The Road Ahead : June July 2007
TRAVEL & LEISURE On rare occasions, a cyclone empties its cargo into Australia's inland river systems. Flowing towards the deser t, a trickle runs into Eyre Creek's dr y and dusty bed. The level rises. Water pours into the side channels that branch out into the deser t and the creek breaks its banks. Flood plains become inundated, and the Simpson looks like a wet, ploughed field. Birds flock to the floodwaters. Pelicans feast on fish. Brolgas and egrets high-step through the shallows. The air whispers with the beating wings of great flocks of corellas and galahs. When the water dries, the Simpson transforms into a flower garden. Conditions are favourable for a few weeks and the flora takes its chance. Yellow tops, poached egg daisies and wild stock burst from the sand. Standing on the crest of a dune, you can see the deser t flaring with colour. 38 JUN/JLY 07 Deser tjourney For many people, crossing the Simpson Desert is one of Australia's great wilderness challenges. STORY & PHOTOS JACKIE STALLARD Dunes roll into the distance like ocean waves. Sand ripples like water. Blown from the crest of a dune, a grainy spume forms like mist. This is deser t countr y. The sand is pristine, apar t from our footprints which disturb the network of tiny trails left by lizards, birds and beetles. When we've gone, the wind will smooth away our tracks. The Simpson Deser t will record no trace of our presence. The Simpson is one of Australia's wonder ful, wilderness areas. With 1200 dunes on the 300 km east-west track known as the French Line, this deser t presents an irresistible challenge for 4WD enthusiasts. Don't be fooled into imagining 176,500 square kilometres of clean, smooth sand. While the Sahara receives only 75 mm of rain a year, the Simpson gets close to 200 mm and can sustain permanent vegetation, including sand hill cane grass, mulga and gidgee. "Birds flock to the floodwaters. Pelicans feast on fish. Brolgas and egrets high-step through the shallows. The air whispers with the beating wings of great flocks of corellas and galahs."
April May 2007
August September 2007