Sandy Blight Junction Road

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesWarakurna Roadhouse
FinishKintore
DifficultyDifficulty 3.5/5
Suitable for4WD 
Distance432.37 km
Minimum Days3
Average Speed44.19 km/hr
Driving Time9 hrs 47 mins
Page Updated: 9 Jul 2014

Description

The Sandy Blight Junction Road sees far fewer visitors than other major outback destinations that Australia has on offer. One very special experience of this trip is that about every 30 minutes the country that you are passing through will change drastically, from Desert Oakes, to Mulga scrub, to open Spinifex plains. The track conditions vary as much as the scenery, from hard packed tracks, deep sand to stony sections and the usual outback corrugations. With correct tyre pressures and driving to the track conditions, you will be rewarded with a remote outback trip that will make you start planning your return trip. Speaking with the late Len Beadells’ wife, Anne, she said that of all the tracks that Len opened up, this was his favourite track.

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Environment

The remote location of the area where the Sandy Blight Junction Track is located meant that it still remains today, what it has been like for thousands of years. The most common plant that you will encounter along the way will be Spinifex. Depending if the area has been burnt out, or left untouched, Spinifex will be seen from small new growth patches, through to tall clumps of Spinifex, with the largest clumps and flower stems over 1.6 metres tall. The next most common tree that you will come across, are the very large stands of Desert Oak Allocasuarina decaisneana. Mature trees will reach 12 metres tall and are protected from the hottest of fires by their thick bark and regenerate by epicormic growth in the crown. After fires, there is massive seed germination in the ground litter. Other common trees that you will encounter along the way are Blue Mallee, stands of Mulga, Grevillea, the Desert Poplar and if after good rains, many wildflowers. The most common animal that you will encounter is the introduced Camelus dromedarius – the one humped camel. Camels can easily walk sixty kilometres a day in search of food and usually go for water only once in four days.

History

As remote this area is, for thousands of years before white man ever set foot in this area, these lands were the tribal areas of 4 separate Aboriginal groups. The first area of tribal lands after leaving Giles belonged to the Ngadadjara, which extended northeast to the Schwerin Mural Crescent. The next small section of tribal land is the very North West section of tribal land of the Pitjantjatjara People. The next and largest section of land along the Sandy Blight Junction Track was the tribal lands of the Wenamba people and the very northern section of the track was tribal lands of the Pintubi people. Each of these desert nomad groups lived off the land and lived in small family groups.

The first white person to travel within the Sandy Blight Junction Track area was Ernest Giles. During the early 1870’s through to the mid 1870’s, Giles made visits through the Rawlinson Ranges area in an attempt to make an East West crossing of the continent, and named a number of geographical features. One very important feature of these Ranges was that they held reliable, permanent supplies of water, and were forced to retreat to the safety of the Ranges when they were unable to find water when further west into the desert. One member of his party who later went on to do further exploration was William Tietkens. During the 1873/1874 expedition that nearly claimed the like of Giles, Giles and Tietkens re entered the now Gibson Desert, in search of Alfred Gibson who perished without trace, after Gibson’s horse died and Giles gave him his horse to return for supplies of food and water.

The next European explorer to enter the Sandy Blight Junction Track area was William Tietkens, when he was in charge of the Central Australian Exploring Expedition. Unemployed in Adelaide in 1886, Tietkens gave a lecture to the South Australian branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, where he secured the command of an expedition to the Lake Amadeus area. Leaving Alice Springs in March 1889, Tietkens expedition reported no new country suitable for settlement, but discovered Lake MacDonald, the Kintore Range, Mount Rennie and the Cleland Hills. During his expedition, Tietkens defined the western boundary of Lake Amadeus, was the first person to photograph Ayers Rock and Mount Olga. For his services, the government awarded his £250 and the Royal Geographical Society elected his a fellow of the Society. On the 27th May 1889 while in the Kintore Range area, he named a prominent bluff, Mount Leisler and blazed a bloodwood tree with the blaze of a T above the letters 5.89. This tree would remain a hidden symbol of early exploration until it was rediscovered over 70 years later.

Another early explorer in the Southern section of the Sandy Blight Junction Track area was Frank Hann, who in 1903/1904 did exploration in the Sir Frederick Range, the Crocket Range, the Dixon Range, the Walter James Range and the Dean Range.

After these early exploration visits, the area remained unvisited by white people for over 50 years, with the small groups of Wild Aboriginal people living as they had done so for countless thousands of years as hunters and gathers, and not knowing what was happening in the outside world.

