Date Registered: 08-2011 Location: Lalor Park, NSW TOTAL POSTS:1663
Sydney to Central Australia and back The long awaited trip report for my big trip. Started with 2 X-Trails (Michael and Neme in the other) and a BT-50 (Rob). 1 week with those guys and 3 flying solo.
Day 1 – Non event. Drove to Hunter Valley to baby sit.
Day 2 – drove approx. 610km from Hunter to Glenariff Rest Area approx. 100km south of Bourke. Picked up some supplies in Dubbo on the way. Bitumen drive all the way. Rest area is basic with no toilets or water. Michael, Neme and Rob arrived at around 4-5pm. Beers were had. Mostly by me.
Day 3 – Left for Bourke early as I wanted to buy some stuff there. Went to the IGA for some very last minute food. Wandered down to the wharf in town. Water was down in the river. Met with the guys and we got going just after 12pm. Grabbed some fresh water on the way out of town. After around 50km of bitumen we finally hit dirt. Aired down to 28psi and headed towards Waanaring. Road was decent condition. We passed through town and stopped on the river bank under a windmill for lunch. Carrying on trying to find a camp site I had GPS coordinates for. Couldn’t find it but around 5-10km up the road we found a clay pan and set up camp. Fir was getting low at around 8pm so out came the LED light bar and the drag chain to get more wood. Chopped up the hardest hardwood I’ve ever seen and had a few around the fire.
River in Bourke
Day 4 – Left for Tibooburra around 9:30am. Road was much rockier than previous day. Took less than 20km and we had our first puncture. Michael’s read driver side had a nasty sidewall cut. Emptied more gear than on a passenger cruise and got out the spare. All changed and we were back on our way. Stopped at the outdoor pastoral museum for a look around. Hit Tibooburra where Michael got his spare tyre put on his wheel and the damaged tyre removed. Fueled up and headed to Cameron Corner. Saw Shingleback Lizards all over the road in the sandy sections. Grabbed one for a few photos. Stopped for a look at Fort Grey Camping area as the actual fort itself is off limits to the public. Arrived at Cameron Corner Store after passing through the dog fence and into SA. Picked a camp spot and played a game of 3 state golf. That finished as the sun was setting so we got dinner going. I finished quickly so headed to the bar for some beers. Chatted to the owners of the store and some other travellers. Eventually the guys finished their gourmet dinner and joined me at the bar. Michael and Rob were dead men walking so didn’t last long. Me and Neme chatted to a couple that work at the store until it was time for bed. Really interesting chat. The guy used to be an Abalone diver so was obviously a keen fisherman. We swapped fishing and shark stories until pretty late.
Day 5 – Left Cameron Corner after getting the tourist photos at the corner post and headed along the Strezlecki Track towards Innamincka. Found a junction to the Old Strezlecki Track and after a brief discussion we decided to take it. Followed it all the way to Innamincka. Good track with the only real obstacle being deep sand in places. The track got narrow as we got close to Innamincka. A Pub lunch as called at Innamincka before we head for camp via Burkes Grave site. Camp was made at Cullyamurra Waterhole. That night we fixed Michael’s UHF which had been playing up. Poor earth in the antenna. Beers were had.
Lion Dog and camp
Day 6 – Day trip out to the Dig Tree. Around 65km each was approximately half of which was bitumen. Saw the Dig Tree and the Face Tree and read up on the history of the area. Basic story is Burke was an arrogant idiot with bugger all outback skills. Was as tough as they come though. Returned to camp for lunch then head back to town. The guys hung in town I went looking for a fishing hole. Found a couple but sadly no bights. Decided if I’m gonna fish unsuccessfully may as well be having beers so went back to camp and fished there. Guys arrived a few hours later. Beers were had.
