Tips Tricks and advice for the trip. Cairns > Derby and beyond.

Submitted: Sunday, Aug 05, 2012 at 22:59
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Hi All

Just joined this great site as I've been reading it over a couple of day's now and have found it to be a fountain of information and the first hand knowledge and experience an invaluable resource.

We have just in the last week decided to plan a trip from home here in Cairns up to kulumbaru and then over to Derby and from there taking a round about sort of way back home again which is undecided as yet.

So far the plan is Cairns >Townsville >Tennant > Dunmarra over to the Tanami track and then north to the VRD Timber creek area before heading up to Kulumbaru for a spot of fishing camping etc and then on to Derby and from there?.

I am wanting any and all tips or advice , things to see or experience, routes or alternative ones, equipment list's *, camping/fishing spot's, prices, any or anything you might suggest.

At this stage there are me and Jo my partner, and our two ruggy's 7 & 3 yr old girls and her brother a mechanic in two vehicles planning to leave in mid June for a two month round trip. We will be purchasing a 4.2 diesel patrol wagon for the trip with a TD42 engine and the brother inlaw will be in a 4.2 trayback model. Possibly another two vehicles yet to be confirmed

Jo and myself did the GRR in an old 88 L series Subaru wagon back in 2000 and have wanted to be back in that country ever since but, I guess things are a hell of a lot different on such a trip with young kids and the trip will need a lot more planning/preparation this time round. We all grew up in northern N.T &, QLD and have a lot of rural/bush experience but I know from experience that a bit of planning and a lot of preparation can count when it matters.

Thing's like Jack O having a set of wheel studs on board for many many years before actually needing them or being able to entertain a four year old for five hr's on a corrugated dirt road when the taco tells you that you are going twice as fast as you actually are ( if you can solve that one I want to invest now).
This is the sort of advice we are after, The sorts of problems you either do or do not expect, what I mean is you expect kids to try and take each others eyes out with texta's after a while in the back but you do not expect all five wheel bolts to shear...I think.

So please anything, suggestions , things to see, recipes, entertainment, out of the way camping spots, spares, tips, tricks, contacts, personal experience..... OH and while I'm at it , opinions please on swags/tent V camper trailer? SHMBO swears we need to have a camper trailer for the kids. I who does all the cooking and has to set up the camp ( and catches the most fish and mudcrabs) thinks that they are an added cost and a hassle to set up and tear down while on the move and that the kids will not care about the Yowies, Rainbow serpents, scorpions/spiders/centipedes/insert any other thing that could crawl into a camper trailer tent anyway and that the room could be used for other things, opinions please.

Sorry for the long first post but as Big Kev would say " I'm excited". We are pretty well set on a route till Dunmurra , I was considering the Wiso track from Tennant but it is apparently all fubar now and permits are not being issued does anyone know of similar alternatives?

Thanks for reading any advice you might have.

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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 10:51

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 10:51
Hi Jeff - Although no real 4wd adventure tracks as we were towing, you may be interested in reading some of My Blogs from 2008 and 2009 which include the Kimberley, Tanami Road, Tennant Creek and the Barkly through to Mount Isa as we continued west to east into Queensland.

I must agree with SHMBO about the trailer as you have the children.

Not being much of a fisher person I cannot help with the fishing spots, but I can say at Kalumburu the fish we caught were the best we had ever eaten. Be aware that in the Kalumburu area, you can only take as much as you can eat while staying there - but throwing back the biggest and best eating fish you have every caught is fine - you have had your fun and a have a good feed to take back to camp.


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Reply By: Member - nick b - Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 21:38

Monday, Aug 06, 2012 at 21:38
Jeff : why Tennant & tanami ? ..why not Dunmara springs timber ck !!!

Have you looked at treks & places on this site ???

re tent , camper ...I think there is as much to setup tent & accessories as with a camper , but at the end of the day it will depend on your planes ????

do you have the camps 6 book ...?... have you looked at some of the books on explor OZ ????? ....NO AFFILIATIONS !!!!! lol

cheers nick

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Reply By: pop2jocem - Tuesday, Aug 07, 2012 at 10:55

Tuesday, Aug 07, 2012 at 10:55

As far as entertaining the kids goes my son and DIL bought the three grandys one of those DVD playing contraptions each with a set of earphones. Cost a bit but has saved WW3 starting in the back seat and their sanity. Now personally I think a method employed by a mate of mine many years ago when our ankle biters were younger was just as effective and a lot less costly. One flash of the interior light meant dad was getting a little annoyed, two flashes meant dad was VERY annoyed, there was no third flash but apparently nowadays smacking is a big no no. Damages their little self asteem
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Reply By: Jeff :) - Wednesday, Aug 08, 2012 at 02:56

Wednesday, Aug 08, 2012 at 02:56
Thankyou Motherhen, nick and pop2jocem for your replys.

