So, after another overnight bus trip, we arrived in La Quiaca!! This is a boarder town in Argentina and is quite a bizarre place (especially if you are Australian and have to fly off the continent to enter another country)! Everyone gets off the bus and heads to the Argentinian-Bolivian boarder by foot. One moment you are in Argentina and the next step you are in Bolivia!! We attempted to catch a cab to the bus station but they wouldn’t accept Argentinian pesos!! Everyone that doesn’t exchange money in the Bolivian boarder town must use the one ATM in a back street!! You have to get a reasonable amount of money out as there is not many options along the way to La Paz! You don’t feel too safe when you are withdrawing the equivalent of 7 average monthly wages in Bolivia.

We were lucky enough to get a ticket on the bus to Tupiza (despite some confusion, language barriers etc) and left that morning for Tupiza, where we were to start our salt flats tour. The bus ride itself was a bone rattler! Never been shaken that bad before, bitumen is yet to get to southern Bolivia.

Tupiza was a nice little town and pretty much revolved around the tour. There are a few companies running the tour from Tupiza (though we suspect its the same company under different names)!! We had our tour booked by Viache Tours, it was so nice just to have everything organised! We stayed in our first hotel of the trip and it even had a pool!! It did have shared bathrooms though, so don’t think we are too soft!! The tour company also owned this hotel and a few shops around town!! We figure they must employ the whole town almost.. 110 families they claim.

We took a small walk around Tupiza in the evening and started to feel the effects of the altitude (3000m). We probably walked 500m up a small hill and were pretty puffed! Headaches were also the norm!


The next day we set off on our tour. We had a Toyota LandCruiser 60 series, a driver, a cook and 3 other tour-ists (Allesandro, Nadia and Laura. We had met Laura at Salta). Fortunately, Allesandro was able to speak Spanish and we were able to communicate with the driver and cook!! We were really lucky with our group and have had an awesome time.

Firstly we did a lot driving up very steep mountain roads that fall off VERY steeply to one side and were physically a one way road but practically worked as a 2 lane… we learnt this as the driver would occasionally honk as he came to a blind turn and also when we scraped (which could have turned out MUCH worse) past another 4wd!!

The first night, Jo played soccer against some local kids (8 year olds), but got dumped from the team after he couldn’t handle running around at 4200moh. It was very embarrassing.

The landscape changed so much over the 4 days of the tour. We got as high as 5000m when we visited a geyser- was awesome to see!! The altitude leaves a terrible headache, a little nausea and breathlessness whenever you try to do something aside from sitting!! The breathlessness was made worse at night by the extremely thick blankets that we needed to stop freezing at the very basic accommodation on the way and the blocked nose and cold we have developed!! The nights reached minus 10 and there was no heating. Wouldn’t advise wine as a means of helping warm up at an altitude, only makes things worse!!

We have too many pictures from this trip, so a small selection is below… We are also catching up a bit, so this is sent to you from La Paz. At least we can handle the altitude now!

From Bolivia

Outback trip 2003

Simon, Steve, Adam, Brandon and I, departed Wollongong thursday 18th of september. After some last minute reshuffeling due to the other car not beeing able to make it, we decided to change to itinary to go to Uluru first, then to Dalhousie Springs and asses wheter or not we should make the desert crossing then. I made the optimistic estimate that we would make it to Uluru in 2 days…

We travelled in a Toyota HJ47 troop carrier, with a 2H engine. 2 in the front, and 3 in the back. Capacity of 200l of diesel, 90l of water. Carried EPIRB, 1w handheld UHF, 8kg gas, recovery gear, firstaid kit, 2 spares and food for 11 days. Used a IceKool esky for food storage. Car on 33″ Kumho MT. Timber roof racks.

I dont know what kind of oil the mechanic put in, but I was burning about 1l a day of oil for the first 5 days. I kept topping up with Penrite HPR Diesel, and it stopped burning oil. Topped up 5l over the whole trip, all in the first 5 days.

We left town around 1900, and made it to Jugiong, on the freeway. We camped at the local pool, as recommended by “Camps Australia Wide 2”, but it wasnt good, way to much light, and too close to the exhaust brakes on the freeway. The guys started to get some idea of what they where up for, when I told them there was no tent, but that we sleep on the tarp.

Got up early, breakfast in Wagga Wagga, nice place called Sugars, then further west towards Mildura. We got cryovac meat in Balranald, then headed to Bottle Bend Forest Reserve 58km NW of Euston.

The 2 day travel seemed a tad too optimistic now. We had stong headwind, and only averaged 80km/h most of the day. My estimated 15l/100km didnt seem to hold up either.

We headed over the SA border, had to discard an onion we had forgotten about. Then lunch in Pt. Pirie, we walked for 1km out the pier and we had waist deep water. Then a crab bit me, so we headed northwards. In Port Augusta, I talked to the gas station guy, if it was ok to travel at night northwards, he just laughed and told me Id better have a bullbar. So we drove just past Woomera, to Lake Hart rest area, it sucked so we found a dune not far away by the railroad tracks we camped by.

We had a 0330 start, aiming for breakfast in Coober Pedy, we made it, but by beeing Sunday, none of the tourist things where open, so we hit the road again towards Uluru.

Now, I dont know what I was expecting from Uluru, but it wasnt what I saw. The rock was very nice and all, but the whole thing was very commercialised. Chookers of tourists.

I wanted to feel it all, but there wasnt much room for it.

We paid $16.50 a head to get into the national park, then another $12.50 per head for bush camping.

We spent the day walking around Uluru, then looking at the Olgas. Very warm day, in the arvo we headed of to Kernot camping ground on the road back to Stuarts highway. There where some very cheeky dingoes here, and despite my warnings, a torch and a sandal was stolen during the night.

