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Home > Travelogues > 2009 Travelogues Index > Gary Junction Road > Western Australia

We left Carawine Gorge to travel on rather muddy roads as the rain had mostly passed just to the north of us and followed our route all the way to the Northern Territory border.  The Telfer road was not closed following the rain and was still being used by mining trucks.  Our rig was soon covered in red mud.  This road deviates to the north around the Telfer mining settlement, as special permission needs to be obtained to enter the mining area.

 

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The Gary Junction Road through to Alice Springs, Western Australia section

The colours of the desert.  Low long sand dunes in orange shades like the near one or red like the one in the distance contrast with the bluish green of the spinifex and occasional patches of flowering shrubs.  

Passing through the northern section of the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park, we stopped to photograph Lake Dora; a large salt pan.  Punmu community is on the edge of Lake Dora to the east of this point.

We did not visit the attractions in the south western part of the this huge National Park.  Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park is almost 1.3 million hectares in size and is the largest and the most remote National Park in Western Australia. It is 420 kilometres east from Marble Bar and it should only be accessed by 4WD vehicles.  It features sights such as Desert Queen Baths and Hanging Rock, which are in the southern section and a long way from our route this time.

 

Dried clay dropped off our mud splattered rig. 
The road here had dried after the rain sufficiently for the dust to lift, and willy willys (dust devils) danced along the road in front of us.  

Crossing a dune.  The road has been formed to create a firm base for all traffic. 

We stopped after crossing Lake Auld near the intersection of the Kidson Track and the Punmu Road; the latter being the name of the road we had travelled on since passing the gold mining area of Telfer.   

Breakaway hills as we neared Kunawarritji.  This tiny desert community centres around the store, which supplies fuel at the high price of $3.20 per litre.  This was the highest price we paid for diesel that year. Fuel is trucked to Kunawarritji in drums, and most people travelling the Canning Stock Route refuel here. 

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Kunawarritji is near Well 33 and approximately half way along the Canning Stock Route.  We waited in a long queue of vehicles at this busy fuel outlet.   A delightful moment was watching a red sedan with no windows whatsoever being driven around, full of smiling little Aboriginal children lined up through the open front and rear windscreens.  The joy on the faces of these children was something to treasure.

After leaving Kunawarritji, we soon reach the Canning Stock Route and turned north for a few kilometres to reach Well 33 to camp for the night.  The narrow track was quite corrugated as the track is not graded.  It is a very popular four wheel drive adventure. 

 

We shared the camping area with several groups of travellers.  In the morning camels visited the campground.

 

Leaving Well 33 after a peaceful night.  The morning was a flurry of activity as the groups packed up their camps, filled their water canisters and headed on their way be it north or south along the Canning Stock Route.  

As we headed east from the Canning Stock Route along the Jenkins road, camels held their ground; this one ambled along the road for some time in front of us before leaving the track to allow us to pass. 

Jupiter Well is a popular and lovely camp ground in a grove of elegant desert oak trees.  A bore with a manual pump provides good water at the camp, although nothing else is provided.  We, and other campers heading in the opposite direction, spent a pleasant weekend at Jupiter Well.  The original Jupiter Well site is on the opposite side of the road. 

Gary Junction is at the junction of the Jenkins Track from the west, the Gary Highway from the south, the Gary Junction Road from the east and the Callowa Track from the north west. 

Along this lovely remote and quiet red track, a lone car approached, and flagged us down.  The driver called out to introduce himself.  My husband recognised him instantly.  They had worked in the same area for many years and he now lived in another state.  One car all day and we knew each other.  News over the past few years was shared over cups of tea in the middle of the road.  

Jupiter Well was dug between 20th to 24th August in 1961 by a division of National Mapping Survey Team who spent some months surveying in the desert and looking to avoid trucking water 480 kilometres from near Mount Liebig in the Northern Territory.  It was named after the planet Jupiter was reflected in the well late on the night of the 22nd. 

Near a crest with a communications tower is the wreck of someoneís dream.  The remains of a caravan lie upside down by the road. Someone has place the toilet on the top.   Recovery costs in the event of an accident or breakdown often outweigh the value of the vehicle, so wrecks are regularly seen in the outback. 

