A seven day, 1750 kilometre Road Trip out to Balladonia, returning along the Old Coach Road/Telegraph Track to Dundas then Peak Charles before exploring the remote Lake Sharpe Track and Lake Hope Track.
We took Goldfields Road and then Fisheries Road out of Esperance to Condingup.
A tour of the township revealed that Condingup is more than just the tavern and general store. With a population of more than 400 it is quite a bit bigger than one would expect when driving past.
Forty seven kilometres along the Track we turned east onto the access track into Mount Ragged. Scott, Howezit, Andrew, Joanne, Peter and Lone elected to make the climb up the Mount. It started raining as they were preparing and continued throughout their walk.
Greg erected his popup gazebo and those who chose not to climb had lunch under the shelter.
We left Mount Ragged and headed north. The track was easy enough.
Further on we searched for and found Juranda Rockhole.
Sixteen kilometres further on we turned into Balbinya.
Balbinya was settled in 1884 by John Paul Brooks, his mother Emily Henrietta and sister Sarah Teresa. They had walked from Albany to Israelite Bay in 1874. Brooks was the first linesman at Israelite Bay Telegraph Station from 1877 to 1883. He managed Balbinya till his death in 1930.
We left Balbinya and continued north. The Track changes markedly from where it intersects with Parmango Road.
The cleared thoroughfare was about 100 metres wide north of from where the Balladonia Track and Parmango Road intersect. The reason for such a wide clearing of vegetation is unknown although it is likely to be the ploughed-in Telstra cable parallel to the track and 50 metres to the east of it.
We turned off the track and drove into Booanya Rock. It was late in the day with rain threatening when we arrived so we continued past the Rock, searching for a suitable campsite, which we found 600 metres along the track.
Next morning it was a short drive back on our track to Booanya Rock.
The building at Booanya Rock is being restored.
We headed north and stopped at a dam (empty) where there was plenty of evidence of human activity. One corner of the cement-lined tank and water trough was in good condition.
The next sign of habitation was Nanambinia, however, the ‘No Trespassing’ signs did not encourage stopping to look around or even take photographs so we continued north towards Balladonia to refuel.
Large Land Snail
As scientists are finding out more about these molluscs, they are more clearly identifying them and allocating them to more precise geographic regions, with resultant name changes. This looks like the Bothriembryon toolinna, however, the location where it was seen is quite a few kilometres from Toolinna Cove. Perhaps it should be known Bothriembryon balladonia. There were thousands of them on the Balladonia Track.
Balladonia was really just a ‘refuelling diversion’ – off our Route and not scheduled for any other activity.
The ‘Road Closed’ sign confronting southbound travellers at the junction of Eyre Highway and the Balladonia Track is an example of bureaucratic laziness. Anecdotally, it is said to have been there for a long time – possibly years. It is totally inaccurate and could cause angst for respectful, law abiding travellers unsure of the ramifications, however, there shouldn’t be ramifications for travelling on a perfectly safe, acceptable road that has no reason to be closed.
Rather than just return south along the Balladonia Track 12 kilometres to the Old Coach Road I decided to take a station track to Yadadinia Rockhole. The decision was the start of a long and tedious drive that should have taken no more than 20 minutes but in actuality took nearly two hours.
The devastating fire of 2020 that caused the Eyre Highway to be closed for 12 days had caused many trees to fall across the track, necessitating numerous diversions. Nothing if not different.
Old Coach Road/Telegraph Track
After Yadadinia we turned west onto the old Coach Road/Telegraph Track. Today it still serves a vital function as the corridor for the Optus Fibre Optic Cable that connects Western Australia with the eastern states.
The 195 kilometre (Coolgardie Esperance Highway to Eyre Highway) dirt road is in reasonable condition, if a little dusty at the eastern end.
Abandoned Dundas, 21 kilometres south of Norseman, has a rich mining history that is well explained by a series of information plaques.
