View Full Version : darwin-uluru-kings canyon-west macdonnell ranges- davenport ranges

14th January 2015, 03:25 PM
Mule: Nissan patrol GU 2.8td 1999
Mileage: 246700km
Rubber: cooper 265/75 R16
Mods: larger radiator, dual battery setup, Recovery Tracks & common sense.

Day 1 (466km)
It all started with an argument with my missus on which car to take for our trip to Uluru. I had just got the Nissan patrol regoed and was keen on taking it. The merit of the Kia Rio was its fuel economy (4l/100km) compared to the Patrol’s in the range of 12-13l/100km. After much cajoling, I got the patrol loaded up and left Darwin around 11am. We did around 100km/hr till Mataranka where we stopped for a dip in the thermal pools which was great. After a bit more driving, we reached Warloch around 6pm, 37km south of Mataranka. So all in all, we drove a distance of 466km and setup camp.

Day 2 (1096km)
Around 6:00am we started driving again to Alice Springs with a fuel stop in Tennant Creek. I was disappointed that the car gave me a fuel economy of 13.8l/100km at speeds of 90-110km. The missus shared the driving with me, but she had me annoyed because of her turning of the car right after stopping without giving the engine a bit of time to idle even after me telling her all the time. Right before Devils Marbles we were changing drivers and she pulled into a rest stop to give me the car. She switched off the car even before we stopped completely. As luck would have it the cap of the reserve coolant tank was loose and the sudden stop must have pressurised the coolant. The cap flew off spewing coolant out of the engine and smoke coming out of the bonnet which terrified her. I had a look and saw that it was just the cap, but I withheld the info from her and said that’s what happens if you stop the engine without idling. After mopping around a bit and guilt ridden I consoled her and explained what really happened. But the point went through and she would ask me every time we stopped, if it was enough time to idle. I filled up the coolant and resumed our journey to Alice Springs.

On the way, we visited Devils Marbles (which has a great camping site which I greatly recommend) and clicked some clichéd pics. It was raining quite heavily by this time, but we were lucky that for our stops it eased up so we could see all the sights without being soaked.

We reached Alice Springs by 7pm and did a bit of shopping for the camping the next few days as I know how expensive provisions get once in Ayers Rock. After fuelling up (12.2l/100km@90-95km/hr), the rain came down in torrents and thanks to the twin spotties I fixed before we left, it was as clear as day. Our destination was set for Mt Polhill Rest Area 68km south of Alice Springs. When we finally reached our camp area, as if by magic the rain just stopped to a drizzle and we could erect (no pun intended) our tent and get in our sleeping bags as it got really chilly by then. Total distance travelled: 1096km with fuel economy of 12.2l/100km.

Day 3 (500km)
After an early start at 6am, we made our way to Uluru: another 400km away with more rain on the way. The landscape was beautiful with the greenery there mixed with the red sand of the Red Centre. The plan was to see Uluru and camp in Sandy Way Rest Area 28km east of Yulara (s25 13 13, e131 13 47). So we stopped on the way to see the spot, but were disappointed to see it was just a roadside stop. I spotted a dune next to it and slipped the patrol into 4H and attacked the dune. Once on the top, we saw the actual camping site past the dune set in the valley. It was truly amazing and is a 100times better than staying in the resort in Ayers and free too.

Paying the $25pp charge to get into the park, we did the Uluru touristy thing: took tours of the rock a dozen times. In torrential rain we decided to do the walk to the water hole so I could show the missus the waterfall which is quite spectacular in the wet season. We made our way and alas, not a drop from the waterfall. As we were turning around my partner yells “LOOK” and I turn around to see the water just brimming over the top of the rock and we saw the waterfall erupt in a gust of wind and spray. We had the best timing ever I have to say. On the way back the whole rock looked different with water flowing down in streams everywhere. I took the opportunity and stood under one of the streams and had a good wash.

We cooked up some eggs on the gas bbq holding an umbrella so we don’t water down the eggs. We headed to the café in Yulara and had a feed and bought more snacks from the IGA and headed back to our Sandy Way Rest Area to camp. We couldn’t believe it, but even with our tomtom we couldn’t spot the campsite after driving almost 3 times back and forth. The rain cleared up and we finally found the place with a few poor backpackers huddled up near the Road Rest Area. We rode over the dune to our secluded camping area and setup tent. It was cool and the view in the morning was just breathtaking with the ground sandy and soft. In the night we heard some footsteps which we think were camels having a close look but the missus was paranoid (watching wolf creek too many times I suppose). As soon as I switched on the lantern they went away and I couldn’t see anything.

