Travel on the Great Central Road in December

Submitted: Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 11:35
ThreadID: 130037 Views:4645 Replies:12 FollowUps:15
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Hello everyone, I am planning a trip from Laverton to Uluru in December. We need to reach Uluru on 30/12 due to hotel reservation. My plan is like this:

1) travel from Laverton to Warburton Roadhouse: 28/12, get some fuel in Tjukayirla Roadhouse first;
2) stay overnight at Warburton Roadhouse on 28/12;
3) travel from Warburton Roadhouse to Warakurna Roadhouse: 29/12;
4) stay overnight at Warakurna Roadhouse on 29/12;
5) travel from Warakurna Roadhouse to Uluru on 30/12.

As you can tell, the schedule is kind of tight, as we plan to stay somewhere near Esperance at WA for a relatively long time and then head to Uluru. Could you give me some advice on:

1) I am going to use my Subaru Forester (2007 version) for this trip, will this car be okay? I do services regularly and have taken it to many places without a problem, but never been to a place that is thousands of kms away from where we live;
2) is it dangerous to travel on Great Central Road on the dates I mentioned? e.g., fewer cars, high temperature, not-easy-to-avoid tire damage,etc.
3) is raining a big issue at the end of December, especially around Xmas? we have booked a room in Uluru, so have to reach there on 30/12.
4) we will be travelling with a 10 months old baby, both my wife and I are not concerned, but any advice on this part will be highly welcomed.

Please let me know if you need any further info. Thanks a lot for your help!

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Reply By: Notso - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 11:42

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 11:42
I personally wouldn't do it with a 10 month old in a Subaroo, but this link here gives some good advice.

Outback travel Great Central Rd
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Follow Up By: Shaun M4 - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:58

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:58
Thank you, I will certainly keep that in my diary.
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Reply By: Neil & Pauline - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 11:49

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 11:49
The temperature would be the biggest risk at that time of the year, especially with a 10mth old. Kids dehydrate very quickly. I would expect you would need to stop and give fluids at least every 30 minute, adding a lot more to your travel time.
A lot of tour companies will not take children under 12 years in summer in those areas ,on medical advice.

Because there would not be much traffic there is no back up.

I wouldn't do it. Have for many years needed to do long trips to Perth and in summer only travelled at night. Wild life less a risk than dehydration.


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Reply By: Member - Robert1660 - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 12:06

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 12:06
I would not recommend such travel in December. As mentioned there will be few travellers and the heat will be intense. As well as the few travellers the area is very isolated. There are good caravan parks at Tjukayirla and Warakurna. I would not stay at Warburton. Overall I would suggest you rethink your travel plans.
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Reply By: Member - Rowdy6032 (WA) - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 12:43

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 12:43
Several years ago we went to visit a mate, his wife and 1st baby in Mt Magnet. It was pretty hot but we decided to go for a run to Meekatharra to the races.

By the time we got to Tuckanarra, which was about half way, the baby was becoming distressed so we stopped at the roadhouse. The old girl that ran the roadhouse came out and upon seeing the baby asked if she could hold her.

I still laugh when I recall the look on my mates wife face when the old girl took the baby and placed it in the water, in the dogs bucket, on the verandah.

It did help and I'm glad to say the baby survived. Babies can become dehydrated quickly.

Probably not a good idea to take a baby on the GCR in December.

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Follow Up By: Shaun M4 - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:58

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:58
Thank you Rowdy, I just showed your story to my wife and we both decided to take my son to desert after he is about 5 or 6 yrs, not 10 mths...
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 13:33

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 13:33
A baby would most likely not be able to survive in the heat that can be expected at that time of the year for very long. You are relying on the air conditioning to always be working and in an 8 year old car. I would suggest that the risk is far to high. Even with a satellite phone, in the event of a breakdown or accident, help could still be many hours away. Bottom line - don't do it.
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Reply By: Zippo - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:09

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:09
I echo what others have said regarding the combination of heat and baby at that time of year.

Also endorse Robert1660's comments re stopovers. This year and in 2014 we traversed the GCR (in cooler months) in our 2007 Subaru Forester. First time was Laverton/Tjukayirla/Warakurna/Yulara (deliberately avoiding Warburton and Docker River) while this year it was Kalgoorlie/Tjuka ....

Unseasonal rain can strike at any time, and play havoc with a tight timetable. We faced the same in June with a Yulara booking, but the Docker River - Yulara section was reopened (with cautions) two days before we needed to cross it.

It is certainly far shorter (and in our view less boring) than the "long way" via the Nullarboring.

