April 15 Uluru – Yarla Kutjarra (Great Central Road)
Although we have technically been heading towards home since Darwin, the sign to the WA Border made it very real that we were on the home stretch. Come nightfall we would be making camp in WA for the first time in over 3 months.
We paused at the Olga’s lookout to stretch our legs and take in the amazing view, with a long drive ahead we decided not to do one of the hikes but to push on west.
We were heading back via the Great Central Road. This section of the Outback Way is an 1100km unsealed highway from Uluru to Laverton and was our last and longest offroad drive for the trip. I was excited to have the chance to drive it while it is still unsealed. It is a major Road Train route and the most direct way from WA to QLD, so there are plans in place that will see it all sealed in the next few years.
The road is supposed to be roughest on the NT side of the border but we didn’t find it too bad. Other than a couple of dried up creek crossings and washouts, it was a steady 80kms per hour all the way to the border. This gave us hope that we might be able to make up the day that we had lost by stopping at Kings Canyon.
We crossed the border at about lunch time and we paused for a couple of celebratory photos and lunch prep then ate on the road as we kept driving.
Another hundred kms or so of gravel saw us pull into Warakurna for our most expensive fuel topup of the trip, $2.40L for diesel!
The historical weather station at Giles was just up the road, so we swung past for a look at the station, as well as the original Gunbarrel Costruction Co. grader that opened up the western outback with Len Beadell at the wheel. I’m sure if machines could talk it would have some incredible stories to tell (Maybe it shared some with Blu, if so he’s keeping them to himself)!
At about 4:00 by our bodies and 3:00 according to the newly adjusted dashboard clock, we pulled in to Yarla Kutjarra, a rest area that has been provided by the traditional owners of the land for those travelling the Road. It was a stunning location well off the road between 2 red rock hills with gumtrees dotted around and the plains stretching off into the distance.
We had it to ourselves for a couple of hours and enjoyed the serenity, before being joined by a trio of motorcyclists and a handful of families towing camper trailers. However, the area was large enough that it didn’t feel crowded as we enjoyed our last real outback sunset of the trip.
April 16 Yarla Kutjarra (Great Central Road) – Laverton
With an early bed the night before (We were all asleep by 7:00 WA time) and body clocks telling us it was time to get up, we awoke to a stunning Easter sunrise streaming into the tent! Even with a few minutes spent enjoying the beauty, we were packed and on the road by 6:30, just as the other campers were beginning to stir.
The road was in great condition and maintaining 90-100km/h was no problem at all. The edge was dotted with wrecks of cars that hadn’t made the distance and had been abandoned by their owners rather than pay the cost of having them towed out, a reminder of just how remote we actually were. Every now and then we would cross paths with another camper or road train travelling the other way, but for the most part we had the road and the expansive horizon all to ourselves. We even saw our first wild camels of the trip as they lolloped across the road and off into the distance!
We had planned on stopping for breakfast at Warburton, but with everything still closed when we pulled in, we grabbed some snacks out and drove straight through to Tjukayirla (Chook-a-yer-la) for an early lunch. The Tjukayirla Roadhouse is famous for it’s Tjuka (Chooka) Works Burger and it didn’t disappoint!
With bellies full (or possibly over-full!) we hit the dirt again. About 80kms on, the road is overlooked by white cross which was set up by the local Aboriginal Christian community to cause people to reflect as they drive past. It was amazing to take a moment and remember and praise God for Resurrection Sunday while literally standing foot of a cross surrounded by nothing but the rugged beauty of His creation!
We arrived in Laverton mid-afternoon and I sat and rested after the long days driving (I love driving on dirt, but after 700ks at 80-100km/h had left me pretty tired!) Chelle put a load of washing on and the kids did an Easter Egg hunt and played Kubb.
After 2 days driving on red dirt, everything was covered in fine red dust so the blower came in very handy for more than just inflating the beds!
The sky was looking very grey for the first time since we left Darwin, but although it rained for a couple of minutes, most of it passed east over Leonora and gave us an absolutely spectacular lightshow in the process!
April 17 Laverton – Gwalia – Sandstone – Geraldton
With 900ks to cover and a storm looking far more threatening the night before, we were up before the sun and packed and on the road at 6:30 again. The storm broke with heavy rain, thunder and lightning, just as we were pulling out! We stopped at the local servo to air up the tyres after 2 days on dirt, but as it was a public holiday he was opening late. The forecourt cover provided some shelter as we used Blu’s compressor to get back to highway pressures and by 7am we were on the sealed road again.
About an hour down the road, on the outskirts of Leonora, sits Gwalia, one of Australia’s best preserved ghost towns. As the storm had passed, we paused for a quick look that soon turned into an hour of exploring the old shacks and sheds, some of which were occupied as late as the 1960’s! It was an amazing place and the kids thoroughly enjoyed their last ‘history’ stop of the trip.
As a result of our extended exploration of Gwalia, we were running a bit behind come lunchtime, so we opted to stop in at the little town of Sandstone for lunch instead of our planned stop at Mt Magnet.
We were very glad we did! Sandstone is a tiny but beautifully kept, homely feeling outback town. It had a free splash playground for the kids and heaps of quirky relics throughout the town.
The hilight though, was Dinky Di, a lady who sells home made jaffle pies and pasties from a marquee next to the info centre. She is a true outback character and gets there every morning at 5:30 to start selling pies and her own mix of bush dukkah at 6:30. When we arrived at lunch time she was nearly sold out for the day! Her pies we delicious and her banter was great fun. Overall we decided Sandstone was our favourite outback town of the whole trip!
After pausing at Mt Magnet to top off the tank, the final push to Geraldton was 400ks of non-stop driving. The kids watched 3 movies back to back and Chelle slept intermittently leaving me to watch as the countryside changed from outback desert to the familiar WA coastal farmland. Home started to feel really close!
On the approach to Geraldton we began racing the sun with the hope of seeing it set over the water for the first time in months. We were thwarted by the clouds on the horizon, but still made it to the coast in time to see a beautiful orange sky silhouetting the foreshore.
By the time we pulled into the Drummond Cove Holiday Park it was dark and we were all exhausted from 12hrs on the road. We pitched the tent and ordered Pizza for dinner then collapsed into bed knowing that our last big drive was behind us!