Tanami Road

Tanami Road

With a length of 1.053km (654 mi), the Tanami Road, sometimes referred to as a "track" is a major link between Central Australia and North West Western Australia, commonly known as the Kimberley. The Tanami Road, also known as the Tanami Track and the McGuire Track, is the most direct route just north of Alice Springs  to Halls Creek in the Kimberley, passing through the Tanami Desert.

Proper preparation is essential to having a safe, enjoyable trop on this dusty desert road. Crossing the expanse of the TanamiDesert, the Tanami Road is actually a fairly well-formed earth/gravel road, that is maintained by Shire of Halls Creek until the NT Border. It is, however, an isolated route, that is closed for much of the wet season. It is recommended that 4WD vehicles are used for the road and outlying areas, and you will need to be well-prepared and self-sufficient.  It is not recommended for caravans or trailers. Emus, roos, snakes, Road Trains with three trailers who do not stop for anything. Even in Winter temps from 0C to 40C in same day. Any rain and road washes away. No easy water access. Tilmouth Well is a grear camping, Wolf Creek Meteior Crater. Amazing desert scenery. Road is mostly dirt with sand sections. Some very bad bull dust holes and large corregation, with dry creek beds of large sharp gravel.

Rain can close parts of the road at short notice. The average annual rainfall in the Tanami Desert is over 400 mm! That is a lot of rain. But the Tanami's location in the north also means high temperatures, and with that a high evaporation rate. So it still is pretty dry. Rain falls in "summer", during the wet season in the tropical regions, and when it rains it pours. So much so that the Tanami Track is often impassable during that time of the year. Yes, because it floods. The route is used by road trains and numerous four wheel drivers, holiday makers and retirees seeking to experience the remoteness of the Tanami Desert and travel a part of Australian history from the days of the early gold rush. The track is a graded, dirt road and although navigable by two-wheel drive vehicles, a four-wheel drive is recommended. About 20% of the road is bitumen, the remainder is dirt and gravel and, although it is navigable by two-wheel drive vehicles, a four-wheel drive is recommended. 

The speeding vehicles can pick up blinding dust making driving conditions even more treacherous. Another inconvenient are storms. A desert storm can turn the dusty track to a muddy pool in minutes or even worse, wash it away. If you’re actually stuck other people can’t stop to help you because  they’ll get stuck themselves. Some parts of the road are prone to severe corrugations, making for an uncomfortable and slow drive at times. Take ample supplies of fuel, food and water as various roadhouses along the track can be unreliable.  You should also carry enough drinking water to last two trips, as all dams and bores along the route are classified as undrinkable. Driving across the corrugations and the dirt needs patience and experience. The Tanami road is just shocking – the corrugations can get six inches high and it sounds like you’re driving an express train. Forget using a CD player! You’re down to just 20 to 30 kph because the road is so savage. 
Beware loose surface and dust corrugations. It’s a fight to survive. Careful driving: Techniques are advised. Experience counts. Prepare your car for the journey ahead. Expect 360 miles with no food and fuel with temperatures up to 45C. It’s one of the Australian longest roads.
Pic: Bayne 78