural Crescent is to our north and west.

We won't see all of it. In fact, very little of it. Just a bit of the eastern end.

  This is a panorama taken while standing on top of the truck cab. About 180 degrees.

The crescent is just that.

About 55 km long, with a radius of about 22 km. A bit more than a quarter circle.

This really is just the eastern end of it.

  With Gill Pinnacle (869 m) in the middle.

The hills behind up to 980 m.

The plain is around 580 m.

Perhaps I should just add "steeper than they look and not at all smooth". Not easy walking.

  Our turnoff northwards is the road to Tjukurla. The closed community has a turnoff to the east of the Sandy Blight Junction Road after about 65 km.
  We are not quite sure what to expect.

Further north there be dunes.

Len Beadell surveyed and built the road (with a bit of help from the grandly named Gunbarrel Road Construction Party) in May - July 1960 as part of a road network supporting rocket, and other, testing.

Len usually found straight ways alongside obstacles but this particular track had to find a way through some tangled geography further north. Round obstacles.

Which of course is part of the attraction. 

  We stopped briefly at Malagura Rockhole.

Assuming we were looking at the right formation, it looked more like a soak that had been dug than a natural rockhole.

Either way it was dry.

  A bit of burning. Either lightning or Aboriginal hunting.

The smaller fires from Aboriginals are seen to be desirable in maintaining diversity as birds and animals and plants soon return. The sometimes larger fires from lighting and lack of frequent burnoff are more destructive.

  The way in to Bungabiddy Rockhole turnaround.

There's a rockhole in the cleft directly in front of us.

  The ghost gums appear as we get closer. Ground cover is looks like a variety of spinifex. We think there's more than one ....

We need a book of desert flora.

  We walk the last bit to the Pangkupirri Rockhole.
  Which has clear water in it. A bit below the high tide mark.

We don't need water so we leave it undisturbed.

  Looking back whence we walked.
  We hear finches, and parrots. Time will tell if we are too much of a disturbance.
  We see pretty red and yellow flowers.
  Attached to this bush amongst the spinifex.
  We haven't come far. About 55 km (including detour west on Great Central Road). But what a lovely place. Starkly beautiful.

Having parked while we walked to the waterhole we moved to a suitable spot for camping. One of the few (still) photos we have of the truck moving. You'll have to trust me when I say its moving!

There's "the usual" handful of old campfires around. Nothing recently used.

We believe we have sufficient fuel to reach Newman. But just in case, and to give us more freedom, we'll fill the tanks at Walungurru (Kintore). Hopefully the $2 / litre diesel price won't change by Monday. Today is Friday. Fuel is closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Fuel is more expensive further west.

We can either hurry to pass through Walungurru on Saturday morning, find fuel elsewhere, or travel slowly and smell the roses. Even with the 12 day permit limit we are not in a hurry.

  An afternoon visit from a diamond dove.
  With a few friends.

They must have been feeling the heat as they just sort of sat in the tree.

  The gorge became a bit clearer as the sun sank lower.

We were in shadow earlier than usual. Which made us cooler.

  This is as close as I could get.

A very small bird, with a very long beak. Or is it the shadow on a leaf? Flitting in and out of the bush to tackle the flowers. There were several of them. A fraction bigger than a finch.

We also had a 4wd visit us for a short rest, with mum, dad, and the kids.

  Just before the sun sank behind the hills.

Next morning we were treated to a dawn chorus. What a difference a bit of water makes in an arid landscape.

Sadly, the parrots we saw briefly when we arrived haven't been heard or seen by us since.

Western Deserts - Sandy Blight Junction Road April 14 - 16 2018

MrsTea Tue, 24 Apr 18 10:18:24 +1000

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