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Hein & Family Explore Oz in a Jeep

• CATEGORIES: International, Reader Stories, Trips

Hein, his wife and their daughter took a 16 day trip in September, 2010, into Australia’s Outback.  Hein provides this report and these images of his great adventure. If you missed it, one of their more memorable encounters was with the Camel Man, which I reported a few days ago.  Thanks for taking the time to share this with us Hein!

Hein writes, We had a Fantastic trip through the Outback, not totally without its “interesting” moments! We broke the trailer chassis completely on day 2,  blew a tyre in the middle of the desert and had to replace that, but the Jeep ran like clockwork trough some extremely harsh terrain.

Some of the roads were so corrugated that even with soft tyres we vibrated clean off the road at 20 to 40 kmh; then there were other sections where we plowed differential-deep trough clay and mud for hundreds of kilometres at a time, but all in the name of FUN!

We covered over 7,000 km (4350 miles) in the 2 weeks, 80% off sealed roads, and camped wherever we got to each day. The average fuel-consumption was just a fraction better than my 7.5 km/L expected, with the average price of fuel about $ 1.75 /L due to transport-costs to these remote locations.  It was certainly a trip to remember!

Day 1) We left Brisbane heading due-west trough some farming-country and camped on the bank of an abandoned road-quarry with looming rain-clouds Everywhere!

Day 2) It rained quite heavy during night.  We had to pack-up in the rain and head out further west into ever more sparsely populated areas, encountering the first of many roads closed or severely-damaged due to flooding.  As a result: the next town was already out of Fuel! The last 100 km of Adventure-Way into Innamincka was barely passable even in 4wd. We passed a few abandoned trucks already stuck axle-deep, pummeled by constant rain.

The light was fading and we had no idea where or if we are going to reach somewhere to sleep. Needless to say, the family was extremely Anxious and Scared! Well after dark we continued travelling, the road now an Absolute Quagmire that the Jeep can barely crawl trough in 2nd/3rd gear.

As we approached about the hundredth floodway (normally dry , now a Raging-River), this one more churned up than most by some previously-stuck truck, I had to really nurse and cajole the jeep to get trough. Slip, slide, bounce, repeat was the process until we barely make it up the opposite bank.

However, there was a casualty, the trailer now sat at a Very Disturbing angle. I launched myself out with the camera and ratchet-strap into the pouring rain and ankle-deep mud, with daughter crying and wife not looking too happy either.  Fortunately, my wife is a farm-girl and trusted that I would make a plan.  A few minutes later I had the trailer strapped together and we limped into town after another half-hour, and one last river-crossing, straight into the Hotel!

Day 3) With the trailer needing repair, I had to unload everything and find Kbong, a local Trucky with the only workshop in town.  After moving the family to a camp in the National Park across the river, I would spend the rest of the day cutting out the remains of the rusted and broken frame.  Then in the afternoon, I built a much-sturdier new, vastly-improved little red-trailer, from the only length of 2 1/2″ Square-tubing in town.  Then, I got to immediately test it by crossing the now flooding river to meet up with the family at the National Park!

Day 4) We Broke-camp and loaded-up just to find that most roads out of town were now closed due to flooding, and the resultant damage, over previous few days (Bugger, I chose the wettest season in the Outback in 40 years!).

Eventually we found a way through and headed south on the famous Strzelecki-Track! This is one of the famous old Stock-routes. I wanted to do the original inside-track, but that was impassable. Luckily, the Federal-Government (funded by revenue from the Oil-companies like Santos who are dotted all around the place!), had just built a brand-new one along the old outside-track over the previous few years for the benefit of the many tourists (No doubt the government also saved some revenue on rescue-operations as well, along with a few lives of some unsuspecting European-wanderers, many of whom have previously perished out here ill-equipped and in unsuitable transport.)

Day 5) Last night we camped at the first of many stock watering-holes or Cattle-Bores as they are known here. These dot the landscape around here about 10 km apart with the water percolating from boreholes into the Artesian-basin; In the dry times it is not unusual to see a few real Cowboys traveling along the main-roads with their entire herd, grazing along and overnighting at these places. It is something I picked-up from a retired old codger I met on a previous trip. He spent his entire life out there maintaining the roads, towing his caravan and Tucker-trailer around behind his Grader for 6 months at a time. I got the map afterwards and we often use them on our trips.

