Four Wheel Drive Tours
For a wilderness four wheel drive tour, the Holland Track offers an adventure trip of a lifetime. You can join a four wheel drive tour or take your own adventure tour. The Holland Track is in Western Australia (WA) and runs from Broomehill to Coolgardie. It was the longest cart road ever made in one stretch in WA. Once the railway opened from Perth to Coolgardie, the road was no longer needed and for almost a century it was hardly ever used. A group of 4WD enthusiasts set about re-establishing the road and in 1992 it was re-opened. It is now a popular trip for 4 wheel drivers. It covers 731 kilometres with a minimum suggested driving time of 3 days.
All images in this article were taken by my husband several years ago when we drove the Track.
The Holland Track was established to provide a shortcut from the port of Albany to the newly opened goldfields. Such was the lure of gold that over 18,000 men used the track, walking the 700 odd kms in search of their fortune. The men would disembark from ships in Albany, make their way to Broomehill then set out walking. Some would reach their destination, others would turn back, still others would die on the track from disease or thirst. The sensible ones would follow the teams which used the track to take water through to the fields and thus were able to buy water as they went.
Teams laden with general stores, food and mining equipment made good use of the track as it enabled them to cut a fortnight off their journey compared to any other route. However, once the railway from Perth was pushed through to Southern Cross, then to Coolgardie in 1896, the Holland Track fell into disuse.
The north east portion of the track became swallowed up by the bush. During the 1940s several sections of the original track became farmland as did much of the surrounding area. Thus Holland's original track passes through private farmland in this area. Formed roads closely follow the original track from Broomehill in the heart of the southern wheatbelt region of Western Australia until east of Hyden, when the track heads off in a north-easterly direction through bushland.
The track is named after John Holland. On 14 April 1893, John Holland, together with Rudolph Krakouer, David Krakouer and John Carmody left Broomehill in a light dray. They had five ponies, a 450 litre water tank and enough supplies for 5 to 6 months.
They had a small compass which they used as they made their way through the virgin bush. Each day Holland would set off to scout for water and feed for the horses. The other men would set about cutting a track for the dray. On June 18th, they arrived at Bayley's Find at Fly Flat (now Coolgardie). The party had covered 538 kilometres in 2 months 4 days.
The track can be traversed from either end. It is an easy track to negotiate through much of the year. There is a great variety in the terrain to be covered. In the dry, it is possible to see the depth of some of the potholes and the reasons for the detours off to the side become obvious. In the winter, parts of the road could become impassable and you should check with one of the Shire offices through which the track passes, on the condition of the road before starting out.
The terrain varies widely. At the southern end, the track is sandy and overgrown with low-hanging branches that scrape on roof racks and catch at wing mirrors. There may be large stretches of water and deep wheel ruts may necessitate straddling the ruts by driving to the side. It is a good idea to walk through stretches of water to gauge the depth.
Just as the terrain varies, so does the vegetation. At the southern end, the country is covered with low acacia and eucalyptus suited to low rainfall. Mostly the track is sandy and runs through gold mining areas. There are a number of exploration and development tracks through this area.
At one point, the track passes across the south-east corner of the Jilbadji Nature Reserve. This 200,000 hectare reserve has flora and fauna that is found nowhere else. You may see a thorny devil in this area. The next section is heavily wooded, slow and winding. Thickets of gimlet make finding a camping site difficult if you need much room.
Just beyond Emu Rock, the country consists of virgin bush and heath. There are long sections of regrowth on blackened, burnt out vegetation. In spring, the area abounds in wildflowers.
Along the way we will see gnamma holes at several sites. There is a large one just after crossing Forrestania Road. These can't be seen from the road but most are easily found.
Gnamma holes are naturally occurring holes in the rock. They are usually narrow at the opening and widen out at the bottom. They are, and were, an important source of water for birds, animals, the Nyoongar people and travellers. They can be quite deep and it is common for animals to fall in and be unable to get out.
An abandoned mallee fowl (gnow) nest has been fenced off and is signposted. These rare birds build a huge mound of debris which creates heat as it rots thus incubating the eggs which are buried in the mound. The male spends around nine months or more of the year tending the nest, scratching off material or adding more according to the temperature of the nest which he tests with his beak.
There is still some sandalwood in these parts. Sandalwood has a most distinctive smell and there was once a great trade in the timber with most of it being exported to the Orient for joss sticks and incense. The sandalwood is a hemiparasitic plant and very slow-growing.
Other points of interest are the microwave tower and the State Barrier Fence, once called the Rabbit Proof Fence. These fences once crisscrossed the country in an effort to hold back the rabbit which was working its way westward and decimating the land on its way.
There are no settlements of any kind between Hyden and Coolgardie although you will see evidence of past mining ventures.
You need to carry your own everything - water, fuel, provisions, first aid, camping gear and emergency supplies. You will need some sort of communication (not mobile phones!). You can easily complete the trip without seeing another vehicle. However it is recommended that you have a flag on your vehicle as the vegetation is dense and visibility very restricted in some areas.
There are a number of old (and new) mining tracks crisscrossing the area so take some detailed, up to date maps with you. Check out conditions before leaving. Take puncture repair kits and recovery gear.
Generally people camp at the well-known rock sites but there are great bush camps almost anywhere along the track. The granite outcrops are great for climbing and the views from the top can be awe-inspiring. In the right season, a campfire makes a night to remember. Victoria Rock is the only site with any facilities.
Several years ago, we drove the track with six friends. Vehicles were a Range Rover, two Nissan Patrols and a Hyundai Tucson. Interestingly, apart from minor inconveniences with low clearance levels, the Hyundai had no trouble on the track. We came across large stretches of water and managed to bog one Nissan by trying to scout around the edge of the water. Once the vehicle was pulled out with a snatch strap the other vehicles went through on the wheel tracks without trouble. At one of the camp sites we found a quandong (native peach and the same genus as the sandalwood) with ripe fruit. We stewed them with strawberries and sugar and ate them with the last of some cream we had. Gourmet fare!
Holland and his party received no recognition for their remarkable feat yet the track was a godsend in its time. Thanks to the re-opening of the Track, John Holland will be remembered with gratitude by all those who have had the chance to follow his trail and experience the beauty and isolation of this special part of Western Australia.
Holland Track, Western Australia
Holland Track, WA, Australia