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Old 05-29-2014, 03:47 AM   #1
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Our Great West Australian Adventure

THE CANNING STOCK ROUTE REVISITED - THIRTY YEARS ON
In 1983 my brother Fred and I rode our motorcycles across the Western Australian desert from Halls Creek to Wiluna. We followed the old stock route from well to well across hundreds of sand dunes to complete what we found to be a challenging trip. You can read about the adventure here: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=547675
So, thirty years later in July, 2013 we decided to repeat the trip, this time accompanied by my 18 year old son Sam and mate Belly. We were keen to see how things had changed and also hoped the trip would be a little easier. You will have to read on to find the answers!


PART 1- GETTING TO THE START
An adventure in its self.
After much late minute preparation Belly and I managed to escape our respective domestic abodes with a bit of a test ride up to Fred’s farm in Jerramungup. Here Fred and Sam were in full flight trying to get their bikes ready, still making racks and panniers. Next day we left them to it and wended our way north to Kalgoorlie, W.A’s prime gold mining center. The ride was a not so subtle reminder that to keep heading north would be a good idea- it was ccc..cold.
Our Machines.
Yamaha WR450 ridden by Sam.

My BMW G 650 X Challenge


Belly and his KTM 640


Husqvarna TE610 ridden by Fred


Fred and Sam arrived at about 2.00 am in the morning with their bikes on the back of a 4wd. So already we are starting to get an idea of who the hard core riders are! A late start from Kalgoorlie saw the beginning of our plan being implemented. Being boys from the bush we have a bit of an aversion to the tarmac so the idea was to follow as much dirt as possible up to Broome then head east to the beginning of the Canning Stock Route. This is a 4000km trip that traverses much of Western Australia and should be good for a bit of crusty motorcycle action combined with more laid back tourist type activity.
A late start and dutifully following the instructions of Belly’s GPS we bounced over a virtual motocross track and onto the Yarri Road on our way to Laverton. A Husky electrical gremlin (with great skill Fred managed to retain all the smoke) delayed our progress ensuring a camp in the bush short of Laverton.



A good bit of riding the next day saw us following the White Cliffs and Minnie Ck Road on the way to Tjukayirla Roadhouse for a motion potion top up. Bought some eggs there too.
(Fre d)'s Eggs

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Old 05-29-2014, 04:47 AM   #2
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With our energy requirements on board we headed north to make camp about 40 or 50 kays up the David Carnegie Road. It was great to be out in the bush and camping under a starlit sky, protected from all the micro and mega fauna by a gossamer film of polymer!

Took this book along for use as a fire starter and emergency bum fodder.


The next day we continued heading north eventually crossing the Gunbarrel Hwy were the main tanks were topped up before venturing into even more remote country.

If we had of been “riding shotgun” there would have been no shortage of food...



The camels persisted in staying on the track so we needed to chase them off. My punishment for that was a flat front tyre on the 650X. Light showers kept the dust down and the riding ensured an elevated smile factor.





We set up camp after what became a hot and humid afternoon of riding. Something liquid and really cool would have been nice.

The next day’s riding saw us arrive at the Talawana Track with our travel now in a westerly direction.

It was initially a fairly flat and open plain with relatively easy going but conditions gradually changed over the kilometers as we came closer to the Canning Stock Route. Bushes and shrubs became more threatening as they overhung the track and the predictable surface became sandier as we began to wind our way in between the emerging sand dunes. It was here that the lane swapping king began to show his true colours . The young bloke (Sam) on his WR450 just used any part of the twin track at any time he felt like it, leaving a virtual motocross track for us old blokes on our 650 “pigs” to wallow through. This sort of behavior would eventually be dealt with by a banning to the back of the pack when travelling down the CSR!
In time our course merged with the CSR at a place situated 3 kilometers north of well 24. We thought the recent bit of riding was fairly tough going and were concerned about the famous new track we had arrived on. Needless to say, it didn’t let us down with some challenges thrown in on our way to the Well23 fuel drop. Arriving there just before sundown we pumped out half the contents of the 200 litre drum and headed off in the dark over a straight but corrugated track to our campsite at Georgia Bore. At this stage we had only encountered one 4wd crew since leaving Tjukayirla on the Great Central Road.
Georgia Bore was a nice campsite with some large gum trees, a water pump supplied by CRA mining in the late 80’s and some plastic tanks. There were several 4wd adventurers camped there along with, to our incredulity, a South African woman with no visible means of vehicular transport! More on her later in the story.


