Crossing Great Central Road with a 3 years old

Great Central Road

The next morning, we left Leonora and hit the dirt again on the Great Central Road. We refueled the car and filled up four diesel canisters. We were a bit uncertain about what might happen on this road since it is not used by tourists much.

Laverton WA – sleepy outback town

Ahead of us, there is only one last ‘bigger’ town – Laverton which is located 125 km from Leonora. We were hoping to eat something there but it turned out there was only an information desk, a gas station, and a few sleepy houses and that was it. 

We refuelled at the BP station again and started driving towards the Aboriginal land. We didn’t come across anyone except for a lonely iguana. Our goal for the night was Tjukayirla Roadhouse.

Start of Great Central Road
Start of the Great Central Road – on the way to Laverton

On the way to Tjukayirla Roadhouse

We had about 320 km to drive on a gravel road so we lowered the tyre pressure to 25 psi and put a net between the trailer and the car to protect the windows. The road quality was good, as graders worked on it regularly, and the traffic was low.

Hema’s HX-2 Navigator

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Hema HX-2 Navigator
Great Central Road
Great Central Road

The temperature inside the car averaged around 40 degrees, but we only turned on the air conditioning when the road had white dirt. After we lost aircon on Gibb River Rd we didn’t use it much right after it was repaired in Perth.

We discovered that white dirt produced the most dust, and we couldn’t open the windows.

Great Central Road
Great Central Road

Counting wrecks on Great Central Road – day 1 – 104 wrecks counted

Regardless, we were all having a great time so far. Marius did not want to give up the wheel. I could see that he enjoyed driving.

Great Central Road wrecks

I was taking photos and counted car wrecks. There were plenty of these on the way and today only we counted exactly 104. We could recognise some wrecks were very old, from the 1950s, and some quite fresh, maybe several days old.

Tjukayirla Roadhouse

We spent the night at Tjukayirla Roadhouse  and were the only guests in the caravan park at the back. It’s a small roadhouse that offers diesel and opal fuel, basic food and groceries, accommodation, and take-away menus, just enough for a quick stopover before hitting the road again.

The sunset was magical, and we were able to admire the wonderfully starry sky, reminding us how far we were from civilisation.

Sunset at Tjukayirla Roadhouse
Sunset at Tjukayirla Roadhouse

The drops were large, but fortunately, it only lasted for a few minutes.

In the morning, we had to take some time to seal the trailer again. We used duct tape to seal any openings or holes to protect our belongings from the dusty conditions we would be facing during the long drive.

It was also the first time we noticed that the fuel pumps at Tjukayirla Roadhouse were locked in cages.

Tjukayirla Roadhouse
Tjukayirla Roadhouse

We also transferred 40 litres of diesel from the roof cans to the tank. The price of diesel in the roadhouse was twice what we paid in Leonora.

Handling warm diesel is no fun at all. Temperatures are high, so when we opened the canisters, it spilt fuel around and the entire spare wheel was wet.

Tjukayirla Roadhouse
Tjukayirla Roadhouse

Counting wrecks on Great Central Road – day 2 – 98 wrecks counted

After leaving Tjukayirla Roadhouse, our next destination was Warnakurna Roadhouse with its Giles Weather Station that we wanted to see.

On the second day of our journey on the Great Central Road, we drove 475 km and saw ‘only’ 98 car wrecks.

We also passed by a large refrigerator (made in the 50’s) and a full-size gas stove, but Marius did not agree to add them to the count.

The views were as usual phenomenal, and the photos we took couldn’t fully capture the the view. We drove for four hours without seeing a single person and then we passed three cars, one of which was a police patrol.

Great Central Road
Great Central Road

The first 120 km from the start was quite corrugated and sandy, and our car and trailer were shaken a bit. However, after that, the road was flat as a pancake.

We were only surprised once when we came across a small river full of water to cross – we didn’t expect to find one in the desert either.

Despite the signs warning of wild camels, it was quiet, and we didn’t see any, even in the distance.

