Plenty Highway into the NT, Week 11.

The Plenty of corrugations, plenty of bull dust, plenty of fences, plenty of prickles…Highway to Alice Springs. By Will.

  • Feature Photo: The start of the Plenty Highway and arriving back into the NT.
  • Week 11,  Australia Pandemic Tour Travel Diaries.
  • 19/08/21 to 25/08/21 
  • Day 71 to 77.
  • Boulia, Qld to Ross River Resort/Station, NT.
  • 954kms (total since home, 11648kms).  

This weeks summary:

16/09/21… Hello out there, how are you all ? We have been back home for 7 days now and it’s a busy time. There is lots to keep us occupied around the house. Commenced the big clean up of the Landcruiser 200 and Reconn2 Camper. We came home to a clean and tidy house but the gardens are in desperate need of attention, both Jenny and I are getting stuck into weeding, pruning and generally tidying up. All 3 motor bikes and the Landcruiser 105 series started up immediately once I hooked up their respective batteries.

The old Landcruiser’s days in our possession are rapidly coming to a close. Our son Hayden and his partner, Kirsty have decided to purchase it from us. They will pick it up in the near future. Sad to see it go but happy it will remain in the family for sometime to come.

Week 11 of our journey will take us out of Central West Queensland and into the Northern Territory via the Donohue and Plenty Highways. Lots of rough gravel roads to traverse, with the NT’s Plenty Highway being the worse. I’d rate it 5 out of 10 for condition. The Landcruiser 200 and Reconn2 Camper both continue to perform exceptionally well. There are some little design niggles like the dust suppression system on the Camper and exterior shower design. The 6 speed auto transmission on the LC200 hunts around for gears a bit too often for my liking. That annoying key in ignition alarm and Clearview retractable power board side steps are a few other bug bears that need resolving.

As usual the travel diary notes below will tell you the story of week 11. We have 14 days to try and occupy ourselves in the NT (rated by the WA Government as very low risk) before we are allowed back into Western Australia. Ok let’s go and hit the road !

Another day another dusty road.

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  • Day 71, Thursday, Date, 19/08/21
  • From to where: Boulia, Qld to Tobermorey, NT.
  • Distance & time: 253km, 1000-1430 (Qld time).
  • Accumulated Distance: 10946km
  • Cycling Y/N, KMs: no
  • Fuel $: 100 @ 220.0cpl Tobermorey .
  • Litres: 45.46L
  • Accom type & cost: $30, camp ground.
  • Grocery Food $: 20 Boulia 
  • Day Total $: 150
  • Rolling Total $: 10260
  • Gopro footage: GP8
  • Weather: 26C fine

Notes: Back into the Territory !

Out here it’s best to top up your fuel at every opportunity, especially when your towing range is at 800kms. The road from Boulia to the NT border is good with over half of it being bitumen and the rest good quality gravel. We crossed the Qld/NT border at 1pm, once there you set your clocks back 30 minutes for the time change to central standard time (CST). 

My back is still quite sore so I only did half the driving from Boulia to the Georgina River, where we stopped for a break. It was another 125kms onto Torbermorey Station upon arrival we took the opportunity to top up our fuel at $2.20 per litre ($100) and since there is a nice grassy area decided to stay ($30 per night). The Station dogs came over to play with Rodgie, the galahs here are numerous and noisy.

People we met at Torbermorey Station, Dave and Liz from Wannaroo, WA. Driving a highly modified 6WD, 79 series camper, very impressive. Alan and Alice from Victoria in a LC200 / Large Caravan Combo. I sat with them all around the camp fire while an exhausted Jenny retired for the night. Camped nearby to us was Grant and his wife, plus their two little girls originally from South Africa, they are trying to live permanently on the road.