In 1953, the first motorized vehicle exploration of the Rawlinson Ranges took place, when a party of men, under the command of then, Perth politician, Mr William L Grayden, Member of the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament, to try and find and solve a then 105 year old mystery of the German explorer, Ludwig Leichardt. There had been varied stories handed down by local Aboriginal people of a white man dying out in the desert at the Western end of the Rawlinson Ranges and a very large and heavy metal trunk that was too heavy for the aboriginals to move or open. Was this the last resting place of Leichardt and what was in that heavy metal trunk? Guided by a local Wongi Aboriginal man, Mitawalinya, who had only recently come in from the desert as a wild Aboriginal man, travelled cross country from Warburton up to where Giles is now located and along the northern side of the Rawlinson Ranges. During their journey, they encountered numerous groups of wild Aboriginal that had never had contact with white man or the strange Jeep Army four wheel drives that carried them through their tribal lands. Within 3 years, there would be major changes in this area that would change this country for ever.

Often referred to as Australia’s last true modern day Explorer, Len Beadell would change the face of outback Australia for ever, with his legacy of over 6000 kilometres of newly formed outback highways. Every four wheel driver in Australia would have heard of Len Beadell and such tracks as the Gunbarrel Highway, and at same stage in their four wheel driving history, would love to travel some or all of the tracks that made him and his Gunbarrel Construction Party famous. Requiring reliable weather data for the UK atomic bomb tests in the remote deserts of South Australia, the site of Giles was chosen by Len Beadell in 1955, and construction of the weather station was carried out and the first weather observations were transmitted by radio on the 2nd August 1956. The Giles Weather Station was transferred from the Department of Defence to the Bureau of Meteorology in 1972.

On the 31st March 1960 and approximately 29 kilometres east of Giles, Len Beadell and the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party commenced work on building this new road north. Along the way he visited the Bungabiddy Rockhole on the 14th April 1960, blazed at track to the summit of the Sir Frederick Range on the 19th May 1960, reached the Tropic of Capricorn on the 25th June 1960 and rediscovered the historic Tietkens Blaze tree on the 29th June 1960. This historic tree was still alive at that stage, but today it has fallen over to the ground and if it is not recovered by a museum or the like, white ants and nature will let this tree be lost for ever. On the 4th July 1960, Len passed the general area where today stands the Junction of the Sandy Blight Junction Track and the Gary Highway. The team continued to grade further north and ceased grading on the 7th July 1960. Following a reconnaissance of the area, the actual junction of the Sandy Blight Junction Track and the Gary Highway was decided on the 27th August 1960, 26 kilometres south of where they ceased their work, resulting in the last 26 kilometres of track never being used. The reason why this track was given the name “Sandy Blight Junction Track” is that Len was suffer from the painful eye disease Sandy Blight at the time, so what an appropriate name for this new outback highway.

Preparation

As with all major outback trips, careful detail must be given to your pre trip preparation. Your vehicle must be in first class mechanical condition, with special emphases on tyres and suspension. A good quality first aid kit should be carried and either a HF Radio or Satellite Phone carried, for reliable outside communications in the event of an emergency. You should calculate your fuel and water requirement, as there are no places along the way for top ups.

If your vehicle is Petrol, you must take note on the permit information details regarding the carrying of Unleaded Fuel in your vehicle. Unleaded fuel has not been available in this area for some time, in an attempt to combat petrol sniffing issues in Aboriginal Communities. If you are carrying spare unleaded fuel in approved containers, it must only be Opal Unleaded which is available from all fuel outlets within Aboriginal lands.

The following fuel usage is from Warakurna to Giles for the following vehicles in our group:
Toyota Prado Diesel 57 litres
Mazda BT 50 Diesel 53 litres
Nissan Navara Diesel 60 litres
Toyota Troop Carrier Diesel 72 litres

Permits

To travel this track, a minimum of three separate Aboriginal permits will be required. Two for Western Australia, one for travelling from Warakurna along the Great Central Road to the Sandy Blight Junction Track turn off, one permit travelling the Sandy Blight Junction Track while in Western Australia and another permit for travelling the Sandy Blight Junction Track while in the Northern Territory and on to Kintore. Depending on which way you will be travelling from Kintore, you will then require further permits from the below Aboriginal bodies. The two bodies that handle the Permits are:

Ngaanyatjarra Council

For people travelling through Aboriginal Land in the Central Reserves of Western Australia to, or from the NT border to Laverton, the permit is obtained online from the Ngaanyatjarra Council website www.Ngaanyatjarra.org.au Their contact email address is ngcouncil@ngaanyatjarra.org.au

Central Land Council (CLC)

For people travelling through Aboriginal Land in the Northern Territory to, or from the WA border to Yulara, you need to use the Central Land Council website www.clc.org.au to obtain your permit. Their contact email address is permits@clc.org.au

Fuel Supplies & Usage

Fuel SymbolWarakurna Roadhouse.
DieselULPLPG
4cyl 61 litres4cyl 70 litres4cyl 86 litres
6cyl 66 litres6cyl 78 litres6cyl 76 litres
8cyl 66 litres8cyl 72 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

As with all outback Australia, the best time to visit this area is in the cooler months that Southern Australia experience, from April through to October.

