Googs Track to Chambers Pillar

Offroad testing products with RV Storage Solutions

Iron Knob and across the Gawler Ranges

It had been a year since our last trip and we needed to get out of the office and test some new products.

My mate Brad Newham from ARB Elizabeth had recently done Googs Track and said it was worth the effort. On planning our trip it would of suited us to do the track North-South as we could of done it on the way home. Now that I have done it I can understand why its recommended one way traffic South-North. It is a very narrow sandy track with numerous sand dunes hemmed in by scrub country. There’s not really anywhere to go if you strike on coming traffic.

Once we settled on our start point it was now a matter how we got there. The Black top to Ceduna didn’t interest us so we took the Gawler ranges crossing as the answer. The Gawler ranges really are maligned as a destination. The scenery is spectacular. We stopped at Mt Ive station for morning tea after leaving Iron Knob and had a good look around. They have terrific facilities and can cater for large numbers if required. They have a lot of film crews stay as Lake Gairdner is close by where many movies, documentary’s and marketing filming is done on the flat salt lake bed.

Mt Ive Station Gawler Ranges.
There is a lot of salt pan country in the Gawler ranges.

We pushed on through to Ceduna where we refueled and restocked on perishables. The turnoff to Goog’s track is only a few Km’s out of town. Our aim was to get to Goog’s lake and pitch camp for the night. We made the memorials around 4.30pm and camped near by. We were amazed to see the money tree which is near by with all sorts of coins hammered into the tree. People have been leaving full cans of beer at the memorial as a toast to SGJ “Goog” Denton and Dinger. We did like wise.

We camped on the high western side of the lake as the low areas were already occupied with another party of travellers. There is plenty of firewood and we had a great camp. The high side of the lake makes for some great 4WD climbs. It kept us occupied going up and down for quite some time. One of two of the tracks are quite challenging and quite steep.

Pictured below left is the 100 series coming up the side of the lake and Mark and Karen on Goog’s Track with Mount Finke in the back ground. When Stuart the explorer first climbed to the top of Mt Finke he was distressed at the surrounding country as being a thick and Black dense scrub in all directions as far as the eye could see.

The Oliver clan at the start of Goog's Track.
A section of Goog's track.

You come to the end or what seems to be the end of sand hill country in to salt pans. Whatever you do don’t go off the track as its like quick sand. Once through this the sand hills start again and its a bit of a slog until you break out onto the access road (old Nullarbor track) next to the Trans continental Railway line which goes to Perth.

This track heads east through Malbooma, Tarcoola and Kingoonya where we turned off and headed North. The pubs at Tarcoola and Kingoonya had closed down which was a bugger as it was hot and dusty and a cold one would of been a treat. The sign on one pub said it will re open as soon as a tenant can be found to run it!!

Mt Finke rose out of no where amongst flat scrub country.
The 100 series taking on the western side of Goog's lake. As with all conspicuous features, early explorers used them as reference points.

On to Cooper Pedy

From Kingoonya to the Sturt Highway didn’t take long but it was a hard slog into Coober Peedy on the black top arriving at sunset. We pulled into a caravan park and rolled out the swags. It was great to wash all the dust and sand away.

We spent the next morning looking around Coober Peedy with Karen spending our hard earned on some opal earrings!!

We looked at the mines underground and then tracked out to the underground pottery place only to be greeted with a sign saying ” sorry we’ve all got the flu and will re open when better”. It was a let down as we had been looking forward to it. The road out there was the dustiest road we had ever been on. Worse than bull dust and it got in everywhere. We had to race for the pharmacist for Ventolin just to breath again. Shocking!

Prices were good for supplies and the cheapest fuel was at the Mobil depot on the way out of town one street back.

The Painted Desert.
There's plenty of underground opals in Coober Pedy!!

Painted Desert to Eringa HS

An early start saw us heading for the Painted desert. On the way you pass open stony plains which are rich in various mineral deposits. Its amazing that they lay undiscovered for so long. I believe stockmen found some opals and it took years before they were identified and claims were made. The rest is history as they say. The painted desert is spectacular. Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of day for the color show but it was still worth it. We drove right up to the base to get a better appreciation of the rock colours. Deep reds, burgundy, orange yellow etc. Beautiful. There is only one way in and out as we found out so mark your tracks. The whole area is cut off by deep rutted wash away’s. The lollypop trees are also a great sight in an otherwise featureless plain.

We were in Oodnadatta mid morning and straight on to Hamilton station. We took the left fork here and headed to Eringa HS.We camped on one of the many dry creek crossings that are along this track and had a quiet camp with plenty of firewood.

Next morning we were at Eringa Homestead. This was once part of Kidman’s run of stations with a permanent water hole. If you have a good scout around at these old places its amazing what’s kicking around in the dust.

There’s a lot of history out here with the Ghan railway line being followed most of the way and also you run into the old telegraph line from time to time. The blazing of the Telegraph line was an amazing story in itself of pioneering achievement. The way North was found by Stuart after several attempts and later followed up and charted by people such as Ross and Giles. There is still remnants to be found, as we did, of these achievements.

