It is remarkable what a solid drop of rain does for semi-arid wilderness. The dry landscape I had seen here previously, with a meagre dappling of greenery, was transformed into a relatively lush well-vegetated scene, complete with fields of springtime wildflowers.
It was a stunning sight and a beautiful greeting as we aired down to 16psi and made toward our first stop and camp destination, Mt Finke.
SECOND OPINION: Googs Track
After topping up the tanks at the last available fuel stop we left Kingoonya, in South Australia’s central outback, and made for the Googs Track head roughly 75km away.
If you are like me, nothing puts a smile on the face more than driving a narrow, winding single track; gone is the black top and humdrum of well-maintained gravel and simply ‘making miles’. This is what it’s all about, and immediately we were enjoying the driving. The northern section is fairly open, flat terrain, but as you travel south this is broken up by the start of the dunes which continue well into the south.
Several years ago, I had travelled Googs Track from south to north, this time though I would be crossing in the opposite direction. I had heard rumours the track was one-way only; rest-assured this is not true, you can approach from either direction without issue.
Mt Finke is an easy deviation off the main track and is well worth the visit. It is one of only two designated camp areas along the track. It towers above the otherwise flat terrain and if you are up for the steep walk, the views are rewarding. Scattered around the base are campsites, and it’s best to follow the track to the northwest as the camps along there are secluded and serene in amongst the tree groves.
After a great night around the campfire, we travelled back to the main track and continued south. Now the dunes were frequent and slightly harder to traverse; although, at low tyre pressure, easily navigated. It was around here we encountered a solo traveller who was having some trouble on the more chewed-up southern dune faces; not surprising, really, considering he was running 26psi. It is worth noting that the southern dune faces are harder to negotiate than the northern faces, with many of them potholed and dug up by people running high tyre pressures.
BEST 4X4 TRACKS: Close to Adelaide
Shortly afterward we encountered another group of five vehicles, but these were to be the only others we saw during our three days on the track. Thankfully, we were all wearing sand flags and communicating on the UHF on the mandatory channel 18, making it easy to anticipate our crossing paths.
By now we were nearing the mid-section and closing in on another great destination, Googs Lake, an expansive dried salt lake. The track narrows in many places, particularly in this mid-section, with overhanging branches and tree roots projecting on to the track – it pays to be mindful of these on Googs Track, to avoid body damage and tyre sidewall punctures. Towing a trailer is achievable, but I would not recommend it unless you are running very low pressures, have plenty of dune experience (along with recovery gear) and good awareness of your trailer’s dimensions.
BEFORE reaching the lake we had another destination in mind; one which is not often travelled, Jellabinna Rocks. Doing some research it seemed to be quite tempting; several large rocky outcrops which seem completely out of place in the middle of what you could almost call the desert.
Looking at our navigation software, it seemed like a fairly easy 200km return detour, no problem right? Well, not so easy unfortunately. The track out to the rocks is pretty gruelling. It is extremely tight and twisty, and there is never a moment where you cannot devote your full attention to steering and adjusting speed to the terrain undertread.
If that’s not enough, there are a few very soft dunes thrown in to the mix and you will suffer extensive pinstriping – there is simply no avoiding it. The track is not well-travelled and is very overgrown.
We started along this detour track at 1pm and it was not until 6pm that we arrived at the rocks, hot, sweaty and very relieved we had made it.
Well, I can say the rocks are impressive and it was nice to be able to tick this destination off the list. What was not so nice was the knowledge that we would have to backtrack and do it all again. While my travelling companions decided to stay for the night, I made the decision to head back and try to make Googs Lake. It was not a decision I made lightly, but, given the heat and my broken air-con, the night trip seemed more appealing than five gruelling hours in the blazing sun.
It was 11.30pm when the lake finally appeared in the spotlights ahead. Pure relief. Without wasting time, I cracked a beer, threw out the swag and promptly fell into a sleep coma. I had taken a moment to select a decent spot for camp and that effort was rewarded in the morning when I opened the swag before dawn to witness a stunning sunrise over the lake.
It is these little moments I really cherish. The sensation of being the only person around, just me and Mother Nature. It seems that all of my senses are alert and attuned to the surrounding wildlife and flora, and I am a part of it. It is perhaps the best part of owning a 4WD, the places you can travel to and the sights you can experience.
There is only about 80km of track remaining from the lake until reaching Ceduna, and from experience I knew that towards the south the going was a bit easier, the track opening up to allow a bit more pace. After spending some time at the Denton family memorial, it was an easy run in to Ceduna and a date with an air-con mechanic before the next leg of the trip.
Once again, Googs Track had proved to be an awesome experience; although, I might need some serious time before deciding to visit Jellabina Rocks again!
ABOUT THE TRACK
Googs Track was pushed by John ‘Goog’ Denton, his wife Jenny and their family out of a simple desire ‘to discover what lay beyond’ their property out in the scrub. Goog was a real bushman with a passion for the land and exploring it. Work began in 1973 and completed in 1976. Today it is managed as a part of Yellabina Regional Reserve and is open to the public all year-round.