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  • Writer's pictureTrekking Downunder

Australia's Longest Shortcut - The Great Central Road

Great Central Road Outback Traveller Magazine

The Great Central Road - Australia's longest shortcut is a great drive, we drove it from east to west a few years ago now and it will remain as one of our memorable trips. It was the final “Outback” leg of a trip that encompassed the Birdsville and Oodnadatta Tracks as well. Permits are required for both the NT and WA sections. Our rig at the time consisted of our 2009 PK Ranger and a home built camper trailer, built from the rear end of a Hilux ute. I built the trailer specifically for this trip, it was an interesting experience building it, but that’s another story! The adventure began with an overnight stop at Yulara Camp Ground.

The first obstacle was at the entrance to Uluru Park Gates where we had to explain that we were just travelling through, permits were checked and we were told in no uncertain terms, we were not to stop and take photos of the “Rock”! This didn’t really worry us as we had previously visited Uluru. It was a straight forward drive on a sealed road to just before Kata Tjuta and the turn off to Docker River and the beginning of the GCR. We aired down our tyres and prepared to tackle the dirt! Beautiful country out that way and the landscapes were reminiscent of Albert Namatjira Paintings.

Dropping tyre pressures great central rd

The section to the WA border was by far the worst conditions we had experienced on this trip, corrugations and hard rocky outcrops. But we took it easy and after a quick visit to Docker River and crossing the border the road improved. First night was a stop at Warrakurna Camp Ground, nice spot with a great camp kitchen, and a warm camp fire. We toured the Giles Meteorological Station next morning and witnessed the launching of the weather balloon. There was also a lot of Len Beadell memorabilia at the station including the old Caterpillar Grader he and his crew used to built their “Outback Highways”.

Warburton was the next stop, where we topped up with fuel and bought some lunch. The road was in good condition through this section and we were able to average about 80kph. Lots of abandoned cars along this stretch, we came upon some locals who were having trouble with their Toyota, radiator leaking water, we emptied our spare water tank into a containers to refill the radiator but it ran out as fast as we filled it. Judging by the condition of the poor vehicle it was going to become the next “landmark” on the side of the road. The occupants decided to save the last of the water to boil a billy and have a cuppa while waiting for help to arrive!

Camels on the Great Central Rd

Lynne, my trusty co-pilot was having a bit of a nap when a huge bull camel stepped out in front of us, I managed to “hit the anchors” and pull up in time, in doing so woke Lynne, well I won’t repeat what she said but needless to say she got quite a shock! Second night was spent at Tjukayirla Roadhouse Camp Ground, another nice spot to stopover. Morning tea the next day was had at Piikarl (Beegull Waterholes and Caves), there were some cave paintings but I don’t know if original or not but a truly interesting area.

Amazing great central rd scenary

We finally hit the sealed stuff at Laverton and pushed on to Leonora for the night.

To sum up, the GCR was an interesting and fun drive, corrugated, sandy, rocky in places but not a difficult road to drive. Prepare your vehicle, have good tyres, protect your plumbing and wiring under your Vehicle/Caravan/Camper and drive to the conditions and you should have no trouble. Longest distance between fuel was around 300k’s. It was a shame that we were under some time restraints and next time we will take a lot more time to explore the area.

Written by Ron Grant


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