Today’s mission is to reach the Northern Territory border, the start of the Plenty Highway, refuel at Tobermorey Station, 253kms.
My lower back is quite sore, at Georgina River I get out the tarp and do some stretching exercises.
Do not under estimate how isolated it is out here, drive with extreme caution.
Snooker the Tobermorey Station dog pays us a visit.
Dave and Liz from Wannaroo, WA arrive in their impressive 79 series 6WD Landcruiser Camper.

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  • Day 72 Friday, Date, 20/08/21
  • From to where: Torbermorey Station to Bush Camp at Black Rocks near Jinka Station.
  • Distance & time: 264kms, 0930 – 1600 all dirt roads and quite rough.
  • Accumulated Distance: 11200kms.
  • Accom type & cost: Free on Station land without permission, we went through a gate.
  • Day Total $: 0 
  • Rolling Total $: 10260
  • Gopro footage: GP8p
  • Weather: 29C Fine not much wind.

Notes: Travel fatigue begins to sets in.

Slow relaxing morning, thousands of galahs had roostered in the river gum trees that help shade the camping area at Torbermorey, so just before sun rise they were all squawking crazily. They also pooped quite a bit on the camper roof, which we cleaned with a hose off just before leaving. Rodgie enjoyed playing with Dave and Liz’s dog “Jess” before they departed for the west.

Jenny prepares herself for another dusty day on the track, nice white sneakers you have there Jen !

We were the second last to pull out of camp as it happened Grant and his young family weren’t that far behind us. After 80kms of heading west the gravel road began to deteriorate badly. There was nearly a 20km section of bull dust and soft sand to get through. It was seriously energy sucking and the Landcruiser struggled to drag the camper through. The road crew had only just arrived today to commence repairs so I guess you could say we are a week to early. 

Tobermorey Station residence.

We stopped at an interesting rocky mound for lunch then continued onwards. We decided not to stop at Jervois Station and try for a bush camp. By 4pm we hadn’t located anything, there are fences along both sides of the Plenty Highway, we both knew drastic action was needed. There is a small Black Rock Range of hills about 50kms west of Jervois, we noticed a gate, there are no warnings or camping prohibited signs, just a small sign saying “shut the gate mate”. So in we went towards the black hills. We did pass some cattle and are aware there is water for them a few kilometres in so wanted to stay well clear of that for the benefit of the cattle as well as our own.

The Plenty Highway, it is a rough and dusty back road from into the NT from Qld.
That is one monster of a termite mound.

Eventually we found a reasonably secluded location to park up for the night the only down side being the many “double gee” (goats head, three corner jacks, call them what you like) prickles which certainly stopped Rodgie dog roaming too far. Jenny cooked up a nice dinner of bangers and mash with broccoli and gravy on the camper stove. After dinner we had a hot water open air shower and hopped into bed, it’s going to be a chilly night. The biggest bummer for the day was damaging the inside of the roof a 1.1L cool drink bottle had been left upright and had punched a hole into the roof interior when it was closed. Whoops, another repair to sort out in the near future.

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  • Day 73, Saturday, Date, 21/08/21
  • From to where: Black Hills (Jinka Station) to Gem Tree, NT.
  • Distance & time: 165kms, 0730-1230hrs.
  • Accumulated Distance: 11365kms.
  • Accom type & cost: $27
  • Grocery Food $: 
  • Take away food $: 20
  • Day Total $: 47
  • Rolling Total $: 10307
  • Gopro footage: yes GP8
  • Weather: 28C fine.

Notes: The Red Centre, NT.

Our camping spot was quiet enough, you could hear the odd cow mooing in the distance. Sadly the prickles were at the next level and it didn’t take long for Rodgie dog to figure out she could not leave the green mesh ground mat, which was folded over for extra protection. Not a happy dog !

We decided to get going early since we’re camped on Station property without permission. A quick instant coffee was brewed for the road and we were out of there just after sunrise. Along the way we noticed that a long new section of bitumen road was in the process of being constructed, about 30kms of detour on hastily graded track at 60km/h was required. After 100kms of average quality dirt road we finally arrived onto the bitumen at the turn off to Binns Track around 9am. We decided to stop for an hour to have late breakfast and more coffee. Grant and family drove past while we were enjoying the mid morning giving us a toot as they went by.

