Wilcannia to Kakadu - tips and advice please

Submitted: Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 15:36
ThreadID: 3175 Views:2171 Replies:5 FollowUps:2
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We are in the early stages of planning a 2 vehicle (Triton dual cab & Landcruiser) trip from Melbourne to Kakadu in March/April 2003. We will be towing a Jayco Outback Swan & 16' Millard pop-up respectively with 4 adults & 3 littlies (under 5yo). Wilcannia is one important stop as my grandfather came from there. We are total novices and would appreciate any advice or tips on dos, dont's, what to see, where to go, what to take and also communication between the 2 vehicles. Any feedback would be appreciated.
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Reply By: Truckster - Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 19:48

Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 19:48
Lots of water!

Well equipt first aid kits, are a must, as well as at least one with first aid cert.. No good having the goods and gear and not knowing how to use it!

Comms: >=->
HF radio or Sat Phone, but look into them NOW...
HF you need license for, but in the middle of nowhere, if your not a good bush mechanic, it would be good to be able to scream for help and have people hear you!

Intercar comms>=->
UHF radio would be the go. 27meg would work, but UHF would be good for listening to others, and contacting Road Trains.

Do you have a complete route in mind yet?
How long you are taking to do all this?

DONT do a Clark Griswald going to Wally World (the National Lampoons Show!).. Give yourself time.. Things happen, theres a photo in one of the latest mags, of a Cruiser crossing a river, the caption reads something like, after crossing the river on returning the river had risen, they were stuck for THREE MONTHS!

What spares are you taking, 2 spare tires are a must, if your not good at changing tires AND/OR installing Tubes, then take complete tires on rims as well as puncture repair kits.

Handy to change fanbelts and radiator hoses before leavign and keep the old ones as spares, 90% of people in 20 yrs of bush driving have never changed them or had them blow, but then theres the other 10%... :)~

Doing a basic driver training course would be handy, specially since your towing trailers for the first time in serious conditions... as the people that usually run them have been where your going, and can give very good tips on how to and what to. What roads to miss and what NOT to miss!

Theres a few, there will be a few dozen more answers!

AnswerID: 12276

Reply By: Member - Chris - Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 20:12

Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 20:12
Firstly what route are you taking?. If you stay on the main highway, up north through Longreach to Isa and across it's not a problem. HF radios would be somewhat of overkill as long as the vehicle is prepared. My experience is that if you don't press the vehicle hard, then it will be ok. Personally, I wouldnt' take two spares either on the main road as each town can repair them. I've done this highway route several times in 2wd and not had one breakdown.
UHF CB would be great between the vehicles, and if one has the full fit, then just a hand held for the other would minimise preparation costs.
In the NT, both ends of the Kadadu highway have towns that can repair tyres and offer mechanicals - and it's all ashpalt. In the middle of the dry it's accessible by posh 2wd anyway.
Having said that, if you're going straight across - follow the Truckster.
My experience of Wilcania is not so easy though - had to watch my kit somewhat closer in the campsite.
Isa is worth a stop - I think it was the Riverside CP
Mataranka as well

Daly Waters
and anywhere else you can get a beer in the NT.
AnswerID: 12282

Follow Up By: Truckster - Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 20:16

Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 20:16
Chris pointed out a few thigns I didnt think about.. yes if your sticking to tar, its a different game plan!

Mataranka Springs are quite a shock when you come across them! Palm Trees here?!?! I was only 18-20 when I went there, doing the Wynns Safari we were on the way back home... Well worth a day there!

Kathrine Gorge etc. Well worth a day there too!

So much to see and do, just depends on your planned route and timetable.

But dont try to do everything this trip... Keep it easy and simple... Then do the other stuff another trip!
FollowupID: 7122

Reply By: sean - Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 22:41

Friday, Jan 31, 2003 at 22:41
I normally try to

Take my time,

Carry a road map

Start early each day

not travel at night,

make sure my tyres are A1,

make sure van bearings are A1

I only buy fuel from major brands.

speak to ppl in the van parks and they give me the lastest via
the 'bush telegraph'

look out for wildlife but I do not swerve if I am are going to hit it

- Easy trip either route - but up the guts is easier. I have done Melb-Darwin 6 times in past 5 years.


