This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2010 Travels April 29


It was a warm, fine day, with clear skies.

We lazed around camp in the morning, having decided we would go out to Lake Gairdner again, later in the day, and stay to watch the full moon rise over the lake.

When we went up to the office to collect the key, the lady told us there had been some illegal campers out at the lake. Apparently, they had collected a key from here, telling staff they would be coming back to camp here after they’d been to the lake, but never did come back. Access to Lake Gairdner out there was restricted to people who were campers at Mt Ive only and there was no camping, except for those attending DLRA events. So it was clearly a deliberate con.

Not only that, but later visitors complained about a whole lot of used nappies that had been left out there. What dishonest pigs!

We offered to take a garbag out with us and bring the offending items back, to save a Mt Ive staff person a trip all the way out there.

We departed for the lake at about 2.30pm.

When we got out there, found there was quite a heap of the dirty nappies, piled up beside the toilet door. We used sticks to gather and pile them into the garbag.

Brilliant salt lake under a blue sky

M and John walked across the lake – about a 5.4km return trip. I preferred to wander around on my own and take photos. There was no one else out there.

No longer even specks in the distance…..

Eventually, the other two became little black dots on the white lake surface, and then I couldn’t see them at all.

When the walkers returned, we made a camp fire and cooked Kransky, bacon and eggs, and ate that, with some salad.

The sunset over the lake was excellent, but the full moon rising was a let down. Of course, the moon rose from behind the hill, on the side of the lake we were on, so there was really no light effects on the lake surface as it rose. It also got quite cold.

About 9pm, we left to drive back to camp, taking the bag of nappies – well sealed – with us.

The drive back was necessarily slow, due both to the track surface and keeping an eye out for wild life.

The jaunt had been worth doing.

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2010 Travels April 24


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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1999 Travels September 6


Today was a pleasant one, not too hot, with some cloud and some sunshine.

We obtained a mud map of station tracks, when we booked in yesterday.

Were able to top up our fuel with 20 litres here – 86cpl.

Our first destination today was Kath’s Castle – a columnar rhyolite rock formation – which means pillar like shapes. The track was narrow, but not too rough. From its end, we walked up a small, dry, creek bed to reach the wall-like formation.

09-06-1999 01  scene from Kaths Castle.jpg

Kath’s Castle

We then climbed the hill beside Kath’s Castle, to see what the view from the top was like. The walk was longer than we’d anticipated, as the skyline was further than it looked!

Along the way, disturbed a number of wallabies and euros or kangaroos – I still can’t tell the difference, much of the time. We saw where they make circular “nests” in the spinifex that was prevalent through here.

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The nest of a wallaby or euro in the spinifex

The view from the ridge was worth the effort. There were good views over the distant Lake Gairdner.

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The outlook from the ridge behind Kath’s Castle

Clambered back down to Truck and drove on to Lake Gairdner. This was so surprising and so brilliant that we had some difficulty taking in what we’d come across, by a chance reading of a snippet in a magazine.

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Lake Gairdner

Lake Gairdner is a huge, brilliant white, dry, salt lake. On a map, it looks nearly as big as Lake Eyre, and is, in fact, Australia’s third largest salt lake. Yet we had never before heard of it! It is really beautiful and certainly should be better known.

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Looking north – Lake Gairdner receding into the distance

With its red shores, and low hills surrounding it distantly, and the really white surface, it is much more scenic than Lake Eyre.

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The contrasts of Lake Gairdner

We sat and ate lunch, just taking in the outlook over the Lake – in all directions.

When the sun came out from behind clouds, interesting light effects were created on the salt surface of the Lake.

09-06-1999 06 on Lake Gairdner looking nth

Sun shining through a hole in the cloud, onto the Lake surface

We spent some time on the Lake – walking on it and taking photos. The salt crust is about a metre thick, though in places some underlying red earth outcrops through the salt in some more shallow sections.

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This lake is vast….

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Salt grains encrusting an outcrop of red earth, on the lake

The sand grains are coarse and the patterns they make are interesting in themselves.

It was an absolutely fascinating, impressive place that will remain a highlight of our travels.

09-06-1999 11 Lake Gairdner John in distance

The dot out on the Lake is John walking

Our final destination for the day was an old rock wall dam, built across a little creek valley by the early pastoralists. It showed great craftsmanship in the stone wall construction, worthy of somewhere more significant than this old sheep property.

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Dam wall on Mt Ive Station

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John inspecting the workmanship of the dam wall

We walked up the dry creek valley for some distance and saw numbers of wallabies, euros and a small herd of goats. It was, therefore, a very smelly creek bed!

09-06-1999 dam valley

Dry valley behind the dam wall – with goats

We drove a total of 81kms today, on station tracks that were fairly slow going and sometimes rather rough and stony.

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Water from underground – windmill, tanks and drinking trough, with kangaroos drinking

Tea was soup, BBQ steak, baked potatoes and vegies.

What a full day we had! What a wonderful place we stumbled upon!

09-06-1999 19 gawler range wildflowers