|Kimberley / Red Centre - Wolfe Creek and Tanami Road||August 18 - 21 2018|
|The helicopter ride was a half hour. A quick change of
clothes and we are on our way out of Purnululu by 08:30.
Something we missed on the way in, though we suspect we miss more than we see, was tillite.
|The drive out seems easier than driving in. Perhaps tyre
pressures are a bit different (a small difference in pressure can be a big
difference in ride). Perhaps we are more patient.
Its still not a nice drive due to the heavy corrugations.
We pass an unfortunate couple who have broken the chassis of their caravan.
|We leave our rubbish at the rest area near where we join the Great Northern Highway. Then head south towards Halls Creek.|
|A small town. We stop for fuel.
Both tanks filled, to take us all the way to Alice Springs.
|About 16 km south east we turn left on to Tanami Road.|
|In 1978 the road was a track, two tyre marks in the sand.
Today it is a road. Albeit one with a reputation for rough corrugations.
The grader we met after about 20 km explained why it seemed so smooth.
|Even the police have punctures.
No help required.
|The only obstacles are kangaroos, cattle, traffic, and
occasional short patches of rough road.
In total, one kangaroo, three cars, one road train, three cows, and lots of corrugations.
Our speed is comfortable around 60 km/hr.
|We like the thought of happy cattle.|
|The road train was way over on the side of the road
traveling at a bit above walking pace.
It looked very uncomfortable, feeling every corrugation.
|Carunya. The closed homestead.
In 1978 we bought some of the toughest steak we've ever encountered.
An interesting conversation in which the station owner / manager (?) attempted to convince us that we could drive all the way to Alice Springs on the track across the desert. He was sure we'd be able to find petrol at a couple of stations along the way.
We decided not to. Our car was a 2 speed automatic Holden. We carried 25 litres of water, no spare petrol, only one spare tyre, and the engine was a bit iffy. Add to lack of preparation, our experience of desert travel was a bit limited.
Fast forward 40 years and the Tanami Road seems just such an obvious short cut for us.
|Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater.|
|We walked to the top of the rim for the sunset.
In 1978 I had to glue several photograph prints together on a piece of plywood to have a panorama. A razor blade to taper the edges.
Fast forward 40 years and the camera does it for me.
|The crater is 850 m across. Which means about 3 km around
The floor is 20 m below the surrounding plain. It used to be 120 m lower but has filled with sand over the years.
About 50,000 tonnes of meteorite impacted about 300,000 years ago.
|Next morning we walked around the rim at sunrise.
The campsite is about 400 m from the crater. A fellow camper with a noisy generator gave us an excuse to camp in the day use area so we had an early start.
|We reach the rim as the sun pokes its nose above the horizon.|
|We have become used to large termite mounds.
This is a forest of small mounds.
We attempt to buy a camping permit for Lake Gregory at the community store. As the sign at the turnoff from the Great Northern Highway suggested.
The storekeeper was adamant the permit was only for Stretch Lagoon. If we wanted to camp at Lake Gregory we must ask at Balgo. Contrary to the sign at the road end.
Some of our maps show "permit required" for some roads. Others don't.
We decide to carry on along the Tanami Road.
Pity really, as Lake Gregory looked interesting.
|Disturbed a few Brolgas.|
|They flew alongside the road for a while then landed.|
|Camp for the night at Elsey Hills.
We have internet, presumably from Balgo, 35 km to our south.
|Entertained by a lizard.|
|An early start.
There's a stiff wind blowing that raises dust.
|Road furniture we didn't expect.
Y is for Yuendumu.
|The road train is crawling, just like the last one.
Obviously easier on our side of the road so we pull off the road.
Driver stopped for a chat.
When moving all the wheels were bouncing. It looked very uncomfortable.
There was a second one behind. We passed on the far side of the road.
|There was a roadhouse at Rabbit Flat which closed in 2011.
Even the maps and the sign at the turnoff from Great Northern Highway say
Very much closed.
|We carry on another 40 km to Quartz Ridge. Camp for the
We are about 10 km from Newmont Mining's The Granites treatment plant. Associated with the Dead Bullock Soak Mine, about 40 km west.
So good 4G internet.
|A walk to the top of the ridge to watch the sunset.|
|And catch a glimpse of "The Granites" processing plant.
The gold mine is one of Australia's largest.
We watched road trains on the road from mine to plant.
|There are still people on the road as dark arrives.
Dust for miles.
It isn't as bad as it looks. We are comfortable around 60 - 70 km/hr with a few short stretches between 50 and 60. With some also at 80.
|The granites .....at least one of them.|
|Some very nice bitumen.
Mostly spinifex with occasional shrubs.
|But back to gravel after a few km.
And widely spaced gum trees.
|There's a lot of work occurring south of The Granites
constructing bores. There's a road parallel to ours. Diggers and graders
working furiously. A significant project.
The termites get to watch.
|Still gravel. But acacias.|
|Mt Doreen station has some granite hills.
And a distinct lack of ground cover.
Presumably from grazing.
|The ground cover returned at the boundary with Yuendumu.
We couldn't decide if the road train was moving. Just as we got close it created a nice cloud of dust but we managed to pass.
|Mystery solved. A pipeline connecting the bores is being
We've been following it for about 300 km.
Next mystery, of course, is what the water is for.
Edit:- its actually a natural gas pipeline. 440km from the Amadeus gas pipeline where it crosses the Tanami Road to The Granites and out to the mine. Add to natural gas powered electricity generators. Its planned to be 200mm underground.
Of course one now wonders what all the bores are for. They are not gas.
We have reached the bitumen. All the way to Alice Springs this time.
So we pump up the tyres.
|South of Yuendumu the landscape changed a bit.
A few hills. A relief after 800 km of the almost flat plain of the Tanami Desert with just occasional ridges. Not even dunes, the plain simply undulates a bit.
We are approaching the north side of the West McDonnell Ranges.
|The very nice sealed road becomes one lane width.|
|We reach the junction with Kintore Road. And camp somewhere
behind the bushes.
Papunya 105 km. Kintore 375 km. Less than a day's drive.
We re-fuelled at Kintore in April. We've nearly completed one half of a figure of eight.
|Someone knocked down all the bushes and trees?|
|There's a road train headed north, or east, about every 5
On single lane road its easiest to pull off the road
|Eventually we join the Stuart Highway.
Not far south is Alice Springs.
|Easy driving. 90 km/hr.
The speedo cable broke before Purnululu. A new one is on its way. In the meantime I'd been using the hand held gps to record distances. Add that the left hand fuel gauge stopped working and calculating fuel became interesting. We reached Alice Springs from Halls Creek, more than 1100 km, with more than 100 km fuel remaining. We had head winds for part of the Tanami, some 4wd, and low tyre pressures, all of which increase fuel consumption.
|South of Alice Springs the road is good.
Not in this pic but jumpups begin to appear.
|With desert oaks.|
|Stopped for the night about 28 km north of Kulgera. In
April we arrived at Kulgera from Finke and drove north. Now we are driving
I bought some dielectric paste in Alice. Managed make a good connection at the fuel changeover valve and remade connection at the left hand fuel tank sender. By coincidence the right hand tank sender needed resoldering. A few other odd fixes.
Also purchased some heater hose (we plugged the heater connections on replacement engine) as its now cold in the mornings. Tomorrow's task.
|Kulgera to Kingoonya||August 22 - 23 2018|