The Goog, the Bad and the Ugly


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September 8th 2020
Published: September 8th 2020
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Climbing a sand duneClimbing a sand duneClimbing a sand dune

Goog's Track, South Australia
When planning this trip, there were two key places I wanted to visit and everything else was added while joining the dots. The first is the Flinders Ranges, which will be the final stage of my visit to South Australia. The other was Goog’s Track.

Goog’s Track runs north from Ceduna up to the Trans-Australia railway through remote country. Described as a mini-Simpson Desert, it crosses approximately 360 sand dunes as it passes the salt lake named after the first white man to set foot on it, Goog’s Lake, and Mount Finke. While it is not a long distance - the track itself goes for about 150km – you need to be self-sufficient as the distance between services is about 350km and there is essentially no water along the way.

On Friday morning I stopped for a quick supply at the supermarket in Ceduna and after marvelling at the price difference for my favourite loaf of bread (it’s easy to forget how much transport costs for our groceries) I was ready to go. While filling up on fuel I had a chat with a truck driver from Western Australia who had done the track and while his advice was
Mount Finke casts its shadowMount Finke casts its shadowMount Finke casts its shadow

Goog's Track, South Australia
nothing I didn’t already know, it was good to get confirmation that I should be fine.

The road north soon turned to gravel as I passed the last few farms before the Yumbarra Conservation Park. The last farm, Lone Oak, is owned by the Denton family. John Denton (known as ‘Goog’) and his son Martin (‘Dinger’) cleared the track north during the 70’s. It was here that I aired down, reducing my tyre pressure to 16 psi because of the sand ahead. There was no shortage of flies to help me, so I was glad I’d picked up a fly net.

I passed through the two gates, one being the dog, or dingo, fence that crosses the country from the Nullarbor to southern Queensland to protect the sheep-grazers of South-Eastern Australia from dingos. The first part of the drive was easy, but I took it slow as I had all day to get to my first campsite at Goog’s Lake. Even when I encountered the first sand dunes, my Hilux just ate up the track and I thought it might get a bit boring if it remained like this.

First stop of interest was a side-track marked
Me and my carMe and my carMe and my car

Coober Pedy, South Australia
in my book simply as “To Rockhole”. I had plenty of time so I decided to check it out. A couple of kilometres later I parked the car near a fenced off area with a sign saying it was an area of indigenous cultural significance. I walked a short distance to a large section of rock which, unsurprisingly, had a hole in the middle. There was water in the hole, and it was obvious why this was important to the original inhabitants of the area because they would have needed places such as this to survive in such arid country.

I returned to the main track and continued on. The first section of the track was straightforward, but I still enjoyed it. Before I knew it, I was nearly at the Denton Family Memorial and Goog’s Lake. As it was only 1pm, I decided to check out another side-track, this one marked “To Old Airstrip”.

I never found the airstrip, but I drove along about 10km before my GPS said there was no more road. I found this difficult to believe because I could quite clearly see the road ahead of me. I kept driving, feeling like an
Airing downAiring downAiring down

Goog's Track, South Australia
intrepid explorer. I came across a small salt lake and decided to stop and check it out.

Getting out of the car, I walked across the lake to take some photos. Underneath the salt was a layer of mud, so I was glad I was not stupid enough to drive on it. I wasn’t the only one to have walked on it as I encountered a few sets of emu footprints. However, being a desert, there was a lack of grass to wipe the mud off my boots, so I decided to wait for it to dry by having some lunch. With a full stomach and slightly cleaner shoes, I continued on the track.

I came to an intersection and randomly took the left-hand turn. I soon came to a much larger salt lake that turned out to be Goog’s Lake. There were a lot of good campsites and I found one at the end of the track that was only 5 metres from the lake shore. I realised these were the camp sites on the south shore of the lake that one of my books mentioned and decided I would explore the other track before coming back
The track beginsThe track beginsThe track begins

Goog's Track, South Australia
to camp there.

The other track continued around the southern end of the lake for a bit, gradually becoming more overgrown until eventually it stopped altogether. It was not as nice as the other campsite I found, so I turned around and headed back. I arrived back and set up camp and relaxed, expecting some other camper to turn up and ruin my isolation.

