14-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.
The second geocache was found on the shores of Lake Hart, next to the railway track where we also had lunch. An interesting area with a pile of salt, rows of salt encrusted stumps extending out into the ‘lake’ and a sign warning of ‘live bombs and ammunition’ under the salt and mud surface. It was a live ammunition and bombing range.
The first confluence point (Lat 31 S/Long 136 E) was on Coondambo Station, roughly 82 kilometres west of Woomera, and 23 kilometres east of Glendambo. We left the Stuart Highway at Wirraminna, crossed the East/West Transcontinental railway, and headed north-west until we reached the track we would follow some 17kilometres north to East Well Outstation. From here, we swung west and follow the main track for several kilometres until we were due north of the confluence point. It was then a simple matter of winding through some 3 kilometres of mulga scrub until we arrived near the point. We then left our vehicles, and used our GPS receivers to lead us to the point. We then took our photographs, but it was clear from vehicle tracks, that we were not the first to visit the confluence. After the required formalities, we went on to camp near the East Well Outstation for the night.
We spent another 11 days on the trip, and visited another 4 confluence points (Lat 30 S/Long 136 E, Lat 29 S/Long 135 E, Lat 28 S/Long 135 E, and Lat 29 S/Long 136 E), 3 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.