We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of Country throughout Australia. We recognise the continuing connection to land, water, language and community. We pay our respect to the cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
We are committed to walking lightly on the land of your ancestors, only taking knowledge and understanding, only leaving footprints and the whisper of our spirits, breathing in the awe of this great land we are privileged to call home.
We come from the land of the Yugara and Yumambeh peoples and have stopped to rest and learn in the lands of the Aṉangu, Pitjantjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, Wurundjeri, Wongi, Wongutha, and Wankatja people in recent days.
To go or not to go? And how far?
Ron from NT Regional Road Reporting not only told us we’d have a great time, he also told us there’s about 800m of road under water. Teddy: What!? We’re going 800m under water?… No Teddy.
We then drove into Uluṟu – Kata Tjuṯa National Park. We had a quick chat to the lady manning the check in point about our journey ahead and the inconsistent information, and she just shrugged and said, ‘It’s the NT, you know you’re in the NT?’ And sent us on our way.
It wasn’t long before we hit some interesting road with water over and detours because of road works. But really, the interesting roads didn’t last too long, and pretty soon we were on big wide dirt road with some corrugations. Not as bad as on the Mereenie though.
I learnt something knew on our first stretch of the Great Central Road… you know when your car goes down a dip and then up again, and you might lose your stomach? Each time this would happen, Teddy would exclaim ‘the hills make my penis shiver’. I was perplexed. Every hill. Every. Single. Time. Teddy: ‘my penis shivered.’ I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it. Apparently I’m the only one in the car who didn’t get it. Welcome to my life. I’m surprised it took until week three for a penis phenomenon to be honest.
Unless there’s something I missed, there’s not a lot to see along the Great Centra Road. It’s really just a faster route from the centre of Australia to southern WA. Along the road I was having flash backs, but I played the role of my own mother. I have very distinct memories if Mum preparing food in the front seat of the troopy and delivering it to each of us in the back seat. The Great Central Road was really the first time I’ve found myself making ham and cheese wraps and spreading peanut butter corn things, and passing them into the back seat. Lucky I think my mum rocks because I felt like I was reliving history.
As we left the NT the landscape was flat, despite the epic rock formations of the MacDonnell ranges, Watarrka, Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa that we recently left behind. As you near the WA boarder, the mountain ranges re-emerge.
Not really having any expectations of The Great Central Road other than some gnarly driving, had us stoked to see our first wild camels! I don’t know why both Leon and I were so excited about camels. Maybe because we’d kept our eyes peeled for the entire Mereenie journey and didn’t see any. We also saw more brumbies, as well as a dingo.
When planning this trip the condition of the Great Central Road must have been shocking because I allowed 5 days of driving to cross it. As we neared Kaltukatjara/Docker River, where we had planned to stay out first night, we decided to just keep driving. I’m still not sure whether this was the right decision or not. We planned to stay the second night at Warakurna and the third at Warburton. We pushed on to Warburton and thought we could find a free camp somewhere near by. As we drove closer and I read the WikiCamps reviews, I wasn’t sure we’d find anywhere I would feel safe. Free camps more than 50km out of town were difficult to locate, and because you’re driving through Indigenous land it’s difficult to know where you’re allowed to set up camp for a night, especially without an internet connection and the ability to research. The reviews on free camps closer to communities were unsettling as apparently this is where trades for black market alcohol and cigarettes etc are done through the night. However, the reviews of the Warburton Roadhouse were equally as unsettling with stories of car windows being smashed throughout the evening in search for cash/alcohol/cigarettes etc. We didn’t have much choice as the sun blinded us as we travelled towards it as it set in the west and we were quickly losing visibility.
When we pulled into the roadhouse it was locked up like Fort Knox. A big fence all the way around with rolled barbed wire atop. Bars on the windows and doors of the roadhouse/service station made it look anything but inviting. Luckily a cleaner saw us waiting at the gate, opened the electronic gate, told us we could stay the night and pay in the morning. With no more direction than that, we chose one of about 6 camp sites, all of which were empty and surrounded by dongas. There were also big flood lights illuminating the whole place.
Leon chatted to a lady staying there while she did some health work in the community. The other patrons must have been minors or something similar. Everyone we spoke to seemed lovely, but naturally the reviews were in the back of our minds. And this time, we are genuinely in the middle of absolutely no where. Both Leon and I woke to every, single, sound. Leon had his trusty axe at the ready just by his pillow in true protector mode. I almost burst out laughing at one point in the middle of the night when we both woke to a noise and Leon, quick as a flash, unzipped our canvas window and popped his entire head out like a meerkat on the lookout. I was relieved that no one was out there waiting for him.
It was a cold, cold night. I would have been grateful for the diesel heater had we turned it on!
In the morning, which was still freezing, we were visited by the resident peacocks, a three legged dog, a whole bunch of pigeons and a couple of cute galahs. We had breakfast, packed up, and went to fill up with fuel and pay for camping. This was our most expensive diesel yet at $3.40/L. The servo was an interesting experience indeed. We were stung $70 for staying the night, which blows my mind as this is what we were charged per night for a fantastic powered site with a great view and fabulous ammenities at Kings Canyon.
The local people frequenting the servo made me sad. Too many people in each car, no seat belts, missing windows sealed up with packing tape, and everyone buying deep fried food from the hot box with a side of coke. While we didn’t drive through the actual community, the representation of it that I saw wasn’t a positive depiction of an indigenous community. It wasn’t an idyllic celebration or preservation of culture, but more a confronting depiction of a culture thrust hundreds of years into the future in the blink of an eye with no time for natural progression or adaptation.
Today is the day of the Ningaloo solar eclipse. Unfortunately, we won’t really see it. If the times line up, we might pull over and try to make up a contraption with binoculars. Otherwise we’ll wait to see the lunar eclipse in the wake of the solar one in a few weeks time, when we’re in Exmouth.