Day 4
I really didn’t want to wake up early so we slept in a bit, cooked up some brekkie and some delicious coffee and enjoyed the dawn. I really loved the look on the faces of the campers when we came over the dunes onto the road. They scurried to look over the dunes and realised that they missed out on a great camping spot.

Today is cardio day so off to the Kata Tjuta Range we went to do the Valley of the Winds Walk, 7.5km of pure scenic natural beauty with no rain and 23 degree weather. We were lucky with the weather again and finished the walk in 2 hours and headed back to Uluru to have a final look and off to Yulara to fill up fuel and get camping supplies from the IGA.

Fuel economy was up again from last time with 10.86l/100km. I checked tyre pressure to see they were 47.5psi all around! I deflated them all down to 36psi and found the car to be much comfier. With a full tank we headed to Kings Canyon which I was looking forward to as I wanted to do the Mereenie Loop. We took the Luritja Road which is paved to our destination and stopped to attack more dunes in Salt Creek Rest Area on the way which has similar hidden camping grounds behind the dunes. The canyon was quite stunning - covered in the mist from all the rain and it was actually a nice drive with a few water crossings on the way.

By the time we reached the resort, it was raining quite heavily and most of the low cars were parked before the creek which was flooded with flowing water. We checked in at the reception and found that the Meerenie Loop as well as the Ernest Giles Road were closed. It was quite frustrating and I shared my frustration with a fellow Land Cruiser 100 owner bitching about it.

After spending the night in the resort in a deluxe room, we decided to make our way to the Lasseter Highway and got back to Alice Springs. The creek near the resort was already flooding with 40cm of flowing water keeping people with cars from leaving. So the Patrol followed by a handful of Pajeros made its way back to Alice Springs. When we reached the Earnest Giles Road, I saw that there were no signs which said it was closed so I turned in and went about a km inside to see a sea of red water before we turned back.

We reached Alice Springs around 1pm and filled up. The Patrol gave us 12l/100km at speeds of 80-95km/hr. so I decided to pump them back up to 40psi all around which was the best compromise between economy and ride comfort.

We made our way to see the West MacDonnell Ranges amid heavy rains and soon enough the first flood way was already at 250mm with really fast flowing water. We kept going another 50km west of Alice Springs where we saw a bloke on a troop carrier stopped at the next crossing. The level was at 800mm with really fast flow. He advised that it’s not worth it to cross and too dangerous even with a snorkel. He was proven right as soon as we headed back to the first crossing which had risen to 400mm and the Patrol actually moved a bit with the flow of the water.

We spent some time at Simpsons Gap and reunited with the Pajeros from the Kings Canyon Resort. The rain picked up again so we all headed back to Alice Springs where I topped up and headed up north to Connor Well which was basically a big puddle of water. So we parked the car under the shade and slept in the car.

Day 5 (612km)
We woke up pretty early around 4:30am and started driving with the Davenport Range set as the destination. We decided to take the route through Ali Curung passing through the Old Police Water Hole and exiting out in Wauchope. The dirt road was amazing and a good training for me to drive on unsealed roads and actually was a lot of fun.

We finally reached the turn off into the 4wd track and passed through the first gate and got bogged in the very first sandy patch. It looked quite solid at first, but the truck started to sink even after putting 4H. I had to put her in 2nd gear 4L to make any progress. After seemingly an endless amount of water crossings, we reached one of the bigger creeks which looked quite shallow around 400mm so I decided to go through it. By the middle the terrain took a deep dip and we were into deep water with the water lapping against the lip of the bonnet. By this time the missus was the colour of a cherry tomato and calling out to the gods. I on the other hand was ecstatic at the capability of the Patrol just powering through like it was nothing. I checked the engine just to make sure everything was alright and sure enough a kilometre in the next crossing thee was a fallen tree in the middle of the crossing in the deeper section. Contemplating to remove the tree from the path, I stepped out only to see a mob of cows intrigued by the Patrol stepping closer to have a look. Then all of them did a stampede through the water and I saw how deep the water was (up to the cow’s body). Listening to the wise words of my partner, we decided to turn around which was an ordeal in itself. After backing up almost a kilometre in reverse gear trying to find a patch to turn around, we finally reached the first crossing. I had no choice, so up went the patrol over the boulders and after a few tries got it reversed. Going back was even scarier because the deeper part was on the passenger side and the view of water lapping on the glass really scared the poor thing. Going back was a lot faster by following my tracks. One of the water crossings was a bit harder as I misjudged the depth and went through the crossing a tad slow which pulled the car to the deeper end. No amount of steering would get me to the shallow end and so basically we went in a 45 degree angle like in a slow motion drift for a bit until we reached the shallower end were I eased off the acceleration and the car straightened itself out. This is truly the day my crush with the Nissan Patrol developed into respect and love.

