Following the Finke River

Jun 06

#7:
Empire Waterhole - Central Australian Railway crossing - near Danny Wh

Published at 12:32
Dispatch created from email
5th and 6th June

Total Distance - 342km


Day 8

Into the second week, and there is still a fair bit to do to get to Finke, but I believe it is achievable.

A pack of dingoes awoke all of us at 4am, probably a kilometre or so
away. The morning chill is still with us.

The river and surrounds is just about all sand now, patches of stones are few and far between. The plan was to cut across some of the bends in the river to make up some distance, but driving and riding cross-country out here is a challenging task. We were often winding through sand dune territory, covered with dry scrub and sticks. It was really heavy going for me because I mostly had no choice but to follow Bob’s tracks which were soft loose sand.

The second cross-country section was over spectacular red sand dunes,
through a grove of desert oaks and spinifex, reminiscent of my journey
up the Canning Stock Route, but without the heavily corrugated track.

After lunch, Bob and Brian went ahead, all the way to the Central
Australian Railway crossing. In this situation I could not deviate too
far from the vehicle tracks as I needed to know when they turned away
from the river.

I often wanted to head to the river bed because the sand regularly
appeared quite often pure and rippled by the wind - a better surface for
me to cycle on. I have also started to follow animal tracks along the
banks as they can be a reasonable option. However, it is generally
better for Bob to stay off the river bed and the lumpy moguls along the
side as much as possible to avoid becoming bogged. He prefers to stick
to the trees beside the river, which is often loose sand and rough
because of animal hoofs.

As a result the afternoon was a long, slow grind for me, following the
vehicle tracks. There isn’t any other option though. I lost the tracks
towards the end of the day, but eventually connected via the CB radio
and made it to the railway crossing in good time. We decided to camp
there, my minimum target for the day. 40km done.


Day 9

Two freight trains passed overnight, one from each direction. There
was also mob of brumbies galloping around at night, and Brian saw
another dingo.

I set off along the river towards Idracowra Station and really enjoyed
pedalling down the middle. The sand is always changing, sometimes
reasonably firm but then gives away and becomes heavy work.

Every day I am reminded how much force the water must have when the
broad river flows. Enormous skeletal tree trunks, uprooted by the force
of the water, lay scattered in the river bed. After 12.5km I met up
with the guys who had taken a side track to that point. Bob found what
looked like some ancient coral and tiny mollusc shells in the middle of
the river.

We continued along the track and passed Idracowra. A little further
along the bank we crossed the river and then another 4km cross-country
diversion over a confusion of small sand ridges to Oodratnamma
Waterhole. Just before the waterhole we came across the ruins of two
cottages that looked as though they had been there for a very long time.
Bob thinks 1800s, but we’re not sure.


During another cross-country section we came across a newly graded
track, (probably made within the last year) that was not marked on our
maps. After a couple of kilometres it crossed the river and then
conveniently for us, tracked along the floodplain. Some of the
surfaces were reasonable and other parts were incredibly sandy and
blanketed with bull dust. It was a real bonus through, and I ended
clocking up 51km today. I was absolutely exhausted, arriving at camp
after crossing numerous red sand dunes and the river several times,
just as the sun set.

Check out the SPOT Tracking map here:
http://www.breakingthecycle.education/expeditions/following-the-finke-river/

All images courtesy of Brian

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