Hay river trip

Submitted: Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 at 19:22
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So im sitting here in Alice Springs after completing the Hay river track via the Birdsville track, Warburton line, the K1 line and the beachcomber oil well track. Ive learnt a few things along the way and I figure others may be interested in a bit of a run down of it all First off our group consisted of myself, Ness and our 2 young boys in our 2010 76 series land cruiser towing a "Getaround" camper trailer with Matt and louise in a 2010 hilux. The 76 has an EFS 3inch suspension upgrade, 180 lt Long ranger fuel tank and a set of drawers that I built for it after not wishing to sell my kidneys on the black market to be able to afford to purchase a set of commercially built ones. I also managed to borrow a roof rack for the trip. The trailer is bomb proof after now doing 2 Fraser island trips and 3 desert trips in 4 years. It has all the usual goodies as well as room for 3 jerry cans and 140 lt of water. Im more than happy to give a plug for people or places when I feel its deserved but I'll also tell you when it's not so good as well. So here we go. We left from just North of Melbourne on Sunday with a stop over in Renmark at the golf club. Breakfast was in Morgan at the bakery and was well worth the turn off the highway, we then copped the weather from a solid low pressure system till just about Hawker. Monday night was spent in the refurbished shearers quarters ar Beltana station just South of Leigh creek. The owners Graeme and Laura are lovely people that welcome you in and are always ready for a yarn, the roast lamb dinners are well worth the $25 and there's always seconds if you can fit it in. It was then off to Leigh Creek to fill the tanks, jerrys and pick up a few last minute supplies, the place shuts down on a Sunday so be aware. Fuel was $1.83 here, there's water at the servo but its bore water. We stopped off at Farina for lunch and a look around. There is a lot of restoration work going on here so its well worth the look. The camp ground has showers, toilets, benches and even grass to camp on in spots, not that we stayed. The oasis we were heading for was Clayton station. I'm torn between telling you how great it is and not wanting the place getting over crowded so I'll let you do your homework on that one.I'lll just say we spent 2 nights here. Got a chance to talk to Clayton of Clayton station and found out that he'd just finished grading the warburton track and a large section of the Rig road so that some trucks could get in and refurbish one of the bores. Feeling well relaxed we headed onto Mungerannie for final fuel at $2.05lt and then onto the warburton line. Compared to last year its in great nick but there's also a few more boggy sandy sections that's going to make dragging truck trailers interesting through there. We camped that night at the East end of the Rig road and without a doubt you could drive a commodore over the first bit of the rig, its been cleaned up all the way back to the clay top base. If you ever wanted to do the Simpson this is your easiest shot at it now. It took about 3.5 hours to get to Poeppels corner (85kms) then about another 2 to get to Beachcomber oil well number 1 .The Beachcomber track is in great condition with us cruising between 40 and 5km. There's a camp at the old oil well and one just before it near the start of the Hay river track. The one at the oil well can be a bit windy with the lower one a bit more protected.There's an even better camp site a few kms back on the west side of the track. Dinner was roast beef and golden syrup dumplings with cream. Just because you're in the desert doesnt mean you have to starve! We dropped the pressures in the morning to 20psi all round and headed off on the Hay river track. Whilst gathering all the information I could find pre trip I had read old reports stating the track was hard to find in spots and a bit of other out dated information. So here's a few facts current as of july 2014 1. The track is in pretty good condition all up. I had to drop the tyre pressure down a bit more for the last dune but so did the Hilux, you couldn't possible lose the track if you tried. 2 Get used to second gear for the next 2 days. Between dune crossings, dry creek crossings and the fact it's a track and not a road you'll be mostly sitting in second gear, but that's ok as it gives you a chance to take in the views. 3 If you take it easy you can avoid most of the wattle branches growing over the track but remember I said most, you're still going to end up with a few pin stripes on your 4wd, but if you want to dance you have to pay the band. 4 With a trailer I would reccommend a South to North crossing. The dunes are less steep, more straight forward without as many bends, and is not as chopped up as the East side. Spoke to a family pulling a trailer at Beachcomber well that had come from the south and from the way he spoke it sounded like he had a bit of an epic crossing the dunes. His wife made the comment that they stopped looking at the trailer getting airborne and just gunned it up the dunes. Not my style really. With just a 4wd do as you choose without much stress. 5 Go to lake Caroline. It may be just another dry lake on the map but it's not. It's the only red dirt lake that I have ever seen and its ROCK HARD unlike all the other dry lakes in the area, it's like red tarmac. 