Western Deserts - Sandy Blight Junction Road April 14 - 16 2018
  A lazy start to the day. The sun arrived late in our little gorge. We are still alongside the Walter James Range .... what strange names.
  The Robert Range in front. Heading more or less west, before turning north.

We are parallel to the long dunes either side. Len liked the easy way.

Its called Sandy Blight Road because Len was suffering from Sandy Blight. An eye infection / irritation from ............ sand.

We haven't experienced a sandstorm.

  Once past the Tjukurla turnoff the track became more as we expected. Possibly little changed in 60 years.

The absence of fences, which we've noticed since before Uluru, becomes more obvious to us.


  Through patches of desert oaks.

Which I know as sheoaks or casuarinas.

We believe that what are called desert poplars are young casuarinas.

I was introduced to "whispering casuarinas" many years ago at an up-market beachside resort. Without the sound of waves to accompany the whispering I look around for approaching vehicles. There are none.


  To our east is Lake Hopkins. A dry lake. This is just a brief glimpse of part of the west wing.
  To our west the dunes are no longer long and straight. They are sort of jumbled.

Len chose a path between Lake Hopkins and the jumbled dunes. An area of short sand hills.

We think Len was left handed. Each time we approach a dune there is a left turn, a short straight stretch.

  Then a near right hand hairpin around the dune.

Followed by another left to recover our roughly northwards heading.

In Len's day the vehicle of choice was a Landrover. It was easier to go round than try to go over.

  We've seen only a couple of kangaroos in the last couple of weeks. And about zero road kill since Boulia.

We saw the camel tracks in the road for a couple of km before we saw one of the camels.

Mildly amused at our passing.

Just as we are mildly amused that it only has one hump. Unlike the camels in Morocco. Just like the camels in Asia.

  A hand operated bore.

There's a junction for a track that runs about 70-100 km westwards. With nothing marked near it or at its end. Its only on some maps. Even when present it varies. I checked a satellite view before we set out, when this was suggested as a campsite, and could not see anything near the track. One of life's mysteries?

I tried the pump, not sure what to expect. There was resistance with the first stroke, so I kept pumping, and water after about twenty. A lizard crawled out after another 20. This sort of pump is limited to a depth of about 10m. My guess is the water is less than 3-5m below us. Possibly only a couple of metres.

Not cold, the water tastes good. Hard water, but good. Curdles milk in coffee a bit but ok for cooking and drinking. We decide to fill the two of our water tanks that are empty. About 90 litres. We have a third tank of 150 litres that is still full from home.

We had showers. Long showers! Then refilled our tank.

Our water usage averages about 13 litres per day. We can use less if we have to. 3-4 weeks with full tanks with ease.

A couple of wrens snuck in to help themselves to some water when our backs were turned. But camera shy.

  I cast around a bit for a campsite in shade of the casuarinas.

This is another campsite a friend suggested to us. About 10 years ago. That the bore has good water is a pleasant surprise as I have read a similar bore further north is too salty to be useful.

Took this photo from where we decided to camp. Just off the westward track. The truck is still next to the bore.

Note to self ..... take the northward track in the morning!

  Just behind us is one of the sandhills that the road has been avoiding.

If we aren't in the Gibson Desert we are on the edge of it. We haven't seen a creek bed since our last camp. About 75 km.

There is not much written about the Gibson. It doesn't seem to have the same attraction as the Simpson or been paid the same attention. It doesn't have so many very long parallel dunes.

The Gibson is described as some sand plains with dune fields. The earth is laterised (iron coated). Which gives it the red colour.

Name State/Territory Size (km2) % of Australia
Great Victoria Desert WA,SA 348,750 4.5
Great Sandy Desert WA 267,250 3.5
Tanami Desert WA,NT 184,500 2.4
Simpson Desert NT,QLD,SA 176,500 2.3
Gibson Desert WA 156,000 2
Little Sandy Desert WA 111,500 1.5
Strzelecki Desert SA,QLD,NSW 80,250 1
Sturt Stony Desert SA,QLD,NSW 29,750 0.3
Tirari Desert SA 15,250 0.2
Pedirka Desert SA 1,250 less than 0.1
Total   1,371,000 18


  Most of Australia is dry. Deserts account for 18% of Australia's land mass.

