18-May-2006 -- May 13-25th 2006 – trip organised by Ian McDougall – photos by Ian McDougall and others – story by Ian McDougall & Fiona Hawker
This trip was run under the auspices of the Central Hills 4WD Club Inc, based at Mt Barker, South Australia. The three principal objectives of the trip were:-
• to visit a number of degree confluence points (in connection with the world-wide Degree Confluence Project) on and near the Woomera (Rocket Range) Prohibited Area,
• to find and place a number of geocaches during the trip, and
• to enjoy ourselves in the vastness and beauty of the Australian Outback.
The members of the group, all being friends (and members of the CHFWDC) were:-
1. Ian and Kate McDougall, Trip Leaders,
2. John and Karen Carver,
3. Paul and Dee Drummond,
4. Rob French and Helen Rysuharn,
5. Peter and Fiona Hawker, and
6. Ron and Wanda Heyne.
Being mainly pastoral country where we intended to travel, Ian commenced writing to pastoral lessees some months before departure date, seeking their consent to access their vast leases, and in every case, permission was granted.
Ian also obtained a permit to travel through the Woomera Prohibited Area.
Five of the six couples who had signed up for the trip, met at the Wadlata Outback Centre at Port Augusta early afternoon, Saturday 13th May 2006. Paul and Dee had last minute car problems and met up with the group at Pimba the next day. The weather was fine and as promised by our worthy leader, remained that way for the entire trip.
The first day was an easy, short drive on the bitumen, to the first campsite between some dunes just off the Stuart Highway, short of Pimba. That night started the pattern of Ron and John expertly overseeing the development and maintenance of campfires, used by everyone for cooking, warmth and social focus. Although that first night wasn’t as cold as many we were to experience, we were not acclimatised and were more sensitive to the cold. Ron spoilt everyone that night by shovelling hot coals under our chair seats, an amazing heat – too hot for most of us!
Those first few nights were of a full moon rising early, providing a magnificent spectacle. As it progressively waned throughout the trip, the darker sky enabled stargazing and satellite spotting with the occasional shooting stars for magical moments. With each night sitting around the campfire we were entertained with the never ending quick wit and jokes from John, with Ian doing a valiant job of keeping up with the ever ready one-liners. One night we had a game run by Helen and Rob, another night a sobering and thought provoking reading by Paul. One night there was the spontaneous, entertaining and revealing exchanging accounts of the first meetings of the different couples. Throughout the trip there was the watching and comparing of the various culinary techniques of campfire cooking. Wood gathering was the perennial challenge but in most places we managed very well. We only needed to drive a-field once for firewood - sleepers from the old Ghan Railway at William Creek, which we then had to jealously defend against other opportunistic groups of campers at the campground.
On Sunday the 14th, as with most of the trip, we were packed up and on the road by 9am and quickly embarked upon the first of our geocache searches, off to the left, before Pimba, overlooking Island Lagoon. We then met up with Paul and Dee at Pimba. They had left Adelaide before dawn and so were at Pimba before the rest of us.
During the first 5 days, we visited 3 confluence points (Lat 31 S/Long 136 E, Lat 30 S/Long 136 E and Lat 29 S/Long 135 E).
We arrived at Arckaringa Station on the afternoon of Wednesday 17th. There was a good campground with firewood provided, showers, use of a washing machine, phone card accessible phone and even cabins. On the first night we had it all to ourselves, with a delightful young woman the only person on the place as her partner was off working for a few days on a neighbouring station. He returned the next day and was clearly very able in the role of manager of the place, but the two of them looked so young.
On Thursday, we had a day trip in the morning to the Copper Hills camp site – only to find it closed and for sale, but that didn’t stop us from tracking down another geocache. After lunch we had the most difficult but most enjoyable drive of the whole trip, to reach our next confluence point (Lat 28 S/Long 135 E). It is located about 27 kilometres south-east of Arckaringa Homestead, 67 kilometres south-west of Oodnadatta, and 115 kilometres north of Coober Pedy. It took several hours of heavy driving through the Arckaringa Creek flood plain to travel a couple of kilometres, then across soft and rocky ground only to be confronted by a north-south fence, which we had not been told of!
One vehicle headed north, and Ian went south, and luckily several kilometres later, found a gate, so all vehicles proceeded to his location. Then it was across country again roughly north-east for several more kilometres, to our destination. This time, from lack of other car tracks, it appeared we would be the first to document the confluence.
gain we went through the routine of taking our photographs – the location was typical for the area – low sand ridges, and very little scrub.
We then took the new track back to camp! Unfortunately still too late to make it to the Painted Desert for the sunset. Fiona and Pete still tried to get there but just missed it.
That night several other travellers arrived at the campground and amongst them a huge 6 wheeler 4WD, sparking considerable interest and conversation.
We struck camp and were on our way again on Friday 19th stopping off for a walk in the Painted Desert and of course another geocache.
We spent another 7 days on the trip, and visited another confluence point (Lat 29 S/Long 136 E), which we were apparently also first to log. Overall it was agreed that this was a most successful, enjoyable and relaxing trip. Our thanks to Ian for yet another well planned and thought through journey.