Dig Tree and Face Tree:
Day 7 – Fueled up at Innamincka ($2.10/L) and head south down the New Strezlecki Track. Pretty much a 90-100km/h highway all the way to Montecollina Bore where we made camp for the night. Saw a dingo, wedgetail eagles and some emus on the way. Passed the Moomba Gas Fields with flame out of one of the stacks which looked cool. The bore pumps hot artesian water to a small ‘spa sized’ pool where is flows to a larger pool which then overflows to create a massive wetland. Plenty of birds around. The guys went for an arvo swim while I wandered the dunes and also tried to repair my laptop charger. After dinner I packed the esky and went for a night swim in the water hole. The spa section was scalding hot but the larger pool was too cold. Just had to get used to the hot section. I layed down on my back drank beer and watched the sky. Saw my first shooting star. After almost falling asleep I wandered back to camp and the guys decided they wanted another swim so back we went. Didn’t last long as it was too hot in and too cold out.
Day 8 – Completed the remainder of the Strezlecki Highway arriving at Lydhurst before lunch. Fueled up and headed for camp at Leigh Creek Caravan Park. Lunch at Leigh Creek Tavern was good. Turns out pretty much the whole town shuts down at 12:30pm on Saturday for the whole weekend. No groceries here. Headed to Copley about 5km up the road hoping they had more open. No deal. Did have a garage though where Michael managed to buy some necessities for his Arkpak system which was blowing fuses. Arvo consisted of repairs to the Arkpak charger and my laptop charger. Both successful in the end. Dinner at the pub where we watched Australia get smacked by the All Blacks in the Rugby.
Day 9 – Another early start for me as I need to get to Maree to buy some food. Did that and headed for Muloorina Station where I made camp. After waiting around 2 hours for the guys I headed for Level Post Bay to have a look at Lake Eyre. Easy, sometimes sandy track out there. Could be muddy after rains. Found a frill necked lizard on the track after almost running a couple of them over. The track looks like broken glass in places just the way it sparkles in tge sun. I quickly realised it must be salt crystals not glass. Made it to Level Post Bay. Lake Eyre is amazing. Just this huge flat, salty wasteland. Hard to believe is actually fills from time to time. Back to camp where I found the guys setting up. I hid in my camper until the flys started to ease a little. Beautiful spot right in a permanent water hole inside Muloorina Station but I have never seen so many flies.
old Ghan ruins on the way to Maree:
Day 10 – The guys had booked scenic flights over Lake Eyre so were up early. I started to pack up as they headed off. This was where we parted ways. I head back through Maree and onto the Birdsville Track. Generally easy going. Had my first water crossing here (very small creek). Saw dingos and emus. Arrive at Mungerannie Hotel just before 12pm. Had some lunch and thought I may as well continue. Before I did I asked to owner If I could put an X-Trail forum sticker on the roof. He said yes and asked if I had another. He wanted one for himself. His 2nd car is and X-Trail. We then got into a convo about what a good ‘bus’ they are and how far they will take you if you are willing. The Birdsville track got rougher towards the north and where I turned on onto the Birdsville Inside Track it was just Gibber Plains. Barely even a track, just rocks. This lasted around 20km when the surface changed to sandy. Shortly after this I noticed my first puncture. Pulled the wheel off to investigate and found a puncture in the tread. Managed to repair it and was on my way only losing around half hour. Rolled into Birdsville Caravan Park around 4:45pm. 520km covered and 1 day saved. Made camp and headed to the pub for a feed. Beers were had.
Gibber on the inside track:
Day 11 – Left camp behind and headed towards the Simpson Desert. Found Little Red and had a practice run up. No worries. Headed for Big Red. Three options going up. I went straight for the hardest. Made it within a whisker but a big hole near the top sapped my momentum and I just couldn’t do it. Made it up the 2nd hardest route first go. Had a drive down over the west side then came back up the main route on the west side and down the easy route on the east side. Aired up and headed back to camp. Went to the pub in the arvo and met a group of blokes all asscociated with a Rugby League club in QLD. Ended up hanging out with them for the night. Beers were had.
Day 12 – Left the caravan park and headed to another Burke and Wills tree for a look. Some very faint sratchings in the tree but otherwise no evidence. Headed north towards Boulia expecting a gravel road. After not long it turned to bitumen and was probably 90% bitumen the rest of the way. Would have been a dreary drive except I saw my first Wild Camel and first Brolgas in the wild. Arrived at Boulia around 2pm to see emus in the main street. Decided to get a head start on the Donahue Highway as I heard it was rough and slow going. Signs at the start warn it is rough and suitable for high clearance 4wd only. After about 120km of good dirt road I found camp at Georgina River.
