I stopped the Patrol among the dunes, looking for the tall orange sand pole that would guide me out of the mire. Somehow we had gotten off the marked route through the Sleaford Dunes and with some thick scrub in front of me and short, soft, sharply banked dunes on each side, I'd decided to back out and retrace my steps. As it turned out I was just a few hundred metres from a near completely covered sand pole and with finding that and turning west, we were again back on track.

We were in Lincoln National Park, south of Port Lincoln, on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, travelling the ephemeral route along the sweep of sand that borders Sleaford Bay between Wanna and Sleaford Mere.

For the most part, and once you have lowered your tyre pressures, it is a fairly easy drive through the dunes and along short sections of rocky limestone track. The route stays up high above the sea and the beach for the majority of the distance, but a few short offshoot tracks lead to the water and a favoured surfing spot or fishing hole. The view is always enjoyable, whether you are driving, fishing or surfing. Dunes and blue water dominate the immediate foreground while away to the south among the sea haze we could see the bold, sheer promontory of Cape Wiles.

But this wild, rugged coast is not to be taken lightly, as the small, sad monuments to lost fisherman dotted along the cliff tops that occasionally interrupt the dunes testify. Europeans have been dying here right from the very first visitors. In 1802, the great British navigator Matthew Flinders sailed by here, mapping the coast and spreading names like confetti on the prominent or important landmarks. Cape Wiles was one, while further east, Cape Catastrophe and Memory Cove recall the day when Flinders lost his friend John Thistle and seven other crew members to the wild and unforgiving surf. The islands that dot the water nearby recall the names of those lost seaman.

To read the full story, grab the May issue of 4X4 Australia, on sale at your local newsagent now.



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