Perth - Uluru

Submitted: Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 17:19
ThreadID: 135914 Views:3654 Replies:6 FollowUps:9
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I’m the first to admit that I’m a novice so please be gentle. We are looking at routes for a possible trip to Uluru in of all months January. Yes we know it’s going to be hot! There really only seems to be two routes, the Great Central Highway or over to Port Augusta then up from there. So first question is what is the central highway like and secondly are there any other routes?

All tips and advice appreciated
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Reply By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 17:42

Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 17:42
At that time of year for a novice go via Port Augusta. Give yourself plenty of time to see things on the way and it will be a great trip.

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Follow Up By: gerard m2 - Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 17:51

Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 17:51
Thanks Chris
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Follow Up By: Member - DingoBlue(WA) - Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 18:53

Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 18:53
Great Central Road is an easy drive with lots of good campsites and much more interesting than the Nullabor route. In the past, the last section from Docker River to Yulara has been the worst bit with quite severe sand corrugations.
Last year I returned from Alice via West McDonalds and Sandy Blight Junction Road which joined the GCR at Docker River. The GCR was like a billiard table to Laverton.
Rather a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy!

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Reply By: IvanTheTerrible - Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 17:52

Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 17:52
The Great Central would be OK as long as you watch the weather
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 19:15

Saturday, Nov 25, 2017 at 19:15
The Great Central Road will be fine unless you have a break down and the chances of a break down will increase significantly as the shade temperature rises above 50C, which is highly likely.
The quality of the road is a minor issue.
It is more remote by a significant factor and help will be much harder to get, will take longer and cost a lot more, increasing the inconvenience and the real risks.
The chances of a break down going via the Nullarbor and Port Augusta due to extreme heat are probably just as high, but the consequences are not so serious.
There are other routes like the Gun Barrel and the Anne Beadell, but they are more remote again and would be a foolish choice at that time of year, IMHO.

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Reply By: Phil B (WA) - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 10:28

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 10:28
I'm with Peter.

You say you're a novice (nothing wrong with that we all had to learn at some stage), then I suggest you stay away from the GCR and go via Pt Augusta if you really have to travel in Jan.

Even with my 25 years of 4wdriving, much of it trackless desert travel, I wouldn't do the GCR in Jan its just too hot and risks are much higher.

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Follow Up By: Kazza055 - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 11:39

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 11:39
I agree, wrong time of the year to go there, why not go down to the South West corner, it will be much cooler than way out there in the middle of Australia.
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Follow Up By: IvanTheTerrible - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 12:10

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 12:10
Doesn't matter which way they take it's going to be hot. Go via the coast will add 1600Km to the trip and it still will be bloody hot north of Port Augusta which is still 1300km from Ularu. The Great Central is a major inland road that is in really good condition up to the NT border. The amount of traffic on it means you wont go a hour without seeing somebody
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 12:51

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 12:51
I'm with Ivan on this.
It is going to be hot either way, on the GCR or on bitumen via Pt Augusta.
As Ivan says, you would be adding a lot of extra time travelling via Pt Augusta.
Although I spend a lot of time in 'The Deserts', I would not choose to do this trip by either route in summer unless it was absolutely essential.

What may be more important to consider is your vehicle. Will it be in absolute top condition for such a long trip in mid-summer heat. Many apparently reliable vehicles break down when subjected to consistent hours of operation early into a holiday trip. Even more likely with those mid-summer temperatures.
Another consideration is personal stress. What are you using to sleep in and to prepare meals and relax at day's end?


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Follow Up By: Zippo - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 13:53

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 13:53
Having used the GCR in cooler months in 2014/2015/2016 I'm totally with Ivan and Allan. I've also done the Nullarboring 8 times (7 too many!) and both will be hot as in January, the GCR probably more so.
Apart from being a noob, what you (the OP) haven't indicated is vehicle type, whether towing/swagging/motelling and whether any kids are involved. These ALL come into the equation.

