Well they say the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia is one of the toughest 4WD routes you can do – and they’d be right, I reckon! My latest expedition saw me joining a convoy of eight 4x4s heading across four deserts – the Gibson, Little Sandy, Great Sandy, and Tanami – along 2,000kms of some of the remotest terrain in the world.
My trusty co-driver Greg and I were in an old aquamarine Holden Rodeo – a utility vehicle at best and definitely a bit crumbly compared with the flashier Nissan Patrols and Land Rovers that accompanied us. Still, the journey started well enough as we set out from remote Wiluna, about an hour’s flight from Perth, heading northwards into the remote and unforgiving Australian outback. We bumped along gravel roads, crossed mighty salt pans and traversed sand dunes around 10m high in places. The soft dunes gave us the biggest grief, sometimes taking several attempts to cross – hmm, what gear to use, how much acceleration…?
Each night, we bush-camped, pitching our tents or throwing down swags, building a campfire and cooking much-needed hearty dinners overlooked by a dark canopy of twinkling stars. Out here, there are no artificial lights to taint the skies and the view of the heavens is truly extraordinary, as anyone who’s camped in remote desert will tell you.
Our Rodeo took a real battering along the route. Our right hand shockie fell off earlier on but, using some amazing bush mechanics, Greg managed to do emergency repairs using a sawn-off log jammed in the rear suspension and held on with a chain. That lasted 1,500kms till the shockie gave on the other side, and the vehicle was at last deemed too unsafe to continue in. The last 500kms, I hitched a ride in one of the Nissans – luxury indeed compared with the old rattly Rodeo!
Passing through a couple of Aboriginal villages en route, it was impossible to believe that any humans could survive in such remote, dry conditions – but this is their home and they’ve lived here for centuries. As we skimmed the last stretch of corrugated gravel into Hall’s Creek, 2000kms north of our starting-point, I longed to be back out in the desert again, sleeping under the stars, drinking in that incredible, untainted star-filled sky…