The Great Central Road in October

G'day All,
I am a total green-horn diving into outback driving. I have a 100 series petrol with which I will tow a camper trailer. I am planning on heading out with just the family. Can anyone let me know if I am totally mad, and if I'm not mad, what sort of essential gear should I be packing.
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Reply By: Wayne's 60 - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 01:33

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 01:33
TnT ........... lol

Do a 4WD Training course before you go!!

GCR is all too easy .......... in good conditions.

Plan your stopping points ...............

Carry the correct gear .............

Set up your vehicle correctly ..............

Drive to the conditions ..................

......... have a great trip!!

Wayne & Sally.

AnswerID: 483322

Follow Up By: Trek'n_Teach - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:06

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:06
Have looked at a driver training course .....better get it booked. Thanks Wayne and Sally.
FollowupID: 758607

Follow Up By: Wayne's 60 - Thursday, Apr 19, 2012 at 21:57

Thursday, Apr 19, 2012 at 21:57
There are vacancies for the course this weekend.

Wayne & Sally.

P.S. there was a post, in the last three months where a similar question was posted regarding equipment that should be carried on a trip. We replied to that and put our list up. I can't find the thread - even after numerous searches.

FollowupID: 758874

Reply By: Life Member - esarby (NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 07:19

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 07:19

Like you I retired in 2007, bought a 4x4 and Tvan. Did a shake down trip and then headed off solo to Cape York. Great experience. On returning did a 4x4 course and learnt more than I thought I needed to know. As above be prepared. You are not mad. Many had done it before. Common sense prevails. You are at the right place, keep asking questing as you plan your trip, as I did. Have a safe trip.

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Follow Up By: Trek'n_Teach - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:09

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:09
Seems my sanity is intact, but I am not sure what 'common-sense' is these days rarely seen. Maybe I will apply 'uncommon-sense' ........Great advise. Thanks.
FollowupID: 758608

Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 08:11

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 08:11

Providing it is dry, it is a great drive. At that time of the year it will be in the high 30's C to low 40'sC, so take extra water.

One word of advise for someone new to dirt roads and towing a camper. Your cheapest bit of insurance is to cover your rear back window with a sheet of cardboard to stop it breaking from stones coming off of your camping.

I have seen this countless times over the years frpm travellers on dirt roads and broken rear windows are common if you do not take precautions.


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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 11:22

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 11:22
Agree with the need to protect your rear windows, but rather than use cardboard, get a sheet of polycarbonate from Bunnings and cut it to size and tape it all around with 100mph tape. It will stay put for at least a couple of months and that way you can still see through the back window. If you dont seal it all the way around though a lot of dust will build up underneath it.


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
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Follow Up By: Trek'n_Teach - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:11

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:11
Great advise on the rear window. I would never have thought of this. Will do a follow-up on the polycarbonate at local Bunnings.
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Reply By: Member Boroma 604 - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 08:32

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 08:32
Have done The Great Central Road twice, in 2005 & 2010, great trip, the main thing to remember is "DRIVE TO THE CONDITIONS". It was in great shape in 2010 but can vary depending on weather and maintenance schedules. I had another bloke with me, he shared the driving and I regularly had to ask him to back off on the good sections he would get up to 95to 105KM per hour, towing a 3 tonne caravan, these speeds are not on, no matter what the road service, for me.

The conditions can change in the blink of an eye , I drive at 80-85 where good and slower as the conditions deteriorated. Never had a problem.
Don't forget you need permits available free.

Just go steadily and enjoy the tranquility, remember if you need to get there in a hurry "Take an Aeroplane" .
AnswerID: 483333

Follow Up By: Trek'n_Teach - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 15:14

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 15:14
I like your comment about 'Aeroplane'. Definitely part of my reason to go this way is to actually see some of our amazing country.
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Reply By: Holden4th - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 09:47

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 09:47
I'm going to be doing this at the end of May, weather permitting, on my way back to the Gold Coast.

When I did it in 07 the road in the Laverton Shire was excellent and better to drive on than many bitumen highways I've experienced. However, once I crossed into the Ngaanyatjarraku Shire the road conditions deteriorated and while easy enough to traverse, did require some care at certain stages. Despite warnings about the conditions, the Docker River section was good, though sandy.

This site has plenty of useful information, including the permits that you need - one for the WA side and another from the NT (Central Land Council) side. These are transit permits and means that you must not veer off the beaten track.

It is a great drive with plenty of fantastic scenery. The two that stood out for me was the view of the Peterman Range and the Olgas suddenly coming into sight over a crest in the road.

