23rd & 24th August, 2016.
We had been in two minds about whether to visit Mt Augustus National Park or not. I had not been able to find out much about what there was to do until we got to Temple Gorge campground in the Kennedy Range National Park and got a brochure on Mt Augustus from the camp host. It showed there was a 49km circuit drive around the rock plus a number of short walks to suit our fitness level, not just the 8 hour summit walk which was way outside our comfort zone. Size-wise Mt Augustus is on par with Uluru (Ayers Rock) and its sandstone is said to be two or three times older. For those of you with a geological bent, Google is your friend.
As we were so close (around 250kms away!), we decided we may as well take the detour. The gravel road was in really good condition for the most part and we were generally travelling at around 70kph. The only place to camp in the area is at the Mt Augustus Station “caravan park”. We were pleasantly surprised as there were lots of grassy areas to camp beside and it was all very spacious. The amenities were clean if a bit dated but as we only ever use the toilets when necessary during the day, amenities are never high on our list of priorities. We had an unpowered site with a tap nearby that we could have topped up our shower tanks if we had needed to. Diesel was available at $1.75 per litre, very reasonable for such a remote spot.
Erich was out for his morning walk as usual and the light was terrific.
We could see the rock from our campsite.
As we had limited ourselves to just two nights here, we only had the day to see those sights that interested us.
First stop was at Cattle Pool where we had a very pleasant walk along the waterhole trying for those elusive bird photos.
Before we had even left the car park, a Spinifex Pigeon posed for us.
While there were not a lot of wildflowers to be seen, the few that we found were pretty.
These three Little Black Cormorants posed nicely for us.
There was a good view of the rock from various parts of the walk.
Not a great photo, but this is an Australian Ringneck (a parrot).
Next we drove to a lookout that gave great views of Mt Augustus.
Next we entered the part of the loop road that would take us around the back of the rock and back out onto the Mt Augustus to Meekatharra Road. We drove in to the area known as The Pound where drovers in the early 1900s would rest their mobs of cattle on the overland trip to Meekatharra some 350kms away. Apparently they covered this distance in 10-12 days which seems incredibly fast to me.
We walked up to the “Saddle” which afforded wonderful views to the north and the south. It was quite a good trail, Class 3, though very rocky so we had to watch where we put our feet.
There was actually a seat at the end of the trail where we sat to take in the views. All along this walk were lovely wildflowers and flowering shrubs.
This white stuff which felt soft and furry is actually a plant of some description.
This shrub, a Cassia I think, is commonly called Cockroach Bush because the seed pods when they age look rather like the back of a cockroach. These seed pods are far from reaching that stage so a certain amount of imagination is required however a later blog entry should show a more descriptive photo.
Driving further on the loop road, we came to the start of one of the summit trails which also leads to some Petroglyphs (Aboriginal rock carvings).
Continuing our drive, we came to another Petroglyph site.
We think this may be a Quandong tree with unripe fruit, the fruit is deep red when ripe.
On entering the main loop road again, we could see witches hats and tree branches blocking part of the road. As we got closer it suddenly dawned on us that these were burrowing bee nests in the road. We had been told about them at Kennedy Range NP but had not seen any.
We stopped the car to take some photos but the bees became quite agitated, buzzing around our heads. We didn’t know whether they could sting or not so we beat a hasty retreat to the car.
Our next stop on the loop was at Ooramboo to do the stockman’s trail. On the way in we found hundreds more burrowing bee nests once again in the middle of the road.
This was a very pretty spot with a lovely natural pool.
On the way out we stopped to try to get a decent photo of one of the burrowing bees – they are really large. Finally success but it is still difficult to get a good perspective on how large these bees are. Apparently they do not nest here every year but good rainfall is essential for their life cycle.
All-in-all a very enjoyable day. We are so glad we decided to make the trip to see Mt Augustus. Our last evening, Erich tried his hand at a few more star trails.
Erich didn’t realise at the time what he was photographing – he just was attracted by the large camp fire under the stars. In the morning he talked to one of the guys in the group of campers. Turns out they are crossing Australia from the most western point (Steep Point) to the most eastern point (Byron Bay) on motorcycles (Harvey Davidsons) for a very worthy cause: “5,000 km ride across the deserts of Australia bringing communities together to fight suicide and depression”. Check out their website: http://crossingaustralia.com/