I’ve just spent a couple of days in Victoria’s deserts. The Big Desert covers about 1500 square km so compared to the Sahara (9.2 million square km) it’s not all that big at all. But it is bigger than the Little Desert. Neither of our deserts are devoid of vegetation but they are sandy and rainfall is not overly generous. To their north is another similar area – the Sunset Country.
The dunefield that covers most of these three areas came from South Australia courtesy of the prevailing westerly wind during the ice ages. Conditions were much drier back then. Collectively the dunefield is known as the Lowan Sands. And even the Sahara can only boast about 138,00 square km of actual dunefield.
First stop was the south-east corner of the Big Desert along the Netting Fence and Chinaman Well tracks.
The area is rich in pioneer archeology. In 1885 the Netting Fence was constructed to keep the Dingo out of the sheep and wheat growing areas to the south and to keep the rabbits from spreading further north. The grandfather of one of my favorite co-workers was a dogger back in the day. The fence helped to keep down recruitment of dogs from the desert replacing those shot on the agricultural land. It did little to slow the spread of the rabbit.
Bores and windmills provided water for the sheep and cattle that were herded through the desert. The remains can be found, mostly scattered across the ground but there is one in quite good condition along the Chinaman Well Track.
I also found three old ploughs, lying around like skeletons, with the vegetation growing up between their ribs.
Whether they represent failed attempts to cultivate the area or whether it was a handy spot for the locals to dump old ploughs I don’t know.
In any case the pioneers did it pretty tough out here, it’s a long walk to anywhere especially over soft sand.
I revisited the windmill at 2 am and was lucky enough to get a short break in the clouds.