Originally a stock route, the Tanami Track links the Kimberley region to Central Australia and is peppered with evidence of its droving days.

Story & photos by John Denman

It’s a long way to anywhere when you’re travelling along the Tanami Track. Although it is the most direct route between the Kimberley and Central Australia, it is a lonely and isolated thoroughfare fringed by one of the most foreboding deserts in Australia. Like many of the iconic outback tracks, the Tanami originated as a stock route. Drover Bill Wilson took the first mob of cattle across in 1962 during a good season. Later, Paddy ‘Piebald’ Fogarty, with a crew including Tom Cusack, took cattle across the track from “Billiluna”, about 200 kilometres from Halls Creek. But first they had to get their droving plant out there. They trucked the horse plant from Alice Springs to Mount Doreen Station, then walked them to “Balgo” and then to Billiluna, where they took delivery of the cattle.
Piebald’s mob of 1860 bullocks faced a big dry stage straightaway. “The bores on the Tanami were 60km apart, so the trick in droving long stages is to give them a good drink when you hit water, then about 2pm put them on water again, and try to do about seven or eight miles by sunset,” Tom says in his memoirs. “That way, you only have one dry day in 40 miles.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #47

Outback Magazine: June/July 2006