Soon after we arrived at Gem Tree just after noon, here you can pay to fossick for zircons and garnets. They sell fuel, have a small take away food shop, they also sell gem stones. The camp ground is set back in the mulga scrub and is acceptable for $27p/n. Jenny and I just relaxed, played with the dog and later I patched the hole in the internal roof with a plastic disc we have on board. It’s only suppose to be temporary but no doubt it will still be there in 10 years time.

Plenty Highway, day 2.
Along the western end of the Plenty Highway is a roadside art gallery, it goes for about 20kms. We thought it was a great concept. It appears the local Aboriginal Communities have had a lot of input into the venture.
Parked up at the start of the bitumen of the Plenty Highway for a late breakfast and coffee break.

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  • Day 74, Sunday, Date, 22/08/21
  • From to where: Gem Tree to Alice Springs. NT.
  • Distance & time: 155km, 0930-1230hrs (at CV Park, cleaned car & camper first).
  • Accumulated Distance: 11520kms
  • Accom type & cost: $120, 3 nights Alice Springs Tourist Park.
  • Grocery Food $: 158
  • Beer/Wine/Soda $: 113, beer and spiced rum.
  • Other $: 10, car wash.
  • Day Total $: 391
  • Rolling Total $: 10698
  • Gopro footage: GP8
  • Weather: 28C and fine.
Heading for the Stuart Highway.
Tropic of Capricorn marker north of Alice Springs. no more warm weather for awhile.

Notes: Hello Alice.

29000 people can’t be wrong this place is ok, we arrived early, washed the car and camper at a coin operated car wash facility in town. I did the grocery shopping and we settled in for a 3 night stop over. We have been warned that theft is rife so lock up everything. 

Getting beer is an interesting experience firstly you have to show your driver’s licence too the armed police officer with bullet proof vests patrolling outside of the bottle shop, then again to the sales clerk at time of purchase. I guess we’re headed for prohibition next. Feels like a different country out here these days.

Washing the Landcruiser and Camper at Alice Springs, $12.
Home for 3 nights, Alice Springs Tourist Park, $40p/n. Staff warned us to lock up all valuables.

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  • Day 75, Monday, Date 23/08/21.
  • From to where: Alice Springs.
  • Distance & time: 25km drive around town.
  • Accumulated Distance: 11545km.
  • Accom type & cost: payed
  • Grocery Food $: 22 Woolworths 
  • Take away food $: 27 Hungry Jacks lunch.
  • Beer/Wine/Soda $: 73, beer and wine, topping up for journey home.
  • Day Total $: 122
  • Rolling Total $: 10820
  • Gopro footage: GP8
  • Weather: Windy and cool, 21C

Notes: Planning & adapting the route home.

Australia is in a mess, free travel is prohibitive. The emergency pandemic rules (Not Laws) continuously change, each State and Territory has its own plan. Currently there are only 2 allowable routes into Western Australia. Either via Kununurra in the north or Eucla in the south. Initially we wanted to travel back to WA via the Great Central Road, Yulara to Laverton but we soon discovered that the WA Government had closed that option to us on the 16th of August. We have decided to attempt to enter our home state through Eucla. If we come to WA from South Australia we are required to quarantine for 14 days as SA is rated “Low Risk”. 

To get into WA without all the hoohah you need to arrive from a state that has been classified as “very low risk”, Tasmania or Northern Territory are currently the only ones. If we arrive via SA we are suppose to get to our home and quarantine for 14 days officially we need to be home with in 48 hours which in our minds is dangerous as it is a 1372kms drive (and that’s taking the Norseman/Hyden road shortcut).

