We left our home in Alice Springs at 9.30am and headed north up the Stuart Highway, turning on to the Tanami Road about 20km out. The Tanami is one of the great desert tracks, traversing 1100km NW from the Centre to the Kimberly. Its condition varies from dual lane bitumen, single lane bitumen, wide graded gravel to rough track – and it takes very little rain to make it impassable.
One of our favourite drives is the 100km from the Tanami track to Papunya - perfect for a Sunday morning cruise checking out the sand ridges and the flowers blooming after a bit of rain a few weeks ago, on our way to 23S 132E.
The confluence is between Papunya and Central Mount Wedge, and the track can be found by taking the Central Mount Wedge road slightly east of north from Papunya and at the mast about 1km out continuing straight ahead on the ‘track less travelled’, the other road veering off to the left. The track is smooth enough but sandy, occasionally little more than tyre tracks, sometimes boggy and often very crowded with bushes and fallen trees on the sides – not one to take if you’re precious about the paintwork!
A slowish 24km brought us to an abandoned bore just under 1km from the confluence and an easy walk through a beautiful open woodland of Desert Oak (Allocasuarina decaisneana) brought us to the point – exactly at a Spinifex.
After lunch we continued along the track another 40km to Central Mount Wedge homestead, crossing sand ridges and salt flats and passing through many different plant associations.
Back on the Tanami, refreshments at Tilmouth Well roadhouse rounded off the day and fuelled us up for the couple of hours back to The Alice.
While the trip is a bit of a doddle at this time of year, we still had plenty of food and water, full recovery kit, emergency communication gear and had told someone where we were going and when to expect us back. In summer, these precautions can mean the difference between life and death in this country. So if you’re visiting, talk to the local authorities before leaving town and make sure you’re properly prepared – and from December to February, Ellery Creek swimming hole might be a better bet.