07-Apr-2021 -- Having spent large parts of 2020 in lockdown, and with interstate travel severely limited by premiers more interested in grandstanding to the fearful rather than following specialist advice, we were desperate to escape to the desert.
My son, James, and I have been doing annual desert trips for nearly thirty years. Various friends have accompanied us over the years. It is only since 2012 that we have made a project of visiting confluence points. The idea came from Damo, who tragically died at age 53 in 2012, before reaching a CP himself.
This Easter, a group of 13 of us traveled to Central Australia from various parts of the southeast of Australia (Canberra, NSW south coast, Melbourne, and Echuca). Others were to come but a diagnosis of multiple myeloma caused the late withdrawal of a group of four traveling from central Victoria.
From Alice Springs, armed with appropriate permits, we headed northwest along the Tanami Road, and after camping out, headed into the community of Yuendumu. Unfortunately, the art center (Warlukurlangu Artists) was closed for Easter, so we fuelled up and headed north to check out some CPs. Despite a very pleasant drive we had to admit defeat, so after camping out we headed back to Yuendumu, refueled, and headed west toward Nyrippi and Kintore, passing by the departure point for our first ever CP from 2012 along the way.
Because access to Western Australia (WA) had been denied, and permits for the Sandy Blight Junction Track had not been granted, we changed our plans and decided to attempt a CP some 10km north of the Gary Junction Road (or Kintore to Kiwirrkurra Road) on the border between WA and the Northern Territory (NT).
My research (on Google Earth) showed that the CP was in open desert country and that there were no apparent tracks nearby. This meant a cross-country trek of some 19km. We had done this twice before, so were not put off.
When we reached the border we headed slowly north cross-country. There were a lot of scrubby bushes, various types of grass, and a few 5m high sand dunes to cross. We collectively scored three punctures from side wall stakes. It is very frustrating when a brand-new tire is destroyed. After several hours we closed on the CP, only to find a well worn pair of wheel tracks heading east/west a few hundred meters south of the CP.
As the photographs show, this isn’t the most exciting landscape. The country is dry and barren. The few trees are wizened by a life of privation. Bare red earth is sparsely covered by desert grasses. A few yellow acacias at a splash of color.
At the CP we took photos, moved around until we had ‘all zeroes’, acknowledged absent friends, then headed south to join the mystery track. We followed the track all the way back to the Gary Junction Road, saving several hours of bush bashing.
We camped just off the road between the border and Kintore. The next morning we headed east to Mt Liebig where one of our numbers suffered an unconscious collapse. We are most grateful for the highly professional nursing care at the Mt Liebig clinic. She conferenced with medical staff in Alice Springs, commenced treatment, and arranged retrieval by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. It is almost unbelievable that in the remotest part of this sparsely inhabited continent, expert, life-saving assistance is available when needed.