The map below gives you an idea of the possible routes through the desert. If you click on it it will enlarge sufficiently to be readable, the back arrow on your browser will bring you back here. Study it for a while, I’ll ask questions shortly …
You do need a Desert Parks Pass to enter the South Australian section of the Simpson, when you buy that you will also receive some better maps but they don’t photograph well.
Our route was as straight forward as it gets, north from Oodnadatta to Hamilton, north-east to Dalhousie, east along the French Line, Poeppels Corner, north to join the QAA Line, east to Birdsville. Just a simple matter of cresting more than a thousand dunes.
The sand doesn’t actually start until Purni Bore. The road from Hamilton to Dalhousie Springs had been graded since the last rains. This was a pleasant surprise because we knew it had been cut up badly not long ago and we expected difficult going. There was just one spot where we needed 4WD, a wet creek crossing with muddy approach and departure.
After a while we entered Witjira National Park which once was the Dalhousie Station and before long we came to the ruins of the homestead …
The Dalhousie lease was granted to the Bagots in 1873, the home stead is situated adjacent to a reliable mound spring. Date palms were introduced very early in the piece and thrived on the springs to the detriment of everything that belonged there. The Parks service have removed all but a few male specimens.
We made a fairly short day of it and camped at Dalhousie Springs. This is another collection of mound springs, one of the resulting pools makes a splendid swimming hole, as large as an Olympic swimming pool, about two metres deep and warm. It even has steps to help you in and out. There are some nice walks that take you through the Melaleuca woodlands supported by the springs and there are plenty of birds.
This Singing Honeyeater is just a juvenile which is evident from the yellow gape. Its parents were still feeding it but it did pick up food for itself as well. The name, Singing, was obviously bestowed by someone with rose-tinted hearing aids.
The arid zone seems an odd place for a cormorant, but this Little Pied Cormorant was perched above the swimming hole on the look out for a Dalhousie Goby or any of the other fish endemic to the region.
A dingo visited us shortly after sunset. We had heard them on previous occasions but this was the first one to show itself.
The campsite itself though is bleak and the population density is considerably higher than where you live (even if you come from Tokyo). The toilets are suitable for anyone with a working in confined spaces ticket and breathing apparatus. I would suggest tying a rope around your middle so that a safety observer can pull you out should you not emerge within a few minutes.
There are only three sites where you can camp in Witjira. The next site on our route being Purni Bore. Older accounts wax lyrical about the birding at Purni but the bore has been capped and it no longer seems all that exciting. It may have been better to go slightly out of our way and camp at Three O’Clock Creek, just stopping for a walk and a swim at Dalhousie on our way through.
Next time …
This is where we fitted our vehicles with their dune flags. The last thing you need on the crest of a dune is a surprise encounter with a vehicle headed in the opposite direction. The flags are visible before the front bumper.
Time as well to switch the radio to UHF channel 10. Chatter between other vehicles is often the only indication that you are not alone although occasionally someone has the wit to let the world know where they are and which way they are going.