Darwin to Camden ( avoiding the bitumin )


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I've recently completed a trip to Camden NSW from Darwin. Tried where possible to avoid the tarmac....I have driven Darwin - Sydney many times ....usually a dash down to Mt Isa ( about 1650klm ) then another 1200klm to Cunnamulla and a further 1200klm into my Mum's place at Camden. I can do it in 3 days fairly comfortably and more importantly, without driving at night on the kangaroo infested roads in Western Queensland and NSW.
But this time I have a bit of time up my sleeve courtesy of being made redundant ( I work in heavy project construction so I'm used to it ) so I took a bit of extra time to travel parts of Australia I haven't seen before
Filled the tanks in Darwin and then topped up ( tank and tummy in Katherine ) I have two long range tanks, one is a replacement for the original ( its 140L ) also a tray mounted auxiliary that is just gravity feed to the main ( 120L ) and just one 20L jerrycan. So 280 litres all up. The downside is of course the extra weight so with the 50litres of water as well, and all the camping and recovery gear, you start to get up there...put myself on the weighbridge before leaving and I was at 3050kgs ! Bit of a worry....
I planned to avoid the bitumen where possible so turned left just south of Mataranka for the 180klm run out to Roper Bar Store. Tarmac runs out 40klm from the Roper River Crossing
Canopy powder coated before leaving and a canvas cover fitted

Camped the night on the Roper River near the site of the old Roper Bar Police Station

370 klm of bone shaking teeth rattling corrugations to Borrolloola


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Continuing on ( as usual my internet keeps dropping out so I have to post up in shortish bursts otherwise I lose what I try to put up )
Its late October in the Top End, so this is our hottest time of the year, the 'build up' before the monsoons of late December. And yes indeed, the temps are pushing 40c, its as hot as buggery outside. Good thing though is that only mad dogs and Territorians travel out her at this time of the year, so the road is pretty well deserted. Think I passed only 2 other vehicles on this section.
I worked out here building a small bridge over the Hodgeson River ( in 1993/4 ). Its my first trip back to see how its stood the test of time. Yep, still standing

Native gum in flower

Wandered around the 'Lost City' rock formation, not for too long though....too hot !

Topped up the main tank in Borrolloola ( only $1.61 which I thought was OK for a bush town 1000klm from Darwin ) and then headed south east for the QLD border and Hells Gate Roadhouse

Ahh Queensland....change the watch and the decade...

Camped the night here at Hells Gate....some other bloke had parked his bloody great 'Cruiser and camper trailer on the only piece of green grass so I'm relegated to the gravel...never mind....oh and there is no firewood here so collect your own.

Only a short run today as I'm calling in at Adel's Grove and Lawn Hill Park

Man needs a gate bitch out here....

Dry as buggery and very hot over 40c

This alternative Savannah Way route can get a little confusing amongst the Station tracks and the signage is almost non existant

Pleasure to pull into the tropical oasis that is Adel's Grove


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I have a cousin who works at Adel's, but as it turned out, I missed her by 4 days. Only staying one night as I intend to return here for a few days next month. Adel's stays open all year round, although it can be isolated for some time during the 'Wet'. There are some rather deep creek and river crossings to navigate in and out of this area and visits by road during the rainy season would be a bit iffy I reckon. They have an airstrip and more importantly a bar ! So a wet season visit wouldn't be out of the question....
Great cool shady oasis

Best way to see the gorges at Lawn Hill

Gregory River crossing

Yikes ! Bitumin ! !

Willy willy on the road to Urandangie from Camooweal

This is a good drive ( did it last year )

Bonus ! green grass on the banks of the Burke river at Boulia

Boulia is your dead set dinky di genuine hillbilly Queensland Outback town....and those comments are not meant to be derogatory, to me its a badge of honor ! Where else do horses live in your front yard !

Ruins on the road to Birdsville

Pub at Bedourie

Different countryside to where I'm from ! Still hot as hell, 41c


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Made it into Birdsville....paid an outrageous $30.00 just for a campsite devoid of shade, vegetation and shared with 30 million flies. The chick at the counter asked me if I had tent pegs....I replied in the affirmative....don't bother she says.... the ground is too hard to drive them in. so I stuffed two before pulling out the trusty battery powered hammer drill and voila ! tent peg problem solved !. The tourist center was a welcome escape from the heat and flies as was the pub of course....

Big Red sunset

And most excellently, the Birdsville Pub sells Crown Lager in cans ! Brewed especially for the Races

Simpson Desert sunset

Do not break down out in the Simpson, or you will have to re mortgage you house to get this bloke to come and rescue you.

Birdsville ruins....former Royal Hotel

Not a blade of grass....


