Preparing for 8 weeks travel in the red centre NT
As a family of 5 being anywhere in a van together is going to have its challenges..... Let alone venturing into the remote corners of the ‘Red Centre’ for a good 8 weeks travel.
The first important call to action of outback travel is preparing. Knowing where you’re heading and knowing your route will ensure you know how much food, fuel, water and/ spares you will need with the service limiting. It will also allow you to be prepared with any required permits, national park passes, accommodation pre-bookings and lastly it will be extremely useful when setting the time frame.
Our intended trip route
We will be leaving Port Augusta and heading up to the Flinders Ranges for a few days before taking the Outback Highway to Marree and jumping onto the Oodnadatta Track. Mt Dare will be our first fuel stop coming up via Oodnadatta and the great artisan basin and camps of Dalhousie Springs. From here we head to Finke and will take the Ghan Heritage Road Track to a trip highlight of ours ‘Lamberts Geographical Centre of Australia’ and the Chambers Piller for a fabulous sunset or two.
Cutting across Hugh River Stock Route to the Stuart Highway we’ll head south onto Lassiter Highway towards the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park. Curtin Springs camp will be home for some great exploring of ULURU, The Olgas and hopefully a most spectacular sunset. Let’s hope we can fit all on.
From here it’s onto the West MacDonnell Ranges across to Alice Springs, our first real top up and approximately our 6 weeks point. From Alice we will head into the East MacDonnell Ranges for a week or so of exploring then we hit up the Plenty Highway to finish in Birdsville QLD (via Boulia) ready to drop off the van and cross the Simpson.
Due to the many kms between food, fresh water, petrol and people, we made sure to consider and take the follow steps in ensuring we are as best prepared as possible for a successful adventure of the Red Centre.
Food- Knowing our planned itinerary, the first 6 weeks of travel will be from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Because of all the tracks and location’s we have chosen there will be very limited access to food variety within the available small roadhouses and stores. In preparation to ensure we have access to the food we prefer and the special requirements of Mr 2yo with his intolerances, we did a full 2 trollies shop prior to leaving Port Augusta. This included a lot of fresh food like fruit, veg, bread and eggs that we could enjoy to start the trek, until it ran out or until before we are to reached any quarantine points.
We stocked up on rice milk for Wade, cereals, UHT milk, noodles/ pasta/ gnocchi, tinned tomatoes/ bean mixes and every child’s (*mum cringes) favourite spaghetti and baked beans. We splurged anticipating the warmer weather and got the kids freeze-later fruit ice blocks, marshmallows for campfires, rice and corn cakes, nutrition bars, frozen fruit for breakfast shakes, freezable chicken schnitzels, frozen vegies and good old toilet paper (clearly not a food but a true necessity).
Water- We did stock up with 40L of boxed water in Port Augusta as a backup on top of ensuring that all of our water tanks will be 100% full when we pass through the final town with potable water. In our AOR Matrix PT we have 280L of onboard water across 3 tanks, 2x 20L water jerry cans on the back as well as 45L tank in the Prado. Showering for a family of 5 equals a lot of water used, so after one last shower each before filling and leaving, these will be limited to part washes and in between it will be baby wipes til we can fill the tank again.
Fuel- Now fuel, although still limited and spaced apart it will be quite expensive in the outback locations we in the heading. So similarly to water, we have maximum diesel in the Prado to begin at 150L with 2x 20L diesel jerries and a full diesel heater reservoir. We have mapped out the route including the km and know how far we can range before needing to hit up a location with a petrol station, but plan to be conservative with diesel and kms to be safe.
Passes, permits and bookings- By mapping the route we can give ourselves a reasonable guideline on when we need to book things like our Dalhousie camp stay and Uluru tours. We have purchased our Desert Parks Pass to visit South Australian restricted areas such as Dalhousie and good for our Simpsons crossing at the end. This pack also included information booklet, guides, maps and lasts 12months. Any NT permits we require we can purchase once in Alice Springs.
Vehicle and Van- Prior to hitting up all the outback tracks, Ryan wanted to ensure to have the car and van were suitable prepped and checked over. The car received a thorough check over and service, all tyres on both car, van and the spares rotated, he also has checked wheel bearings on the van and brakes. Click here to check out our Top vehicle upgrades for Outback Travel.
Wanting to keep weights in check with the added food and water- we also did our monthly van clean out and cull- removing all excess clothes, toys, books, collected and unneeded brochures/ paperwork etc and donating these to the local charity shop. We were fortunate enough to have our car and van weighed in Port Augusta and were pleased to be 250kg below our maximum GCM fully loaded. It’s important to note that you can easily exceed your maximum weights when preparing for trips like these so be sure to travel within your limits with the bare essentials.
We have a list of all the dump points leading to The Oodnadatta Track although we will use provided toilets where we can, we will empty the van before heading in so we start.... dare I say clean, fresh and empty.
Our big ticket must haves
Satellite phone- For any emergencies and communication in no reception areas we have our satellite phone with us always. Our Inreach Explorer has options for sms, Email and an SOS epirb.
Navigator- Our Hema Navigator dash system has full off road options which proves invaluable on our travels especially when its remote and reception is poor to none. We travel with paper also as a safety back up.
Good lights- We run Bushranger Nighthawk VLI LED lights on our Prado and these are incredible for clarity and distance. We plan to do some early mornings and late nights to catch those incredible sunrises and sunsets- so a good set of lights is crucial in remote dark travel.
Rubbish removal- Most outback towns do not have the facilities to collect your rubbish and so you must take it with you. We have out Bushranger Wheelie Bag on our spare of the van and it’s always working hard for us.
Air compressor- There is no point heading to the outback tracks without a quality reliable air compressor to make airing up a breeze. We have the Bushranger Max Air III which has proven to be one of the greatest assets to our outback travel to date.
Lastly method for jump start- We would never travel without our portable jump starter power pack. We have been stuck once and helped out many others on this trip so far with a flat battery and I couldn’t think of anything more dangerous than a flat battery when travelling the extremely remote.
We feel really prepared and excited to tackle the outback again and look forward to the follow up of how our preparation for the trip made for the most awesome outback adventure ever. Keep tuned!