After our fifth sleep for the trip we left Georgia Bore and our brief encounter with the CSR aiming for our next starlight hotel, Desert Queen Baths in the Rudall River National Park. A bit of an obstacle however, barred our way no further than 100 meters from starting our half tamed steeds – lots of water. No horse whispering required though, just twist the throttle and through we go.



Most of the travelling was on a graded track, in some places very sandy but winding through quite attractive, rugged scenery. It was an incident free run with the exception of my bike falling off its stand and bending the gear lever shaft on my son’s WR. Almost a year later and still I don’t think i’ve been forgiven!

Belly's not stopping...

But we were stopped for a reason



The final 18km into Desert Queen Baths would have been slow going in a 4wd with undulating, rocky washouts but suited our bikes just fine with their long travel suspensions. The pools of water were a pleasant sight, set in a rocky gorge and very refreshing after a hot day of riding. A couple of classy Germanic 4wds were a nice complement to Belly’s KTM and my BMW.







My new lightweight tent was a disaster with condensation issues so a full airflow version was created as we set up camp in the one remaining rocky flat area. Sam took advantage of the endless opportunities that digital cameras offer by photographing various aspects of the landscape that supported his Geology studies at university.



















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Old 05-29-2014, 04:58 AM   #3
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Yeah! So don't stop now..........!!!


Good stuff A.
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:16 AM   #4
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Nice stuff! Looking forward to the rest.....
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:33 AM   #5
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Great work.
Interested in the Red Jerry can panniers. I'm planning the same sort of set up for a Simpson crossing next year on the Tiger.
Interesting that you've gone for the original top, my plan is to have a flush lid so the swag will lay flat across the pannier tops & rear seat.
The images are a bit sharper on this trip!
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:52 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by dirt_bloke View Post
Great work.

Interested in the Red Jerry can panniers. I'm planning the same sort of set up for a Simpson crossing next year on the Tiger.


Interesting that you've gone for the original top, my plan is to have a flush lid so the swag will lay flat across the pannier tops & rear seat.



The images are a bit sharper on this trip!
They worked really well. They are attached to the frame work with 5 large cable ties that do the job but will bust off in a hard drop. You will notice that one set (on the TE 610) has the bottoms from two other cans as the lids.
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:54 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by BOOTLACE View Post
Yeah! So don't stop now..........!!!


Good stuff A.
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Old 05-29-2014, 06:04 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by BOOTLACE View Post
Yeah! So don't stop now..........!!!
yeah, really!........

great stuff.....
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Old 05-29-2014, 07:48 AM   #9
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:09 AM   #10
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Well, Desert Queens Bath was a beautiful spot and we could have hung around for a couple of days, but being motorcyclists on a mission, it was time for boots and saddles. So on Sunday we rode out heading in a north-westerly direction to Curawine Gorge, a couple of hundred kilometers away. After about 70 kilometers we turned onto the Nifty Road – and nifty it was! Starting out as a bit of a goat track with dried up mud it became extremely deep, soft sand, so much so that we avoided stopping because of the difficulty in starting again. This then morphed into a hard flat section suitable for doing a top speed test before joining up with the Pipeline Access Track going to the Telfer mine site. Now into mining country the road became fully graded and it wasn’t long before we came across the Nifty Mine. There was a lot of water lying about plus the mine site itself that required being guided around by an employee.







Arriving at Curawine Gorge we found a flowing Oakover River with a significant number of off-road campers fully ensconced on its banks. Setting up camp after riding through loosely packed river rocks (just ride ‘em like sand) it was time for a swim and a cold beer. This beer being sourced from Bart, a resident of our home town who also happened to be camping there. Was it appreciated? You betcha!