Which makes them fairly difficult to ignore once away from the capital cities and coastal fringe.

That, and it being a big island, means Australia is neither a north-south nor an east-west country. 

  On the evening constitutional, a ........

we have a bird book, and a mammal book, and a tracks in the sand book ....

but not a reptile book.

I decided it was friendly as it appeared to be eating flies. Sort of gecko sized.

It tried to hide a couple of times but deep down inside was probably more interested in food so ignored me.

We haven't seen any people all day.

Apart from a ute which passed heading south 10 minutes after I wrote that ....

As with all the countries we've travelled in the people who live there use much less equipped vehicles than we have.

  Our early morning starts are becoming later.

We continue our journey north. Expecting to cover another 75 km.

  Stuck her nose in the air, and ambled off into the bush.

An Australian Bustard.

  Every so often Len surprises us and goes over a dune instead of round.
  And organises more camels on the other side.
  The road is a bit stony parallel to Sir Frederick Range.

This even stonier little track leads to the summit of the Sir Frederick Range.

19th of May 1980 was a Monday. I'd like to think Len decided to do the road building surveyor equivalent of climbing a tree to see where he was.

Make a new track to the top of a mountain range.

The irony of us following is not lost!

We drove the first 2 km to the base. Then walked the remaining 2 km to the summit. 

  There's a cairn at the top.
  The track, and vastness beyond, from the top.
  The truck at the turnaround at the base.
  Very steep sums it up. We decided that it really wasn't necessary to prove the truck could reach the top. It looked doable, but we are travelling alone.

The turning points are as Len described.

I can maybe imagine the non-existent conversation with "head office".

...... "you've done what?"

  We reach the second hand bore (pun intended). Thought we might camp after another about 75 km.

Looks like Tuesday before we reach Kintore.

Water is salty tasting, just as we read. Unusable for us.

Sadly, tonight's inspection revealed a broken rear spring main leaf.

Satphone used to provide all details to daughter Jennifer. Today is Sunday. Information Centre at Newman can accept package for us (many thanks). Major couriers all deliver there (its a major mining town on a main road). We'd planned to head there anyway (they have a Woollies supermarket).

Communication to spring supplier in Yandina, Queensland, will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

I have some clamps, and a bit of steel, and believe I can arrange things so that their is some support from the main leaf and the second leaf can slide. I'll add some grease. We'll let some more air out of the tyres. Travel at 30 km/hr. More than 1,100 km to Newman. That's at least 33 hours driving. 20 km/hr at least 50 hours.

Will replacement part get to Newman before us? My guess is at least a week. Not including the day to prepare and ship.

Really it means a couple more hours driving each day, lots of care, and stopping about as often as we were going to anyway. Though we may look closely at the map and miss Karlamilyi National Park. Let's take one day at a time and see what happens.

  Just checking.

The truck is reasonably level. Still supported by springs.

The right spring hanger is obviously pushed to its limit.

The curve at top of pic is the spare wheel, with a bit of webbing for safety if the wheel winch (chain) gives way.

My guess, from the wear on the end of the second leaf, and underside of main leaf, is that it happened somewhere in the last hour or so. On some very heavy corrugations. I remember them well. There was a detour. Just one patch of corrugations and a momentary lapse in concentration.

The spring may have been weak from Morocco and Asia!

  I didn't get far on the evening constitutional.

And I needed the hand gps tracker. The area around the second hand pump was flat and featureless. A lot of concentration to remember the way back to truck.

I tripped over a couple of large spinifex circles. I guess they start with a single plant in the middle and younger ones sprout on the outside, then the middle dies. I haven't checked if there are runners.

  Remedial spring repair. The short stub of the broken main leaf was being pushed down onto the second leaf.

So cut a piece of 50x3mm mild steel that I happened to have and insert under the stub. Grease the bottom of it.

Normally the spring hanger rotates to allow the bottom pin to move backwards and forwards as the spring flexes.

The break is behind the axle. The fixed end of the spring is ok, the axle is held in its proper place. Held by three points instead of four.

