Spinifex Range and Hunt Pinnacles

The two most easterly parts of Hunts Track – Southern Cross to Kambalda and Kambalda to Spinifex Range and Hunts Pinnacles – are entirely in the Great Western Woodland. It was the setting for another great Road Trip.

Surveyor C.C. Hunt explored by horseback to Spinifex Range (140 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie) in 1866 and also to what he called Three Pinnacles (now Hunt Pinnacles) 100 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie.

Given the limited resources available to him, the unseasonally dry conditions and the remoteness from the settled areas, his achievement in pushing so far east into essentially waterless country was remarkable.  Though remarkable, the realisation that the country was waterless, coupled with the afore-mentioned limiting factors, lead to the abandonment of the goal of finding a path through to the eastern colonies.  His 1865 and 1866 expeditions concentrated on locating pastoral land.

Our Road Trip was to follow, as much as was feasible, Hunt’s 1866 peregrinations on the Hampton Plains.

The Great Western Woodland is the largest intact mediterranean woodland on the planet.

Yerdanie to Prince of Wales Mine

The Yerdanie turnoff from Great Eastern Highway can be difficult to see. It is at 31°10’16.28″S 120°33’55.03″E.  This track is part of Hunts Track from Woolgangie to Yerdanie.

Our six day Road Trip to follow Hunts Track to his furthest east – in the Spinifex Range, 140 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie – started on Wednesday  11 September 2019.

Heading east it gets darker earlier (here’s why) and the light was fading so I pulled into a known camping area near the Prince of Wales (abandoned) mine. Plenty of space and plenty of firewood.

Prince of Wales to Gnarlbine

We drove east to Gnarlbine – an uncomplicated, easy run. Gnarlbine Soak was an extremely important source of water for prospectors in the 1890s and even after Coolgardie was established it was a vital resource until condensors were constructed, and the Mundaring to Kalgoorlie pipeline was eventually put through in 1903.

At Gnarlbine we searched for a known, second well, 200 metres SSE of the main well. The scrub is extremely thick in this area and previous searches had been unsuccessful. After I described the general area where I expected the well to be, Aaron found it within minutes. The well is accessible from an open gravel area just south of Gnarlbine Rock. A path leads to the well at 31°9’18″S 120°57’32.26″E. [A photograph of the access track taken after this Trip is here].

Gnarlbine to Kambalda

We drove out to Victoria Rock Road and headed north of Gnarlbine Rock, searching for a track east that would lead to the Nepean-Spargoville Road. After a couple of false starts we found a track that followed a long since abandoned railway.

This track leads to the abandoned Nepean Mine.

The Nepean-Spargoville Road took us to the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway which we followed to the turnoff into Kambalda.

At Kambalda we visited Little Industries. Their rock crushing operation supplies railways, mines and roads throughout the goldfields and beyond.

Kambalda to Cardunia Rocks at Karonie

Leaving Kambalda, we headed to King Battery.

Our route took us through Woolibar Station  to Mount Monger Station where we had lunch and waited for Scott Wilson to join us for the drive to Hunt’s furthest point east.

This was a chance to tour some of Scott’s prospecting/mining leases, past and present. The view from Bordenkoobing Hill was impressive. We headed north and had to do a bit of cross country driving searching for the track before Scott was able to pick it up again and get to the Trans Australia Railway access road near Curtin Siding.

It was then a long push along the access track to Karonie. We crossed the railway and followed the track north to Cardunia Rocks. The ‘camping area’ looked to be pretty well picked clean of firewood so we moved 750 metres north-east to a clearing replete with wood.

The threat of rain as we set up camp became real just before dusk, however, it lasted less than a minute.

Karonie to Hunt’s Furthest East at Spinifex Range

In the morning we climbed Cardunia Rock and investigated the entire water harvesting complex.

The search for the track that would take us to Hunt’s furthest east in the Spinifex Range started back near the Trans Line. Nothing presented as a possibility. Mushy went to the Trans Line and decided that the track along the railway was our way east. We followed this track along the railway for seven kilometres before it turned north-east. This was confirmation that it was indeed the track we wanted.

The track was tight and overgrown for many kilometres – mulga and other acacias. Not long after we passed through a gateway to head north-east Mushy had an altercation with a King Brown snake. It reared up at his vehicle before slithering off the track into the scrub.

