The desert trip

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BillWest
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The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:30 pm

Well, so far we have made it to Capricorn Roadhouse, just south of Newman, about 1150km from Perth.
We left Thursday 7th June at around 6:00am to get as much distance during the day.
The road to Mount Magnet is not much to speak of, a big lot of open space with nothing special to look at.

After that, the Gascoyne and Pilbara rain event showed its face, with some heavy downpours along the way. Roads weren't flooded, but rain was persistent.
Here at Capricorn it is still drizzling.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. Port Hedland is forecasting some rain.
The Kimberley is dry.

Friday.
We left Newman at 5:30am on Friday morning, It was still raining, and did so most of the way to Port Hedland, where we were headed for fuel. Unfortunate, as it is a nice area to travel through, with lots of Pilbara scenery.

After Port Hedland, there were clouds and drizzle all the way to Sandfire Flats Roadhouse, where everything suddenly cleared up, and blue skies were the norm.
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We had planned to stop at Broome, but with leftover daylight we pushed on to Willare roadhouse for the night, in the meanwhile dodging plenty of cattle.

Saturday morning, on the road at 6:00am, headed for Halls Creek. We arrived there at around lunchtime, and the place was packed, grey nomads, trailers, caravans, 4WDs. Most were heading for the Gibb River Road, another one of those magic drives.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:21 pm

After fuelling up at Halls Creek, we headed for the start of the Tanami Track.
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A typical dirt road with plenty of dust and corrugations. At the right speed however, they're not too bad. We met a couple of heavy haulage trucks taking equipment to and from the gold mines along the track.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by PMelzer » Tue Jun 12, 2018 3:47 pm

interesting read Bill. I wish I had have logged my resent Snowy Mountain ride
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Re: The desert trip

Post by Buzz » Tue Jun 19, 2018 4:53 pm

V. Interesting reading, when you have been to most places yourself.
When I climbed Eyre's rock in 1992, there was only 1 other person.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:55 am

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115km down the track was the turn-off to Wolf Creek Crater. We stopped to take a few photos, and then wanted to continue.
Car wouldn't start! I thought that Mick had turned up while we weren't watching.
I said WTF a few times, but that didn't help.
Bonnet up, saw nothing untoward, but after checking a few things I noticed that the positive lead to the main battery had worked itself loose.
A couple of spanners, and it was on tight, and all was good.


Down the track to the crater was reasonable road, except for a stretch that had very bad corrugations. The best option was to get to a comfortable speed and hug the side of the road.

We set up camp (couple of tents), and went to the crater for a good look. Impressive.
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That night we cooked on the gas cooker, had a few beers, sat around, gazed at the stars. Mick Taylor was nowhere to be seen.
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Note the still visible bloodied handprint on the sign.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:01 pm

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We left around 7:30 Sunday morning, and made our way south. The road was actually quite good.
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A comfortable speed of around 80kph ironed out the corrugations.
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Phone signal right here in this spot...
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We passed the Balgo turnoff, did another 65km, and made our way to the Coyote Gold Mine, owned by the company our son works for. They fed us and put us up for the night. Very hospitable. They had WiFi.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:07 pm

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On to the Coyote Gold Mine.
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This isolated site is currently on care and maintenance, and exploration, including gravitational surveying, is going on to determine viability.
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Excellent hosts, who couldn't do enough for us.
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After an excellent tour of the Coyote processing plant, we had a top meal provided by the onsite caretakers.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:23 pm

After a good breakfast we left there at around 9:00 WA time, and headed south for Tilmouth Well Roadhouse, about 200km north of Alice springs. Only another 550km of dirt road remained, followed by bitumen. We're told initially that the NT part of the road is in much better condition, which is true to some extent.
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King of the desert.
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Dirt road continued until about 20km after Yuendumu, a thriving fun loving local community, culturally and eco aware, taking care of the land and supportive of the local liquor industry. It is the only place along the entire Track (1100km) where we saw rubbish.....
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90kph was a good speed to achieve a mostly comfortable ride. With the 2 jerry cans we made it comfortably.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:49 pm

