Thursday, October 3, 2013

Yulara to Tjukayirla Roadhouse

September 27:
The Great Central Road is one of the roads that make up the Outback Highway. The other's are the Tjukururu Road, Lasseter Highway, Stuart Highway, Plenty Highway, Donohue Highway and the Min Min Byway. The Great Central Road is part of a network of desert highways built under the leadership of the late Len Beadell, to service Woomera and the Giles meteorological station. After spending four nights camped at Yulara we were heading west again today. Before leaving we topped up our water tanks and emptied our cassette. We had previously applied and received our permits for travelling across aboriginal land for the NT and WA. Having these permits entitled us to free access through the pay station and a saving of $25 each to enter the Uluru National Park, however the restrictions were no stopping to take photos. So we just took our photos as we continued towards the turnoff and the start of the dirt. 
This really didn't bother us, as in the past we have climbed Ayres Rock walked around its base and completed the Valley Of The Winds walk at the Olgas.
We stopped at the westbound signs and the beginning of the dirt that would eventually take us to Laverton in WA, a distance of 1088 kms. Here we reduced our tyre pressures on the ute and van to help cushion the corrugation's. Van tyres were reduced to 25 psi with rear tyres on ute at 30 psi and front at 28 psi. Driving speed was reduced while running these lower pressures.
We stopped several times as we headed westward to take photos of the Olgas. The road surface continually changed from sandy to rocky but those corrugation's were ever present until we were off the main road going into Docker River to refuel.
This is our first trip along the Great Central Road (GCR), and we are looking forward to seeing some amazing country and wildlife over the next five days. This road can be driven in just several days, but we were going to take our time to enjoy the scenery, and the different landscapes that we have read so much about. There is no pastoral activity along this road just three main roadhouses which are part of aboriginal communities servicing those who live in the region and those who travel through it. The Tjukayirla Roadhouse is the only one not supporting an aboriginal community even though it is owned by an aboriginal council.
After passing Armstrong and Irving dry creek beds, we could see off to our left on the horizon, the spectacular Petermann Ranges. A further 60 km's on we arrive at Lasseters Cave above the dry bed of the Hull River. He was stranded here in 1931 after his camels bolted. He spent twenty five days here hoping to be rescued before trying to walk to the Olga's. He only walked 55 km's before dying.
It's another 40 km's before we arrive at the Docker River community, and since leaving Lasseters Cave we have been driving through a valley with the Petermann ranges to our left and the Bloods Range on our right.
There is a store here selling food and fuel. Diesel is $2.35 cpl and I was surprised to see three young Japanese working here, one who had trouble speaking english. Unfortunately the community is just like any other one we have seen, and we have seen quite a few in our travels, with broken down cars everywhere, rubbish strewn about the streets and people sleeping on mattresses under the trees. It's just a very sad situation.
The Docker River campground (Kaltukatjara) is set in a magnificent desert oak forest in a valley of the Petermann Ranges, and lies several km's west of the community. There are individual campsites, flushing toilets, showers and fire rings but sadly, it's all suffered from neglect and has been vandalised and none of these facilities except the fire rings are in working order. But apart from all that, and the fact that we are totally self sufficient we have decided to stay here. There is a viewing platform on a sand ridge just near the campsite with amazing views of the surrounding countryside. I found another cache hidden nearby on one of the sand dunes. The navigator counted eight wrecked cars today with five 4wd's passing us heading west and seven heading east.
During the night there were several dingoes prowling around our campsite and the wind blew for most of the night and it always seems to magnify the sound as it comes through the desert oaks.
Distance today 243 kms.

September 28:
Another lovely morning with nineteen degrees inside the van this morning. We could not believe the swarms of mosquitoes trying to make their way into the van until the sun rose enough to force them to disappear, so our coffee was drunk inside the van.
Left camp at a leisurely 9 am and five kms later we crossed the WA border with the corrugation's still as bad as yesterday.
These conditions lasted for another 30 kms before the road service improved and became much more enjoyable to drive on. Several kms later we came across two grader drivers working on the road. I spoke with them on channel 40 and they indicated that the road through to Laverton was in good condition. We stopped at Giles Creek and climbed a small hill where I found another cache. The range in the background is the Schwerin Mural Crescent Range.
It was then just 29 km's to Warakurna at the foot of the Rawlinson Ranges. The community unlike Docker River was out of bounds and well out of sight over a hill so we wondered how it looked. The surrounds to the roadhouse were clean and tidy and the nearby Police Station was surrounded by green lawn. The roadhouse offers camping, fuel and food.
Nearby is the Giles Meteorological Station. The station plays an important role as a weather and climate observatory for eastern and south eastern Australia.
In the past the staff have run tours of the station which included the release of the weather balloon but the tours are no longer available. There is also the remains of a Blue Streak Rocket found nearby in the desert, and one of Len Beadell's graders from his Gunbarrel Road Construction Team.

