Birdsville - Alice Springs (18/05/15 - 04/06/15)
Crossing the Simpson desert
Waking early after a miserable windy cold night, we topped up the tanks and escaped Birdsville as quickly as possible before the flies returned in full force. The planned route is named the French Line as it was created in the 60's by a French Oil exploration company who finally gave up after only finding water, most of the bores and the track are all that remain. The French Line crosses east/west through the Simpson desert which is a series of apparently more than one thousand sand dunes/hills running north/south, so in effect we spent four days driving up and down over these dunes. Martin was in his element again having done a lot of desert driving in the past, there were several other enthusiasts doing the crossing the same direction as us and vice versa so we all used the UHF radio to warn of our presence as it was strictly one lane, some used the allocated channel as a general chat line which was pretty entertaining at times! It is also compulsary to have a bumper flag so we created ours out of Martin's fishing rod and a slice from his high-vis vest!!
We deviated from the French Line for part of the crossing to visit Poeppels corner where the borders of three states supposedly meet, QLD, SA & NT, but Poeppel the surveyor got back to Adelaide and found his measure to be incorrect so it was in fact in the wrong place. Then continued along another track, the WAA line which runs parallel to the French line, crossing dunes as before but also huge dry lakes, salt pans and dry brush areas.
For several days we noticed a pair of footprints running ahead of us along the track, we finally caught up with the owner of the smallest set of prints, a young dingo resting beside the track, inquisitive and too exhausted to run far we managed to get some good photos, we never did manage to catch up with the adult dingo.
Each night we found a spot to camp among the dunes or on a salt pan with the main aim of avoiding the worst flies, luckily they disappear as it gets dark, cooked on the open fire and enjoyed the clear skies and incredibly bright stars.
After four days of sand, dust and flies, the most amazing surprise was Dalhousie springs, we had read a bit about them but weren't sure that they were hot or even still accessible. We had awoken to a freezing cold desert morning with ongoing cold wind and drove up to Dalhousie to find there in the desert edged with green trees a lovely little steaming lake. Hopping into this spring at 39-43degrees was incredible, we swam for as long as we could stand the heat and were the only bathers for most of the time.
Finke was supposed to be our next camp alas the town was barely hanging in there and the campground couldn't be located so we drove on and unexpectedly happened upon a sign pointing to the geographical centre of Australia which proved to be a great camping spot and good for our developing theme of reaching geographical markers – having been to the eastern and northern most points of the continent.
Our coldest night yet was spent at Kulgera Roadhouse and we packed up and left very early when we gave up on trying to sleep, taking yet another dusty gravel road the Gunbarrel highway, we headed for the Red Centre.
Uluru (Ayers Rock) & Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Over the years I had seen many pictures of Ayers Rock but I wasn't prepared for the breathtaking drama and beauty of being in its presence, it wasn't what I had expected and we stayed for three days enjoying and trying to comprehend Uluru and the equally beautiful Kata Tjuta. Heading into the park at sunrise and sunset to make the most of the changing colours and to try to capture some of the magic in photos and filling the days with walks, the base walk around Uluru will remain a highlight for me. Hopefully the pictures will explain what words cannot.
Ayers Rock - Alice Springs
It seems you can't overdose on beauty and awe! Visiting Kings canyon after Ayers Rock and the Olgas was equally impressive and awe-inspiring. Passing the lovely natural symmetry of Mt Connor on the way, we drove to Watarrka NP, camped nearby then entered Kings canyon in the morning and completed the amazing rim walk taking lots of photos but unfortunately the light was already gone according to Martin. Then another 175km of dusty gravel road to the West MacDonnell ranges NP and walks in the impressive Redbank and Ormiston gorges.
It had been an incredibly full/busy month so we headed to Alice Springs to catch our breath, update the website and clean Priscilla – no doubt not for the last time!