When we designed this expedition we wanted to create a program that captured the very essence of the Western Deserts and their astonishing diversity. From the rugged ranges of remote Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park and the ironstone red ranges of the lesser-known East Pilbara to the botanical wonderlands of the Gibson Desert bioregion.
This was the last wilderness in Australia, it was only in the 1960s that any vehicle tracks were made into the area. Back then, Terry Long, the Woomera Native Patrol officer said, “No one had been out there. The desert, as far as the Department [WA Dept of Supply] was concerned… was an unknown, as it was to the whole of Western Australia. The Warburton Ranges [were] as far as anybody got. People in those days knew absolutely nothing about Aborigines.” This expedition takes you there.
This is the ultimate Western Deserts Safari. If you have been looking at a map of Australia and wondering what mysteries lie in the blank bits out west – look no further. Rather than a barren desert, you will find nature’s wonderland, including the Mulga parklands of the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve, the rugged splendour of Rudall River National Park, and the stunning and seldom visited East Pilbara. See how the country changes, and how the plants, birds and wildlife adapt to those changes.
This expedition travels through the communities of Haasts Bluff, Papunya, Warburton, Warakurna and Kiwirrkurrna. You will travel the paths of the explorers as well as tracks put in by Len Beadell, including the Gary and Gunbarrel highways and the seldom-travelled Talawanna Track.
For lovers of nature, those with an adventurous spirit, or simply those who love to immerse themselves in wild and remote places, look no further, this is the one for you.
We travel to the community of Haasts Bluff, home to Luritja and some Pintubi people. The Ikuntji Art Centre has developed over the past few years into a vibrant and productive project.
Further on at the foot of Haasts Bluff is a memorial to Frederick Blakeley, an explorer and prospector of the early 1900's whose primary claim to fame was that his favoured means of transport in the outback was the bicycle, which he considered to be superior to the horse. We then head to the Papunya Tjipi art center at Papunya.
We camp in view of the magnificent massif of Mt. Liebig, at 5000’ one of the highest peaks in Central Australia.
Len constructed the road between August and November 1960. The road is maintained in good condition and travels along spectacular country interspersed with dramatic ranges.
We visit Sandy Blight Junction and continue on past the Western Australian border and take an early camp at the scenic Dovers Hills.
We visit the Women’s Centre and the Art Centre, where Papunya Tula artists work. We also visit Len Beadell's burned out mess truck and the community store.
We continue along the track west, where the Acacia woodland begins to give way to the sandhills of the Great Sandy Desert.
There is a Beadell marker at Gary Junction, after signing the visitor's book we take the Jenkins Track through to the Canning Stock Route. We take on water at Well 33.
At Kunawarritji Aboriginal Community there is a shower, and the chance to purchase limited items at the newly constructed shop while taking in the ambience of this remote western desert community.
We continue west and camp amid a forest of flowering honey grevillea near the banks of Lake Auld at Burrow Bore.
We continue on to lunch on an unnamed high knoll with spectacular views over the surrounding desert. We pass by the Telfer Mine. This is a huge project, the largest gold mine in Australia operated by Newcrest involving two open cut and one underground mine.
The gold is processed on site and the gold copper concentrate is trucked to Port Headland to be shipped, mainly to East Asia.
That would mean the roads ahead improve – but not for us, we are heading south towards the remote and spectacular Karlamilyi (Rudall River) National Park.
The sandhills finally recede, and we enter the Throssel Range. We take a break at the Duck Pond, a beautiful water filled gorge on the Coolbro Creek and continue on to our camp on an unnamed claypan surrounded by Spinifex coated red rocky ranges punctuated with white gums. This will be our base for the next two nights
Its name was changed in 2008 from Rudall River National Park to formally acknowledge the traditional owners. At 1,283,706 hectares it is largest National Park in Western Australia, and two and a half time the size of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, but due to its remoteness it receives little visitation.
We travel past the singular Compton Pinnacle, slowly picking our way across creek lines and washaways down to the Desert Queen Baths, a steep gorge punctuated with a series of waterholes.