The next day, our evil bodies having been rejuvenated by the cleansing waters of Curawine Gorge and of beer, it was time to get back into a bit of riding. Very good riding it was too, winding its way to the water crossing at Upper Curawine Gorge and onto the totally mental Skull Springs Road. Definitely not designed by a Main Roads Department engineer with its graded serpentine form snaking over and around hills, the main word is fun, fun, fun. Mind you, cautious enthusiasm is required as there were plenty of traps for the unwary even with only 50 hp. Give me 100 with good brakes, light weight and….







Sam’s WR450 succumbed to one of these traps – a deeper than expected water across the road resulting in a bit of tool time with the sparkplug requiring removal to clear out the engine. This gave the rest of us the opportunity to dry our socks though. A bit further along we came across one of your legendary outback characters, in this case Mr. Jack Bennett. He regaled us with stories of motorcycles, fixing remote windmills and riding rodeos whilst still in his late 70’s! He didn’t half move his old ute along either, sitting up our clacka’s into Nullagine and then telling us that we were “movin along”. That night at the Marble Bar hotel we noted that the photo’s on the walls revealing Jack’s rodeo exploits showed him to be no bullshit artist.







Marble Bar, being one of the hottest towns in Australia due to its geographical position and the nature of its immediate surroundings lived up to its name even in July. Belly made sure our thirsts were suitably quenched after the main result of his town excursion was a carton of cans strapped to the 640. We made short work of it – pitching tents requires the support of barley growers.
After a geologists tour of the marble bar itself, it was time to aim for the coast at Eighty Mile Beach. Of course, we couldn’t get there without getting lost in the Coppins Gap area but eventually made it via Shay Gap and the Boreline Road.


Coppins Gap.






Old gold mining equipment.



The De Grey River was flowing quite strongly.







The Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park was basically a mega campsite for grey nomads escaping the southern winter.
I suppose you could say the same for us but at least Sam’s age precluded him being “grey”. When we arrived they were all meandering back over the fore dune after watching the sunset. We missed the chance to view this amazing natural event so had to content ourselves with a few boring twilight images.
I photograph Belly.



Belly photographs me.



My photograph of Fred photographing Belly photographing me.



Belly has a good eye for juxtaposition and points of interest. Although the sun has set, a reflection off my head indicates that it still shines from somewhere.

The beach.









So after a night at the beach it was off to Broome, following a bitumen road northwards. Much to my amazement and displeasure, I scored my second flat for the trip. Adding to this displeasure was the odor of a dead cow. Why do they die where I get flats? Of course I didn’t smell it until the wheel was off.



Once fixed, it was a few more hours of frying rubber, something Sam really enjoyed on his WR – not! Broome being a popular tourist destination the park was virtually full with barely enough room to pitch our tents and change our tyres. With the important tasks out of the way we played tourist again and ventured onto the beach – only to be confronted by more camels. With restraint, we resisted the temptation to chase them off our track.





Broome could be a tempting place to just veg out in, drinking and eating and doing nothing in an expensive manner. But we were men of action on the cheap, and so action it was. The next destination being Middle Lagoon, we followed the Cape Leveque Road northwards to Beagle Bay. This road started as bitumen but became a dirt /sand surface with high graded banks. At times it was like riding in the bottom of a large pipe. You had to get up the sides when oncoming vehicles hove into view. So what are the rewards for following such roads? How about this – the awesome shell decorated church at Beagle Bay, an old Aboriginal mission.









Or, if that doesn’t tickle your spiritual fancy then we will just move on to mother nature’s alterative…



A good spot to camp is Middle Lagoon and ideal as a test site for my new bottom dollar festival tent! Needless to say, it was far superior to the $400 mistake I started out with.

Pitching the new tent.



Global warming is a fallacy.



Sam loves mornings.



