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Patrolling our backyard: A cruise along the Gibb River Road and The Kimberley (Part 2)

Patrolling our backyard: A cruise along the Gibb River Road and The Kimberley (Part 2)

We headed out from Ayers Rock Resort after a couple of days of sightseeing. Having reached Ayers Rock in time for the helicopter flights, we could now take our time for the rest of the trip. We decided to head to Kings Canyon and have a look around there and the southern reaches of the McDonald Ranges.

kings canyon

Well, if you think Uluru or the Olgas is impressive, I would have to rate Kings Canyon a step above! I know, hard to believe. I hope some of the pictures can show you just how wonderful a place Kings Canyon is. It’s definitely worth the detour to spend an extra day to visit.

kings canyon hike

The climb was arduous but definitely worth it. There are tours available to show you the way and explain the history of the area. But you can also go out on your own, at your own pace.

The roads were all dirt and slightly corrugated, but certainly nothing as bad as the road from Dalhousie Springs to Mt Dare. It was still enough to slow you down in sections. But with these sights readily available, who is in a hurry?

waterhole at Kings Canyon

horses at Kings Canyon

Ok, ok, I know it’s supposed to be a product review, but I couldn’t help showing off these pics.

I stayed at Alice for a few days to unwind and do some minor upgrades to the cars (PIE OVENS FOR EVERYONE). That’s right. After Jono had us all watching him enjoying pies and other delicacies on the trip across the Simmo, we all had to get one. Best upgrade for sure :)

When running a small 12v oven in a vehicle, the key for us was to remember to turn it on and cook our food while we were on the road. The BCDC 1225 dc to dc charger pumps enough current to keep the second battery running at full capacity whilst running a fridge and the pie oven. There was a little extra strain on Jono’s set up as he was running 2 fridges with the pie oven. So the 115W Solar Blanket was getting used at every extended stop.

running a fridge with the BCDC1225

It was soon time to tackle the longest leg of our trip. We fuelled up at Alice then headed for the Tanami. Our goal was to reach Wolfe Creek and camp for one night.

We arrived late that night after having to help a great bloke who was stranded on the Tanami - hundreds of kilometres away from any help. Black Knight Off-Road Industrie’s little truck was certainly a sight. With a failed main battery that couldn’t hold sufficient voltage to keep the car running, we assisted in changing it over to his auxiliary battery and got him going again.

stuck on the road

This highlighted for me the importance of having a decent second battery. All modern vehicles now need to have a minimum voltage in the main battery to keep the car running. So if the battery fails to charge or dies, you simply can’t keep the car running.

helping a mate out

This beasty was running a small 60ah lithium battery, simply not enough cranking amps to get the car started. The size was also a lot taller and wouldn’t fit into the main battery cradle. We tied the bonnet down with cable ties to keep it in place. But we hooked him up to the back of my car and jump started him that way. Once the car was running, the battery was fine to keep the car travelling. He wasn’t able to turn the car off again until he reached his destination, where he could then replace his battery. This was a lengthy job. So many accessories on this car we could only hook up the absolute necessities.

Before my next remote trip, I will be setting up a system where I can switch over to my secondary battery without the need to disconnect everything and swap it with the main battery. I too had my main battery fail me at Ayers Rock Resort. But luckily for me, I was able to have roadside assist come and change the battery over for a new one.

This held us up for a few hours and we arrived at Wolfe Creek. Never leave a stranded vehicle in need of help alone in the desert or anywhere for that matter.

Surviving the night, we had a look around the Meteor Crater (I didn’t even know Wolfe Creek was known for this). I’d only ever heard about this place from the epic Aussie movies!

Pretty impressive. Estimated at 120m deep, a meteorite weighing thousands of tonnes created this 850m wide crater around 300,000 years ago.


meteor crater

We got to Halls Creek later that morning, travelling 1,110kms from Alice with no fuel stops.

The Tanami Hwy was a long, dusty and rough road. I would call the conditions average. Certainly rough in sections but nothing dramatic at all. It didn’t live up to the reputation of being terribly corrugated. We had seen much worse. Lots of big trucks and wrecks on the road.

wreckage

Arriving late yet again at our next destination we set up camp and a few well-deserved ales.

Spending most of our daylight hours driving, it was easy to keep the secondary batteries charged up. The heat was getting oppressive, and even the nights were giving us less and less relief.

We learnt that having a good battery set up can also make camping more fun. Hooking up energy efficient LEDs to light up the campsite and get set up was a blessing.

setting up camp

We weren’t the only ones making a late camp. And all heads turned as we heard the familiar sound of another Y62 driving around looking for a camp spot. Who would have thought, another Y62 in remote outback Kimberley travelling with kids? We soon introduced ourselves and helped them set up camp. We had a great night chatting and sharing our adventures with some new friends.

travelling with kids

With no sign of bitumen for the foreseeable future, we headed on towards our ultimate destination, the Mitchell Plateau. With stops along the way at places like Drysdale Station to top up on fuel and get some sleep.