Day 6) This morning we left early and blew a tyre out on one of the few sealed sections. Fortunately, we did not have to travel far before we found a little settlement that had a Hotel, Garage, Tyre-Repair shop and not much else! After purchasing a new tyre and rim we headed up the Birdsville-track towards Marree, home of the famous Tom Kruse (not the actor).  He was the Mailman out here for a few decades when the place was still wild. His book is worth a read. It is also the place where you will find the Lake-Eyre Yacht-club, nothing spectacular yet still remarkable, especially considering the lake only has water in it about once or twice a century and then only a few feet deep at most !

That night we camped near the lake. Really hard to describe, the lake stretches from horizon to horizon on 3 sides.  It is completely placid with a single island just visible in the distance amongst the mirages! It is actually the very last remnants of a vast inland-sea.  It only gets water every few decades, but when it does, it teems with fish and birds within weeks and covers approximately 1/6th of the land-area of Oz. It is even harder to comprehend after you have been around this Big Brown and Vast Country!

Day 7) On this day we headed up the Oodnadatta-track towards Coober-Pedy, another cattle-run this time in the valleys between red sand-dunes.  The was road only remarkable for its frequent and very-deep flood-damage gullies.  This ride required total-concentration unless you wanted to break your car and walk out!

Coober-Pedy resembles a Moonscape; or just imagine a place where there are Giant ant-hills everywhere from horizon to horizon. In fact, you don’t realize you have arrived in town until you are in the middle of the first suburb, because almost everybody lives in tunnels under the hills! They build their houses in old Opal mining-tunnels! It is only the cars under the lean-tos outside the front-door, or the tv and radio-mast’s on top of the hills, that show the area is occupied. A Very Weird place indeed!

Day 8 & 9) We spent the next couple of days traveling into the Northern-Territory to Uluru or Ayers-Rock, the red navel in the centre of OZ. It is a Massive Volcanic bubble of rock which is again hard to comprehend till you get to it, or even better climb up it and see how small everything below suddenly is! It is a significant Aboriginal-site, along with being a Tourist-Trap; therefore the government strictly protects and regulates everything to the Max!

We checked it out, climbed around for a bit and couldn’t wait to get away from all the masses and regulations for another glorious bush-camp out in the scrub and dunes! (Note to self : In cattle-country , expect masses of flies and ticks around, keep the Bushman-repellant near!)

Day 10 & 11 ) We visited Kings-Canyon and escaped the tourist-trap resort nearby, continuing down one of the roughest but most spectacular valleys towards Alice-Springs. Some areas look almost like Outer-Mongolia and all you see is the odd herd of horses grazing in the distance with the greenest fields in the foreground. Beautiful! I wouldn’t mind farming there, but I expect the reason why there is no one already there is due to both the isolation and the fact that it is not always so green either?

Day 12-14) We Stocked-up our supplies in the oasis (Metropolis/City) of Alice-Springs and headed out on the Sandover-Highway, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. I would Love to meet the person who named this as a Highway! It is about 800 km of the Most-Isolated, barren and unpopulated areas I have ever come across on all Continents! Some of it was muddy and you had to deviate trough the bush, in some areas the graders were still busy and it was lovely, virgin and wide, only to turn back to a rocky goat-track a little later!

We camped in a mile-wide dry river-bed (after getting stuck to the door-sill ), which was some ant-infested hell-hole in the spinifex and mulga-bush where we had to move camp twice in 1 night not to become dinner, and in the process of moving vibrated on corrugations so severe that you couldn’t focus your eyes properly!

Day 15) Everybody was so dirty and tired that we had to get a villa for the night, have a meal in a restaurant and just recover a little before heading home from Mount-Isa, a mining-town in North-Queensland still 2,000 km from home.

Day 16) A last night under the stars at a cattle-bore before heading home to start the Big Clean and a clean bed!

Wow, I didn’t plan to write so much, but then again it was such an Epic-trip that it is Impossible to describe in less words.  We saw and lived trough so-much that even this whole description does not even begin to do it justice! I hope I didn’t bore you too-much, believe me when I tell you it was one Hell of a Trip!

 

3 Comments on “Hein & Family Explore Oz in a Jeep

  1. paul

    Thanks for the fantastic story and pictures. What an incredible trip for a family vacation. I doubt I’ll ever make it to Australia due to the lack of money and the fact I sweat like a lawn sprinkler in temperatures above 70 degrees F.

  2. Hein Prinsloo

    Excellent Mate , you did a Brilliant job in matching most of the pictures to the approximate description , enough to give your readers some idea of what it was like anyway ! I particularly like the map and the Mailman book-link , you will enjoyit if you can get hold of a copy , if not let me know and I will send one your way ?
    Could this be the first step towards writing that Expedition book or what ? Talk to you soon , Ciao Hein

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