Let the Goog Times Roll - Googs Track, SA
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Words: Sam Richards
Pics: Sam Richards & Emma Warren
(Image: The Goog's Track is a rollercoaster that refuses to end.)
If solitude, dune driving, orange dirt vistas, desert wildlife, and starry skies tickle your fancy, check out the Goog’s Track in south-west South Australia.
If you’re after remote travel and offroad 4WDing, check out Goog’s Track in South Australia. Crossing over 300 dunes running east to west through the mallee scrub of the Yellabinna Wilderness Protection Area and Yumbarra Conservation Park, the track is less than 200km and includes a night or two of camping.
The track was blazed from 1973 to 1976 by ‘Goog’ Denton and his family to widen the market for local produce and while it’s not the ‘road’ they envisioned, it’s a brilliant recreational route.
(Image: The Goog's is remote, but not Simpson Desert remote.)
Due to the difficulty of the track and the resulting track wear, Parks SA advises against towing and also prefers people travel from south to north, from Ceduna to Kingoonya. The track is, however, two-way if you wish.
The drive offers isolation and picturesque landscapes of mallee trees and saltbush, explosions of yellow desert grevillea, daisies and purple fan flowers. The sand itself changes colour continuously, from faded orange, to mauve red, to blanched yellow and its surface displays distinctive animal tracks, including the undulating lines left by king brown snakes, the claw scratches of the goanna and the paw print of the dingo. Rarer animals to be seen include Major Mitchell cockatoos, thorny devils and malleefowl.
While the soft sand makes this drive difficult, it’s more so the mallee trees that drivers must watch out for. They have a network of branches stemming from low on the trunk and a wig of fluorescent green leaves at the tips, although even then, you may have pinstripe scratches down the side of your 4WD.
(Image: Dune after dune after dune - no rest for the wicked.)
Driving dunes is never easy but to begin with but start with low tyre pressures, around 15-20 psi, and remaining in 4WD throughout. High-range 4WD is enough with the centre differential variably locking and unlocking depending on the sand softness, with low-range only needed in certain areas.
If driving in auto, it’s best to use sports/semi-manual mode and select second or third gear when tackling dunes. The same principle applies for manuals; try to maintain about 2000–2400 revs until the crest is attained. Once confident you’ll make the crest, back off the accelerator and brake to slow down if needed to prevent the car from lifting into the air and to ensure a slower descent speed. Through the action of wind, loose sand accumulates at the top of most dunes, making for a shifting, buttery surface. Gearing in first or second for the descent will soften the impact of the bumps and reduce dependence on the brakes.
(Image: Goog's Lake features an array of soft colours.)
The steepest, softest dunes are north of Mt Finke, but those south of Goog’s Lake are relentless too, with those in the middle the easiest to traverse. Of all 4WD attributes, underbody clearance is most important on the Goog’s as the differential can hit the sand endless times.
If backing out of a bog or stall, it’s preferable to reverse down a sandhill in low-range, only if you approached in low-range. If not, consider controlling the descent by holding down the foot brake continuously and easing on and off the accelerator. Try to travel in straight lines and avoid turning side-on.
(Image: Mt Finke, down an easy 7km detour off the track.)
At the end of the day, stop for the night at one of the two campsites, one at the pink-jued salt-lake of Goog’s Lake and the other at Mt Finke, a rounded dome-line inselber rising from the plain.
If something happens and you break down, make sure you have essential gear such as recovery tracks, a shovel, a tyre deflator and a compressor, plus a snatch strap, a recovery hitch and shackles, too. Even if you’re travelling solo, having these will enable unequipped strangers to recover you.
The track’s official UHF channel is 18, so hop on that to communicate to fellow travellers — if, in fact, you come across any. Having all that untouched space to oneself is what it’s all about out there.