Last of the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party roads to be made by Len Beadell and his merry men was the 450km long Talawana Track, pushing westward from Windy Corner (on the Gary Highway) to ruins of the Talawana Homestead, near the present Balfour Downs Station. Total length of the track when including existing station roads not driven by the GRCP, ending at the Newman to Marble Bar Road, is close to 560km.
It was however not the easiest road for them to construct, with several delays due to drive line breakages on their hard worked grader. Many of the latter GRCP roads were pushed with the grader alone, without a bulldozer taking the first heavy cuts – this seems to have led to some of the problems they experienced with the grader towards end of their road construction campaign. The road was finally finished in November 1963, it is worth noting that in some of Len’s books he refers to it as the Windy Corner Road.
The Talawana Track overlays the Canning Stock Route (CSR) between Wells 23 and 24, so technically a CSR permit is required to traverse that section of the track:
- Canning Stock Route – Wells 5 to 51 (Kuju Wangka People)
We drove approximately half of the Talawana Track with a group of fellow travellers over two days in late July 22, from Windy Corner to the turn-off into Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park.
Windy Corner to Midway Well
Windy Corner is marked by a replica Beadell plaque mounted to a 44 gallon drum, along with the recent addition of some blue 205 litre drilling fluid drums seemingly left by an exploration company. Judging by the wheel ruts most traffic takes the same line as we did, turning west from southern half of the Gary Highway, northern half of the track ahead of us looked even less driven (and poorer condition) than were we’d driven.
After turning off the Gary Highway at Windy Corner we headed westward, with track conditions similar to those we had just left – rough, scrubby and overgrown!
After crashing and bashing through the mulga scrub for about 50km we came to a broad flat clearing devoid of spinifex and with relief propped there to camp for the night.
The following morning we got an early start with expectation of another day crawling slowly through thick scratchy scrub. Thankfully though, after around 40km the area opened into more of the flat sandy spinifex plain country. This allowed us to pick up the pace, but did mean more frequent stops to clear away spinifex build up under the vehicles. Another highlight of the day was crossing the Tropic of Capricorn along the way.
We soon had one more stark reminder of why this is necessary – another recently burnt vehicle with camper trailer just off the track!
You can see in foreground of the picture above where another vehicle had cleared spinifex from their vehicle, and how much of the highly flammable material you can end up with down there! As well as this recent casualty we passed the wreckage of other past fires, some that are many years old but still grim evidence of how badly things can end when travelling in this type of country.
We continued our way across the Little Sandy Desert, eventually stopping for lunch and yet another crawl under the Cruiser chasing out flammable debris.
Yet another hazard we encountered regularly when traversing the desert was dead camel carcases on the track – it seems they must be easy pickings for the rangers (or whomever shoots them) given that the camels tend to prefer the easier route of wheel ruts compared to spinifex clumps (who can blame them). It would however be useful if they could drag them clear of the track to avoid need for bypasses around them.
Not long after lunch we reached Midway Well intersection and got a very welcome surprise – a mining or exploration team must be working in the area and the track ahead of us was now freshly graded!! Although we normally go looking for the hard tracks, a week of bashing through mulga scrub and needlessly tearing up the rig made us very thankful to have a smooth wide dirt road ahead.
Midway Well to Karlamilyi National Park
With a smooth graded track ahead of us we made good time and pushed toward the Canning Stock Route. About 20km before CSR Well 24 we entered salt pan country with some beautiful maroon samfire growing in the pans themselves and surrounding dunes hosting a great wild flower show.
At last we reached intersection of the Talawana Track and the Canning Stock Route, a milestone that we hoped to achieve on the day and did so, thanks to the section of freshly graded track.
We intended to camp at Well 23 (Kaalpa), but found the area quite overgrown – instead we retreated a few kilometres to a gravelly area at base of a majestic red rock jumpup. It made for a great camp site, although we were raided by dingoes during the night and they carried off everything from door mats to boots to camp chairs…
After recovering dingo munched items from around the camp area we were back on the track, running along the combined Talawana and CSR section to Georgia Bore for smoko.
Our westward run continued, leaving the CSR at the bore and resuming the Talawana Track, our next destination the indigenous community of Parnngurr (formerly Cotton Creek). I was really impressed with this township, which must have the benefit of good community leadership and support – it was the tidiest, friendliest and most welcoming of the indigenous communities visited in the outback to date. The store was well stocked with piles of fresh food, unlike the processed food that seems to dominate in other community stores, another sign of a healthy and happy group of people living in this remote and at times hostile land.
Not far past the Parnngurr access road is turn off into Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park, and end of our time on the Talawana Track. Southern entry into the National Park is site of the White Gums Bore, a great little camping place under a spread of desert ghost gums that was our rest stop for the night – although unfortunately the bore was no longer working and the hand pump was missing…
Karlamilyi National Park to Newman
Although we didn’t drive across it, the Parnngurr store keeper claimed that the Talawana Track westward to Marble Bar Road was a well maintained and regularly graded dirt road that was rarely affected by weather. Travellers with questions about the road section can contact the Parnngurr Store on (08) 91769009.
And so ends this section of our trip – next is a few days exploring the Karlamilyi National Park before heading to Marble Bar – check out our next blog (or subscribe to get an email notification),