12 Day Simpson Desert Tours, West – East Crossing
Alice Springs to Cunnamulla
Our adventure begins today as we gather in the Central Australian town of Alice Springs. It’s here that we meet in the afternoon for the first time at the Wintersun Cabin & Caravan Park, where our camping accommodation is already booked. Our Welcome Dinner, which is provided for us at the Gillen Club Restaurant, gives everyone a great opportunity to get to know each other and talk about the exciting adventures ahead.
Today we leave the Alice and follow the Old Ghan railway line south through the ever changing scenery of red dirt, sand, spinifex, mulga, and desert oaks. It’s here that we see many relics of the old Ghan, left behind at disused railway sidings. We also visit the Ewaninga Rock Carvings Conservation Reserve. We head for Maryvale Homestead on the way to the amazing Chambers Pillar. In April 1860, the explorer John MacDouall Stuart was the first white person to see this spectacular pillar of sandstone which towers 50 metres above the surrounding plain. He named it after his South Australian sponsor and friend James Chambers. Our bush camp is within walking distance of Chambers Pillar and a spectacular sunset is always worth a photo.
After breakfast we head back to the main track and turn south again towards the town of Finke, where the Finke Desert Race is held each year in June. We take a short detour to Lambert Centre, which is the geographic centre of Australia. Our camp tonight will be under the stars at Old Andado Station. This is probably the only remaining homestead of its kind left in Australia and was the home for over 50 years of that well known outback pioneer, Molly Clark.
This morning we leave this historic homestead behind and head to South Australia’s most remote hotel at Mount Dare. Here we can have a refreshing drink, but more importantly we must fill our fuel tanks as this is the last available fuel until we get to Birdsville. We visit the fascinating but tragic old ruins at Bloods Creek near the giant windmill and visit the site of Federal. Then it’s off to the ruins at Dalhousie Homestead with its 100 year old date palms rustling gently in the breeze. Our destination tonight is Dalhousie Springs, a delightful oasis in the middle of nowhere, with its warm relaxing waters from the Great Artesian Basin ready to soothe away the aches and pains of weary travellers. We set up our camp here and enjoy the natural surrounds of this unique and beautiful place.
After our morning soak we drag ourselves away from Mother Nature’s spa pool and continue our journey towards the east. Our next stop will be Purnie Bore, which was originally sunk by the oil research teams. It now sustains large numbers of wildlife in the area. We are now getting well into the desert on a track known as the French Line. It got its name in 1963 after a construction party from the Compagnie Generale de Geophysique created it to allow easier access when searching for oil in the desert. There are many suitable sites along the way to stop and camp and we spend another pleasant evening around a crackling camp fire. It’s out here that we get to soak up the fascinating natural beauty of the Simpson Desert.
We set off this morning and soon we are crossing more sand dunes, dry lake beds, saltpans and gibber-ironstone flats. Along the way, we keep an eye out for the local wildlife such as camels and dingoes. It’s out here that we also get to see some of Australia’s wonderful native wildflowers. We continue eastward towards Poeppel Corner where Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory all meet. Our campsite tonight is another bush camp under the stars.
After crossing into Queensland, we continue to travel east along the QAA Line and eventually we cross Eyre Creek. In the afternoon, we get to tackle the last and best known of the sand dunes, standing imposingly at around 40 metres high, the awesome Big Red. We arrive in the remote western Queensland town of Birdsville and set up our camp at the Birdsville Caravan Park. This town of about 150 residents is renowned for the horse racing carnival and the Big Red Bash concert, both of which are held each year and attract thousands of visitors from all around Australia. We round off the day with our evening meal provided for us at Australia’s most famous pub, the Birdsville Hotel.
This is a free day in Birdsville where you can treat yourself to a hearty breakfast at the Birdsville Hotel. A visit to the Wirrarri Information Centre is also a must do. There are scenic flights available for interested travellers who want to book them in advance. Also, the Birdsville Cemetery is worth a visit, where you can explore the many old gravesites of our early pioneers. It‘s a testament to the hardships they had to endure in this remote desert country We refuel our vehicles here as it’s the first fuel stop since we left Mt. Dare.
All refreshed, we leave town after breaking camp and head towards the east. We are soon travelling south through the Sturt Stony Desert, where we get to explore the ruins of the old Cadelga Homestead. Our next stop is Cordillo Downs Station. This property was at one time, the largest sheep station in Australia, with 85,000 sheep covering nearly 8000 square kilometers. We see the magnificent old stone shearing shed which has recently been restored. It once had stands for 120 shearers and was built in 1885 from materials transported in by camel train. It is now a heritage listed building. Our bush camp tonight is at the remote Mulga Bore.
Today we visit the grave site of Robert O’Hara Burke and that of William John Wills. We arrive in the tiny settlement of Innamincka in the afternoon, and set up camp on the Town Common, which is on the banks of Cooper Creek. Tonight, we will enjoy our evening dinner together, which is provided for us at the remote Innamincka Hotel.
Our journey this morning takes us east and we get to visit the famous Burke & Wills Dig Tree on Cooper Creek. We travel through the oil and gas fields to the large cattle property of Nockatunga, where our destination today is the Wilson River Waterhole. Here we make our camp for the night, not far from the historic sandstone Noccundra Hotel, where we stop in for a drink. A meal can be purchased at the pub if required.
After breakfast it’s on to Thargomindah, the first town in Australia to have its own hydro electric power in the late 1800s. At Eulo, we visit the Artesian Mud Baths. We camp tonight in Cunnamulla, which is situated on the banks of the Warrego River, at the Cunnamulla Tourist Park. After a well earned shower, we look forward to our Farewell Dinner, which is provided for us in the evening. It’s an outdoor cook up over an open fire, and it provides a great opportunity for everyone to talk about their adventure and their unforgettable journey across the Simpson Desert.
PLEASE NOTE :
• All 4WD vehicles on this tour need to carry extra fuel & water.
• This tour is not suitable for camper trailers.