Esperance to The Border Village (via the Telegraph Track and Mt Ragged)
We had been planning this section of the trip for quite some time and still were not sure how far we would get the DOT (Drifta Offroad Tourer) trailer along the Telegraph track without too many incidents. The first port of call was Esperance where we have visited on a number of occasions so this was to be a quick visit. We called into the Parks and Wildlife office to get the latest status on the tracks we planned to follow and received some good photocopied information leaflets on the various sections of the route. Getting the latest advice is essential before attempting this trip and ensure you are fully prepared and self-sufficient. The lady working in the Parks and Wildlife office was very knowledgeable and did a superb job at giving us as much info as possible. Part of the route was closed due to dieback and our planned climb of Mt.Arid was not to be, unless we wanted to take the Land Rover through a metre of dirty water with an uncertain and soft ground. We quickly decided on a new route to go via Mt.Ragged and climb that instead and then continue on the Telegraph track. The first port of call was Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park for 2 nights.
Cape Le Grand National Park – 2 Nights
Are the white sandy beaches of Cape Le Grand the best beaches in Australia? We think it’s going to be hard to beat them and why we have come back to this idyllic National Park with endless stretches of pure white sand.
The upgrade to the campsite at Lucky Bay, which are due for completion in 2017, meant mid-week we were lucky and set up for two nights, with an amazing view across the bay. During peak season of Christmas, school holidays and Easter we have tried and failed to get a site and even with the extra pitches, if you want to camp during these time, you need to be there super early to bag a site as people leave, but it’s well worth it. Camping in the park is also available at Le Grand beach, but this also fills up quickly. There is a great easy beach run from Esperance to le Grand Beach, which if you have all the gear is a must.
Once in the park there is a 15km one-way walking track, split into sections. Over the years we have walked the full length. The section from Hellfire Bay to Le Grand Beach being the most challenging, with the track when we did it in 2012 being very overgrown in places and we were glad of the car at the other end so we didn’t have to walk back.
An easy section perfect to do if you’re camping at lucky Bay is from the campsite to Thistle Cove. Check out the route here.
Lucky Bay is the iconic beach and is also a beautiful 6km hike from the coffee van to the Flinders monument. …Yes café culture has arrived at Lucky Bay, although we have enjoyed a couple of coffees from here, I do think it takes away a wilderness aspect.
For those that enjoy climbing hills the 2km Frenchman’s peak is a must up the steep but very manageable limestone face. At the top which takes about 25 minutes, you’re rewarded with 360° views.
Cape Le Grand to Mt.Ragged – Day 3
We travelled to Condingup Roadhouse which is the last one before heading into Cape Arid National Park. Where we topped up the tank, we were also carrying 60L of additional diesel with us to ensure we made it through the track. After passing the first sign to Cape Arid and continuing along Fisheries Road you come to the Balladonia track which heads up to Mt.Ragged. We stopped to adjust the tyre pressures down which was just as well as the track took a long time over a lot of exposed limestone capping and sandy sections. It is very slow going on the limestone and pretty much rolling over in low range. To get to Mt.Ragged is is around 50km which took us around 2 hours. Mt.Ragged campsite is small with around 7 sites available and one drop pit toilet which looks pretty new. The afternoon was mid 30’s so we decided to stay in camp and climb Mt.Ragged early the next morning. All in all a pleasant camp apart from the March flies which were vicious!
Mt.Ragged to Israelite Bay – Day 4
We set off nice and early to climb Mt.Ragged which was estimated to be 3 hour climb however we took 1.5 hours with a bit of time on the top. This was a lovely walk and only us on the hike, we checked out the visitor book on top and it had been a few days since anyone else had been up. There is a decent path until you get nearer the top and then there is a bit of scrambling over the rocks to reach the summit. En route we saw 2 snakes, which quickly slithered into the bushes.
Once back to the car we set off on the Gora track down to Israelite Bay. This was fairly rough going with lots of limestone cropping so took a while to get down south. We had one sidewall puncture from a root shooting out the side of the track which pieced the tyre. I plugged the tyre with one plug rather than change it completely and it held the air so we continued on this repair. Once near the coast the track joins onto an easy going salt lake and then takes you into Israelite Bay. As time was pushing on and we wanted to have a look around the old telegraph station we setup camp and then explored in the afternoon rather than pushing on. The telegraph station (built in 1896, replacing the original wooden station built in 1876) could do with some time and money spent on it to try and preserve what is left and also to provide some good information signs. However it is certainly an interesting area and at one time 150 people lived down here which is hard to imagine today. We visited the grave site and little jetty and spent a good night camping. There are no toilet facilities so you need to be fully self-sufficient.
