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; travel the historic Birdsville Tracks, rich in Aboriginal and European heritage. Explore lesser known gorges in the Flinders Ranges, as the group treks north from Dalhousie to historic Old Andado Station. Your tour operator has been operating expeditions to the Simpson Desert and Lake Eyre Basin since 1990 and have crossed the desert over 100 times, along every track, and off track as well.
Depart Adelaide and travel north to Port Augusta. 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. Travel on to the first nights camp in Parachilna Gorge.
Your first morning in the outback. Awake to birdsong and a hearty breakfast before you break camp and head to Brachina Gorge. Follow the award winning self interpretive geological trail tracing 200-million years of geological history, winding beneath the native pines and red quartzite ridges. The next stop is the highest town in South Australia - Blinman. Winding your way through the ranges, 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.
Cross the Balcanoona Plain to Italowie Gorge and enter the Gammon Ranges National Park. Travel on private station roads. Tonight, camp on private property near a little known Aboriginal art site displaying thousands of stone carvings on the red walls of a spectacular gorge.
Depart the Flinders Ranges at Copley and head north onto the plains. Visit the Leigh Creek Coal Fields and the ghost town of Farina before arriving at Marree. You will have time to look at the town and its history. Marree was a “Ghan” town, home to the Afghan Cameleers, 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. Commence the journey up the fabled Birdsville Track past the ruins of the Lake Harry Date Plantation. After a two hour drive through Dulkaninna and Clayton stations, arrive at Etadunna Station and travel to camp on the floodplain of the mighty Cooper beneath box coolabah trees.
By arrangement with the owners of Etadunna, drive on station tracks out to the lonely ruins of the Bethesda Lutheran Mission on the banks of Coopers Creek. Here, look at one of the most extraordinary stories of European/Aboriginal contact amid the sandhills of the Tirari Desert. Continue up the Birdsville Track to Mungerannie Station. Northward, visit the lonely grave of the Page family who tragically lost their lives when their vehicle broke down in the summer of 1962. Camp on Clifton Hills Station, the largest on the Birdsville Track.
Day Six to Nine
Arrive in Birdsville marking the completion of the Birdsville Track. There is plenty to do here, and after checking out the city sights and visiting the Dingo Caves and Acacia Peuce reserve, depart civilization and head west. Commence the crossing of the fabled Simpson Desert, the world's largest sand dune desert, an experience of epic proportions. The first challenge is to cross the 40-metre Nappanerica Dune, otherwise known as Big Red. Once over, you are firmly in the dunefield, and for the next three days, 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 the final day traveling through the desert, arrive at Dalhousie Springs, where the desert dust can be washed off with a swim in delightful warm artesian water. Camp at Mt Dare homestead.
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 camp near the Rodina Range.
Travel north past Santa Theresa Mission, arriving in Alice Springs late morning, and the end of an extraordinary expedition.