We explore the gorge, including Aboriginal paintings and petroglyphs, and those who don’t mind cold water can take a dip in the bracing pools. In the late afternoon we return to camp.
We travel through the Nifty Copper mine and on to the Woodie Woodie Mine, which marks our entry into the East Pilbara. 700 people, mainly fly in fly out, live and work here. Operated by Consolidated Minerals, which was the subject of a hostile takeover by Ukrainian billionaire Gennadiy Bogolyubov, the mine extracts high-quality Manganese mainly for use in stainless steel production.
It appears out of nowhere and thankfully disappears in the rear vision mirror equally as quickly, the main advantage being the road improves beyond Woodie. We take a lunch break beneath giant melaleucas and river red gums at a waterhole in the Oakover River. Ringed by giant Melaleuca trees, this waterhole is one of the most beautiful in the outback.
The afternoon is spent enjoying one of the more remote and less visited parts of the East Pilbara. We take a walk to explore the magnificent Upper Carrwine Gorge, ascending the walls of the gorge to gaze out over a vast sheet of water.
We then take take the Woodie Woodie Road north to the junction with the Ripon Hills Road, and roll into Marble Bar, famous as Australia’s hottest town. We visit the “bar”, an unusual bar of jasper that was originally mistaken for marble that reaches across the Coongan River.
No visit to Marble Bar would be complete without dropping into the Iron Clad Hotel, a corrugated iron pub now on the Western Australian State heritage register.
We head west along the scenic Hillside Road, which shows the Eastern Pilbara at its best. We camp in the hills surrounded by stunning red peaks that glow red in the early evening light.
A chance to freshen up at the Caravan Park in Newman, visit the delightful Newman shopping Mall, where one can enjoy Newman café society while we reprovision for the next leg of our adventure.
We refuel alongside the Road Trains at the Capricorn Roadhouse, one of Australia’s busiest, before heading to our camp in Acacia woodland north of Newman.
The road allows high-speed travel as far as the turn off to Cotton Creek community, but from there it is a slow grind through to Georgia Bore on the Canning Stock Route.
After topping up our water supplies from the hand pump we continue on to camp just beyond Well 23 on the Canning.
As we leave the stock route, the country flattens out and we find ourselves in wide open vast sandhill terrain . This is truly remote, seldom travelled country, offering spectacular vistas.
Eventually the sandhills give way to the laterite plains and acacia woodlands of the Gibson Desert.
No prizes for working out why Len named it such, but it is the culmination of our run along the Talawanna Track, and our junction with the Gary Highway, which will take us south to the Gunbarrel.
A spectacular view of the surrounding desert is obtained from the summit of McDougall’s Knob. We contine south across rangeland and enter the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve
The more athletic can hike to the summit, where a theodolite in a cage provides a memorial to Len Beadell.
The track continues on past spectacular rangeland to Notabilis Hill and on to our camp at the Mt Samuel Junction.
Taparti Bates won a Normanby art prize with this glasswork.
From here we travel north along the infamous “Abandoned” section of the Gunbarrel Highway through Jackie Junction to our camp near the Van Den Linden Lakes, where limestone is exposed to reveal an ancient paleo drainage basin.
We visit the fabled Circus Rockhole, and continue past Sladen Water, through the Pass of the Abencarrages to Warakurna.
After a brief visit to Giles Meteorological Station we continue on to our camp at the Rebecca Creek near the Northern Territory Border, named by Ernest Giles in 1874.
There is the option to leave the tour here or continue north to arrive at Alice Springs Hotels early evening.
Diamantina Touring CompanySince 1988 Diamantina have been running award winning nature based eco tours and expeditions into remote areas of outback Australia.
Our trips feature contemporary fresh Australian cuisine cooked over the open fire and fine Australian table wines.
Our tours visit some of the most spectacular and wild desert locations on the planet including the Canning Stock Route, The Gibson Desert, The Simpson Desert and the Great Sandy Desert.
Travel is in forward seating air conditioned desert equipped land cruisers. Diamantina is fully ATAP accredited and holds advanced eco accreditation.