All these Government rules regarding border crossings combine to make travel too restrictive. I feel the true reason for the WA hard border policy is money. Protect the mining industry at all costs. A lot of the rules have been hypocritical, case in point the AFL football being classed as essential. I guess time will reveal the untold damage that has been caused by the current WA Labor Government and their implementation of restrictions upon the public. What we have learned over the past 20 months is “Don’t Trust The Government” to act in the best interests of the citizens or federation.

We spot another unusual travel outfit in down town Alice Springs.

Anyway no point getting to worked up over issues outside of your control, today we caught up on blogging, family phone calls and checked out ANZAC Hill. Weather is cooling down and the strong easterly wind is driving us mad. Neither of us are in a happy place at the moment. The sad reality of having to make big compromises to just live your life and travel in your own country is really starting to hit home.

The view of Alice Springs from ANZAC Hill is nice.

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  • Day 76, Tuesday, Date, 24/08/21.
  • From to where: Alice Springs
  • Distance & time: 20kms
  • Accumulated Distance: 11565km
  • Cycling Y/N, KMs: no
  • Fuel $:   145  @155.9cpl
  • Litres:   93L , Economy 15L per 100kms
  • Accom type & cost: payed
  • Take away food $: 63, Oriental Chinese 
  • Other $: 30 clothes, $30 micro SD card, $6 face masks.
  • Day Total $: 274
  • Rolling Total $: 11940
  • Gopro footage: no.
  • Weather: Max temp. 16C, windy, cold.

Notes: Interstate Travel Visa approval for SA & WA have come through. (No photos or video today).

We’re going home, should arrive there on or around the 8th of September. Once home we have to quarantine for 14 days (minus the 4  travel days of getting from Eucla to Mandurah ?). Looks like we are into our final two weeks of the tour and it’s going to end with a dash for home and a fizzle. 

Today Jenny worked online, I did some minor camper maintenance, like clean and repair dust suppression filter, empty WC cassette, modify the power cable to Anderson plug on the spare air compressor. We walked the dog around the streets of Alice. Fuelled up the Landcruiser, did some clothes and other miscellaneous shopping, like buying spare face masks for $1 each. Bought take out Chinese for dinner, first time all trip, it was very good. Called it an early night since it’s so cold.

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  • Day 77, Wednesday, Date, 25/08/21.
  • From to where: Alice Springs to Ross River Resort/Station.
  • Distance & time: 83kms, 1015-1200hrs.
  • Accumulated Distance: 11648kms (average daily kms 149.3km per day).
  • Cycling Y/N, KMs: no
  • Fuel $:   Emptied oil catch can, about 200ml, first time emptied.
  • Accom type & cost: $60, 2 nights at Ross River Resort.
  • Grocery Food $: 30
  • Day Total $: 90
  • Rolling Total $: 12030
  • Gopro footage: GP8.
  • Weather: 15C strong cold SE wind,  dry cold morning.

Notes: We head out to the East MacDonnell Ranges.

Bbbrrrr cold night, got down to 1 degree Celsius, tonight it’s suppose to be -1C, considering fitting a diesel heater to the camper once we get home. Nice scenic 83km  drive through the East MacDonnell Ranges out to Ross River Station/Resort. Sadly a lot of the gaps and gorges are designated National Parks so no dogs allowed. We arrived around lunch time and found a private spot to park up where Rodgie could spend more time free from being tied up. 

Great scenery here, we are camped in what appears to be a large gorge area, part of N’dhal Gorge I believe. Later that night we shared fire with Peter/Wendy and Dave/Julie and Wes/Gail, all from South Oz. Very enjoyable night.

We walk around and check out Ross River.
A group of 3 retired women all travelling solo in their own outfits who were having a catchup at Ross River.
Enjoying a camp fire, drinks and conversation with fellow travellers at Ross River, NT.

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That’s it for now folks, our total journey ends up being 91 days (13 weeks) so there are a couple of blog posts remaining to finally wrap up our Australian Pandemic Tour. Thanks for stopping by and having a read (or just looking at the photos and reading the captions). Both Jenny and I are thrilled to share our trip with you all. Back soon, W&J.

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