Week 2 started with a day at the races, the Boulia Camel races actually. Our trip schedule conveniently coincided with this annual event and apparently so did thousands of others that decided to make the pilgrimage to this remote rural town to share in the festivities that is the Boulia camel races. We spent the morning looking around town before heading back to catch the six-race program. These crazy jockeys risk life n limb as they sit right on the camels’ rump in a makeshift saddle as they thunder around the track. The kids were totally amused by the spectacle which was complete with bookies, amusement rides, sideshow alley and stalls. Halfway through the day the racing paused as some of the enthusiastic spectators played sheep chasing or camel tagging, the latter being rather dangerous as camels can kick out at 90deg sideways. By days end much of the crowd had partaken in too many liquid refreshments but that didn’t stop everyone enjoying the fireworks and the live music.
Sunday had us back on the road tackling our first serious outback road, the “Plenty Hwy” which joins outback QLD with Alice Springs and makes up part of the largest “shortcut” in Oz. The rains of the past week had cleared allowing the road to re-open to 4WD vehicles only and we could quickly see why. The soft boggy red soil and numerous mud holes provided plenty of fun for all of us. A long day behind the wheel had us cross into the Northern Territory. As we trekked west we drove past a number of huge cattle stations include the Jervois Cattle Station where we took the opportunity to buy fuel at pricey $1.89/ltr. By days end we’d almost made it to the Sturt Hwy before pulling up stumps at a cool fossicking area for the night.
With some of group having pre-booked vehicle services in Alice it meant an early start for some of us, while the rest of us we enjoyed a leisurely drive in to Alice Springs where we quickly sought our accommodation for the coming 2 nights. With the kids pestering to visit the local ice creamery we headed into town for dessert and a bit of sightseeing. As dusk fell on our first night in Alice we headed out to the Royal Flying Doctor Service base where an old school friend gave us an up-close tour of the planes and facilities with all the kids loving the fact they could sit in the pilot’s seat or play the role of treating nurse.
Tuesday was a lay down allowing us all to enjoy a sleep-in and lazy morning. Many of us took the opportunity to get caught up on washing, minor maintenance and grocery shopping. Throughout the day most the tourist attractions were visited by all of us. The Kenworth and Ghan museums were a big hit while the Telegraph station provided a glimpse of how communications were undertaken in yesteryear. While the ever dry “Todd River” had us perplexed as many locals call it home till water flows. With daylight fading many of us spent the remaining hours preparing and packing our rigs for the next days’ trip along the Tanami Track.
Moving day started as a chilly 3deg with a cold wind making it feel a lot worse. Once packed up and with last minute supplies grabbed we were soon heading out of town to start the 1000km long Tanami Track which heads from Alice Springs to Halls Creek WA. The first section of the track provided easy going and we made quick time to Tilmouth Well roadhouse where all of us took the opportunity to top up our tanks with fuel ensuring we’d make the remaining distance to halls Creek with what jerry cans we had onboard. For much of the day the dirt road was in good condition allowing us to make good progress northwards. The trick being to get at a speed allowing us to skim across the tops of the corrugated road. As the day faded we chose a small clearing just off the main road to setup camp. Surprisingly we were only a few km’s from the Tanami Gold mine and thus Telstra service for the night. The star lit night sky providing a beautiful backdrop to our time around the campfire.
Thursday started as chilly as the previous morning which ensured we’d packed up and were in cars in record time, however enthusiasm to get warm was soon dulled by the endless kilometres of dirt road that seem to go on and on. Changes to the landscape and the ever-increasing animals beside the road kept us vigilant of the road ahead. On a number of occasions, we’d slow to a near stop as a Road-train numbering up to 4 trailers would hurtle towards us making visibility near impossible. Our first excitement for the day was the NT/WA border crossing which due to our remoteness was merely a small sign beside the road. By lunchtime we’d reached the small outback community of Billiluna where we took to exploring the town and meet the resident camel. Detouring off our intended route we found an isolated billabong which made for a great lunch spot and a fun time as the kids played on the muddy banks. Pushing further north after lunch we made it to the Wolf Creek Crater and the ensuing wise cracks relating to the movie of the same name. The crater which is some 300,000 years old is a massive dent in the earth’s surface as a result of a meteorite colliding with Earth. With our sightseeing adventure over we pressed further north and into what was some of the hardest driving of the day, setting sun, rough roads and dust that made visibility near impossible at times meant the last 100km of the Tanami track was by far the worst of our trip so far…. Reaching Halls Creek with the sun setting our intended destination still seemed so far away but with revitalised energy supplies we pressed on into the darkness before deciding to pull up stumps on the day deciding to stay in a roadside rest area.
Our last day of week 2 dawned very early. Stopping short of our intended overnight location meant we had to make up time if we still wanted to catch the early morning Geikie Gorge tour at Fitzroy Crossing, but alas that’s what we did. The river cruise and baking sun providing a welcome relief to the effort we’d put in to be there on time. Leaving Fitzroy Crossing opinions were divided on where to spend our next night, for us we opted to head to Cable Beach where we’d had an enjoyable stay on our last trip to Broome. The 4hr drive west once again meant we didn’t arrive till late in the day but the kids didn’t waste any time hitting the pool for a refreshing swim on a day where the temperature topped 34deg
Week 2 concluded as every night has so far with a relaxing beverage under a beautiful star lit sky.