Israelite Bay to Point Culver – Day 5
Today we join the Telegraph Track heading east to Point Culver which is 100km and fairly slow going. We set off nice and early with the track initially starting as a sandy track and then changes between rocky limestone and then some really good smooth salt lake sections. We made reasonable progress but certainly would not have wanted to push on past Point Culver. It can be easier going if you actually join the beach and head east however with pulling the trailer we were not advised to take this on the beach nor did we want to for risk of bogging. Getting bogged inland is one thing with plenty of time to sort yourself out however if you are anywhere near the waterline the risk of the tide coming in eventually and taking the vehicle is too great should it end up being a long recovery. If we had a second vehicle with us then this would have been the better option. The inland track follows telegraph poles still sticking out the salt lakes and you see the old wire which stays with you pretty much all the way and at one point it did get caught around the trailer. A good section of the inland track is dense bushland so expect lots of bush scratches. A fallen tree in this dense area slowed progress as we had to saw it into sections to remove from the track to pass through, this took a good 30 minutes to sort out which could have been worse. Certainly a decent saw would be useful on this trip and should any of the bigger trees have fallen a chainsaw would have been the easiest option. Bilbunya Dunes are spectacular and whilst on the inland track you do drive past them you don’t really get a good view until later on in the trip towards Point Culver. Taking the beach route would pass by and allow for some exploration. After setting up camp at Point Culver we tried to take the Land Rover close to the beach and the dunes but when realising how far away they actually were we retreated back to the beach exit to Point Culver and headed out for a walk to stretch the legs heading east. The campsite at Point Culver is in a good location and has some excellent views over the dunes, however the amount of rubbish people have left in an isolated location is unacceptable. For some reason people think it’s okay to fill makeshift fire pits with rubbish and scatter their rubbish amongst the scrub.
Point Culver to Caiguna – Day 6
Another early start this morning as we had around 150km to tackle if we were to make it to the Caiguna Roadhouse. If not there were several areas that could be used for camping along the route. The start to the day was a bit more challenging than expected, the first obstacle being the Wylie Scarp that we needed to make it up onto. Before you reach the really steep section of the scarp there is a sandy run in where it is pretty soft, we were bogged here so needed to lower the tyre pressures further and with a couple of Max Trax recoveries we made it to the base of the steep section where rubber matting has been pinned to the track to get you to the top. Without this conveyor belt it is pretty unlikely we would have made it to the top of the Wylie Scarp. It would have been a very difficult drive without the trailer so the matting makes it relatively easy as long as you take your time. When the matting ends there is a section of rocks and sand to make it to the top, this took us 3 attempts but made it over eventually.
The track from here winds it’s way higher and through a mix of limestone and sand with the bush coming in quite close at times. Some sections you can get up a reasonable speed around 30km/h but unfortunately our passenger side wing mirror got caught on a tree and ended up smashing and falling out. We recovered the mirror and there was no way it was going back in so carried on pushing forward. Today seemed like an endless day making slow progress over the limestone. The highlight had to be the visit to the cliffs at Toolinna cove and with more time this would be a great spot to camp. Fantastic views over the brittle cliffs and extreme care needs to be taken near the edge. we stopped here for a spot of lunch before continuing with the track.
We were pleased when we met the track taking us up to Caiguna. You can continue a bit further towards Baxter Cliffs but then the track is a bit of an unknown. Parks and Wildlife advise that they have not driven the next section of the track for the last 15 years and it is likely impassable. I have seen various reports from people finding the track entrance tucked away behind scrub but not heard any reports of anyone attempting it recently. The track we took up to Caiguna was slow going again but eventually gets better and better and then the airfield is a welcome sight to drive alongside and into the Roadhouse. The Caiguna roadhouse was as to be expected, a bit of gravel around the back of the roadhouse but pleasant enough and we took the opportunity to have dinner rather than get the kitchen opened out.
Caiguna to the Border Village – Day 7
The original plan for today was to make it to the Border Village on the Eyre highway and then join the Old Eyre Highway which is a 4×4 track that runs north in parallel with the Eyre Highway. However that was not to be for us today with issues as soon as we left the Caiguna Roadhouse.
The first job of the day was to air up the tyres back to highway pressures and then we set off thinking we would make it to the next roadhouse and grab a coffee. That was not to be with the rear passenger tyre blowing out and bringing us to a stop at the side of the road. The sidewall had blown out and the tyre needed to be changed. As bad luck would have it at the same point my bush tyre repair gave way so had two tyres down. I started to jack up the car with my 12 volt hydraulic scissor jack which then failed and gave up. Fortunately I always carry a second jack so brough out the old faithful land rover jack with no issues. However in taking the nuts out of the wheel one of the nuts caps gave way and got stuck inside the wheel brace, this rendered the wheel brace useless. I had a 12v rattle gun that I tried to use but one of the other nuts was stuck solid and the one that broke was now a different size to my tools. After a call out on the radio by Sarah we had a couple of guys stop to help out. Fortunately one had a socket set that fitted my broken nut so we managed to get the wheel off and replaced. My plan was to then plug the front tyre again to get us to the next roadhouse. This worked and by the next roadhouse the tyre was halfway down again. The issue I now had was my wheel brace was useless with the nut cap stuck inside so needed to find a helpful truck driver who sorted us out so I could change the wheel to my second spare and get the nuts tightened. There was a lovely couple who stayed with us for the whole time until it was fixed and provided some good moral support, not sure of their names but we certainly appreciated it. If you are reading this then Thank You and drop us an email.
The rest of the day was gladly uneventful and we made it to the border village where we are in this strange timezone 45mins ahead going into 2.5 hrs ahead of WA into SA. With all the problems we had the Old Eyre Highway was not an option and we had two new tyres waiting for us 700km away in Ceduna so that was the plan for the next day.