Sydney to Darwin via mitchell/matilda/stuart hways -necessary extras?

Submitted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 16:37
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HI everyone, some weeks ago now, I posted a request for the 'best way' for my husband and I to drive to Darwin with our 15'van. We are not in a hurry and want to avoid as many road trains as possible as I am a novice driver.

I received heaps of great info and encouragement in the planning of this new adventure for us as my husband is not in wonderful health in that he has a pace maker and has lost part of his r foot but with a built up shoe he really managed very well. WE ARE NOT IN A HURRY...and this seemed to be the easiest route for us to take based on the recommendations.

Now it has been suggested to me by friends who also travel that we should have a two way radio installed in our car.
What do you guys think? I realise that phone coverage ( telstra) will be hap hazard in some places...

We are taking extra petrol..I have a great road map

Do we really need a generator? what lights work well off no electricity? how good are the kangaroo repellents?

Anything else? Can anyone recommend good stopovers - van parks or road side stops which towns please?

Thanks again members, I really appreciated your advice last time..cheers, Cecily

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Reply By: Motherhen - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 17:45

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 17:45
Hi Cecily

Without trying to find your now chosen route from a previous thread, I will answer without reference to particular roads.

Two way - virtually essential to keep in touch with trucks, traffic and be aware of hazards ahead. A hand held will keep you in touch with traffic close by. A built in will give greater range and better clarity of sound. It is not a substitute for a phone, nor will a phone keep you in touch with passing traffic and road conditions.

There are very few places in Australia, and as far as I can ascertain none on major routes, where you need to go more than 300 kilometres between fuel outlets, and in most cases much less. What is your maximum distance your can travel on a fuel tank? Extra fuel rarely needed.

Generator - not if you have good solar panels and batteries, but power depends on what you have. We all have different needs. You can get rechargeable lanterns and recharge from the car cig. lighter when driving. We used to do this when camping without any power sources in the past.

Kangaroo whistles - some say they work. Simply do not drive in the outback between dawn and dusk and you should not hit a kangaroo, cow, horse or camel and the latter will do a lot more damage.

Recommended stops? There are caravan parks in almost every town and powered serviced sites at highway roadhouses. You can overnight between these in many rest areas. I do not know your route so cannot advise further. Purchase Camps Australia Wide from the bookshop for other free and low cost camping.


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Reply By: Cecilyt - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 18:45

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 18:45
Thankyou Motherhen, some really helpful recommendations.

I know nothing about 2 way radios, when you say handheld and built in - is that the CB radio? Sorry but I am very ignorant about these..are the hand held and the built in the same as the CB radio? We had a quote for around $500 - 600 installed, what do you think we should maybe paying if you know this information.

We are heading up thorugh NSW from Dubbo to Bourke, on the Mitchell Highway and then onto the Matilda in QLD which takes us to Cunnamulla, CHarleville, Augathella , Blackall andLongreach for a day or so thenWinton, Kynuna, Cloncurry and Mt Isa for a day or so, - Camooweal, Barkely, threeways. ( some people say these last 2 are very expensive for van parks.) Up the Stuart HIghway to Renner Springs,Ellliot, Dumarra and Daly Waters, then Mataranka to Katherine where we wil spend a couple of days.

Thanks for your info re petrol, rechargeable lights, generator etc. Much appreciated.
Cheers, Cecily
AnswerID: 532513

Follow Up By: baz&pud (tassie) - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 19:40

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 19:40
A hand held UHF radio is approx a little bigger that a cigarette packet and as said is hand held, an installed UHF radio depending on what brand etc, would cost about $500 installed, and is the one i would suggest you get.

As MH said, crab yourself a Camps 7 book, but if you have a ipad you could down load for approx $5.00 Wikicamps, which will give you as much info as the Camps 7.

Most of the places you have mentioned above have either Caravan Parks or areas to camp, Blackall has a grassed camp spot on the Barcoo River, if you have time go for a swim at the local pool, like swimming in a bath, will save you having a shower (lol), you have to spend a night at the Camooweal Billabong, turn left after crossing the bridge on the other side of town.

Spend a night at the Pub at Daly Waters, also hot springs at Mataranka.

North of Katherine you will find Edith Gorge, well worth a night.

Hope this helps, have a great trip.

Go caravaning, life is so much shorter than death.

