Saturday, July 30, 2011

Donahue and Plenty Highways

Camping out at the Boulia Caravan Park was great fun, all of the fellow travellers camped there were great fun and full of good info about the road ahead.  I was unsure about the Donahue Highway, in fact, I had heard some pretty ordinary stories about it.  I was told that the Plenty Highway was in good nick and in typical Queensland style, the Donahue section was a nightmare.  Deep ruts, and stony ground, I was guaranteed a flat tyre or several.  I had also heard that there was rumours that the Donahue section was graded and to be sealed so that the Road Trains could have a better run at it.

Anyway, I feared the worst.  I went out and purchased brand new boots for my little 4WD and I figured that new shoes should get me across the desert.  Sheesh, if one wheel was doomed then how could 2 spare wheels cover the remaining 3???  So I went with no puncture kit, no air compressor and just the spare.

I decided to interrogate those travellers who had successfully completed the "highway" and they talked of broken leaf-springs in their trailers and punctured tyres.  They told me that the last 200kms from Jervois to Gem Tree was a corrugated nightmare and that was the Plenty Highway!  They said enjoy the first 400kms, pull over, camp, buy expensive fuel and just rest at Jervois, because the next stretch would test me and my little 4WD.

Hey I got a little 4WD, sure its not a Hilux, a Landcruiser, a Patrol or any of those big monsters, but its got a proper low range, its a gutsy diesel and it just bombs along!  What could go wrong?

The big monsters told me that they were letting their tyre pressures down so that they could survive the corrugations!

So I didn't sleep very well.  Boulia has a problem with native Rats and they were climbing all over my tent, in between the fly and the screen.  They were pretty cute really, little black eyes, pointy little nose, soft and brown... but they were active.  I drank some whisky, I got some sleep.

The next morning, I slowly packed up my tent, had some breakfast, procrastinated a little longer and then finally sucked it in and decided to go see what this Hell of the North was like.

I left Boulia at 9:30am expecting an easy 400km run to Jervois and then a well earned rest.  Well, like I said, my little 4WD bombs along and on roads like in the picture, 100kph is money for jam.  Ripping along, I was thinking maybe the big monsters had taken a different road?

I got to the NT border, changed my clock back and thought "you beauty, and extra half hour" and continued.  It was a great road, lovely, some trees every now and then, a few emus and soon, I hit Jervois.  It was 2:00pm.  With the time difference, 4 hours and 30 minutes of motoring for 400kms.  The lady who sold me fuel at $2.15 per litre was well impressed that my little 4WD had covered the ground so quickly.  In fact, she thought it was one of the quickest runs across the highway.

So I figured, how can I rest at only 2:00pm?  So I kept going, hey lets get the horrible corrugated section out of the way.  Why rest and sleep and wait for it tomorrow?  So off I went.  Yeah well, it was corrugated, and there were some wash outs and I passed a few big monsters with punctured tyres but I didn't think it was so bad; just bounced around and got on with it.

2 and a half hours later I pulled into Gem Tree and sadly the dirt finishes there and it becomes a sealed road.  And there are no Gems hanging off the Trees.  There are gems but you got to dig for them and "fossick".  But what a beautiful campground, sleeping with Dingoes.


JohnD said...

Well done Steve - sounds like a Toroise and the Hare event! LOL!

Steve Bennett said...

"Toroise"? Always thought the french version was Terrapin... Cheers JohnD.

Walt said...

Nice to see you blogging again, Steve! Sounds like you're on quite a journey! Only a few of the places you mention show up in Google maps, so I guess you're really taking the road less traveled.

Steve Bennett said...

Walt, if you zoom into Boulia on Google Maps, you will be able to find the road that heads west towards Alice Springs. It is fairly desolate out there, but attractive all the same!

Matt said...

Hi Steve,
I love blogs, they are very informative. I have created a charity ride called THE HARD WAY, it supports Camp Quality. This year's ride is from Brisbane to Uluru over the Donahue and plenty highway. We are all riding ex army xt600 motorbikes so it should be exciting to say the least. There is one of your photos (the road) I just love and was wondering if I could get your permission to use it as THE HARD WAY's header pic until I can get out the and take one of my own.

Steve Bennett said...

G'day Matt,

I will shoot you an email on that address you provided. I won't publish it here though.