Sunday, 22 July 2018

Wolfe Creek Crater

We left our overnight spot on the Tanami at around 9am.  Seems that this will be our usual pack up departure time.  Today was the day we crossed the WA border and in doing so gained an extra 1 1/2 hours time wise.  Of course the obligatory pictures were required although the welcome sign wasn’t quite the traditional one.

Ross's at the WA border

We cruised into Wolfe Creek Crater around 11:30am WA time, after a fairly easy day on the Tanami.  The road conditions were pretty good and it meant an average of 80 kms / hour was possible.  The road into the crater itself was a bit rough but we were more concerned that we might miss out on a spot given the small number of camp spots available onsite.  Turns out we were there in plenty of time with a stream of vehicles arriving with us and we were able to secure a spot.

The crater itself was quite impressive. A 300 000 year old hole from a meteorite which crashed into earth would have certainly made a bang, the surrounding landscape is pretty flat so the crater that is 20 metres deep certainly stands out.  The temperature has certianly risen and it was pushing high 20’s so we thought that we would take a trip to the crater first before setting up for the night. 

The crater!  About 2.5 kms round, 800m across, 20m deep and 300,000 years old 

Dad's glamour shot.

Once setup was complete, the sweatiest and dustiest one undertaken to date, we settled back into the enjoying the afternoon’s warmth with a few cold beverages.  It was nice just to sit back and relax.

 The camp at Wolfe Creek Crater, not a bad view :)

Spectacular sunsets are a regular up here

Corrugations on the Wolfe Creek road were certainly a little rougher than most.

The next day Pam, Jamie and Stu got up early and did the crater’s rim walk returning at 7:30am for a quick breakfast before pack-up.  We decided not overnight in Halls Creek as planned and we were looking to push through to Purnululu NP so that we can setup for a few days rather than somewhat consistent 1 night stays we had experienced to date.

We made Halls Creek around 11:30am after a very rough 150 kms to complete the Tanami Track.  It was certainly a tricky section of road with lots of corrugations as well as sandy sections and a few rollercoaster’ish dips thrown in for good measure.  Charlie did very well!  It was lovely to complete the track and although it was a tricky section that finished it, overall the track was in very good condition.

Halls Creek was an interesting town, good fuel prices being $1.63 per litre for diesel.   From the additional security bars at the information centre, seems that the issues at night reported on forums must be true.  Not nearly as bad as at Fitzroy Crossing but still a concern.  We had the idea that we would use the local swimming pool to refresh ourselves after fuel, accommodation and some other domestic bits and pieces.  The pool had showers, the main reason for the parents going in as well.  After a few days on the road a freshen up with clean hair etc would have been nice.  The pool opened at 2pm so the long wait for it to open ensued.  Delays and distractions such as ice creams were required to keep the kids somewhat at bay.

Turns out a local notice at the pool indicated that it closed for maintenance some 4 days ago, not reopening till mid September.  The kids were shattered, a) we had waited a long time and b) they really wanted a swim.  However it was not be and so we headed for Purnululu NP some 150kms north of us.  Enjoying the tar road along the way, the kms zipped by and we arrived at the 52km dirt road entrance to the park.  

The road in was entertaining for the drivers, but for the passengers that suffer a bit a motion sickness less so.  It was pretty corrugated but had a number of corners ( Stu firmly believes that the person that built the road was a Queenslander) in fact not really a straight section, but this was combined with lots of dips and a few creek crossings to throw in the mix.  It took us a good part of an hour to get in, with the back drop of a setting sun on the Bungles Range as we arrived.  Just stunning.

We got to camp and setup in fairly quick time, ready for walking adventures ahead for tomorrow.

Hitting the dirt for the first time

The buildup for a big day of dirt had a somewhat slower start with car keys going missing and trouble with trailer brakes again. But we were on the road by 10:30am only to be greeted with a further 75kms or so of bitumen which we weren’t sneezing at but we were also keen to see when the dirt kicked in. 

A somewhat solemn final fuel up at the aboriginal community Yuendumu certainly opened everyone’s eyes around how some people have to unfortunately live. 

By this stage the red dust had certainly kicked in and it was day of mixed roads, some part quite rough others just amazing smooth. 

They say you need to camp off the track where your fire can’t be seen from the highway. Still not sure why but heeding that advice we were on the scout for somewhere, however when the closet tree tall enough to hide a camper is in the horizon it’s a bit tricky. We aimed for a camp out behind the now closed Rabbit Flat roadhouse but that was not to be. Big bollards made sure of that. So a further 34 kms up the road (thanks WikiCamps) we found the perfect spot. 

Tents were pitched, red dust is everywhere and in some places it shouldn’t be (still working on keeping the step sealed). 

Kids collected firewood whilst camp was being set. Not being able to get many thick branches meant it was a quick and big fire.  No other bush was burnt inadvertently although there was some concern.  

<Fire pics>

So far no major breakages, fuel usage is going well and hopefully we will make Wolfe Creek tonight, some 300 kms away. 

 This is the view we had for most of the day, the dust cloud in front was Jamie.

 Lunch time stop on the Tanami, we learnt to stop on the up wind side of the road to reduce the dust sandwiches
 Charlie's glamour shot on the Tanami during a wee stop.
Its a big place in the middle of Northern Territory

 Our camp on the Tanami about 300kms from the Wolfe Creek Crater.  Beautiful sunset colours as always.
 Just another glorious sunset, we are really spoilt.

 Morning sunrise on the Tanami
 The "adults" making it across the border to Western Australia. 
The Ross's make it to the 6th state on the trip.

A black headed python chilling in the middle of the road.  Estimated about 2 metres long ... so big.

