30-Dec-2004 -- While planning for my family’s Christmas holiday in Coral Bay, I decided to check the status of any confluence points in the area. I noticed that 23°S 114°E was yet to be visited and when I looked on the 1:250000 map of the area, I couldn’t believe that it was less than 30km “as the crow flies” from Coral Bay. In fact, the map showed that following a major unsealed track for only 26km off the bitumen would put me about 2km from the point.
Coral Bay is located about 1,200km north of Perth, just 50km north of the Tropic of Capricorn and 120km south of the town of Exmouth. It is a very small centre that caters mostly for tourists to the spectacular Ningaloo Reef, a near-shore fringing reef that stretches for 260km along the Western Australian coast.
With the 1,800km journey from Kalgoorlie to Coral Bay, via Perth, finally complete we settled in to the Peoples Park Caravan Village where my parents are employed. The prospective track to the confluence point was viewed on the way into town and it looked very well maintained. From the steps of our accommodation the GPS showed we were 28.5km from the point, which made for an exciting wait until the day of our planned trip.
My parents, John and Judith, were keen to come along, and considering they were providing the 4WD I couldn’t really deny them. They had organised for the managers of the Peoples Park, Jeff and Kelly, to provide the re-assurance of a second vehicle along with some valuable local knowledge. After unsuccessfully trying to convince my 5 year old son to come along, the five of us set out from Coral Bay at 9:00am. The track I planned to take started directly across from the Coral Bay turn-off on the Exmouth-Minilya Highway, only 12km from town. We found that it was an extremely well maintained station road, servicing several bores on the expansive Cardabia Station. Fourteen kilometres off the bitumen we arrived at Wadera Bore, where we noticed station workers mustering sheep from one paddock into an adjoining paddock. One of the workers turned out to be Ron, the station manager/owner, with whom Jeff and Kelly were well aquainted. Ron runs Cardabia Station, a 500,000-acre sheep and cattle station that encompasses Coral Bay and the surrounding area. I explained the concept of confluence points and gained his permission to continue.
We proceeded to Centenary Bore and crossed a fence line before resuming on the track which had been disguised by the many livestock trails converging at the water troughs. It was hard to believe we were not even 30km from the magnificent turquoise waters and fantastic marine life of the coast. The land here is very dry and dusty, with the bores providing a vital lifeline to the station stock and native animals alike. Although the area is quite harsh and unforgiving, it is hard not to admire the beauty of the oddly sculptured Giralia Range to the east, and the unique 2 to 3m tall termite mounds that are abundant in this region. Following the track for a few more kilometres we arrived at the spot, 2km due north of the confluence point, where I had envisaged we would need to leave the track. After a quick discussion it was decided that the best idea would be to head back to the fence line we had seen at Centenary Bore. There was a rough maintenance track running along the southern side that would undoubtedly place us closer to the confluence.
After heading along the fence for a couple of kilometres, the GPS showed we were only about 1.5km due north of the point. The scrub was fairly light on the lower slope of a small rocky ridge that ran north south, so we left the track to see how close we could get. After winding through the sparse scrub and low rocky outcrops we came to a thicker grove of small trees and with the GPS showing only 580m to the confluence I suggested we walk. I didn’t think it would be any fun to drive right up to the point, as I had initially prepared for a 2km walk, and was quite looking forward to the exercise.
We arrived at the confluence point at about 11:00am, just 2 hours after we left town. Thankfully the GPS displayed all the zeros in a small clear area and not in the middle of one of the many prickly shrubs that inhabit the area. We basked in the glory of our first confluence point before taking the required photographs. Upon returning to the cars we realised the grove of trees that had stopped our progress was in fact providing shade to a rather large bull and some of his harem, who were resting not 20m from where we had parked.
While heading back towards the fence line, we had the only hiccup of the day when Jeff severely staked one of his tyres. After a quick change we were soon back on the road and arrived back in Coral Bay by 1:00pm, in time to spend the afternoon swimming and fishing.