Marree to Hawker

Our second night at the Drovers Run Caravan Park in Marree was a pleasant affair. We partook of Jo and Brent’s most delicious damper with real butter and golden syrup along with a couple of glasses of wine. We cooked a small dinner, had another glass of plonk and retired for the night.

We awoke to an amazing sight. NO FLAT TYRES. We got packed up and on our way before any of the tyres could change their minds.

The trip towards Hawker is a long boring affair and with about 30km’s to go my wife said “well dear only about 30k’s to go”. At the point there was a thump.

The Oodnadatta Track.

A bit of therapeutic tyre plugging

Marla was where our tyre hell started.

The Oodnadatta Track was pretty bad. Corrugated and rocky with a few bull dust holes thrown in for good measure. After a couple of kilometres from Marla we stopped and let the tyres down. Camper and car rear tyres down to 25psi and the car front down to 30psi. We took off again at between 30kph and 60kph. The first part of the track was OK at 50 to 60kph but the further we went the slower we went.

On this stretch we had a few punctures and became pretty good at plugging the holes.

We took that as a bit of a hint and dropped the car rear tyres down to 20psi. After three flats we arrived at Oodnadatta and had a well earned break. Dinner and a couple of drinks at the Transcontinental Hotel and we retired for the evening at the caravan park at the rear of the Pink Roadhouse.

The Pink Roadhouse

We awoke to a flat tyre of course and figured that seeing as we had four plugged tyres we’d get the worst one patched. Of course the only person in Oodnadatta with the keys to the workshop had a day off and wasn’t in town. Oh well, such is life. so we took the offending wheel off and plugged the puncture and off we went towards William Creek.

From there the road deteriorated somewhat with quite severe corrugated and rocky sections.

By the time we got to William Creek we needed to have a tyre patched rather than just plugged. The person doing it had never come across double beaded rims before and had a devil of a time getting the tyre off and after patching it had an even worse time getting it back on. If only he had listened but he was a young know-all pilot and I was a know nothing mug tourist.

While we were waiting for the tyre to be patched I noticed that one side of the camper was a bit down. Had a look and one side of the suspension had dropped so I jacked it up and re-tightened the trailing arm mounts. While I was at it I took of the wheel and plugged the tyre.

Anyway, after putting the camper wheel back on, off we went towards Marree. Suffice to say that there were more punctures on the rocks and corrugations and we eventually arrived well after sunset. We were so late that we missed the damper, more about that in a while. We got set up, had a glass of wine, cooked and ate dinner and went to bed.

Next morning there were two punctures to greet us. One was easily patched but the other seemed to be leaking in a lot of places. Asked Brendan to take it off and have a look and it was pronounced very dead. We got a slightly incorrect width tyre to get us on our way – hopefully to Hawker, SA.

Hamilton Downs – the preparation and the trip up.

Having successfully applied for a Caretakers position at the Hamilton Downs Youth Camp it was time to start preparing the car and camper and getting everything needed together. At around this time, about a month before we were due to leave, the car started to do something quite alarming. The oil level started to rise. A bit of research indicated that there was fuel leaking into the oil and that there were two likely causes. A dodgy injector o-ring or a cracked head around an injector well. It was with much trepidation that I booked the car in for the local dealer to investigate. I was hoping it’d just be an o-ring that had reached its use by date. No such luck, the head was cracked and a great saga of incompetence started.

Getting a new head from Turner Engineering in the UK was quick and painless. When I got the head delivered I took the car and new head off to the local dealer. Two days they said. Phooey – what a load of garbage. It took nearly four weeks to get the car into a trustworthy condition.

After three days they called me to tell me that the car was ready so off I toddled to get it. It ran like a pig with no power, terrible thumping on start up. It needed quite a few revs to get off the line. In short it was almost undriveable. Worse. By the time I got home, around 15km’s, the oil level had risen by about half a litre. Problem not solved. Called the dealer and explained the situation and took it back.