Enjoy the trip
AnswerID: 483336

Reply By: wombat100 - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 09:59

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 09:59
You will find, in some places on the GCR- 'normal' petrol will not be available. However, the 'opal' substitute is OK for most situations.
Check your vehicle compatability.
Have a great trip. We'll be a bit ahead of you- late July/ Early August.
AnswerID: 483337

Follow Up By: Croozerute - Friday, Apr 20, 2012 at 09:41

Friday, Apr 20, 2012 at 09:41
Hi Wombat,

Just to clear something up for you here, ULP is NOT available on the GCR anywhere between Yulara and Laverton. OPAL is the only option.
I ran my 100 series V8 on opal for a year out there with no dramas at all.

T'n'T , as most have stated, don't make it a race and you'll be fine..
as for the weather, if the road closes while you're out there, just be prepared to sit it out and wait, don't make your schedule so tight that you need to get grumpy and risk driving the closed road.. it will open again fairly quickly again if it closes..
I don't know about the need to do a 4wd course to do the GCR .. but, there's courses for every bloody thing these days eh ... lol
FollowupID: 758905

Reply By: vk1dx - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 10:13

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 10:13
I would advise, as others had above, to get some training. If you are on your own this is a MUST HAVE. The best and cheapest way is to join a club.

What about emergency stuff? Have you got a first aid kit and more importantly, know how to use it.

And what communications do you have if you break your body. Mobiles do not always work out there!!

Sorry but I would not recommend that you do this trip on your own (solo) and without any training and emergency skills and set-up.

Personally, even though I have not been on the GCR I still say that unless you have some good old experience both mechanical and 4WD, and bush common sense etc, that, as a "green horn" not a good idea. Especially solo.

AnswerID: 483339

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 10:51

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 10:51
Hi Trek,

Although you have not given us any info about yourselves, in general no you are not mad to plan to do a trip like this BUT you do need to be properly prepared. Others have already given good advice. I would add the following to your list.

You should do at least one, preferably more shake-down trips before you set off on your big adventure. This will help iron out a lot of the little things that while you are based at home can be easily fixed. If you are on the road though even little things can become major issues.

Also make sure that both of you get some 4WD training and that both you and your other half are able and willing to drive. You will be a long way from anywhere so you need to be self sufficient eg in case an accident makes one of you unable to drive.

These sorts of trips are not so much about getting from point A to point B as having a journey and an experience, so you need to approach the trip with that in mind. Prepare all your family for new sights and experiences rather than resorting to DVDs to pass the time.

There is a heap of info on this site, spend some time searching around and ask questions about specific issues if you need more info.


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
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AnswerID: 483341

Reply By: Ron N - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 13:04

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 13:04
T'n'T - "A total greenhorn diving into outback driving"? Does this mean you have no experience of driving on dirt roads? If so, I'd suggest you get some serious dirt road driver training and experience, to ensure you don't end up with the Cruiser on it's roof, halfway through the trip. This is an all-too-frequent problem.

Rough dirt road driving involves fast reflexes, good vehicle control skills, and an understanding of the vehicle response results, from varying road conditions.

Examples -

1. I've seen people who try to drive on top of the ridges between the wheel ruts, to avoid the chassis-pounding corrugations. Lack of experience and skills in trying to do this, usually results in vehicle rollover. Stick with the wheel ruts.

2. Responding to an animal (roo, emu, camel, dingo, fox, wallaby, sheep, etc) running across the road in front of you, by swerving sharply. A sharp swerve at 100kmh will usually result in vehicle rollover, unless you have extensive experience and driver skills.
Don't swerve if this happens - just apply heavy braking without locking the wheels, so you retain control.
Heavy braking without lockin the wheels is a skill, too. A panic stop by just jumping on the brakes and locking all the wheels generally results in a rollover as well.

3. Drive within your skills level. Don't drive fast when road conditions are deteriorating. A problem with many people is the "trip mindset", where they NEED to keep the pedal to the metal continuously, because they're totally focussed on the journeys ending.
Back off in adverse conditions and focus on the next few hours, and just the next section of the overall trip.
Give yourself a modest target of the distance you're able to easily accomplish that day, but don't hold yourself to it, if conditions deteriorate or things go wrong.

4. Be aware that over long distances in the outback, conditions can change dramatically, very quickly. Thunderstorms are frequent in October, and these can be very localised, but very intense. You could start off the day with a beaut clear sky at your start point, but 300kms up the road, you may run into a severe thunderstorm with flash flooding, slippery road conditions, and even a need to stop your travel until the conditions clear.

5. Secure EVERYTHING in your camper trailer. Corrugations and general dirt road roughness will make loose items smash themselves to pieces. Ensure everything is sealed against dust, because outback dust gets into everything.
Keep a regular check on suspension components, wheel nuts, axle components, and anything getting a hammering from the road surface.
Bolts coming loose, shock absorbers falling off, brake assemblies coming apart, are just some of the things you need to watch carefully.
I've actually seen a complete trailer brake master cylinder assembly fall off, never to be found again, when the mounting bracket welds fractured.