The Kimberly region of W.A. is a vast region and has some unique landscapes. There is plenty to experience and we had the opportunity to sample some of the treasures on offer, but as always with my motorcycle trips time is the limiting factor – no matter how fast you go! Therefore with a ride down the CSR being our imperative once again it was time to hit the go button. Rather than go back to Broome, we took a shortcut out in an easterly direction and then down to the highway to Derby. Some school teachers had the same idea but managed to belly themselves out in a water crossing.


W e rode around the water following the diversion track and then helped them out of the bog. Satisfied with our efforts, we carried on enjoying the ride until I scored my third flat for the trip.







I need to use thicker tubes.
Back on the move, and southward bound, the Great Northern Highway became visible after a while and so we slabbed it to Willare Bridge Roadhouse on the Fitzroy River. Belly’s KTM 640 actually didn’t quite make it running out of fuel a couple of kilometres short on the westerly side of the river – so it was the BMW two wheeled tanker to the rescue.







There is a campsite at the roadhouse so we set up for the night there. The main activities here consisted of socialising with the rescued teachers and replacement of KTM rear wheel bearings. Places like Switzerland must be a pain to live in. I remember some Swiss girls visiting our farm and commenting “Your Australian bush is so untidy”. What is the point of making this comment you may ask? Well, the point is, Australia is in general a pretty clean place but people still leave enough crap lying around so you can find pieces of metal to use as bearing drifts or whatever. All hail a slightly messy Australia.
Having never been to Derby it became our next destination. Of note here is the large Boab tree that was used as a prison and the muddy waters of King Sound that failed miserably to impress Sam. These young blokes need educating; Muddy Waters as we know is great.





As Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek lay in the general direction of the CSR start we decided to take them in on the way to Fitzroy Crossing. These are popular tourist attractions accessible in any type of vehicle and worth a visit. The crocs of Windjana Gorge and the ancient Devonian limestone reef that Tunnel Creek cuts its way through were more impressive to Sam than Derby so we had a win. I failed to impress a couple of Dutch backpacker type chicks however with the conversational opener half way along the cave; “Is it worth going the rest of the way or is it just more of the same”? From the larger, more dominant looking one came the response “Well with an attitude like that you might as well stay where you are”. Stumped for a quick comeback was I and Belly had a good laugh whilst using her comment mercilessly in any situation we then came across.







With Tunnel Creek out of the way we moved on to Fitzroy Crossing to camp the night and take advantage of our final opportunity to collect supplies and some spare tubes and the like before the final challenge; the trip south down Alfred Canning’s stock route.

Getting lost on the way to the CSR.




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Old 05-30-2014, 09:06 AM   #11
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PART 2 – RIDING THE CANNING STOCK ROUTE
So after a couple of weeks on the road, we were ready for the main game. Once on the Canning Stock Route the Aboriginal settlement of Bililuna gave us an opportunity to replenish fuel and water supplies . The bowser operator mentioned that two blokes on motorcycles came through from the south the day before. One on a DR 650 and the other on a Triumph 800. The comment was that they were glad to be out of there. Having ridden down 30 years ago on 800’s, Fred and I could relate to that line of thinking.







After lunch, we guided our ponderous fully laden beasts out onto an open, treeless plain in the direction of Well 51. It wasn’t long before we noticed two differences from 1983 – corrugations and four wheel drive traffic. Some of them had attitude too, one forcing Sam off the track in his hurry to get back into civilization. But the next lot had the correct attitude, giving Sam a can of beer! So already, within the space of an hour we had met on the track several groups of 4wd, a significant contrast to 1983 when we met no one whilst actually riding.
Each well being about a day’s droving apart, it wasn’t long before number 49 appeared. A bucket was in place enabling good water to be obtained. Riding on, the attractiveness of the country improved with Catspaw Hill and Twin Heads coming into view.







Our first camp on the stock route after leaving Bililuna was at Breadon Pool. It is situated in the Breaden Hills and near Godfreys Tank, a rock pool with the names of various CSR pioneers etched into it.













