A road through Balgo’s sacred lands could be the next great outback adventure route. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)
It’s claimed two lives in one week — but experts say there are simple ways to survive the Outback
The Tanami, Gibb River and Canning are renowned outback routes that attract thousands of adventure seekers every year to Australia’s vast interior.
- The Balgo community has been carving out a 140-kilometre road for months to entice tourists to the ancient lands
- The tourist road is a day’s drive from either Halls Creek or Alice Springs
- A four-wheel drive and a week’s worth of food are the minimum requirements for the road, which should open to tourists next year
Now a new road is being opened up across sacred lands in Western Australia’s far-north designed for those determined to take on the toughest bush tracks.
The initiative is being led by the Balgo community, an isolated township 2,800 kilometres north of Perth, on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.
The 140-kilometre road winds through the Balgo Hills, a savannah plain dotted with spinifex, and is surrounded by expansive rock formations that glow a deep red at sunset.
The Balgo community has been working for months to prepare the route. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)
Reaching the track involves a full day’s drive from the nearest towns of Halls Creek, in the west, or Alice Springs, to the east.
It covers some of the most remote and untouched ancient country in the world.
A four-wheel drive is a minimum requirement and visitors are encouraged to bring a week’s worth of food, water, and plenty of spare tyres.
The Balgo community wants to attract more tourists to the remote township. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)
The Wirrimanu Corporation, which represents Balgo’s residents, has been carving the track out of the desert.
They want to tap into the $20 billion spent nationwide on camping and caravan holidays every year.
The Balgo Hills are a popular lookout at sunset for locals and tourists. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)
Chairman Nathaniel Stretch said he wanted to teach more non-Aboriginal people about his country, which has been populated by tribes for tens of thousands of years.
“We want to show visitors how our ancestors survived in the desert,” he said.
“This project is important to ensure our future is strong.”
Preserving the outback
With efforts underway to seal the Tanami Road, many tourists are concerned there will be one less great adventure road to take on.
Mr Stretch wants to create a new avenue for tourists to have a classic outback experience.
“Tourists will miss some of the rough roads but we will still have the outback, we are still trying to maintain that once the bitumen comes to the Tanami Road,” he said.
Tourists will be able to see teams of wild horses along the route. (ABC Kimberley: Andrew Seabourne)
The community wants tourists to experience the isolated landscape, which has remained largely unchanged for countless generations.
They plan to install campsites at locations along the road to cater for those who want to spend a night under the desert stars.
“We’re trying to make campsites — we know tourists like to look at the stars and the view,” Mr Stretch said.
“What you can see from that view is our story.”
Local guides will show tourists the ancient landscape, including a fossilised coral reef and caves. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)
Camping and four-wheel drive enthusiasts will be able to spot teams of wild brumbies roaming the plains and see sacred sites dotted along the route.
Lucky visitors might stumble across fossils when they walk among the remnants of what locals believe is a coral reef that existed when the area was underwater millions of years ago.
There will also be guides to educate visitors on local dreamtime stories and share their knowledge of bush foods.
For a community that struggles with unemployment, it is hoped that the road will provide a welcome economic boost.
Wirrimanu Corporation’s Nathaniel Stretch has been carving out the road from the desert. (ABC Kimberley: Matt Bamford)
With the blessing of elders, efforts are underway to train local people for the work ahead.
“I want to bring back pride to the people. This will bring peace to the community,” Mr Stretch said.
It is hoped the road will be open to tourists next year.
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