The various railway sidings on the old Ghan are still standing albeit in ruins with the best of them being at Abminga siding. There are plenty of relics lying around and thousands of old railway sleeper nails/pegs everywhere. Its a shame the old track was sold off for scrap. The track North actually is on where the railway line was in most places.

Our goal this day was to get to Chambers Pillar by sunset. On the way you visit Finke and we shot out to Lamberts centre of Australia. Its a slow bumpy old road out to Lamberts and if you elect to cut across country over the large dune as I did, prepare for a tyre spike or two and a very scratched car. Great fun. The extra time spent fixing tyre’s put us behind schedule so we pushed hard to get to Chambers. If you want to, the station track turn off to Maryvale station cuts off a least a good half hour.

Heading out to Chambers Pillar is slow going and the huge rocky outcrop that you must ascend and descend is where we were at sunset. Missed by that much. However Chambers was visible in the distance and made for some great photos. We carried on to the Chambers camp ground arriving and pitching camp in the dark. There was a few other campers about and getting your firewood on the way in is recommended as the camp area is picked clean.

We were up and about before sunrise and climbing the pillar. The colours are amazing and as the sun comes up the surrounding country side is sensational. Chambers Pillar was the starting point for quite a few expeditions with Giles in particular starting from here on his sojourns west. Even today its very isolated and those guys got out here from Adelaide and The Peake on horseback. Amazing.

The remains of Eringa Homestead.
Mark and Karen at the NT-Qld border marker.
Part of the Finke desert race.
Lambert's center of Australia.

On to Alice

After many photos and a bit of brekky it was off to Alice Springs. The road into Alice is a smooth graded almost highway. You can tell most of the traffic comes from the North. We arrived mid afternoon and had a good look around. Of particular interest was the telegraph station on the original Alice Springs water hole. The station has been restored and is in splendid condition with beautiful grounds. They say it has singing wires but there were no tunes whilst we were there.

Alice springs is a vibrant economic center and we were amazed at how busy it is. We visited our dealer in Alice and he was flat out with tourist inquiries. Shopping was easy as fresh supplies are at city prices.

Remnants of the Ghan at Abminga RS.

Old Andado to Mt Dare

We headed out of Alice next morning with our destination being Dave and Melissa Cox’s Mt Dare Hotel where we had planned on spending the night. We left a very clean and neat and tidy Alice Springs and as we got closer to Santa Teresa the rubbish and debris was horrendous. 20 km’s either side of this place looks like a rubbish tip. The mess shows little respect for the countryside. The Old Andado road was in pretty good nick and we made good time. Most of the road is through interdunal valleys. The scenery is worth the trip and there is a few high dunes to have a bit of fun on. You are skirting the Western side of the Simpson Desert here and following what is supposed to be the longest unbroken sand dune in the world. 

Before you get to Old Andado homestead you must turn off and have a look at the Mac Clarke Waddy Tree (Acacia Peuce or Birdsville Wattle) reserve. This reserve is one of 3 known remaining stands of the trees. The others being SW of Boulia on Montague and Marion stations and just North of Birdsville on the way to Bedourie. The Waddy tree was a great source of timber for fence posts as it has a very dense timber. This would of aided its demise. The stand of trees on Andado is in open gibber plains where it is amazing anything would flourish. These trees can survive up to 500 years.

We arrived at Old Andado homestead around lunchtime. We met up with the resident caretakers Les and June Friske and got the guided tour of the place. For whatever reason I expected to see Molly Clarke leaning over the veranda to greet us. Its amazing how you have something pictured in your head. I believe Molly Clarke still owns the homestead but leases it to a camel tour operator. Old Andado is a great place to visit. The homestead is as it was and the outbuildings such as the meat house and saddle rooms are quite intact. There are skeletons of such at Eringa but these are the real deal. If you pay to camp here you get the run of the house and the kitchen.

The care takers who live in a caravan out back are amazed at the amount of people who drive straight past without dropping in for a chat and a look around. Madigan started his traverse across the Simpson from this point and used a very young Tom Cruise to truck them and the supplies here back in 1939. With me being a history buff I had to see where it all happened.

After the good byes it was off to Mt Dare hotel to pitch camp for the night. The track becomes a little more difficult to navigate as it winds its way through dense stands of trees and is flood country. You wouldn’t like to do this part of the track in the dark. After the border marker its not far to Coxy’s pub and the roads improve. Dave has cut a new part of road in here so don’t panic if you are off track to your GPS as you still end up at the Station

Sunrise at Chambers Pillar.
You can make out the pioneering John Ross carving in the rock behind us. There are lots of old timers names engraved here and its takes a lot of close looking to find them.
Alice Springs Telegraph station at the original Alice Springs waterhole.
Karen admiring Sturt Peas which were in flower everywhere.

