Pompey’s 2024 Plenty Highway Trip

Pretty lucky! Safe travels.

Cheers 🍻
 
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Today we went to Alice Springs, ostensibly to re-fuel and re-stock but also to do a bit of sightseeing while there.

First stop was ANZAC Hill, which is dedicated to the servicemen and women from as far back as the Boer War, through both world wars, Korean War, Malay Emergency, Vietnam War, Afghanistan, both Gulf Wars and the various peace keeping missions.

You get a great view over the town and out to the MacDonnell Ranges. From there we headed out to Emily and Jesse Gaps and admired the geology of them. Unfortunately, there is no geological information about any of this at either gap, which is a pity because the geology I think is most fascinating. I’m no geologist, and I wish one had come with us, but it looks like what was once sedimentary rock was both pushed up and then rotated.

After that we had lunch and went shopping for food. Then we refueled and headed home, stopping right on the Tropic of Capricorn that separates the tropics from the temperate zones of earth.

When we returned to camp I was informed that the Plenty Hwy east of here is closed on both sides of the border. Why it wasn’t closed yesterday is a mystery to me. Yet the verges of the road that were so slippery yesterday were showing definite signs of drying. What isn’t known is how deep the rain penetrated down, and how deep the drying we have seen has gone. Is it just a thin crust? Tomorrow we are expecting sunshine and we should know a bit more by then.
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Good evening.

Apart from doing some washing and cleaning the van, we didn’t really do much. I did go and watch some people fossicking for gems, which was an opportunity to socialise with other campers. Many of the stones are magnetic and worthless. So they simply get a magnet to pick them up to throw away. You need better eyes than mine to tell what’s a gem and what’s worthless stone.

Unfortunately we also discovered a problem with out Stone Stomper stone protection. A minor and very brief off road excursion on the way here has damaged it sufficiently to leave a gaping hole some 30 x 10 cm. It has also broken the plastic support pipe. We are looking at supporting it with ratchet straps. Overall I find it most unsatisfactory. I’m not saying the van is not a good van. But the things you need to do to it to make it suitable for outback conditions is at odds with my expectations, and that includes the need to buy a stone stomper that itself is less than satisfactory. Meanwhile, the F350 continues to impress.

We have though discussed the road conditions and tyre pressures. The NT Government is utterly hopeless. It contradicts itself on whether or not the road is open. I rang Tobermory Station, which is right near the Queensland border and where we are booked to stay Monday night. He reckons it will be fine, but not to drive tomorrow. He reckons if there’s no more rain even trucks will be on the road by Monday.

We will though need to lower tyre pressures once we hit the dirt. Not sure by how much and we will decide later. I’m guessing we might get as low as 40 on the front, 45 on the rear and 35 on the van. Maybe even 30 on the van. It’s a compromise between comfort and not shaking the van to pieces on the one hand, and instability on the other.

The road is apparently reasonably wide, which means less chance of sliding down on to the verge and getting bogged or damaged. I’m also concerned about bog holes along the way. Then that becomes a matter of momentum vs control. I believe there’s also a creek or river crossing. How much water will be in it and what will the approach and exit be like?

None of this is new to me. I’ve encountered similar experiences before, when we were the first vehicles, and 2WD vehicles at that, to tackle the Birdsville Track after it to was re-opened after being closed due to rain. Just don’t get bogged. There aren’t many, if any, big trees around to winch off.
 
As you can see in the photo, the highway is still closed on both sides of the border. Apart from doing more loads of washing, we just relaxed doing nothing. Other have come and gone as none are heading east like we are. And of course no one has arrived from the east either. So it’s a case of just waiting until the road opens again. Hopefully tomorrow morning.
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Just checked the latest road report. This sums up the confusion that reigns supreme. The updated website now shows the Plenty Hwy to be open, yet still lists it as closed. This confusion is the same as when you ring the phone number, which also says the road is both open and closed.

I spoke to some who had travelled the road illegally this afternoon and they said it was pretty tricky. However, this could improve by tomorrow.
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Latest update. They’ve removed the road closed warning, so the highway is now open, but only on the NT side of the border. Hoping it will soon be open on the Queensland side. The things you deal with travelling on outback dirt roads.

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Latest update. They’ve removed the road closed warning, so the highway is now open, but only on the NT side of the border. Hoping it will soon be open on the Queensland side. The things you deal with travelling on outback dirt roads.

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Hope it clears up and you can continue on safely. Love getting to see your posts of your travels across this great country of yours. Keep them coming.
 
After some apprehension, we took off from Gem Tree to begin our way east back to Queensland. Last night, I spoke to people who had illegally travelled on the road that afternoon and they said I’d have little to no chance of making it to where they joined the road at our destination, Jervois Station. Then I saw later that the NT government had said the road was open to high clearance 4WD while simultaneously saying the same road was closed. Then early this morning they had removed the road closed warning.