We pushed on south-west along the Coolgardie Esperance Highway for 33 kilometres and turned onto the Peak Charles Road.
After one false start (and a staked tyre on Jo and Andrew’s Prado) we made our way into Moir Rock and Tank for the night.
This is a great campsite. Little visited, numerous sites and a good view of Peak Charles from the top of the Rock.
The next morning we drove to the top of Moir Rock. One can see Peak Charles 35 kilometres to the south-west.
Moir Tank was an important water source during the goldrush years.
The weather was more friendly for climbing than what we had at Mount Ragged.
Scott, Greg and Pete climbed to within 30 metres of the peak. The last stretch requires more specialised gear and, in its absence, the risk was considered unacceptable.
On the way back from Mushroom Rock I came across some Processionary Caterpillars. Said to be dangerous.
We departed Peak Charles through Annes Pass and along Dunns Track (actually an old shotline) looking for the obscure track to Lake Sharp. Special care is needed at the five way junction 10 kilometres south of Peak Charles to ensure the correct track is selected.
Lake Sharpe Track
The turnoff to Lake Sharpe is difficult to see, being partly overgrown, and I needed to travel along it for a few hundred metres to confirm we were on the correct route. Just over two kilometres along the track the margin of the lake appeared. Saltbush and bluebush country. The track follows the edge of the lake for 14 kilometres. Classic outback Australia.
In a number of places the track was difficult to follow and it needed a bit of investigation on foot to find the way forward.
As the track leaves the lake it merges with a recently made two blade firebreak/containment line. Closer to the Lake King Road it narrows to one blade width. The uncertainty of following this firebreak increased when it made a diversion to the east. After a kilometre it again, reassuringly, turned north towards the Lake King Road.
North of the lake much of the country has been burnt out and we surmised that it was to combat this fire that the firebreak/containment line had been made. Our convoy of vehicles was very clearly the first to travel this track since it had been made – probably by a loader. In some places it disappeared or was very difficult to follow.
Surveyor T.A. Ellison named Lake Sharpe in 1929 while doing ‘classification surveying’, however, he failed to record after whom he named it.
After a couple of Y junctions where we guessed at the direction to take we came out onto the Lake King-Norseman Road.
Lake Hope Track
After 20 kilometres of westward travel we turned north onto the Lake Hope Track and a short time later stopped for lunch under a solitary stand of trees.
This remote track leads through the Bremer Range, along the Honman Ridge and past Lake Hope to the Maggie Hayes mine on the Hyden-Norseman Road. There are numerous shotlines crossing the track along its length.
Lake Hope was named by explorer Frank Hann in 1901 after Joseph Hope, Chief Draftsman of the Lands and Surveys Department, 1896 to 1919.
We turned on to Hyden Norseman Road and I started to look for a suitable campsite – and 23 kilometres to the west we turned into The Breakaways. As per usual we collected firewood just before arrival.
Hyden was an opportunity to refuel and regroup after a stoppage for a mechanical/electrical issue.
Mulkas Cave (previously known as Bates Cave, after an early sandalwood cutter) is one of the most significant rock art sites in Western Australia. A total of 452 motifs have been recorded in the three chambers. Most other sites in the South West have fewer than 20. This is a clear indication of the significance of this site.
The Best for Last
From Mulkas Cave we headed west on Billericay Road – into the rain preceding Tropical Cyclone Seroja. As we progressed westwards the roads got steadily worse. Slip Sliding Around! Scott and Howezit had left us by this time – taking a more northerly course home.
It was time to head for the bitumen. We headed across Lake Kurren Kutten to get to sealed Bendering Road. Like ballet – but no control! Two kilometres later we all reached the bitumen without sliding off the road. Phew!
The expedition finished at Corrigin.
© Cockburn 4WD Club and Kim Epton 2021
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1971 words, 64 photographs, 5 images.
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Graham ‘Howezit’ Howe