While many of us are familiar with the names of Australian explorers from the 1800s there have been numerous comparatively recent expeditions and projects that are just as significant for development of the country’s interior.
A name not well known is Len Beadell, although many have heard of his gang of cohorts self titled the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party or their infamous road the Gunbarrel Highway. Len was the principle surveyor and leader of the group assigned the job of constructing roads through the vast area destined to be used for the 1950s British atomic testing program centred at Maralinga, and later the 1960s British missile testing range that covered a huge area from the launch site near Woomera right to the West Australian coast between Port Hedland and Broome.
Although the events surrounding need for these roads are an unfortunate and shameful page in modern British-Australian history the exploits of Len Beadell and his road construction gang are legendary and left an outback road network legacy that now services many remote aboriginal communities, government installations and pastoral properties.
For some time I’ve been interested in traversing some of the Gunbarrel roads, both to see many of the unique natural features along them but also just for the adventure of overlanding through such remote desert country. The distances and time involved made a trip like this seem too difficult to arrange, especially with my cancer treatment routine limiting us to trips of one to three weeks duration. However, during our recent Simpson Desert crossing we decided that a life with some adventure was more important than a life spent waiting around oncology clinics so a plan was set to postpone chemo for a while then join a Moon Tours expedition called the “Coast to Coast” leaving just two weeks after our Madigan Line trip reached Birdsville.
Starting point for the Coast to Coast is Ceduna on the coast of South Australia, chosen for its proximity to Maralinga and other locations central to the atomic weapons testing program. Reaching Ceduna from Brisbane requires a four day road trip so I was left with just over a week at home to clean and service the rig after the Simpson trip, replace all six Cruiser tyres as they were getting tired from the rough tracks we have been on, and arrange various supplies, permits and other logistics. Oh, and I also had a minor throat surgical procedure in amongst all of that, and our house exterior was planned to be painted at the same time too.
The over booked window of time before I had to depart, combined with needs of our aging fur babies, meant that Suzzanne will remain behind for first half of the trip including the main Coast to Coast leg on the Len Beadell roads. This will be our first big trip apart in many years and I’ll dearly miss my navigator and sharing the many sites and scenes we encounter when on the road. Suzzanne will however fly to Port Hedland to rendezvous with me for the return trip, back across the country’s red heart following The Great Central Road, via the Olgas, Uluru and other inland attractions.
With zero hour nearly here I’ll soon be on the 2,500km journey from Brisbane to Ceduna – subscribe to the blog to get updates on this great adventure through some of Australia’s most remote desert areas.