Oodnadatta & Birdsville Track

Submitted: Sunday, May 09, 2004 at 21:24
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We have the opportunity of doing a trip from Pt Augusta, Cooper Pedy, Oodnadatta, Marree to Birdsville early August, with a new 24ft van (not off road) and are seeking any feedback on road conditions etc.. Has anyone else done anything similar. We are a bit hesitant with a brand new van. Also where to go from Birdsville (on suitable road) as this will be the beginning of our "around Australia" trip.
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Reply By: Nomad - Sunday, May 09, 2004 at 22:46

Sunday, May 09, 2004 at 22:46
That's a big van Biggy!

Given there is no unexpected rain about August you should be pretty right. If it's wet, the Cooper crossing on the Birdsville track could cause a problem.

After Birdsville you could have a problem. The road east is probably your best bet but you would probably have to take it fairly easy to Betoota. last time thru there the road was okay but mostly blue metal which can be very hard on tyres. From there you can probably make up your own mind. East or north, there are plenty of roads to choose from.

Apart from the above, just take it easy and have a great trip. I'm envious already.


AnswerID: 57906

Reply By: tessa_51 - Monday, May 10, 2004 at 08:49

Monday, May 10, 2004 at 08:49
Wow, what a question! To get from Coober Pedy to Birdsville you will have to travel on three of the most unpredictable roads in Australia. At different times each one of them can be anywhere from a 4 lane freeway to an unnavigable boghole.I don't want to put you off, but there are so many variables to address. What is your towing vehicle? What is your towing/driving experience? Do you have the appropriate recovery/communications gear? Are you prepared to have the interior of your van re-built if the roads are corrugated? Bear in mind, once you get on this course the only alternative is to go back where you came from.
I am concered by your comment "from Birdsville (on suitable road)" that you are not "suitably" set up for the first part of the trip you describe.

AnswerID: 57939

Reply By: Willem - Monday, May 10, 2004 at 08:49

Monday, May 10, 2004 at 08:49
My advice to you is not to attempt these roads with the type of van you are describing.

I. The road between Coober Pedy and William Creek is not much more than a track in places as well as being sandy. I have not been on the road from CP to Oodnadatta so can't comment but according to my map there are numerous dry creek crossing to negotiate.

2. William Creek to Marree is normally a good road but shards of gibber could cut your road tyres to shreds. By August that road may also be heavily corrugated.

3. Maree to Birdsville. I drove the track last week and it is good in places but there are numerous dips and washouts and by August there will be corrugations aplenty. The outer edges of the road are also contoured on a down slope and will be difficult to tow tow van along there. I passed by two days after an inch of rain and the road was not easy.

4. Birdsville to Betoota and beyond. Wide road but covered in gibber rocks and on the side of the wheel tracks little rock walls are formed up to 100mm high. This makes tracking difficult. It is not a good road.

5. Go north from Birdsville and pick up the bitumen strip road at Boulia. Birdsville to Boulia is apparently a good dirt road. Have not done it for some years now.

Because of the vast distances you cannot rely on these roads being graded regularly. Even when a road is graded it only take one or two road trains to drive them to bring the corrugations back again.

If I were you I would not consider taking a 24ft road van on to the outback dirt roads. Stick to the bitumen and explore the outback dirt roads with a camper trailer or off-road van.

AnswerID: 57940

Reply By: Member - Jiarna (SA) - Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 00:38

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 00:38
The Coober Pedy to Oodnadatta road is the best it has been for 25 years, but I still wouldn't recommend towing an ordinary caravan along it. It can be done, if you take it easy, like a lot of things. The Oodnadatta Track from Oodnadatta to Marree is much rougher, and while it would not be impossible to tow an ordinary van along it with the right tow vehicle, you'd have to be prepared to break something.

As said before, the road conditions up here can change very quickly, and usually for the worse. If you decide to proceed with the route outlined in your post, just take it very easy, and have good communications. BTW mobile phones don't work once you leave Coober Pedy.

The Coober Pedy - Oodnadatta - William Creek - Marree region is well worth the visit, but you'd probably be better off parking the van and checking it out with just the vehicle, if that's an option.

Good luck with your plans and your trip.

John Wright
Those who say something cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.

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AnswerID: 58106

Reply By: Member - Ruth D (QLD) - Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 16:10

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 16:10
Biggy, around August the Birdsville Track is usually graded (depending on weather conditions etc. et al) - in preparation for the traffic up and down for the Races and is a very good dirt road. North from Birdsville is Bedourie - 179 klms - about 70 of which is now bitumen. Bedourie to Boulia - 200 klms - about 120 now bitumen. From Boulia to Mt Isa is all bitumen. East from Birdsville is 300 klms good dirt towards Windorah and bitumen from then on towards Brisbane. You can do almost anything and go anywhere provided you drive according to the road conditions at the time and take it easy. Cover the back windscreen of your vehicle with perspex or cardboard carton to stop rocks being thrown up from your back wheels then hitting the front of your van and back again into your windscreen (hammocks and low shields do not stop this happening). Make sure you have two spare wheels for your van and two for your vehicle - lower your tyre pressure slightly on the rocky section to allow bellow and to stop sharp rocks piercing the hard tyres - most of all, enjoy the trip and take your time.
AnswerID: 58172

Reply By: Member - Votlip - Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 18:26

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 18:26
Mid last year I took my family in our 'on road caravan' (16 1/2') from Pt Augusta thru Marree along the Oodnadatta track to Marla. At the time, the condition of the road was a lot better than I expected, but still too rough for the van, even though we weren't travelling very fast. We only saw one other caravan along the track, everyone else had camper trailersand now we know why. An excellent trip but it nearly shook the van to pieces. This year I intend to take the family to Birdsville, Innamincka etc., but I will be leaving the van at home for the bitumen touring, and hiring a camper trailer.
AnswerID: 58191

Reply By: Bundyman - Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 19:48

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 19:48

Travelled from Cooper pedy to Oodnadatta, William Creek, Maree only a month ago (just before easter) and the roads had just been graded and were in excellent condition - easy do with a van and some commonsense. However talking to a grader driver at Marree he said with the amount of traffic on those roads over the easter period would see them become corrigated very quickly so it would pay to ring the pubs, servos at those towns to get an up to date road condition. Good luck though because its a great trip.

AnswerID: 58213

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