Bentley’s 4WD cross-Australia adventure (Part three)

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 54 of the October 2018 issue.

Wave Rock, near Hyden, Western Australia, is 110 meters long. Photos by David Bentley
An Aussie friend, David Bentley, recently completed a coast-to-coast journey solo from northeastern Australia to the far southwest in his faithful Troopy (78 Series Toyota Land Cruiser). This article is edited from his daily reports. — Randy Keck

Day 9 (May 15, 2018) — Having departed Kalgoorlie, I'm currently about halfway down the Holland Track, which runs from Coolgardie to Hyden in the southwest of Western Australia. It's another iconic 4WD track which has been on my bucket list for a while. It's about 300 kms long and goes through a very remote, unpopulated area of WA. An intrepid explorer named John Holland was the first European to traverse the area, in 1893. He went from the south near Hyden to the goldfields at Coolgardie.

What a guy he and his team of three blokes must have been! We think it's a challenge today doing this rugged trek in a 4WD with aircon and a fridge, but they blazed a trail through virgin bush with just horses and a little food. The lure of gold in the 1890s was a powerful motivator.

It's 5:15 p.m. now and I've just pulled up for the night after doing 193 kms from Coolgardie. I haven't encountered another car since departing at 11:30 a.m. Déjà vu!

I did some advance research on this track, and the main problem is rain because the whole surrounding area is basically dead flat, with no creeks or rivers. When it rains, the water just sits on the surface with nowhere to drain, so you have to sit and wait for it to soak into the ground or evaporate.

There are a series of bog holes to negotiate. Fortunately, most were dry when I did the track. Some of them are quite deep, and if you drive through bog holes full of water, you risk clogging your radiator and alternator with mud. If you have a mechanical problem in the bush, you can generally fix it, but electrical or electronic problems can be a nightmare.

Progress on the Holland Track is slow-going, about 40 kph, but not particularly challenging. The bush in this area is beautiful — typical Australian eucalypt country but quite changeable. I'm loving it!

The weather was cloudy, with overcast skies on Tuesday morning in Coolgardie, which was a concern. I checked the weather report and it indicated 0% chance of rain, so that made me feel more comfortable. If there was a reasonable chance of rain, I'd have postponed doing the track.

The Troopy on the rugged Holland Track in Western Australia.

I went to the police station to get an update on the condition of the Holland Track, as is always advisable, but it was closed at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning, and I couldn't find anyone in town who could offer an opinion.

It transpires that the town has a big problem with their power supply, and all of the local officials were having a big meeting to discuss it, leaving all else unattended. Bright sparks, the lot of them. Decision time at hand, I decided if it doesn't rain, I'll give it a go.

Day 10 (May 16) — The second half of the Holland Track was done surprisingly quickly. The track was rough as guts, with a lot more bog holes than the first half. Luckily, most were dry.

The bush was fabulous. The country was mainly flat, and it changed so much, ranging from salmon-gum forests to heathland. The weather was perfect — sunny days but still bloody cold at night. 

I was told to expect about a 3-day trip, but I somehow completed it in just over one day. The reason for the shorter time wasn't me rushing, because my speed was only about 30-40 kph, but the lack of recent rain and, therefore, lack of mud. So I definitely struck lucky!

The interesting thing was that I never saw a vehicle or another human being for 24 hours, the whole length of the 300-km track. I was surprised that there was no human development at all in such an immense area. The isolation and remoteness was great, but if I'd had a mechanical breakdown, it would have been a long wait for someone to come along, because the track is obviously not used much these days. Who knows? I might still be there.

You really have to acknowledge Toyota. They built a good, solid, reliable vehicle in the Land Cruiser Troopy. It's the third Troopy I've had over the years, and I'd buy another in a heartbeat. I absolutely love 'em and am what's known in 4WD-ing as a "Troopy Tragic." I've noticed that Troopy drivers wave to acknowledge when they pass another Troopy.

The Troopy near Walpole-Nornalup National Park, Western Australia.

Day 11 (May 17) — Continuing westward, I have arrived now in Hyden (pop. 280), an interesting town known primarily for Wave Rock, an impressive, wave-shaped granite formation about 15 meters high. It attracts a lot of visitors. I expect that few are really prepared for the flies that are often part of the experience, as most will not have been privy to the fly-acceptance training that some of us have had.

On this trip, I've used Hema Explorer maps on my iPad for the first time. They use satellite navigation. It's just so good to be able to know exactly where you are, even in the remotest areas, anywhere in Australia. Provided you've got your iPad, with a way to charge the battery, there should be no reason why you'd get lost, even in the desert.

The app cost just $55, and it's surprisingly easy to use, even for a techno Neanderthal like me. It's the best investment I've made for travel in the bush.

Well, I've essentially finished my solo crossing of Australia — 4,523 kilometers in 11 days — traveling from Mooloolaba, Queensland, across the Simpson Desert and down the Holland Track, finally reaching Hyden, Western Australia. I'm off now to spend some time with my brother Mike and his wife, Carolyn, down in Denmark on the south coast of WA.

Then it's on to Perth, where I'll meet my wife, Jane, on 25 May. We'll probably head up to Broome on another adventure. We're not constrained by time or commitments, which is a rare luxury, so we can go where the mood takes us. For me, that's north to get some warmth! It's winter here, and I'm "over" cold nights in the bush, big time.

Cheers from the Aussie great beyond!

Anyone who has questions or comments about my 4WD trip across Australia can write me at dbentley22@bigpond.com. — David Bentley

You may reach Randy at 80 America Way, Jamestown, RI 02835; 401/560-0350, randykeck@yahoo.com.


Rules of the road — the Holland Track, Western Australia.

The Troopy handled the deep ruts of the remote Holland Track in Western Australia.