Mt Dare

Dave and Melissa Cox have operated the Mt Dare Pub for the last 5 or 6 years. The old pub is now not in use and they have opened their new modern pub which will stand the test of time. They now serve country style meals where you can relax and rinse the dust away. Camping is down the back with amenities or you can stay in the old station house where rooms are available. They offer services such as petrol, workshop (welding etc) and tyre fixing.

Melissa is a great artist and she has her works for sale in the bar. Other odds and ends are available and Dave tells me that they will soon be offering BBQ packs and etc. This will save carting your meat out here.

The Cox’s reckon that its going to take a lot more years to get the place as they want it. Its hard work out there so pop in and say gidday and say hello to their little outback girl “Charlotte” the Cox’s new baby.

The visitors book at the Mac Clarke Waddy tree site.
Old Andado is worth close inspection.

Mt Dare to Dalhousie

From Mt Dare our next stop was Dalhousie springs. This place is an oasis and a must visit spot. Bring your togs and have a swim its fantastic. 40 degrees all year round. It really is therapeutic after bumping around in the sand. We didn’t want to get out but we had to push on. There were a few people camped around the springs but because its a mozzie haven like Purnie bore, there are better spots to stay near by.

The springs were discovered by Richard Knuckey in 1870 while constructing the overland telegraph line.

Coxy's new pub.

Dalhousie Ruins

The ruins at Dalhousie along with the Palm trees gives a great insight into what it must of been like in those days. The homestead was settled in the 1870’s by Ned Bagot as a sheep run. The palms were planted by the Lewis family who took over the lease in the 1890’s. Cattle took over from sheep at the turn of the century. The Dalhousie homestead was abandoned in the 1920’s and a new homestead built called Mt Dare in the 30’s. This remained in the Lowe family until the whole lot was taken over by the department of Environment and Heritage in 1984.

Theres plenty to see and if you have a kick around the scrub there’s all sorts of things to look at. There’s an unmarked grave of a lonely sole which again stresses the remoteness these pioneers endured.

Sharon from Ballina 4WD centre made the most of a swim at Dalhousie springs.
Dalhousie ruins. Have a scratch around the salt bush.

Oodnadatta Track

Our trip was coming to a close and the boys wanted to have our last night on the road at the William Creek Hotel. I wanted to camp out at “The Peake”. I lost.

On the way you go through Oodnadatta. The old railway station is worth a look and the beer is cold at the Pub. The footy was on while we were there and it was good to get a scores update. The Pink Roadhouse is where if you persist and wait, you will be given good advice on the track ahead. It was staffed by German lasses whom were passing through as back packers and stayed. I wondered why most of the boys bought more than normal!!

The Peake

With my passion for early explorers and their quests, a stop at the peake was high on my agenda.

The “Peake” was the last bastion of civilization as was Menidee in the North East.It was pivotal to the ex-plorers who headed north as a last stop to finalize stores, men and animals. Giles and Stuart both camped here. Sometimes for months as the stores and equipment caught up with them from Adelaide. They also used this place to recruit men to go on the explorations.

The Peake also was a repeater station in the overland telegraph line and was used up to the early 1900’s and then abandoned. Remnants of the old copper smelter are still apparent. There is still some slag about from the smelting process. There are many buildings here and its just about big enough to of been a small town.

If you are doing the Oodnadatta track this is a must see. Allow half a day to explore and there is some great spots to camp down on the flats.

This trip allowed no time for a detour to Lake Eyre out that really bumpy old road. Unless its full keep driving and a similar sight at Lake Eyre south is on offer with out the detour. We arrived at William Creek after dark and starving. We were told the tucker was off as we were too late. The new owner Neville did however say he would of cooked had he been told. Never mind!

We had a ball at William Creek and this place still has a great atmosphere. We partied until the wee hours singing and washing the dust from our throats.

We prised a loaf of bread from Neville’s wife Adriana, and had a make shift BBQ out back of the pub just as we should of been thinking about cooking breakfast!! Oh well it was the last night of the trip and worth it. Drop in and say gidday, it’s a must-stop.

We got away reasonably early (which was a struggle) and were soon at Coward springs. This place has been done up and offers amenities and restored history with the station master’s house and the engine driver’s cabin still there. There is lots of bird life here in the surrounding wetland and you can have a dip in the natural spa. The springs were named after Thomas Coward who was part of the Warburton exploration party who discovered them in 1858. Giles also used them as a base.

Pink Road house at Oodnadatta. Ruins of the old Pub at The Peake.
Ruins of the old Pub at The Peake.
Neville the new owner at William Creek Pub.
The boys with Tom Cruise's Mail truck at Maree.

Maree, Bliman, Home

We stopped at Maree for a quick look around. There is a lot of history here but we will save that for another day. We had to stop at the Copley bakery for lunch so we pushed on. If you haven’t stopped here for a Quondong pie you haven’t lived.

The back way home through Blinman and Wilpena pound saw us amongst the most beautiful scenery one could hope for. You could stay in this area for weeks alone just taking it all in. We will do this for sure.

Australia is an amazing place, gear up and get out into it.

See you on the road.
Mark and Karen

Mark and Bruce celebrating a successful trip.