We were a bit worried about crossing the Tanami Desert, as it would be the first real test of how the MAN would go on corrugations and rough roads. We had heard lots of stories about punctures and how rough the track was and so on, so there was a degree of nervousness with a brand new truck and a brand new (home-built) canopy.
The track is just over 1000Kms, from Alice Springs to Halls Creek, 1052Kms to be precise. Diesel was $1.35 in Alice, so quite reasonable, except that we needed 285 litres to fill up, so almost $400! We decided to break it up into 3 sections, to be tackled over three days:
- Alice to Tilmouth Crossing
- Tilmouth to somewhere along the track
- Then on to Halls Creek.
The first day was easy because it was reasonably good, single lane, bitumen from Alice to Tilmouth. The deal is, when you see oncoming traffic you slow down somewhat and put the two left wheels off into the dirt, leaving two on the bitumen. Works really well and the local roads department only has to budget for half the bitumen normally required. We left Alice mid-afternoon and easily made it to Tilmouth before sunset.
We topped up with diesel at Tilmouth for $2.09 per litre, spent the night there (as it had a really good camp ground and a lovely swimming pool) and left at first light the next morning. Here's me checking the wheel nuts, in my safety thongs, the night before we departed:
The first part of the track was good, even though it was dirt and corrugated. We averaged around 75Km/h for the first 3 or 4 hours. A quick fuel stop at Yuendumu to squeeze in a final 25 litres before the next refuelling point at Halls Creek, about 800Kms away.
The truck has a range on bitumen of 1,100 to 1,200Kms, but we weren't sure what it would do on the dirt.
Progress was good up until the WA border. Until then we had varying qualities of dirt road: some recently graded; some sandy sections; some with a few ruts; but it was generally 'nice' dirt where you could keep up a good consistent speed. We shared the driving throughout the day.
Crossing the WA border changed things enormously. For about 100Kms we averaged about 30Km/h as the track was very cut up and hadn't seen a grader blade for ages. There were lots of 'whumps' where the truck dropped into a wash away and bottomed out. Not that nice. At one stage I believe Becky managed to get airbourne!!
It got better after maybe 100Kms, we think due to a couple of Aboriginal communities being there, so it got graded once in a while.
That night we stayed at a lovely little campsite called Stuart Creek, about 200Kms short of Halls Creek. We met a couple from Tasmania who where doing the same route, so we hitched up and travelled together for the whole track. It was nice to have someone else to travel/camp with.
The next day it was an easy run on dirt into Halls Creek, of about 200Kms.
So after 1000Kms of corrugations, we can report zero issues with the MAN. It performed flawlessly. The tyre inflation system was excellent. We dropped our pressures from the normal 65psi down to 50psi for the dirt, which made it a lot more comfortable. On the nice dirt sections it would sit on 95Km/h no problems. The only dust ingress was in the underslung LPG cupboards, where the venting let in a small amount of red dust, but the cabin and canopy were 100% dust free.
Fuel used was 247 litres, for 1064Kms, so 23.2L/100Kms. Quite a bit better than I was expecting, and we only needed 188 litres to fill up at Halls Creek, so still had 112 litres in the tank. Prices paid were: Alice Springs - $1.35; Tilmouth Springs - $2.09; Yuendumu - $2.10; Halls Creek - $1.58.
If you do it over 3 days, it is pretty stress free. There is only one section where I'd say the road is 'bad', and that was only for 100Kms just after the WA border, so I think we worried unnecessarily as to how the truck would do! Any reasonably well prepared 4WD would have no trouble traversing the track, just take it easy on the bad sections.