So this morning we packed up not really knowing what we were in for. The first 90 or so kms was still bitumen. And most of it was very good, which was an unexpected surprise. Off in the distance we could see Harts Range. They were quite angular at their peaks, something you don’t see much of in Australia, and I guess that means they are relatively young.

We came across the local police sargent, who was on his way to change the sign saying that the road to Boulia was closed to now being open. This was pleasing news, as the highway was open on both sides of the border. Our trip can continue as planned, as long as the roads don’t catch us out.

We went on further until the bitumen ended, and we aired down. I took 20 pounds out of the rear truck tyres and 15 out of all the rest. Taking off, we travelled mostly between 40 and 60, the odd spot to 70 but mostly in the 50’s. A couple of times I got caught in some soft stuff but we carried on effortlessly. We passed 2 vehicles in this section.

As usual on such roads, you’re constantly weaving from side to side to find the smoothest route. Even going off the actual road with one side of the vehicle if needed.

There were many bog holes that I either skirted around, or there was a path beside the road I took. A few ended just before a cattle grid, so it was a bit tight, and you slowed to a crawl.

We then hit a long stretch of good quality bitumen road. I’m guessing it went for 30kms. But then it ended in gravel. And then it went to red clay that slowed us down to as low as 15kmh but mostly 20. Going so slow it seemed to go forever, but it was probably only about 5kms. Then we hit bitumen again, but that was very short lived, then back to the red clay and the slow speeds. Then it reverted back to normal dirt and gravel and suddenly we saw the sign to Jervois Station, just 2kms away.

We arrived at the station and set up camp. There were half a dozen cars there already, all filthy while my truck and van were both relatively clean. Most of them looked like 200 series Landcruisers, but it was hard to be sure what was under the mud. There was also a 150 series Toyota Prado that seems to have broken down. They just left it here, so who knows what’s going on. I love the location, although the flies are pretty bad. I thought the cold mornings would have killed them off. Instead, the fly spray is now performing that role.
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The drive east was over surfaces that changed regularly. So speeds varied from 15 to 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80. Overall, it wasn’t too bad, although we did brake a plate and the fridge is a mess.
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Flies are pretty bad at Tobermory but otherwise the place looks good.
 
We are doing pretty much nothing today but we do expect to do twice as much tomorrow. However, we are hoping to get some drone footage once the wind subsides.
 
As expected we did little today. The flies were terrible and the wind wasn’t much better, and failed to rid of us of the flies. In the afternoon, we assemble at the “pub”, and outdoor area next to a fire-I’ll post photos later. Out here it’s definitely Toyota country. Mostly Landcruisers and we’ve seem 70 series, 80 series, 100 series, 200 series and the latest 300 series. You see the odd HiLux and 150 Series Prados as well.

But nothing prepared me for the sight of a Range Rover! This is definitely not Range Rover country at all. Maybe he got lost.

This evening 2 bright red Ranger Raptors turned up. If I wasn’t towing then these things would be on top of my list of vehicles to cruise out here. They’ve camped right next to us.

A lot of people we are meeting are on their way to the Finke desert race. Including a lot of bike guys.

One topic of discussion is road conditions. Just about everyone through to the local police are pissed off with the dickheads deliberately churning up the mud. They only grade the road once a year and the locals and other travellers have to endure the road that they destroy. It certainly explains why their cars are covered in mud and everyone else’s is relatively clean.
 
After some 815kms, we have now reached the next town-Boulia. Which means we are at the intersection section point again on this figure 8 trip. Previously we’d entered from the east and left heading north. This time we entered from the west and will leave heading south.

Came across a number of wedge tail eagles-such a majestic bird, with a huge wingspan. They’re a bit like an A380- they need a bit of time to get airborne. We came across one eating some road kill and took some photos.

We have refuelled here due to increased fuel consumption caused by road conditions and head winds. We have also restocked and the price of food here is staggering by both its lack of choice and especially the high prices. People have it tough out here. We only have to put up with these prices once-they do it all the time. They have no choice. The truck comes by once a week and then goes on to other remote areas. All meat is frozen. Prices are double to tripple what you’d pay in the cities.

The road in was very good. While the bitumen roads earlier were in poor condition, the roads today were fine. We had lowered our tyre pressures for the dirt, and we had a remarkably comfortable ride. Remarkable because the F350 has a bloody big solid front axle with big heavy 35” tyres. Sure, the corrugations were very small to almost non existent but no vehicle likes them. Ford have done such a good job sorting the suspension on these trucks you’d swear they were designed for local conditions.

