Central Australian Roadtrip Part 1
During June of 2019 Madi and Jack with their crew of 4 cars began their 30 - day road trip to Central Australia. Featured in this article is a little bit about their crew as well as their road trip across the Simpson Desert to Alice Springs. A follow up article will feature the second half of their road trip from Alice Springs along the Red Centre Way to Uluru and back home.
About us, Jack and Madi:
We are high-school sweethearts who have a common love for travelling. Our road trips initially started off with small weekend trips around our hometown in Queensland. But the more we did it, the more we fell in love with it. Now, 5 years later, we still find ourselves planning bigger and bigger trips and ways to improve our 75 series ute setup.
Jack is a full time Diesel Mechanic who works a shift work roster 2 weeks on, 1 week off. It’s often a struggle to find time to work on the things we love, but this makes us appreciate our holiday time 100% more. Madi is a full time University student studying Mechatronics Engineering and Business Management. While also working a few casual jobs in between studies. Each of our holidays must been planned around the university schedule – which has worked brilliantly for us so far!
A little bit about our crew:
The majority of this goofy bunch met in high school. One of the crew met the others while completing tafe. 3 out of the 4 share a career interest in mechanics. But all of them are 4wd-o-holics.
They just can’t get enough. Our Toyota clan included two 80 series, a Hilux and our 75 Series. When you have a good crew, the road trips are fun, easy and memorable.
That’s enough about us, let’s move onto our road trip experience.
Our road trip consisted of multiple points of interest. We have elaborated our experiences of some of our favourite locations within this article.
The Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach shows the history of Qantas since 1920 with heaps of planes, engines and displays. There are multiple planes you can physically interact with and walk inside to get a greater appreciation and understanding for what the planes were used for.
Longreach is also home to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. There are 3-stories full of informational displays and galleries. It’s a great self-walk through exhibit to learn the history of the Australian Outback along with the important role of the Royal Flying Doctors.
The Longreach Powerhouse Museum features multiple historical artefacts including generators, tractors, cars, a train, fridges, and even a period correct house setup. This is an incredible collection of historical components that were used to power the town for many years.
There aren’t very many things to do in Winton, but one thing you should definitely check out is Arnos Wall. This wall is a concrete creation in the middle of a park. Home to many car parts, sewing machines, motor bikes and more. When walking from one end of the wall to the other you begin to realise the people who made it must have started small then tried to see what else they can get away with. It starts with plates and bolts and ends in a concrete mixer. This junkyard has been recycled into a popular tourist location of the town. Bizarre but brilliant!
Birdsville is the last town of civilisation before heading across the desert. Prior to the trip everyone recommended we head to the Birdsville Bakery to try one of their famous Curried Camel Pies. Unfortunately, they were shut. We were all pretty devasted. The photo to the left features some devasted boys peeping through the window to see what we missed out on.
On the other hand, the feed at the Birdsville Pub was amazing! The hospitality was great, awesome atmosphere, cold drinks and plenty of food options. We picked up our Desert Parks Permit and a satellite phone from the Birdsville information centre – just in case something went wrong. Once you get across the Desert, you drop the satellite phone off at Mr Dare – pretty cool idea.
Heading East to West, the first dune you hit on the Simpson Desert is Big Red. For our crew, this dune was easy. We all made it up on the first go. The second dune on the other hand, ruined some of the guys self-esteem because it required a few attempts and lots of speed.
We began our journey along the QAA line where you have to call up on UHF10 how many cars are travelling in which direction. At some points along the QAA line we were calling up a convoy of 11 cars! That’s a long tandem line!
We had the incredible opportunity to visit the desert at such a unique and wonderful time. The backed-up flood water from Lake Eyre turned parts of the desert into lush green fields with heaps of water. This was such a unique experience since the desert is normally barren red sand for as far as you can see. Our crew completed a water crossing in the middle of the desert – who would’ve thought. The flood water was across the main track which caused a 60km detour. Day 1 in the desert and we are already using extra fuel you wouldn’t otherwise use. For us, this proved that you have to be prepared for the worst. Take lots of fuel for the, ‘just in case something bad happens’ situations.
Along our journey through the Simpson Desert we visited Poeppel Corner. The geographical post in the ground that sits on the border of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. It was incredible to see two separate posts only a few meters apart. The initial post had a slight inaccuracy when conducting the measurements back in 1880. Many years later, a second survey was conducted, and a second post was then put in to mark the true corner.
On the 3rd day of our Simpson Desert trip the ol’ mighty Hilux started having issues with his rear diff. We originally thought that the crown wheel or pinion gear may have stripped teeth but when one of the crown-wheel bolts Ejecto Seato Cuz’ through the diff housing we knew something else was at play. We thought it was only 1 bolt that had punctured through so we glued/zip tied the bolt so it wouldn’t fall back in and cause more damage. Unsure whether we could fix it in the middle of the desert, our crew decided to limp it towards Mt Dare in front wheel drive. Keep in mind we were still 120km east of Dalhousie Springs. There were a few dunes that front wheel drive didn’t make it. There was a lot of towing and at one point we had to hook 2 cars in front of the Hilux in order to get over the dunes. We later found out this wasn’t caused from being 2 Fast 2 furious but actually a workmanship issue so was fixed under warranty in Alice Springs.
At the edge of the Simpson Desert you find Dalhousie Springs. This location is an absolute must-do! Our road trip was in the middle of the winter, but the water was so beautiful and warm that we weren’t afraid to go for a dive. There are multiple free swimming noodles at the site which was super convenient to help people to float and relax with ease. The water is surrounded by heaps of trees home to many birds.
There are shower facilities located at the springs but are absolutely freezing. Overall, the springs was a perfect way to end to our 4-day Simpson Desert road trip.
Mt Dare is literally one hotel in the middle of nowhere. But it is awesome! The staff are so friendly, welcoming and unique. The campgrounds and food are also well worth it. This location is exactly what you’re looking for after being in the desert for 4 days or more!
It surprised our crew to see how big the town of Alice Springs really is. We are so thankful for many of the businesses in Alice Springs who were able to get us back on the road again. Our crew were all able to fix cars, regather supplies and re-fuel to get ready for the next part of our trip - along the Red Centre Way to Uluru.
Anzac Hill was one of our first stops on the way into town, this location had a great view of the entire town. There were also many displays and informative plaques as a memorial which payed respects to all of those who served in the defence of our country during all wars that Australia participated in.
Our mechanically minded crew visited the Road Transport Hall of Fame to check out new and old truck as well as the machinery. If you’re also this way inclined, allow yourself a full day as there was heaps to see. There was a large range of engines, army trucks, old road transport trucks, busses, cars, 4x4’s as well as some tanks and artillery guns.
The Old Ghan Railway Museum was a pretty cool gallery of the train’s history. They had an old diesel locomotive as well as an original steam engine. You were able to walk inside some of the carriages including the kitchen/dining as well as the passenger carriages. There is also paid camping facilities available out the back of the museum which was able to accommodate us perfectly.
Finally, the Alice Springs Desert Park was an immersive experience with great examples of the exquisite outback wildlife. We highly recommend checking out the bird show. It was a brilliant display of the talented keepers and the smart bird instincts.