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Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
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I am a Freelance Journalist and Photographer based in Bunbury, Western Australia. My published work specialises in Western Australian travel articles and stories about inspiring everyday people. My passion is photography, writing, travel, wildflower and food photography.
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Monday, 6 May 2013

Holland Track, Western Australia - following the goldrush prospectors


We are just back from a five day 4WD and bush-camping trip along the Holland Track and through the "Woodlines" south of Coolgardie and the Western Australian goldfields.

As we sloshed, slid, crawled, bumped and rocked in the relative comfort of our 4-wheel-drive through the vast uninhabited mallee woodlands south of the Coolgardie goldfields I could not help admire the thousands of prospectors who had tramped these tracks over a hundred years before.   



When prospectors Bayley and Ford found gold at Coolgardie in September 1892 the goldrush brought thousands of prospectors to Western Australia. After landing in Fremantle or at Albany on the south coast they had to make their way overland through the harsh landscape to the goldfields.   

In April 1893 John Holland, an experienced bushman, Rudolph & David Krakouer and John Carmody, with five ponies and a light dray with provisions for 5-6 months, started a carefully planned expedition to cut a track in a north-easterly direction from Broome Hill to Coolgardie. The mammoth task took two months and four days to cut the 538 kilometre (330 mile) track through the dense bushland. Over the next three years 18,000 people used Holland's track until the Perth to Coolgardie railway line was completed. The track was also used by camel teams taking supplies to the goldfields and Holland operated a carting business along the track.

We had to carry all our food and water with us for our three day trip along the Holland Track, but I wondered how those early prospectors could have possibly been able to carry all their supplies for the several weeks it took to reach the goldfields, walking on foot with a pack, pushing wheelbarrows, riding horses or travelling on carts.  They may have shot or trapped wildlife along the way, and the track links granite outcrops where water can be found laying in gnama hole pools after rain. No doubt the trip claimed the lives of some who may now lay in unmarked graves along the track. 

The southern half of the track became incorporated into farmland in the 1920s and the northern part returned to bushland. 

In November 1992 Broome Hill farmer, Graeme Newbey, researcher Adrian Malloy and their group, with the aid of Graeme's tractor, succeeded in re-cutting the track from Wattle Rocks (about 22km north of the Hyden Norseman Road) to Thursday Rock (about 70km south of Coolgardie). In June 1993 Graeme led a 4WD expedition along the newly opened track to mark the centenary of Holland's historic journey. Since then the Holland Track has become a popular track for adventurous 4WDrivers. 


On our trip in late April, we joined the track at Newdegate. Heading north along the Newdegate North Road we turned off to visit Dragon Rocks where we had read you could still see the marks of prospectors carts on the rock. The rock was a convenient place to stop for lunch and after a bit of searching we are fairly sure we found what looked like wheel tracks. You can see them in the picture below.  



 From here it is a variety of gravel and sand tracks to the Hyden-Norseman Road, one section scouting around the edge of the salt lake, Lake Carmody, and passing through the State Barrier Fence (Vermin Proof Fence) - be sure to shut the gate to keep the emus out! 



56km east of Hyden along the Hyden-Norseman Road is the point where most people start the Track. Here you will find interpretive panels. 

Coming onto the Holland Track off the Hyden-Norseman Road - 


Once we started along the Track it became immediately apparent why the Track is best travelled during autumn and spring not during winter or after rain, and why you should travel with others. The track was a variety of mud, sand, rock and gravel and in places corrugated and tightly winding with scrub and trees right up to the edge of the track (impairing driver vision ahead), or hanging low over the track. We encountered numerous bog holes and deep muddy rutted sections which needed to be carefully and slowly straddled by our 4WD or can be avoided by following the go-arounds which in places have been pushed through the bush. You definitely need to take it easy and drive according to the conditions. Some of these bog holes are very deep and with the water in them you have no idea how deep they are. My husband stood in one dry wheel trench which came up to the top of his thigh!



You need to allow at least two days to cover the Track from Hyden to Coolgardie so be prepared to camp out. There are many places you can camp along the track - in small clearings or at any of the granite outcrops. There is also a campsite at Mt Holland and another one at Thursday Rock where there is plenty of room to set up, although there are no facilities. On our first night we camped in a small clearing about 30km from the Hyden Norseman Road and our second night at Thursday Rock about 21km from the Victoria Rock Road.

