Following the Finke River

Jun 08

Near Danny White’s Yards - Junction Hole Waterhole - Polly Corner

Published at 11:55
Dispatch created from email
7th and 8th June

Total Distance - 429km

Day 10

We were interested to see how far we could go on the newly bulldozed
track we had followed to the campsite the day before. From the Finke
River bank, where we camped, the track was an absolute mess of
bulldust and deep, loose sand. For about three or four kilometres, I
really struggled over a confusion of white and pink sand dunes. The
track veered northwards, though we wanted to head east towards Danny
White’s Yards.

With no option but to continue along this track, the route started to
bisect larger red sand dunes (more coherent sand for me) and through
some beautiful stands of desert oaks. I could hear the breeze rustling
through the oak needles, similar to wind through a pine forrest. After
10km, the track joined a better quality station track that connected to
Danny White’s Yards (in the centre of a loop in the river.

After 6 km we turned back on to the river. About 3km later we came to
Arowie Waterhole - it was different from the pools, probably fed by a
spring because the water was clear with a variety of algae and small
fish. It appeared to have a healthy ecosystem. We took some water from
it (for washing, not drinking) and moved on. We crossed back and forth
over the river, electing to ride over some more solid clay pan type soil
where possible.

For lunch we are down to white bread, processed cheese and I sliced up
some olives to make my sandwiches more interesting! The afternoon
session was the horror session for the day, crossing red sand dunes that
were covered with dry scrub, acacia and huge spinifex plants. It was a
huge driving effort from Bob to get through this, his vehicle scratched
and covered with sticks and dust by the time he got through. It was no
better for me. I had to follow his tracks, which wasn’t very easy; sand,
heat, flies, scratched from bushes and spinifex. I somehow avoided
getting any punctures with sharp sticks a real threat. In the end we
didn’t really cut off any significant distance.

The landscape was parched; there were sections of dead trees and on a
claypan, two dead horses.

We rejoined the Finke at the point where the Hugh River, another
significant river, enters it. At times of rain, this must inject a whole
lot more force to the already vast torrents of water.

The final stanza for the day began by Bob becoming bogged trying to
cross a sand mogul. Confident of getting out, he waved me on and I
cycled the final 4km down the middle of the river, and across a broad
sweeping bend to Junction Hole Waterhole.

The site was beautiful; not much water left in the waterhole, but the
rock formation was really interesting, with white ochre on the bottom
layer and a conglomerate of sandstone with all sorts of river stones
embedded into it. In a cove behind the rock, a grassy terrace, perfect
for camping. 43km done.

Day 11

I am starting to feel pretty tired now. My body has taken a beating
every day. My legs feel heavy and I don’t feel as strong as I did at the
start. Still, I need to hang on and cycle consistently for at least 40km
a day for the last four days. We are getting there!

I set off alone, as was usually the case, this time leaving Brian
interviewing Bob for the documentary. I made great progress following
cattle tracks along the banks. Sometimes there are soft sections, or
branches blocking the way, but generally it is one of my best options,
while they are there.

The river though, is constantly changing, throwing up new obstacles and
wonderful features. Every day is different! After the guys had caught
me, about 15km from camp, we came to one of the most magnificent
features so far, near Lalgra Yard. Majestic white ochre cliffs, maybe
25m high with a thin layer of red sand/clay and rocks above. This has to
be a place of cultural significance. Bob and Brian found flint-like
cutting implements fashioned from the hard stones at the top of the
cliffs. The ochre is soft and chalky. The Finke/Larapinta has been used
as an Aboriginal trade route for tens of thousands of years, and surely
this would have been an important place for them.

I really battled over the next ten kilometres in the heat through the
sandy river banks to near Davis Well and a lunch break. The good news
was from that point, there was a track we could follow which enabled me
to catch up some distance and save my legs a little. Tonight we are
camping beside Polly Corner, of course beside the river. 44km done.

We have roughly 110km to do in the next 3 days, to get to the town of
Finke. It should be very achievable at our current rate, but none of us
are getting complacent.

To see tracking maps, go to:

Images courtesy of Brian


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