Ross River to Tanami

Today we were leaving Ross River and heading back to Alice Springs to meet up with Philpots. It was a short drive so we took advantaged and stopped off at a few sites on the way. Once in Alice we had to shop for for 7 days and nights. Katie had a shopping list and after a bit of adjustment (!) she was set loose in the supermarket. 

The only hiccup was buying beer/cider - as they didn’t open till 2pm and it was only 12:30! It would be really poor form to wait till 2pm just for that so off to find a spot for lunch at a park where the kids could burn off some energy. Great to see that they get on so well. Jamie and Stu headed to fill up the trucks with fuel and campers with water. Some 300 litres between us of fuel took sometime which meant we didn’t wait around for 2pm :-) So off to the grog shop we trot doing drive by with drops and pickups. Turns out every other traveller had the same idea and the queue was quite lengthy. 

Finally after 2:45pm or so we are all packed and loaded with the single butcher stop on the way out of town.  By 3:00pm we finally left town not sure how much of the track we going to get done. 

Starting the Tanami we hit the tar section (very good road by the way) and we ended up staying at Tilmouth Well Roadhouse. Apart from the constant generator noise, trucks starting at 6am and seemingly warming up for ages it was ok. But still no dirt yet, tomorrow was the day. 

Camp at Ross River Station

Bit chilly in the morning at Ross Rover station

Ross River Campsite from the hill behind

Tilmouth Roadhose

Looking for keys at Tilmouth Roadhouse ... the joy

Tilmouth Roadhouse camp

Just a small flame, overnight at Tilmouth Roadhouse

We were greeted by these throughout the night

Saturday, 14 July 2018

And off we go

Days 1 - 3 :  It’s been a long time coming, but the WA leg of our around Australia trip is finally underway. 

Packed up ready to head north

The days have been mainly driving, as the start of each big trip seems to be. It gets us out of the cold as quickly as possible.  The first day saw us leave Canberra and head westward towards our first stop in Mildura. We did this same leg coming home in a single day at the completion of our Central Australia trip so we thought it should be ok to do again! Turns out leaving at 7:30am still means a long day covering over 800 kms.  We headed for a free camp called Kings Billabong Wildlife Reserve (Wiki camps : on the banks of the Murrumbidgee river. 

Trickiest part of the day was finding the Philpots, as they had left the Berra at 5:30am the same morning so were the first ones at camp around 4:00pm. We finally arrived at 5:30pm after some end of the day crankiness between navigator and driver to figure out the best way to find them. Once arrived though saw a quick setup for an overnight camp followed by dinner of a fairly warm evening. 

The next day we rose to a beautiful morning.  We had the fish jumping and the birds singing. 

View from camp 1 

We broke camp at 9:30am, like usual, and a quick stop at the  pump house just down the round saw us meet the first challenge of the day. 

The Philpot’s truck had a flat main battery whilst we checked out the pump house, not sure what was causing it and more importantly it happened relatively quickly.  Still haven’t solved the problems with this one. 

We continued our trip towards Renmark, about 10 minutes from the border when Jamie mentioned over the radio that a tyre on the trailer looked a little flat. 

Resembling a pancake, the tyre didn’t have much air left. On closer inspection a repair was possible. So a tyre repair was in order, first time for us doing a plug on a tyre not at a 4wd show! Although taking 40 minutes, it seemed to work and a quick trip through the fruit and vegetables inspection station and we were South Australia bound. 

The obligatory picture of border crossings was in order. 

A stop at the lovely Renmark saw the boys rattling off to the information centre staff a range of questions.  The info centre were great and the information they shared I am sure will be remembered! (Note to Nana - we’ve already picked up some more blanket badges!) A play on the paddle steamer PS. Industry released a bit of energy for the kids 

Of course the morning yoga/gym session in the street was a must. Lucky we are tourists!

Renmark was a lovely place, but onwards we must press to a free camp called Camp Lawrie near Port Pirie some 3 1/2 hours down the road. With device time not yet allocated for the day, the boys plugged in and we travelled on and arrived at dusk. 

There is sea in the background if you squint!

Camp 2, it was going to be a chilly night so we weren’t up much past night fall. Think we were all in bed by 8pm.

Nice camp, clean loos and amenities were good, can’t complain for a free camp.

Before we broke camp, we did a quick tyre switch as we noticed the repaired spare had deflated again, the other trailer did some break adjustment. Jobs done, we were back on the road making our way due north for the first time, making tracks for Coober Pedy.

Interesting things on the way included the SolarFarm using solar and sea water to grow fruit and vegetable with hydroponics! Very smart SA! Apart from the large light that seems to be able to seen from miles away and a small sign as you go past, you wouldn't know its there.

A quick fuel stop at Port Augusta saw a lucky break in that the tyre deflator which was left between the jerry cans on the trailer was still there! 100kms of highway and somehow it didn’t fall off!  Chalk that one up to good luck.

Filling a few Jerry cans in addition to the tank to make sure we got to Coober Pedy without refill and we were off, heading to Woomera for lunch before making the final stretch into Coober Pedy that afternoon/evening.

Woomera was a funny town, amazing history but very quiet and it seemingly doesn’t get busy from speaking to some locals. Although signage says there are permanent 200 residents, we didn’t see many of them or the 5000 - 6000 personnel that supposedly transit it through it. Still a unique place!

We arrived at Coober Pedy around 5:30pm as the sunset. Arriving at Jam B&B, we were greeted by Julie and Michael.  As we had the whole place to ourselves we took the campers down into the car parks below.  Equipment had a lovely frost free sleep for the night.