Closest Climatic Station

Giles Meteorological Office
Distance from Trek Mid Point 111.82km SW
 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Mean Max. °C37.336.033.729.423.720.320.022.627.431.634.335.7
Mean Min. °C23.622.920.516.511.38.06.88.712.917.119.921.9
Mean Rain mm30.145.636.815.519.817.711.710.211.115.727.545.1
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Services & Supplies

The only services and supplies for this trip are at either the Warakurna Roadhouse in Western Australia and Kintore in the Northern Territory.

Map

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What to See

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No visit to Warakurna would be complete without visiting the Giles Weather Station, where you can get the chance to see first hand the launching of a weather balloon and the running’s of Australia’s most remote weather station. Also stationed there is the Original Grader that the Gunbarrel Road Constriction Party used to grade over 6000 Kilometres on newly bulldozed roads that opened up the western deserts of Australia. Because each section of new road was graded 5 times, the actual distance the grader travelled was in excess of 30,000 kilometres. There will be many Len Beadell Historic markers and Blaze Trees, Bungabiddy Rockhole with very old Aboriginal Rock Paintings, Sir Frederick Range, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, the large painted 200 mile rock and the remains of the Historic Tietkens Blaze Tree with Mount Leisler as a backdrop, plus ever changing desert scenery, large termite mounds and lots of camels.

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Where to Stay

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Directions

LocationsDistanceDirection Time
Warakurna Roadhouse to Giles Weather Station0.66 kmN351° 1 min
Giles Weather Station to Great Central Rd - Gunbarrel Hwy & Giles Mulga Park Rd25.98 kmSE121° 18 min
Great Central Rd - Gunbarrel Hwy & Giles Mulga Park Rd to Len Beadell Marker1.71 kmSE122° 2 min
Len Beadell Marker to Schwerin Mural Crescent Sign35.65 kmNE41° 36 min
Schwerin Mural Crescent Sign to Len Beadell Blaze Tree3.53 kmNE55° 3 min
Len Beadell Blaze Tree to Great Central Rd & Sandy Blight Junction Rd9.21 kmNE44° 7 min
Great Central Rd & Sandy Blight Junction Rd to Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Bungabiddi Rockhole Access26.61 kmNW337° 29 min
Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Bungabiddi Rockhole Access to Bungabiddi Rockhole (Parking Area)1.02 kmSW242° 3 min
Bungabiddi Rockhole (Parking Area) to Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Bungabiddi Rockhole Access1.02 kmNE62° 3 min
Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Bungabiddi Rockhole Access to 4WD Only Sign18.93 kmNW319° 21 min
4WD Only Sign to Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Tjukurla Access18.57 kmW289° 19 min
Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Tjukurla Access to Nice Bush Camp (among Desert Oaks)27.99 kmN20° 39 min
Nice Bush Camp (among Desert Oaks) to Sandy Blight Junction Road & Private Road16.42 kmN24 min
Sandy Blight Junction Road & Private Road to Len Beadell Blaze Tree15.81 kmNE30° 27 min
Len Beadell Blaze Tree to Sandy Blight Junction Road & Sir Frederick Range Access6.6 kmN18 min
Sandy Blight Junction Road & Sir Frederick Range Access to Sir Frederick Range3.14 kmNW314° 14 min
Sir Frederick Range to Sandy Blight Junction Road & Sir Frederick Range Access3.14 kmSE134° 14 min
Sandy Blight Junction Road & Sir Frederick Range Access to Termite Mounds24.62 kmNE40° 42 min
Termite Mounds to Len Beadell Blaze Tree19.4 kmNE42° 28 min
Len Beadell Blaze Tree to Sandy Blight Junction Road, WA-NT Border31.9 kmNE49° 44 min
Sandy Blight Junction Road, WA-NT Border to Cement Bench Mark36.69 kmE87° 48 min
Cement Bench Mark to 200 Mile Stone25 kmN33 min
200 Mile Stone to Len Beadell Marker (Tropic of Capricorn)6.16 kmN7 min
Len Beadell Marker (Tropic of Capricorn) to Fallen Tiekens Blaze Tree18.61 kmN18 min
Fallen Tiekens Blaze Tree to Sandy Blight Junction Road & Kintore Community Track7.82 kmNE66° 11 min
Sandy Blight Junction Road & Kintore Community Track to Ngutjul Rocky Outcrop3.49 kmNE58° 4 min
Ngutjul Rocky Outcrop to Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Kintore Rd16.02 kmNE39° 17 min
Sandy Blight Junction Rd & Kintore Rd to Kintore Rd & Kintore Access17.42 kmW271° 17 min
Kintore Rd & Kintore Access to Kintore9.25 kmS182° 10 min
Warakurna Roadhouse to Kintore432.37 km  9 hr 47 min
Distance is GPS recorded driving distance (not straight line), Direction is straight line from start to end, Time is calculated from actual GPS driving data.

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