Mit dem Auto auf dem Sandover Hwy., Australien

Australia 2016

Actually I hadn’t planned to report here about our trip to Australia in 2016. From Brisbane via Fraser Island to Alice Springs, Ayers Rock (Uluru) and Kings Canyon. And from there to Darwin in the north. With all routes and detours in total 7.500 km.

But because I’m already there and it somehow fits thematically in here, I will also briefly introduce you to this tour. By the way, we haven’t done it with the Landcruiser yet. Back then my son still had an old Mitsubishi Pajero. It had already run 300,000 km when he bought it. And I would certainly not have driven that to Germany later 😉

By the way, you can do this tour mostly with a normal car or with a camping bus. Except maybe the Sandover Highway. Because the rest of the route over the Bruce, Capricorn, Landsborough, Barkly and the Stuart Hwy. is a sealed road. And at every exit of the village there are indicators if the rivers to be crossed on the further section are closed due to high water. So – with the exception of Sandover Hwy – it is not a real off-road trip like in 2017, but one through the vastness and nature of Australia.

(Off) road trip Australia 2016 (Cape York)

  • Brisbane: The capital of the Australian state of Queensland (pop. 2.1 million) on the Brisbane River makes a relaxed impression despite its size. One reason for this is of course the mentality of the Australians, who are much more relaxed than the Europeans anyway. With their passion for abbreviations they affectionately call their city ‘Brissie’. On the other hand, it is also due to the spacious city structure of Brisbane, which is characterised by many green suburbs. Due to a large park landscape and cultural facilities directly on the opposite side of the river from the center (South Bank Parklands), you don’t feel cramped here either. I particularly liked the Streets Beach there. A 2,000 square meter beach landscape with 4,000 cubic meters of sand. Open all year round, with lifeguards and free admission.
  • Fraser Island: One of the most beautiful islands in the world! A 123 km long and 22 km wide sand island. With rainforest, crystal clear lakes and dingos on the sand dunes in the middle. And an off-road paradise for 4WDs. Along the beach and through the rainforest. But you should be careful: Sometimes small planes take off or land on the beach for scenic flights over Fraser Island. The island, 350 km from Brisbane, can be reached by a ferry in River Heads. However, you should only go there by car if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. We saw a car with a broken axle right on the first meters in Fraser. And if you don’t want to get stuck in the dunes, you need a four-wheel drive. 4×4 cars can be rented for a visit to Fraser Island in Hervey Bay on the mainland.
  • Longreach: The next 1.000 km via Rockhampton and small towns with such beautiful names as Dingo, Bluff, Emerald, Alpha or Jericho are just great to drive. Landscape and nature, but hardly any people. And also Longreach we would have passed for sure. If we hadn’t seen a Boeing 747 from a distance. What does a long-haul plane do on a potato field? Well, it wasn’t quite like that. The plane was parked on an air field. A runway had been built especially for it here. And there is a reason for that: Qantas was founded in Longreach in 1920 as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services and has a museum here. And because of the origin of its name Qantas is spelled without a ‘u’ 😉
  • Mount Isa: A mining town in the middle of the outback with the world’s largest deposits of copper, zinc, lead and silver. Huge mines, mining areas, smelters and smelting works shape the picture. We took our time for a day and visited a mine.
  • Sandover Hwy.: 230 km behind Mount Isa the Barkly Hwy. branches off to the left Austral Downs. A small road leading to Sandover Hwy. Here we are already in the Northern Territory. After 2 hours through bare landscape you have to decide. Whether you want to turn left to Alpurrurulam. To refuel in the Aboriginal settlement. Because until Alice Springs there is no petrol on the way. Or if you turn right onto Sandover Hwy. To drive through to Alice. Let’s do the math: 165 km we have already driven since the last filling up in Camoonweal. 20 km it is to Alpurrurulam. But also 20 km back when the petrol station is closed. And it’s only opened by the hour. And it’s another 630 km to Alice. In the worst case, we would have to cover 835 km with the gas station closed. On the other hand, if we drive straight through, we only need to cover 795 km. 40 km make a difference in this area! At least if you don’t have a long range tank with a capacity of 180 – 200 litres under your car. Well, we drove to Alpurrurulam and were served as the last car shortly before 4 pm. With a full tank and our 3 reserve canisters we were on the safe side for the 650 km to Alice. The general rule in the outback is to have enough fuel with you. And enough water. At least 5-7 liters per day and person. And a four-wheel drive vehicle without much electronics. Especially no central locking and no electric windows.
  • Alice Springs: Is the only major city in the middle of the red centre of Australia. And starting point for trips to Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon. There is also an airport and a train station in Alice Springs  of the train between Adelaide and Darwin (The Ghan).
  • Ayers Rock (Uluru): I hardly need to say anything about the big red monolith 440 km southwest of Alice Springs. It is located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and is one of the most famous landmarks of Australia. There are accommodations nearby, but they are expensive and mostly booked out. Better to stay 200 – 300 km away in a road house on Lasseter Hwy. If you want to walk around Ayers Rock, take sturdy shoes with you. On our tour around the rock several snakes welcomed us friendly.
  • Kings Canyon: Kings Canyon: Either you can hike down in the valley of Watarrka Nt’l. Park or climb up to the plateau and circle the Kings Canyon. In the forests and on the up to 300 m high sandstone walls there are hiking trails for every taste and every contour. From one to 20+ km. But don’t forget sunscreen, drinks and headgear!
  • Devils Marbles: On the Stuart Hwy. heading north to Darwin is worth stopping at the Devils Marbles, called Karlu Karlu by the Aborigines. 100 km south of Tennant Creek or 400 km north of Alice Springs. There are several thousand round granite rocks that lie here on top of each other and in the area. But when walking around you should better not put your fingers into the granite crevices. I had done this until my son suddenly called from behind: ‘Hands off, an inland taipan!’ He could see the snake from his perspective, but I couldn’t. She took her afternoon nap in the crevice. It’s the most venomous snake in the world. And we wanted to see it, but better not so close.
  • Kakadu Nt’l. Park: The Kakadu Nt’l. Park is 1,000 km north of Alice Springs. It is the largest national park of Australia. With opportunities for hiking, swimming, wildlife watching and marvelling at Aboriginal rock paintings. We liked best a boat tour early in the morning before sunrise. On this tour you could not only see salt water crocodiles very close, but also seabirds, buffalos and other animals grazing on the shore. Take a look at the photo gallery. However, we could not drive on some roads in the park. Due to early heavy spring rainfalls already at the end of August they were impassable due to flooding.
  • Litchfield Nt’l. Park: Opposite the Kakadu, on the other side of Stuart Hwy. is the Litchfield Nt’l. Park located. Much smaller than the Kakadu. Easy to reach from Darwin after 120 km and also easy to drive without an off-road vehicle. Pure nature with many camping and bathing places.
  • Darwin: In the big city (120.000 inhabitants) and capital of the Northern Territory there are not many old buildings left. Many were destroyed in air raids in World War II. Cyclone Tracy destroyed the rest in 1974. The modern ‘Waterfront’ invites you to swim, eat, shop or relax. At that time we couldn’t swim because the saltwater lagoon was closed due to too many crocodiles. The rangers said that there were more coming at night than they could get away during the day. Incidentally, there is also a combined 3D exhibition about the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the events of World War II in Darwin. The walk-in oil storage tunnel systems under the city are also interesting in this context. They were built as fuel storage tanks during World War II. Today they are a museum of the history of that time.
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