Day 13 – The remainder of the Donahue was a little rougher with some bulldust sections and some sharp rocks but not too bad. Made it to Tobermorey for a quick look but didn’t stop. Around 50km up the road I heard I call for help over the UHF. Some bloke had just had his 3rd blowout and had no spares. I found him with his mrs another 10-15km up the road. Running ‘SIlverston’ tyres which had just shredded. They had no repair kit and no air compressor. One of the three had a puncture so I went about repairing it as best I could. It took 4 plugs to stop the leak and I could already see the tyre starting to buldge. It was going to blow out for sure. Just a matter of time. I told him to sit on 30-40km/h and try to crawl to Jervois. With that I left them. Passed a cruiser heading the other way about an hour later and asked him to check on them. I also stopped in Jervois and told them to except the couple late that arvo and that they will need tyres for 16” rims. They said they will keep an eye out and help out the tyres if possible. I hope they made it. Another couple of hundred kms up the road I started passing Harts Range to the south of the highway and at the same time huge termite mounds. Stopped for camp at the fossicking fields near Gemtree.
Day 14 – Went the scenic way from camp to Alice through the East MacDonnell Ranges. Was scenic but no real focal points. I was lowish on fuel so didn’t do the full loop. Arrived in Alice before lunch and set up camp around 5km south. Went for a very quick look in town then head to the West MacDonnell Ranges in the arvo. It’s paved road the entire way which I wasn’t expecting. Stopped at Big Hole, Ellery Creek which was packed with tourists, mostly internationals. Stopped for a quick look at the Ochre Pits which are basically Aboriginals mines. They used the coloured rocks in ceremonies etc. Next was Ormiston Gorge. There is a waterhole here that is just as good as Big Hole but far less populated. As a result there is birds swimming around. Much better opportunity for a good photo here. Head up to Glen Helen resort to have a look at headwaters of the Finke River. The river wasn’t flowing but there was still waterholes. Birds (and flies) everywhere. Really pretty spot. At one point the river ‘flows’ through a massive gorge (Glen Helen Gorge funnily enough). Getting late so headed back to town as I was due to catch up with Michael and Co for dinner. Went to a highly recommended pizza place where we were told it would be an hour wait for food. We went to the pub around the corner instead. Order food there and by our 3rd jug of beer still nothing. Something went wrong and after almost 2 hours waiting we got our money back and left, but without downing a free jug of beer first. As it was now after 9 every restaurant in town had closed for service. Ended up back at the pizza place with a 40 min wait this time. Good times all round.
Big Hole: Ormiston Gorge:
Day 15 – Drove the 150km to Chambers Pillar. The first 110km or so is highway style dirt. The last 40-45km is rough as guts. Corrugations, rocks and steep dips everywhere. Was good to actually have to ‘drive’ the car again and the wildflowers were in bloom so the roadside views were spectacular. Made it to the pillar and did the roughly 500m walk around and up. It is cool stepping where someone did over 150 years ago when they were still discovering the area. Next stop was Henbury Meteorite Craters via the Hugh River Stock Route. Road was in excellent condition which was good because we were starting to struggle for time. Made it to the craters and did the 1.5km rim walk. Rushed out of there as we still had 45km of highway plus 23km of access track to get to Rainbow Valley before sunset. Long story short we reached the access track with 15mins until sunset. Luckily it was in good condition. Rob and I are trying out for the Australian Rally Championship next year because we made it with a few minutes spare. We got those sunset shots and headed back to camp. Decided a BBQ chook was the go for dinner but could we find one in all of Alice? Haha course not. Ended up at a take away out of town but still no BBQ chooks so we cleaned out whatever they had. Had a few beers back at camp and farewelled the guys once again.