That rotating movement of the spring hanger at the trailing end is now lost. The second leaf now has to slide against the stub (the end of the stub and the end of the second leaf).

So add some grease under the added piece of steel and around the end of the second leaf. The sticky up bit on the second leaf will either wear away, break off, or simply work.

Some good news is that the bottom helper leaf is not taking any load while stationary.

I'm pondering whether to jack the truck up again and rotate the stpring hanger so that it is facing forwards, which may give more support. However, that may leave the second leave sliding on part of the spring hanger so needing relocation of extra steel. Let's see how this works first.

  The piece of steel is long enough to reach the u-bolts, as long as the gap between leaves. The webbing is intended to stop the piece sliding out.
  The track is good. Even the shortcut over a dune.
  Taken at an appropriately slow speed.
  We are averaging about 25 km/hr between dunes.
  I cut the piece of steel too short.

It moved forward enough to just let the main spring stub rest on the second leaf.


  But I have a u-bolt, and another piece of the same steel with holes already in it.

Across the spring, to again be between the stub and the second leaf.

The original piece of steel is still there to stop new piece sliding forward.

All the u-bolt does is stop new piece sliding sideways.

  We also visited the spare parts department.

Passed a few old vehicles on the roadside until we found one that was upside down and still had springs.

Impossible for me to undo the u-bolts, but there was a length of broken spring available. Now clutched in my right hand, lest it fly away.

Credit cards not accepted, so no gst paid.

  The satphone worked as designed this time. Perhaps we are closer to the satellite, and its at a higher elevation to us.

While we have been driving daughter Jennifer has contacted ATW who originally supplied our parabolic truck springs. By lunch time Monday a new spring, with bushes and u-bolts, is on its way to Newman from Yandina in Queensland.

About 1,000 km to our west. Almost across the continent for the spring.

The spring will be in Newman in about 5 days. Delivered to the Information Centre who are expecting it. It will get there before us. We will likely take a bit more than a couple of weeks. Really not much slower than we'd originally intended. Just not as much freeboard.

Many thanks to Jennifer, Dave in ATW store and Barbara in Newman Info Centre.

The Davenport Hills in the distance are where we will camp.

  Len did his usual left handed surveyor trick, the campsite is not too far after the hairpin.

We've travelled about 75 km for the day. About 50 km left to Kintore.

I'm a wee bit headachy. Driving more carefully, and slowly, and concentrating on every little bump, leaves not much brainpower for enjoying the scenery.

Plus, its a warmer day.

  The campsite is at the end of the range. This is looking back whence we came.
  Highly unlikely. But, perhaps, if there was internet at Kaltukatjara (Docker River) there may be at Wallunguru (Kintore).

And even if there is, its a long way, though only as far as when we had internet west of the Olgas.

So, a quick walk to the top of the nearest dune .....

and having got your interest ....

all that happened was I got hot. No internet here.


  The truck is nestled under a couple of desert oaks.

The whispering casuarinas have become the shouting sheoaks. A nice breeze.

We've noticed that the sun is not quite as overhead during the day as it was as recently as last week.

We can no longer park facing the sun and expect the back to be in shade for the rest of the day. But it also means the afternoons will become cooler. Today is still a bit hot at 34 deg C, we've had a couple of days at 30, and expect a few more. The mornings vary between 15 and 25.

  Here, as with other ranges where there are dunes, they are shaped by the wind flowing around hills.

This dune, from the foot of the range, is curved. The road follows it round before finding the end and heading north again.

  There's nothing exotic about the birds we are seeing. We'd have to stay longer to see more.

This is a yellow-throated miner. Their range is all of Australia except the Simpson Desert and the Pilbara. I wonder why not those two areas.

Its in a gum tree, which is on top of the dune. There's also cane grass.

  to the north,

the Kintore Range.

If there were any crows around they would tell us Kintore Range is about 38 km away.

  and to the south, again. Looks like water occasionally flows at the base.
Western Deserts - Kiwirrkurra Road April 17 - 19 2018

MrsTea Tue, 24 Apr 18 10:31:28 +1000

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