We decided to finish the Great Central Road today and get to Laverton. We saw more camels along the way, quite a few actually, as well as a number of perentie. The road wasn’t too bad. Patches of more water over the road and the corrugations got pretty bad about 100km out of Laverton. There were so so many rusted old cars on the side of the Great Central Road from Kaltukatjara to Laverton. Most of them flipped and burned and appeared to have been there a very long time. Leon would love to know the story behind just one of the (possibly hundreds) cars along the way.
We stayed in the Laverton caravan park after a quick call to reception had them let us in the gate. The lady on reception said we could walk to the pub for dinner. If the locals bothered us, just to say no and keep walking. I thought dinner at the local pub would be a great end to the Great Central Road. Set up was a bit more difficult than usual because the super fine red dust was in everything. Not in the camper thank god, those seals are holding up really well. But we did have to bash the Jockey wheel down with the back of the axe and a load of inox, and every clip, lever and bolt was tight and a struggle to free. Not to mention everything was dirty. We set up and headed to dinner, but we decided to drive. After experiencing the town/pub I’m glad we did. I wouldn’t have felt at all comfortable walking, especially at dark.
It took us a while to find the entrance to the pub. The front of the building was pretty dilapidated and looked as though it closed down years ago. We asked someone where the pub was and they thought we were a bit nuts and were like, right there, and pointed to this old building. They told us to go round the back and in through the green gates. I wasn’t sure it was a pub at all until we got in past the green gates. Then it was a very humble old pub with a little beer garden, and an indoor eating space and a bar.
We ordered dinner and drinks and ate at the pub. The food was absolutely delicious. The atmosphere was interesting. It provided insight into a small mining town. Lots of FIFO workers as well as all sorts of locals. There was some interesting behaviour, a couple of people clearly known to the employees of the pub, who were instructed to leave quite firmly. An interesting interaction to observe. The kids respectfully observed without too many long stares and asked all their questions once we were back in the car. We asked if they could put the football on. This was a reminder that we were in WA, because league was the farthest form of football from their minds. I fell asleep that night listening to the locals have an absolute blast playing basketball at what must have been a public court just over the fence of the caravan park.
While at Laverton Leon’s concerns for the leaking transfer case became more real and he decided we needed to find oil and figure out how to get get it fixed.
We packed up and left in the morning after the kids enjoyed a pretty epic game of handball and I made the most of the amenities and had a nice warm shower before we left. The advice from some people at the caravan park was to head to Leonora, the next ‘big’ town, that might have oil. We needed more diesel, again. And again it was a bit of an interesting experience. There were a group of local Indigenous people just sitting at the servo. I couldn’t figure out why until a man drove in and called out his window. He was driving a car and holding the driver’s door shut through the open window. When he needed two hands on the wheel, the door would fly open. One of the men inside the servo fence made his way out and handed this man two individual cigarettes. I could see how much money was exchanged, but this as well as the news of midnight alcohol exchanges further highlighted that addiction must be a significant issue.
There was no one who could help us with oil at Leonora and we were advised that Kalgoorlie was our best best. So we pushed on.
I didn’t know what to expect from Kalgoorlie. Again, reviews suggest it’s a bit like stepping back into the 90s. A bit of a rough mining town, with scantily clad women at the local pubs. I didn’t see any evidence of this; however, my experience of the town extended as far as Kmart and a BP.
We decided to stay in Kalgoorlie as we spent some time in the afternoon sourcing oil for the Troopy and enquiring about getting the transfer case fixed. Turns out the next available booking was mid May. We’re not hanging out in Kalgoorlie til then. Leon decided to top up the oil and monitor the leak. We might try and see if we can book in somewhere ahead.
Deciding where to camp was interesting. We didn’t want another caravan park. There was a 72hour rest stop for RVs but it was packed to the rafters and we would have been the only vehicle in there with any canvas. They were all motor homes or decent caravans. A quick interrogation of WikiCamps had us stay at Lake Douglas. It was a pretty baron site but it was quiet and peaceful, and only had a few people there. We met a friendly couple, Dave and Jules, who I chatted to a bit and they invited us to sit by their fire, but we decided to watch the Broncos vs the Eels on the iPad. Another great game!
We have been seeing quite a few shooting stars recently. Almost night has gifted us shooting stars. I thought this was just a gift of the outback. But tonight, Teddy exclaimed ‘I see a satellite!’ And the. He said, very excitedly, ‘shooting star, shooting star, shooting star!’ There was enough time for him to say all of that, for the four of us to turn and look, and see a fireball travelling across the sky, with a prominent glowing tail. It was incredible! This had me googling. Turns out the annual Lyrid meteor showing is currently occurring, due to peak tomorrow night. We kept our eyes on the sky for a while longer and saw a few more regular shooting stars, but nothing that compared to Teddy’s comet.
We packed up in the morning after what was a freezing night and decided to stop in at Kmart and buy the kids some warmer pyjamas. I was sick of being woken up at night by cold children. Joey and Teddy were stoked with their matching onesies, and Mal got himself another flanny and another pair of tracksuit pants. Again I’m reminded how cool my kids are. Just generally being thoughtful and considerate and helping out where they can. After Kmart Leon and I got a coffee. Once the coffee was ready, Teddy picked up one of the Kmart bags, Malachi got my coffee for me, and Joey held the door open for our family and about three other locals. It’s the little things that make me smile.
We left Kalgoorlie at about 10:45 and knew we had six hours of driving ahead of us to get to the long awaited coast. Not entirely sure of where we were going exactly other than somewhere between Esperance and Albany, we knew it would be a big day.
Another great read, thank you. I loved the footage of the camels running. Because of their particular gait they appear so playful.