In short it took five more trips to the dealer to get it to the stage where it still isn’t quite right. They replaced the injector o-rings and flame washers five times before they got it right. They also replaced the fuel pump at a cost of over $1,000 without asking. The fuel pump had absolutely nothing to do with the problem so I disputed that, and other charges, and it appears that they’ve given up trying to get the money. Of course sending them a Consumer Affairs case number from when I reported the whole palava may have concentrated their mind a little.

After the car was finally in a condition to make a 2,500km trek we were about a week behind when we were supposed to leave. The end result was that rather than doing a bit of sight seeing between Moe (Victoria) and Alice Springs (NT) we ended up just doing a mad dash to Hamilton Downs driving six and seven hundred kilometre days to get there in time for our job.

By the time we got there we were buggered but at least we were there with no more breakdowns.


From Kings Canyon we went over to the Yulara Resort. It was a pretty pricey place too – souvenirs, etc. All added to the cost of a couple of nights in the caravan park.

Washing was done while we lazed around and did nothing much. We went to one of the eateries for dinner and a couple of drinks and very pleasant it was too.

During the night the wind picked up and the weather started on the squally rain stuff which saw us getting up during the night to remove the tropical roof from the camper. The flapping and carrying on had bent one of the camper support hoops. Fun times were had by lots of campers, including us, pulling awnings down, securing tables and chairs, etc.

Next day dawned OK – not brilliant but just OK. The wind had died down and although still overcast the rain seemed to have gone.

We packed up and headed off for the mandatory photos of Uluru. By the time we got there the sky had cleared but there was still an icy wind blowing.


Then we were off. Next stop was a distant view of Kata Tjuta.

Kata Tjuta

A bit more of a drive and we had a great view of Mt. Conner.

Mt Conner.

From there we carried on to our stop for the night. Erldunda. Good thing we only stopped there for one night. The caravan park seemed pleasant enough apart from one thing. The sewerage pit was overflowing and forming a stinking lake. The showers and toilets were backed up and couldn’t be used. Some of the locals told us that it happened all the time. Next morning we asked for our money back or at least a partial refund but no luck. What a pit.

Next stop Marla. The caravan park there is pretty good but don’t park on the grass for fear of crucifixion. Marla was pretty much where Tyre Hell started. We think that there was a bit of unseen damage done to the rear tyres of the car on the road to Kings Canyon and when we hit the Oodnadatta Track things went a bit down hill.

Hamilton Downs – the trip home.

When we left Hamilton Downs Youth Camp we decided that we’d get home via Hermannsburg, Kings Canyon, Uluru, Marla, Oodnadatta, Marree, Flinders Ranges and on towards home via all bitumen roads.

After doing a heap of shopping in Alice Springs we set sail for Hermannsburg.   The road was bitumen and good. We had a bit of a poke around and got a couple of bits and pieces including a nice little print of an Albert Namatjira  painting.

From Hermannsburg the road went downhill fast. Unsealed with lots of rocks and parts of it were severely corrugated. There were also some pretty boggy sandy areas to get through. We eventually made it to Kings Canyon where we had a bit of walk around – nothing as ambitious as the canyon rim walk though.

After our day at Kings Canyon we awoke to a beautiful clear warm day and a flat tyre. Little did we know that this was the start of things to come.

Hamilton Downs Youth Camp – the stay.

In late 2017 or early 2018 my wife (Jenny) and I were lucky enough to score a Caretakers position for three months (May, June and July 2018) at Hamilton Downs Youth Camp in the Northern Territory. 

As the crow flies it’s about 38 kilometres West of Alice Springs but by road it’s around 70 kilometres. Go North from Alice and turn on to the Tanami Road and then turn left on the Hamilton Downs Road after about 35km’s

The first twenty five or so kilometres of the road is a cracker. Smooth, and wide with the only likely obstacles being a few easily seen and avoided bull dust holes and cattle which are easily seen but somewhat unpredictable. The last ten of fifteen kilometres are less than great.

In the photo the road looks OK but there are quite a few exposed rocks and holes. To maintain the road one of our duties was to “drag the road” This was done by dragging three tractor tyres behind the camp ute  in low range second at about 6kph.

The theory is that the tyres knock the tops off the corrugations and knock the rocks off the track. It works to an extent but it’s a very boring way to spend six or so hours.