The top picture shows our camp at Thursday Rock and below left our first nights camp.

 
 You pass through a variety of vegetation along the Track. The track is only one vehicle wide so you need to be aware that you will have to pull off the track if another vehicle comes from the other direction. The scrub was quite often right up to the edge of the track, and often had very windy tight turns. We drove through vast areas that had been burnt by bushfire a few years ago - but it was pleasing to see how the bush was thickly regenerating.

I love these trees you see in the images below - they are called ribbon gums - Eucalyptus Sheathiana.  The ribbon gums replace their bark annually, as part of the normal eucalypt growth pattern. Other eucalypts strip their bark too, but not quite like the ribbon gum whose bark comes off in long tendrils. They are pretty to look at dancing in the breeze  and in a wind you can hear them clacking together.  The ribbon gum is found extensively through the eastern weatbelt, south of Wongan Hills to Norseman in the east. 


  And here are the flowers of the ribbon gum. I have just discovered this pic taken on a previous trip 




We weren't really travelling at the right time of year for wildflowers - but I have always said you will find something flowering somewhere. I nearly missed seeing these at the top of Mt Holland, and had to put my camera in the bush to photograph them. I think they are one of the pincushion hakeas, but I couldn't be sure. Their little parts uncurl out straight as they mature.



There are numerous granite outcrops along the way. If you are travelling with children the rocks are a great place to stop, stretch your legs, and explore. Our grandsons liked looking for tadpoles in the rock pool gnamma hole and had fun making tracks around the camp with their Tonka trucks or driving around the rocks.  But please do not drive your vehicle onto the rocks as it damages the delicate ecology and highly sensitive vegetation. We saw evidence of this where vehicles have destroyed delicate plant-life on the rocks.


  Rock gardens



My husband likes to photograph lizards and birds. This is an ornate dragon lizard. You see them darting over and under the rocks. They don't stay still for long!


Today the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management (DEC) has jurisdiction over Great Western Woodlands, and maintains other tracks in the area for fire fighting. With support from DEC and Track Care WA Inc, the Toyota Land Cruiser Club (TLCC) has volunteered to maintain and upgrade the track. 


We had a great time exploring the Holland Track, had no problems other than a broken headlight protector, and we experienced perfect weather - beautiful days, no wind, and not cold at night.

How can you beat sunsets like these -


The second part of our trip took us via 4WD tracks through the Great Western Woodlands across to Cave Hill and then up along the Woodlines to Burra Rock for our third camping night, then onto Coolgardie, Gnarlbine Rock, where we saw another of Hunt's wells (see previous post (Exploring WA's wheatbelt), and then to Karalee Rock for our last camping night - but that will have to be another story.  


Some tips for the Holland Track - 

-  Distance - Broomehill to Coolgardie is approx 731 km
- This is a remote track, so usual preparations for remote 4WD track should be made, including carrying sufficient fuel, water, food, supplies, communication gear, spare tyres and puncture repair equipment, recovery gear, safety equipment and first aid, as well as emergency backup supplies. There are no fuel or food supplies between Hyden and Coolgardie.
- It is important to minimise impact on the track and environment - convoys are limited to no more than 10 vehicles at a time. 
- The Greater Western Woodlands is a very environmentally significant area - so please keep to the made track.
-  Avoid periods after heavy rain when there is a significant risk of bogging and track damage. Track can be impassable after heavy rain.
-  Recommended tyre pressure is 28-36 psi.
-  Only walk (no vehicles) over the environmentally sensitive granite rocks.
-  Camp only in established cleared areas.
-  Take all your rubbish away with you.
-    Best time to travel – autumn or spring (not during winter months or after rain).
-     It can be easy to become bogged so it is recommended that you travel with others.
-     A Hema or GPS tracker is very handy to plot your course. We found it very useful on the few occasions when we lost sight of the track around rocky outcrops.
-    When travelling in convoy a two-way radio is invaluable to keep in touch.
-    The track is one vehicle width, so be aware there may be oncoming traffic particularly on weekends or holiday periods. You might have to pull off into the bush to allow others to pass. 

-    Camper trailers are ok as long as they are built to handle off road conditions. Take the corners as wide as possible to minimise the risk of sidewall damage and keep in mind drawbar height when traversing bogholes. Do not tow a caravan.



