A taste of the Googs Track

Where: Googs Track, South Australia (runs between Ceduna and Tarcoola)
Permits: Camping Permit required from SA Department for Environment and Heritage, Ceduna.
Costs: $20 per night camped on the track. Paid for with the Permit.
Difficulty: Difficult. 300 bloody big sand dunes to traverse which may pose a few issues here and there. If completing the full Googs fuel for approx 400kms is required. No fuel between Ceduna and Glendambo. Sand flag is required.
Days required to do it justice: 3+days

We’ve had the Googs Track on our ‘to-do’ list since some friends of ours walked it for charity. These ladies are known for climbing mountains and crossing deserts so we knew their Googs adventure wouldn’t be any simple affair. And we were right. Their photos of this ‘little Simpson Desert’ inspired us to tackle the 200 kilometre long Googs Track with the Conqueror in tow.

The Googs Track was created in the mid 1970’s by John (‘Googs’) Denton and his wife Jenny who lived on the remote Lone Oak Station (near Ceduna) and used to look out their verandah wondering what lay to the north between them and the Tarcoola transcontinental railway junction. They decided to try to open up a track northwards which would enable them to sell their produce to a wider market . Starting with an old tractor and a blade attached to the front to act as a bulldozer as well as a two wheel drive ute work began in 1973. As the sand hills got steeper a proper bulldozer and three old Land Rovers were acquired and three years later Googs had blazed a trail through 300+ sand dunes from their property all the way up to Tarcoola. Quite a feat of determination.

A Googs Track dune

A Googs Track dune

We decided to complete the Googs track from North to South which saw us heading north from Adelaide on the Stuart Highway to Glendambo then along the Tarcoola road to the start of the Googs with the intention of finishing up in Ceduna on the South Australian coast. You can read about our trip to the start of the track in the Road to Tarcoola blog.

The first 20 kilometres of the Googs passes through the dense mulga scrub of Yellabinna Regional Reserve along fairly flat red-sandy-desert terrain. We dropped our tyres to 20psi for the softer sections. There are numerous spots for camping along the way but we decided to head for Mount Finke, the only elevation apparent on the horizon. Yes, the term ‘Mount’ is used quite loosely in Australia. At 369m Finke is more of a hill than a mountain although the flatness of the surrounding landscape does make it look enormous.

That bump in the distance is Mount Finke

That bump in the distance is Mount Finke

The first challenging sand dunes appear about twenty kilometres in, some around 6-8 metres high and still surrounded by trees and bushes which encroach onto the sandy track. We traversed about five of these dunes before discovering the bend in the tow bar initially caused by our broken hitch had worsened (see our Road to Tarcoola blog). This resulted in the hitch dragging along the ground on every steep dune we crossed. With a little bit of bush mechanics to prevent any more serious bending we crawled along towards Mount Finke to camp up and take stock of the situation.

The Googs Track is lined by mulga trees and dense scrub

The Googs Track is lined by mulga trees and dense scrub

That bl**dy hitch

That bl**dy hitch

Mount Finke itself is 6km off the main track and the route weaves across the middle of a stunning, empty salt lake, dappled with deep tyre ruts left by the inconsiderate drivers who have gone off track and got bogged here in the past. It is a barren but beautiful place. A thought must be spared at Mount Finke for the explorer John McDouall Stuart who passed this way on horseback during his 1858 explorations in South Australia. He wrote: ‘7 August 1858. The journey today has been through horrid dense scrub and heavy sand hills, to the foot of the hill, which I have named Mount Finke’. He goes on to describe the view from the summit in descriptive capital letters: ‘ The prospect is gloomy in the extreme! I could see a long distance, but nothing met the eye save A DENSE SCRUB AS BLACK AND DISMAL AS MIDNIGHT… A FEARFUL COUNTRY’. He was a thirsty man who had staggered an astonishing distance around Lake Torrens before travelling the rough direction of what we now call the Googs Track in search of water and a way back to Adelaide.

The view from Mount Finke. 'A fearsome country'

The view from Mount Finke. ‘A fearful country’

We ourselves staggered up Mount Finke’s steep spurs complaining of the heat, the flies and our sore legs and took in the vast expanse of nothingness and sand dunes we could see from the top. Had I been Stuart I have an inkling why he wasn’t too impressed although, with the current state of our trailer hitch, I was beginning to wish I too was on a horse. We could see the sand dunes rising as the track continued South and from our research knew some of those we hadn’t yet reached were around 25 metres high and also steeper when approaching from the northern end. As much as we wanted to carry on we knew the tow bar had reached its limit and decided to quit while we were ahead and retreat to flatter terrain.

Mount Finke.

Mount Finke.

We’d had a great taste of the Googs and one which will keep us coming back for more once we strengthen that pesky tow bar. If you’re heading north and looking for an interesting side trip, but don’t want to travel the whole length of the Googs, a trip to Mount Finke is well worth a look.

 

 

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