Crossing Great Central Road with a 3 years old

Great Central Road

The next day in the morning we left Leonora to hit the dirt again on Great Central Road. We refuelled the car and filled up four diesel canisters. We were a bit uncertain of what may happen on this road as it is not used by tourists much.

Laverton – sleepy outback town

Ahead of us, there is only one last ‘bigger’ town – Laverton that 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, a few sleepy houses and that was it. 

We refuelled at BP station again and we started driving towards the Aboriginal land. We met no one except one lonely iguana. Our goal for tonight was Tjukayirla Roadhouse.

Start of Great Central Road
Start of 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 pressure off the tires to 25 psi and put a net between the trailer and the car to protect the windows.

Hema - Northern Territory

Hema’s HX-2 Navigator

Explore Australia with Hema’s HX-2 Navigator, the ultimate GPS system for on and off-road navigation.

Hema HX-2 Navigator

Hema’s HX-2 Navigator

Explore Australia with Hema’s HX-2 Navigator, the ultimate GPS system for on and off-road navigation.

Hema HX-2 Navigator
Great Central Road
Great Central Road

The quality of the road was good as the graders work all the time and the traffic on the road was low. The temperature in the car was on average 40 degrees, but we turned on the air conditioning only when the road had white dirt. 

We discovered that white colour produces most dust and windows cannot be opened.

Great Central Road
Great Central Road

Counting wrecks on Great Central Road – day 1 – 104

Anyway, 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 recognize some wrecks were very old, from the 1950s, and some quite fresh, maybe several days old.

Tjukayirla Roadhouse

We spent the night in Tjukayirla Roadhouse and we were the only guests in the caravan park at the back. 

Tjukayirla Roadhouse is a small roadhouse that offers diesel and opal fuel, accommodation, basic food and groceries and takes away menu.  Just enough to stop for a night and drive further the next day.

The sunset was magical, and we could admire a wonderfully starry sky. After all, we were very far from civilization.

Sunset at Tjukayirla Roadhouse
Sunset at Tjukayirla Roadhouse

It started to rain at 3 am. We were shocked to experience rain in the desert. The drops were big, but after a few minutes, the rain was over.

In the morning it took us some time to seal the trailer. By sealing I mean taping the outside door and any hole with a duck tape. We knew we would be driving for many hours in the dusty conditions. 

First time in Tjukayirla Roadhouse we noticed that fuel pumped are 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

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

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

Saying that we also passed one large refrigerator, and a full-size gas stove, which Marius did not agree to add to the count. 

The views, as usual, were phenomenal, and the photos were not able to reflect what we felt. We didn’t see a single soul for 4 hours and then we passed 3 cars. One of them was a police patrol and that was it.

Great Central Road
Great Central Road

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

Only once we were surprised when it turned out that we had a small river full of water to cross – we didn’t expect that in the desert either. 

Besides, it was quiet. Although the signs warned of wild camels, 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 biggest 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 also they have an interesting attraction: Giles Weather Station.

Warakurna Roadhouse
Warakurna Roadhouse

After opening the camper, it turned out that we had a sandbox inside again, and everything was orange. Great. It took us another hour to clean it.

I was trying to convince myself it could be worse. We drove 500 km on a challenging track, so in general, it wasn’t too bad. We can survive a little bit of dust. 

The next day we will cross the Northern Territory border again. And if everything goes by the plan in the evening we will be admiring the sunset on Uluru.

Giles Weather Station

The next day we got up indecently early at 5.30 am to see how Giles Weather Station operated. Even Marius took it seriously and there was no need to drag him off the bed. 

We also advanced in time. We had to change our watches from WA time to NT time which was 1.5 ahead.

At Giles Weather Station, we met an engineer who showed us around the station and told us many interesting things.

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

Life at this place is not the easiest thing. Three times a day, they send a weather balloon up to the air. The Giles Weather Station scientists track the balloon with a radar and record all weather data. 

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

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to track it. Despite the fact that the weather balloon flies to a height of 35,000 meters, it still falls almost at 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 analyzed by meteorologists and as a result, we can find out what weather we can expect tomorrow.

The Giles Weather Station’s staff changes every 4 months. They don’t last long due to the high temperatures (up to 55 degrees), work style and seclusion (the nearest civilization is over 1000 km away). 

Sometimes, in the wet season, roads are no longer passable and the station gets all the necessary products by airdrops.

Warakurna Roadhouse Art Display

On the way back from Giles Weather Station we stopped at Warakurna Roadhouse Aboriginal Art Display. We decided to buy a wooden iguana to keep our memory of this place.

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

Counting wrecks on Great Central Road – day 3 – 35

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

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. 

Nell could not watch the fairy tale stories because it was shaking so much that the device refused to operate. We drove for a few hours and didn’t see a single car.

Helping Strangers

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

We slowed down and people waved us to a stop. It turned out that one of the wheels fell off from the trailer and they almost tumbled.

They were waiting for help or at least someone who would call a service in a town 250 km away. Mobile phones do not have a reception in this area so I think 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 sent to pick them up. It should arrive in about 2.5 hours. 

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 determine what to do next and finally decided to push on as we still had three hours of driving ahead of us.

Great Central Road
Great Central Road

Final Stretch to Yulara

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. But we were almost there. 

Approximately one hour after we left the people we helped, we passed the tow truck, so everything ended well for them.

Road Assistance coming from Yulara
Road Assistance coming from Yulara

At 15 km before Kata Tjuta, we began to look for hills that should already appear on the horizon, but due to the low visibility, we could not see anything. 

At some point, when we were very close, we finally saw a huge rock. Marius shouted loudly ‘Finally’ with big excitement. 

Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta

Olgas, an aboriginal name Kata Tjuta, looked phenomenal. In the middle of the flat area, there is a bright red large rock. 

We even wanted to go for a walk, but it was late and the temperature was 40 degrees so we decided against it.

Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta

Uluru from distance

Finally, in the parking lot, we met wild camels. On the way to Yulara caravan park, we saw in the distance the huge rock of Uluru. However, there was no sun to expose the red colour of the rock and the view was rather disappointing. 

The next morning it happened that the sun was still behind the clouds, so we did not expect any spectacular views, what a pity.

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 got 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 with 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.

Occasionally we encountered some corrugations (not as big as in Kalumburu Road or Mitchell Plateau Track), washouts or deep sand. However, the road was very drivable and we would not hesitate to take it again.

We saw exactly 237 wrecks, although there are supposed to be over 300. Also, we saw one kangaroo, three wild camels, maybe 8 iguanas and thousands of green parrots.

The most interesting part was seeing how the weather balloon takes off to gather important statistics at Giles Weather Station (next to Warakurna Roadhouse). This kind of exhibition cannot be seen often by tourists. 

It was worth it. Someday we will return to this trail because, in my opinion, it is magical.

Our plan for the next day was to first visit Kings Canyon and then drive to Alice Springs through Western MacDonnell ranges.

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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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