Trip to Tjukayirla Roadhouse



Wattle, Mimosa, Acacia

Now, if you like, come with me on one of my trips to this part of the world. It will only take a minute or two.

We rise early in the morning of a wintry June, some years ago, but I don’t remember the exact year right now. The 4-wheel drive is packed and ready to go. The day looks promising with glorious colours of sunshine and a bright blue sky. As we drive out of the small mining town of Laverton, in the northern goldfields, towards the Great Central Road, it’s already warming up.

Not long after, we cruise along the red gravel track bordered by the many yellows, grey-greens and blue-greens. The colours are strong with deep contrasts. We follow the track and see wild horses and goats grazing along the roadside, followed by an eagle or two swooping down to scavenge on a road kill. Pretty pink and grey Galahs pick for seeds in the bare red sand on the verges.

We drive on at a leisurely speed admiring the landscape. After the next curve, a kangaroo jumps out in front of the car. Luckily, we miss it. Not long after, we hit the brakes again. A group of camels with a calf wait at the side. Without warning they wander slowly onto the road and stop. There they are, gracefully watching us – the people with the camera – before they’re off into the desert. We manage to catch them on some photos, but we’re not as lucky with the emus. They sprint away faster than Olympic runners.

At the Tjukayirla Roadhouse we stop for lunch. Their freezer is full of kangaroo tails, apparently a delicacy, but we’re hungry and opt for hamburgers. We have a nice hour or so, before heading back. Now it’s time to study the scenery in a different light. The early evening, before the sun goes down, makes us see this world in subdued colours. Every hour of the day makes the red pindan country vary.

I have been there twice, but cannot wait to discover the area in spring with all the desert wildflowers. One day I would like to travel on this road all the way to Kata Tjuta (previously known as Mount Olgas) and Uluru (previously known as Ayers Rock). Unfortunately, due to time restraints, I had to make do with 1000 km away from Perth and a further 310 km into the wilderness – all the way to Tjukayirla Roadhouse. If I am lucky, we can plan a longer trip another year. My husband is always eager to drive long distances. As it is, we’ve never been back more than twice. And twice isn’t nearly enough.

IMPORTANT: If you plan to travel longer distances on the Great Central Road/Outback Highway it’s preferable to use a 4-wheel drive in excellent condition. However, the road is graded and some people drive with 2-wheel drive cars and even caravans if weather and road conditions at the time permit. You need ample water, food provisions, petrol, emergency equipment, GPS etc.

There are no repair shops along the way, no water, and not much in order of supplies. You should plan accordingly as this is not a road for Sunday drivers. The road is about 2800 km long (from Laverton to Winton) with a stretch of around 1700 km unsealed. Unsafe curves may surprise unwary drivers and accidents do happen. The gravel road is subject to closure if wet and don’t forget that Transit Permits are needed to travel through Aboriginal communities.

Great Central Road

Four camels

Four Camels on Great Central Road are Better than Ten Camels at the Zoo.

Today I’m gong to draw on old memories. This wasn’t going to be a once, in a lifetime trip, but we haven’t been back to the Great Central Road. We have seen new places with similar landscapes, but it was something extra special about this road trip.

Those who know me also know that I love everything with red pindan, a clear blue sky and nature, both inland and up north, of Western Australia.

Red pindan refers to the semi-arid landscape consisting of small scrubs, trees and grasses sustained by the red sandy dirt of the Kimberley area in the north, and some inland desert areas, of Western Australia.

In red pindan country, the colour combinations are breathtaking and unbelievable. The earth, in hues from red to rusty brown, is a fantastic backdrop to the various forms of vegetation. The green stretches from light yellow-green of the spinifex to grey-green saltbush. Throw in some green of a sandalwood tree here and there, at least close to the Great Victoria Desert, plus the almost blue tinged leaves of the small gum trees and you’ll have a magnificent setting.

But wait there’s more! In springtime the landscape transforms into stunning carpets of wildflowers. Add our golden sun and the blue sky and you may also find it hard to resist some of the most magic patches of WA.

Great Victoria Desert – Great Central Road/Outback Highway

The photo above was taken more than 1200 km north-east of Perth and very close to the Great Victoria Desert.

The camels are crossing the Great Central Road, also called the Outback Highway, which stretches from Laverton in Western Australia to Winton in south western Queensland via Alice Springs and Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory.

The road serves a few smaller communities and Aboriginal settlements, which are among the most isolated places in Australia. They include Cosmo Newbury, Tjukayirla, Warburton and Warakuna in Western Australia.

The Great Victoria Desert is called a desert, but is far from the usual desert landscape, like for instance, the Sahara Desert in Africa where there are more or less only sand dunes.

If you drive on the red dirt road, which is called the Great Central Road, to Tjukayirla Roadhouse, (some say it’s Australia’s most remote roadhouse), you have this kind of desert at an arm’s length. It may cost you for the trip, but once there, you are free to admire the fantastic scenery and paint your own pictures, either in your mind or on canvas.

Some people may say that there’s nothing out there and yet there’s everything. It all depends on how you perceive the colours and the vastness.

Please Note: As all desert areas, it may be a treacherous place if stranded without water, food and no shade in many times a sweltering heat. You must be prepared for all eventualities.