A good feed of fish and crabs is all we would be after up there, anything more always go's back to where it came from on such trips anyway, we are lucky enough to have a family property a five hour drive from Princess Charlotte bay here in FNQ and the Reef a couple of hours away for stocking the freezer (responsibly) if we feel the need.
Thanks for the info re your trip Blog's I will check them out for sure. The SWMBO (my typo last attempt) asks if there are Oysters available as she developed a habit for them in the N.T ? It is always good to get first hand advice from people who have been there and done it so I hope you wont mind if I ask some questions on your blogs if I have any. :)

Thanks again

nick b
Thanks for the tips. Upon checking the maps properly I realised I was referring to the Tanami East track out of Dunmurra in my OP , not the actual Tanami Track. I'm not familiar with any of the books you mentioned but will have a hunt for them, do you know the publishers etc, can i buy them here on the site ?. Have you done the track out of Dunmurra ? I am sort of familiar with the area north of about Mataranka growing up in Katherine and Darwin but that Acacia and spinifex desert country is a whole new ball game to me so I want to study up as much as possible , We did the central road from Kalgoorlie up to Ayres Rock though never ventured off it but I am keen to get out amongst it all and see a bit of it properly. RE the camper trailer, I am sort of coming around to that way of thinking and I like the idea of the kitchen and hot water options that are available as well ( a hot shower can feel like nirvana after days on the road). But some of the Taj Mahals the good lady has been looking at induce dollar signs of diesel costs running through my head and the smaller tent versions dont seem to provide adequate room , I guess we just need to narrow down what we need as opposed to 240 kg of extra canvas. ?

Thanks for replying nick if you have any info on where I can get the maps and books it would be appreciated,



The inventor of that product deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, we actually have one purchased last year for a trip to Sweden for the good lady and the ruggy's with a seven hr battery life, an invaluable tool of pacification and also education as well as both the younger ones like wildlife , cave men, dinosaurs etc although the age gap between them is starting to show now. I'm thinking this is just one of those issues we will all just have to live and learn with/adjust to along the way. We have done a fair few camping trips in the local area since they were just babies but not such an extended trip, They are both used to the Bush and camping sort of rough but it is the extended agenda and drive times that I would like to try and prepare for. I like the idea of the light flashes M8, lol but my little mongrels would likely raid the tool box and take the bulb out, not so as to avoid any punishment, but just cause they can and to mess with my head. The youngest one has already taught the two red dogs to heel by placing food in her pocket and delights in running them all over the place at her side for ages till they sit for the reward. ( she just turned three last month I don't stand a chance :( ) I'm thinking we might have to provide separate forms of entertainment as you first suggested pop2jocem along with a catered library for them both.

How times have changed huh, I can remember driving from Alice Springs to Katherine back in 77 after riding on the Ghan for 36 hrs and looking at the back of the drivers seat or out the window for endless hours in between scratching the latest state of the art sticker scratches on the background scenes of my really cool Alamo Cowboy booklet, or drawing with pencils in an empty craft book while my old man crapped his pants and pulled over every time a triple carriage road train full of cattle passed us on the one lane highway.

That said I want to give my youngest kids the same sort of memory's or at least relative ones in today's world. I know the "outback" is not what it once was but the space is still out there and the sense of awe and remoteness can still be had in the beauty of the land if you get off the beaten tracks for at least a part of the journey and away from other people. Even the brother inlaw has never experienced a landscape that does not include a tree or a mountain in the distance at the age of thirty.

A salt lake surrounded by desert at dusk, a Horizon full of sand, a twelve meter tide rushing through a gorge , an Aboriginal painting older than the known history of the world that is not seen in a paid for tour, just staring at the stars that are so clear you feel you can touch them in your camp at night.

It might seem a little melodramatic to some but it is something I would like my kids to experience before the wonder of such things becomes blase and the sense of wonder at it all is lost in the malestorm of what life has become in this day and age.

Thank you to those who have replied, I have already gained some great knowledge from my first post, If anyone has anything else to add it would be appreciated no matter how mundane you think it might be, personal experience or just a suggestion , food recipe while on the road or whatever, we are trying to extract as much as we can from the experience of others as able in order to make the most of our trip and prepare and plan both our route and equipment so any and all help is appreciated.

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