Our plan was to follow the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail from Alice Springs to Oodnadatta, but it didn’t really turn out that way. As the track followed the old Ghan Railway, we saw ruins of sidings, each being identical to the last. The track was also really corrugated and we were concerned about our shocker rubbers, which didn’t last long.
One location we had wanted to visit months ago was the Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve. Unfortunately, the road leading in was pretty shitty so we had to ask ourselves whether the excursion was worth it.
Chambers Pillar was named by John MacDouall Stuart after one of his sponsors, James Chambers. It is a 50m tall sandstone pillar that was used as a landmark during the exploration days. The base of the pillar is riddled with names carved into the soft sandstone, including initials by Alfred Giles from 1870 and scribbles by recent tourists. From the base, you can see the nearby Castle Rock.
Camping at Chambers Pillar is available at a small fee, and toilets and BBQs are provided.
Once we left Chambers Pillar, the road did not improve. We found that the track follows alongside the Finke Desert Race track so we switched lanes to see if the conditions were better. While the race track was smoother, it was also consistently undulating, and after 20 minutes, we had to get off because we made ourselves seasick!
We camped at Engoordina Ruins, a crumbled siding for the old railway.
We got into Finke 8am, just as some local men started work to the sounds of sappy love songs. Is this a common thing in the Centralian desert – to listen to 90s love ballads about lost love and broken hearts?
While Dave fitted some makeshift shocker rubbers fashioned from scrap tyre, Juz wandered around and noticed she was being followed by stray dogs. We considered continuing along the Old Ghan Heritage Trail but figured that this would be a better time than any to head back to the highway. We were tired of seeing the same ruins over and over, and the corrugations were going to shake the doors off the Troopy, so we turned towards Kulgera.
On the way back to the highway, we stopped in to check out the geographical and gravitational centre of Australia. Established in 1988, the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia determined the Lambert Centre to be the geographical centre of Australia. Lambert was a former director of the Division of National Mapping.
There is a monument that resembles the flagpole atop the Parliament House in Canberra and a visitor’s book, as well as a large camping area, smelly toilets and millions of flies.