And it appears that Priscilla Queen Of The Desert may have visited.
The visitor centre was closed even though the sign said it was open seven days per week so we missed out seeing Len's murals. While we stopped here for coffee I found yet another cache. Continued heading west and 40 kms later I found another cache, before we arrived at our campsite for tonight. We stopped and photographed just over twelve camels who moved off the road as we approached.
Our site tonight is at a designated site along the GCR called Yarla Kutjarra which is 136 kms west of Warakurna. The site has a long drop toilet and is on the southwest side of a breakaway that has columns and caves. There was a Supreme van parked here and over the next four days we met Matt and Christine on many occasions. At 5:15 pm the internal van temperature was 36.7 degrees. I was unable to find the cache hidden in the cave in the breakaway.
Today's tally from the navigator included forty five wrecks including a Mister Whippy van, one caravan that was totally demolished and one dead camel beside the road.
Distance today 232 kms.

September 29:
Lovely sunrise this morning and eighteen degrees inside the van.
We stopped at the Warburton Roadhouse to refuel at $2.36 cpl. The young guy who served me fuel and his partner who are from Sydney have been working here for seven months. They receive free board and food plus a very good wage. Every two months they are flown all expenses paid for a week off at either Alice Springs or Kalgoorlie. After twelve months they receive six weeks fully paid leave. The area around the roadhouse was clean and free of rubbish unlike Docker River, and the interior of the Docker river was encased in metal security screens unlike this one. However the cabin and camping area was located behind twelve foot corrugated iron walls with substantial security gates that were heavily padlocked.
Elder Creek just west of the roadhouse looked very inviting with its river red gums and water and seemed out of place in such a dry environment.
Another surprise a further 10 kms on was a stretch of bitumen that continued for 26 kms until we again hit the dirt.
Today's drive has been into quite a severe headwind and consumption has suffered at 22L/100k. We did not encounter any traffic heading our way today, all were heading east and included eight 4wd's and a caravan. We also spotted a large group of camels well of the road and five dead ones near the road. Tonight's camp is at a site known as Desert Surf Central and is located 2 kms west of the Hunt Oil Road. This breakaway gets its name from the surf like caves and cliffs along its ridge line.
 Having our drinks in the shade of the van at 6 pm the outside temperature was still thirty five degrees and with a strong westerly blowing with enough force to rock the van. We had planned to cook our beef in the camp oven but the strong winds put pay to that.
52 wrecks were counted today, one caravan and truck trailer with a burnt out car still on it.
Distance today 219 kms.
September 30:
A very warm night with just a sheet to cover us. At 7 am the van temperature was twenty four degrees. Today drive is a very short one. We are camping at the Tjukayirla Roadhouse. We passed two B doubles heading west who I spoke with on channel who were delivering dry food to the roadhouses on the GCR. One week is dry food the next is cold store. They were also transporting cars. A further 30 kms later we came across some quite severe corrugation's just like the NT side that lasted for just over 45 kms. It was better to drive in the soft sand on the side of the road always looking out for where the graders had placed the drains to help remove water when it rains than try to drive on the corrugation's. 17 kms east of the roadhouse we came upon this Desert Kurrajong on the roadside. it was quite large so I can only assume it to be very old. Some of its qualities include the gum of the tree being edible, its seed can be roasted and ground to make bush coffee and the tree roots can be eaten or used to gain water. During drought the tree sheds its leaves to survive. As we continued on we could now see many of these trees lining the sand hills but none appeared as large as this one.
After arriving at the roadhouse we received a mud map from Al and Serena who manage the roadhouse showing some 4wd tracks leading north. I was also chasing after some caches and found one 5 kms and another 15 kms north of the roadhouse.
The strong winds were still with us so Ros cooked the beef with sweet potato, pumpkin, roast potatoes, roast onions in the vans oven served with peas, and we opened a bottle of Grant Burge Fisell old vine shiraz. Very yummy.  
Heading east today were 5 4wd's and 2 B doubles and 39 wrecks.
Distance today 160 km's. 


  1. Loving the journey RnR. We are travelling with you - but in the comfort of our armchairs and much cooler weather. Love photography. Mail off to you tomorrow as public holiday here today.

    1. Thanks tworobs. Sometimes we wish we were sitting with you in the comfort of your armchairs as well.....