It has been a very wet winter. We had been watching the weather closely for a month or so. Rain had closed the roads to the Simpson Desert repeatedly. We had gone so far as to make alternate plans – the Nullarbor surely would be dry.
Plan A would take us across the French Line to Poeppel’s Corner and then south via the Warburton Track to the Birdsville Track near Mungerannie. The Warburton River was not in the mood to cooperate. Plan B was to head to Birdsville instead. But before you can cross the desert you have to get there.
The party assembled in the Victorian Goldfields on the 12th of August. The quartet was Mark and Will, both professional biologists thrilled to get into the field without the burden of their jobs to consider, the lovely Gayle and myself. After last minute packing we set off the next morning.
During the day we crossed the South Australian border into the Riverland. Quarantine restrictions are in force to protect the region’s agriculture. Honey, fresh fruit and vegetables are forbidden. Canned, processed and freeze-dried foods are OK as are meat, eggs, dairy products, nuts, mushrooms and seeds. Potatoes are forbidden, sweet potatoes are permitted, the rules are somewhat convoluted. If arriving from Tasmania (presumably by plane) you may take date palms but coming from Victoria we must leave our date palms behind. Soil is forbidden no matter what … how do Tasmanian date palms get on in hydroponics?
A little over 600 km later we camped for the night in the South Australian Mallee.
Not far from our camp we found the excavations of the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat. This is a creature that mines on a grand scale. Their burrows are interconnected into warrens that are shared by as many as ten wombats. We staked out a burrow and hoped that as night fell one would choose this particular exit. Despite considerable patience (two beers at least) we were not rewarded. However, a return visit later in the night surprised one above ground. It didn’t stay long.
It was one very cold night.