But they didn’t. I had the place all to myself. As dusk approached, I walked out onto the lake to see if I could see any signs of other people and saw none. I did come across a strange set of tracks crossing the lake but couldn’t work out what they were. About the size of an emu’s, but a completely different shape. They also appeared to be in single file and were about 2 metres apart. I have no idea what made them!

I returned to camp and when it got dark, I headed back out onto the lake to see if I could see any camp lights or fires around the lake. Again, nothing. I was completely alone, and it was epic being out in the middle of the lake. It’s
The sand dunes aheadThe sand dunes aheadThe sand dunes ahead

Goog's Track, South Australia
about 15km long and 1km wide, and it was all mine! Not that I did much with all that space. I took the opportunity to do some night sky photography before the full moon rose, but that was about it. Sitting back in camp and watching the moon rise in near silence was amazing.

In the morning I woke up at sunrise and took a few photos before heading back to my swag and having some more sleep. By the time I rose again, I was well behind the flies and I experienced cooking with a fly net on for the first time. The cooking itself was fine, but the net did make me realise how often I lick my fingers clean… or attempt to!

I packed up camp, even though I figured I would come back there and camp again that night. There was another “main” campground on the north-western shore of the lake and I was going to drive past it so I would check it out and possibly camp there instead. I was back on Goog’s track at around 11am, but I wasn’t planning to stay on it long.

First stop was the Denton
RockholeRockholeRockhole

Goog's Track, South Australia
Family Memorial where there are memorials for Goog and Dinger. Dinger died in a car accident and one of his mates left him some beer money in a nearby tree which has been added to over the years. I added a coin too and headed to the campground. The camp had two groups, one with 2 vehicles and the other with 3 so I knew I wouldn’t be camping there. It did have an eco-toilet, so I guess many people would prefer it. But I preferred my peaceful camp.

From the campground I headed down the Childara Rockhole Track. I had planned to spend the day driving down there. The Childara Rockhole is just outside the Conservation Park, but there were some other rocks to visit on the way. The track had only a handful of sand dunes as it ran east-west as the sand dunes do. But it had terrible corrugations, particularly bad for about 20km. I also had to take off my sandflag after catching it on overhanging trees multiple times, including once when the top of the pole got stuck in a forked branch and I had to find a long stick to nudge it loose.
Flowers in the desertFlowers in the desertFlowers in the desert

Goog's Track, South Australia


Eventually I reached the turn off for Lois Rocks and headed down a very narrow, windy track. I reached the roped off parking area and headed out to the rocks. It was a huge rock with some smaller boulders on top. But it towered above the surrounding planes and gave some great views. The tracks allow you to see very little of the countryside, so it was worth the visit.

Returning to the track, a short distance away was the turnoff for the Nalara Rock. Not as far off the main track, but also not as high as Lois Rocks. It did look a bit grassy, and almost park-like. I had a pleasant walk around and returned to the car.

I decided to give Childara Rockhole a miss because it was now 3:30pm and I was 70km from the main campground, and therefore about 85km from my camp and I had no desire to return in the dark. Not looking forward to the drive back, I set off. As I knew what lay ahead, I was able to drive a bit faster on the way back and that helped with the corrugations. The track still rattled the
More sand dunesMore sand dunesMore sand dunes

Goog's Track, South Australia
car and I, but not nearly as bad. I returned to Goog’s Lake with plenty of light left and used the facilities there before continuing on to the same campsite as the night before. I arrived just on dusk and was glad to see I would be alone again. After a repair job on my sandflag, I cooked dinner and headed to bed.

On Sunday I headed off earlier because I wanted to arrive at the Mount Finke campground with plenty of time to climb the mountain. However, I wasn’t early enough to get ahead of the 3 vehicles from the other campground and I could hear them on the radio ahead of me having problems with some dunes. I knew they had camper trailers, but I still worried that the dunes would be much tougher than the ones I crossed on Friday.

