Great Central Road Condition
Rough And Ready
We have driven the Great Central Road before. In April 2010 we drove east to west from Uluru to Laverton. Back then the road was excellent. One bad patch past Docker River and that was about it.
This time was different, very different.
Dropping onto the dirt out of Laverton, the corrugations started. No surprises there and not really a problem, as we could keep our speed up and sit on top of the corrugations. We did encounter some pretty rough sections though, much worse than last time.
All in all, the road was quite chopped up. Some big corrugations and lots of suspension-breaking ruts and holes.
By far the worst section was from Docker River to Kata Tjuta, the Northern Territory section. This road is built in deep red sand. And where there’s sand, there’s corrugations. Not just corrugations though.
Sand drifts had blown across the road, forming mini-moguls. These meant we couldn’t get up enough speed to get on top of the huge corrugations without launching our truck into the air. This section is car-breaking, simple as that.
And while the road is touted as a shortcut through Australia’s centre, this idea is a bit of a joke. If I owned a roadtrain, there’s no way I’d even consider travelling this route. You’d need another truck following behind to carry spare parts and pick up the bits that dropped off your truck.
What About My Caravan/Camper Van?
Well all I’d say is, if you’re mad enough to tow a van across here then good luck to you. The relentless corrugations will shake it to pieces, rivet by rivet. Same goes for camper vans.
At least, this was our experience this time around. Last time, you would have been okay if you were careful and well prepared.
We saw a few vans along the way… and one 100% on-road Apollo van. It even had on-road tyres. But in my opinion, forget it. Don’t even consider it.
Same goes for backpacker vans or cars. Sure you’ll probably make it if you take it easy. But you might not either.
We encountered a French backpacker the first time we crossed the Great Central Road, broken down between Docker River and Warakurna. A rock had smashed his automatic transmission sump and he was going nowhere. He was sitting in the back of his van, using a blanket as shade protection and slowly baking in the hot sun while he waited for help.
But Isn’t Most Of The Road Tarred Now?
No. We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard this or variations of this myth. “You’d better do the Great Central Road soon, before it’s all tarred”.
Another myth is there’s stacks of roadworks in preparation for tarring. We didn’t see much at all.
About 100km either tarred or being prepared for tarring. 100km in over 1,000km is hardly cause to rush out there before it’s all tarred. In fact if they keep going at the rate they’re going now, it’ll be 50 years before it’s all tarred.
Where To Camp?
If you’re looking for places to camp, we’ve compiled list of possible campsites along the Great Central Road here.
Supplies, Fuel And Permits
For more information on supplies, fuel and permits, go here.
We’ve driven this road twice. The first time it was in excellent condition, apart from a section past Docker River. This time the Great Central Road was rough… rough enough to be car-breaking.
Take it as it comes. If you’re determined to do this road, be well prepared. Take plenty of food and water in case of a break down, a second spare tyre and a vehicle in top mechanical condition.
Most of all, slow down and enjoy the magnificent desert scenery.
The Great Central Road passes through Tjalkanti, Ngaanyatjarra, Ngaanyatjarra, Mandjindja, Ngatatjara and Pitjantjatjara Country.
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Any errors or omissions are mine alone.