Entering the Gawler Ranges (and getting bogged !)
Dernière mise à jour : 13 avr. 2022
As soon as we heard that Western Australia was opening its borders, we hit the brakes and turned left! Instead of heading up through the Center on our alternate plan due the border closure in WA, we reverted to the original plan. This implied crossing the North of the Eyre Peninsula (South Australia) quickly to get to the Nullarbor. This would have been a big mistake.
We all know that Australia is big, but when you think you need to quickly get from A to B, you may overlook some incredible places. As much as we spend time looking at fascinating landscapes, we also talk to other travellers on the road, read our atlases, other blogs, brochures, IG posts, etc... Usually a tip, an article or a photo points to a must-visit place. We look it up on the map, bookmark the spot. Only then do we realise how many additional hours if not days it would take to get to it.
The Gawler Ranges
This National Park is located in the Northern part of the Eyre Peninsula, and was named by the explorer Edward John Eyre (more on him in another post) (I keep saying this, but I really don't know when I am going to write all those "other" posts...), after South Australia Governor George Gawler in 1839. This was part of his early expeditions in SA.
Reading into it, there seemed to be a strong polarisation of the comments regarding whether or not to visit them. Simply put, some said "skip it", some said "bucket-list site of Australia". The decision was simple. We would see for ourselves.
Testing the rig (and the driver)
Another place we had on our radar was the big and possibly picture-prefect shiny-and-pink Lake Gairdner, which is best approached from the South side, staying at the remote Mt Ive Station. We spent the night at Kimba, the geographic middle point of Australia, a welcoming small town with a few attractions: 1. A completely free RV zone with a lot of space, a modern shed with free BBQ, sinks and water, showers and toilets. This is so far the absolute best free overnight stay we have had. Thank you Kimba! 2. A beautiful silo mural. 3. The Big Galah, one of the Australia Big Things. And 4. the Halfway-across-Australia photo opportunity!
After an excellent night and a short photo session, we took the road North (after a small detour to visit the John Eyre and Wylie lookout and sculptures). We did not know what to expect, but after a few kilometers, it was clear that our adventure was taking a new turn. The road in front of us stopped. Well... the sealed road. Our 3T caravan was finally en route to its first gravel-corrugated-dirt road test.
The first 95% of the trip on that day went absolutely fine. We entered the outback and got our first real feeling of space and uninterrupted nature. The eerie colours of the land and vegetation, and the mobs of emus running around. Not a single human nor vehicle seen.
Simply stunning. So far, so good.
But 95% leaves... the very last section, 10 km from our destination (Mt Ive Station). Coming around the corner, we see this flooded portion on the road, bringing us to a stop. Time to ponder. We get out of the car, walk to it, and consider our options: 1. go straight through it, not knowing how deep it was, nor how hard the bottom was. A leap (or roll) of faith for a totally inexperienced "I-tow-a-big-caravan-through-flood-waters" driver. 2. The side of the road goes through the field, looks reasonnably flat and dry. We would give it a go.
Not for long.
The ground was softer than we (or I should say: I) thought. No speed + soft ground + a lot of towing weight = disaster.
We decided we needed another strategy this time, since driving normally was not possible anymore. Out come the shovel and the Maxtrax (thanks Tim, we owe you). I let Melissa fiddle with them to get them in the best position. Deep breath. Foot on the pedal and pray. The engine revs up, the car starts rocking and the wheels grind their way on top of the Maxtrax. No looking back, full diesel ahead, keep the momentum and rock that baby all the way to the other side of the flooded waters. Deep breath. Yes!
The last 5% to Mt Ive was a very peaceful and lovely drive.
Learning from our mistakes
We have taken the time to debrief the "experience" to hopefully learn from it. Our obvious conclusion was that I, Boris, aka "the Driver", rushed into a decision without thorough understanding and assessment of the situation. The side of the road was MOSTLY dry and seemed hard enough. To hold my hopping weight. But it appears that I do not weigh upwards of 3T.
There were tracks going into the water. We should have tested that path: take your shoes off, put flip flops and go into the flooded area. How deep, how firm? Analyse the tracks carefully and acknowledge that if others have made it through, you could, too.
Always consider carefully the options, discuss and reach a shared decision. Sorry My Love, I did not follow that sacred process.
The next day, we learnt that we actually had to go through it again, as the turn-off to our next destination was 10 meters AFTER the flood. Bummer. This time we stopped a bit further before the water. Had a good look at the tracks. I sat back in the driver's seat. The drone was up ready to help you judge how we did this time.