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The modern homestead complex at Cordillo Downs

Heading back into Queensland so I can visit the Burke and Wills 'Dig Tree' on the Coopers Creek at Nappa Merrie

The 'Dig Tree'

Setting up camp on the Coopers....one of the advantages travelling during the hot months is that you have these spots all to yourself. I only passed one bloke on a motorbike the whole day. The campgrounds at the dig tree is on private property ( Nappa Merrie Station ) so make sure you take your rubbish out when you leave. And bring your own firewood as there is none around here for miles. At the entrance to the grounds there is a bark hut full of interpretive signs re the Burke and Wills expedition. There is also a tap with running water and a long drop dunny. was very disappointing to see rubbish and toilet paper along the banks of the Coopers....totally un-necessary !

Yabby pots in, fishing for yellowbelly, a few Crownie cans left over from Birdsville, not a another soul in sight...bloody heaven !

Hard to imagine the Coopers 9m above the causeway.....

Old Strezlecki Track

Yes indeed, you see some strange sights out here


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Turned off the old Strezlecki Track and headed due East through the dune country towards the Corner Country and Tibourburra. This particular stretch of road is a rippa....up and down the dunes that are less than 100m apart in places. Its like riding on a roller coaster. As a driver I don't suffer car sickness but as a passenger on this road I reckon I would struggle as I do suffer extreme sea sickness

Not the sorta sign you want to see....all good but, as it was just the SA Roads bloke testing the circuits.He had driven all the way up from Port Augusta to do this job.

Cameron's Corner SA-QLD-NSW

Pioneers Museum at Tibourburra

Replica of the boat Sturt carried whilst searching for the Inland Sea

And most excellently, Tibourburra has TWO pubs !

Big run today....heading East and South towards Cobar

And its still harsh dry remote country

Civilization.....Louth on the East bank of the Darling. Other side of the river is the beginning of the Outback, beyond the Black Stump and Woop Woop extends all the way to the WA coast

Bridge over the Darling

The unofficial border between the Outback and the settled districts....Bridge over the Darling at Louth

Mine pit at Cobar

Yep, the Outback part of the trip officially over....bitumen 40klm west of Nyngan

Don't we all dread it ? Traffic, roundabouts, traffic lights cars and people ! Camden NSW.


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Need a new set of tyres....my BFG's rooted after only 25,000klm. Simply don't handle hot rocky stony gravel of the Pilbara, Kimberley, Central Australia or Top End. Prone to chipping, losing whole chunks and just don't cut it out bush. They reckon 80,000 / 100,000klm on the blacktop, but this is the second set munted at 25,000 / 30,000klm for me. Wont buy 'em again.

Very disappointing, not to mention expensive !

Anyway, enough winging about tyres, here I am parked up for 2 weeks at Mum's place....had to duck home to Darwin for 10 days ( by air ). So that's part 1 of the Trip done and dusted......
Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this trip report, and upload all the photos. Looks like you stayed at some great spots.

Very interesting about the tyres; I've never heard of people having issues with them. Out of curiosity, what pressures were you running on the roads up there?

I've got the BFG KM2's and did a few thousand kays up in the Kimberley earlier this year. They wore a bit and had a few chips, but no where near as bad as that.



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To be fair and objective, my first set I most likely buggered up by running incorrect air pressures in the Pilbara.....too high on the rocky gravel inland from Roebourne in the Chichester Ranges and Karijini. But the replacements I meticulously aired down at every opportunity, usually 25 to 28 psi loaded to the max on the gravel and 40 psi on the bitumen. The general consensus amongst those of us on the NewHilux forums who live in the Pilbara, Kimberley and Top End is that the original BFG AT's ( not the KM2's ) simply don't handle the heat and the rocky, shaley type gravel roads. I keep hearing tales from down South of 80,000 and even 100,000klm lifespans ! Of course me and some mates in Kununurra simply cant believe it ! Haha.....
The Gibb River Road , the Tanami Road, the Great Central Road and the North West Queensland gravel really stuffed mine. I run at about 3 tonnes fully loaded and they are 265/65/17's. Sidewalls not that strong either ( I staked one on the beach at Cleaverville and the replacement cost $400.00 in Karratha ! ) And the staked one was only 3,000klm old. Sad to see a grown man weeping....
Anyway I have released the moths from the wallet and put a set of Toyo Open Country AT's for the trip home, $245.00 a pop fitted so 100 bucks a tyre cheaper than the BFG's and they couldn't possibly perform worse....could they ? ?
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Great trip
I was in the Pilbara 4 weeks ago and did the Savannah way to Maningrida 2yrs ago
Awesome country
The Louth Pub does a good feed too.
Thanks for posting