Willow Springs Station in South Australia is home to the Skytrek 4WD track.
Constructed in 1995, it links together station roads, old mining and goat shooters’ tracks, as well as 26km of newly created track along the ridge tops. In 2012 the track course was changed a little, but it’s still an exhilarating drive.
Skytrek is 80km in length and will take you at least six hours to complete. That in itself should give you an idea of the type of track you’re about to encounter. But before you can access it, you’ll need to collect the key from the Willow Springs Homestead, and pay a fee of $65 per vehicle (you get a $5 discount if you’re staying on the station).
From there, the main thing you need is a vehicle with low-range 4x4, and the experience and know-how to use it. Almost everything else you should know about the track will be provided by the homestead.
Don’t be put off by all the rules and instructions. In these days of health and safety gone-mad, the track managers have been forced to point out the obvious; you can only reminisce about the days when natural selection and survival of the fittest was all the go.
The upside is that you receive a fantastic booklet outlining 50 points of interest clearly signposted along the track. These range from natural features and aboriginal artwork to buildings and the station itself.
You’ll need to drag yourself out of your swag reasonably early to get started, because, to allow you plenty of time to complete the track before dark, keys won’t be issued after 10.30am.
At the starting point, reset your tripometer to zero to easily locate the sign-posted attractions which appear at regular intervals. Not all of them will warrant a stop, but that’s the beauty of the information booklet; you can screen them and only stop when something interests you.
The driving itself is not technically difficult; although, there are certainly some steep hills with a few twists and turns to negotiate. Your brakes will thank you if you make use of those low gears and some engine braking on the steep descents. There’s nothing quite like the reek of overheating brake pads to pollute the clean smell of the outback air.
The 200 Series Cruiser took it all in its stride; BFG All Terrain tyres and the V8 engine ate up the steep ascents with ease. There’s nothing quite like that feeling you get when faced with a windscreen full of blue sky.
Overall, the track is quite rocky with a few ruts on the steep bits; probably attributable to people who don’t know how to operate a 4WD in low range or don’t know the joy of lowering the tyre pressure for off-roading. There is also the odd patch of bulldust to keep an eye out for. Overall, the track is challenging and interesting, without being too extreme.
Don’t let the early stages of the track lull you into a false sense of security, though. It gets more demanding towards the end – around Nathan’s Knob Lookout – which is a challenging way to finish off the day.
It’s a good thing you don’t need to be 100 per cent focused on challenging track the whole time, because the real highlight of Skytrek is the scenery, and it is stunning. The tops of the many hills offer gorgeous 360-degree views that are well worth a stop.
The gum-lined creek beds provide a great contrast to the open, rolling hills and rocky slopes. The scenery is every bit as good, if not better, than the rest of the Flinders, and is definitely enhanced by the remoteness.
That said – you won’t be alone. There are plenty of emus, kangaroos and goats around, and you might even spot some sheep. In another example of how much thought the mangers have put into Skytrek, there are two drop toilets strategically located along the track; convenient, as there aren’t a huge number of trees to hide behind when nature calls.
This is probably partly why the surrounding landscape has not been festooned with the strips of toilet paper that all too often desecrate remote locations.
If you need to stretch your legs after a day doing Skytrek, there are walking trails marked out around the homestead. These range from a short return walk of less than five kilometres to Yacca Lookout through to a full 12km circuit. Again, you are provided with an information sheet.
The nearby lookout at Stokes Hill comes highly recommended as the place to take cheese and biscuits to watch the sunset. Or you could just happily sit around your private campfire and reflect on a fantastic day’s 4WDing.
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