September 4th, 2008 – by: skippyed
Packing up camp
We woke up this morning with a tent full of sand! The sand was so fine that the wind had blown it under the outer shell and in through the fly, most of it was on Vaughan's side! Packing up was a nightmare as the wind had picked up again and as fast as you brushed the sand off your gear to get it in the car it was covered again. I cracked it in the end and just threw the stuff in the car! We were glad to leave this camp site.
The aim today was to divert off the French Line and down the Erabena Track then onto the Rig Road to see 'The Lone Gum', then to finish up at the Approdinna Attora Knolls and set up camp. We set off back onto the bumpy track and before long we were at Erabena Junction to turn down the Erabena Track.
The only koala in the Simpson Desert!
It was also here at this corner we bumped into our Victorian friends again who had stopped to fix one of their cars. The brand new ute had a cracked chassis, not what you want out in the middle of the desert! Lucky enough he had packed a welder and he was under the car fixing it with about 3 batteries around him powering his welder! On chatting with the women, they said they were over the flies and dust and couldn't wait to get to a hotel. We didn't meet that many 4WDrive adventurers along the track but when we did we always stopped for a chat.
We said our goodbyes and headed south down the Erabena Track. The track was a much smoother ride as we were going between the dunes and not over them. A couple of hours later we were at the Lone Gum.
The 'Lone Gum' one and only Coolabah tree to be found in the desert
The 'Lone Gum' as its called is a Coolabah tree, common to flood plains and swamp areas and so is quite alien to this environment. No one knows of its origin and how it got here. It's on its own apart from a few spawned saplings, give it a few hundred years and a whole forest could be here! Looking at the tree I spotted something rather amusing, a stuffed koala, not a real one but a soft toy! Someone with a sense of humour had climbed the tree and cable tied a soft toy koala to one of the branches. Glen knew about the koala and said it looked a bit faded from the last time he had seen it!
We headed back up the Rig Road then onto the WAA line which isn't as popular as the French Line so presented us with more challenging dunes. A few dunes further along the track we hit a dune that had just a little too much peak and we bottomed out on it!! Glen had to snatch us off the dune! I knew at some point we would have to get stuck on at least one dune, otherwise where is the challenge? As we moved further along the track we encountered our first salt lake which was huge, we would be crossing a number of these salt lakes as we drove further east.
Sign for the Lone Gum
The salt lakes were actually quite dramatic against the red desert landscape, the two colours together were quite amazing. We stopped for lunch and managed to find a spot with a bit more shade than yesterday's lunch spot and the wind seem to keep the flies away! Once we hit the Knolls Track we headed back north so we were between the dunes again. As we neared the Knolls, the scenery began to change with spindly trees dominating the landscape. The Approdinna Attora Knolls are two flat topped hills with with white gypseous rock on the top and make for a good landmark against the sand dunes. We climbed to the top of the knolls to get a good view of the surrounding landscape which was wonderful.
It was getting towards the late afternoon so it was time to look for a camp spot.
The 'Lone Gum' Coolabah tree
We weren't allowed to camp near the Knolls so we drove a few kms further on which was quite a bumpy ride as hard gypsum mounds were poking out the track and the sand had weathered away around them. We saw what looked like a nice spot off the track 50 meters or so and it was a very nice spot, surrounded by trees, sheltered from the wind and more importantly no loose sand! The sand here was hard and covered in quite a bit of vegetation so a much more pleasant camping experience, it took me a good half an hour to empty yesterday's camp site out of our tent! As the sun was going down Vaughan and Glen set up chairs to face the sunset and experimented with the camera. The evening was lovely sitting around the camp fire and we thought we were very much alone until the Park Rangers turned up to check our Desert Passes.
A golden wattle
It was quite a surprise to us as we didn't expect to bump into them. We had the CB radio on channel surf and we realised there were other 4WDrivers camping not too far away. The park rangers had left after checking up on us and we could hear them on the radio calling someone's name every 5 mins or so. It appeared we had a lost person in the desert who belonged to the party camping not too far away. After half an hour the person answered back, he was out of range until then, the Simpson is not a place to be driving at night.