NOTE: Before taking on the Tanami, Lynda was exploring the Kimberley.
The Tanami Track
The Tanami – it seems our trip is almost over, but in reality we still have the continent to traverse! Another warm, sunny, dusty day and we rolled out of town full of expectation to head to Wolfe Creek Crater, with no campsite destination in mind. Road Trains materialised almost immediately so we suspected the trip could be slow, with the only reasonable course of action being to stop for oncoming trucks. The road was in good condition; a pleasant surprise and we were able to reach the Wolfe Creek turnoff in good time. Plenty of traffic around going both ways, including all sorts of camper trailers and caravans as well as the hardy 4WD set up for the Canning.
Wolfe Creek Crater was well worth the drive in, even with the road condition being pretty rough. We came across some members of Warrnambool 4WD Club and had a good chat, appreciating their advice on the road conditions in the direction we were headed. Deciding to drive until dusk and find a campsite off the road, the track got rough as soon as we crossed into the Northern Territory, so we were glad to pull up only 100 kilometres or so from there. This evening was one of our favourites. It seemed we had the world to ourselves and the stars in the sky were bright and prolific. If for no other reason than to feel like this, it is worth travelling the Tanami.
More of the Tanami. The road condition changed regularly, from bulldust to corrugation and the oncoming traffic was regular, with 6 Road Trains almost in convoy at one stage. Eventually stopping at Tilmouth Well for fuel and regroup, we decided to stay the night. A great campground adjoins the roadhouse. We had it almost to ourselves. It is worth making the most of the restaurant and bar at this oasis, there is even green grass in the campground and near the buildings!
An easy roll into Alice Springs and time to take a good look at 30 Map. The suspected hole in the exhaust was indeed found, luckily in a spot that was not causing any damage and could wait till Brisbane. New batteries for the Spot, fuel and carwash and general tighten and top ups were all that were required.
Alice Springs to Birdsville
A chance to explore some of the awesome territory around Alice! Another warm sunny day, so plenty of water and snacks were packed before we headed towards Hermannsburg and Palm Valley, based on the local advice of the prior evening. This is Namatjira country and it is easy to see why as the mountains and plains roll out before you displaying colours, textures and contours that are more captivating at every turn. Palm Valley does require some thought and effort but 30 Map was up to the task after yet another ‘air down’. The drive was fantastic and the destination reminded us just how fleeting our contribution to this world really is. The ancient rock formations and plants, along with delicate wildflowers made this walk one of the richest experiences yet.
Back on the long dusty road across Australia! The Plenty Highway has plenty of nothing really, although the Gemtree Caravan Park is a bit of an oasis if you have time for fossicking or just a chat. We didn’t stay long, preferring to get some kilometres behind us. The road was in great condition to Harts Range, I understand the Annual Race Meeting had just finished, hence the effort to make it accessible for regular traffic. After that it became more erratic, rocky, dusty and bone shaking to say the least.
By Jervois Station we were considering options, but pushed on to Tobermorey to make the next day a bit easier. Pulling in right on dark we quickly became acquainted with others at the campsite, picked up some advice on road changes and conditions, made note to send back to the office then settled in to a relaxing dinner and a nice wine. Hoping to see some of the meteor showers that were about, we were disappointed to find the campsite stayed lit and the generator on all night, but this no doubt pleased some – it did mean hot showers in the morning.
Off to an early start, we came to a very quick stop about 100kms down the road, when Swanny fell foul of a stray rock, breaking the back window of the 80 Series. As we contemplated how best to affect running repairs, some Good Samaritan McGyuver travellers came to our assistance. As they had suffered a similar fate early in the trip they had the tricks all sussed out. We ascertained the best material we had to block the window (flexible, dustproof, waterproof, strong) was the shower curtain from the Travelander.
After rolling into Boulia quickly we headed to Bedourie. I will be the first to admit I have never been to or thought of going to Bedourie, but it is quite an amazing town. The campground is council run and the facilities are excellent for the reasonable price, but the jewel in the crown is the artesian spa and swimming pool next door, with free access! Just grab a key and pay a deposit at the Outback Visitors Information Centre before they close and you can relax in this surprise oasis for the evening. Some more news was gleaned on track and road changes and we shared our own experiences with some motorcyclists who we had run across previously. Outback travel is like that.
Birdsville to Brisbane
As we head towards Birdsville, the wind is picking up. This is not a surprise, I am yet to experience Birdsville without wind! The Birdsville Bakery beckoned and the pies were every bit as good as we remembered. In full swing for the upcoming races, the place was humming, but still time for a chat with us. The obligatory Birdsville Pub visit was accomplished, both for a photo and drink in the afternoon and a meal at night.
The Caravan Park was starting to fill in anticipation of the district-racing calendar, so plenty more intelligence was swapped on road conditions, new bitumen and ‘must see’ destinations.
Home beckons as we leave Birdsville and the decision is made to try for Quilpie instead of the planned stop on the Cooper near Windorah. Along the way we encountered a camel train, crossing the Developmental Road from North to South, seemingly going nowhere! Would love to know who that was and where they were headed. As we pulled in for fuel at Windorah it was obvious that things had changed and sure enough, new owners. The change is significant and I can attest to the claim of best burgers in the west, definitely worth stopping for. A quick chat with our customers to make sure the map offer they carry is latest and best, then on to ‘wildlife way’ to make our way to Quilpie while dodging roos, emus, wild pigs, feral cats, brumbies and domestic stock. This stretch of road never disappoints, no matter if you haven’t seen anything at all anywhere else along the way. Just on dusk we rolled into Quilpie, finding ourselves a secluded and quiet spot on the Bulloo River.
Since we had made more distance than planned yesterday, we chose to press on and see where we were by mid-afternoon before deciding our destination for the final night on the road. Our only memorable stop was the Charleville Bakery, a place we frequent whenever we are passing. With morning tea under our belt we made do with quick lunch made from the camper – we will all have withdrawals from flatbread, salmon and salad – or perhaps that will be lunch for a long while to come!
For many years we have been meaning to visit Possum Park, a former WW2 ammunition store and now a very well appointed and run caravan and camp ground. We decided this was the time and are pleased that we made the 20km detour to check it out. A large communal campfire and a rundown on the history of the place were probably the highlights, but the hosts were great, the fellow guests were great, the birdlife prolific and we will definitely be back with more time.
Home was but a short run away, so without any hesitation it was straight there. We were happy to get home by mid afternoon, in time to commence the mighty clean up. The biggest positive out of that was that we made some headway before continuing the clean up the next day. As sad as it is to end such a memorable trip, the question of ‘What next?’ will soon be answered and the next journey and destination will beckon.