Travelling the Savannah Way, Borroloola to Normanton

Submitted: Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 19:39
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We are intending to do this part of the Savannah Way in the first week of September. Having never done 'serious' unsealed road driving I thought I would ask for advice.
We are driving a Pajero Sport with a 6 x 4 heavy duty trailer (the salesman assured it can handle the corrugation and river crossing, and who wouldn't trust a salesman!) and camping.
One issue is river crossings as the advice is to walk it first. Is it likely there will be crocs on any crossings (I have the missus and a dog but if I run out of them I would have to do the next one myself!). I understand the main one would be the Calvert River; any general tips to ease the nerves? what would be the expected water level at this time of the year?
As this is part of a trip from Perth to Brisbane, I am also thinking of going down the Gibb River Road. Any thoughts on the 'difficulty' level would be appreciated before I try to work up the bottle to plan it into the trip.
Cheers, Chris
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Reply By: Member - nick b - Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:01

Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:01
If you flick back to the second page of the forum theses road conditions were discussed.
GRR maybe a bit tougher with a few bigger river crossings & large stones , when we did it few years back .
I try not to travel in school holiday as roads are busy IMO
Cheers Nick b

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Follow Up By: Oldun - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:24

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:24
Many thanks Nick, I'll check back through. Cheers, Chris
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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:23

Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:23
We never fitted the Savannah Way in, but by September, I expect any remaining water crossings to be very low.

We toured the Gibb River Road in June, with side trip to Kalumburu, towing our off-road caravan with no problems. We went to Mitchell Falls, leaving the caravan at the King Edward River campground making Mitchell Falls a day trip. The King Edward River was the deepest crossing we did (and we did it four times), and it is one with an irregular base. Those along the Gibb River Road are easy driving, and are not deep by the time the road is opened for general traffic each season. No problems at all. You can see My Blogs (2008). The Kimberley trip was our very favourite.


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Follow Up By: Oldun - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:26

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:26
Many thank Motherhen, very much looking forward to the trips. I will look up you blogs. I am doing my own, for the folks back in UK about our time so far in Oz. We emigrated back in April, and drove from Brisbane to Perth, via the Nullabor, in May. Time to go back now. Cheers, chris
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Reply By: Member - Robyn R4 - Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:41

Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:41
You must've gone to the same 4WD school as my husband with your theories on sending the wife and dog first...!!!
We tried to do the Savannah in July last year. The crossings were very shallow (the crocs would've had gravel rash on their bellies!) and very easy but this year there's been unseasonal rain all round so follow the number one rule...ask. The people at the caravan parks will have heard it all as customers book in, and then there are the fellow campers to chat with as well...
Stop at the caravan park in Borroloola (we liked it) and chat to people who've come from the other way. We met a bloke at King Ash Bay who warned us of the corrugations when he limped in with something-or-other busted on his boat trailer.
The NT side is reportedly worse than the Qld side and we never got to test that one after coming a cropper and having to limp back to Borroloola for repairs and then heading home via tar.
Now we caught the road on a very bad time and were almost in a queue at the welder's shop but I've since read of many many successful crossings since!
Just be aware of washouts, little gullies caused by fast flowing water. These can be deep enough to really crunch if you don't see them in time (not all have the little caution sign in them!) and they can stretch a fair way across the road.
The Gibb wasn't too bad for corrugations until you try for the Kulumburu road.
Don't be put off by the fact that you have a dog through the Kimberley. We did it with our dog and we still saw a lot (a lot more than we would've seen if we'd stayed home!) She was on the lead most of the time (crocs, snakes, etc etc!) and we live with a fear of ticks almost all year so she's dosed up. We found the places that accepted dogs and planned our adventures around these. Yes, add the Gibb River Road to your trip-it was great! There's a great book and map in the exploroz shop and it was worth every cent.
The only crossing that scared the begeezes out of me for a bit (but I'm only a suburban chick!) was the Pentecost-yeh, we did it easy all 3 times but my imagination was on overtime!
We did the trip in a Kia Sorento (the version that had dual range) and a fairly rugged little home made camper/trailer. Hint : check your leaf springs are extra tough!

