We left Alice Springs 6:00AM Saturday morning. The reason we left so early was that our first fuelling stop on the Gary Junction was Papunya and the general store and fuel closed at 11:30 and didn’t reopen until Monday. It was only 20 kilometres north of Alice that we turned NW onto the Tanami Road. After 120 kilometres of sealed road (the last we would see for about 1,000 kilometres) we turned west onto the Gary Junction Road. It was a good dirt road and we fairly ate up the kilometres arriving at Papunya at 10:30.
Papunya is a small community of around 400 people and the general store was doing a roaring trade when we arrived. Like all aboriginal communities the store is managed by Europeans employed by the community. At Papunya I was told that the European staff work seven weeks on and four weeks off. I asked the lady supplying us with fuel what they did on their four weeks off “ Oh we go to Perth or Bali” was the response. Vicki purchased two of the worlds most expensive bananas at $4 each. There seemed to be more dogs than residents but this is not unusual and the residents we saw were all friendly.
We then decided to see if we could get to Mt Liebig before that store closed at 12:00. It was only a further 68 kilometres but as we could not get any fuel tomorrow (Sunday) every bit of fuel helped. Arrived Mt Liebig at 12:15 to find the store just being locked up but if we paid the exact amount in cash they would serve us fuel. Mt Liebig didn’t seem a community to linger in. Most houses were surrounded by high wire fences topped with barbed wire. The Europeans running the store walked across the road from the store to what was presumably their compound, unlocked a gate then locked themselves inside.
About 50 kilometres past Mt Liebig we camped for the night beside a microwave tower. These towers normally make good campsites, set just off the road they have a cleared flat area around them. Whilst we have a shower in the van, in such places as this we use the solar shower. In no time it was warm and hung beneath the tower supports it provided us with a much needed cleaning. I couldn’t leave the awning extended during the night as Vicki was convinced a camel would scratch its back against it and ruin it!
Got on the road around 8:00 Sunday morning. It is nice to start early during the cool of the day as it is starting to get a bit hot. The road was still very good and the scenery fantastic. The desert is constantly changing, one minute you are looking at a distant mountain range, the next you are driving beside a steep sided jump up, the next the sand hills seem to roll on forever. We are starting to see some wild flowers including Sturts Desert Pea. It is the burn off season and large areas of the country side have been torched. Lots of camels on and close to the road.
Just before the turn off to the community of Kintore is Sandy Blight Junction. Another of Len Beadell’s roads.
We decided not to go into the community of Kintore which is nine kilometres south of the road as the store was closed on Sunday and we had enough fuel to get to the next community of Kiwirrkurra. Just past the Kintore turn off we saw some indigenous people gathering things from the roadside. We stopped to talk and they told us they had come from Kintore to collect bush fruit, mainly native oranges. They had drunk all their water so we refilled their water bottles for them. One of the children found a thorny devil on the road and collected it. It was very pretty but I think it was destined for the cooking fire that night.
Just after this encounter we crossed the NT/WA border. No quarantine inspection on this road. In fact the only sign to say it was the border was the original plaque erected by Len Beadell. The road now changed to one lane but was still in surprisingly good condition. We have been averaging around 50 kilometres an hour. Apparently we can expect it to get worse when we get near the Canning Stock Route which we will cross. Apart from the car load of indigenous people near Kintore we only saw two other cars today. Two exploration drillers heading out to their drill site. We talked on the UHF as I pulled over to let them pass. Apparently they have made some significant finds.
The weather is heating up. It was 12C when we woke this morning. The first morning in a long time that we had not needed some extra clothing before it warmed up. During the day the temperature in the car reached 36C.
Around 3:00PM we arrived at the community of Kiwirrkurra. Now according to the Hema Desert Maps that we are using that are supposed to be the authorative map for the area, this community was supposed to have all sorts of facilities. In fact I think Hema got it wrong as there is not much of anything. Luckily Fiona who runs the local Women’s Centre saw us and was very helpful. She led us to a place to camp. Apparently some areas outside the town are “men’s areas” and some “women’s areas” but the place she lead us to was considered appropriate for both men and women. She had been here for about six months and said the community was safe and friendly, not even unfriendly dogs.
A person we had meet in Alice who had worked in these remote communities said they are very friendly people but could be offended if such taboos were broken. He suggested keeping to marked roads and tracks and not going into side tracks looking for camps as such tracks could be into taboo areas.
So we will camp the night here then be at the general store to take on fuel when it opens at 9:00AM then head further west. I can feel that warm water of Cable Beach already!
Kiwirrkurra – Sunday 28 August 2011