This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

2010 Travels April 24

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The skies today were a mix of cloud and clear, but rather stormy looking.

John was not permitted to sleep too late. After breakfast, we paid a fee, collected mud map and the key that would allow us access to the Lake Gairdner Track, and set off to drive the 30kms there.

The track was not too bad. Apart from tourists, who could only get the track key from the station, this track was used by the Dry Lakes Racing Association to access their club house beside the lake. Once a year, a race event is held here and racers use the bush camp area around the club house. So, essentially the track is little used.

There is one other way to access the shores of the lake, via the unsealed road that comes south from Kingoonya to the Eyre Highway at Kimba. A track leads off that, to the Waltumba Tank, where there is a little National Parks campground on the western side of the lake, just a bit further north from our access on the eastern side.

When we came down this way, first, in ’99, it was from Kingoonya. Lake Gairdner was, then, a real surprise to us. Australians almost universally know about Lake Eyre, but this one was still so little known. Yet, according to National Parks, it is the third largest salt lake in Australia, after Lakes Eyre and Torrens.

Lake Gairdner (Google Earth). Marker shows our access point.

It doesn’t have water in it very often. Unlike Lake Eyre, which has stream systems entering it which sometimes bring water from storm events in NW Qld.

Lake Gairdner is very irregular in shape, but is roughly 160kms long and up to nearly 50kms wide, in parts. The access track from Mt Ive goes in to the southern end, where it is quite narrow, and it is possible to see the other shore.

The beauty of Lake Gairdner lies in its brilliant white salt surface, contrasting with the red earth of the surrounding hills, with their low, sparse shrubbery. It was this spectacle that so amazed us on our first visit.

Lake Gairdner

Because the salt surface of the lake is over a metre thick in parts, it has been the location for land speed world record attempts, and it is why the DLRA has a facility here.

Mud stained salt at the edge of the lake

The lake was as brilliant as I had remembered.

Out on the lake – looking to the north

There were some patches of water on the surface of the salt – must have been a bit of rain not too long ago. These reflected the clouds – wonderful!

Reflections in surface puddles

It was a great day for photos and we wandered about, taking heaps. Thank heavens for digital!

Salt encrusted debris – wind blown twigs

Surface patterns on the salt

The stormy, dark sky was a great contrast.

One could imagine themselves at sea….

We had been told that the salt adversely affects the soles of shoes, so I’d worn thongs, not wanting to damage  my hugely expensive walking shoes. The other two had worn their walking footwear and were probably a lot more comfortable than I was, as we walked across the salt surface, towards the other side, for about half an hour. Grainy salt between the toes – not nice. It was hard to tell what progress we made in that time, but probably got over half-way across, before we turned back.

The other side was further than it looked
DLRA building and carpark

The sun began to come through the clouds, and made interesting lines of light across the salt surface.

Animals had been out on the salty surface…

Ate our pre-packed lunches back at the vehicles.

Loo with a view….

Heading back towards camp, we turned off to visit the Embankment. This was a dam wall, built in 1892 across a small valley. In such an arid environment all means of gathering water were tried by the early settlers.

The Embankment

The dam wall featured beautiful stonework and real craftsmanship.

Quite a tall structure

There was no water trapped behind it on this visit, just a few puddles drying out, but it would be really pretty on the rare occasions it filled.

The valley behind the Embankment could hold a considerable amount of water…

We walked quite a way up the valley behind the wall. There was a very strong smell of goat!

Strong smell of goat here….

The block/pillar like rock formations that are characteristic of this area make it dramatic, added to by the tortured shapes of dead bushes.

Back to camp, after a great day out.

We were rather cross to find that a camper trailer had been set up immediately behind us, on the other side of the screen. What is it, that with heaps of space all around, some people feel compelled to set up virtually on top of others? So rude. To make it worse, this couple had a handicapped adult son with them, who made loud animal-like noises for much of the time. It was very intrusive and ruined the ambience of the place. Full marks to them for travelling with him, but perhaps they should have been more cognizant of his impact on others, given that there was plenty of room to camp.

 More campers had come in today – it was a long weekend.

John tried to install the new CB aerial. No go! He should have had it done in Port Augusta, after all.

Had happy hour around our campfire, to the background grunts and groans coming from behind us.

Tonight we had an entree of avocado dip, with vegie sticks to dip in it, followed by baked potatoes with coleslaw and grated cheese on top.

John watched a film, inside the van – A Man called Horse. It was all grunts and Indian dialect. I very uncharitably hoped the very near neighbours enjoyed it! I went to bed, with earplugs.

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