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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 23:23

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 23:23
Quote "are the hand held and the built in the same as the CB radio?"

Unless someone specifies something like HF radio they are just referring to a CB radio. There are two CB bands, 27 MHz and UHF. You will not see many 27 MHz models around these days, when you ask for a CB radio from suppliers you will be offered a UHF model.

You can purchase these CB radios as a built in or portable model. The portable ones come in models from flee power toys to a full 5 W transmitter output power. A 1 or 2 W model should suffice for vehicle to vehicle communications.
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Follow Up By: Cecilyt - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 05:38

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 05:38
many thanks peter that information was most helpful. I appreciate the clarification and recommendations and have a much better understanding now. Cheers Ct
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Follow Up By: baz&pud (tassie) - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 06:21

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 06:21
I don't know weather you know this or not, but a good way of seeing each radio is to hover your cursor over UHF radio or HF radio where it is underlined and a picture of it will appear, then click on it again and all the info will come up.
Go caravaning, life is so much shorter than death.

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Follow Up By: Member - iijmartin - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 08:56

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 08:56
We have recently done this trip from NSW thru Cunnamulla to Darwin . Would have to completely back up baz comments. From Camooweal billabong free camp could stay at Barkly Roadhouse CP (we didn't but looked nice) and then make next stop at Banka Banka station adjacent to Stuart Hwy at $20 water/showers/no power. We stayed at Bitter Springs CP and used free hot springs (500 m walk or 400 m drive/100m walk from CP to hot springs). Will stay at Daly Waters pub CP on way down. Currently at Darwin Free Spirit CP which I can recommend ($45 pn powered site). Message me if you need any more info. Don't be too worried about road trains . As Motherhen said no spots on that route where fuel spots are more than 270 kms but if worried keep topped up and then don't have the worry of carrying petrol
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Follow Up By: Cecilyt - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 09:56

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 09:56
Hi Kathleen and Ian, very much appreciate your helpful comments re stops and sites. This really helps when planning stops as we really just can't keep driving till we find something 'nice' as we have done on previous trips.

Do you use a UHF??? If so is it hand held or built in? As this is our first trip of this nature we haven't worried was the phone coverage?

We are really looking forward to this trip and not rushing but will enjoy stopping at some of the lovely places along the way.

Thanks again, much appreciated, Cecily

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Follow Up By: Member - iijmartin - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 17:30

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 17:30
Cecily have a handheld UHF generally get partner to operate but have not had much need to use as we found the roads to be quieter few wks ago. I wouldn't rush out and buy one.
Mob ph coverage (Telstra) is fine within 15-20 km of most towns and roadhouses like Barkly and Three Ways.
As far as shopping towns we found Longeeach the best although Mt Isa is the largest
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Reply By: Cecilyt - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 20:23

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 20:23
Thanks heaps baz that is great info. So good to have your recommendations re stops and the fixed radio. Its so helpful to know in advance about interesting places to stop so we can plan distances around the recommended places. Thanks again Cecily
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Reply By: Slow one - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:12

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:12
Hello Ct,

The route you are taking has a lot of open country that enables you to see roos and emus. Just don't get going to early in the morning or travel into the late afternoon. Depending on the weather roos will still be on the move up to around 8am and from 4 pm on. That is quite normal in winter but they can also travel through the day. I had a good video on my truck dash cam of around 100 roos crossing in front of me around mid-day.
Just keep your eyes open and all should be good.

With a uhf radio, you could buy a 5 watt handheld and just have an external aerial installed. You can get an adaptor to go from the external aerial coax to the radio. If you just use the handheld by itself you will still be able to talk to others around 10 klms away as most of the country is flat. That will be limited between Cloncurry on past the Isa as it is a bit hilly.

You will strike road trains that will be travelling around 90kph. Do a search on this site as Doug T did a good blog on what to do regarding trucks. Most road train drivers are courteous, and if you ask them on the radio (channel 40) where you can pull over and let them go, they will normally just say there is a place up the road and give you directions. Just cut them a bit of slack, and if you are around hilly country don't let them lose there momentum when approaching a hill. Whatever you do don't panic and drop a wheel of the bitumen.

As said, wiki camps or camps7 are good for places to stay. Elliot I would avoid and give my love to the Mataranka police who love to put me on the bag.