They were, but the Hilux had no trouble with them at all. It is recommended that you travel south to north, but I’m not sure that makes it easier. Camper trailers and incorrect tyre pressures had cut up the southern approaches of the bigger dunes, so it was very bumpy approaching them. But I managed
More sand dunesMore sand dunesMore sand dunes

Goog's Track, South Australia
to get enough momentum to reach the top, backing off enough so I just eased over the crests and did not break anything on my suspension. The only dune I didn’t make it over in one go was purely due to driver error as I backed off a little to early. But I dropped into low range and crawled over without any trouble.

I soon caught up to the camper trailers and they pulled over to let me past. Judging by the radio conversations, they were having less trouble as they went on, so perhaps they were new to offroading and had managed to get the hang of it. I stopped along the way to chat with a few people heading south - a grape grower and his family from the Barossa valley were friendly and I had a long conversation with another guy who was travelling solo like me. He was reticent at first, but I must have said something, and he soon started chatting like we were old friends. He was loving the track, but he said he had seen some people struggling, including a lady in tears.

Before I knew it, I could see Mount
Stopped beside a salt lakeStopped beside a salt lakeStopped beside a salt lake

Goog's Track, South Australia
Finke in the distance. The dunes became more spaced out and then I hit a rocky patch just before the Mount Finke turnoff. As I arrived, there was one car in the first campground that had taken a prime spot under the trees. I continued on to the second campground and while there was no shade, I did find a picnic table to park alongside and with my awning above it I had a pretty good campsite.

Just in time too, as another car arrived from the north shortly after. They had done Goog’s track before and said it was currently in bad condition. They also mentioned a lady in tears because of how hard the dunes were. I was really surprised because I didn’t have any trouble at all. But I had done my research and perhaps had more experience.

After making lunch, I decided to tackle the mountain. It looked bigger than I expected, having seen it on a few YouTube videos and such. As I started walking, I ran into a guy who was coming down. He was one of the two guys camped in the shade and despite being an old bloke, he made
On the salt lakeOn the salt lakeOn the salt lake

Goog's Track, South Australia
it 2/3 of the way up and said he only turned back because he ran out of beer. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked, I thought. We had a pleasant conversation and I headed on.

The climb wasn’t as long as it looked, strangely enough. But it was steep in the middle section and the surface was all loose rocks and spinifex. I made the mistake a couple of times of reaching for the spinifex when nearly losing my footing and spiked my hands. I only did that a couple of times before I learned.

Also, about half-way up my phone started going off. As Mount Finke rises up from flat surroundings, I was getting mobile signal for the first time in days. As it was Father’s Day, I had expected not to be able to call dad but now I was able to. The final section of the climb was a pretty easy stroll compared to the rest and I reached the cairns on the summit. It’s not actually the summit of Mount Finke though, as I could see the trig marker on another rise, but it was enough for me. I called dad but
Surface of the salt lakeSurface of the salt lakeSurface of the salt lake

Goog's Track, South Australia
had to leave a message and rang my sister instead. We chatted for a bit, but when I noticed that I could see the shadow of the mountain starting to stretch out onto the plains, I had to go. I took some photos and then set about finding my way down the mountain. With the loose rocks it was hairy in places, but I made it down in one piece before dark.

The night’s camp was peaceful, if not quite as isolated as the previous two nights. However, I was not up early enough to beat the camper trailers again but thankfully I didn’t catch up to them until the end of the track where it was time to air up a bit and remove sand flags.

I had caught up with my mountain-climbing buddy and they let me pass. As we were airing up, he came to thank me because by passing them he finally convinced his mate that corrugations and cut up sand dunes could be dealt with using a bit of speed instead of the crawling they’d been doing over the whole track so far. I think he had been a frustrated passenger.

With
Emu footprint on the salt lakeEmu footprint on the salt lakeEmu footprint on the salt lake

Goog's Track, South Australia
the Goog’s track completed, I was really happy. My car had done it easily, and without any problems or breakages (except the sandflag, which needs a more permanent fix when I get home). It has made me want to start planning a Simpson Desert trip in the future. I don’t want to do that solo though, so I’ll have to find someone to come with me.

