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ADV TEAR-OUT MAP #16

Posted On 14 May 2024
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This entry is part 19 of 25 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#31

BACK WAY TO THE ROCK EXPERIENCE THE REAL RED CENTRE

The real Red Centre? Oh yes; and once you’ve seen the stars out here at Kings Canyon or Uluru, you will know exactly what that means. Not only that. These rides will take you to several of Australia’s unique (and I don’t say that lightly) natural attractions.

What they will not take you to see is the real, actual centre of the Red Centre, the geographical centre of Australia.

For some reason I used to think this was near Central Mt Conner (no doubt due to the name, which appears to have since lost the “Central”), but it is actually considerably further north, roughly halfway between Haasts Bluff and the Tanami Road. I have no idea why I’m telling you this…

Central Australia is a world of its own, and a spectacularly beautiful one. But it is also highly unpredictable – after all, the most attractive human beings also tend to be the most unpredictable ones, don’t they – and can get tough with you without notice. It does rain in the Outback, with occasionally tragic results, and both the summer heat and winter cold can be uncomfortable, to put it lightly. Before tackling this ride, check road and other conditions with the cops on 08 8951 8888 and/or Tourism Central Australia on 08 8952 5800.

ALICE SPRINGS

It’s a complete small city, even though it’s in the middle of the desert.

You’ll find everything you need here, including some kind of representation for every major brand of motorcycle sold in Australia. Quite a few things are worth seeing; take a look at the Tourism Central Australia website www.discovercentralaustralia.com. The information centre is on Gregory Terrace and is open from 8.00 to 5.00, weekends and holidays 9.00 to 4.00. We especially like the peaceful Old Telegraph Station, where Alice Springs began.

HERMANNSBURG

Once a Lutheran mission, Hermannsburg is now a pretty major centre for Aboriginal-based tourism.

Fuel and other supplies are available and the historic buildings make an interesting backdrop to a fascinating story of early Australia. Albert Namatjira painted much of the scenery around the town – if you’re a fan of his, a lot will look familiar! The petrol station number is 08 8956 7430 and it’s open 8.30 to 5.30, and 10.00 to 5.30 on Sundays.

GLEN HELEN RESORT

Open daily from 7.00 to 10.00, the resort offers a wide range of accommodation and services. Ring the office on 08 8956 7489.

KINGS CANYON RESORT

Public access point to Watarrka National Park and the majestic Kings canyon itself, the Voyages Kings Canyon Resort is open from 6.30 to 9.30 daily and offers fuel and other supplies. See www.kingscanyonresort.com.au, phone number is 08 8956 7442.

KINGS CREEK CARAVAN PARK

This station is the largest exporter of live camels in Australia, but you can get a camel burger at the shop if you really want one… It’s a working cattle station, too, while the shop offers fuel and supplies and there are safari cabins and campsites, as well as – wait for it – Luxury Glamping. See www.kingscreekstation.com.au or ring 08 8956 7474.

CURTIN SPRINGS

Offering both caravan/camping accommodation and rooms as well as a restaurant and bar, Curtin Springs Station of course also has fuel.

Powered sites cost $40 a night, while unpowered campsites are free. See www.curtinsprings.com or call 08 8956 2906.

YULARA

The Cultural Centre is the first place to check out when you visit Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park; you will get a lot more out of exploring the Park if you understand Anangu culture and this environment. Yulara’s Voyages Ayers Rock Resort (www.ayersrockresort.com.au) has a variety of accommodation, though we suspect that the campsite will be your choice; it is relatively affordable.

Make a point of seeing the Rock at various times of day, to enjoy its colour changes, and don’t miss Kata Tjuta – the rocks here are even more fascinating than the big one.

ORANGE RIDE

This route has been named the Red Centre Way and covers, without the extension to Kata Tjuta, some 630km.

Most of that is tarred, but you will find some 200km of gravel road between Hermannsburg and Kings Canyon. This was supposed to be sealed a decade ago, but the NT government seems to keep running out of money. Fuel is available at Alice Springs, Glen Helen, Hermannsburg, Kings Canyon Resort, Kings Creek Caravan Park, Curtin Springs and Yulara.

You will need a permit to travel through Aboriginal land between Hermannsburg and Kings Canyon. It costs $5 and is available from the Alice Springs Visitor Centre, Glen Helen Resort, the petrol station at Hermannsburg and Kings Canyon Resort.

The NT gummint recommends 4WD vehicles for the 200km of gravel road, but that’s a bit over the top. One comment I read was that “conventional cars have been known to survive the trip”. Versatile road bikes will too (IMHO), although you do need to know what you’re doing when riding on dirt.

My mate Charlie, who’s a local, reckons that “The condition varies so much it is hard to say what it’s like at any given time, but it can have soft sandy patches, bulldust holes and bad corrugations.” You must allow for the extra fuel consumption that comes with dirt riding, too.

As well as the spectacular natural beauty of this route, it takes you past Kings Canyon (a must-see place) and on to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Both of these are landforms that all Australians, white and black, should see at least once in their lives.

RED RIDE

Apart from an opportunity to see a couple of gorges in the MacDonnell Ranges (well worth seeing) along Namatjira drive, this diversion takes you past Glen Helen Resort. Once a cattle station it now offers a variety of accommodation and a good opportunity to get close to the spirit of the Centre. The nearby Mt Sonder does the same colour-changing trick that Uluru performs.

You can swim in the permanent waterhole in Glen Helen Gorge, but beware: a powerful Rainbow Serpent lives in it.

BLUE RIDE

Palm Valley is a wonderful place, its peace broken only by the hooves of wild-eyed brumbies and the generators of 4WD owners.

Supposedly, the last 16km into the park is passable only by high clearance 4WDs, but a bike with knobbies should do it. No services, but beautiful campsites (one with hot showers and gas barbecues), exceptional views of rock formations like the Ampitheatre and a chance to see plants which grow only here.

The riverbed’s sand on the way in can get boggy, so check with Parks & Wildlife on 1800 246 199 before you commit to a visit. And watch you don’t step on palm seedlings; if they don’t regenerate, the palm species will be lost forever.

YELLOW RIDE

Whether you tackle the 100km of the Ernest Giles Road from its intersection with Luritja Road to the Stuart Highway will depend on two things. One – do you enjoy twisty, corrugated and poorly maintained dirt roads? And two – are you sure?

I’ve only travelled the western half of the road, and while it is quite passable it is pretty hard work, so be warned. The tarred surface of the Lasseter highway, 60km further south, might be more to your taste. Charlie reckons that this is definitely not recommended for a road bike. But then again, if you’re a full-on endure ride you will probably love the Giles. And if you’re really keen, there is a track that leads up to Larapinta Drive along the Finke River by way of Boggy Hole – actually very pretty! – with no services along it at all. Deep sand warning here, too. An information sheet for this route is available from Tourism Central Australia.

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