Happy and safe travels
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Reply By: Cecilyt - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:31

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:31
Slow one, what a great response. All that info is so.helpful. We will take your suggestions to the auto electrician tomorrow. I will checkout the other site re road train info. Thanks again we will say.hello.and avoid the town you mentioned. That info is so helpful. Thanks for taking the time to ecplainbabout the radios as have no experience with them. We are really excited and looking forward so.much to this trip. Cheers Ct
AnswerID: 532521

Reply By: Member - Burnt Damper - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:42

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:42
Just a update on the road train side of things. I am one of those people that drive road trains for a living but not on this route.
You will encounter road trains from Dubbo to Darwin 3590km so there is no real way of avoiding them. A constant speed,straight driving within your lane and some communication is always going to make it easy from both parties concerned.
Please don't try and use your vehicle to teach them how to drive and at what speed. There are idiots in all professions and unfortunately we have some as well. But I think if you follow these simple few pieces of advice your trip should go along fine.
You will encounter 2 trailer, 3 trailer and 31/2 trailer road trains as you get further north.
Trust me there is a lot of drivers that would prefer to be doing what you are doing ( holidaying ) than what they are doing ( working )
Enjoy your trip and hopefully you put a post on here to say how much you enjoyed your trip.
Cheers and happy travels.
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Reply By: Cecilyt - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:59

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 21:59
Believe me Bd I am not about to try to.teach any road train driver anything! I appreciate what you are saying and if I could get off the road I would. I have a son in law who is an interstate truck driver and I have the utmost respect for him in his job. Do drivers of cars use their rAdios to checkout if there are any road trains in the area. That's what.someone else suggested. Is that a good thing to do? Cheers Ct
AnswerID: 532524

Follow Up By: Member - Burnt Damper - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:31

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:31
My suggestion would be to just drive as you normally would. .Keep a regular watch out in your mirrors then maybe call them up on your UHF radio if you have one. Eg ( possibly, copy in the the road train coming up behind the caravan etc )
Don't slow down until you can see that they are going to overtake you. What a lot of people don't understand that most drivers of trucks already know the road bends, hills etc so they will judge coming up behind you when they may be able to come around you. The minute you slow down they have to do the same and then they have to rebuild up their speed.
People may argue the point about what I have just written but after doing this job for 33 years I do have a rough idea of what to do.
Don't be scared they are just ordinary people doing their job.
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Reply By: The Landy - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 06:35

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 06:35
Hi Cecily

Many have covered your questions already, so let me just comment on the driving side as you appear concerned about large road-trains.

Firstly, don't stress about it, and secondly simply drive to the conditions that are prevailing at any given time and apply common-sense...

Enjoy your trip!

Cheers, Baz, The Landy...
AnswerID: 532532

Follow Up By: Cecilyt - Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:16

Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:16
Oh Yes Baz, we re really excited and looking foward to this trip. I do want to be prepared as much as we can so I can enjoy and not stress...

I am nervous about driving with the probability of road trains on my 'shift' but will just focus on what I am doing not anyone else.

Thanks again for your helpful information and advice, Cecily
FollowupID: 815829

Reply By: cruiser 3 - Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 12:32

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 12:32
I read all of your replies which are good however there is one point that seems to be overlooked and that is emergency communication.
Many parts of your trip could be without mobile phone coverage and Cb radios cannot be relied upon to seek help in case of an emergency!
If you realy need to be able to call for help anywhere, anytime due to health reasons then you need either a sattelite phone or a HF radio. I am not sure of current prices but you could be looking at couple of thousand dollars for either. The difference is the Sat phone needs to be connected to a service provider similar to your mobile but the cost is much higher. HF radio has a yearly connection fee of about $100 but all calls to the operator are free (the operator then organises help)

This is a basic overview only and remember that a sat phone can be taken with you if you go walking but the HF is built into your car. My preference is HF.
AnswerID: 532624

Follow Up By: Cecilyt - Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 13:44

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 13:44
Many thanks Burnt Damper and Cruiser 3 for the last few comments and every one else previously, for your replies and really helpful information. What I need to do now is thing about all this and see what I can decide on. I am meeting with a friend tomorrow who did this trip last year. I really do appreciate your encouragement and words of wisdom. thanks you for taking the time to encourage a novice like me. Hopefully this will be the first of many road trips for us.

I will write a comment after this trip as I do appreciate all your suggestions...cheers for now, Cecily
FollowupID: 815903

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