Our route for the day was a short, circular track – part of the old Bullita Stock Route – and a mere 90kms. At the start of the track, a N.P. noticeboard announced that the trip would take around 8 hours, and we laughed – no way – 8 hours for 90kms!
Duncan drove for the first few kms, and then the track deteriorated. We were traversing low sandstone ridges, and the track was extremely rough in places, with large boulders everywhere, all threatening to destroy the bottom of the car. We were soon reduced to walking pace, with Duncan walking ahead to determine the best route, then guiding me through. The first 20kms took 3.5 hours, and we knew we were in for a long day. We stopped to photograph and explore some dolemite crags – the grey rock is limestone with calcium replaced by magnesium. It is light, brittle, and very sharp. On the way, we passed various wild camping sites, mostly situated on creeks, and some with water.
After 4 hours, we reached our first goal, the turnoff to Diggers Rest. We were surprised to see stockmen (stockpeople?) putting up hessian barriers, preparatory to catching up feral cattle, A guy wandered over to explain what they were doing, and we asked if it was OK to take photos. Yeah, he said, there aren’t any cattle here yet! We all laughed; it seems that not all feral cattle are created equal (enough said). We later met the main guy, who told us he was on a TV show called “Gun Ringers”, and we watched some clips later. Yep, same guy, same red shirt, catching buffalo. Their trucks and jeeps were incredibly beat up, and one jeep was modified to catch bulls with this rotating, circular catcher on the front. They also had the use of a helicopter to drive the cattle into the yards. We asked the guy what the track back to the main road was like, and he said not bad; they had improved it for the cattle trucks.
Because we had not anticipated being out so long, we had simple rations of nuts and oranges, which we ate before proceeding. The track was better but frankly not much, and it was a relief to emerge onto a smoother track after another 20kms. Duncan took over, and drove the 30kms back to our campsite. The track had proved very challenging, but not much fun, and certainly I have asked myself the point of doing tracks with no obvious destination. That said, it was really interesting to meet up with the stockmen.
After a late lunch and a nap, we visited the nearby and abandoned Bullita Homestead. It was remarkable that people we prepared – even in the mid-20th century – to live in such a remote place, with all the attendant dangers and challenges. One info board described how a woman was caught in a huge flood, and saved herself by climbing into a tree, together with a calf she had saved. The early pastoralists arrived in the 1880s, and there was conflict over land ownership with the traditional aboriginal owners, resulting in the aboriginals being pushed off their land, and in some cases killed. By the 1930s, many aboriginals were working as stockmen on the cattle ranches, and were able to remain in their country. Some, like Les Humbert, became renowned for their stockman and bush skills.
After dinner, we made a fire, and enjoyed trying to get a particularly hard log to burn. At Duncan’s suggestion, I experimented with slow-mo photography, to better understand how flames form and burn.