More Information:
 A useful book - is "Explore the Holland Track and Cave Hill Woodlines" by NIck Underwood. Explorer Series - Westate Publishing.

I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Our World Tuesday and Travel Photo Thursday. Please click on the links to see the work of other contributors around the world 
- Mosaic Monday
- Our World Tuesday

- Travel Photo Thursday

I hope you have enjoyed this little trip along the Holland Track. Do you go 4WDriving and bush camping? For one of my best friends this is the furthest from her idea of a holiday! How about you?


You might also like -
Exploring the Western Australian wheatbelt
Camp food
Living & Working on the Land - WA Wheatbelt



27 comments:

  1. What a wonderful adventure, Jill. You are a pioneer :) I would worry about breaking down and never being found again! I must be getting old :( I love the pictures of your camp sites and those ribbon gums, oh and the sunsets too - so beautiful. What some memories you have gathered here on this page. Stunning :)

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    1. I don't know about being a pioneer - although my great grandfathers and grandmothers were. If it weren't for my husband and eldest son I certainly wouldn't get to go on any of these tracks!

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  2. Wow, what an amazing trip. The scenery and the skies looks beautiful, Jill! Wonderful photos, have a happy week!

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  3. Wonderful!!! Your sunsets are just beautiful!!! My husband would have loved this trip. He has enjoyed gold panning since he was a young man. I always said he was born 100 years too late. Have a wonderful week! Cathy

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  4. great Post Jill and absolutely awesome photos

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  5. What a trek! Like you, I am humbled when I think of the hardships endured by the ones who came first, and how in our everyday lives we zip about, taking everything for granted.
    Your photos are wonderful - I'd love to have seen that sunset.

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  6. Hi Jill, what an amazing adventure! I love that area where you set camp under those impressive trees. The look of the gum trees are interesting. Its great that you found some lovely wildflowers although they are not in season. I love their shots. Thanks for sharing your adventure. I felt I went with you.

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  7. Oh my goodness, I've just been on an adventure reading your post tonight! I love the trees, and the sunsets are wonderful. The bareness and isolation is what is also incredible. It just feels lonely and isolated. What an adventure!

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    1. Thanks Gayle. I am glad you enjoyed the trip and a little of my corner of the world. I had never been on 4WD tracks like this before!

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  8. Great photos. I would love to visit Australia.

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  9. Oh fabulous! What a great adventure. Wonderful photos!

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  10. Amazing skies and lovely scenery.

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  11. Great trek!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  12. Wow-that looks like an adventure!great poctures!

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  13. Great pictures Jill, reminds me of goongarri station, do hope it's not that wet though

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  14. thank you for stopping by dear readers and for your comments. I appreciate each and everyone of you and am so happy to be able to bring you a slice of my wonderful country.

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  15. Love the "long track view", and of course I am a sucker for sunsets - and what a collection!

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  16. I've never gone on a 4WD expedition, and I've decided that I prefer luxe hotels over camping. Good thing that I can enjoy this track vicariously through you! It does look like an interesting place to explore.

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  17. Such beautiful, colorful photos :)

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  18. Hahaha, forgive my ignorance but why lock out the emu?
    This sounds like a fabulous place to explore. Love your photos, especially of the sunset.

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    1. LOL- the emus come in from the scrubland (where they should be) into the farmland, destroying fences, eating grain, and generally being a huge nuisance to farmers. Look up "rabbit proof fence" & see why we built a rabbit proof fence - LOL it didn't work!

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  19. This definitely sounds like one of those off the charts type of trips that few people would ever attempt. What a fantastic adventure. I'd love to go but I wouldn't want to be the driver.

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    1. actually a lot of people do it, it is a short trip easily achievable over a four day weekend and not far from Perth. - and no I wouldn't want to be the driver.

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  20. What a trip this must have been! Enjoyed going along for the ride and especially loved your sunset photos and the very last one. Impressive!

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  21. What an incredible adventure - one that I, like Johanna, would be afraid of undertaking for fear of never being heard from again! I did not know that there had been gold prospecting in Australia - it must have been a very difficult life traveling to those goldfields.

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    1. oh yes we had a huge goldrush in Western Australia, and before that in Eastern AUstralia. In fact they still mine gold today (and elsewhere) at Kalgoorlie. The SUPERPIT is HUGE! If you google it you might see what I mean.

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  22. Fantastic captures! You sure had a lovely trip.

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