Get a Tan-in-my Desert

It is day 11 of our epic road trip and Doug and I have coined the phrase “extreme roadtripping”. Just like on the Topdeck tour where we met, each day seems like 3 as we cram in as much as we can and make the most of every opportunity to avoid serious FOMO. In order to make this happen, we have come prepared with knowledge, map books and a car full of gear ready for every scenario. So far everything has gone to plan, but a lot of our contingencies (extra water, extra fuel, emergency food, emergency communication, 4WD recovery gear) were packed specifically for the next leg of our journey- across the Tanami Desert.

The Tanami Road goes from Halls Creek in WA diagonally down to Alice Springs in central Australia, and is just over 1000km of mostly dirt road with no mobile reception, few travellers and only a couple of fuel stops. This is by far the most remote we will be on the trip, and the furthest from any kind of help, so all the supplies listed above are essential.

Our first stop is at Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater, made famous of course by the horror film of the same name. We arrive in the late afternoon and take a quick walk up and into the crater to explore and leave the GoPro to take a timelapse of the setting sun.

Before nightfall we start setting up camp at the Wolfe Creek campground, only to discover a few less than ideal details;
  1. We are alone, and will be camping alone, at Wolfe Creek for the night
  2. The dip & bump which Doug didn’t see while driving on the Tanami snapped the tap off our 10L water jerry, so literally everything is soaked
  3. By the time we unpack the wet car and set up camp it is pitch black, and someone has to go back for that GoPro…
While Doug makes dinner, I get in the car to drive back to the crater for the GoPro. It is at this point I suddenly realise that I am at Wolfe Creek, about to be alone in the darkness, and an eerie feeling washes over me. I start the car and feel a chill up my arms and through my spine… It was the air con.

The next morning we repack our entirely unpacked (but thankfully now dry) car, and take a sunrise walk around the crater rim.

Horror film jokes aside, the Wolfe Creek Crater is a spectacular sight and hard to describe in words or capture in photos.

We get back on the Tanami and continue another 67km until Billiluna, an aboriginial settlement a mere 2km off the road, and the only fuel stop in 800km. At $2.60/L it isn’t cheap, but a full tank here means we can make it to Tilmouth Well without stopping at Yuendumu, which is a lot further off the road and would take both more time and more fuel to get to. In addition to the practicality, it's a nice moment to take a glimpse at what life looks like out here. The shop owners are lovely and helpful as we discuss fuel stops and distances, meanwhile Doug is outside making a new friend.

It’s not long until we cross the border, from WA back into the NT. See below for obligatory border selfie.

Next up it’s Doug’s turn to drive, and it’s time for tyre change #2.

While we’re stopped we top up the fuel from the jerry cans, then get back to driving through the desert.

It is surprisingly not as barren as either of us expect, with plenty of shrub and low trees surrounding the road. I guess we were both expecting more nothing?

The sun out here is hot and unforgiving, really putting the “Tan” in Tanami, however we are surprised to see that even in the heat of the day it has only reached 46°C. I mean it’s still hot, but once again, I think we were expecting the worst and came out pleasantly surprised.

Fast forward 700km and we hit Tilmouth Well Roadhouse, our camp site for the night, where they clearly have plenty of bore water to water the grass. Desert? What desert?

The next morning we finish the last 300km into Alice Springs, however after Tilmouth Well it is mostly sealed road so a much quicker and easier journey. Next stop, Uluru!