Cape York via Simpson Desert 10 June 2015 – Day 9

Saturday, Jun 13, 2015 at 19:25

Peter Beard (WA)

Back on the road today - and we have made it to Mt Dare va the Old Andado Track unscathed, with the car intact. Great to be here.

A reasonably early start today, we packed the car and got into town around 8:30 to grab what is likely to be our last coffee until we get to Birdsville. The Landcruiser sounded sweet as we passed the airport and started down towards Santa Teresa on the gravel, but both of us had our ears, eyes and bodies alert for any change in sound, discordant note, odd angle or untoward movement. The steering failure is probably the biggest mechanical issue we have had on the road in all our long trips and it has left us feeling a bit tentative. On our 2008 Bogan Pilgrimage to the Philip Island Moto GP and Bathurst 1000 then up to Burke and across the centre it was gas and suspension, on the Anne Beadell/Darwin/Gibb River Road trip it was tyres, on the Gunbarrel/Tanami/Canning Stock Route it was electrics. All these issues were challenging but manageable. Steering can be catastrophic if it fails at the wrong time.



The start of the Old Andado Track is undergoing extensive road building - long concrete sections slowly being poured in areas subject to flooding, the rest being graded to within an inch of its life ready for the blacktop. The track all the way to Santa Teresa is well graded and comfortable, we dropped tyre pressures to 24 in the front and 28 in the rear instantly making the ride much more comfortable. Santa Teresa is a surprisingly large little town, the white church a focal point in the black community.

From Santa Teresa the track continues south along the Philipson Stock Route to Allambi Station, a big sign just past the gates warning of flood damage for the next 130 km, "Drive with Care". The letters are peeling off the sign giving the impression it has been there for a very long time. In fact the road is fine apart from the road works - a grader has been through recently and in one bendy section the ruts and wallows are alarming. The speed sign warned us that 60km/h is the limit - we laughed as we were struggling to get to 40. This is also the start of the bulldust, that incredibly fine dust that settles into potholes and ruts looking for all the world like solid ground until suddenly the wheels descend into nothingness, a cloud of red talcum powder erupting over the car and it feels like the car is swimming for its life.

The scenery out here is magnificent. Massive rock hills looking like layer cake - thick lines of rocks with softer soil in between building on top of each other. Some hills have the rocky layers horizontal - a wide rocky base then a soft layer with increasingly smaller rings towards the top. Others are almost vertical, the rocky layers looking like rings sticking up from the earth with the softer bits eroded away to make concave links between - sort of like a massive sandworm from Dune.

South of Allambi Station, the Rodinga Range appeared on the right hand side. This looks like one long unbroken single hill, no passes or gaps. The height is reasonably uniform - between 350 and 400 metres - it dominates the skyline for kilometres. The vegetation away from the lee of the ranges is sparse, small shrubs and limited grasses with occasional hardy trees. Lots of cattle, kangaroos and the ever present birds. A bunch of black cockatoos laughing around a small group of trees, flocks of tiny birds, possibly yellow-bellied flycatchers (plenty of food out here), swarming after insects, and eagles hanging in the air.



We finally skirted around the Rodinga Ranges and entered a landscape that looks like it is from another planet. Trees and shrubs disappear all together, the land flattens out and it is rock and yellow red sand as far as the eye can see. No idea what the cattle eat out here, but there are plenty dotting the plain. We drove through this alien land for an hour or so, finally reaching Old Andado Station, a heritage listed bunch of buildings literally in the middle of nowhere. Parked out the front rusting in the paddock is a Humber Super Snipe from the late 1940s or early 1950s,, an ancient truck and a miniature bulldozer. Not ones to add to the list of abandoned vehicles but definitely worth a photo.

The track turns back west at this point towards New Andado Station crossing a couple of low sand ridges. Over the second crest we got a real shock. The valley below is covered in bright green grass, a random rain cloud must have dropped its benefice on this one sliver of land and life has responded. Low plants, small flowers, a riot of green life with happy cows lying contentedly in the middle. Just goes to show the grass is definitely greener on the other side of fence ... well, sand dune.



At New Andado Station the track turns south once again for the final 90km leg to Mt Dare. This section has not seen a grader for a very long time, serious corrugations interspersed with lakes of bulldust. The grinding and hammering lasted halfway to Mt Dare, after that we found a couple of bores and stockyards. The track turned into long sections of hard packed ruts full of boggy sand. Winding and weaving along we came across another amazing bright green belt, the serendipity of rain soaking the land and the plants responding.



Finally we reached the Finke River, following it south to the NT/SA border and on down to Mt Dare. Mt Dare is an old cattle station that sells fuel and has converted one of the sheds into a pub and dotted here and there a few little cabins sort of like a caravan without wheels. Sitting in the pub here we are enjoying cold beers and looking forward to a great meal. Mt Dare is a true oasis in desert.

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