Road and Track Advice

When intending to travel a particular road or track there is often a temptation to ask fellow travellers the state of the road or track. Beware of such opinions.

Imagine the following scenario: An experienced outback traveller suitably equipped has just come over a corrugated track that is not bad by his standard. He or she is asked by a fellow traveller the condition of the track, “okay” is the response. Unknown to the experienced traveller the fellow traveller has never been on corrugated roads and is driving the family Commodore. He is totally unprepared for this road.

Opinions on a road are very subjective and dependent on a person’s level of experience and enjoyment of outback travel. That “horrendous corrugations” comment may, to an experienced traveller, be no more than a slight ripple in the road. So evaluate such advice then evaluate it again. Do not be put off by adverse advice about your intended road or track unless you first evaluate it as reliable. After all you can always turn back.

The track narrows

Look at a person’s vehicle and what they are towing. This will give you some indication of the reliability of their advice. Local police, rangers and council staff will normally offer advice that should be taken seriously.  The staff at local Information Centres are almost universally not qualified to offer advice on dirt road conditions, and it is unlikely that any advice from such persons will be reliable. Such staff  seem to have a horror of dirt roads and see it as their duty to keep travellers headed down the bitumen towards caravan parks. Do not seek advice from roadhouses. Whilst these would seem logical places to obtain road information from in practise they are mostly staffed by foreign workers who have no idea of road conditions. ExploreOz, which is an Internet site for Australian travellers, has a wealth of information about road or track conditions.  However, you do need to once again carefully evaluate such information.

Advice such as “I travelled on that road last year and it was atrocious” is hopelessly out of date. Even a couple of weeks can see a significant change in road conditions. It all depends when the grader was last on the road and the amount of traffic since the last grade. Of course any rain can change a roads condition overnight.

When towing a caravan in remote areas you are likely to be confronted by statements such as “You’re taking that thing where?” or “You can’t take a caravan there!” or some such comment. In most cases the person making such a comment is not towing a caravan and has no experience of the capabilities of off road caravans in remote areas. It seems to offend certain people’s sensibilities that you are taking a caravan into an area that they believe is hard 4×4 driving country.  Don’t be deterred by such a comment. Ask for specific information then evaluate. Remember that if the road or track should turn out to be a little too challenging you can always turn back.  But what a disappointment if you do not attempt that track and find out later that it was not really all that difficult.

Do not drive on roads when a “Road Closed” sign is displayed. The fine for this is heavy and what is worse you could be hopelessly bogged. Both ExploreOz and VKS-737 websites have information on road status. However it can be difficult to obtain information on some council roads (not main roads) and it may be necessary to visit the local council office. To preserve roads some councils will close roads at any indication of rain but then open them quickly after the rain has stopped.

Take advice – evaluate it – make your own decision – enjoy  “the road less travelled”!

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