Pompey’s 2024 Plenty Highway Trip

We left Boulia and headed north towards Mt Isa. We had some camels to get by- one was particularly curious. The road north was a thousand times better than it used to be. Back in 1990, it was a real challenge but today it was sealed the whole way. We went past the Donahue Hwy turnoff that we will be retuning on. The Donahue Hwy becomes the Plenty Hwy once in the NT.

Another big change was the provision of rest stops, which I don’t recall seeing in 1990. One in particular was new and modern. There were less road trains on this section of our trip. I think there were only one or two. The other big difference was how green it was compared to 1990. The brown and red dirt now had grass covering it.

We refueled at Mt Isa and had hoped to fill our water tanks. Unfortunately, the sign said non drinking water. Whether that’s true, or was put there to stop people like us filling I don’t know. So we moved on hoping to fill the tanks at the dam we would be camped alongside. Unfortunately, there is blue green algae in the dam and it’s not even safe to swim in, let alone drink.

Our final option is to pay for the water which the local council sells on Monday morning. We should have enough water to last till then.

While we can access bore water at some locations, the smell of sulphur is pretty strong. We have been warned about deposits in water tanks and never being able to get them out. I do have a filter but I’ll try and get the best water I can.

Once we fill our water tanks, the next night we will use water from them. The night after we will use tap water, which I assume is bore water but it won’t go in my tanks. I will then try and get 50 litres of water in Alice Springs. After that, it will be a case of tap (bore) water or tank water. Maybe there are creeks we can use for water along the way. In any case I expect to have empty tanks when I get home. Water is very precious out here and water quality quite variable.


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All quiet on the western front today. Nothing of interest to report.

Tomorrow we cross our first border as we go into the NT. After travelling around 2,000kms it’s time to leave my home state. First up we need to refuel, restock and fill our water tanks, which we plan to do in Mt Isa. It will be a longish day (by the standards of this trip) with a 380km drive ahead of us.
We had a relatively early start this morning, leaving just before 8. We drove to Mt Isa where we had a fair bit to do. First we had to restock, where Dave had a self taught education lesson on buying groceries! Hopefully, much the wiser, we moved on to get some much needed water. The council website wasn’t particularly helpful, nor were the staff, so we had 2 streets to check out. The first one we found nothing. The second one we were more successful. We added about half a tonne of water which took a while. We were expecting to pay for it, but it turned out we paid nothing. If only it were the same for the fuel. We refueled there, but they didn’t sell ad blue so we had to elsewhere. We stopped off at the dump point, and our final stop was for the ad blue. By now it was nearly lunch time. I then found myself behind a tripple road train, a medium rigid truck and a ute. As no one was overtaking I overtook the lot in one go. It was so effortless in this truck.

We headed on and about 500 s on we stopped for lunch. From there we stopped again at the border for a couple of photos. The highway in Queensland is totally different to how it was in 95. It’s now 2 lanes and quite smooth.

So tonight we are camped on the side of the Barkley Highway, opposite the police station. The nearest town in the NT is hundreds of kilometres away.

Some more drone footage, this time when we were staying at Longreach a few days ago.

Looks like your dog has a regular comfy spot!
We’ve arrived at the Barkley Roadhouse, where we are staying the night. Last night was better than expected, as there was a concern that passing road trains would wake us up. Never happened. One thing I’ve noticed is that around Mt Isa, all the road trains were for carrying ore- not surprising as Mt Isa is a mining town. I once went a kilometre or 2 down one of them and came away both impressed, and convinced that whatever they were paid, it wasn’t enough. Moving west the road trains were once again rating cattle.

The Barkly Roadhouse is actual quite impressive. We have a powered drive through site, with water. We will eat out tonight at the bar and grill, and listen to some live music.

Meanwhile we are doing some much needed washing of bedsheets and the like. It will dry quickly in this warm place. The A/C is on, and things are good.

The warm weather isn’t expected to last. Tomorrow we head further west, and stay at a place called 3 Ways. It’s where 2 of the three big three highways in the NT meet. The highway we have been on, the Barkly, meets the north south Stuart Hwy. Hence the name of the place we are staying.

When we hit the Stuart, we are sort of in the middle of the country and we turn south. The forecast for the day after tomorrow is rain and much cooler weather, with the rain to clear and then for the cool weather to remain for the foreseeable future. So tomorrow is our last warm day. I’ll be pleased when it cools down.

The drive west along the final stretch of the Barkly Highway was notable for the flood damage, most of it from 2023 but also for the 6 odd weeks it was under floodwater. I was having to make numerous near lock to lock turns to snake between the holes in the road. It wasn’t always possible to miss them all. The road train in front was doing similar, although not to the same extent. It would have been pointless. I’ll try and post a video later.

We are staying behind the 3 Ways roadhouse. It’s got power and water so I did another load of washing. We didn’t record the worst sections, and in the overall scheme of things it isn’t that bad, but it’s all part of the journey.

I have posted some photos taken from roughly the same place, 27 years apart.
Good afternoon,

Today’s drive was the longest of the trip, and maybe half of it was in rain. The temperature dropped along the way from 27 to 15, and the rain at time was quite heavy. We were warned by an oncoming vehicle of water across the road. You’d never have seen it at night. Even go relatively slowly through it it was deep enough to displace a lot of water.

Before the rain though we stopped off at Devils Marbles and took photos. Each time I come here it’s different to how it was the time before. And as with anything popular with tourists, it’s becoming increasingly and frustratingly restrictive. I keep thinking how much easier, unrestrictive and better it was in 1987.

We turned off on the Plenty Highway. Finally, after all these years I’ve finally made it in to this road. Yet there’s no certainty I’ll be able to go all the way to Queensland on it. The road narrowed down to a single lane, and when an oncoming vehicle approached, we dropped our left hand wheels on to the verge and started going sideways at relatively slow speeds. Having all our wheels on this slippery surface would have us bogged in no time. The rain is expected to clear overnight, and the locals say the road dries quickly, but for now we just don’t know.

The photos will show you just how muddy it is. This mud was just from dropping the wheels a couple of times to pass oncoming vehicles. There was mud all up the left hand side of the van as well, but the rain washed it off by the time we got here.
This is really making me want to work on my visa application. I need to stop being lazy.
This is really making me want to work on my visa application. I need to stop being lazy.
It’s rather easy to do, I thought it was going to be more difficult than it was when I went down. The long flight from the States is not the greatest but worth it in my experience.

Watching this makes me want to go back down, or up for @Pompey’s map map.