Author: Mrs A
To: Wooleen Station, Murchison, WA
Distance: 343 km
Travel time: 7 hours (including lunch, breaks)
The alarm was set last night and we were up bright and early at 6.15am for showers and to pack up to head inland. We knew we had a big day ahead of us plus needed to top up with water at the desalination plant. A quick call into the bakery as we left town gained us some freshly baked rolls for lunch and confirmed the ladies working there are always wearing their grumpy-pants.
Before long we were heading up the Butchers Track, 144 km of orange dirt road through a nature reserve. The road was dead straight, the landscape the same the whole way, and you could be forgiven for thinking we were on a treadmill going nowhere. But we did eventually reach the end, and turned onto another orange, straight road. Despite this, the road was in good condition and only one vehicle passed us all the way. Our lunch spot was a flat clay pan at the side of the road, feeling beautifully remote.
Finally we arrived at Wooleen Station. We had been told about this location by other travellers around multiple campfires along the coast, who advised us it had been covered on Australian Story (an ABC television series) on several occasions. The station’s website was impressive, talking about stunning scenery, birdlife and an environment slowly recovering from over 100 years of abuse by overgrazing of cattle and sheep, as well as a huge increase in grazing native animals (predominantly kangaroos and emus) brought about by the introduction of permanent water sources. We were intrigued.
First impressions were good, with a fine welcome at the homestead, where we were handed a pile of walk and mountain bike trail leaflets and encouraged to explore. We were also provided with a pack of seeds each, and asked to scatter them on our travels around the station to encourage native grasses to return.
It was another 14km to our riverside campground, on slow going farm tracks. By then we had really had enough of being in the car and were ready to arrive. We pulled into camp and first impressions were quite underwhelming.
We are beside the Murchison River on heavily eroded sand and clay, with little view (on the site we picked, anyway!). We felt conned – we could get a better campsite than this for free, never mind the $30 a night we have paid. We cracked open beers and read some of the literature we’d collected. We felt better – the money from our camp fees goes towards improving the station and returning the Murchison River to its former glory – a tough target to reach, but admirable work all the same.
We decided to get off our bottoms and see the river. It is only about 10 metres away after all, a short walk down the sandy bank…and wow! Fabulous light and scenery awaited us, five black swans swam up the river, whistling kites soured overhead, a pair of Major Mitchell pink cockatoos landed beside us in a tree. Across the bank we saw a pacific heron and a little egret hunting for fish, and a flighty back wing stilt in the shallows. All this on our doorstep, plus more. It really is a beautiful spot.
The light was incredible – the sun low in the sky, bouncing off the water, the salmon-pink river banks and lighting up everything around us – a photographer’s dream. The last time I felt this magical feeling was in Windjama Gorge in the Kimberly, under very similar lighting experience. As the sun set we were in for a fabulous treat. It was extremely hard to pick a single photo to represent it – like a 20 minute firework display across the sky and reflected in the still pools.
We showered and home cooked a vegetarian Pad Thai for dinner (a Jamie Oliver recipe) with a glass of Shiraz – ‘Cat Among the Pigeons’. Delicious. I think we’ll be ok here for a couple of days after all.