The Hunt Oil Road - Remote area travel at its best - Track condition and trip report

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008 at 17:56


Track conditions and highlights along on the Hunt Oil Road from our journey in late June, 2008. The links in the text go directly to Exploroz "places" which have been created or updated with further detail. We were towing off-road type trailers on the trip with gross weights of 800kgs.

The first 17 kilometres north from the Great Central Road are in magnificent condition. There is a good campsite approximately 18 kilometres in on the right hand side in the lee of a low rocky ridge. The worn red bluffs are riddled with holes that provide refuge for the local wildlife. There is plenty of timber and the rise provides a good vantage point to watch the sunset. This location is only 200 metres or thereabouts from where the Hunt veers to the right from it’s previous north west track to a more northerly one.

Once heading north the track deteriorates past the 20 kilometre mark. It becomes overgrown with spinifex and the larger flora is overgrowing in many places. The underlying surface is generally in good condition though. There are periodic areas of washout that can be negotiated comfortably with care. We stopped at the old airfield that is marked on the Hema maps (26 30 27.698 S, 125 22 43.298 E) which is largely overgrown with scrub. With a bit of imagination you could define the edges of it but it would be a hazardous exercise putting a plane down on it these days. The track crosses the southern end of the runway on a straight line of about 297 Degrees and about 200 metres past, veers to a more northerly bearing of 330 Degrees for the next 44 kilometres.

Ten kilometres further north, the bore and hand pump are in working order and easily locatable being right beside the road on the eastern side. The water, although containing a few twigs and leaf matter, was clear and drinkable. This area is quite exposed and rough due to excavations around the bore so not an overly attractive camp site.

The Tjirrkarli Road intersection is clearly marked with a sign of sorts and the road itself, while apparent that it does not get much use, was easily visible as it headed off east towards the Heather Highway. It was another 24 dead straight kilometres to the low range of hills that mark the centre of the first of the old Hunt oil drilling camps. There are a confusion of old tracks here. On arrival at the base of the hills, there is an old oil drum marking a branch to the left. We continued straight on past this over the hill as if heading on a northerly track towards the old drilling campsite 10 km distant. Once on the crest of the hill you can see the exposed red bluffs running off to the west. A hundred metres further on is a track to the left which takes you the short distance into the caves (26 09 16.402 S, 125 09 33.098). It is a worthwhile stop and provides sheltered locations for camping with plenty of timber available although mainly acacia.

There are a few washaways to negotiate on your way west leaving these low hills but nothing insurmountable. After 35 kilometres or westerly track, the road veers south to negotiate the many small salt and samphire flats of Lake Gillen before entering the rocky outcrops of the Sutherland Range. There are a few sandy patches and again, the track is very overgrown with spinifex. Thankfully the camels have more or less kept the track findable.

Their preference for walking down any track, no matter how faint rather than the bush has meant that you could always make an educated guess as to where the track was or had been.
The most impressive landmark in the Sutherlands is Mount Worsnop, a table topped hill that rises about 60 metres or so from the plains. The number of camels in the area was amazing and once we entered the broad flat expanses between the ranges, we encountered huge mobs of 20 and 30 beasts.

Worsnop is only 4 kilometres south of the Hunt Oil Camp site underneath Mt Allot. This is a picturesque area with tall grass and eucalypts bordered by the rough ranges. The track takes a minor jump-up just past the camp with a track to the right leading into Alexander Spring. There are a few possible campsites along this water course but they are some several hundred metres short of the spring which is located in the stony reaches of the creek, higher up. There are a few larger water holes in the area below Alexander Spring. Water in these holes has been fouled by the hundreds of camels using it. Alexander spring further along is in pristine condition. Likewise there are many suitable areas to camp around Mt Worsnop or, in the area of the hunt oil camp. Mt Worsnop provides the best views of the area and a great place to catch sunset.

North from the drilling camp, the road is overgrown by larger trees meaning a twisting and turning track for a kilometres or two. The track is again often heavily overgrown with spinifex. Precautions and radiator protection are essential, as are frequent checks of the undercarriage to remove any of the grass that is hung up around exhausts, fuel transfer pumps and the like.

The remains of the burnt out Nissan as marked by the Hema GDT map(25 42 56.00 S, 124 37 26.40 E). comprise only the scorched carcass of an Engel car fridge and a few bits and pieces.
There were a collection of jars attached to star-picket posts for notes. Most were faded and unreadable but the latest were mid 2007. From here the track was often so overgrown with long spinifex that it was a game of intuition to stay on it. We found the old airstrip (25 35 37.50 S, 124 36 58.00 E), driving onto a slight rise along it’s length to get a view of the surrounding countryside. The country is quite sandy with the occasional stony flat covered by spinifex, acacia and the occasional mulga woodland.

The ON 1 survey marker on the Hunt Oil Road marks where a graded or "cut" line crosses the Hunt Oil Road in a general east-west direction. It also marked the end of our northward trek on the Hunt. The line is largely overgrown but the marker is clearly visible beside the track embedded in a concrete block with a star picket as a visual marker. The graded line is approximately 22 kilometres south of the Gunbarrel-Hunt intersection. The graded line runs in a westerly track at 293 degrees meeting the Gunbarrel after 12 kilometres. While terribly overgrown with no real track to follow, by keeping a look out for the small mounds of stone pushed to the sides by the initial grade of the track back whenever, and by taking visual lines, it remains fairly easy to navigate and maintain a straight line course. The last several km of the line were heavily wooded forcing a winding route to finally reach the Gunbarrel. This Shortcut saves approximately 32 kilometres if travelling west on the Gunbarrel. From the Gunbarrel Highway west, the cleared line is used as an access track to the Mungilli Outstation on the Eagle Highway.

More details and photos are available in my blogs for 28th June, 29th June , 30th June and1st July, 2008.

This track is a great expedition with plenty to see and interesting places to break the journey and explore.

The attached file below contains Google Earth .KMZ track and place files for the Hunt Oil Road. Just open the file from its location below and it will automatically open Google Earth and load the points of intrest into the picture (provided you have the GE program installed on your computer).


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''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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