We took of towards Dalhousie Springs, after a succefull search for the sandal and torch. On our way to Finke, we came across “Bare Tracks”, a nudist 4wd club. A bif different. In Finke, we just made the shop, that closed at 12. We picked up some more supplies, including a Kangaroo tail. Something we hadnt tried before. Arriving at Dalhousie Springs, we jumped straight into the water. It held 38 degrees!

At dusk, for 1 hour, the mosquitos rule Dalhousie Springs, lots and lots of them.

Today was my birthday, it was celebrated with a relaxing day at the springs, a copy of FHM, tinned fruit and kangaroo tail.

We had to improvise a bit on the tail cooking, as we had to use a concrete circle for out fire. We couldnt dig a trench. After talking to the ranger, we decided to head through the desert, he was very reassuring, telling us we should be right, and that there was a lot of people going through at the moment, with more to come for the school hollidays.

We refilled water at 3 o`clock creek, as the water at Dalhousie was undrinkable. I was concerned though, that I was only carrying 90l, I should have had more in case of emergencies.

Then we headed into the unknowen. We followed the route suggested by ExplorOz, the combined route. We headed into Purnie Bore, then down Rig Road, up Colson track, along the frenchline to Erabena track. We camped 3 km away from the intersection.

We spotted this snake on the Colson track, we think its a fierce snake. The most venomous in the world!

The Frenchline was making the guys in the back a bit sick, so I opted to not follow the AAK line from lone gum, but to stick to the Rig Road to Knolls track. There was a 2 km camping exclusion zone around the Approdinna Attora Knolls, so we set up camp at some shade we found outside the zone.

We had an early day this day, made camp around noon, and did some maintenance, walked up the Knolls and just relaxed. It was warm. We decided to hit the road early the next day, as the heat and the humps where getting to the guys in the back. The maintenance revealled that the rear bumper stoppers where rooted, and the humps had made the roof come loose on the left side. Since the roofracks flexed, every hump would have them hit the roof.

We stopped by Poeppel Corner, then east on the QAA line, where we spotted this camel.

We got a flat about 50km out of Birdsville, but by raising the pressure, the leak closed temporarily, we opted not to fix it there. We made a go for the middle road up big red, but it didnt work, so we drove the side track, then up the other side, so we did make it to the top!

We made camp at Birdsville caravan park, had a nice shower, then headed straight for the pub and croc raviolli. 7 schooners later (for me), we headed back to camp. With the beer glasses on, I couldnt find the truck, so I asked the people that where camping where I thought the truck would be, if they had seen it. They told me that there was a sick one around the next bush. Not happy!! I had put some beams under the springs, so it wouldnt rest on the rim with the air leaking out, but it wasnt sick! It could still bit the crap out of theire fancy new Pajero!

I took of to the Mobil station to get the tire fixed, Birdsville Auto would do it to, but for a 200% sunday surcharge, so I didnt go there. With the tire fixed, we headed of towards Innamincka by Walkers crossing. I plotted in the coordinates for the turnoff in the GPS, just in case. After a hours driving I realised I was 3 km past the turnoff. Backtracking, looking at the GPS, we spotted the turnoff signposted 20m away from the road, at the end of a bend. We hit the track, following the most used road where not signposted. About 5 hours later we came into Minkie waterhole where we went for a swim. Later we went into the Sunday roast at the pub, but it was $18 bucks, and out of our leauge. So we went back to camp and had some more tinned fruit with dinner.

We took of, headed towards Broken Hill. After refulling and getting some helpfull directions, we decided to skip Camerons Corner, and go straight to BH. We went by Santos and Epsilon Station, and got into Tibooburra 4 hours later. This was the dustiest section by far. The guys where wearing bandanas over the theire face in the back, but it still got in.

Upon entering Broken Hill, the car was going a bit warmer than usual. Pulling up to the Information centre, it was leaking coolant, but I didnt open the bonnet, assuming it was just overflowing. Arriving at Lake View Caravan Park, it leaked even more. We got a makeshift site next to the pool, but it did the trick with the showers that cam with it! And pulling up to the site, the rest of the coolant came out.

We started pulling the radiator out in the morning, and found that the radiator housing had cracked, rubbing a hole in the radiator, one of the rods where also broken. Then, with the radiator out, we poured as much water as possible into the tubes, ducttaped them together. By repeating this process 6 times, we travelled the 6km to the radiator repair guy. With that fixed, we headed to Silverton. Now, which car is cooler?

In the arvo, we headed down south to Bootle Bend Forest Reserve again. Beeing the last night, the guys shared some goon. It made for a interesting drive, considering we where lucky enough to be hitching a ride with a truck we could keep up with, and that we didnt stop for pee breakes before Wentworth.

It started raining sometime during the night, since I was sleeping in the car, I didnt feel it, neither the the guys due to the goon. However, when they woke up 0430 cold and wet, they decided that we should leave NOW.

It rained the whole day, water leaking in the roof, everything wet, but by 2100 everything was unpacked and I was in the shower.

All in all, great trip! A bit rushed, only sampling everything, not getting to spend too much time anywhere. We drove 6532km, used 1256l of diesel (126l through Simpson), averaging 19.2l/100km. Cost of fuel was $1242, with Mt Dare beeing the most expensive at 135c/1l

Maps used was “Camps Australia Wide 2”, to find good rest areas and free bushcamps, Hema Great Desert Tracks pack and UBD Concise motoring atlas of Australia. Lonely Planet Outback Australia is also recommended. And Jack Absoloms “Safe Outback Travel” is a must!