10 August: Into the West MacDonnell Ranges

Author: Mr A

Location: From Kings Canyon Resort to Redbank Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges

Friday: We topped up with diesel just before leaving Kings Canyon Resort and I asked about the road conditions round the Menindee loop road to the West MacDonnell ranges. having had no internet for several days means we were reliant on a 10 year old copy of Lonely Planet…not so good. The young lady behind the counter said “I think its pretty bad, there’s lots of corru…corrug….what’s the word?” I filled in the word that she was struggling to remember…corrugations. She did though brightly volunteer we would need to purchase a pass to travel through the Aboriginal land the road goes through.

Not really knowing what to expect we set off, after a few kilometres of tarmac the road degenerated into a very bumpy track. Corrugated it certainly was. We let the tyre pressures down and I rechecked the suspension settings again. We set off and bounced our way along for several hours, only seeing a few other cars, one trailer being towed and no caravans.By mid morning Google was estimating we were still over 2 hrs from our planned lunch stop, and then…a miracle. We come round a bend to see two graders ponderously chugging up the road towards us, leaving in their wake a lovely smooth surface!

We waved our thanks to the drivers and “sped” off, the odd patch of sand still making the driving “interesting”. We were soon at our lunch destination, a fabulous lookout over an ancient comet crater.You wouldn’t have wanted to be around 400 million years ago when this bad baby hit earth. It was one of those views that we love in outback Australia – no sign of humans on the landscape for 360 degrees.

Back on tarmac now we made our destination for the night, Redbank Gorge, in time for a late afternoon walk. The Gorge is one of several in the West MacDonnell ranges, which spectacularly rise up out of the desert plain and stretch several hundred kilometres. We rocked up at was to be one of our prettiest campsites on this section of the trip, with views down into the gorge. We quickly unhitched and drove down the steep access road, parked up and hit the short trail into the gorge proper.After a bit of rock scrambling we arrived at this little oasis, a pool of water in sharp contrast to the surrounding dry arid land. We spent a happy hour there watching the sun set fire to the walls of the gorge, then retraced our steps.This was a view that demanded a decent glass of red, and we counted our blessings once again to be in the position to watch the sun go down on such a stunning outback vista.

I wandered off to talk to our fellow campers and see if anyone had recently travelled the route we planned to take back to the east coast called the Plenty Highway. I got lucky, a couple had just come over on it last week, and had taken four days on what they described as “badly corrugated” track, espcially on the NT side of the border. Ah well, at least we know what we’re up for, as it is often hard to get a factual assessment. So many off-roaders like to puff out their chest and say “Its not bad mate”. This could mean anything from, ‘it is in fact pretty good (unlikely)’ to ‘it’s practically undriveable’.

You have got to admire the Australian way of minimising problems, the “She’ll be ‘right mate” philosophy, but when you are trying to get factual information to plan driving times it’s not helpful. This couple were very good, and detailed the type of road surface to expect on the different sections of the 650km of dirt we are to tackle in a couple of days time.

Mrs A and I then sat down with WikiCamps and made a few adjustments to our schedule!

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