We reached the highway soon enough and reached Tennant Creek for the last fill up. Amazingly after all this rough terrain and 4wd driving, the troll gave me 10.71l/100km even after a shaking up and filling to the brim. We camped in Banka Banka which I highly recommend with one of the cleanest and most picturesque campsite on the route.

Day 6 (882km)
We reached Darwin at around 6pm after we left Banka Banka at 7:45am with just a stop at Katherine for some Chinese takeaway on the same tank from which we filled in Tennent Creek and the reserve light has not come on.

After this trip, I have plans for the patrol which are:
1. to change all lubes and fluids
2. get dual wheel carriers
3. snorkel setup
4. winch and other recovery gear
5. deep rubber mats
6. fix rear barn doors to close properly
7. deep cycle sub battery

I would really recommend the cooper tyres to anyone as they are quiet on the bitumen and have really good traction in the mud.

special thanks to the missus for editing the travelogue

14th January 2015, 06:38 PM
Big trip, thx for sharing.

14th January 2015, 06:40 PM
WOW! Havent got time to read that at the moment but most definitely will



14th January 2015, 06:41 PM
Nice write up mate. Great trip. Got any pics?

14th January 2015, 06:56 PM
great write up mate thx now as the others said wheres the pics lol

14th January 2015, 06:59 PM
Sounds like it was an awesome trip. Maybe one day I'll get up north... dream dream dreamm

14th January 2015, 11:03 PM
Thanks guys for the compliments. The trip was truly beautiful. Pics will soon be up. Watch this space ☺

14th January 2015, 11:39 PM
Great write up and sounded like a hell of an adventure, you sure put in some big days driving.
Looking forward to seeing some pics.

Bet you are glad you didn't take the Kia Rio.

15th January 2015, 12:12 AM
Great write up mate, never mind you being glad you didn't take the Rio, I bet you're missus was glad you didn't take it either!!!!!!!!

Oh and what Growler said :useless: hahahahahaha

15th January 2015, 01:27 AM
camp site in sandy creek

15th January 2015, 10:06 AM
It really is Gods Territory, any where you go ,,and I mean anywhere

15th January 2015, 10:48 AM
here are the rest of the pics as promised
devils marbles 53924
attacking dune 53925
uluru crying 53926
uluru with cloud cap 53927

15th January 2015, 10:54 AM
kata tujta 53928
fishing/drying holder 53929
water crossing west McDonnell 53930
more 53931
Ali curung track to davenport ranges 53932
long muddy & deep 53934

15th January 2015, 11:03 AM
I particularly like the last one Matt..... Uluru with Cloud Cap ...... I have been there after a rain storm too, and climbed the rock to find Shield Shrimp the size of 20 cent pieces in the rain puddles - right up on top - magical experience ....


15th January 2015, 11:09 AM
Here is a picture of the Shrimp - not mine, but just an example

These shrimp live for one day, lay their eggs which lay dormant till the next rain .... unbelievable stuff

15th January 2015, 11:15 AM
Great pics, amazing with those shrimp we found them as well at Kata Kjuta in a rock pool - kids (and I) were amazed.

15th January 2015, 02:24 PM
Great write up. Those shield shrimp are amazing, the way they survive.

15th January 2015, 03:24 PM
Years ago I found some of those shrimp in shallow pools on top of Uluru. Didn’t know what they were at the time. Still not sure how they get there. Hadn’t heard of Ali Curung before, have just added it to my ’to do’ list. Nice pics.