Googs Track in South Australia offers a Simpson-like experience, a failed stock route it offers touring four-wheel drivers an excellent adventure – South Australian gold.
***Disclaimer: This trip was done in 2019 before the Coronavirus outbreak had occurred. We strongly encourage our audience to follow guidelines set out to try and limit the spread of the virus. However, we do think now is the perfect time to be planning your next trip for when we are allowed to travel again, and Googs Track should be considered.
It was a memorable moment, staring out over the clear blue waters of the Ceduna coast, enveloped in a gentle cooling breeze. It is a beautiful part of the southern Australian coastline, but this would be the last we would see of it for a while. We had full tanks and a stirring excitement; it was time to kick the tyres and light the fires. Within 10 minutes we had left the Ceduna CBD and hit the dirt, heading north along one of the routes I had wanted to travel for years, Googs Track. It promised to be an almost Simpson-like experience (albeit south-north versus east-west) with the chance to spot and photograph a critter I had been hoping to see in the wild, the Thorny Devil.
The track starts with gentle undulations but soon changes into a classic series of rolling dunes, mostly gentle, with the occasional steeper and taller face. At the Dog Fence, which serves as an entry gate of sorts, we had aired down to 15psi, experience telling us this was going to be the best way to avoid ripping up dune faces and reducing our chance of tyre punctures while enjoying a comfortable ride. It is most undoubtedly 4X4-only country, and the lower pressures were already paying dividends.
Slowly saltbush mallee woodland began to make way for a more semi-arid feel, with spinifex far more prevalent in the understorey. The eucalypts closely line the track in many sections, which was giving our sand flags a hiding. Pat had decided to tow on this trip, so he had plenty of dodging to do. Unless seriously experienced, it would not be advisable to tow along here, and you should be prepared to lower tyre pressures even further if you do.
But this was enjoyable. Seriously enjoyable. There is a serene sense of calm out here, a feeling of being a rare and privileged traveller. In fact, we only encountered three other vehicles over our two-day traverse.
This track has a fascinating history. A man by the name of Stanley Gilbert John Denton (nicknamed ‘Goog’) and his wife Jenny cut this track from 1973 -1976. Why? Well if you believe the tales, it was because he wanted a faster way to get to the Kingoonya Pub up north. But likely, it was so he could have easier access to take livestock to the Trans-Australian Railway system or to satisfy curiosity and explore. Not a single animal ever actually made it to market on this route, however.
Until this point on the track, we had travelled more or less in a straight line, but there were a few promising detours up ahead. The first was Googs Lake to the east of the track. It is only a reasonably short detour, and it is well worthwhile. The first thing you will encounter along this detour is a memorial for Goog and his son Dinger. Over the years, people have added plenty of beer bottles and hundreds of coins to the cracks in the bark of the surrounding trees. It’s a beautiful thing to see that respects are still paid, and the tradition still lives on.
There is a vast camping area alongside the Lake which, much like its near cousin, Lake Gairdner, is mostly a clay and salt pan. Still, it’s pretty cool to see and a great spot if you want to layover for a few days, there’s plenty of space to call your own and remain private, we were shocked to see some fellow campers walk past, as we could see no evidence of their camp at all.
While it had been nearly 30-degrees Celcius during the day, the temp dropped to below freezing during the night; not a good night to be testing a new ultra-lightweight swag, pad and bag combo. I didn’t entirely freeze, but it was far from a comfortable night. I am not sure if was the dripping water in my swag or the sound of Major Mitchell Cockatoos which woke me from my fitful sleep, but I am sure that the latter was the only welcome intruder. Trying to defrost myself in the early morning sun, I was greeted by the sight of Pat exiting his steam-filled hybrid camper, all chipper and smiles after enjoying a hot shower and perfect night of sleep. It turns out he had the heater running all night too. Without an invite, I quickly made myself at home in his mobile bathroom, thawing out nicely in the hot shower.
It was interesting to compare our experiences that night (and morning); I was interested in exploring a hiking style, uber-light experience, saving as much space as possible. Pat, on the other hand, had 13-feet of off-road EzyTrail extravagance; his downside was that he had to tow it, losing out on fuel consumption and capability. Each has its benefits, I guess.
Toward the northern section of the track, there is another worthy detour, Mount Finke. Standing about 200m taller than the relatively flat landscape which surrounds it, it can be seen from afar – there is absolutely no chance of missing this structure.
Once again there is a reasonably large camp area here, (the second and last one along this route) but it’s not as lovely as the one at Googs Lake, with very little shade or privacy. We had arrived here in the afternoon, and after having some lunch and a chat with some other travellers, the crew set to work with the cameras. Unfortunately, one of the drones had a meltdown and disappeared into the distance, never to be seen again; if you are ever out this way, it is somewhere south of the mountain, you might score yourself a drone and our missing data.
Mount Finke was named by British explorer John McDouall Stuart who summited it in 1958, naming it after his friend William Finke. We also decided to climb the steep, rocky slopes to the summit and were rewarded with far-reaching views and the momentoes and plaques left by many, including that of Stuart’s.
It was a nice way to say goodbye to this area. Slowly the dunes disappeared into flat terrain, the sand became dirt, and we had a date for the night; a hot meal and cold beers at the Kingoonya Pub.
- Length: approx. 340km from Ceduna to Kingoonya. Both towns have fuel.
- Dunes: Count ‘em, 363 in total apparently.
- Permits: Ceduna Natural Resources Centre or Ceduna Visitor Information Centre (08) 8625 3144 and (08) 8625 3343, respectively.
- Driving: While there is nothing alarming at all, there are a few decent size dunes on the northern section of the track that require diligence. Sand flags are most definitely recommended. UHF Channel 10 is mandatory.