This is a One Adventure fan-submitted story. In this article, you will discover what happened when this Aussie couple had to change their travel plans due to COVID restrictions in WA.
You are sure to be inspired by their travels through some remarkable parts of Australia and you will see what advice they have for other travellers.
We are Al and Jo Cheetham, a married middle-aged couple who travel to remote areas in Australia at least once a year.
We have a 2017 Dmax dual cab ute with a custom made canopy, 2inch lift and GVM upgrade. And we tow a 2000 off-road cavalier camper trailer and were equipped with 200L of diesel and around 200L of water for this journey.
Recently we had 5 weeks of holidays and our plan was to visit a friend on the Nullabor, then head from Cocklebiddy to Rawlinna and on to Warburton via the Connie Sue Highway. From there we planned to take the Gunbarrel Highway to Wiluna before touring around the goldfields for the rest of our holiday.
COVID Travel Difficulties
Unfortunately, as we got to Cocklebiddy we found our permits for the Connie Sue, Warburton and Gunbarrel areas had been revoked due to a covid outbreak in Perth!
Some quick and intense online research was needed to find out where we could get to without permits. Online research can be confusing. But eventually, we discovered that Cocklebiddy, to Rawlinna to Neale Junction (where the Anne Beadell highway crosses the Connie Sue) could be achieved without permits.
This meant around 1000km plus between fuel stops, depending on if we returned to Cocklebiddy or along the railway to Kalgoorlie. We weren’t sure of road condition or how much fuel we would use, so the decision on which way to return to fuel from Neale junction would have to be made later.
The Journey: Rawlinna to Kalgoorlie
We set off along the Haig road to go to Rawlinna, and were shocked by just how bad the rocks were. By the time we made camp just 10km short of the transcontinental railway line, we were wondering if we really had made the right choice. But you only live once right?
The second day we drove thru Rawlinna and found the rocks were even worse on the first section of the Connie sue. It was a slow, bumpy 5 hrs to cover roughly 120 km to the Tjuntjuntjarra road, where conditions improved immensely. Our camp was on the side of the Connie Sue about 30 km north of the Tjuntjuntjarra road.
The next day we continued on to Neale junction, signed the visitor’s book, had lunch and backtracked to Neale breakaways.
The Neale Breakaways are slightly off the Connie Sue Highway, and well worth the side trip. The light here at sunset and sunrise is amazing. We spend hours watching the changing colours and photographing everything from the salt crystals and dingo tracks to using the drone to capture the incredible sunset and sunrise.
This really is a must-see spot, we recommend spending a day here at least.
We found that we had used a little less fuel than anticipated so decided to return to Kalgoorlie instead of Cocklebiddy. In an effort to avoid the rocky section near Rawlinna, we planned to follow the Tjuntjuntjarra road to the railway line.
This turned out to not be as easy as it looked on the Wikicamps app. The road was not as rough as the Connie sue, but it was paved with sharp edge little stones, one of which went through a tyre. It was the first tyre we have had to change on the side of the road in the 70 000 km that we have owned this vehicle.
Got to be happy with that when you consider we have travelled the Gibb river road, Munja track and several Pilbara tracks in that time, we cannot fault our Coopers AT tyres.
We had the tyre repaired in Kalgoorlie, and threw out the spare as that too was damaged, but unrepairable. While here we found out we could reapply for permits, so yet another change of plans! We decided to look around Kookynie and Leonora then head for Wiluna while waiting for approval for the new permits.
Approval was given, and we then were able to travel the Gunbarrel highway to Warburton, proceed down the Connie Sue to Neale Junction, then follow the Anne Beadell highway back to Laverton.
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Tips & Advice For Other Travellers
Travelling during covid can be stressful, we made sure to have masks, sanitiser and gloves packed in easy reach. You really have to be flexible, and willing to change your plans with no notice. It’s also well worth having some backup ideas in mind before leaving home.
If you plan to travel the Connie Sue we suggest you take 2 spare tyres, more fuel than you think you need, and enough food and water that you could sit for a few days waiting for a passing vehicle without worrying about your next meal.
We don’t find a sat phone to be a necessity on our remote travels, but we do carry a Spot Gen 4 so that friends and family can track us and it also has an SOS option built-in.
In the planning stage, we use resources such as YouTube and Facebook groups to try and find recent pictures of the conditions. Remember that everyone has a different idea on just what “rough”, “impassable” and “boring” really are. The Connie Sue highway can be all of those, but it is also an amazing trek through the desert and if you slow down and look, the world is full of tiny wonders.
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