Tomorrow we check out the local attractions and take it from there.
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Today I explored the attractions of Boulia. First up was the Min Min experience. I think it’s worth visiting so I won’t spoil it with too much by going into too much detail. It is obvious a lot of thought and detail went into the experience and I think they did a very good job.

Boulia has really wide streets- any city would love to have streets this wide. You can wander over the streets at your leisure because there’s next to no “traffic”.

I then went on to the heritage centre, which was a museum of both natural and human history. There were dinosaur bones, but unlike Winton these were marine animals. The museum covered the original setting up of the town and through both world wars. Bear in mind that in both world wars, all soldiers serving overseas were volunteers- hence the posters encouraging people to join up

It costs $50 to see both places, which I think is reasonable. These towns rely on tourism and I’m happy to contribute to the town, especially when it’s this good.

The campsite we are staying at has been frustrating me because it’s so different to what I remember. Turns out that massive floods a few years ago are the reason why. All the sand that was there, and the cause of being bogged here back in 1990, was washed away.

It’s still a great place to spend a couple of days or so.
 
Good evening.

This morning we left Boulia and headed south, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn for the last time this trip. We are spending the night seemingly by ourselves off to the side of the road where we take the turn off to Windorah, our destination tomorrow. The road to Birdsville is closed due to flooding, as it has been for some time.

It’s obvious now that we are “heading home”, although that’s still a way off. Tomorrow we will have travelled 5,000kms and the truck has performed faultlessly. I still believe that it’s the best vehicle I could have chosen. Even the tyres have stood up to it, which given my experience with Goodyear tyres is amazing. I’m also impressed with the shocks that continue to have a hell of a life on these poor roads.

Neither Boulia nor Bedourie are anything but outpost towns in the outback. There are no doctors or pharmacies and there hasn’t been for over a thousand kilometres. We haven’t seen traffic lights for over a thousand kilometres and don’t expect to see any for another 1,500. We haven’t seen an EV for over a thousand kilometres and may not see another one for the rest of the trip. Leave out Alice Springs and we wouldn’t have seen one for thousands of kilometres. It’s obvious they make no sense out here.



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Looks like a very fun trip. So far what do you think of your tremor/6.7 diesel? I bet you get a few looks on the road.
 
Looks like a very fun trip. So far what do you think of your tremor/6.7 diesel? I bet you get a few looks on the road.
The 6.7 is sensational. The whole truck has been very impressive. I don’t know about North America but the etiquette here is that those towing caravans and motor homes wave at each other. In the really remote areas, everyone waves at each other. Including bike riders through to road trains. Mainly because everyone has to slow down to pass each other. Or in the case of road trains, they acknowledge that you have pulled over and stopped. There are signs there saying to give way to road trains. So yes, you get looks but then so does everyone. Today I travelled 200kms and only saw about 3 or 4 other vehicles.
 
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We left Bedourie after having seen yet another stunning starlit sky last night. To my surprise the road turned to dirt, which remained dirt for most of the way to Windorah. The reason for my surprise was because in planning the trip, I rang the council in preparing the trip and they told me the road was sealed the whole way.

Not that it really mattered. It was a first class dirt road that was far superior to the bitumen coming into Windorah. However, once we left the Diamantina Shire and crossed into the Barcoo Shire, the road quality deteriorated significantly. As did our speed.

The road works were frustrating. They never seemed to end even though almost no work was being done. They did though have enough money to buy a few dozen signs they thought they needed to put up.

Along the way we also came across dozens and dozens of medium sized birds over a 2-3kms of road. Not seen that before

Often the road would catch you out and what looked like a minor bump was a big one. So you’d slow down. Even after all these years, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

We had lunch at the pub in Windorah, which was pleasant. Like Boulia, there was very limited choices for food, and the bread and meat were frozen. I don’t expect this to change till we get to Cunnamulla in a few days time.

Leaving Windorah on the single lane stretch to bitumen, we headed for the free camping area 11kms east of the town. A Ute towing a van coming the other way dropped his passenger side wheels in the dirt at undiminished speed and maintained that speed as showered stones behind it. We managed to miss most of it, but deadshits like him can cause a lot of damage. Especially if he drops off a fair way down to the dirt and gets the death wobbles and takes some other poor innocent motorist coming the other way.

We are now camped in a pleasant spot by the river trying to avoid the flies.


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Spent the day by the river doing very little. We topped up the fuel tank from Jerry cans and then went and cut up wood for the fire. We are having roast beef tonight, with roast potatoes both cooked in the camp oven. Will be served with peas, corn and gravy and followed with mint ice cream. Someone said there’s a limit to how much of this lifestyle a bloke can take. I’m fairly confident I’m some way from reaching that limit and hope never to do so.

 
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