The   group   decided   to   change   some   of   their   travel   plans.         Originally   Alan   was   going   to   follow   Carnegie's   route   north-east   to   where   he discovered   another   native   well   which   he   called   Family   Well   located   approximately   four   kilometres   north   of   the   Gary   Junction   Road.      John   and Howard   were   to   meet   him   at   this   point   after   travelling   the   remainder   of   the   Gary   Highway   then   turning   towards   the   east   along   Gary   Junction Road.      Then   Alan   was   to   travel   overland   to   Wilson   Cliffs,   a   feature   Carnegie   found   and   named,   before   heading   towards   Helena   Spring, another   of   Carnegie's   features.      John   and   Howard   were   to   refuel   and   resupply   at   Kunawarratji,   near   Well   33   on   the   Canning   Stock   Route, before travelling north along the stock route to the track to Helena Spring.  They were then going to meet up with Alan at the spring. This   plan   was   abandoned   because   of   the   loss   of   the   4WD's   air   compressor   and   the   fact   that   the   group   was   well   behind   schedule.      The   new plan   was   to   load   the   bike   onto   the   4WD   and   head   to   Kunawarratji   for   fuel   and   supplies.      There   the   bike   would   be   unloaded   and   they   would travel   up   the   stock   route   in   convoy   until   the   turnoff   to   Helena   Spring   from   where   they   would   attempt   to   reach   the   spring.      This   would   bring them back in line with the original plan. The   first   task   for   the   day   was   to   backtrack   the   40   kilometres   to   retrieve   and   load   the   bike.     After   this   was   done   they   made   the   long   journey   to Kunawarratji   where   they   arrived   about   2:00pm.      They   were   informed   by   the   manager   that   they   were   the   first   group   to   come   through   from   the Gary   Highway   this   year.      They   decided   to   stay   there   the   night.      There   was   one   single   air   conditioned   room   with   a   shower   available   so   it   was given   to   Alan   who   was   most   in   need   of   it   as   he   hadn’t   had   a   shower   or   decent   wash   in   over   two   weeks.      Howard   and   John   set   up   the   tent near the room and made use of the shower facilities as well.  Laundry was done and many welcome cold soft drinks were consumed. In   the   morning   after   a   slow   start,   the   vehicles   and   jerry   cans   were   topped   up   with   extra fuel,   and   small   stores   were   purchased,   the   bill   totalling   just   under   $600.      They   all   then drove   three   kilometres   to   where   the   Canning   Stock   Route   passes   and   headed   north along the Route. The   first   part   of   the   track   was   good,   it   was   easy   to   traverse   with   only   a   few   sandridges.     After   about   50   kilometres   though,   the   sandridges   became   more   prolific,   and   it   almost seemed   to   be   one   long   rollercoaster   ride   as   the   vehicles   went   up   and   down   along   the track.      The   track   is   very   sandy,   as   are   the   dunes,   and   it   requires   a   reasonable   “run-up”   to have   the   momentum   to   carry   the   4WD   over.      The   group   came   across   Lake   Wanda   also known    as    Well    36.    Here    the    water    was    very    clear    and    Howard    and   Alan    took    the opportunity to wash their faces and cool down as it was very hot. They   then   continued   north   and   made   their   way   to   Well   37   which   is   nicknamed   the Haunted   Well   as   several   stockmen   and   a   prospector   were   killed   and   buried   here.      The graves   are   easily   found   around   the   vicinity   of   the   well.      A   few   kilometres   further   north   the   group camped for the night probably just far enough from the well to escape its curse. The   next   day   was   29   April   2003.      The   group   once   again   headed   north   along   the   slow   but   useable track   and   came   to   Wardabunna   Rockhole   (pictured   left).      It   is   not   unlike   a   small   canyon.      The   water was   stagnant   and   did   not   look   very   refreshing.      The   picture   (below)   is   a   typical   sandridge   scene,   in the area of Well 39. Next Tobin   Lake   had   to   be   crossed.     Alan   had   a   bit   of   fun   on   the   bike   riding   over   the   vast   dry expanse   of   the   lake.      Tobin   Lake   was   named   after   Michael   Tobin,   a   member   of   Canning's party who was speared by an aboriginal at Well 40. The   group   visited   his   grave   (left),   which   is   a   few   kilometres   from   the   well.      What   a   lonely grave   this   is.      They   headed   north   again.      There   were   quite   a   few   sandridges   now   and   some were   very   large.      Eventually   the   post   to   indicate   the   turnoff   to   Helena   Spring   was   found   [Lat 21   23.548S,   Long   125   50.219E].      Whilst   the   others   waited   Howard   rode   the   bike   down   the track   to   see   what   condition   it   was   in.         He   found   the track   very   difficult   to   follow   and   lost   it   altogether   after about   400   metres.      After   telling   the   others   the   news they   set   up   camp   around   sunset   about   that   distance down   the   track.      This   particular   camp   was   noted   for   the huge   moths   which   took   a   fancy   to   pasta.      The   food   had   to   be   cooked   well   away   from   light   sources,   to ensure no one had stewed moth. After   tea   it   was   decided   that   tomorrow   only   Alan would   proceed   to   Helena   Spring.      It   was   considered not   prudent   to   take   the   4WD   so   far   into   a   trackless wilderness.      