Upon recently discovering the Confluence Project, I was determined to claim myself my own corner of WA, and being a surveyor in Newman, where-better to stake claim, than the Pilbara? It wasn't like we had much of a choice...The majority of the state had been claimed and all that remained were the places no-man was brave / stupid enough to walk to.
Some loose planning took place about a week before the trip. This involved Pete calling me one afternoon, far from sober but eager to join me in my quest to stand beneath big imaginary lines. "Let's go to the NT border and get one, man!", he exclaimed.
We weren't really on the same page but I applauded his enthusiasm. Working on an 8 on, 6 off roster, a whirlwind tour was scheduled for my next break, to get a glimpse of Millstream National Park and to go bang a fence-dropper in the middle of nowhere.
Target: 23°S, 118°E, previously attempted by Rod Kevill but not successfully visited. In the bush, halfway between Tom Price and Paraburdoo.
Survey Party: Kim Plant and Peter Hill.
Transport: My 1992, 2.4L, unairconditioned Hilux ute.
Supplies: Plenty of water, spare tyres, 2 minute noodles, tins of hearty irish stew, directions kindly provided by Rod, and an impressive hand-held GPS, kindly supplied by our good mate, Frenchy.
Thurs, 15th: It had been a warm week with temperatures averaging 45° and we were wondering what the hell we had started but we weren't gonna spend the week in Newman. We packed the car and left at about 11am. A much needed swim was had at Fern Pool, Karijini and we made it to Tom Price before 4. From here, we rang Rocklea Station's owners for entry approval, stocked the esky and headed down the highway, searching for the right track. There were many options, but the GPS suggested to take the Mallee rail-siding entry and luckily enough, that provided a rail-crossing. Heading down the service track on the eastern side of the track now (and only 8-10km from the confluence point) it wasn't long before we found, according to Rod, the track to Kangaroo Creek and Bobswim Pool, heading east with a freshly graded entry. We trekked along this for a few km’s, carefully watching the ‘distance to waypoint’, crossed ‘Kangaroo Creek’, had one short, unsuccessful venture northwards into a very faint track, but doubled back to find the track that would lead us to our campsite, just 4.7km from the waypoint. The vegetation was fairly dense, so didn’t even bother trying to drive any further. After all, how hard is a 10km walk gonna be....? It was nearing sunset, so we set up camp (parked the car and threw the swags on the ground), cooked up a stir-fry, prepared ourselves for the next day and had an early night. The plan: to rise at 4.30 and make it to the confluence point by sunrise.
Fri, 16th: The torch broke and the early start went out the window. We were on our feet and walking by sunrise at 6.30. By 7.00, we reach the top of the first ridge, preyed that our depth perception was working alright and that 3.5km to the point didn't put it over the very large mountain range in sight. 8.30am: Halfway up the large mountain range and still 900m to waypoint. Why are we doing this again? The confluence point ended up being 300m over this ridge and 125m down quite a steep face. 9.00: Arrival at the confluence point. Let's get these photo's and get out of here! 11.40: Let's pack the car and get out of here!
Looking at the photos now, there is a huge sense of achievement. It's much easier to appreciate the beautiful landscape and the awesome views of the unmistakable Pilbara, but on that 40+° day, we made the decision that this would be our first and last confluence visit involving such a walk through the arid Australian outback. Stick that. We headed straight back to the Tom Price town pool, picked the spinifex out of the shins and cleaned up.
The next couple of days were spent with the esky within reach, lounging in the fresh streams of the Fortescue River at Millstream N.P. It was a very enjoyable short trip and I'm stoked I have been able to see a bit more of our big back yard.