Surveyor's General Corner. Part 2 Sand and Granite

Friday, Mar 01, 2013 at 07:59

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

We left the Gawler Ranges exiting along Yardia Road stopping at the quaint township of Minnipa before heading towards Ceduna. We enjoy Ceduna, it has good facilities and is the kicking off point for the trip West. This time however we soaked up the beautiful sea side scenery, bought food and fuel and obtained our three night camping permits required for Goog’s Track. A bit of a laugh at the signage on a ‘sludge truck’ parked near us in a side street. Actually the driver was laughing at us laughing at his truck if you get the gist.

Our destination now was Goog’s Track via Kalimba Road in heavy rain, where did this come from? – great. Now back in about 1998 we traveled Goog’s Track from the North end with friends and would you believe it we did it in one day, crazy we were. So with these memories a great surprise awaited me. We entered through the gate into Yarumba CP, the rain virtually stopped at the gate, the sand was wet and firm and the colours in the vegetation just twinkling at us after the rain. 4wd helped with the corrugations (present for most of the way but not all that bad) as we met our first vehicle, a family in a Hyunda all wheel drive approaching from the North. Our first deviation was out to the granite rock, actually a flat slab now covered in small puddles of water, but it looked completely out of place amongst the thick scrub. Back on the main track we soon reached the boundary of Yalarba CP and the site of the Goog’s Memorials to father and son, both loosing their lives working this track. (Google the story it’s a good read). Not surprising this is also the location of Goog’s Lake and a great place to camp.

The next surprise was how many vehicles were camped around here. and how popular this area is for 4WD driving. A little patience helped as we searched for and eventually found a good spot for the night. Actually it was a brilliant camp with a view over the largely dry lake bed. The colours invoked by the setting sun as it fingered through a patchy cloud cover over the dry lake bed made for a lasting impression, and later on the full moon rose above the clouds to try and better the sun set. A perfect camping spot, now warmed in the damp night air by a good camp fire.

The next morning, an early mist over the lake before fining up to a pleasant and sunny day. Once again those red capped robins bobbed around us as we consumed breakfast. We were heading out to a series of rock holes this morning, the first about 54 kms away. The first challenge for the day was to find the track leading to them. After a couple of false attempts we finally back tracked to the Memorials and easily found it from there, but honestly there are just so many tracks around the lake area, most of them leading who knows where. It was a pretty drive but slow, it took us about 2 ½ hours to do just 54 kms. The track was narrow and very “Scratchy Doorous” , sandy and twisted constantly through the scrubby bush. It seemed to be going on forever and on a couple of occasions the thought of why are we persisting here crossed our minds, but persist we did .
We stopped at the sign to Nalara Rockhole for a belated lunch and then walked the short distance to the Rockhole, well not really at first sight it was another granite slap rising out of the surrounding scrub and sand, mind you as we walked on it we became aware of just how big it was. It wasn’t just a rock hole but the whole area was covered in water holes of varying shapes and sizes, this was great, the view from the top awe inspiring, you could see for kilometres (we even thought we could pick out the Gawler Range) and in a 360 degree arc. Endless bush stretched to the horizon in all directions. But it was the granite slab that was the highlight, sometimes slabs on slabs as it eroded and cracked away, leaving areas where silt could accumulate and small shrubs, grasses and plants had taken root. The shapes of the many, many water holes varied, some deep (1 to 1 ½ meters) others shallow, some large in area, others quite small. In one, you could make out the markings of where a bird had walked across the sandy bottom. Mosses and lichen covered much of the granite. It was just magic out here, a fascinating place and well worth that persistence.

Now we were in a dilemma, we had obtained permission to visit the next rock hole on private property but that was a further 22 kms from here, time was getting away from us and there was still the drive back to the lake. We made a decision to look for a third rock hole, Lois Rockhole, hoping it wouldn’t be that far away. We traveled about 3 Kms up a winding and very sandy track, now crossing the sand hills every 300 to 400 meters. As we crested each one the view was of endless bush and no sign of a granite outcrop. We retreated and made our way back to the lake in 2 hours, selecting another very good campsite at the bottom of a large sand hill and again on the edge of the lake. Today we traveled 125 kms with just over 5 hours driving time, but what a great day and topped off with another great moon rising. We are enjoying this area.