Crossing the creek
Crossing the creek

Shortly after we arrived at Warburton Roadhouse. We were running low on diesel so we refuelled for a price of ‘only’ $2.76 per litre which was the highest diesel price in our trip so far. 

It was only 230 km to our next destination – Warakurna Roadhouse.

Warakurna Roadhouse

The sun was already low when we arrived at the Aboriginal settlement of Warakurna Roadhouse for the night.

Warakurna Roadhouse offers similar, basic services like in Tjukayirla Roadhouse, but they also have an interesting attraction located in the close proximity: the Giles Weather Station.

Warakurna Roadhouse
Warakurna Roadhouse

Despite all my morning preparations and sealing the camper trailers after opening it for the night we discovered that there was another layer of sand inside, and everything was covered in a fine orange dust. It took us another hour to clean everything up.

We had just driven 500 km on a challenging dirt road, so overall, I wasn’t even surprised. We could handle a bit of dust.

The next day, we would be crossing the Northern Territory border once again. If everything went according to plan, watching the sunset at Uluru in the evening.

Giles Weather Station

The next day, we woke up at crazy early hour of 5:30 am to visit the Giles Weather Station. Even Marius took it seriously, and there was no need to drag him out of bed. We also had to adjust our watches from WA time to NT time, which was 1.5 hours ahead.

During our visit to the Giles Weather Station, we met an engineer who showed us around and told us many interesting things about the station’s operations.

Warakurna Roadhouse - Giles Weather Station
Warakurna Roadhouse – Giles Weather Station

Life at this place is not easy. Three times a day, weather balloons are released into the air. The scientists at Giles Weather Station track the balloons with radar and record all weather data that the balloons gather during their ascent.

The data sent from the device is processed by computers, and at the very end, the scientists have to find the balloon when it finally falls to the ground.

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to track the balloon. Despite the fact that it flies to a height of 35,000 meters, it still falls almost to the same place where it was released, due to the specific winds in this area.

Warakurna Roadhouse - Giles Weather Station - Balloon Off
Warakurna Roadhouse – Giles Weather Station – Balloon Off

Interestingly, such balloons are sent from over 20 different stations in Australia at exactly the same time. Then, the data is analysed by meteorologists and as a result, we can find out what weather to expect tomorrow.

The staff at Giles Weather Station changes every 4 months, due to the high temperatures (up to 55 degrees), work style, and seclusion (the nearest civilisation is over 1000 km away).

In the wet season, roads can become impassable, and the station relies on airdrops for necessary supplies.

Later in our journeys, we had another opportunity to see a similar event – Charleville Weather Station balloon release.

Warakurna Roadhouse Art Display

On the way back from Giles Weather Station, we stopped at Warakurna Roadhouse and visited the Aboriginal Art Display. We decided to purchase a wooden iguana to serve as a reminder of our visit to this unique place.

Warnakurna Roadhouse - Our Wooden Iguana
Warakurna Roadhouse – Our Wooden Iguana

Counting wrecks on Great Central Road – day 3 – 35

We left Warakurna Roadhouse in the morning, and on our last day on the Great Central Road, we had only 350 km to Alice.

We stopped quite often to admire the views, take photos, and soak up this amazing atmosphere. The landscape was changing like a kaleidoscope, and then in the distance, we saw mountains.

Unfortunately, the visibility wasn’t good as everything was hazy. After crossing the Northern Territory border, the quality of the road also deteriorated.

Great Central Road - Crossing NT border
Great Central Road – Crossing NT border

We were driving on deep sand or on a very corrugated surface. That reminded us of Kalumburu Road. 

Helping Strangers

Unfortunately, the shaking was so intense that Nell couldn’t watch her favorite fairy tales because the laptop refused to operate. Despite the challenging conditions, we drove for a few hours without seeing a single car.

However, when we had only 250 km left to Yulara, we noticed a car and a trailer on the side of the road with two people standing next to it.

We immediately slowed down, and the people waved us to stop. It turned out that one of the wheels had fallen off the trailer, and they had almost tumbled over.

