Finally leaving Coffin Bay , after 7 weeks of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we headed north along the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula. We made stops at a few places including Dutton Bay, Venus Bay, Elliston, Streaky Bay and Ceduna, all pleasant little towns with various ocean and coastal views.
We made a side trip to Pildappa Rock and the Gawler Ranges, staying for a night near the Organ Pipes where the wattle was in bloom.
Googs Track in South Australia runs north from Ceduna through the middle of the Yumburra Conservation Park for 154km. The research I did said it was like a small version of the Simpson desert, the track included 363 sand dunes, and there was a lake about halfway to camp at. Checking with the Explorer Motorhome Owners and the Googs Track Facebook groups gave us mixed views on whether we should attempt it or not, ranging from “you’ll be turning back to Ceduna” to “you’ll be right”.
As we had to kill more time in SA waiting for the borders to open, I thought we’d give it a go. The first day we made it to Googs Lake relatively easily, only deflating the tyres to 20psi at the front and 30psi at rear. We stopped at the memorial set up for the Denton family who created the track back in the 70s. “Goog” was the nick name for the father.
There was a Swiss Italian family at the lake, mum Chanty, dad Phil and 2 kids Liam and Anya, when we got there, who had travelled in an Iveco Truck with a Palomino camper attached to it. The lake was dry with a layer of crusty salt and a small island in the middle. We had a fire together and the sunset over the lake was beautiful.
I knew the second half of the track was supposed to be more challenging, but after the first day’s success we felt confident to continue on by ourselves when the family decided to stay at the lake another day. Not long after leaving, we came across the first soft sand dune. It didn’t take long before we found one that was too steep and we stopped about 5m from the top of the dune with the rear tyres deep in sand. After 10 minutes digging them out, and reducing all the tyre pressures down to 18psi, we made it over.
We took the next big dune a little bit too fast over top, and caused one of the top cupboards to fall open and our almonds, white rice and brown rice containers spilled all over the floor. After getting to a safe distance from the dune, the rice had moved into every nook and cranny, and we discovered one of the bikes had dropped off the bike rack and had been dragging on the ground for who knows how long.
With a twisted wheel it was replaced onto the bike rack, and after an hour of chasing and chucking almonds and rice grains, we were off again. Of course, the bike rack failed us again not long after, with both bikes landing in the sand this time. So, we squeezed them inside the motorhome instead, and took off again.
We stopped for the night at Mt Finke, after over 5 hours of driving 80km of sand dunes. While I’m glad we did Googs Track, I don’t think we’ll be doing the Simpson desert! At least not in the near future.
On the rough drive east to Port Augusta, we made a stop at Woomera to see the Rocket Park. Unfortunately the museum is still closed, and there isn’t much else there but it was worth the little detour.
I added my handprints (the red and blue ones) to the Reconciliation painting being produced by the local indigenous people on the pipeline running through Port Augusta.
The towns of Quorn and Hawker are north of Port Augusta on the way to the Flinders Ranges and we were pleased to stop in at the Jeff Morgan Art Gallery and stone exhibition. We bought one of his paintings because the gentle darkness of it reminded us of sitting near a campfire when night falls and waiting for the stars to come out.
The Ikara-Flinders Ranges are a place to get an education in the early geology of the earth. We did 6 hikes at different campground locations around the national park, the first being the most intense travelling across the plateau of Wilpena Pound to Bridle Gap, covering over 20km, but it was worth it. We’ve also been making the most of our campfires, baking bread and toasting marshmallows.
The last hike we did took us through rock formations that were 650 million years old with stromatolite formations that were created by the fossilisation of blue-green algae, some of the earliest plants, that helped create the oxygen in the atmosphere that we breathe today.
Due to the time lost in isolation, we have given up on visiting WA this year and will have to make a special trip back some day. We will snake our way towards the NT border, via the Oodnadatta Track and Coober Pedy and hope that the border opens soon, so that we can explore the wonders of the Kimberley and Top End while its cooler.