To tell you the truth I was a little nervous about doing the Holland Track. I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew we would be in a remote part of Western Australia 4wding for 3 days. Thoughts were running through my head like what if the kids get hurt or sick? What if we breakdown and can’t get help? I mean the thought of spending days on end in a car with small children is enough to send anyone into a panic attack. What I didn’t expect was to be intrigued by the pioneer John Holland and his life.
If you are looking for a thrilling 4wd and camping adventure in the West Australian outback then jump on the Holland Track. It is not for the fainthearted and you need to be prepared.
History of The John Holland Track
The country had gold fever in 1892. People were heading in droves to Fly Flat Coolgardie carrying tents, picks, shovels and dishes in search of gold. Albany was full of people from the eastern states who had come to Western Australia to find their fortune. John Holland took up the challenge to cut a track just over 500kms in length through the bush from Broomehill to Coolgardie in April 1893. It took him and his team just two months and fours days to complete.
The track was adopted by hundreds of diggers who were eager to join the gold rush. It wasn’t long before rail was introduced and the track gradually returned back to it’s native state. In recent times there have been several attempts to reopen the track and they were successful in 1992. It is now a popular 4wd track for those who enjoy a challenge and camping in the bush.
Our Holland Track Trip – Day 1
We wanted to get straight into the 4wd action so we started the track from the Hyden-Lake King Road about 50km’s SE of Hyden. A quick visit to Wave Rock in the pouring rain left us soaked. On the bright side it kept the flies away as they are normally a shocker!
The wind was howling through the trees and the rain lashed against the windows of the Landcruiser. The kids and I watched Dixie drop the tyre pressure from the comfort of our car. Rain soaked him coming down from all angles while he got the car ready for our great adventure.
The journey started passing farm land, salt lakes and I was thinking this trip might actually be pretty cruisie. However five minutes into the journey the car is covered in mud. Deep trenches were full of water due to the rain and the track was slippery.
Driving into a bog hole I hear a massive thud and feel an instant jolt to my spine. Our spare tyre is located under the car and it often hit the ground. Thankfully a majority of the time there were chicken tracks you could take to avoid the bog holes. It was either that or straddle the bog holes to avoid doing damage to our spare tyre.
The track changes from sand to mud at regular intervals and granite rocks are a plenty. The sky is so dark with no blue in site. As it such a dull day it is a welcome site to see the bush alive with colour with wildflowers in bloom.
We only covered 72 kilometres on the first day and set up camp in a designated area. Being a long weekend I was concerned that we would have to camp with other people but we had the place to ourselves. While Dixie fixed dinner and the kids played I managed to kick back with a campfire, book and a glass of wine. What more does a girl need!
The wind howled all night long and it wasn’t long before we came across a tree blocking our path. It wasn’t the first tree we had to remove that morning, just doing our bit for our fellow travellers behind us.
The landscape is constantly changing. The ground is red clay but it soon changes to yellow sand with low lying scrub and not as many wildflowers.
We stop at Sandalwood Rocks and I was expecting to see some sign of sandalwood trees. There was nothing, no fragrant smell. Holland reported finding 30 tons of sandalwood trees but they have all been removed. It is believed they were harvested not long after he discovered them.
About half way along the track (Banker-Mount Day Road) we came across a centenary tribute. There is also a suitcase full of some interesting items! It is a bit like a survival kit with some food. You will find some other intriguing things like a shewee and cigarettes. We signed the visitors book and continued on our way.
Back in the Landruiser for another bumpy ride to Agnes Gnamma Hole. There are several deep holes filled with water on the granite outcrop. Agnes was Hollands wife, the first woman to travel on the track. She accompanied Holland on his second trip to the goldfields. Sadly she died of typhoid 5 months later. She was the first white woman to die in Coolgardie. Not something you want to be remembered for!
Noticing red dirt I knew that we were getting closer to our destination of Coolgardie. A quick stop at Thursday Rock before we found a place to camp for the night.
While using the facilities (digging a hole in the ground) at our camp I thought I found myself some bush tucker. Turns out it was not a Witchetty Grub but a White Curl Bug.
Woodline Track – Day 3
As we were approaching the end of the Holland Track and time was on our side we hit the Woodlines track. An amazing network of abandoned tramways. These lines were used to supply Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie with structural timber and firewood.
Again the weather wasn’t on our side. Every time we got out of our car the heavens opened up. A quick look at Cave Hill before darting back to the car for shelter. Aboriginal hand prints were reported inside the cave in 1864 but unfortunately now there is lots of graffiti. There is no longer access to the cave but you can view it from a platform.
Next stop, Burra Rocks, originally know as Woodline Dam. A large dam was created on the rocks and was used to supply water to the locomotives. There is a large camping area but we pushed on and found a secluded spot to camp the night just outside of Coolgardie.
Coolgardie – Day 4
The journey was almost done. Our 4wds had not missed a beat however we saw plenty of other people on the track that had encountered problems. A number of 4wds got bogged and a tyre that had a stick puncture its sidewall.
We made the short trip into Coolgardie which looks like a bit of a ghost town these days. The main street has historic buildings from the gold rush days. I can only imagine what the town was like in its heyday.
The rain was relentless so we didn’t spend much time here. It was such a shame as I really wanted to have a good look at the town. It may sound strange but I also wanted to pay my respects to John Holland and his wife Agnes by visiting their graves located in town.
I got my coffee fix at a local cafe before we hit the bitchumen and drove 555km back to Perth. What do you know, it pretty much rained the whole way home!
Tips for the Holland Track
- 4wds can travel in either direction on the track. It is worth having a sand flag so other vehicles have a greater chance to see you coming. You can purchase a sand flag here.
- The track is marked with small HT signs pointing you in the right direction. However if you don’t have a map there is a chance you could get off the track. The people we travelled with had a Hema Map (GPS) and it helped us to locate campsites and places of interest.
- Check the weather before you go. The track gets closed if it is too wet. The best time to go is in spring, before the summer heat.
- There are plenty of places of interest on the track which are easy to miss if you are not aware they are there. There is a great guide book called Explore the Holland Track and Cave Hill Woodlines which you can buy here. The book gives you the history of the track and waypoints of campgrounds and attractions.
- There is no fuel available between Hyden and Coolgardie. It is recommended you have a range of at least 450km.
- Carry enough food and water for your journey.
- The track can become very slippery when it is wet so exercise caution.
- We had our tyre pressure at 20 psi in the front and 25 psi in the back.
- Travel with at least one other vehicle just in case you run into trouble.
- Carry off road recovery equipment. We had a shovel, snatch strap, Bow-shackles, high lift jack, general tools and TRED’s.
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