AnswerID: 12299

Reply By: Member - Mal - Monday, Feb 03, 2003 at 10:32

Monday, Feb 03, 2003 at 10:32
I don't know exactly how long you have for your trip but to get to Wilcannia from Melbourne I would try Echuca, Mildura, Menindee, (great camping at the lakes), Wilcannia. Now........................unfortunately Wilcannia has changed a lot since your grandfather was there. It used to be a very prosperous town with a Customs House with the most beautiful stone buildings which are still there. It is now one of the most scarey places I have been in Australia. There is a "drinking problem" and a very high crime rate. Stop and look but lock everything up and be prepared for your kids to see and hear things that you probably would prefer they didn't. This is not based on one experience but several as I love the Darling River area. Forty years ago when I was first there it was a wonderful place, probably as your grandfather remembered it.

For communications between vehicles UHF is probably the best. You can spend $400/vehicle for good sets or $80/vehicle for Dick Smith hand helds or something in between. I would spend $3-400 myself.

Hope this helps. I'll be interested in other peoples opinions. Enjoy your selves. Mal T.
AnswerID: 12422

Follow Up By: Wombat - Monday, Feb 03, 2003 at 12:19

Monday, Feb 03, 2003 at 12:19
Thank you to everyone who has responded thus far. The trip will be next year (2004) - I can't get used to it being 2003 yet, and we are planning on a 6 to 8 week break. We will probably not be undertaking any serious off road excursions due to our limited experience. Thanks for the tips on Menindee, Isa, Mataranga and Kathrine Gorge. Is Wilcannia really that bad? To quote walkabout.com.au - " Wilcannia - Historic port on the Darling River
The image of Wilcannia that most travellers along the Barrier Highway have is of a town with a lot of Aborigines standing around in the main street. It is a very racist preconception but one which nearly everyone who has travelled through the town enunciates. It is also fuelled by the bigots of Broken Hill and Cobar who are only too eager to divert travellers to their own centres.
Of course the image of the town is unfair and inaccurate. Sadly very few travellers get out of their cars, have a look around this historic town and talk to the local Aborigines, who are, almost without exception, very friendly and only too happy to talk about this delightful township on the banks of the Darling River. After all many of them are Barkindji people who have been living in this region for 40 000 years.
When we arrive at Kakadu what are the highlights?
Once again thanks for the advice.
FollowupID: 7235

Reply By: Member - Melissa - Monday, Feb 03, 2003 at 14:39

Monday, Feb 03, 2003 at 14:39
Hi Wombat,

I hate to disappoint you, but yes, Wilcannia really is that bad. Whoever wrote the description you quoted above has obviously not been there anytime say, in the last 15 years. What you will find now is a far different reality. The town is badly declined, shops boarded up, dirty etc and all the usual things that go hand in hand with an outback town struggling with a MASSIVE drinking problem. Your grandfather will probably be very disappointed and perhaps a bit upset with the modern Wilcannia.

I've passed through a few times, stayed in the CVP on one occasion...would have preferred not to though. My folks stayed in the CVP several years back and wanted to leave their van there whilst they went off exploring. The CVP manager advised them against leaving the van and was very specific and clear about the risks should they choose to do so. He would accept no responsibility for theft of vandalism. In the end, they left the van overnight up by the managers residence, locked up tight including the roof hatches. Happily, it was as they had left it.

Regarding Kakadu, you may find access to many of the attractions still closed due to flooding etc. On the bright side, the wetlands and waterfalls will be at their best with the wet season run-offs in full swing.

As said above, if you are sticking to th blacktop don't go overboard on spare tyres or parts as there are plenty of service centres along your route.

Have a good trip.

:o) Melissa
AnswerID: 12425

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