After a morning walk checking out the pools and tank we resumed our travels through flat anthill dotted scenery before immersing ourselves in proper dune country. This is where riding fully laden motorcycles becomes hard work compared to driving something with four wheels. Really, the CSR is not difficult in a four wheel drive vehicle but by the end of the day a motorcyclist becomes tired and it is then that the riding mistakes can happen. There can be a lot of concentration and physical input to keep the two wheels facing in the right direction.









Well 47 is a ruin but Well 46 (Kuduarra) is restored and has good water although we didn’t stop there. At the Well 45 ruins we stopped for a rest and spoke to a tour group. One of the vehicles was a small cab-over truck. Although the dunes can dominate the mind most of the travelling is on flat areas between the ridges. The flats can be salt and clay pans, soft sand or a firmer surface. Sometimes we would ride through the CBD of a termite metropolis.







When in the heavy dune country we would occasionally stop on a taller dune and make a UHF radio call on channel 40 to let oncoming vehicles of our approach. This was very effective as no one encountered a 4wd whilst cresting a dune. You still have to be wary though as we met quite a few vehicles each day and not all have radios. An example would be the young French or German blokes we encountered a couple of times. It goes something like this: read a forum or the like in Europe, jump on a plane to Perth, go to a car yard in Vic Park and buy an old Landcruiser with skinny tyres, throw your backpacks behind the seats and roar up the CSR! Been there, done that, had the big Ossy adventure experience. To be fair though, these blokes travel light and although moving fast weren’t breaking springs. This contrasts to the many Aussies who plan for over a year, have everything and all the bling that BCF and ARB can supply and still have issues. If it was me in a 4wd I would probably be operating between these two extremes but definitely with an Engel onboard.
The following images show the condition of wells 44, 43 (Billowaggi) and 42 (Guli).







After crossing Guli Lake (not a nautical feat by any stretch of the imagination) we travelled a further 25 kilometers before calling it a day. We had covered 224 km since leaving the Breadon Hills.







Although the previous day behind the bars warmed us up somewhat, the night gave us a taste of how cool it can get at a latitude of 21°25' S when inland. After a hearty breakfast of Wheetbix and orange juice for Fred and I, junk food for Sam and, well stuffed if I know what Belly has for breakfast, we pushed the starter buttons and laid a few more Michelin imprints in the desert sand. Well 41 has been fixed up a bit we didn’t use it as a water supply – I can’t remember but the quality may have been dodgy and there is no point carrying extra weight if you don’t need it. Well 40 (Waddawalla) had eroded away to virtually nothing but in the vicinity is Michael Tobin’s grave. He was speared by an aborigine whom he simultaneously shot and killed during Canning’s survey journey in 1907. When later constructing the CSR infrastructure the men erected a marble cross in his memory.
Note the nice collection of Germanic, Italian and Oriental machinery at Well 41.







After riding across Tobin Lake for a brief look at Well 39 (Murguga, not keen on that water), we continued following the track across flats and dunes to a rocky area that housed Well 38 (Wardabunna). This can be dry but during our visit there was plenty and it was beautiful and clear.







The following photographs give an idea of the scenery enroute to Wardabunna. A couple of points to be made here – That flowering plant is an example of the shrubbery that constantly hits your handlebars and shoulders, always threatening and sometimes succeeding in knocking you off line. The motorcycle is having a bit of a rest. The motorcyclist is keen for more however.









Well 38 and four crusty demons of the dirt.







After spending some time here and talking with a convoy of 4wd individuals we moved on. We must have wasted hours on this trip talking to 4wd people, could have cut a day off the trip without them. But sometimes talk is productive as we later found out. Anyway, back on the track we were, in my case riding straight past the burnt out Suzuki DR 650 without seeing it on the way to Well 37 (Libral). In retrospect I wish we hadn’t of stopped there. I just about ended up in one of these-



This bloody thing stung me!



How it got in my tankbag I’m buggered if I know, but a nasty surprise it was when reaching in to grab the camera. Pain is a very personal thing and unfortunately i could share it with no one for the next couple of hours. Not being a vindictive person I allowed Sam to dispatch it by the well proven stomping on with motocross boots method. The next images show the site of this crime and the general area to the Well 36 (Wanda) ruins.