Day 16 – Dropped the dogs at the boarding kennel in Alice and headed for Uluru. Got there and was shocked that it costs $25 per person to get in. Ah well what can ya do. As you approach you really start to get a feel for how massive this thing is. No photo will ever do it justice. Did a lap of the rock got as many tourist photos as possible. Left there and headed for the Olgas (Kata Tjuta). The Olgas is just as impressive as Uluru. Just amazing. Didn’t do any walks there as light was fading and I still need to find camp. Found an access track around 30km from the rock and followed around 2km to a nice secluded camp. Wandered up a nearby sand dune and how good I could clearly see Uluru one way and The Olgas another way. Stoked. Got some more photos and the sun set then made camp.
Day 17 – Got some early morning photos and Uluru and The Olgas before leaving camp to head for Kings Canyon. Stopped at Curtin Springs for fuel - $2.31/L. Made it to Kings Canyon Resort, dopped the camper and headed for the Canyon. I did the 6km rim walk. It starts as a super steep climb straight up the canyon for around 1km. You then walk around the rim, down into the ‘Garden of Eden’ and back around the other side of the rim. The garden is truly an oasis. Waterholes and even frogs getting around in there. Spectacular views from the rim, especially walking back. Well worth doing the full walk if you ever get out that way. There is a bar here called ‘The Thirsty Dingo’ – I’ll walk on all fours and even wag my tail if it will get me some beers cause man am I thirsty.
Day 18 – purchased permit for the Mereenie Loop and fuel from Kings Canyon Resort and set off. Road was one of the most corrugated so far but still able to sit on around 80km/h. One section has some very sharp bends on a sandy surface and the locals have put a sign on a drum ‘Lift Um Foot’. Made it to Gosse Bluff, which is an ancient meteorite crater. Far more impressive than henbury to br honest. Climbed the east side for a pretty good view of the whole thing. Left there and headed to Palm Valley. Signs at the entrance warn it is an extreme 4WD route with soft sand etc. I aired down all 6 tyres (trailer too) to 22psi. Basically to get to the camp ground this is overkill. Simply not required. I dropped the trailer at camp and headed the final 4km to the valley. The first 2.5km to Cycad Gorge is very easy and could be done in almost anything with 4WD. The last 1.5km is much rockier with a few sections of rock steps. I had people taking photos of the X-Trail as they couldn’t believe it made it. It did make it and I did the 2km walk in the valley. Gorgeous place. Really is amazing to see all these rainforest type plants and trees in the desert. Heading back to camp and I got a call out over theUHF – Michael and co were a day early and had come to meet me in Palm Valley. We had some drinks around the communal fire (which is brilliant as it brings all the campers together).
Day 19 – early pack up and off to pick up the dogs before heading to Coober Pedy. Long day on tar, I arrived in town around 5pm. Went for a little drive to see whats around/have a look for a camp. Got about 5km along a dirt road when bang – rock through the rear windscreen. Retiring hurt I found a caravan park in town and taped up the window as best I could. Was a horrible night that night with around 80km winds, lightning and even some rain to top it off. All this coupled ith the fact that the ground at Stuart Range caravan park was too hard and rocky to drive pegs into.
Day 20 – early rise again and off to find somewhere to repair the windscreen. Found a place recommended by the roadhouse and booked it in for the next morning. In the meantime I moved camps to Opal Inn caravan park. Much smaller, not as fancy but much better ground. Had a bit of a look around town, visited an underground church and set off for the Painted Desert. About 15km out of town is The Breakaways. Basically a series of small rock hills that are all different colours. The main attraction being ‘The Castle’ or ‘Salt and Pepper’ which is two adjacent rocks hills, one pure white, the other brown. Set off from here around 150km to the Painted Desert. Really pretty place with amazing colours through the hills. Returned to camp via the big winch and the big miner in town. The caretaker of the big winch was a man from Hong Kong who was super pushy with trying to sell his Opals and got pissed off when I didn’t want any.