We have all heard stories of the Gibb River Road, and how many tyres, trailers and vehicles it has claimed. So when we did finally turn onto it, we were surprised at how good it was. But as soon as we turned off it and headed north to Drysdale Station it soon changed.

We parted ways with Jono and his Y62 at Drysdale Station. 

It was just Rob, his kids, and myself for the duration of our trip. The roads continued to test our cars and our patience. We trudged on to Mitchell Falls. Keen to get to our destination. While the roads were crap, the scenery was anything but.

We even got to see a couple of locals put on a boxing match for us.

fighting

And the pie oven’s were paying off.

pies oven

Mitchell Falls was another site worth the effort of the walk to see. Even this dry it was a sight.

The folding solar blanket was used every day to keep the secondary batteries charged. This kept our fridges running at the desired temperatures. It was amazing to see how efficient it was even in low light as dusk approached.

waterfall

Leaving Mitchell Falls, we headed further north to Walsh Point. The temperature was really starting to get hot now. +40°C and the nights were not much better. The road north had a sign stating 4WD only. And it soon became apparent why. The rocks got bigger and bigger. The last leg to Walsh point was slow going at 20km/h.

Walsh Point was our much-anticipated destination. Well, I was hoping to catch my first Barra. This was our first chance to wet a line.

After sleeping - well trying to sleep in the oppressive heat - we listened to all the noises in the water. A spotlight pointed in that direction reflected a few too many yellow eyes for my liking. We had our fishing fun (still no Barra) but decided it was time to start heading back home.

Walsh point

The extreme heat started to make the fridges in both cars work. And staying at a campsite for a couple of days really put the solar blanket to the test. Again we had to share it between both cars to get the secondary batteries charged up.

This is where the real test came for our power set up. The cars were not going anywhere. There was no shade for them either. They were parked in the sun, and even with windows and doors open to let what little breeze flow through, the heat was intense inside. The insulated cover on both fridges helped. It was great not having to start the cars and run them just to keep the batteries charged. (I have to admit we did start them so we could get some relief from the heat and cranked the A/C on. The solar blanket did it all.

putting the blanket to the test

Having relatively trouble free trips so far, it was my Y62 that succumbed to the corrugations. The rear left alignment let go and caused this. I felt the car “crabbing” all over the road and had to pull over immediately to investigate.

rear alignment went out!

Having tools is a must

Carrying some basic tools is a must. We managed to pull the alignment back a bit. With the wheel pointing in the right direction again, we continued on. Destination Home Valley Station. And back onto the Gibb. Well, it wasn’t long before we found out just how tough that road can be on vehicles. It truly is a brutal road.

We stopped on the way back to cool off in a creek. Boy was it lovely. Such a vast and beautiful country we have and many of us just don’t get to see it. 

swimming at a lake

We ended up staying at Home Valley Station for a few days before continuing on home. And we got the guys at the restaurant to cook up our fish for us too.

cooking some fish

Home Valley Station

Once we left the Gibb River Road it was smooth sailing all the way back home. We stopped where we could along the Victoria River to try and catch that ever elusive Barra.

catching fish

River crossing can be dangerous, but being the end of the dry season and the water levels so low, there really wasn’t much water flowing. The Nav made light work of the crossing. With partial road under the water covered in slippery moss, the tyres really kept the car stable and never looked like getting stuck.

river crossing

The sandy river beds can get very soft and boggy. As I didn’t drop any tyre pressure coming off the road just a short distance away, I soon found out how much of a difference that makes. A quick snatch from Rob and we were back on our way.

One last stop at Mataranka (cos you really can’t just drive past there without stopping for a dip). 

Mataranka

Well, sadly the tale ends as all trips and holidays must for those of us that have to get back to work to be able to afford the next adventure.

After travelling over 10,000kms in some of Australia’s most remote areas, I can honestly say I’m so grateful for having the REDARC gear. I simply would not have been able to maintain the charging of my secondary battery and my fridge would have lost temperature. And in turn, I would have had to throw away food and use my fridge as an esky.

The BCDC1225 did its job. No issues no fuss and constant charge to keep the batteries full.

As for the solar blanket, well, if you don’t have one, get one! The folding solar blanket was so easy to store and put up. Its efficiency was awesome. Whether you get yourself a folding solar blanket or not, solar power is a must for any trip away.

The 1000W inverter was the cherry on top. Having the ability to use 240v, running the laptops, charging the batteries for our tools, drones etc, is just too good. I didn’t have it fitted into the car on this trip as I wanted to have a more flexible portable option with my battery pack. But with the 5m cable, I may rethink this for my next trip as it can get a bit messy having everything separate and loose.

Overall I cannot fault REDARC's products. All three vehicles had the DCDC chargers and we all utilised the solar blanket and Inverter without any issues, failures or trouble.

Until our next adventure, be safe and get out there and make your own.

Ned, Aussie Patrol Y62 FB.

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