Robyn :)

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Follow Up By: Oldun - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:23

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:23
Hi Robyn, very many thanks for the rely, extremely helpful and now looking forward to it more than ever; you cannot beat other people's recommendations, at least those who have done an sound like pretty much the same situation as ourselves. Someone did suggest taking the mother in law for the crossings but I prefer my chances with the crocs.
Take care, cheers Chris
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Follow Up By: Oldun - Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 11:15

Thursday, Sep 22, 2016 at 11:15
Hi Robyn,
Just a final follow up. We did the Gibb River and Savannah way, via Lawn Hill Gorge. It was excellent, and no injuries or damage. I did have to tighten the wheel bearings of our trailer, which came as a surprise as I didn't realise they had any (not mechanically minded). Someone at a camp noticed they needed doing and explained how to do it. The gorges were awesome and the Sennett on GBR was stunning. The river crossings were good, the Pentecost was dry and the Calvert okay (either side were ponds that looked line the one tat the croc comes out of in Crocodile Dundee, do we didn't hang around.
The GBR corrugations were bad, the Savannah way okay and the 'road' down to lawn Hill, from Hells Gate was non-existent - it seemed at times were just driving across a plain, but actually it was quite driveable. All in all as mentioned, a great trip. We are now back in Brisbane.
I just wanted to say thanks for the advice and tips, they were very helpful as you were pretty much in the same boat as us when you did it. It gave us a big confidence boost. Bring on Cape York.
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Reply By: Yunderup Fox n Wifey - Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:43

Sunday, Jul 31, 2016 at 21:43
Hi Olden,
Wifey and I just travelled from along the Roper River ( July 2016), through Limem Bight national park down through Borrolloola and on to Normanton towing a 19'10" off road caravan.
The river crossings where all a breeze provided we took it easy with no significant water levels to worry about. It rained for the last few days of the trip which helped settle the dust.
The road was as you would expect, good in places a bit stoney in others and corrogations in patches. We passed plenty of vehicles towing off road campers, going in the opposite direction, so I wouldn't hesitate to take this route again. Just need to drive to the road conditions and for us that meant keeping the speed down to around 30 - 70 kph.
if you need any specific info let me know and I will get back to you if I can help.
Old yundy fox and wifey
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Follow Up By: Oldun - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:29

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:29
Very many thanks Old Yindy Fox, and of course, wifey. That is great to hear and makes me look forward to it even more now. I may take you up on you offer and ask for some specific advice when I have planned the route properly. Cheers, Chris
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Reply By: Retreat Caravans - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 12:36

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 12:36
Good luck in your trip Oldun, we wish you and your family safe and happy trip in Savannah Way.

Don’t miss to visit Lake Bonney this year.. as their one of best destination for family getaways
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Follow Up By: Oldun - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:31

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:31
Many thanks for the good wishes Mark, I will look up the website and perhaps call in. Cheers, Chris
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Reply By: Member - Mark H47 - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 13:43

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 13:43
Hi Chris , we completed the Savannah Way from Cairns to Broome back in May/June. This was our return back to Perth after doing the Outback Way from Perth to Cairns through the middle. We towed a camper trailer behind the Prado and let all tyres down to 28 psi when on the dirt.
Found this helped with corrugations and made for a softer ride. We kept our speeds down but there were some sections of the road that were like a highway. As with most roads of this size you do get the rougher sections but just adjust your driving accordingly.
We had some heavy rain during this time but found the crossings at the time were all very low and no need to walk as the bottom was clearly visible. But this could change overnight and I'm not sure what the levels would be in September. Plenty of traffic and big caravans on the road so you should be ok with your set up and if unsure you could always wait and watch someone else go through. We had our camper tyres/rim to match the car so options with spares if needed but we did not have one flat over the 16,000 kms travelled.
Same with the GRR a few rough sections but none that caused any concerns. Lots of water crossings and the main one you will need to check prior would be the Pentecost. Again lots of traffic when we crossed and watched a few go through before our turn.

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Follow Up By: Oldun - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:35

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 14:35
Hi Mark, very many thanks for the this, particularly the specific advice. I am looking forward to this trip even more now, it sounds superb. River crossings will be another tick in the box, and looking forward to the first one, with a few nerves but quite well settled now. Take care, cheers, Chris
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Reply By: ian - Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 23:05

Monday, Aug 01, 2016 at 23:05
Hi Oldun
All you have to do is take your time, take care of your tyres, and ask advice if you are unsure. Its all easy if you are not in a hurry.
Have fun
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