On the GCR, the road condition west of the border has always been reasonable when we've traversed it. On the NT side it was pretty tough corros in 14, smooth as a billiard table in 15, and suffering post-rain in 2016. Relative timing is king. In January all bets are off.
Would I do it if I had to do Perth-Uluru in January? Probably.

Edit: I should add that the experience of Uluru will be somewhat muted by the likely heat in January. If this is a last-ditch attempt to climb before the ban comes into force, I wouldn't bother.The rock is closed to climbing whenever the wind or temp gets too high (or rain happens).
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Follow Up By: gerard m2 - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 18:15

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 18:15
Thanks for all the advice as always it is informed and precise
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Reply By: Michael H9 - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 18:30

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 18:30
The GCR might be shorter but you can travel faster on the tar across the Nullabor. Accommodation is a factor at that time of year. I've done Uluru in january and it was very hot all night. Our car thermometer registered 45 degrees at 8:30pm while we were waiting for the sun to go down at the sunset viewing area. It is very uncomfortable having a pile of people in a tent in that sort of weather. An air conditioned motel is a welcome relief especially if you have kids complaining. Anywhere further south and closer to the ocean will give you a more pleasant night. The road from Eucla to Port Augusta stays pretty close to the ocean most of the way.
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 19:42

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 19:42
I had to have a peek at this thread to see advice, having never done any of the GCR, or been to WA period.
Will hopefully be on a trip through the centre of WA mid next year.

Thought it would be interesting to see what Mr Google Maps had to say . . .
Google maps Perth to Uluru

Obviously it doesn't take into account weather, even most road conds, but usually Google tends to send people on mainstream routes capable of being traversed by most reliable motor vehicles, and not just 4WDs.

I find it strange that is says 26hrs for the 2051km journey, when usually as soon as you hit anywhere inland, off bitumen, the travel times in Google Maps seem to quadruple !!
(Actually, the flight time on Google of 11hrs 35mins is even more intriguing !!!)

That said, if you need a transit permit to Aboriginal Lands, it is getting out of the norm for most peoples view of regular highway travel.

And we don't know about you Gerard, or your experience travelling.
I think someone else (Zippo) mentioned important questions, like vehicle (type, age / condition), how you are travelling (tow, camp, motel . . . if any / many along the way), and adults or are children travelling too ?

How much of the GCR is sealed ?
It sounds like at least the NT section can be unsealed and rough at times.

Good insurance, top road cover, and very much only do it with 3 to 4 days of reasonable weather forecast (temps / rain) . . . keep in mind much of inland Australia's rainfall is through the summer.

I'd be very tempted to at least have a cheap reliable PLB (KTI etc) . . . or better, hire a sat phone for some peace of mind and extra insurance against breakdowns.
Though from what Ivan posted, it must be a busy route ?
(Summer may be much less though.)

Were you planning on the same return route ?
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Follow Up By: Zippo - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 21:54

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 21:54
Les, addressing a couple of points you raise:
How much is sealed? As of July last year the paving runs out about a dozen km out of Laverton. Then there are a couple of sealed sections just SW of Warburton - probably less than 20km all up - and then there was a strip about 1km long just rock side of Docker River. This latter bit is built up high and to contemporary highway standards - maybe a taste of what might come in the future. The next blacktop is at the turnoff just south of the Olgas, where you meet the NT bitumen.
Traffic levels (in our three transits) weren't up to Ivan's 1-an-hour level, but not non-existent. Summer would be a very different story. The "locals" would still be out there in their Falcadores, but I would expect very few transiting tourists.

Google is notoriously off-target with travel times as soon as any unsealed road is part of the route. We estimate that they figure 60kph for the entire unsealed sections. The GCR for us was more like easy travelling at 90kph except those Docker River corros.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 22:33

Sunday, Nov 26, 2017 at 22:33
Thanks Zippo, Google maps estimates is a bit of a surprise to me for sure.

Even with about 45% sealed, they are still generous for the 55% unsealed.
Their avg is near 80km/hr, which for a seasoned traveller could be about right for travel time at an avg speed.

I agree, it's a risk, and a lot depends on Gerard and his circumstances vs risk / reward balance.
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