The sand hill out of the camp this morning, looked a real challenge especially after three vehicles came in and then out just prior to us leaving. It proved to be a furphy and all three of our vehicles cleared it easily, but tail end Charlie was held up and became tangled with another group of vehicles and amongst their chatter on the radio became confused as to our whereabouts. We waited and joked about their misfortune until a slightly frustrated colleague finally found us. It was the start of a long, slow day. Not two kms along the main track heading for Mt Finke, just 74 kms away, we came upon the above mention vehicles stopped and having a cuppa, in front of them several other vehicles one of which (towing a Kimberly Caravan) was badly bogged in the sand. Eventually his group snatched him over the dune, but only to be caught again on the next major sand dune. This time there was little help from his group and we helped him dig and insert his sand runners. The problem was however that he refused (on advice of his new vehicle salesman) to lower his tyre pressure below 30 PSI, again he was snatched over and the group pulled over and let the following groups through. It must have been frustrating for those in that group. Not to worry, we did plenty of talking while waiting and met some interesting people, all of whom were enjoying their adventure. We found the track fairly scalloped on the approach side of each dune, obviously through heavy use but it is incidents like this one that help cause more damage.

For the rest of the day we encountered numerous dunes (more than I remember from the previous trip), of various heights and condition. It was great driving through some quite enjoyable vegetation, although the spinnifex was awfully dry looking. Lunch and almost another two hours before Mt Finke revealed herself on the horizon, time to collect firewood just before turning off towards the camping area (7 kms) at the foot of the Mount. We set up camp just as vehicle after vehicle pulled in. We thought that the Lake camping area was busy, it sure was here. It is however a large camping area and plenty of room for all.

The final day on Goog’s Track and we had an impressive welcome to the morning with the still full moon hanging over Mt Finke. A walk or scramble up the rocky side of the Mount for another extensive view before taking the exit track which leads you across Salt Lake to meet up with the main track again. Still plenty of sand hills to come, shorter but often quite sharp and offering some challenge at times. The vegetation seemed a lot richer in this section, trees taller and now several clusters of shee oaks as well. Out of the sand country and on to flat and dryer station country although there were still some excellent tree specimens. The official track has been moved and you exit onto the rail line road further West now. Time to inflate the tyres and to ponder the marvelous drive we have just completed.

An easy drive East now into Tarcoola along a well maintained road. Fourteen years ago we had a beer at the pub, but not any longer, the whole town is empty, not a person to be seen. We had lunch at the rail station and were disturbed by a freight train rolling past and giving us the traditional long toooot. It is a shame to see these small outback towns gone and I wonder what becomes of the families who may have lived there for years.

An interesting drive from here to Kingoonya where a free camping spot with good facilities exists. Just before you enter the town there is a turn off sign posted Coober Pedy - 35 kms to Stuart Hwy. We took this road through the Prohibited Woomera Area (it’s OK provided you don’t wonder off road). About 10 kms before the highway we camped at a well used area. The next morning we experienced our first (of many) frosts. The water taps in the two trailers were frozen and so was our tooth paste. The ladies had their eye on a super market and I guess a hot shower (baby wipes do become a little less attractive after several days) and so an overnight stop in a very crowded Caravan park.
More photos:-

A final comment. This has to be one of those must do experiences, excellent sand driving but at the same time not overly difficult. Note that it is already popular so if you decide to try it you will be adding to this. Unless you want to camp out for an extended period 3 or 4 days allows you to take it easy and see most of what there is to see. We did this drive as part of an extended trip and found it really worth while and very enjoyable. Go for it.
Next installment “Beautiful colours and it’s not only in the opal”
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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