It was somehow fitting that we ended up travelling the Plenty Highway on 1st of April, only in Australia could a lonely gravel road through such a huge expanse of emptiness be termed “plenty”.
Following our dramas of yesterday, we found time in Alice Springs for a café breakfast, which is all that was needed given that we resupplied and refuelled yesterday afternoon when collecting the Cruiser from Toyota. And a solid breakfast would see us a good way across the breadth of the Northern Territory before we would need to stop for lunch.
Before long we had travelled the short distance along the Stuart Highway to the right hand turn onto the Plenty Highway, where the road soon dropped back to a patchy single lane strip of bitumen with nasty looking shoulders in places – but luckily we didn’t have to navigate past many other vehicles, and when necessary we pulled completely off the black top rather than run along its jagged edge.
Mid-morning coffee time coincided with the Gemtree Store turn off so we pulled into some shade for Suzzanne to check out the little store while I made a Nespresso brew in the X3. The rig was showing some patina after a few weeks on various bush tracks and gravel roads, I contemplated the clean up job I would face while sipping my coffee, then soon enough we were back in the saddle.
Soon after Gemtree the bitumen petered out and we were on a fairly well graded red gravel road which would remain in front of us for the next 400km until we reached the Queensland border. As we passed the Arapunya turn off I recalled Ron Moon’s recommendation to visit and camp at the Boxhole meterorite crater, which would make for an interesting excursion on another trip, but my chemo appointment meant we had to keep our heads down and the rig pointed toward home.
The next intersection I noted was the turn to Batton Hill Camp, starting point for the Hay River Track which was on our to-do list. A large sign warned that the track was closed due to COVID restrictions for now, a sign we found at most indigenous communities on our travels during this trip. Soon after was Jervois Station, a campground and refuelling point along the Plenty, though when we swung by for a look it seemed deserted, no doubt another COVID down turn victim.
The red outback road soon started crossing broad river beds, and piles of sand each side of the road suggested that there must have been quite a job to reopen the highway after the recent rain. The highway itself was also damp in this area with plenty of fresh wheel ruts where vehicles had been sinking into the road surface. Thankfully it was now solid enough, though I had to watch out to prevent the trailer tram-lining in the ruts that sometimes meandered across our comparatively straight line down the road. We passed a loan grader dressing the road, and once far enough past him found a rare patch of shade under a tree to eat the chicken wings we had been cooking in the Road Chef while driving along.
From there we galloped along at a good pace, pausing at the famous big termite mound for the mandatory photo, then continuing to within cooee of the Queensland border.
Tobermorey Station is a working cattle property that has established a great little campground opposite the homestead. The open camping area is well grassed and shaded by trees, making for a great escape from the area’s formidable sun and heat. We checked in and were soon set up, in time for a sunset show as we made and ate dinner.
Tomorrow morning would be another early one, and within minutes from camp we would be back in Queensland, our home state. Jump in with us by subscribing to catch our next blog as we head south to Birdsville via the long empty spaces of the Channel Country.