They were waiting for help or at least someone who could call for a service in a town 250 km away. As there was no mobile phone reception in the area, they were prepared for a long wait as the road was completely empty.

It was priceless to see their disbelief when they got their hands on our satellite phone. Without any problems, they were able to contact roadside assistance in Yulara and a tow truck was already dispatched to pick them up. Town was 2.5 hours away.

We had a nice chat with them and we found out that Nathan and Renee are running a Facebook page The Great Escape – Australasia where they post about their adventures. It is nice to meet other bloggers on the road, help each other and share our experiences.

Nathan and Renee from The Great Escape Australasia
Nathan and Renee from The Great Escape Australasia

We stayed with them for a while, waiting to see what to do next, and finally decided to push on as we still had around three hours of driving ahead of us.

Great Central Road
Great Central Road

Final Stretch to Yulara

We noticed that there were very few wrecks on the side of the road today. The surface was sandy, and driving in the full sun made us a bit tired. However, we were almost at our destination.

About an hour after we left the people we helped, we passed the tow truck, so looked like everything will end well for them.

Road Assistance coming from Yulara
Road Assistance coming from Yulara

As we approached Kata Tjuta, we searched for the distinctive hills that should have been visible on the horizon. However, due to the low visibility, we struggled to spot them.

When we were almost there, we caught a glimpse of a massive rock formation, and Marius exclaimed, “Finally!” with excitement.

Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta

The Olgas, known in the local Aboriginal language as Kata Tjuta, looked breathtaking. In the midst of the flat terrain stood a striking large red rock formation.

Although we had initially planned to go for a walk, the late hour and 40-degree temperature convinced us otherwise.

Finally, in the parking lot, we spotted some wild camels. It took us some time to notice them, but there they were.

Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta

Uluru from distance

On the way to Yulara caravan park, we caught a glimpse of the enormous Uluru rock in the distance.

However, since the sun was still behind the clouds, we couldn’t see the bright red colour of the rock and the view was rather disappointing.

The next morning, we were hoping for better weather to see Uluru in all its glory, but unfortunately, the sun was still hiding behind the clouds.

Uluru from distance
Uluru from distance

I was wrong yesterday, we were not able to admire the amazing red colour on the sacred rocks of Uluru. It was the effect of heavy smoke in the air and clouds that obscured the sun. 

Let me mention that there was an orange tornado in the trailer again, but I think we’ve used to it already. It’s worth a few hours of cleaning if we can have such amazing views.

Great Central Road summary

Our Great Central Road adventure was completed successfully. We drove 1200 km in 3 days on a dirt road. 

Great Central Road is a wide dirt road that is maintained regularly. We usually drove at a speed between 80 km/h to 90 km/h. The road is wide, perhaps due to big road trains coming with goods between Alice Springs and Perth.

Lonely ghost

Although we did encounter a few corrugations (not as big as in Kalumburu Road or Mitchell Plateau Track), washouts, and pockets of deep sand, the road was very pleasant.

One of the highlights of the journey was spotting wildlife along the way. We saw kangaroos, a small group of wild camels, a few iguanas, and thousands of colorful parrots.

But what caught our attention the most was the sight of the weather balloon taking off at Giles Weather Station. It was an impressive display of science and technology that left us in truly impressed.

We counted 237 wrecks along the way, although we heard that there were over 300. It was a somber reminder of the risks involved in driving in such remote areas. However, we felt safe and confident throughout the journey, thanks to our well-maintained vehicle and our careful driving.

And we also helped fellow travelers that weren’t so lucky.

Overall, we found the Great Central Road to be a magical trail, and we hope to return someday to experience its beauty once again.

For now, our plan was to visit Kings Canyon and then drive through the scenic West MacDonnell Ranges en route to Alice Springs .

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4WD Equipment Checklist

GPS Navigator or compass

Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction

Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD

Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)

Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)

UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency

Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road

High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks

Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking

Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places

Additional fuel canisters

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  1. Now you need the Stuart highway thru to Boulia, that was the crappy bit, especially towards the Qld border.

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