If you do decide to go, I would recommend a thorough independent vehicle mech-check including the cooling system and aircon, and I would personally take a satphone (as we do). Apart from the above cautions, the vehicle type itself is entirely suitable for the road - the "locals" do it in 20yo Falcadores with few failures. Drive to conditions and tyre failures should not be a problem for you.

Be aware also that fuel availability outside "normal hours" attracts an opening fee at the named roadhouses. Best to fuel up on arrival if they are still open, rather than wait till the morning opening time if early starts are your preference.
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Reply By: Member - Duncan W (WA) - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:48

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:48
Shaun apart from what the others have said give each of the roadhouses a call to check whether they will be open between Christmas & New Year's as they may not be and or have restricted opening hours. If you leave Laverton early in the day , the drive from there to Warakurna in a day is not out of the question and an easy drive so I'd give Warburton a miss as a stop over. You should be able to average 80km/hr so work your travel times and distances from that.

However, you will need to be mindful of as summer in the desert isn't tourist season the road may not have been graded so that could really slow you down somewhat.

Hope you have a fun and safe trip no matter what your final choices are?


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Reply By: Shaun M4 - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:51

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 14:51
Thank you all for the suggestions, I just emailed the hotel to cancel the Uluru booking and decided to stay away from the GCR in December, although I dream about it and Uluru ever since I came to Australia! I just love the Red.... I will do it when my son is older or just myself with friends.

We will basically travel from Sydney to Esperance through Adelaide and go back...of course, if the baby is not happy, we can certainly go back at any time.

Again, thanks a lot! Enjoy the rest.

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Reply By: Trevor&Verna - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 15:56

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 15:56
I differ in opinion and would have a go - but I guess that's me.
I took a Mazda 808 up that way in the early 80's, plus wife and 12mo when the road was ordinary. A good adventure.
And have been that way a number of times since.
The road is quite good nowadays - all weather - and all but a big downpour will stop you, and that's rare. The most worrisome part is back on the bitumen near Uluru, and the boredom sets in.
I would expect you to have some basic mechanical knowledge and good experience driving on gravel roads. A steady pace of 80-100km/hr is realistic, and easy to do up to 800 in a day with frequent stops. Corrugations are likely around the Docker River region. Plus camels; take care.
Heat can be variable at that time of the year but its realistic to expect hot weather over 30°, probably less than 40. Bring a small spray bottle as a back up; like we used to use in the days before a/c.
Usual outback travel rules: Ensure you have plenty of water, spare food, basic tools and tyre repair, EPIRB, extra shade and an emergency plan. Cover all the 'what-ifs'. Other traffic is limited, but not non-existent.
I agree that if you can skip past Warburton, it would be better, opting for Tjukayirla overnight instead, then Warakurna - this timetable is doable if you are travelling from Esperance. Good luck.
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Reply By: Member - 8111COLIN - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 21:28

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 21:28
I did it a few years ago in summer , it was 53 deg for 3 days , not at all comfortable , fridge didn't work in that heat, air cond on and still 35 inside the car .
hardly saw another car except for the wrecks on the side of the road
Don't do it with a baby ....

However in winter it's a great drive , temps of about 30 deg.

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Reply By: equinox - Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 21:57

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2015 at 21:57
Hi Zhitao,

I wasn't going to comment on this thread however after you mentioned that it was your dream to visit Uluru, I will.

Dreams are meant to be followed. Traveling isn't always a pleasure, sometimes the actual experience will be, perhaps after the journey, something you will cherish for a long time. If it is tough going, and you make it through - you will be a better person for it.

It may be an easy trip, it will probably be tough; however you may always regret that you never did the trip. Now is the time - the next trip when your child is older may never come and you will be left wondering.

Do it, do it now, and fulfill your dream and be a better and stronger person.


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Follow Up By: TomH - Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 08:47

Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 08:47
And if his car breaks down and the baby dies, would it still be the thing to do NOW.

Would be far better to do it later when the child can actually remember the trip.

I took my 5 yr old to Disneyland and if we hadnt videoed it he cant remember much about it.

There are other safer ways to get to Uluru than that way and the OP has wisely cancelled the trip several replies ago
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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 14:45

Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 14:45
"And if his car breaks down and the baby dies, would it still be the thing to do NOW."

Sorry Tony, but what a ridiculous thing to say. Of course not, well not the right preparation anyway.....but accidents can happen anywhere, the idea is to take the right precautions and weigh up your odds before you do anything.

If their car is suitable, they carry enough water, let people know where they are going and when they will arrive they should be safer than flying to Disneyland........probably learn more and have more fun too.

