To Alice and back, what a trip, such an experience......... Part 1

Sunday, Jan 09, 2011 at 10:03

Martyn (WA)

My wife and I have now just returned from a trip which included a trip to Uluru, Alice Springs Coober Pedy and the in-laws in Melbourne.
We left on the 18th of December and set off for Leonora, arrived safely and found the caravan park, we arrived late so we just set up and made a light dinner. Having the Tvan makes the overnight stop so easy, two minutes and you are done......
Surprisingly we had rain, woke up to be surrounded by puddles of water. Packed up and dutifully paid the caravan park owner for the overnight stop.
We then set off for Laverton and the Great Central Road (GCR), I was still undecided at this time about the GCR. I had heard lots of tales of people dying of heat exposure, isolation, breakdowns, no rescue, recovery costing a fortune and summer being the worst time to travel And to top it all off three days before I left I was on the Exploroz forum talking about the Cooper tyres I had and the reputation of Cooper tyres,more about this later........
Arriving at Laverton I got a road report from the Roadhouse, nothing over three tonne allowed to drive the GCR at this time, seeing the D3 was only about 2.9 tonne we continued on our merry way.
There was a lot of water on the road and some quite large puddles, some of them you just couldn't see, I ended up driving straight into them, which had I been filming the drive from the outside of the vehicle I suspect would have looked quite spectacular. Thank goodness for the rain sensor wipers on the D3, a really good safety feature.
The road was in quite good condition considering, yes there was the occasional bumpy patch and yes there were some corrugations.
We got to Tjukayirla, which is said with a beginning that sounds like "chook" that was all I I could pronounce. The couple running the road house were really nice people, very friendly. Outside the road house were several articulated trucks which had been held up for a day and a half waiting for the GCR to open back to Laverton. There had been an all night party going on and some of the guys were definitely unsteady on their feet. They were expecting to be there at least another night........... at 14:30 this day the road was reopened. All the guys were straight back into the trucks and off to Laverton, the road house lady was so impressed by the performance she got the video camera out to film the disembarkation of the trucks, not what I would call a prime example of driving prowess. The radio conversation whilst they remained in range was quite entertaining.
We continued on to Warburton where we intended to have an overnight stop. The road conditions were good, in comparison to some corrugations I've driven on, not soul destroying. You still feel the pain for the mechanics of your vehicle when you hit them. The air suspension on the D3 does make a considerable difference to the ride in comparison to previous rides with coil suspension on my old Patrols.
Arrived at Warburton a bit later than we expected, we camped in a fenced in paddock wich had barbed wire around the top, sort of set the scene..... There were warnings around and about if you drive an ULP fueled vehicle that petrol sniffing is a real problem and any jerry cans you have are best stored within sight or with the road house owner due to issues with theft.
We had a rather sad looking Falcon meet us about 1 kilometer out that had several indigenous people on board, no rego plates and several smashed windows, we suspect checking out if we were driving a diesel or ULP vehicle. When we set up camp a couple of vehicles did "drive bys" to check us out. Not a easy nights sleep, in the morning everything was intact, everything was fine.
We now set off for Yulara, the road conditions again were OK, nothing to untoward, still quite rough in spots. I had been warned about the "Docker River" area, the warnings were well founded, the surface is a natural river bed and it's rough. I drove over this area at maybe 10 kph if that, at one point I actually stopped........ Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Bloody hell it was rough.
We had intended to stop at the Giles weather station, As we approached I got my first puncture, by the time I had changed the wheel and dealt with the flies in the heat of the day and the red dust the last thing I wanted to do was look around a weather station, maybe next time.........
We arrived at Yulara via The Olgas, what an impressive sight these are, awsome, we drove around them with every intention of coming back to have a look later, this never eventuated, I had never given The Olgas a second thought, and I also never associated The Olgas with Uluru for some reason.....
We drove out of The Olgas heading towards the Yulara resort, "The Rock" was slowly starting to fill the windscreen, what a sight, the postcards and pictures you see of Uluru just don't do this "rock" justice, words fail me, this was sight I will remember for a long long time.
The next part I had been warned about.... At the end of the Lasseter Hwy I turned left and headed to the resort to camp, only realising too late I had now driven out of the National Park, this was now going to cost us $25 per head to get back in, I had been warned.
Something else we forgot was the time we would loose travelling over, by the time we arrived we were nearly to late to get into the resort, this was one other reason we missed going to Uluru that afternoon, we had to get to Yulara to camp before it was to late.
The resort at Yulara is excellent, facilities are excellent, staff were great. The camp site only had four people camped out so there was no over crowding, no noise, beautiful. grassed areas, swimming pool, the whole box and dice.
I awoke the next day to find another tyre flat, so it was off to Uluru Autos for some tyre repairs. I arrived at the repair shop and removed both tyres for repair by a young man called Peter, a POM who has now decided to make Yulara home, nice guy and very proficient. There was a lot of discussion going on with other employees as to who was going to rescue the Jeep Cherokee with the tilt tray that was stranded at Docker River, the vehicle had lost three tyres somehow. The owner had managed to hide the Jeep in the bush and hitch a lift to Yulara, the guys at the auto repair shop didn't hold out a lot of hope for the Jeep being out in the bush for 24 hours hidden!!! You can't hide things in the bush like a bright red Jeep Cherokee. The recovery was going to cost the owner $3700 to get the Jeep recovered. This is a fourteen hour exercise, recovering a vehicle from Docker River.
Apparently the owner was trying to find another way to recover the Jeep due to the cost being so high. The guys at Uluru Autos I suspect have a monopoly on this, and going by the photo on the office wall they are only to used to this. There was one picture of a SS ute, the front suspension had gone complete with the front wheels and the front guards, it was sinful, why would anyone do this?
Anyway, tyres now fixed and back on the vehicle, back to the resort. This little exercise took nearly three hours, my wife was getting a bit concerned as to what had happened to me. I thought the tye repairs would be done at the one and only servo at Yulara, this was not the case, Uluru Autos is a further 5 klms away.
My wife organised a sunset camel ride with Uluru as a back drop, great setting, we had a real Aussie guy lead the camel train, a great experience even if the old "bot bot" was a bit sore afterwards. The camel ride was well worth while, we organised, very professional and you get bear, nuts and damper to finish the experience off. This is the end of part one, off to Coober Pedy next.
Hope you get some thing out of this blog, my first proper one.

Keep the shiny side up

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