The King Brown snake or Mulga snake is found over most of mainland Australia, except for the extreme south and southeast coastal regions. Despite its name, it is actually a black snake, Pseudechis australis. Although it is only the 14th most venomous snake in Australia (measured by LD50 value) it is aggressive and strikes rapidly and repeatedly and may hang on and chew. It produces more venom than other Australian snakes, making it more dangerous.

On driving through a permanently open gate the route became unclear but I soon picked up the track heading in the required direction.

Eleven kilometres further on, and soon after a sharp turn to the north-west, we came upon the interesting Babington Rockhole.

This rockhole was located by an exploring party led by John Muir in May 1901 and referred to in his report as Jumannia – and later rendered as Jumnania. In 1979 it was ascertained that it could not be Jumnania – recorded by W.P. Goddard in 1890 – so it renamed after Muir’s second-in-command, C.H. Babington.

As we entered the Coonana Timber Reserve the track improved markedly.

Nancara Rockhole is eight kilometres into the Coonana Timber Reserve, towards the northern end of the Spinifex Range.

There are hundreds of aboriginal artefacts in the vicinity of the rockhole.

Spinifex Range to Hunt Pinnacles

Rather than return to Karonie we took a chance that some indistinct tracks we could see on Google Earth would lead us to the track north to Hunt Pinnacles. As it turned out, the latter track was overgrown and tough and the tracks we took from Spinifex Range to Silica Hill Dam were ok.

We abandoned our quest to get to Mount Hunt after meeting with some prospectors who advised that the only track in was a circuitous route a few kilometres back the way we had come. We pushed on to Mount Quin. After five kilometres of eastward travel we hit a creek line and lost the track.

Hunt named this hill after Mr Lewis Quin, describing it as “the highest trap hill NE of Mt Monger.” A ‘trap hill’ is formed by the exposure of a dolerite/microgabbro sill or dike, common in the Yilgarn Craton.

Leaving the Mt Quin track we headed north, past the Kurnalpi Road, past Yindi homestead and turned west towards Hunt Pinnacles. That track wasn’t too bad but getting close to Hunt Pinnacles proved to be impossible.

Hunt Pinnacles to Lake Perkolilli

It was time to think about getting to Lake Perkolilli, our planned overnight stop. The sun sets earlier this far east. The track south was torturous. Overgrown, tight and dusty.

The push south was abandoned and we headed east towards the Yindi Road, taking a fire access track to the Kurnalpi-Yindi Road. We then made good time to Perkolilli, scene of the  Red Dust Revival.

Though we set up camp well away from the race track and main camping area, the dust was still stifling. It was thick and unhealthy. A breeze came in around 7.00 p.m. and made conditions more liveable.

Lake Perkolilli to Burra Rock

We left Perkolilli (Andrew and Adi stayed to watch more of the racing and would rv with us at Victoria Rock), refuelled at Kalgoorlie, drove past Casa Quesa on Hay Street and headed to Coolgardie. The main street (Great Eastern Highway) was closed for the length of the town for the Coolgardie Festival.

We took Hunt Street south out of town, heading to Burra Rock.

Burra Rock to Victoria Rock via Cave Hill

The track from Burra Rock south to Cave Hill is easy enough though 16 kilometres from Cave Hill there are a couple of turns that tighten as you drive through them and one of the bends is reverse camber.

At Cave Hill we visited the summit, the wave, the cave and the dams.

From the summit we walked around to the southern side of the hill to the ‘wave’. The long wave has two eroded holes in its face, known as tafoni.

From the cave we walked over to the dams.

There was plenty of evidence of feral donkeys in the vicinity of the dams.

The track from Cave Hill to the Victoria Rock Road had recently been wet and, while not a serious challenge, it was interesting and required one’s undivided attention.

Victoria Rock to Woolgangie

The drive back to the Great Eastern Highway was planned to follow a track that no-one in the group had been on before. It showed as an indistinct line on satellite view and we were not sure that it would communicate with Yerdanie. As it turned out it had clearly not been driven for many years but it was passable and a great drive requiring plenty of concentration. One of the reasons we do these trips!

Woolgangie to Boorabbin

Hunt considered Woolgangie one his best water supplies.

The ‘hermit’s hut’ near Boorabbin is always worth a a visit.

Boorabbin was the end of our trip and participants made their own way home from this point.

© Kim Epton 2019-2021

Text and layout – Kim Epton
2150 words
Photographs – Michael Orr, Greg Barndon, Kim Epton
71 photographs

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Posted in Extended Trips.