John   and   Howard   would   continue   up   the   stock   route   and   later   meet   Alan   at Mount   Romilly,   180   kilometres   further   along   the   track.      This   next   stage   would   be   Alan's longest   alone   in   both   distance   and   time   as   it   was   over   80   kilometres   to   the   east   just   to   get   to   the   spring   and   would   take   about   three   days   to get   to   Mount   Romilly.     There   was   a   bit   of   concern   amongst   the   group,   and   the   decision   for Alan   to   go   was   the   cause   of   much   discussion.      He was to travel into very isolated country alone! On   5   October   1896   Carnegie   and   his   party   were   guided   by   an   aboriginal   to   a   spring   which   Carnegie named   Helena   Spring   after   his   sister.      They   stayed   there   for   five   days.      According   to   Carnegie,   the spring   comprised   a   surface   outcrop   with   a   circular   basin   that   could   hold   around   70   gallons.      It   is   fed   from underneath the outcrop and seemingly is an unlimited supply. Carnegie   approached   Helena   Spring   roughly   from   the   south-east   after   an   extremely   long   stage   without reliable water.  He mentioned that his camels visibly fattened at the spring. The   present   group   was   up   early   and Howard      started      to      mend      some punctures,    something    he    could    now do   with   ease.      He   and   John   were   in no   rush   as   they   only   had   to   drive   180 kilometres   in   two   or   three   days.      Alan started   to   pack   up   the   bike   with   the biggest   load   it   had   yet   carried.   Some of   his   load   included   45   litres   of   water and   60   litres   of   unleaded   fuel   in   addition   to   the   fuel   tank   of   nineteen   litres.     He   also   carried   enough   food   for   four   days,   the   air   compressor,   a   camp stretcher,   minor   tool   kit,   first   aid   kit,   satellite   phone,   global   positioning system,   an   EPIRB,   some   matches   and   many   other   items   that   may   or   may not be needed. After   bidding   his father           and brother   farewell Alan    made    his way   east   trying to   keep   the   track,   or   where   the   track   should   be,   close   by.      He   found   and   lost   the track   repeatedly   and   after   about   25   kilometres   it   disappeared   completely.      The country   was   completely   comprised   of   sandridges,   some   places   where   the   gaps   in the   sandridges   were   only   as   wide   as   the   sandridges   themselves.         There   was thick   spinifex   all   around   and   it   was   very   slow   riding.      Alan   did   not   stop   until 1:00pm,   well   over   halfway   there,   and   had   lunch   on   top   of   a   sandridge   in   the shade of a desert gum. Approximately   20   kilometres   from   the   spring   the   sand   ridges   began   to   spread   out and   there   were   interesting   rock   formations   every   so   often.      He   often   rode   on   top of   the   ridges   as   there   was   not   as   much   spinifex   there   but   there   was   more   risk   of   a fall.      The   bike   had   to   be   reversed   out   of   dangerous   situations   a   few   times,   as forward   manoeuvres   would   have   resulted   in   a   roll   over.      He   arrived   at   the   spring around   3:00pm   to   a   huge   anti-climax.      The   spring   seemed   to   be   completely flooded   out.      On   the   banks   of   the   claypan   in   the   centre   of   the   picture   was   found an   aluminium   sign   face   down   in   the   mud.      This   sign   was   put   there   by   another expedition   in   1982.      Alan   moved   the   sign   two   metres   north   and   re-erected   it.     There   was   another   sign   found   there   as   well   but   it   was   almost   completely   rusted out   so   he   left   it   as   it   was.      The   water   in   the   claypan   tasted   slightly   salty.      Alan assumed   it   was   a   rare   occurrence   for   the   spring   to   be   flooded   but   thought   it   would have been nice to see the spring with the claypan dry. Alan   proceeded   to   a   sandridge   to   the   north-east   about   200   metres   from   the   spring and   set   up   his   camp.     After   dinner   he   relaxed   on   his   camp   stretcher   and   after   dark settled   down   for   the   night.      From   out   of   the   night   air   came   a   howl   from   a   dingo.      It seemed   to   come   from   about   500   metres   to   the   north.      It   immediately   put   Alan   on edge.      It   continued   to   howl   as   Alan   eventually   got   some   sleep,   tonight   though, with his knife by his side. It   was   1   May   2003.     Alan   awoke   and   noticed   that   the   dingo   had   indeed   paid   a   visit   during   the   night.     There   were   dingo   footprints   coming   as   close   as   five   metres   to   where   he   slept.      Now   it   was   daylight Alan   felt   a   lot   safer   and   started   to   prepare   for   the   day's   trip   ahead.      He   then   took   one   last   look   at the   area   of   the   spring   and   started   to   head   off   when   he   saw   a   dingo   (right).         It   seemed   to   be   an albino   dingo   as   it   was   very   pale.      It   did   not   attempt   to   run   off   after   Alan   saw   it   so   he   tried   to   make friends   by   calling   “here   doggie,   here   doggie”   but   after   ten   minutes   the   dingo   got   bored   and   it wandered   off.      Alan   thought   that   the   brief   acquaintance   was   a   good   thing   and   thought   how   hard   it would be for the dingo to constantly search for water and food.    
The Canning Stock Route and Helena Spring
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