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Diamantina have been operating expeditions to the Simpson Desert and Lake Eyre Basin since 1990. We have crossed the desert over 100 times, along every track, and off track as well. With this experience, we have designed what we believe is the best Simpson desert expedition. The deserts of the Lake Eyre basin are unlike any other in Australia. The sediments that flow down the great river systems of the Diamantina and Cooper are raised by the wind and dumped into vast longitudinal sand dunes. They hold less vegetation than the Western Deserts, interspersed with its salt lakes, clay pans and spinifex. In places there are gidgee groves in the interdunal corridors, gnarled like ancient olive trees. Amid all this beauty is one of the toughest four wheel drive challenges on the planet. But this expedition is far more than just the Simpson Desert. We travel the historic Birdsville Tracks, rich in Aboriginal and European heritage. We explore lesser known gorges in the Flinders Ranges, and we trek north from Dalhousie to historic Old Andado Station.This year is exceptional, the masssive floods that have poured down the Diamantina have filled Eyre Creek and Goyder Lagoon. By special arrangement with Clifton Hills Station we have permission to access fabled Kootchera Waterhole at the head of the Kootchera Dune which juts out into Goyder Lagoon. It is an extraordinary time to be visiting the area.
The Simpson Desert's first crossing was attributed to Dr Cecil T Madigan, eminent geologist from Adelaide who raised an expedition
in 1939 and successfully crossed from Abminga to Birdsville. But in 1936, with little fanfare, Ted Colson, a farmer and knock about bloke from Bloods Creek had crossed to Birdsville, stayed at the Birdsville Pub for a couple of days and then crossed again to go home.
Spectral analysis of sand particles in the Simpson Desert show that it is geologically 19-24,000 years old, only dating back to the last interglacial.
Before that it was grassland and shallow lakes. This would suggest that the Wangkangurru people who lived in the Simpson, also lived there when it was a much wetter place and adapted as the desert dried out.
We depart Adelaide and travel north to Port Augusta. We enter the Flinders Ranges at Pichi Richi Gorge, and shortly leave the beaten track to follow station tracks along the back roads through spectacular scenery to the famous Prairie Hotel at Parachilna. We camp in Parachilna Gorge.
Your first morning in the outback. Awake to birdsong and breakfast before we break camp and head to Brachina Gorge. We follow the award winning self interpretive geological trail tracing 200 million years of geological history as we wind beneath the native pines and red quartzite ridges. Our next stop is the highest town in South Australia - Blinman. Winding our way through the ranges we arrive at our camp at Chambers Gorge. There is the option of climbing to the summit for some awe inspiring views, or wandering down the gorge amongst spectacular river red gums. If you want, do both.
We cross the Balcanoona Plain to Italowie Gorge and enter the Gammon Ranges National Park. We travel on private station roads. Tonight we camp on private property near a little known Aboriginal art site displaying thousands of stone carvings on the red walls of a spectacular gorge.
We depart the Flinders Ranges and head north onto the plains. We check out Marree and its history. Marree was a “Ghan” town, home to the Afghan Cameleers, and we look at some of the historic houses, including that of the famous Bejah Dervish. From Marree there is also the option to take an unforgettable flight over Lake Eyre. We commence our journey up the fabled Birdsville Track through Dulkaninna and Clayton stations we arrive at Etadunna Station and travel to our camp on the floodplain of the mighty Cooper beneath box coolabah trees.
By arrangement with the owners of Etadunna we drive on station tracks out to the lonely ruins of the Bethesda Lutheran Mission on the banks of Coopers Creek. Here we will look at one of the most extraordinary stories of European/Aboriginal contact. We continue up the Birdsville Track to Mungerannie Station. By exclusive arrangement we are going to head to the Kootchera Waterhhole on Clifton Hills Station. It lies at the end of the spectacular 20km long Kootchera Dune, which rises in Sturt Stony Desert at the Birdsville Track and juts into Goyder Lagoon. Given this years flood it will be incredibly spectacular, masses of birdlife and verdent green to the horizon.
Northward we visit the lonely grave of the Page family who tragically lost their lives when their vehicle broke down in the summer of 1962. We arrive in Birdsville marking our completion of the Birdsville Track. There is plenty to do here, and after checking out the city sights we depart civilisation and head west. We commence our crossing of the fabled Simpson Desert, the world's largest sand dune desert, an experience of epic proportions. Our first challenge is to cross the 40 metre Nappanerica Dune, otherwise known as Big Red. Once over, we are firmly in the dunefield, and for the next three days we follow abandoned oil exploration tracks and seismic tracks through this extraordinary landscape. There are plenty of interesting stops along the way including Eyre Creek, the tri state border at Poeppels Corner, the flour gypsum outcrops known as the Approdinna Attora knolls, the numerous salt lakes of Pirra Pirra Poorlwanna, and native wells known as Mikiri, where the original Wangkangurru inhabited until they walked out of the desert in 1901. On our final day travelling through the desert we arrive at Dalhousie Springs, where the desert dust can be washed off with a swim in delightful warm artesian water. We camp near Mt Dare homestead.
We cross the Finke River, reputed to be the oldest river in the world, and continue on to the heritage listed Old Andado Station, once home to outback legends Mac and Mollie Clarke. We also visit the Mac Clarke acacia peuce reserve and continue north to our camp near the Rodina Range.
We travel north past Santa Theresa Mission, arriving in Alice Springs late morning, and the end of an extraordinary expedition.