Simpson Desert:- WAA Line, Colson Track & French Line to Dalhousie Springs

Friday, May 25, 2007 at 00:00

Mick O

Friday 25th May, 2007
Dalhousie Springs Camp Ground
Witjira National Park S.A.

Well we’ve successfully crossed the Simpson Desert east to west, allegedly the hardest of the traverses. We’ve survived the dead heart of Australia and found it to be very much alive, although somewhat scorched in places.

We were up reasonably early. My faithful navigator and time keeper, Hugh of the passengers seat, assured me that the time was only 3.30 a.m. as I staggered in from a frosty inspection of our temporary domain. The dew was exceptionally heavy which surprised me, the night, again extremely cold. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that Hugh is as blind as a bat without his glasses so I was very disappointed when after only 20 minutes of being snuggled back in the sleeping bag, my alarm went off indicating that it was in fact 6 am. bleep !



We had decided on an early start to try and make Purnie Bore on the eastern edge of the desert and if yesterdays going was an indication, we’d need every hour of daylight to make the 130 km trek. As it was we were both a fraction seedy so it was a more leisurely start and a fire and jaffle for breakfast. Hugh had his usual “dingo’s brecky”. Got everything squared away and were on the track by 8.30. All was quiet on the radio, not a sole replying to our departure call. As we headed west, the sandy track told the story of the nights activities. Who was hunted, who the hunter was, who lived and who died. Fascinating watching the furtive hops of a small wallaby, being pursued by a dingo, the smaller marsupials being stalked and taken down by a feral cat. The beetles, birds, hopping animals all leaving sign for all to see. The desert may appear dead on its surface but it’s very much alive underneath and during the nocturnal hours.

The driving was again arduous with huge three tiered dunes rising from short swales. The approaches were soft sand. Again there were sections of absolute desolation where every plant had succumbed. Then there were patches of verdant green with young acacia and horse mulga, native grasses, flowers and spinifex, all seeding. In several locations there were pools of water still lying in claypans. Birdlife is amazing with many birds of prey such as goshawks, falcons and the long legged bird of prey whose name escapes me. Willy wagtails, finches, wrens and many others.

Hugh took the wheel after an hour as my shoulder was bleep ting me. I had to learn to be a passenger and it’s something that I have a long way to go in. We only averaged 15 km each hour in our first two hours leading to morning tea. Hugh was enjoying the drive so he continued on till lunch. We reached Lynnies and then Georges junctions after two and a half hours of tough going. From there the nature of the desert changed again with the swales are becoming bigger. They were dotted with claypans and the acacia became more prevalent. It was in one of these that we spotted our first camel thankfully causing Hugh to loose his dromedarial virginity. The dunes were spectacular in size. I mean immense. 50 metres some of them with three stages of buildup before cresting. Often there was a further ridge hidden back behind.

This wider stretches meant that our distance over time improved which made the Purnie Bore option all the more possible. Shortly before reaching the Glen Joyce 1 oil well (abandoned) the country changed again with the dunes diminishing in height. From the well it was obvious that the oil companies had graded roads in many years previously as the approaches were cut and filled with local limestone. This meant even quicker travel but the ubiquitous corrugations. They were pearlers to. We reached Mokari airstrip and the grave of Mr Jaroslav Peckanek (an Oodnadatta trader) at 12.30 ish here we headed north west on the rig road, Good going but again corrugated with the occasional twist and turn over a dune. We joined the French Line again at Wonga Corner at 1.pm and took lunch in whatever shade could be provided by a spindly acacia bush by the roadside.

After lunch the road continued to allow a more stately progress although the corrugations were a killer. Came across a mangy dingo padding along the road and managed to take quite a few photo’s. Reached Purnie Bore a bit after two p.m. Very little to see with the “wetland” being choked with reeds. We were welcomed by the mournful wail of the local dingoes. We filled up our water container, used the facilities, and headed north.

The road improved through ranges and a goodly expanse of water at Ambutchera Creek (Witcherie Flow) before reaching Dalhousie. Packed but managed to find a spot that wasn’t to crowded. Set up camp and took a relaxing dip in the very warm (34 – 38C) waters of the main spring. Very relaxing and therapeutic. Glad we stayed. Kevin and Pat drifted in late and set up near us. Indian for dinner then a few beverages and a chat with the neighbours.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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