We did have a lot of other duties though – mostly cleaning. Before a group arrived we had to put the mattresses out on the bed frames and wipe the dust, of which there was PLENTY, off them. We needed to make sure the bunkhouse floors were clean and as dust free as they could be. The kitchen benches, stoves and floors needed to be as clean as you would expect in a kitchen. Needless to say the showers and toilets needed cleaning as well. While a group , of up to 65, was there we offered assistance as well as cleaning the ablutions block at least daily. We also supplied firewood and collected their garbage for disposal. When the group left we cleaned the mattresses and put them away and cleaned everything and waited for the next group to arrive. The groups consisted of school groups of between about 30 to 65 staying from between three to ten nights.There were other groups too – walkers from the nearby Larapinta Trail staying one or two nights. We only had one corporate group of about 30 people stay for a couple of nights. While we were there the longest break we had between groups was three days.

There were a lot of little daily tasks too. Checking the water tan levels for both drinking and untreated bore water. Checking that the batteries for the solar plant were charging / charged. Starting and running the fire truck and pump. Checking the gas tank level. And of course the weather observations for the Bureau of Meteorology. Generally maintaining the grounds was also in our remit. We also needed to find time to do a weekly shopping trip to Alice Springs which normally took a whole day – about ninety minutes each way, visit the post office, do the shopping, etc. The day was made shorter by travel to and from the camp being forbidden between sunset and sunrise.

Between all that we managed to sit of the front veranda for quite a few spectacular sunsets over the Chewing Range.

And from the side veranda.

HDYC is completely grid independent with its own water supply via a solar pumped bore and a reverse osmosis filter plant. We had a large gas tank that usually lasts about six months. Electricity was provided by 14kW of solar panels and about 40kWh of battery storage – more than enough power to run the camp. Even in winter with the short daily harvest period of about five hours the batteries were charged before about three pm. Of course, there’s also a generator for when the solar harvest is lacking.

While were there we had a few visitors ranging from staff and management from other cattle stations who happened to be “just passing” and made a 50km detour to come and say hello to a Centralian Python that took up residence in a birdbath for the day.

We had a few frogs visit the toilet in the house too.

Here’s a photo of the cottage that we got to stay in for the three months. It’s a great little house.

What follows are some photos of the various buildings.

New bunkhouse. Sleeps 32 in four rooms of four double bunks.
The Old Bunkhouse. Sleeps 30. It is one of the original Hamilton Downs Station buildings.
Kitchen. It has a full blown commercial kitchen for the use of the visitors.
Another view of the kitchen.
The Smoke House. Sleeps only 6 in single bunks.
Looking down towards the old buildings from the Caretakers Cottage.
And finally the caretakers Cottage.

The Caretakers Cottage is where the phone (satellite), the internet (satellite and slow and patchy) and of course the TV again satellite are laid on for the reasonable and frugal use of the caretakers.

Whoops Pt. 2

After stumbling across this thread on which has a reference to this I decided to have a look at my camper.

It would seem that the wheel is ONLY supported by the studs and makes it easy to see why the failure occurred. On the Land Rover the centre of the wheel is an annoyingly (when your changing wheels) tight fit over the hub. This means that the studs are only transmitting the force required to turn the wheel and not the forces generated by bouncing around on rough roads. The camper on the other hand has only the studs to support the forces generated by the crashing and banging over the corrugations and stones of the outback. After reading the referenced thread I reckon this is a failure of thinking in the design stages of the camper.

I’ve read and heard of this happening to other campers/caravans and some cars / utes / four wheel drives so perhaps this could be the root cause ?


This happened.

Oh dear. Not a good look.

As you can see the wheel studs have sheared off allowing the wheel to bounce off down the road. It was a combination of things that contributed to it. A VERY small bearing surface where wheel meets hub. A few hundred kilometres of REALLY bad roads. And possibly a bit of over tightening of the wheel nuts. Apparently it’s also more likely to happen with alloy wheels to. So keep everything clean, do not over tighten your wheel nuts and take it easy on really bad roads.