Burton's Perth to Cape York Day 8 Saturday 7 April 2012 Yulara to Finke River

Monday, Apr 09, 2012 at 21:43

Mike & Amanda

The roaring of starting diesels woke us. The tourists heading out before dawn to see the Rock. At least we were all up early, lazy breakfast, showers, writing the blog, but still not enough time to upload even though we have excellent reception here. Our neighbours are all amazed at our set up and pack up times, a number coming over to discuss the merits of the Australian Off Road Odyssey. It really is a piece of work... about eleven minutes before the first glass of wine...the more time on the road, the better everyone is at their jobs and the faster and more efficient the set up.

The Lasseter Highway out of Yulara was reasonably quiet, just the occasional Britz and single sedans. The single raised finger wave from the steering wheel, the 'travellers wave' is much more common here. Even though this is a well made highway we stuck to around 90, attempting some form of economy and preserving the old girls, tyres and trailer as much as possible, little did we know this was soon to come to an end. The pastel red Rock could be seen in the hazy distance. The Curtin Springs roadhouse was a thriving metropolis, adventure tourist buses lined up, making it a little difficult to buy some pies and pasties. They turned out to be the worst gristle ridden pies in existence and we vowed not to weaken again! Turning off at Luritja Road we headed north towards the unpaved Ernest Giles Road. Mount Connor could be seen, resembling a huge flat topped mesa out of an American western movie.

Turning east the Ernest Giles Road resembled bits of the Great Central. Up and down, occasional corrugations, dips and bulldust. We hastily dropped pressure again to 28-30psi, the highway 40 too harsh and unforgiving. Two German tourists in a hired Eurocar softroader of some type kindly stopped to see if we were OK. We switched maps on the iPad from the more generalised Hema to the highly detailed VMS iTOPO, carefully monitoring to locate the access track to Boggy Holes. Unfortunately it wasn't there! There were no tracks at all. Becoming resigned to the fact that we might not be able to access Boggy Holes from the south and might have to head to Alice, we encountered huge roadworks. Just a couple of signs and then the road became a boggy mess of soft sand. Graders had 'remodelled' the road almost requiring low range to get through. We eventually came upon the friendly grader driver, asking him about Boggy Holes. He was a stranger to the area, however had noticed a track further on, passed the Palmer River. We soon found it and spotted a sign pointing to some sort of bush camp. The VMS showed us we were on the right track to take us to our original access track. We even came upon an old rough sign - "Boggy Holes". About 50km of wheel rutted track, quite rough, we came upon a gate with a National Parks sign with a lot of warnings. One specifically advised against taking trailers - oops! It said allow 3 hours to Boggy Holes. Our previous experience of these time estimates is that we can do it in half the time.

Most are made for physically or mentally challenged tourists, so Amanda and I scoffed a little and cut it in half. This proved to be a mistake. The NT guys must provide very accurate estimates. From here on in the track was one of the most challenging we had encountered, the Gunbarrel providing an apt apprenticeship with us encountering some new (for us) obstacles. From ruts to stones, to the most boggy sand ever. Narrow winding boggy sand tracks between tall trees requiring careful tracking with the trailer scraping here and there, steep descents down rocky steps, scraping, banging, gouging and then up through tall green tusk grass, couch grass, seeds in the radiator again.. We had one crossing of the wide Finke. Although the water didn't seem high the track sort of meandered sideways across huge, wide uneven plates of river rock strewn with wheel swallowing holes. With Amanda guiding, I drove the Cruiser up, down and sideways testing the suspension to the max. One loud crunch as the tow hitch smashed provided some feedback...oops. A tight 180 and we emerged up a very steep river bank, giving the mighty 4.7 V8 some stick and we popped out like a cork from a bottle. A cursory examination revealed no damage, even the Stone Stomper seemed OK.

On and on this went, through the river bed until we hit a patch of very soft stuff and came to an engine whining halt. We looked at each other and grinned. Oh well, it had to happen sooner or later. Out with the ARB tyre deflator, down to 18 psi and the long handled shovel to move some sand. We'd save the MaxTrax as the next trick up our sleeve. Engaged centre diff lock, low range first and some herbs...mmmm....no go! Reverse, forward, wobble the steering wheel and yes we were out....phew!

We passed a well set up Hi Lux with two girls in it, they pulled over to the side to let us through. A quick chat and they told us of a fantastic camp site, exactly 15 km further on. They reckoned Boggy Hole was not as nice as this one and besides, was full of locals with noisy generators. This new site would be a better option for us as it was closer and sunset was approaching.

More of the same incredible challenging and very slow track, in, up, down, around we wound, averaging around 15km/hr - rocky gullies, washaways, sand, river stones and slipping between large trees. At exactly 15 km we found the spot. A wide river bed, small river stones everywhere, a large pool of glistening blue water backed by a huge red bluff. The river was fringed by beautiful white gums. It didn't take us long to orient the trailer over the rough stones, facing the water. The kids took about 30 seconds to get into the water. We lit a fire on the edge and sat down to a welcome glass (plastic) of white. The cool wind gently caressed us, sitting comfortably in the King Goannas, watching the kids through the campfire, frolicking in the deep water. The flies were disappearing and it was a perfect evening. The tough track was worth it!

As darkness approached we couldn't believe our ears and eyes as headlights approached down the track. They drove passed us and on down the way we had come. This was followed by a broken up convoy of about twelve more vehicles, some with HIDs blazing, some with no lights on at all. Most were traybacks with swags, so were probably locals on their way to a secret spot, we were thankful they didn't stop here, our serenity returned!

In the night, howling dingos by the light of a very full moon woke us up. It was like something out of a movie, them sitting on top of the red bluff, howling back and forth. Later they came around the trailer, I could see them in the bright moonlight sniffing and marking their territory before drinking in the pool.

We can't praise the BF Goodrich KM2 muddies enough. They have been incredible. Good traction, great sidewalls and touch wood, no issues yet. They are a little soft and do wear faster than the ATs but the advantages for this work can not be under estimated.
Mike & Amanda
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