Traveling between Leonora and Docker River stretch of the Outback Hwy of WA & NT, is mostly all dirt… 870 odd klm of it with more to come, notoriously it is seen as the ‘better’ bit of track. This aside from one or two sealed bits at the two or three road house stops where the flying doctor can land. They are straightening out the kinks along this stretch in preparation for sealing by 2028 and you can see where the new sections have been prepared which makes the going easier. You do need a permit to travel along this stretch and this can be obtained online at www.daa.wa.gov.au/en/Entry-Permits/EP_Y_PermitForm/ They usually allow 3 days to traverse the distance.
There have been some monumental mishaps along this stretch and dead cars… the shiny side down, litter the roadside in places. All stripped of anything useful, even the odd caravan frame is testimony to the past carnage and misfortune but all up its not a bad stretch… well at least not in our experience in Oct 2017.
I loved going over the ‘wall of fame’ at Tjukayirla Road House (pronounced Chook-a-yer-la)… a road house and fuel stop found 1/3 of the way along the stretch. Here we enjoyed the much acclaimed Tjuka Burger and a meal it was, even if it wasn’t the cheapest feed we’d enjoyed in WA. I can also recommend the chips. The wall of fame includes a display of the most notable of incidents where someone had a camera handy and more than anything it makes you realise that it is all about weather conditions and prep.
Part of this region is also gold country… and yes we had some luck. Our $50 worth was a great thrill and one we will be telling our treasure hunting friends about for a while yet. As for camping out… the bush is there and there are a number of good little bush-camps all along the trek.
My favourite was at Desert Surf Central, a outcrop of rock-holes between Warburton and Warakurna, otherwise known as being across from the Manunda Rockholes, a truly fascinating rock outcrop with a well protected gnamma hole (naturally occurring water hole) at the roadside. Another that is truly worth a mention is Yarla Kutjara Campgound some 90klm NE of Warburton. Yarla Kutjara was built and maintained by the local Aboriginal community, offering respite for the traveller through their lands and it was a brilliant stop. I can think of a number of townships around Aus’ that could take a lesson in the communities offering of a very welcome hospitality to a weary traveller.
At Yarla Kutjara, the local community has planted and tended a number of bush-tucker plants at the camp, though unless you really understand what your eating I wouldn’t recommend snacking. There is an great information board but still, know what your eating before you put it in your mouth! A classic example of this is the bush tomato, or kutjera being another native name for this fruit, of which there were a few bushes. This native veggie or fruit … take your pick… comes from the ‘Solanum centrale’ group… Solanum being highly toxic and not all of the 100 species of this native fruit are edible. Besides, usually the fruit is harvested in a sun-dried form, which also allows for long storage and the sun-aging sweetens the fruit. Great to observe, but as I said… if you don’t understand what your eating, leave it for those who do. Consequences of ill-advised snacking are severe stomach aches, vomiting and diarrhoea… plus it can be fatal.
Highlights along this trek tend to be up the northern end around Warakurna. Things such as the Giles Weather Station, the Len Bedell Plaque along with the infamous grader of the Gunbarrel Highway and a rocket. Yes… a rocket. Remnant of the ‘rocket testing era’. Len Beadell’s wonderful achievement in building the Gunbarrel Hwy which is part of the Outback Way, amongst other tracks in the deserts around here, is a mammoth feat.
One the local Aboriginal Communities and men, helped to achieve and you will find a mural at the Giles Weather Station, painted by Len Beadell, of one of the teams cooks along the journey. It is a wonderful memorial to the bush characters of yesteryear. They opened up the central deserts in a way of the pioneers, sadly a big part of our history that is often overlooked.
Jan is a Traveller and an Author. You can find out more about her books on travel on the page dedicated to Oldies at Large, where you will also find a list of her blog postings in topic.
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