Exploring the Iconic Sandy Blight Junction Road
Sandy Blight Junction Road begins 254km from Yulara and runs for 321km to the Gary Junction Track near Kintore. Turning west at Kata Tjuta, the bitumen continues for longer than you expect. The road passes the Curdie Range where you’ll find Lasseters Cave. It was here that Harold Lasseter’s diary was found several months after he’d passed away nearby in 1930. Harold has been searching for his lost fabled gold reef again, having discovered it in 1897.
Just past Kaltukatjara is the Docker River campground, and from here you are close to the WA/NT border. Having crossed the border, it’s not far to the turn-off onto the Sandy Blight Junction Track.
After approximately 26.5km is the turn-off to the stunning Bungabiddy Rockhole. If you’re towing a camper, there is a turnaround about halfway in, leaving a fair walk to the rockhole, otherwise take care through the creek bed to the end of the track before a short walk to this special place. The birds are a giveaway to where you need to head.
Take time to take in the spirituality of the Bungabiddy waterhole, it’s a harsh climate out here and this water could be a lifesaver for humans and animals alike. Please respect this place, leave only footprints, take only photos and if needed, make it a better place than before you arrived by picking up any rubbish that may be there.
Returning to the main track, the going is good with a few heavily corrugated sections and some momentum-zapping sand in places up until the turnoff to Tjukurla.
From this turnoff, the Sandy Blight becomes a typical Len Beadell and the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party (GRCP) track, narrow, single lane and straight, until he reached the taller dunes. Over the years tjanpi (spinifex) has grown in the middle between the wheel ruts and traveller numbers keep the trackside shrubbery from encroaching too far.
Desert oaks or Kukara dominate the sandy plains, a mix of mature and juvenile trees. Traditionally the dense wood was used as firesticks and for constructing wiltjas (shade shelters). Len would blaze desert oaks or sink a trunk, paint it white and nail an engraved plaque with the details and location. Most, if not all have now been replaced with a replica as many were removed by travellers.
The track winds its way in the swales of the dunes and I spotted the first of many herds of wild camels that roam the Gibson Desert. The going slowed right down as the track continued north, with many washouts and track diversions through the spinifex.
I was surprised at the appearance of rounded river rocks, covering the track in places. Over thousands of years, they must have been washed down from the nearby Sir Fredrick Range. Reaching the blaze tree signifying the halfway mark of the track, it was getting late in the afternoon and time to find a place to camp.
There aren’t any designated campsites along the Sandy Blight, so it’s just a matter of finding a place beside the track that suits your set-up. I eventually found a flat open section between the wanari (mulga) and spinifex that the Prado would slot right into. A herd of grazing camels arrived as camp was being set up, and I watched them quietly for a time until the sun began to drop behind the dunes, time for dinner.
Awaking just before dawn the camp was soon packed down and it was time to hit the track. Driving into the sun that had now risen was a challenge and a startled bull camel stumbled out in front of me at one stage before ducking back into the bush to get away from me.
There were also plenty of animal skat and footprints on the track, but camels were the only creatures I encountered as well as flocks of small birds and spectacular green budgerigars. I watched as the carrion birds; hawks and wedge-tailed eagles circled overhead, searching for little critters scurrying between the spinifex.
There were more washouts, and the going was slow, and I came across another couple of camel herds walking along the track with both lots thankfully heading into the mulga straight away. There is nothing worse than chasing camels along a remote bush track.
Upon reaching the border, the Northern Territory side was less demanding and in much better condition, allowing the speed to be picked up a little. Len was forced by the taller dunes to survey his tracks along the swales between the dunes until he found a simpler crossing. The Sandy Blight headed due east for a good distance before turning north towards Walungurru (Kintore).
The track turns and heads towards the Davenport Hills, a standout on the Sandy Blight and one of the reasons why Len Beadell considered this track one of the most scenic and I couldn’t agree more. There is a shortcut across the dune, however, you miss out on getting close to the base of this scenic range. The track turns north again, and you’ll soon encounter a large rock painted white with “200 Mile Rock” in black paint, a joke played by Len on the GRCP, and a little further on, a white post and a post with a plaque signifying the Tropic of Capricorn.
As the Sandy Blight closes in on Mount Leisler, you’ll find Tietkens Tree lying on the ground and a Len Beadell plaque opposite. In June 1960, Len could clearly see the blaze when the road construction passed this point. The blaze no longer exists, and the tree is slowly rotting away.
So how was this track named? While surveying the track poor Len suffered an eye condition known as Trachoma or sandy blight. He named the junction with the Great Central Road Sandy Blight and the newly finished track took on the same name.
Best time to visit:
From April to September
- Tjukurla (29km off the track)
- Walungurru/Kintore (6km off the track)
Two permits are required and can be obtained online:
- Central Land Council for the Great Central Road and Gary Junction Road
- Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage WA for Sandy Blight Junction Track and Great Central Road. Allow for at least 5 business days for approval.
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