Left camp around 7AM Tuesday morning. We travel slower than Bob and Heather so have found it preferable to get underway earlier. There was only around 70 kilometres to go on the Gunbarrel before we exit on to the Heather Highway. The Gunbarrel does go further east but from the Heather Highway junction to travel further east requires a special permit which we do not have.
We did our normal speed of about 15 kilometres an hour, once again the track was a mixture of conditions. We did however find the most challenging washouts in this section of the track. Several required getting out and having a good look before attempting them. Sometimes what seems to be the obvious route may not in fact be the best, specially when towing. No real problems though.
We reached the Gunbarrel and Heather Highway junction around lunch time and decided to push on. The Heather Highway runs for 84 kilometres before it joins the Great Central Road. The first 37 kilometres is unmaintained track but after this 37 kilometres there is a branch road to the Tirrkarli Community and from here the Heather Highway is maintained. So after several days I was able to take the car out of low range and actually exceed 25 kilometres per hour. Joy oh joy. Still some corrugations but hardly noticeable after what we had been on! This is the second day that we have seen no other travellers. The Gunbarrel does really see very little traffic.
Tonight we are bush camped on the Heather Highway about 25 kilometres from the Great Central Road Junction. Tomorrow we plan to make Warburton.
I would recommend the Gunbarrel to anybody who wants a journey in some of Australia’s most remote country. It is a fantastic trip. But make no mistakes you must be well prepared and preferably experienced in remote area travel. On the Gunbarrel you are very much on your own, break down and there is no RAC or anybody to come to your assistance. It is basically fix it or leave it. We saw about six trailers that had been abandoned. Similarly if you injure yourself there is no airstrip for the RFDS to land between Carnegie Station and Warburton a distance of over 700 hundred kilometres so help may be several days of bone jarring travel away. This country is so different from that four wheel drive mecca Cape York. The Cape has roadhouses every two hundred kilometres or so and most can arrange the recovery of vehicles.There are no roadhouses on the Gunbarrel. Venture into this country without long distance communications and adequate vehicle and tyre spares at your peril!
Our caravan had no difficulties on the Gunbarrel however it is only a 14 foot pop top that is specially made for rough roads and has long travel independent suspension. Our van is narrower than a full size van and when the pop top is down has less height than a Landcruiser with loaded roof rack. You will meet sceptics who say “What, your are taking a caravan across the Gunbarrel” in a very condescending and negative tone. This is no different from Cape York and other areas. Ignore them, in most cases it is because it offends their macho sensibilities that you would dare to take a caravan into what they consider hard four wheel drive country. Most, if not all would have no experience of towing a caravan and therefore know its capabilities. Of course qualified advice from experienced travellers is always welcome but make sure you evaluate it, not all travellers are experts or know what they are talking about, as I have experienced on several occasions.
Bush camped, Heather Highway – Tuesday 9 August 2011