-"Why do you travel the Outback?"

An Australian friend asked just that question when I told him a couple of years ago that I just had bought a twenty year old Toyota and was looking for a shed now.

"Because I still haven't found all seventeen flavours of nothing"

I replied.

There is

  1. nothing with white or yellow sand, as on the Strzelecki Track
  2. nothing with gibber as found on the Oodnadatta track
  3. nothing with saltbushes and bluebushes (between Woomera and Cooper Pedy)
  4. nothing with small dunes and mulga (200 miles north of the Nullabor)
  5. nothing with red sand and Spinifex (The Tanami Desert)
  6. nothing with dark dust, gibber and grass (Barkly Tablelands)
  7. nothing with white cones and deep holes (Opal fields)
  8. absolutely nothing with heat and salt (Lake Eyre)
  9. nothing between mountain ridges (Mereenie Loop Road)
  10. multicoloured nothing with breakaways (Arkaringa hills)

  11. nothing with termite mounds (Stuart highway north of Alice Springs)
  12. nothing with wheat and mallee (Outback Victoria and South WA)
  13. nothing with black soil, sheep and windmills (Queensland grazing country)
  14. nothing with lots of brownsnakes (W.A. north of Esperance)
  15. nothing on a seashore (Eighty mile beach)

You see, the list is still short of two sorts of nothing. So this is what keeps me going to Australia.

Considering the complete lack of 4 star hotels, nightlife and casinos in the desert, you'd better come for the scenery and the joy of driving. You might just ask how to choose your track, after all.

Tracks that offer considerable shortcuts and are used frequently by big trucks:

  • Tanami Track 1100 flat kms from Alice to the Kimberleys. If the Stuart Highway is the boring alternative on disgusting bitumen, that's the thing to do. No permit needed. Carry ample diesel, the Rabbit Flat roadhouse is not open every day and definitely not cheap.
  • Great Central Road. The alternative to the Gunbarrel and the boring Eyre and Stuart highways, it is the shortest route from Alice to Perth. Two permits needed, see Gunbarrel highway

  • Plenty Highway. Provides a 900km shortcut between Mt. Isa and Alice, but has some scenery to offer in the last 300 kms. No permits necessary for community stores.
  • Moomba Gas road, often mixed up with Strzelecki Track is a fast shortcut between Corner Country or Outback Queensland and S.A.
  • Mereenie Loop road between Hermannsburg and Kings Canyon. Alice Springs tourist office recommends it to everyone. I can't see why, but let's mention it because it's so popular...A good practise track for ant-beds and corrugations.

These track have in common that you hardly do them for the scenery, but then they are still less boring than the bitumen. In case of a breakdown, you can count on some traffic unless the road is closed. But what are you doing there if it is?!

They all offer some roadhouses except the short (500km) Moomba Road and are often very corrugated. That's depending on how long ago the grader has done his job.

Tracks that are of historic value and have a long standing fame:

  • Oodnadatta Track, well maintained but lots of worthwhile 4WD detours.
  • Birdsville Track, equally well maintained and even shorter
  • Original Strzelecki Track if you can find it...
  • Old Andado Track not so well maintained, following the old Ghan line between Oodnadatta and Alice.
  • Cordillo road, Innamincka to Birdsville, Outback QLD. Not maintained for years. Has a tyre-eating reputation.

The Cordillo woolshed

Tracks that are more demanding and offer some scenery:

  • Gunbarrel highway. Permits needed. More in the Len Beadell section.
  • Outback New South Wales. Start at the Border in Mildura and move north: Lake Mungo, Menindee Lakes Broken Hill, Silverton, White Cliffs, Tibooburra and on to
  • Innamincka via Camerons Corner, Omicron, Epsilon, Orientos, the Dig Tree and beautiful Cooper River. Why bother with the Strzelecki track?
  • Finke River and Palm Valley, then keep going to Kings Canyon via Boggy Hole. No boring Merreenie Loop road, includes two magic camping spots
  • Gibb River Road

Then there are the real hard ones, definitely nothing for your first visit to Australia:

  • Canning Stock Route - not feasible for a single vehicle. If the track is open (there has been a lot of trouble because 4WD rambos did too much damage to the station tracks) you need a fuel dump, a heavy duty vehicle and food for two weeks at least. Allow plenty of time.
  • Cape York: Crocodiles, jungle and mosquitoes at humid 38°C. The green eyed marchflies, equipped with 3mm drills, add to the pleasure. They came in 100s even on the beach and don't understand repellents! Then there are leeches, poisonous spiders and other bush crap. Have fun. One visit to Cape Trib was enough for me.
  • The Simpson desert: 1100 sand dunes in three days.

Trips for a day or two, including some 4WD fun and leading to 'something'

Instructions on how to get the most of these from Annette on demand, get some great shots in the members section.

I will write more about the rewarding part of Outback destinations if ever I get more than 5 demands.

  • Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley: A two-day trip from Alice Springs.
  • W.A. Pilbara Gems Mt. Nameless, Wittenoom and back. A Tom Price delight.
  • Harts Range and the Cattlewater Pass
  • Skytrek in the Flinders ranges. A private road, short but very slow. Breathtaking.
  • Arckaringa road. Another short one, but very rewarding if you are self sufficient.
  • Coongie Lakes and why bother to go to Innamincka.

 

Enjoy!

by Annette Flottwell

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