Each to their own I suppose.....Id be more afraid of being let alone in Disneyland than the desert. LOL
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Follow Up By: Member - 8111COLIN - Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 21:00

Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 21:00
I agree with being carful and preparing for your trip and following your deams however you can fill the car with as much water as you like , take all the food that will fit , take your two spare wheels , tools , spare parts that you need to do that road , but that won't prepare a baby once you have stopped for the night and the temp is still 30 plus at 10.00pm after a possibly 40- 50deg c day .

I am one for going to see for myself rather than listen to people that sometimes have an opinion that a road is too rough or too wet or whatever the case may be , we are talking about a possibility of extreme heat and a very young baby , I have travelled that road a few times at different times of the year , I also have taken my kids at the age where there is less chance of suffering from the heat .

Going to Uluru is ok , it's a built up area with places to retreat from the heat .
The great central road is totally different .
Go when you can enjoy it more .

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Follow Up By: Trevor&Verna - Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 23:36

Thursday, Aug 20, 2015 at 23:36
And not to over-cook this discussion(sorry about the pun)
Highest temp at Giles this year = 43.5° in March
Highest ever recorded temp for Giles, Dec = 45.1°
Lowest recorded max temp for Giles, Dec = 16.1°
Lets keep it all in perspective.
Nullarbor, Esperance and Gt Northern Hwy have had higher temps and there are plenty of travellers.
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Follow Up By: Member - Rowdy6032 (WA) - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 01:13

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 01:13
Parenting and Child Health

"Babies can overheat very quickly in hot weather and especially in cars.

Avoid travelling when it is hot. If travel is necessary, do it early in the day.

Even in cool temperatures cars can heat up to dangerously high temperatures very quickly."

Commonsense I would have thought. Bit hard to find sometimes.
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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:26

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 10:26
A squirty bottle and a wet towel hung over the pota-cot kept my kids did we survive before air conditioners?
People do survive out of the city in summer........some people even work in it..........if your the sort of person who relies on cool temps and air conds, stay home, if you can handle heat and can use a bit of common sense go for your life........each to their own.
Being that hes taking the time to ask questions shows a bit of common sense......only he knows what's best for his family.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 13:37

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 13:37
Yes they did in days of old.

However the point of this thread was about is it wise to travel an almost deserted road at the hottest time of the year with a very young baby.

The advice which was accepted was not to do it.

Not about what big bad outdoors men did years ago.

and my name isnt Tony
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Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 13:45

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 13:45
Id hardly call the GCR deserted? More like a well traversed graded gravel highway...........

And sorry Tom I must be getting old and due for new glasses....or the heat is getting to me LOL
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Follow Up By: TomH - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 14:07

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 14:07
It has already been said in the thread it will be fairly deserted in December So I guess there must be something in it..

Better get a wet rag then
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Follow Up By: Member - 8111COLIN - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 17:58

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 17:58
I did it once in January , it was 50 deg c , the first two days I saw 3 trucks only , the last day I saw 3 cars in the last 50 kms .
didn't have kids then .
Even the locals stayed inside .
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Follow Up By: Shaun M4 - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 18:19

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 18:19
Hi guys, I am OP. thanks a lot for the coming and coming feedback, actually, the reason why I cancelled this trip (to Uluru, not WA) is not about heat, no-support or preparation, it's more about travelling with a baby to a relatively remote place. I am very very very conservative in this case, although I really want to show him the Red....of course, he cannot remember :-(

we've decided to take him to Broken Hill several times between September and November to let him get used to long car trip, air con, car seat......I just want to gradually prepare him, and yes, I may change my mind. Spend the new year at Uluru is kind of good.

but still, WA is our destination for this December, we will stay in WA most of the time, where I suppose is more populated than GCR.

Thanks a lot and I really appreciate.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 18:24

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 18:24
Thanks for the follow up and good to see you are taking a sensible approach for which I am sure you will be thankful.

As I said they need to be about 7yrs old before they retain memories of where they have been. I have recently showed my now 30 yr old his trip to USA when he was 5 and he said he can barely remember even with seeing the video.

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Follow Up By: Member - Rowdy6032 (WA) - Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 18:41

Friday, Aug 21, 2015 at 18:41
Shaun M4

I just want to point out that my comment regarding commonsense wasn't directed at you.

You asked a question and in my opinion are taking the sensible approach regarding your child.

My comment was directed at others.

FollowupID: 857407

Reply By: Ray - Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015 at 22:33

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015 at 22:33
We lived on a community out there late 70s,early 80,s. I drove that road everyday for 3 years. The temps do reach into the low 50,s. Changing a tyre in those conditions unless you are aclimatised can get you into strife. I remember Christmas Day 1980. We had a baby 11 months old with heat stroke resulting from a drive into Laverton the day before in an airconned ute. It was a very unpleasant day and taught us a lesson we never forgot.
Its a great drive to do but in my opinion its nice between May and September.
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