Day 21 – glass replaced, lunch in town then headed for Oodnadatta. Made it around 3pm. Had a look in the Pink Roadhouse, a couple of beers at the pub. The bloke managing the pub was a nice guy and recommended somewhere for me to camp the night. A waterhole around 50km south of town. Said there was good fishing there. Sounded good to me. Before I left town wanted to do the 6x4 track which is basically a 4WD training track for conditions you might except in the Simpson Desert. Dropped to 22psi and completed this ‘Advanced Driver only’ track. Anyone with any sand experience should be fine here. Re-attached the trailer and headed for the water hole. Arrived around 30mins before dark, set up camp and threw in a line. Pulled out a near enough to 50cm Yellow Belly. Had to jump in the water to grab the thing as it was too heavy for my line. Mud up to my knees but totally worth it. By the time I cleaned and scaled the fish it was very dark so wrapped in foil for brekky tomorrow (and probably lunch and dinner) – Yum!! There is a group somewhere up the bank listening to ABBA full blast. Had a chuckle to myself. Another windy night - I’m writing this at 3am as it’s too noisy to sleep. Who cares, I have a yellow belly in my fridge.
Day 22 – I woke hoping for a yellow belly brekky but as soon as I started filleting the fish the flys just swarmed. I finished flleting and just put the fillets in the fridge for another time. After a quick look at the Algebuckna Bridge from the old Ghan (apparently in 2010 floods the water was lapping at the bottom of this bridge), I headed for William Creek around 150km away. Got there for lunch and had a beer and a look around. While have lunch I started chattin with a lady who, it turned out, was from the ABBA group. She made me tell the whole group I could hear them. They were pretty embarrassed but had a good laugh about it. The lady even gave me a cookie as I was leaving. Next stop was coward Springs where they have restored an old railway building into a museum and built a ‘spa’ around the water bore out of railway sleepers. As it was only 2:30pm I thought I would just have a look around rather than camp. The swim was awesome. Definitely needed that. After passing some more old Ghan Railway ruins along the Oodnadatta Track I made it to Maree. Again still early so I pushed on to the Praire Hotel at Parachilna. I had the mixed feral grill for dinner. It was good, really good but pricey ($36). After dinner and couple of beers I headed around 10km up the road into the Parachilna Gorge to find a camp. Was obviously dark so I just rolled out the swag.
Day 23 – woke in the morning to find my camp was actually a gorgeous spot overlooking the creek and gorge. Everything was a lot greener than I expected. Fish for brekky then I set off towards Blinman via the scenic route through Glass Gorge. Again everything was way greener than I expected. I think they must have called it Glass Gorge because of the way the shale and siltstone looks like broken glass everywhere. Very jagged. Arrived in Blinman around 10am. Pub was closed but the General store was open so I had a milkshake instead of a beer. Drove though the Flinders Ranges via the dirt and Bunyeroo Gorge. The bottom of the gorge was amazingly wet with puddles all over the track and at one point you drive up a rocky creek. This is meant to be 2wd access or so I thought… I came across a CRV towing a camper who was struggling. His mate in an 80 series was having to guide him through. Got through there fine and headed for Willow Springs with the intention of doing the ‘Skytrek’ track. I arrived just after 12pm and the close the track each day at 10:30am. The caretaker recommended I try Rawnsley Park and even rang ahead for me to make sure it was OK. Arrived there 30 mins later, booked a camp site and 4wd tour (self-guided), dumped the camper and set off. They call the 4wd track the Arkapena Scenic Adventure. It has an AWD section and a 4WD section. The AWD section is meant to be for vehicles without low range. You still need plenty of clearance though as some sections are rocky and some of the dips in and out of creeks are very steep. Good fun and very scenic. The little guide book they give you is good too. Got to the 4WD section where they tell you to engage low range now. Obviously not an option for me but I carried on anyway. It does have some very steep sections with the final proper climb being the steepest. Had a bit of wheel spin up this section. Would definitely be impassable in the wet. This climb takes you to a lookout where you can sign the guestbook. Amazing views in all directions. Even the view as you descend down is amazing. All up the track took me around 3.5hours. Back to camp for fish and chips (bush style) and beers.
Day 24 – On tar all day through Hawker to Broken Hill. Only thing that surprised me was the Broken Hill is on Australian Central Time. I always thought the state boundary between NSW/SA was the divider between eastern and central time zones. So there you go. Learn something new every day. Loads of wild goats as soon as I crossed the NSW state border. Camped the night a Lakeview Caravan Park on the town-east side of town. Very basic for unpowered is probably the nice way to say it. I walked up the nearest pub to watch Parra lose to the dragons. Pleasantly surprised they got up. Bit of a rarity this season. Beers were had.
