The crew from Camper has been wandering around some of our fine desert country in recent times, which is always a good thing to do and one you should never pass up the chance to enjoy as well. I can't complain too much though, as I was up at Innamincka on that delightful stretch of Cooper Creek a few weeks previously.
It's a magic piece of country I've been visiting since 1974 when I was running around the flat-topped hills just north of the famous creek looking for dinosaur bones. I was fortunate enough on that trip to be with one of Australia's leading paleontologists and, while we didn't have much luck finding any old dinosaur fossils there then, western Queensland has more than its fair share ? especially around Winton. But I digress!
On our most recent trip to Innamincka we were lucky enough to arrive just a few days after water started to flow across the causeway, just north of the pub. Like kids we wandered down to the creek and drove across the shallow stream a few times, for no other reason than it seemed like a good thing to do after a few days of crossing some very dry and dusty country north of Broken Hill.
NAKED TRUTH OF DESERTS
Nowhere seemed drier or dustier than the track along the Strzelecki Creek north of Merty Merty homestead. Water hasn't graced this creek since about 2010 when a big flood down the Cooper allowed water to flow down the Strzelecki. It needs more than 10m of water at the causeway to get water to flow down the Strz, so it was the first time in more than 20 years that water had made an appearance in this outback waterway.
It was such a rare event that, even after having just got back from Cape York, I jumped in a vehicle and drove up to see it. In fact, I went one better than just looking at it ? as there was nobody around I stripped down to bare bugger all and plunged in for a rare swim in an iconic creek. I was back in Melbourne 72 hours after leaving home.
More recently, just last week I gotta say, I'd been driving our RAM 2500 through the high desert country of Moab in Utah in the good ol' US of A. We've been lucky enough over the last few years to spend a fair amount of time in North America savouring its many delights, but Utah and its red rock desert country would have to be our favourite; there's just something about deserts that attracts me!
And it's the same in Oz. Or in the Sahara in north Africa, or the Atacama in South America, or the Kalahari in southern Africa ? all of which I've been fortunate enough to spend more than a passing day or two wandering around in.
Luckily I'm not the only sad soul who enjoys a bit of desert solitude and who likes to contemplate the meaning of life while sitting to watch the sun set from a dune such as 'Big Red' on the edge of the Simpson Desert.
Denis Bartell, who named that big Simpson Desert dune back in 1977 when he set out on the first of many trip across the desert (by vehicle, on foot and with camels, see, Desert Walker - Outback Adventurers with Denis Bartell at www.desertwalker.com.au), was struck by the magic of it all. He said as much to me while at Big Red just last year.
“Over the past 40 years and 70 plus crossings, mostly solo, a ritual formed between that dune and me. A sunset whenever possible from Big Red was something not to be missed for it was then that I could easily relive, in a most vivid form, my past journeys and scenery from its ever changing landscape – I could truly be at one with the spirit of the desert.”
I know how he feels; deserts are like that. In that place of seemingly lifeless expanse, you feel more alive than ever.