From the crossing of the Trans-Australian Railway, I had about 150km of gravel roads through Tarcoola and Kingoonya before I reached the Stuart Highway. Turning north, I had 200km of good, smooth bitumen before I reached my hotel in Coober Pedy. Well overdue for a shower, I had dinner in the hotel restaurant before turning in, thoroughly exhausted.

On Tuesday I took it easy in the morning, making the most of the hotel by sorting out the photos from the 4 days of travelling on Goog’s Track. At midday, I headed out to see Coober Pedy. There’s not much to Coober Pedy except for opal mining and underground houses, so I figured an afternoon would be enough.

First stop was the Umoona Opal Museum, next door to the hotel. It was
My isolated campMy isolated campMy isolated camp

Goog's Track, South Australia
quite interesting but seems to be as much about the gift shop as anything else. I had a good chat with the guy there about the opal industry today. Apparently, the prices have gone up quite a lot lately, but that was due to so few people mining them these days. Opal mining is not suited to large industrial mining, so it’s all about old-fashioned hard work and nobody is interested in that now. He said Coober Pedy has only one opal miner under 40. He also told me that you can’t mine within the town anymore, but people with underground houses all have more rooms than they need, because if you are “renovating” and find opals that is okay.

I then got in the car and headed out to the iconic Coober Pedy sign to get the obligatory photo of my car parked underneath. Then I headed to the Old Timer Mine, which is a museum that shows you how the early mining was done. The crazy part, for me, was that they had to climb down a vertical shaft to start work each day and climb back out when they were done. No ladders, just dig the
Hiding from the fliesHiding from the fliesHiding from the flies

Goog's Track, South Australia
shaft to match your body size and cut some foot holes. The guy there gave me a couple of tips for other places to go for good photos while I’m in Coober Pedy.

The first place was on the edge of town and it was the underground Serbian Orthodox Church. It was quite nice, but churches aren’t really my thing. However, the second thing he recommended was about 20km north of town, called the Breakaways. I had no idea what it was, but I headed out there.

Arriving at about 4pm, I was completely blown away. The Breakaways are some mesas that rise out of the plains. The area is an important indigenous area as well. With their flat tops, they look a bit like the mesas in Monument Valley in the USA, but the soil beneath the tops were multiple colours and spectacular. I spent some time taking photos from different vantage points before heading back to town via the dog fence (yes, the same one I crossed at the beginning of Goog’s track). Due to the open ground here, the fence looked more impressive as it goes as far as you can see. Which is a
Dusk descends on Goog's LakeDusk descends on Goog's LakeDusk descends on Goog's Lake

Goog's Track, South Australia
long way on flat terrain.

And that is it for this stage of the journey. I have a long drive ahead of me tomorrow as I head up to Uluru. Technically, that isn’t in South Australia, but I figured it would be worth making the detour as it’s as close as I’ll be to it for a long time and I’ve never been there before. I’m sure it will be a bit touristy, but I think it will still be impressive. At least, I hope so!


Additional photos below
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The night sky from Goog's LakeThe night sky from Goog's Lake
The night sky from Goog's Lake

Goog's Track, South Australia
My camp at nightMy camp at night
My camp at night

Goog's Track, South Australia
Sunrise over Goog's LakeSunrise over Goog's Lake
Sunrise over Goog's Lake

Goog's Track, South Australia
The Denton Family MemorialThe Denton Family Memorial
The Denton Family Memorial

Goog's Track, South Australia


8th September 2020
The Dog Fence

Envy!
Loved it - can't believe how much I'd like to be there and can't understand why, in all the years I've had available to me, I never thought of doing something like this before now. The Breakaways are spectacular and I am reminded of some of the photos I've seen of the Painted Desert which I plan on visiting next year on the way back from WA.
9th September 2020
The Dog Fence

I know what you mean
I can't believe I haven't done road trips like this and my WA one last year before. The Breakaways were a good consolation considering I can't quite make it to the Painted Desert on this trip. I recommend checking it out though, even if you go to the Painted Desert as well. It's a quick visit.
13th September 2020

Off the beaten track
We enjoyed your blog. All those unknown left turns take on adventure. Love the photo of you with the netting.... those dang flies.
16th September 2020

Thanks
The fly net is the best $10 I spent preparing for this trip!

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