17-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 course of the first four days of the trip, we visited two confluence point (Lat 31 S/Long 136 E and Lat 30 S/Long 136 E) and on Tuesday evening, camped just east of Coober Pedy.
Before we left the campsite on Wednesday 17th, Ian laid a geocache. We turned off the Coober Pedy/William Creek Track, and drove north-west along the dog fence (the world’s longest fence, which keeps Australia’s wild dogs [dingoes] out of sheep country) for a while and then off across country on a GPS bearing to find our next confluence point (Lat 29 S/Long 135 E). As with the first confluence point, we were again pipped at the post, with tire marks around the area. We parked well clear of the point itself, walked to it, took our photographs, and walked back to the vehicles. The point was on a flat, featureless plain.
Nevertheless it was a fascinating area with what we later discovered to be large slabs of silicrete – like chunks of nature’s glass, strewn around in places. It was then back to the dog fence, which we followed north-west until the intersection with the track from Coober Pedy to Oodnadatta.
Another geocache was found there. We had a slight detour to visit the Breakaways (and another geocache) before returning back through the Moon Plains and up to Arckaringa Station were we stayed a couple of nights.
We spent another 10 days on the trip, and visited another 2 confluence points (Lat 28 S/Long 135 E and Lat 29 S/Long 136 E), both of which we were apparently the 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.