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Another truck.
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After a couple of flat tyres we arrived at Tilmouth Well roadhouse, 180km from Alice. I copped a flat just 20km before the road changed to bitumen - rock puncture at the shoulder of the tyre. We stopped to have a chat to a caravaner, and I took a leak on the tyre. Too late I noticed that it was flat, so had to wash it!
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Fixed (patched from the inside) in Alice.
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Phil had a fast puncture, a bit larger, and it wrecked his tyre, with sidewall sustaining damage from rolling flat. New tyre there.
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Tilmouth Well camping area.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Thu Jun 21, 2018 1:08 pm

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Alice was full. The Finke desert race had just finished. Big waiting times to get tyres done. We were booked in at a caravan park, in a reasonable, almost clean unit. Alice seemed like a laid-back town, full of people sitting around doing nothing, backpackers, tourists and Finke afficianados.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:08 am

We headed for Ayres Rock the next day, Wednesday, and stayed there for two nights, camped at the Ayres Rock Resort camping ground.
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Daytime was pleasant, at night it came down to 2 degrees! Longjohns, socks, T-short, shirt, jumper and beanie pulled down over the nose, as well as double sleeping bag and blanket was good.

A bit of maintenance, changing fuel filter (picked up some dirty diesel in Alice).
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:13 am

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We climbed the Rock, along with around 500 other people from all over the world. This time however, it took us a bit longer than it did in 2005.
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Notice Olga and her sisters in the background.

It closes for climbing in October 2019. Rumour has it that before then, thousands of Australians will visit and climb.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 8:25 am

What has impressed us so far on this trip is the vast countryside we have travelled through. It depicts the real Outback, harsh yet interesting. This time of year the weather is obviously not hot. Even standing on top of that great Australian icon, Ayres Rock, the landscape stretches far and wide, showing the vastness of this country.

We met and talked with many travellers, both Australian and from overseas. They all have one desire - to see more of this country, especially its rugged, seemingly empty interior. However, amongst all of this emptyness, there are vistas of endless stretches of desert, distant hills and ranges, different vegetation, signs of history, and it is never boring.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 8:40 am

Leaving the Ayres Rock area on Friday morning, we headed back to the Stuart Highway, which stretches from Darwin to Port Augusta. Turning right, we headed south.
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We stopped for lunch at Kulgera, a roadhouse, where we met travellers heading for the Red Centre, Darwin, Adelaide, and a multitude of destinations. Some were heading for the Simpson Desert.
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Kulgera has an interesting bar, where you can donate items for public viewing.
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It also has a washing line, full of boots left by travellers, local workers, including a pair left there by Phil on a previous trip.
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Anyway, lunch was had here.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 8:48 am

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Next stop was Marla Bore, a roadhouse near the start of the Oodnadatta Track. Marla has petrol, a modest clean motel, supermarket, restaurant and a lively bar frequented by local station people and travellers alike. This meant meeting more travellers and swapping tall stories.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:03 am

Saturday morning, we were on the Oodnadatta Track, heading for the other side, some 600km away.
The track passes through Ooodnadatta and its Pink Roadhouse, William Creek, historic old Ghan Railway sites, past Lake Eyre South, and wide open desert country.
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The Oddnadatta Track is advertised as the "easiest gravel road to travel". However, we found that the Tanami Road was mostly in a better condition.
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There were good stretches, and some not so good.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:16 am

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Oodnadatta and its Pink Roadhouse were featured on the ABC program "Country Roads" not too long ago, and it looked real interesting, depicting friendly people and a lively environment. We didn't really find it all that great, it was simply a roadhouse, where no-one said much to anyone, and travellers simply passed through. However, we can say "we've been there".
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We saw quite a few 4WDs heading for the Simpson, Lake Eyre, or simply the end of the Track.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:30 am

Leaving Ooodnadatta, we passed through more desert country.
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Along the way, there was evidence of the Old Ghan Railway, its bridges, buildings and service areas. A lot of history along this track.
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We didn't take the time to stop at any of these, just passing by was fine for us.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:43 am

Next place was William Creek, some 200km from our destination of the day, Marree.
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William Creek may have some history, but it didn't look inviting enough for us to stop and explore.
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From there on to Lake Eyre South. To get to Lake Eyre itself, required a permit, and a lot of 4WD travel. Lake Eyre was filling with water, however, Lake Eyre South hadn't seen any of it yet.
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We did spot one of the local inhabitants.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:55 am

