Simpson Desert crossing 4: Day 3

We woke once again to a setting moon.


Well, Len was awake to record the event. The time-stamp shows that it was about 6.30 Central Time, which was nearly an hour before sunrise. With restless energy he proceeded to check out the rest of the camp. His own swag was still there, of course, although not with him in it.


Here’s our tent. You can see Margot already up, her head emerging from behind the tent.


I would have been inside wrangling with layers of clothing. First I had to strip off to remove the thermals, then climb into the layers required for the day. No sign of Patsy and Don:


How do you get out of that thing? Irene and Ian were still snug in their elevated nest:


No sign of Betty and Eoin, though the vehicle doors have been opened:


Nor from Marion and Darral:


Those photos were taken in the space of four minutes. By this time Margot was in the kitchen, no doubt getting the coffee started:


An hour later Len was cooking some breakfast based on leftovers. You can see that the sun has risen by the long shadows:


What did he do in the intervening hour? I know that Margot and I spent a fair bit of time after breakfast washing up, which we had left over from the night before. Never again! In this photo taken at about 8.30 you can see from the shadow that our tent is still erect:


At 8.47 if the time-stamp is to be believed the site was pretty well cleared. Here’s Len packing up his swag:


Our progress, however, was rudely stalled when our vehicle, “The Beast”, simply refused to start. The story of how the gods smiled on us in the form of farmer Erik is in this earlier post.


In the event we were held up only perhaps about 40 minutes. It was 40 minutes of travel time that we could have done with several days later when we came to approach Big Red late in the day!

Mobile again, courtesy of the spare fuel filter that Erik fortuitously bestowed upon us in the middle of the desert, we proceeded one sandhill after another along the WAA Line.


Sorry, that’s not just the best, it’s the only photo I’ve got of this passage of the trip. It shows two vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. On one occasion we met a ‘tag along’ convoy of six!

I’ll mention here a competition we had amongst the group the day before. Margot had decided to put one stroke on a piece of paper for every major sandhill we crossed. After about four hours, via UHF radio, we asked the group to guess the number of sandhills we’d crossed. The difference in perceptions was considerable. From memory the ‘correct’ answer, disputed over the definition of a sandhill, was 175.

I also discovered that the pedometer I habitually wear was ticking over with the pitching of the vehicle.

Either on this day or the day before, Darral, who was in contact with the outside world via radio, told us that Joe Hockey had put his foot firmly in his mouth. Something about the poor not driving cars! It seemed like another world, a world we were not missing too much!

About 1pm we came to a sign at the crossroads:


Ultimately we were headed for the Knolls Track, but we’d come this way to see the Lone Gum Tree. Anyway it was lunch time:


Using the zoom feature on our new camera, I noticed that Margot and Irene needed a fair bit of arm space when conversing over lunch!


The country was dry and dessicated, as the following images show:




Nevertheless, Len managed to find some colourful berries:


Nearly an hour later we were at the Lone Gum Tree. Coolibah trees are supposed to grow mostly near water courses. Yet here in the middle of a dessicated, dry desert was a flourishing specimen:


This photo shows clearly two seedling to the left of the tree:


There was a third seedling outside the enclosure, behind where I was standing to take that photo. The next photo, taken by Irene, shows the context a bit better. Everyone was in shot except Darral, who was probably standing next to Irene also taking a photo.


Back on the Rig Road, heading east again for Knolls Track. In the dry desert we always noticed bushes which were green and seemed to be coping well. In places there was quite a stand of green shrubbery:


Here we have a shot of a salt lake pan, taken by Eoin from the top of the sandhill. The vehicle in view is Ian and Irene’s, second in the convoy. Don and Patsy, in the lead, have disappeared over a fold down towards the edge of the lake. You can just see the flags of the other two vehicles at the bottom of the photo:


This one, taken by Ian perhaps a few seconds earlier, once again shows the amazing green shrubbery:


This one, taken by Eoin from a similar position, shows a contrasting landscape to the left of the track:


We made it to Knolls Track and headed north mostly between the sandhills. We were trying to make it to the Approdinna Attora Knolls, but came up a few kms short. As usual Don picked out a camping spot:


Darral and Ian chat over the fire:


Len was on the job, catching the sunset:


Then his eye caught this, the home of some little critter or critters, possibly a nest of seed-harvesting ants:


So ended another satisfying day in the desert.

Note: This post is the seventh in a series on our Red Centre holiday.

Update: I initially thought the hole depicted in the last photo may have been made by a spider. Len suggests seed-harvesting ants (see comment 5), so we’ll run with that.

7 thoughts on “Simpson Desert crossing 4: Day 3”

  1. Nice. Can’t remember if I’ve mentioned but my ex and I took our kids on a camping trip through the centre to Darwin and then down the east coast – hard to believe but it’s 27 years ago now. Fantastic experience though. We were in an ordinary station wagon and didn’t do anything as challenging as this, but we had some great times. Some of the way we were with friends, some on our own. These trips really are experiences you remember for ever.

    Those berries could be ruby saltbush by the look of it (berries can be yellow as well as red) – edible apparently though I’m not saying you should have been guinea pigs and tried them. (That’s the kind of thing I do, but I know it’s not such a good idea!)

  2. Val, around Uluru we met Europeans who were doing Kakadu, Red Centre and Great Barrier Reef in about 10 days all up. It’s nice to take a bit of time!

    On the trip we had a field guide identifying some of the plants, but it belongs to my brother, so I don’t have access to it.

  3. Nice again Brian.
    As I said Ive never been that far west but I note plenty of flora yet, other than a couple of galas and an emu, no fauna.
    I expected some bird life around the bodies of water at least.
    Or were the just too quick to snap?

  4. jumpy, if you visit the Night House at Desert Park in Alice Springs you see lots of creepy crawlies and little critters that live in very dry places. However, we didn’t see water between Purnie Bore and Birdsville, where there is plenty BTW.

  5. Brian, I suspect the last photo depicts the entry to a nest of seed-harvesting ants. The small particles around the entry to the nest are likely to be dried, shrivelled seeds, maybe from a plant similar to the berries in an earlier photo in this post. This is a mutually beneficial process – the ants get food and the seeds of the berry plant get dispersed!

    And BTW, I’m really enjoying re-visiting our desert crossing via your series of excellent posts. Thanks heaps!

  6. I’m having problems uploading images and working the site generally. Error messages every time I try to do something!

    Now I’ve done something that has made some of the images in the post disappear. I’m going to have to go out for the day, hopefully repairs can be effected tonight!

  7. I’ve managed to repair the post, though the blog is still busted.

    Len @ 5, thanks. I’ve updated the post.

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