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4WD: Campers, answer Karlamilyi s call
4WD: Campers, answer Karlamilyi's call

With winter finally setting in, if you have a fancy to head north and you prefer the road less travelled, then consider Karlamilyi National Park.

More 4WD and camping:

At more than twice the size of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Karlamilyi is the largest park in WA.

It was formerly known as Rudall River National Park in honour of William Rudall, a government surveyor who explored some 59,570 sqkm in 1897 while searching for Charles Wells and George Jones, lost from the Calvert Scientific Expedition.

The mummified bodies of the two men, who had perished due to the extreme heat and lack of water, were eventually found less than a quarter-mile off the track by Larry Wells, leader of the original expedition. Karlamilyi's hot, dry desert country remains hostile territory, with no facilities or supplies available to visitors.

However, a well-planned visit will provide some spectacular rewards for the properly set up off-road driver.

The park lies between the Great Sandy and Little Sandy deserts, some 400km east of Marble Bar.

The main access is north-east along the Tallawanna Track, about 250 tough kilometres from Newman, which is the nearest source for supplies and assistance in the event of an emergency.

Beautiful isolation is a key attraction of Karlamilyi - there are no formal camping areas and the chances of meeting others is rare. Two Aboriginal groups live within the park, the Punmu community near Lake Dora and the Parngurr community at Cotten Creek.

They retain very strong ties to the land and traditional ways, and prefer to avoid contact with outside influences, so visitors are asked to stay away.

Much of the nearly 1.3 million hectare park is red sand dunes and spinifex, with salt lakes and rocky outcrops thrown into the ancient mix.

The dunes in the east and south-west form parallel ridges up to 40m high from 200m to 6km apart and the ridges can be an amazing 40km long.

Broadhurst Range provides spectacularly high rainbow cliffs and deep valleys of sandstone and quartzite eroded into twisting, fanciful pinnacles by glacial action millions of years ago.

While there are scrubby shrubs on the rocky hills, the Rudall River watercourse provides an oasis where most of the park's 90 species of birds can be found in taller eucalypts, tea trees and mulga.

Look out for wedgetail eagles soaring on the heat haze and you'll hear dingoes in the distance as you settle in around the campfire.

Consider Karlamilyi if you fancy rolling across corrugated roads of red dust lined by spinifex and bare plains.

Or bouncing along a deeply rutted sand track with kangaroos leaping in front of the vehicles, to an evening's campsite by huge gums on a riverbank with ancient cliffs towering above rocky the ground.

But don't end up like the ill-fated Calvert Expedition or lone travellers who have perished in the region in the past.

If you can't bring together a well-equipped and resourceful group of buddies with excellent bush, navigation and mechanical skills, then check out experienced escorts such as Global Gypsies at, who have an upcoming tour in August.

"Rudall is one of our favourite wilderness destinations," says Jeremy Perks, the company's qualified mechanic, experienced bushman, skilled four-wheel- driver and award-winning tour guide.

"We try to recreate those early experiences but in far more comfort on our escorted and catered self-drive safaris.

"Each tour is different, but always magnificent."

The West Australian

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