Longest drive out of the Chambers Pillar

by jmorning
(Sydney)

Chambers Pillar

Chambers Pillar

Well, this is all shameful story. However, I want to share with visitors of this website, especially with people new to 4WD vehicle and unsealed road.

I by myself arrived at Alice Springs airport on 17/01/09 and picked up Nissan Patrol. The model might be the most common in the area's hired car market. At some places there are so many Nissan Patrols that you may think it's a kind of vehicle club day.

The model is "part-time" 4WD and has "manual" locking-hub. I learned this after coming back to Sydney. (Now you can guess what happened to me.)

I was (am) total stranger to 4WD vehicle and the only reason I hired a 4WD was that it's too painful to drive on unsealed road with conventional car (experience from driving around Broken Hill region for a couple of days).

It started raining from the day I arrived, and still raining to the day (19/01/09) I was heading to the Chambers Pillar (Yep, getting serious).

Last 45 kms driving from Maryvale to the Chambers Pillar was a really hard job for me. Dips, waters, muds... Anyway, I managed to get to the destination and had wonderful time there. I was the only camper at the site. No more rain, no other people and so many stars.

The next morning, on the way from the Chambers Pillar to Maryvale, my car got bogged in mud. From 8 o'clock, I spent four and a half hours digging and pouring something (stones, branch, grass, towel..) under wheels to find of no use.

(In the meantime I found the car was at 2WD position. So I transmitted the lever to 4WD position).

I should make a decision. No car passed the road from yesterday and never knew when the next passing would be. I checked the distance gauge and do some calculation to find the location was only 12~16km away from Maryvale.

With several bottles of water in my backpack, I walked to the mid-day sun and flies' cloud. It took 3 hours' walk and 1 hour's rest to get to Maryvale. I guess it's less than 12 km because I walked very slowly (my feet were in bad condition after bungle in the mud).

I came across three locals in a 4WD and asked them for help with my ever-politest english (of course offering some reward). I expected some kind of hard-boiled rope action, however, these kind people drove my car out of the mud in one second.

Of course before that they "LOCKED" the front wheels. Which meant until then it's not really a 4WD and what I did was eagerly deepening the bog with the rear wheels.

(Do you remember the advice from B? "If you have no experience with 4x4 and are renting a car, make sure you know how to engage the four wheel drive.") After two and a half hours, I joined a blessed sealed road.

Yes, this is my shameful story. Lessons? You will find them in the "Driving Through The Australian Outback" section of this site. The saddest thing is I read the section very carefully before my trip :)

* Please excuse all the faults in the article. I'm not from an English speaking country.

Comments for Longest drive out of the Chambers Pillar

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Driving in remote outback regions
by: Birgit

Thank you for being brave enough to share your story here. I really appreciate it. You must have been so embarassed...

I am glad that you enjoyed your time at Chambers Pillar and that all ended well. You know, trying to walk in the midday sun is also something that I strongly advise against...

People underestimate just how hot it can get. They do not die of thirst, which would take a few days. They die because the body overheats.

I think you were probably ok and that it wasn't that hot that day. Also, you had a lot of water and you knew help was nearby.

But I do want to point this out for other readers. Even if you know that you can reach help for sure within a few hours of walking, only attempt to do so if it's cool enough, if you have enough water, and if there is absolutely zero danger of getting lost. Otherwise, stay with your vehicle.

(The page also mentions again that people became bogged when all they had to do was engage the four wheel drive. If it's any consolation, you are not alone.)

Thanks again for writing and sharing!

Rain and 4WD
by: Anonymous

I thought rule nr 1 was to avoid driving on unsealed roads/4 WD only roads when it's raining? That is for tourists or when not absolutely necessary?

Wet roads
by: Birgit

It depends on the road surface and the amount of rain. Rocky and sandy tracks are usually not too bad when wet.

Rain does however create a lot of additional hazards, especially for inexperienced drivers.

You can't say that nobody should ever drive on any wet unsealed road surface, because that would mean that a sizeable part of our population up here would not be able to leave their land or go anywhere for half of the year.

If a road gets dangerous or if driving on it would damage it, it gets closed.

So if it's open, it should be ok to use, but of course that assumes that people know what they are doing.

(If it's wet and open for 4WD only, then it's a good idea to put in the hubs... Getting bogged is about the worst thing you can do to a road surface for those coming after you.)

If people don't know what they are doing and don't know the area, then yes, you are correct that they should better stay off it.

And in such a remote area anyone should at the very minimum get very detailed info about the conditions and what to expect from someone who really knows that road, plus a reliable weather forecast.

I don't know what the conditions down there were like at the time, so I can't comment on that particular situation.

(In fact, the first time I read through the article I thought that it had stopped raining the previous day. Not sure why I read it that way. Must have been in a hurry. Now upon re-reading it I see that was only the case later on at Chambers Pillar itself.)

Possible not the best road to drive when Wet
by: Gareth

Chambers Pillar is an excellent spot and well worth the drive - in the dry.

The main road is corrugated and would be the same as any outback road in the wet.

The last section is far worse.
There are a number of sand dunes to traverse and 1 very steep up/down hill.
The rest of the track is sand.

I wouldn't do this ever in the rain.

EXCELLENT WEBSITE
by: Mike Burke

Your website is thorough and delightful I read it before I went to the outback, my only comments are be wary of the recommendations of the package tour companies, the suggestion for Ayers rock is the Lost Camel Hotel $250.00 it is near the shops and restaurants a lot more reasonable than the hotels all controlled by the Voyager group. The Curtin springs station and cabins 100 km from Ayers rock are a delightful place to stop the night $145.00 for two bed room with all amenities.

Keep up the brilliant informative site - Mike Burke an Australian living in Canada.

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