The Road Ahead : June July 2007
When the sun dips towards the horizon, bathing the dunes with orange light, it's time to make camp. The wind drops and the sun's heat disperses. Small marsupials -- dunnar ts, kowaris and mulgaras -- dar t across the dunes. A dingo howls over the crackle of the fire. Another joins in and then another, forming a chorus of squeals and yowls. They hunt the rabbits that fatten and breed on the abundant vegetation. Graziers replenish their cattle stocks. Even kangaroos venture into the lush deser t. With Januar y's widely-publicised floods in Bedourie, the above scenario is a possibility this year. Although the summer sun shrivelled the flowers that sprouted after the rain, any fur ther water on the drenched landscape will prolong the growth season, providing a bonus for tourists. But even a dr y deser t has beauty. Slow down and take in the details. Examine the sharp ridge of a dune or a pattern of ripples on the slopes. Search the trees for a wedge-tailed eagle's nest the size of your kitchen table. Learn to read the sand like a book and you may uncover a drama -- where a crow's and a skink's tracks meet, there could have been a scuffle that records the lizard's grizzly end. Look out for round, saucer-sized depressions on the road that provide evidence of camels. Australia hosts the only wild camel herds left in the world and these majestic creatures love to follow roads. The flood plains hold flints left by the ancient Wangkanguru people. If you're lucky, you might find these sharp shards or even a grinding stone. These have often been broken but there could be pieces lying nearby that make up the large, lower slab or the handheld grinder that was used like a pestle. Simpson Deser t attractions include Poeppel Corner, where the South Australian, Queensland and Nor thern Territor y borders intersect, and the lone gum tree, a box eucalypt that usually grows in heavy, clay soils. This solitar y tree thrives amongst dunes, far from the nearest watercourse. Big Red, 38 km west of Birdsville, is the one of the highest sand dunes in the Simpson. It has a stunning, bare crest that changes with the wind and offers a far-reaching view of the surrounding countr y. While Big Red offers a fantastic perch to see the sun set or the moon rise, most people go there for the challenge of driving over it. The highest point is near the main road. When you see the signs, turn nor th and follow the track along the dune for 1 km. The Simpson is about 1600 km west of Brisbane and 1200 km nor th of Adelaide. It's a long way from the coast, so factor in an extra day to rest, take a dip at beautiful Dalhousie Springs or explore Birdsville. GET SOME HELP Visit RACQ's website racq.com for outback driving tips, road condition information and to help plan your trip to the Queensland border. For information about Simpson Deser t Conser vation Park and safety, visit parks.sa.gov.au/ simpson_cp. Search 'Birdsville' in the Bureau of Meteorology website (bom.gov.au) for weather information. You'll need a pass for the SA section of the Simpson Deser t, the Witjira National Park (free call 1800 816 078). MAIN PHOTO: Big Red and yellow tops. INSET: A Simpson sand dune. Corellas.
April May 2007
August September 2007