The Gunbarrel Highway is considered one of the great Rites Of Passage for off-roaders Australia-wide.
The “highway” was originally surveyed by Len Beadell to help the Australian military recover weapons tested in center of the nation. Len would drive his Series I Land Rover through the bush, then turn around and flash a mirror at a dude following him in a grader- who simply aimed for the light and floored it.
The 60-year-old grader is still on display in a town called Giles, but hasn’t seen action in some time.
The track may straight enough, but it’s anything but straightforward. Huge ruts, deep sand, blind corners and wild animals scampering all over the place make the Gunbarrel one of the most challenging sections of the Pan-Australian expedition.
Consequentially, that also makes it the most fun.
Magnus came into his element as the track got rougher and rougher, hustling the 8-ton supertanker support truck though holes in the trees and ruts that looked like they could swallow a camel.
The suspension clamored for mercy as we charged and drifted down the track. Magnus offered one of his typically cheeky comments;
“This is a graded highway you know”
“Well, hasn’t been graded since 1950, but… it was graded.”
The road opened up just enough for some serious powersliding and we dropped a gear, threading one corner into another on the edge of control.
Just as the tires started working up some serious heat, the next bend revealed a fat camel parked square in the middle of the track.
The exhaust brake exhaled like a dragon as Mags downshifted, scrubbing speed in desperation.
I looked at the piece of meat defrosting on the dash with dread (yes, there almost always was one). Not only was that camel’s body perfectly inline with our windscreen, but 3 kilograms of frozen chicken would be launched at my face if the airbags deployed.
The beast got the message and ran for it, missing our bull bar by a meter.
Returning the truck to a steady canter, Mags asked;
“So. Think you’ll be able to drive this on the next trip?”
“No race car driving.”