I trust you have fun and enjoy the scenery. Remember also, you're traversing Aboriginal lands, and you need a permit, and if you do not observe those permit conditions, you may encounter some nastiness.
I've heard stories of some people in charge of the Aboriginal corporations out there who have a real chip on their shoulder, and they have made life very difficult for travellers who did not obey the permit conditions to the letter - particularly with regard to leaving the road in an unauthorised manner.

Cheers - Ron.
AnswerID: 483349

Follow Up By: Trek'n_Teach - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:04

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 14:04
Thanks Ron, looks and sounds like good and thorough advise.
FollowupID: 758606

Reply By: grunta1970 - Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 22:13

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012 at 22:13
Did the GCR on my bike in feb. Weather conditions were nice and warm, road conditions were very good, very easy riding for the most part. If you get some basic skills, be prepared to a certain degree, and get the the right conditions, GCR is a walk in the park. I know a bikers mindset is a little different to a 4wders by neccessity, but I think 4wders in general tend to be over cautious and over prepared. Just use your common sense.
AnswerID: 483412

Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 00:15

Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 00:15
T'n'T - Here's some links that will assist your knowledge levels of the Great Central Rd, which is part of the Outback Way trek.

Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku - Road condition reports (IMPORTANT) -

The Outback Way - Information pages -

Cheers - Ron.
AnswerID: 483417

Reply By: brushmarx - Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 09:14

Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 09:14
Sorry for the late reply, but I've been a way.
We did the GCR a couple of Christmases ago, from Brisbane to Perth in late December.
It was straight after rain in Queensland, and the roads were a bit chopped up.
We were in the Uluru campgrond when the cyclone went through, and left the next morning heading west.
We have a petrol Jackaroo and a camper trailer.
Even after rain, and the subsequent damage from vehicles, the road was fine when taken with a bit of care and common sense.
Obviously conditions are always changing, but if you have basic supplies and recovery gear, you should be fine.
The time you are going should mean regular traffic.
Even in the hottest and wettest part of the year, we still saw vehicles every few hours, so if you got stuck, there will be someone not too far away.
Let the Rangers or service station owners know where you are going and when you expect to arrive, and you have a bit of a backup plan.
As others have said, take care, have supplies for a few days if necessary, and have fun. The road is not extreme, and in many cases, better than some of our alleged highways.
There are too many people on this site saying you can't travel in the summer, you can't travel more than 500 kilometres a day, and you need someone to hold your hand all the way, and other warnings.
Just travel to suit your experience, and enjoy the trip.
AnswerID: 483428

Follow Up By: Member - Oldbaz. NSW. - Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 10:48

Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 10:48
What a joy to see a little common sense, good on yer, Ian....must be a Jack drivers
thing..???. The concept that you need a degree with honors to negotiate a gravel road in a 4wd is not one I subscribe to.
Sure, due respect to safety,survival, vehicle maintenance, even 4wd training..all
are required for trouble free touring, but the ever increasing weight of opinion that
you need to throw thousands of dollars at your the form of suspension
upgrades, bullbars,lights,winches, satphones,gps etc etc, before you venture on
well travelled outback touring routes is IMHO largely mythical.
It concerns me that such expectations must prevent many from attempting such
trips & therefore not experience the joy such travel brings.
The toys are good, but not essential, spend the $$ on fuel instead.
Aaaah...I feel better now..cheers.....oldbaz.
FollowupID: 758697

Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 12:36

Wednesday, Apr 18, 2012 at 12:36
Oldbaz - I took Trek'n_Teach's statement at face value. "I'm a total greenhorn". I have picked up enough rolled over vans, campers and 4WD's in my life, to know that there are many people out there, who can't keep a 4WD upright on the best section of Hwy 1, let alone a dirt road.

You may have good driving skills because you came from a rural background and upbringing, and learnt to drive on nothing but bad dirt roads, the same as I did.
However, there are thousands of people who have vast sums of money to spend on 4W-Driving, who have never seen a dirt road, let alone driven on one. I gave advice on the basis that T'n'T fell into the latter category.

The substantial insurance premiums on hired campers, motorhomes and 4WD's - and the 4WD wrecks that regularly turn up in the auction yards - give testament to the fact that the skill levels of many people in campers, 4WD's, and towing, are sadly lacking. Thus the advice I gave was to ensure that T'n'T has some understanding of the basic requirements, given that he's "a total greenhorn".

The problem nowadays is that modern vehicle cabins and occupants are so isolated from the world outside, that drivers often have no idea of outside conditions until they stop and actually get out - whereupon they're stunned by the heat, dust, flies, and the actual outside conditions.

Cheers - Ron.
FollowupID: 758706

Reply By: Trek'n_Teach - Sunday, Apr 22, 2012 at 00:55

Sunday, Apr 22, 2012 at 00:55
Thanks all for your sound advise. I have gained quite a bit from your experiences. I know I need to respect the road, the country, my vehicle and my experience, and that's why I have come to this site. I am really looking forward to our adventure.
AnswerID: 483798

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