A little further on we caught up with the convoy we met at Well 38. They had found a place to camp. Sensing an opportunity it was time for another stop. Being friendly souls and up for a bit of Aussie banter it wasn’t long before the beers came out. I wasn’t about to complain that the labels had XXXX printed on them! Once happy we resumed out travels until finding a nice little dune amphitheatre to retire in for the night. We had doddled out 184 kays for the day.













As you can see, we were still farting around when our 4wd mates had already started their day on the road. That’s what you get for having a teenager in your pack. Actually, we were a bit slow getting away in the mornings as I think 8.00am became the default departure time. If you want early starts, don’t take a tent, don’t have full breakfasts like Fred and I and don’t take a teenager! So with our routine now finely tuned we rolled off across the dunes checking out the remains of Well 35(Minjoo) and 34(Nibil).





The final stretch to Well 33 is a shocker. Being flat and fairly straight it allows traffic to speed up creating corrugations like a scaled down version of the stock route dunes. It has turned out to be self defeating for four wheeled traffic because they have to slow down to about 30kph to avoid suspension damage. Being single tracked vehicles with 300mm of suspension travel our bikes have an advantage here, just get up the speed and float on the corries. You still get blurred vision though.
There is not much left of Well 33 but nearby is a bore and water tank with great water and of course the community of Kunawarritji is about 8 km away. It was here that we headed for fuel and some food supplies, not to mention a great shower in the facilities. Thirty years previously this community did not exist so Fred and I needed enough food on board to get all the way to Wiluna from Halls Creek.







Kunawarritji has a well stocked shop for food supplies, the showers are brilliant and the people, unlike some other remote places Iv’e been to, show a bit of pride in the place. That makes it just fine to spend $3.40 per litre when the nomal city price at the time was about $1.50. After spending a few hours rejuvinating ourselves,( oh and placing the SPOT on the ground for a Landbruiser to run over), we placed our respective butts on our jewellery of choice and ventured forth into the wilderness. Talking about butt jewllery, I think my 18 year old son got it right.



See here an image of the fully fuelled Yamaha WR450, the weapon of choice for a CSR ride. Sam was dancing this thing around, picking any line he felt like and making things look easy. Being at least 20kg lighter it made our 650 pigs look like anachronisms from a distant past. If I was doing the trip now I would buy a new one of these or the KTM 500 and put the four things on it that you need: 1.A big tank. 2. Good handgaurds. 3. A sumpguard. 4. A light well designed rack that feeds loads down to the footpeg area. That is all Sam did (actually, no aftermarket sump guard or hand guard!) and you could ride it from anywhere on the mainland with no worries. A cush drive might be good but not vital. You don’t need stupid expensive bling or other crap that adds weight. You can spend money at a gym to get fit if you want to. None of us did. You should have good dirt riding skills though.
Wells32, 31 and 30 were dry remnants of a past era that served to mark our progress in a westerly direction.
Well32


Well31


Well 30








Finding a nice disused runnup below a dune just short of Thring Rock we set up camp for the night. It was 125 km from Kunawarittji. After following the procedure of extracting Sam from his tent and having breakfast we rode over a few dunes and arrived at Thring Rock.








It was crawling with old blokes self marveling at how amazing it was to be out on the CSR at their age!

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Old 05-30-2014, 09:43 AM   #12
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Thanks! I feel like I'm getting a real flavor of Australia.
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Old 05-30-2014, 10:39 AM   #13
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Upper Carawine Gorge

I remember taking those photos of you blokes crossing the Oakover River at Upper Carawine Gorge.

Thought Belly was going to nail me then he gave that 640 the berries....

Enjoying the thread!

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Old 05-30-2014, 10:48 AM   #14
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Thanks A, I miss the desert.....got to get out there again soon. Good to know that scorpion stings don't actually kill you! Nasty!
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Old 05-30-2014, 11:58 PM   #15
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Great Report

I remember reading your 1983 report. Still in my bookmarks. This is even better - very interesting photography and just the right amount of words.

Thanks.
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