This is Part 7, the final part of our adventure to the middle of nowhere Australia with a Haval H9, which we baptised Ivanhoe. See Part 1: Melbourne to Mildura here, Part 2: Mildura to Broken Hill here, Part 3: Broken Hill to Tibooburra here, Part 4: Tibooburra to Cameron Corner here, Part 5: In Cameron Corner here and Part 6: On the Strzelecki Track here.
Arrived at Hawker at dark, I still manage to spot a few 2WD vehicles, the first ones since we left Broken Hill a few days ago… As it did last time I emerged from the Birdsville Track, it always prompts a double-take: “how the heck has this type of vehicle possibly arrived here?” And then it all comes back to me that we have returned to “civilisation” with mostly sealed roads around us.
Hawker is the main jumping board to explore the iconic Flinders Ranges located just north of town. It used to be a thriving railway town between 1880 and 1956, located on the famous Ghan line, but that came to an abrupt stop when the route was moved west during a line upgrade. Today, Hawker, population 229, lives from tourism, sheep and cattle, but the stocking rate, one sheep per three to four hectares, is incredibly low due to the arid climate.
There is not much indeed in Hawker, but the Lonely Planet describes its petrol station as “the most helpful in the world” and it’s true! They are right on the mark for any weather forecast that could affect the road conditions in the region. But as is often the case in the Australian Outback, the most reliable source of information about road conditions is drivers themselves as the rangers cannot cover the entirety of the unsealed tracks 24/7. This way, a couple of bikers inquired how the Strzelecki Track was west of Cameron Corner as they were planning to head that way. One of them, incidentally, recognised our vehicle as a Haval. We recommended prudence on the way back if they were to return via Broken Hill due to the flooding we encountered a couple of days prior. Animals of the Flinders Ranges: Kangaroos, a wallaby, shingle-back lizard and… quolls?
Off we drive to the Flinders Ranges National Park. The last time I visited the Park, in 2003, it was under a constant torrent of rain so I have only scattered memories of the place. Under a stunningly blue sky (this is the second day of the year hence full Summer in Australia), we encounter a few local animals, either though road signs or in real life like a herd of shy grey wallabies hopping along us on the way. Now I can see a few of you with wide open eyes in front of the “Quolls” sign. Never heard of them? Quolls are are carnivorous marsupials native to mainland Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania. They sport white spots, eat smaller mammals, small birds, lizards and insects and are mostly active at night. They were “discovered” by Captain Cook in 1770 who adopted the Aboriginal name for the animals, although the language used is that of the Guugu Yimithirr people who live very far, in northern Queensland. An enigma right here…
After visiting the Wilpena station in the Flinders Ranges National Park, we head north to check the Stokes Hill lookout then backtrack to turn left to the Bunyeroo and Brachina Gorges. The landscape gets redder as we make our way through the gorges and we are allowed to stay a little longer in the Bunyeroo Gorge courtesy to our second puncture of the trip, this time the front left wheel. We sort it out in less time than is needed to write these lines (the truth) as we are eager to explore the Ranges further.
A few stops to snap the H9 in action (see the lead picture in this article) and we are back on the sealed road to Hawker. After a refill we are now headed to Mildura where we will spend our first night in the past four with an internet connection! Then it’s an uneventful all-day highway trip back to Sydney under a summer rain that managed to clean almost all the mud from the outside of the car. We started the trip in Melbourne with 4.076 km at the odo, and one week later we arrive in Sydney in one piece, this time the odo indicating… 8.043km. We doubled Ivanohe’s age for a 3.967km-trip. Fuel consumption over the entire trip is 13.6L/km (veering towards thirsty). And this ends another great adventure at the wheel of China’s #1 SUV brand, Haval. Make sure you read the full review of the Haval H9 below.
Four wheel driving ability. As it was the case for the H8, the Intelligent AWD system automatically engages at the right time and we drove through tougher, more slippery and deeper muddy terrain than the H8 without a problem. Great adherence and controllable vehicle in adverse conditions.
Drive on sealed roads is smooth with no acceleration lag (there was one on the H8).
Interior quality with leather seats is optimal, back air con is good but back seats may be a little too steep, we couldn’t move them due to our equipment in the boot. Rooftop is a great addition to the enjoyment of driving the car.
As for the H8, High speed driving integrity, both on bitumen (160km/h-100mph) and rocky track (100km/h-80mph) where these speeds were attained with no behaviour change.
Exterior design is, here too, rather timeless. Was compared to Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan X-Trail during the trip. Appears robust and solid.
Some fun bonuses like the brand name projected on the floor in red letters from rear view mirrors and on the step in white letters (see picture below).
The car’s main weakness on this outback trip is its underbody cover made of plastic and fixed with screws that loosen up and fail during water passings. Not easily fixable in the middle of the desert and as a result we had to let the cover tear itself from the car and lose it. The entire underbody protection needs to be strengthened.
Two punctures and overheating tyres on the Strzelecki track mean to us that the perfect tyre combination remains to be found on the H9.
As for the H8, Premium Unleaded petrol mandate adds 20 to 50 AU cents per litre and makes Australian outback trips logistically challenging due to the rarity of this petrol in remote stations. We needed to permanently carry two 20L jerrycans of fuel to be able to reach our destinations.
The centre console touchscreen is prone to sun glare which makes it impossible to read. Some info should be transferred onto the driver’s control panel (see picture below).
As for the H8, the sat nav vastly overestimates the time required to reach destination by applying speeds that are a lot lower than the speed limit, and is not incorporating unsealed roads in its route calculations.
User manual is required to operate the jack – not as straight-forward as expected.
Headlamps wash died on us on the Strzelecki Track.