13-15 August: Crossing the Plenty (of corrugations) Highway

Author: Mr A

Location: Across the Plenty and Donohue Highways – from the Northern Territory into Queensland

Monday: It was a chilly pack up as we left Alice and headed north to the start of the Plenty Highway. Cutting straight across the north end of the Simpson Desert, its a pretty wild and wooly place to travel. But we were as prepared as we know how, and get better as we amass more experience of remote travel.The first part of the road was very civilised bitumen. Then the dirt started. The corrugations weren’t too bad though and we made good time, pulling into our camp by mid afternoon at a huge cattle station (it was 2,750 square kilometres – about the same size as Argentina) that offered a patch of dirt and toilets. Jervois Station didn’t exactly seem to be making an effort to earn their camp fees, and we realised a bit too late we could have saved $15 and just pulled off to the side of the road!

We did take a short stroll up the river, there was not much to see so it was back to our cosy Zone and a lovely veggie Pad Thai.(Photo of our local river name for Jenny Charlton née Marshall – mum/mum-in-law)

Tuesday: The road almost immediately deteriorated as we headed off, and the corrugations were kept company by large patches of bull-dust (deep sand). But we took our time, and kept stopping to check over everything inside and out. We travelled through what is called the Mitchell Grass Downs, Australia’s version of the American Prairies. It looks dry and unsupporting of life, but apparently is home to a multitude of birds, reptiles and mammals, uniquely suited to this biosystem.

All went well and by early afternoon we were again at our planned camp for the night, another cattle station catering for weary travellers.Tobermory Station was a lot more welcoming, with a young lady from Norfolk checking us in. She and her husband had decided to spend a few months here with their children, helping out on their trip around Australia. Its great to chat to these people, to see so many couples with small children taking the opportunity to do something a bit different.

This station has the the luxury of GRASS campsites! It feels almost strange after weeks of red dust underfoot. Even Miss T decided she would venture out.We spent the afternoon checking over everything on the car and van, and nothing we can see has fallen apart, amazing given the hammering on the road, On the Toyota one of the after market driving lights had come lose and worn a hole in the bull bar…that’s it.On the Zone nothing we can see is amiss, and it is pretty much dust free inside. A far cry from some of the Plenty Highway travel experiences we have heard about and read!

Wednesday: We made it back into Queensland!We were treated to a fabulous viewing of a pair of huge Wedge-Tailed Eagles on our journey through the last piece of the journey, along the Donohue Highway – the Queensland end of the Plenty.This was our longest dirt road trip, and to get to the other end with no major dramas was a good feeling. For those in the UK, this is the equivalent of driving coast to coast across the widest section of England and Wales on farm tracks!Now came the clean up! A lot of red dust needed to be disapeared.Three hours later all was done, the sun was setting and it was time for the pub. Of course it was the usual predictable menu options (steak or chicken “parmy”, and awful wine and beer options). But you expect that in outback Australia where there is a lack of competition and a customer base that doesn’t seem to want anything different.

Catherine ordered a “small” steak, me a medium.Frightening…It was cooked well though and we definitely fulfilled our red meat quota for the month!

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