EXPLORING THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE KENNEDY RANGE
A heavy guitar riff was blasting out of my Toyota 79 Landcruiser as I approached the Kennedy Range from the Gascoyne River on its southwestern side. The paved roads had run out long ago and we had been on gravel and dirt roads for some time now. There was a palpable sense of excitement. It was my first time exploring the Kennedy Range and I had no idea what to expect.
CROSSING THE GASCOYNE
Before arriving at the Gascoyne, or even attempting to approach the range from the West, you’ll need to check ahead and make sure it is crossable. After rain, this river gets treacherous and you’ll be wasting your time heading over there.
We arrived at the river mid-morning and immediately set about walking the river. I checked for bogs, logs and large rocks. It was a few feet deep but not particularly boggy (I had heard the sand of this river can be unforgiving). So, we set about crossing the river.
I gave it some welly going in and immediately saw the water part as my bonnet made contact. The water came up to the top of the wheels and looked a little bit hairy for a moment. Then the tyres made contact with the ground on the opposite bank and I was awash with a sense of relief. It probably hadn’t been the most shallow location on the river but I got across in one hit.
Almost as soon as we had crossed the Gascoyne River, the Kennedy Range began to rise up over the horizon, daring us to come closer and discover its secrets. This Western side of the Kennedy Range has kept its isolated, unspoilt beauty. Unlike the eastern side of the range, the western side can only be accessed by crossing the Gascoyne River or on rough tracks from Mardathuna Station. Most 4WDers opt for the easier routes in the South East via Gascoyne Junction. Those who tackle the Western routes are rewarded with undisturbed tranquility.
A NOTE ON ROCKS
A couple of hours after crossing the Gascoyne you pass an open pit mine. There are some interesting rocks to stop and take a look at. Known as Mookarite, it is a blend of brightly coloured rock which looks like it has been forged together in a blacksmith’s workshop.
We hit the edge of the range just after the sun went down. We are no strangers to setting up camp in the dark and had everything assembled within a matter of minutes. After some grub, it was time for bed.
The following morning, waking up at dawn, I was struck by the beauty of the place. Our camping location was totally surrounded by gorges and rocky outcrops, poking up in the crimson sky like tombstones.
We spent the day exploring the coves and tracks of the Kennedy Range. The tracks were pretty slow going and we didn’t arrive at the next campsite until quite late on in the day again.
LOW RANGE GEARING
I noticed as we travelled North, there were more hills, empty river beds, creeks and obstacles. Our speed slowed and we were in a low range for the bulk of the driving. It was easy to see why most people stay on the eastern side. It wasn’t exactly easy going. Clearance was an issue every now and then.
We set up camp next to the best view of the trip so far, on the edge of a gorge with views across the outback we had covered.The following morning, after a morning of driving we arrived at Merlinleigh Homestead, an abandoned homestead littered with relics from times gone by.
Rains had made the track after Merlinleigh quite boggy. We hugged a line through the middle and got through it without issue but I would recommend getting out and giving it a once over to make sure it’s not boggy enough to suck you in.
In the late afternoon, after exploring another abandoned shearing station, we made camp just before arriving at Honeycomb Gorge.
HONEYCOMB AND TEMPLE GORGE
The roads around here don’t do well in the rain, so the route from Honeycomb Gorge to Mt. Augustus from here can get a bit boggy. I was a little anxious as the road looked a bit sloppy. I certainly wouldn’t recommend tackling this section at dawn or dusk. There are cows roaming free here, so you need to be on your toes.
Although it slowed us down, we got through it without issue, made camp and pressed on towards Mt. Augustus the following morning. We arrived bright and early ready to walk the 12km trail to the summit. The walk was well worth the physical exertion, taking around 7 hours to complete the whole route.
With that we had reached Mt. Augustus and completed the approach from the isolated Western trails. It had been harder going than I expected and would have been made much easier without the two hours of rain we had earlier in the week. But it was a good laugh and great fun. A trip I would definitely recommend to any experienced 4WDers out there looking for a road less travelled.
Check out this YouTube video I digged up. A great summary, if I had only thought to use my camera to take video:
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