6 Lindsay is a top bloke in at Batton station. He may be illiterate but what he knows about the area could fill 100 books, he came over to the camp fire and must have answered a million of our questions while lighting up about 10 smokes...as I said good bloke. 7 After a week in the desert those donkey showers are the best, the mens shower has better water pressure 8 Apparently you're meant to pay Jol for the permit before you go and Lindsay cash for the camping when you get to Batton hill. 9 The trip out to Goyders pillar is worth it but from everyone I spoke to the bush tucker trip is a bit sparse. It's just too dry and there's not much out there to eat. But you do get to see some good spots. 10 is the Simpson UHF channel but unfortunately not everyone is on it, was rather suprised to come around a corner and find a tour operator with 7 tag along clients just north of the blaze tree. I pulled over as it was obvious he wasn't going to, I then asked him if his radio was working and with a bit of a sneer he said he wasn't on our channel they were on their own. I wanted to remind him that 10 was everyones channel and he could scan another to use with his clients but what's the point, you can't change stupid. 11 Don't fret about making a certain campsite, there are literally 100's of spots you can pull over and camp with plenty of firewood. 12 Expect to use a bit of fuel, the 76 was averaging about 20lt per 100 kms and the hilux was doing about 15lt per 100kms. We camped just South of Madigan camp 15 then headed north from their for another day of second gear. You need to reengage 4wd just before you come out of the riverbed as you start getting into some loose sand from here to the camp site on the west side of the river on the lake caroline track. We camped on the west side because some one told us its a good site, my mistake. Same person had already told me 2 other furphys that I had followed and been led astray. Camping on the East side looks much nicer in hindsight. We headed out to lake Caroline and as previously stated its well worth it. I woke up in the morning knowing that we would be at Batton hill today and looking forward to a shower. The track for the day was sandy in spots but still pretty good with third and forth gear getting a bit of a run. We were a bit dissapointed to find out the plaque was gone that marked when you crossed into the tropic of Capricorn but a game of Paddy melon cricket made us all feel better. We were starting to see animal life today as we got closer to the "dingo well". The concept seems to be working well. Batton hill was a welcome sight and after sorting out some confusion with lindsay (he hadnt been told we would be earlier than planned) we settled in for a comfortable lazy afternoon. Ness joined in the tour to Goyders pillar whilst I played dodge with all the flys.   Our desert part was nearly over but first we had 1 more place to stay before getting to Alice. The drive out to Jervois felt strange as we sat on 80kmh for the first time in a few days. Jervois was where we aired up a bit and bought fuel at the price of "dont look just get enough to get us to Alice" price and continued on our way to Gemtree caravan park. Gemtree is a nice little place with staff that happily answer all our stupid questions about the local gems and how to find some. It turns out that unless you have the equipment and the right permits then its just as easy to join one of their tours where they supply you with what you need and the right place to find some Garnets or Zircons? Much to my 2 boys dismay you are not going to get rich finding Garnets and retire early, but find Garnets you will! Some are too small and some like the lovely older couple digging next to us manage to find a decent enough chunk to make a a pendant from, cut down a 7x 4 mm chunk. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer couple. Now when we first started hunting for Garnets I knew my wife had Garnet dust in her eyes already but I didn't realise how bad until later that afternoon when I had to physically drag her back to the car having heard "just one more shovel full then im coming" call from somewhere in the diggings. Hahah. They do the grading of your Garnets back at the caravan park and cut them for you at $45 a pop which is usually more than what the stone is worth but that doesnt matter, there something about making a ring for your wife or mum out of a stone that you found yourself that is worth more than money. It happened to be Territory day whilst we were in Gemtree which means fireworks and a bit of a party, it was guite civilised with the fireworks kicking off around 9.30 and everything quite by 10.30. One thing that needs a bit of work is the hot showers. I got about 2 minutes of hot water then about 30 seconds of warm water before it went cold, the bloke in the next cubicle only got about 30 seconds of warm water. The place needs a gas booster for their donkey unit or you need to time your shower when no one else is around. All in all Gemtree is guite a nice place and I would go back again, actually the wife might make me, now she likes the look of zircons haha NOTE. I took a break from writing this in Alice and now im home. I hope you get something out of this and I will get around to posting the second half of our trip including the bit about poisonous catfish spines.
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Reply By: Member - johnat - Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 at 20:20

Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 at 20:20
What an epic read!! A few paragraphs would make iot easier, but the info is fabulous!
Thanks so much for your efforts, cannot wait for part 2!
AnswerID: 535982

Follow Up By: oetkb - Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 at 20:49

Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 at 20:49
I had it all sorted out into paragraphs on my note book but when I copied and pasted it, it ended up like that. Any fixes? Thanks for the encouragement though. :-)
FollowupID: 819983

Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 11:26

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 11:26
A great read!

Re the paragraph thing, I always do a preview first, and if things don't look right(such as para spacing, or position of photos) then I go back and attempt to correct them.

Loved the comments about Gemtree showers :-). We were there in 2011, and I showered about 8-9pm. Went from "just bearable" to "icy" before I managed to rinse the soap off. Never checked what sort of hws it was, but I "blamed" the GN's, who wisely showered well before I did.

Yeah, don't think we should let too many folk know about Clayton's. Were there in 2011 too. Some one had pinched the hose, or most of it, that is used to keep the hot water flowing down to the showers, from the bore, so our ablution experience was similar to Gemtree :-). Had tea with numerous native mice, who devoured a slice of bread and left us in peace for the rest of the night.

If you became a member, you could do a blog, complete with photos and the info would be there for all to see. Trouble with the forum is that interesting threads like this disappear off into the archives, and are only found by those with enough energy to do a "search".

Thanks again,

Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

Lifetime Member
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FollowupID: 820029

Reply By: me POD! - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 07:51

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 07:51
Thanks mate, that was excellent reading. It always makes us at home keen to get back on the road soon.... which is exactly what is planned.
Regards, Paul.
AnswerID: 535990

Reply By: Member - mechpete - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 09:43

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 09:43
we came down the Hay River Tk after the Finke Races
an to be honest we thought Batton Hill is starting to look like it was abandant ,
since we were ther 3 yrs ago . there is clearly nothing being done to maintain
the place . After talking to Linsey he thinks it too cheap to stay cos he has the same showers an toilets as Alice Springs Caravan Parks there so he is going to put the price up again , the man is dreaming ,
my opinion mechpete
AnswerID: 536001

Follow Up By: oetkb - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 12:34

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 12:34
Depends on your expectations I suppose. We didn't expect much so were happy when we got there. Its no "Big 4" by any measure but its clean and has what you need. $20 per person is a bit excessive especially when you have a few kids with you. We paid $80 for one night but hey Lindsay has to make a living I guess. I wouldn't be impressed if prices went up though on a per person rate.
FollowupID: 820034

Reply By: Old 55 - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 10:48

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 10:48
Thanks for the report, we are doing Hay River at the end of this month, North to South. From your comment I take it the flies are bad this year. We did the Simpson 4 years ago and never saw a fly (relatively speaking).

Cheers Rod
AnswerID: 536006

Follow Up By: oetkb - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 12:25

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 12:25
Yeah the flies are pretty bad from about 9 am till about 5 pm. After that you get a few hours of relief before dark. I was using bushmans 40% Deet and it would slow em down for about 20 minutes before they reformed ranks and attacked again. Strangely enough after a shower they weren't half as interested Haha. Have a great trip!
FollowupID: 820033

Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 12:23

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 12:23
Many thanks for your post. I even copied it into a Word doc so I could put some paras in and highlight parts of particular interest.

Unfortunately Hay River is beyond our equipment and abilities but even that part was a good read and I had a few laughs esp. re looking for gems at Gemtree.

I look forward to Part 2.

AnswerID: 536012

Reply By: Nomad Navara - Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 19:09

Sunday, Jul 13, 2014 at 19:09
Thanks for your great info, love the read, will keep your story for our future travel in that area :)
AnswerID: 536021

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