06-Dec-2003 -- After a third and bitterly unsuccessful attempt at confluence point (30°00'00"S 120°00'00"E) myself Steve Leipold and brother-in-law Jake Fitzsimons decided to try the next confluence south (31°00'00"S 120°00'00E"), which looked from the map to be a bit easier to get to.
We returned to the mine site near Ora Banda where we both work at around 10:30 and on the computer planned the best route to take to the new destination point. A track was digitised and uploaded into our Garmin 12xl and a plan printed out. I use a program called Oziexplorer that I find invaluable for planning trips like this, it easily enables transfer of data between the computer and the GPS unit.
After obtaining all the necessary information we left the mine site at 11:00 and travelled south along the Coolgardie North Road to Coolgardie. We arrived there at around 11:50 and then proceeded 85km west along the Great Eastern Highway to where the 120°E longitude intersects the highway. The Main Roads Department has painted a series of white lines on the road at the exact location where it crosses. The 120°E longitude is actually what the Western Australian time zone is based on, (+ 8hours Greenwich Mean Time). This location is also where the vermin proof fence crosses the highway, it's primary purpose is to stop emus and feral goats travelling west into the wheatbelt farming areas. I don't know how well it works though as we saw numerous emus on both sides of it.
We followed the fenceline along its western side for about 30km at which point we came to a gate. This allowed us to cross over and travel back some 700 metres along the east side of the fence to the start of the track that would lead us to our confluence point. The time now was 13:10 and the outside temperature was around 37°C, not that it bothered us in our airconditioned ute - for the time being anyway.
Following this track we passed a sign stating that we were now entering Jaudi Station. The first 7km of this reasonable but relatively unused track was fairly easy going, the scrub out here consisted of sandy loam soil type with a distribution of trees such as Gimlet, Red Morrells, Grey and Salmon Gums. We made the observation that the trees here have larger trunk diameters than those around the Kalgoorlie area. Suggesting that this area has not been previously cleared as was the case with the woodlands around Kalgoorlie which were cut to supply fuel and timber to the mines.
At the 7km mark we came to a fork in the track, our GPS instructed us to take the track leading east. It quickly became obvious that this track has not been used in a very long time. As we continued along, it dramatically deteriorated and we found ourselves constantly losing it. Without having the track loaded up into the GPS it would have been virtually impossible to follow it, I was quite surprised how accurate it was, the track was always within 20 to 25 metres from were the GPS said it should be. Still even with the GPS there were times where it was extremely difficult to locate.
As we continued along the track we came across two rocky outcrop areas which were quite stunning, large Merrit trees with their distinctive white bark trunk and glossy green leaves were scattered around the white and red sandstone outcrop. We stoped here and had a look around the small caves located within the rock formations.
Even with the GPS we couldn't locate the track around these outcrops, the best we could was to try and pick it up again on the other side. The track condition now was now very ordinary with much of it partially or completely covered with scrub. Both of us kept anticipating hearing the frustrating sound of a tyre being staked. Only 4km to go as the crow flys, the track was now completely overgrown by Jam Wattle and Emu Tree. With the vehicle tyres being radials and very prone to sidewall staking we decided not to risk it and complete the last 4km on foot.
Armed this time with a Trimble pathfinder DGPS unit which will give sub-metre accuracy and 6 litres of water we set off on foot to the confluence point not forgeting to record the location of the vehicle before we left. The vegetation for most of the way was thick and the going was pretty tough. An hour and 25 minutes later we finally reached our target. We placed our marker, took our photos and watched as a large electrical storm approached us from the west. We quickly decided that being 4km from our vehicle with lightning cracking down around us from the heavens was not a very good situation and we hi-tailed it back.
Our next problem was that it now started to belt down with rain and hail and if we didn't make it back to vermin proof fence soon we would become bogged somewhere along the track. Fortunately though we made it through and eventually returned home to Kalgoorlie around 21:20 having thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our adventure.
It was interesting to find out later that another couple of guys at approximately the same time on the same day were visiting a confluence point on the same longitude 665 km north of us.
Our next challenge is a fourth attempt to finally conquer the elusive 30°00'00"S 120°00'00"E, this time with a set of 16 ply crossplys and a bit of luck.