The well was re-dug in 1985, but now there is little more than a depression in the ground.  A plaque placed at that time shows the nearest watering points were at Kiwirrkurra 147 kilometres to the east and Well 35 (on the Canning Stock Route) 205 kilometres to the west. 

A little further east of this point is a water tank set back from the road.  Another traveller told us the water is very good. We did not investigate, but good to know for anyone who may be stranded in the area and in need of water.

The Pollock Hills marked the approaches to the vicinity of Kiwirrkurra, colourful with the orange sand dunes contrasting with the red rocks of the breakaways. 
Two vehicles approached, and one stopped to ask if we wanted fuel at Kiwirrkurra.  We said no we had not planned a fuel fill here as it was Sunday.  The driver said Sunday was not a problem, but he would not be back for a while if we had wanted fuel, so thought to stop us and ask.  He invited us to drive in to look around their community and see Len Beadell's ration truck. 

A loop road goes to the Kiwirrkurra township, where the burnt out remains of Len Beadellís truck is on display.   It was burnt out approximately thirty kilometres east of Kiwirrkurra, and was set up as a display at Kiwirrkurra in 2004. 

This four wheel drive truck was the ration truck for Len Beadellís party for several years.  It caught fire during the construction of the Gary Junction Road on 12th November 1960 at the 160 mile point from Sandy Blight Junction.  Destroyed were their supplies of food, water, fridge and much of their camping gear. 

On 1st July 1963 Len salvaged the tray floor and six springs for repairs to their current fridge trailer. 

Mount Webb, at 532 metres, stands alone and dominates the surrounding plains.  Here a track can be seen heading northwards, looking like an inviting way into the Great Sandy Desert to the north, but a trip like that is not one for us. 

From our overnight stop near Dovers Hills, towards the Northern Territory border, we enjoyed perfect quiet and the colours of theGibson Desert with flowering shrubs such as this red grevillea and glorious sunset and sunrise.   White trunked trees lined a dry creek line.   The stars at night are so bright and clear in remote desert locations.   Nights like these have a very special place in Australian outback travel. 

Soil colours varied as we continued towards the Northern Territory.  Here once again camels stood their ground on the road. 

A Len Beadell marker, as we crossed from Western Australia into the Northern Territory to continue our adventures.  Len Beadell and his team were remarkable in their work surveying and building roads through the inhospitable and generally dry inland Australia. His books tell of their trials and successes with touches of humour, and illustrated by Lenís own delightful cartoons. 

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In March 2001 the entire settlement was flooded and evacuated.  Since then levy banks and drains have been constructed on two sides of the settlement to divert water away from the town.   

 

A Western Australian Department of Planning report in 2004 indicated that tourists did not visit Kiwirrkurra, and of an estimated 800 to 1,000 vehicles passing each year, only around ten to fifteen entered the settlement. 

  

The Last Desert Nomads: In October 1984, a family of nine Pintubi, referred to as the ĎLost Nomadsí or the ĎPintupi Nineí, were reunited with their extended family at Kiwirrkurra. Until this time the small group had lived a traditional nomadic life moving from waterhole to waterhole. It is believed they had become separated from other Pintupi more than twenty years earlier, and when found, the group had never seen a motor vehicle, worn clothes nor had any contact with Western society.  Read more about the 'Pintupi Nine'.

Kiwirrkurra is an small Aboriginal settlement of twenty five homes which was commenced in 1984 for Pintubi people who wanted to return to their lands from Papunya in the Northern Territory where they had been resettled.  In 1985 a fountain was built, but the water never flowed. 

It is signed:

WATER DREAMING

TO THE PINTUBI

MAY HIS WISDOM DESCEND UPON YOU LIKE THE WATER UPON THESE ROCKS

1985

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See also Question and Answer about fuel and distances on the Gary Junction Road
Permits are required to transit Aboriginal Lands in both Western Australia and the Northern Territory
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For further details and photos of the route scroll to Option 8 in this linked page.
See Chris and Valdis's visit to Carawine Gorge in 2015 and in 2016.