Letho's Blog

The Sleaford – Wanna Dunes

by on Apr.05, 2011, under The Eyre Peninsula

April 05, 2011

After a cold night at Fishery Bay we paid the library in Port Lincoln a quick visit. On our way back we decided to head straight into the Lincoln NP and go along the Sleaford-Wanna-Dunes track as long as there was daylight available. This track is strictly 4WD only .. but after our experiences in the Outback so far we thought this should be doable for us. What a disastrous enterprise this would become … 🙁

When we entered, it was 3pm. Enough time to do the track in roughly 1.5-2 hours and get out safely. So we thought. And off we went!

You can probably imagine by these pictures that the sand on the track was really soft and sometimes deep. It is not an exaggeration to compare it to Sahara-like sand dunes. Enough to get easily bogged every now and then, and if not that, at least it will slow you down tremendously…

Get a better idea of it:

We first stopped at Salmon Hole and met only a couple of fishermen trying their luck. The coastline was impressive, so was the undamped surf of the Pacific.

The dunes were getting bigger and bigger, the track was only to be found by following markers which are placed here and there – if you are lucky…

Still no problem, we thought and happily drove deeper and deeper into the track .. and deeper and deeper ..

Occasionally we met some locals on the way. No camels, however, but a herd of emus. 🙂

We drove on and on, facing more and more obstacles on the way, i.e. sand hills, that were increasingly harder to surpass.

We had heard that you should lower your tyre pressure in deep sand, but never actually were forced to that so far. Furthermore we had neither a deflator nor a compressor on board to check and refill the tyres after getting out of the sand. But until now we still were able to continue, although we had to try 3-4x times more often to pass a hill. Poor LandCruiser .. rev’ing that high in your old age. 🙁

We still enjoyed our adventure very much, stopping here and there and catching a glimpse of the fascinating landscape:

Maybe the locals knew what was about to happen .. judging from their baffled looks:

Enjoy the last pictures we took before dusk .. yeah, dusk with us being in the middle of nowhere.

To those of you light-hearted: stop reading now. We survived it, or how could we have written this, eh?

To those of you being more brave, or just curious how it ended – read on. But I warned you, right? 😉

We finally came to a sand hill that seemed just too high. We had already been driving roughly 13-15 kilometers into the track, that means the end must have been pretty close, but it still wasn’t in sight!

After taking a lot of tries with a lot of force (during one I accidentally rev’ed the engine so high that the needle got stuck at the end of the red scale – imagine an engine breakdown here and now!)  we decided to let the tyres down as a last resort. What we thought to be a reduction of 15 psi turned out to be just 2-3 psi when we refilled the tyres the day after – completely useless!

By now it was seriously getting dark, and we still couldn’t get over the hill. In addition to that, we hadn’t seen anyone else doing the track all day .. it was now that we noticed the engine seriously getting hotter and hotter. Since we had some water on board, a refill of coolant seemed easy. Do you remember what it usually says on radiator caps? Right: „Do NOT open while hot!“ However, we had done that a couple of times before with no trouble.

Stupid me .. I opened the cap and .. SWOOSH .. the boiling and steaming water spilled out of the radiator in an endless stream .. or so it seemed. After maybe 10 seconds it finally stopped. It had not only covered the engine block everywhere, but also hit us. Luckily we weren’t burned severely! So we stood in the middle of a desert, the radiator almost empty and still no success getting out of here.

After refilling the radiator we restarted the engine, only to be surprised by the next problem: the engine running really bad and rough. Probably no wonder after that hot bath. I opened the distributor cap, only to discover that the graphite-made sliding contact was completely worn. Not just a tiny bit, but so much that there was no contact at all. We had an older, worn cap on board that I fit in, but the engine still would not run acceptable. So we decided to get the proper sliding contact from the old cap and fit it into the newer cap. That thing has a spring underneath – if it would have slipped off into the sand, this totally would have been the end. Did I mention that it was completely dark already? And after refitting our improvised „new“ ignition system the engine was still not running better.

We finally decided to go back all the way, car breakdown or not – we just had no other choice! Oh well – we thought about staying there for the night, but with no food and proper water that option was just the very last one to be taken. However, what was pretty straightforward at daylight turned out to be a major problem at night: we often could not find the right tracks or were simply unable to locate the markers along the way. We ended up driving circles every now and then or driving into dead ends. One time we drove up a steep hill when I suddenly realized that there were no other tyre marks leading up there. In the last moment on top of the hill I stopped and got out of the car .. only to find nothing but a deep abyss on the other side!

We drove on and on with our severely battered truck, always hoping to make it out eventually, knowing what obstacles were still waiting since we had passed them already. And we did, slowly but steady, after a 3 hour drive in the dark (remember: not more than 15 kilometers) – after 9pm we passed the entry gates and drove back to our camp. Being quite a bit traumatized, but without major harm.


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