Day 25 – Up first thing nursing the hangover from last night and headed out to the living desert. It’s the area about 10km out of Borken Hill where there is a heap of rock sculptures on a hill top. I’m not much of an art person but some of them were pretty impressive (some just looked like big rocks to me). There is some great views back towards Broken Hill here. Next stop was the historical town of Silverton about 25km from Broken Hill. It was the original mining hub out there before Broken Hill came along but now is pretty much dedicated to Mad Max and art. Had a feed at the pub and a look around town. Didn’t go to the Mad Max museum as I’ve never seen the movies. Had a quick look around the gaol which has been restored by the local historical society. Got some good examples of what was around back then including police uniforms and a good display of guns. Decided to head to Menindee Lakes to amp the night. It’s around 8km out of the town of Menindee. Went for a beer at the pub before heading for camp. Found a gorgeous secluded spot hidden from the access road, right on the water’s edge and set up. Had a quick fish and hooked on to something (only felt small) but only got it around halfway in before in snagged me. No fish for tea tonight. Set up the camp fire and had some beers.
Day 26 – Destination undecided. Had a lazy pack up and was on the road by around 10am. Felt like I wasn’t done fishing yet so I’ll try to find another lake on the way somewhere. Checked some maps and headed for Lake Cargelligo via Ivanhoe. Arrived and checked the three camps on offer. All full of grey nomads as they are just off tar but that wasn’t the problem. Blue-green algae in the lake. No fishing, swimming and signs telling you to avoid letting pets drink the water. Bugger that I thought I’ll go a little further. Next spot where I thought fishing was possible was Booberoi Weir out of Euabalong. Arrived there with around 30 mins of daylight left and greeted by no swimming (as I expected) and no fishing signs. Ah well too late to find somewhere else. It’s a nice spot and I have it all to myself. Set up camp went for a wander downstream and had some beers.
Day 27 – Heading for Orange via Parkes to check out ‘The Dish’. On the way I passed a truck that was on fire near Condobolin. Was just the trailer and they had managed to disconnect it from the truck. The dish is pretty impressive especially considering it was built around 45 years ago. You’re not meant to take photos…. Yeah OK. Fields of yellow flowers (canola) everywhere around Parkes make for some pretty scenic spots. Made Orange, bought a bottle of Gin and headed to Ophir to find a camp. The spot I had in mind I have been to before. It’s over a creek crossing and on a point facing a bigger waterhole. Perfect final night of fishing and drinking. Sadly someone beat me to it. Ok carry on to long point where it’s a bit rocky but the swag would do the job. Apparently the land owner here has got sick of people camping by the Macquarie River and has put up no trespassing signs everywhere. OK so I guess I’ll carry on further. Let the brakes/diffs cool before crossing the Macquarie River (my favourite water crossing) and went across. Water was around ½-3/4 wheel height deep which is about standard for that crossing. Made Hill End and half hour later by Sofala and it was dark. Bugger it I’m only 3 hours from home I’ll just make the final run now. Arrived home around 10pm. Gin was had.
10,633km in total and 1,262L of diesel. Car computer says my economy was 12.6L/100km but the calculation says 11.9L/100km.
I really love the chilled attitudes out that way and the way tourists (in particular four wheel drivers) say gday even if its just passing on the tracks. Can't wait to head out that way again.
Date Registered: 02-2004 Location: SUTHERLAND, SYDNEY TOTAL POSTS:29094
Re: Well done Todd, top effort in putting such a detailed trip report together. It took me 3 days to finish reading it, as I kept getting interrupted, so am not sure how you managed to type it all up in one go LOL
The forum sticker looks perfect on the ceiling of that diner....thanks for spreading the word about our forum
Date Registered: 10-2006 Location: Mona Vale, Sydney, AUSTRALIA TOTAL POSTS:6092
Re: Sydney to Central Australia and back Great read Todd.
Always wanted to do a trip like that since I took the Sigma out to Mungo on my own for a couple of days when I was just out of Uni. Will have to wait until the youngster grows a little maybe so missing some school won't be too much of a hassle.