Onwards to our final destination for the day.
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Along the way, we came across some odd shapes in the desert, a set of sculptures, out in the middle of nowhere.
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More Ghan stuff.
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Finally, Marree.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:28 am

Marree is a small town at one end of the Oodnadatta track, and also at the start of the Birdsville Track. It has long been associated with the Ghan Railway. Some old locomotives are still kept there.
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People also like to partake in water sports there, hence the following....
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Marree is also known for the "Marree Man". No-one will claim ownership of creating this outline in the desert. The local publican at the pub didn't want to tell us who, but called over an "expert" whom he said had been researching it. When asked if it was done by Army Surveyors (as rumour would have it), he was evasive in his answers.
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Reward offerd here.
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The pub contains a fair bit of memorabilia, including a dedication to Tom Kruse. Once a fortnight for twenty years, Tom Kruse loaded up his battered Leyland Badger and drove the 1000km from Marree to Birdsville and back, delivering mail and supplies to the isolated residents of the famous inland stock route.
This was the Birdsville Track of the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, when the Track was nothing more than two wheel ruts through stony desert, over sandhills and across flooded plains, before the advent of four-wheel drive, roadside assistance service, satellite phones and the Global Positioning System, before the Birdsville Track grew into the wide, graded, gravel roadway it is today.
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Just out of town is the start of the Birdsville Track. A few kms down the road, is the start of the Strzelecki Track.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:50 am

Leaving Marree, we headed south on the Outback Highway, and hoping to get some breakfast.
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We were headed for a place known as Farina.
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The ghost town of Farina in outback South Australia is the last place you would expect to be met with the aroma of freshly baked bread. But that is exactly what we found – in addition to freshly baked pies, pasties and buns. Farina in the State’s Far North, 55km south of Marree, has a population of zero but is popular with history buffs, campers and, of course, meat pie lovers. For eight weeks during winter, volunteers flock to Farina and fire up an old underground wood-fired Scotch oven, and spend time rebuilding Farina.
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After breakfast, we headed off again.
Just South of Farina, we met a couple of caravans heading north. All of us got acquainted with a kamikaze kangaroo, which jumped in front of the lead caravan, missed it by a whisker, and then continued in front of us, also missing us by a whisker.
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There was quite a bit of roadkill from here onwards.
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Re: The desert trip

Post by GlennR » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:01 am

Bill, great pics and commentary of your recent desert trip. Thanks for posting.

Glenn.

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Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Wed Jun 27, 2018 8:02 am

Heading further south, we pass Leigh Creek, a town moved from its original dry and dusty location, to become the hub for workers at the nearby coal mine. This coal mine was extensive, but has now been shut down, due to the closure of the Port Augusta coal fired powerstation, along with the loss of many jobs. Leigh Creek is not too active these days.

Next stop was Parachilna, which was a railstop for the Ghan. It is a famous railway siding where the Prairie Hotel serves "feral food"
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This outback town boasts a pub, The Prairie Hotel, with turn-of-the-century memorabilia, and an interesting menu. Travellers come from far and wide to eat here.
Parachilna has become one of those outback destinations that everyone wants to visit. The reason: the exceptional wild food - kangaroo, emu, goat and camel - which is served in the hotel's restaurant and the the hotel's accommodation. It is so small that if you are not looking you could easily pass it by. It is nothing more than a railway station, a few railway outbuildings which have been turned into backpacker accommodation, and the hotel.
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We weren't hungry, and besides, they didn't use the correct recipe for emu.
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Men should remember, they can be right, or they can be happy.

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BillWest
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Location: Would still prefer the Greek Islands....

Re: The desert trip

Post by BillWest » Wed Jun 27, 2018 8:20 am

Next we headed east, to find the start of the bitumen that goes south through the Southern Flinders Ranges.
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On the gravel again, you find all sorts.
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A very scenic pass into the South Flinders.
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We headed for a town called Blinman, another one of these towns out in the middle of nowhere. It boasts to being the highest town in South Australia. Blinman is also an historic copper town.
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Men should remember, they can be right, or they can be happy.

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