Update on the Great Central Road, and Plenty Highway.

Submitted: Monday, Oct 09, 2006 at 08:16
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This update is mainly aimed at new travellers like us who have never been on these roads, & like us have difficulty in finding out up-to-date info.

We started out on the GCR, West to East on 18/9/06. On our way South East through WA, we had hoped to visit John & Jean Mack at Lorna Glen, but chasing wildflowers got us a little too far South, & the detour was a bit too far.
Anyhow in this part of WA, supplies are a bit scarce and I would suggest that you stock up fresh fruit & vegies in Kalgoolie or Leinster, depending on which way you are travelling.

At Laverton we reduced our tyre pressure down to 26 PSI (cold) on both the BT and the LC100TD. From Laverton to our first stop at Tjukayirta Roadhouse, the road was good, with some mild corrugations and some loose sand. On the good sections (highway conditions) 80 kph speed was OK. You can generally gauge the condition of a road section when you stop and open the door of the BT. If nothing comes out to meet you, it was OK!
There aren’t many stopping places, but we found a good spot for morning tea 60 km from Laverton, and another which would be good for an overnight stop 200km from Laverton. This spot is about 200m from the road & has lots of shade.

Tjukayirta Roadhouse (or TJ) is probably the pick of the Roadhouses across the GCR and has power, good water and good amenities.

From TJ Roadhouse to Warburton, the first 75 km of the GCR was good, followed by about 80 km of corrugations that slow you down to 30-40-50 kph. The remainder was good up to Warburton. Just out of Warburton there is a muddy water hole in a creek crossing, about 400mm deep. After crossing this, we noted a dry bypass on the left hand side.
On this sector, we lost a dust cap off one of the wheels on the BT, & had to replace the outer bearing and the seal. (We carried spares)
Interesting, out front at the roadhouse are all the tools necessary to fix punctures, all of which are chained up.

From Warburton to Warakurna Roadhouse about 250 km a lot of the road has been resurfaced & is in excellent condition. About 30% is corrugated and some slow you down to 20-30 kph. About 95 km from Warburton, we found a good camp site about 500m from the road on the RHS. It has toilet, shelter & tank water. There’s not much else except for a large shady gum tree about 158 km from Warburton which is ideal for a lunch stop or power nap. From Warakuna you can visit Giles weather station, & watch the weather balloon go up at 8.30AM, followed by a tour of the weather station. On display at Giles is Len Beadells grader from the Gunbarrel Highway Construction Group, a great piece of Australian history.

From Warakuna to Docker River is good for about 80 km, but then starts to deteriorate to rough & stony, & slows you down.
For those interested in scenery, there is an interesting section, where the country changes from Mulga scrub, to a dense Desert Oak forest for about 5 km then suddenly back to Mulga scrub again. There is also spectacular mountain scenery around Docker River. Just before Docker River there is a very good camp site, with lots of shade among desert oaks, water taps & toilets. We should have stayed here due to a late start, but didn’t.

Docker River to the Olgas is the ‘horror section’ of the GCR. I believe the NT Govt. doesn’t want its tourists leaving the Territory, so it makes it difficult. It’s a slow run, & if you take it easy is easily managed. Along the way, Lassiters Cave is worth a visit. You are not allowed to camp here, and there is no where else to pull off & camp until Yalara caravan park. Next place to free camp is Curtain Springs roadhouse.

(Note: Yalara has jacked up its fuel prices. In June they were 10c higher than Alice, now they are 30c higher. Voyager Resorts have also seized on their captive market and now charge a 1% surcharge for Visa cards.)

The Great Central Road could also be called ‘Dead Car Alley’. We saw at least 100 dead cars on the sides of the road & two dead caravans.

Permits are required for travelling the GCR. Ours were out of date, however no one asked to see them, & I doubt if it is really necessary to go to the trouble of getting them in the first place.

The pristine virgin scenery of the Victoria Desert is great. There is no development, no cows, only camels. From Curtain Springs to the highway the scenery is desolation compared with the Victoria Desert, probably caused by drought & over grazing. Strange, bitumen roads are usually associated with boring scenery out here.

The Plenty Highway

We left Alice Springs on 5/10/06 to Gemtree on the black top. The camping at Gemtree is basic, but has water & power. Because of the heat we chose not to go prospecting at Gemtree, next time?

From Gemtree to Jervois the road is basically good, with some corrugations, rocky patches & a bit of sand. A bit slow going, but otherwise OK for a BT. There are virtually no rest areas, or even places where you can get off the road for a stop. If you see one of the few shady ‘lunch trees’ along the edge of the road, grab the spot for your stop while you can, there’s not much else. Jervois has a basic camp ground with water, but no facilities.

Jervois to Tobermorey Station. on the NT/QLD. border
This section of road alternates between good and evil. There are some long sections that are so good that you could travel at highway speeds, followed by sections of ‘sneaky, bulldust patches that can grab you if you are not careful. There are a lot of loose sections of road with a mixture of bulldust & gravel and some loose sandy sections. However there are no genuine horror sections up to this point.
Tobermorey Station has a rare grassy caravan park with water, power, and clean but basic amenities.

Duncan Highway from Tobermorey to Boulia.

The Duncan Highway sign states it is open only to high clearance 4WD. It is however generally OK but slow. There are virtually no corrugations, but many rough sections and many bulldust holes. There are also many sections where coarse gravel has eroded into deep wheel ruts. (I guess this was the reason why my full-width mudflap was missing from the Tojo when we arrived in Boulia.). There are also a number of resurfaced sections which are excellent, and also a few short blacktop sections. The last 20km to Boulia is also blacktop.
Note: there is no shade between Tobermorey and the Georgina River, (around 125km) which also has some good campsites and a reasonable waterhole near the bridge.

Generally the run from Alice to Boulia is without real problems providing you take care & don’t go too fast. No real ‘horror sections’.

Enjoy the trip, we did.

Neil & Pat
A Bushtracker (or BT) is a "Boys Toy"

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Reply By: Flipp'n Lorry - Monday, Oct 09, 2006 at 15:57

Monday, Oct 09, 2006 at 15:57
A fantastic report - you have taken a lot of time putting this together, thanks on behalf of grateful Boggers.
AnswerID: 569504

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