|The Hay River track is in the once closed Northern Simpson Desert. Located within the driest region of the Australian continent, the Simpson Desert is one of the world's best examples of an erg or dunal desert, a sea of parallel red sand ridges some 300 - 500 kilometres long covering a total area of more than 170,000 square kilometres. The mean annual rainfall of 130 millimetres is very variable and unpredictable. Summer temperatures can exceed 50° C.
The Simpson Desert lies across the corners of 3 States, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, with the South Australian section divided into 3 protected areas, Simpson Desert Conservation Park, Simpson Desert Regional Reserve and Witjira National Park.
Although many people imagine the Simpson desert to be a huge sea of sand, void of plant and animal life, the truth is very different. The desert changes almost continuously as you travel across it and no more so than along the hay River Track. The views are often breathtaking. The sky is immense and so is the landscape. This is big sky and big dune country at its best.
Early risers will be greeted with the most incredible colours at dawn, and the calls of numerous birds including the Crested Bell Bird. A morning walk along the dune crests will reveal tiny footprints of the hopping mouse, lizards and small marsupials.
This tour travels perhaps the remotest track in the entire desert, running from Peoppel corner, north along the QLD NT border then along the dry remnant river bed of the ancient Hay River.
Once completely inaccessible, the Hay River area of the Simpson Desert is now accessible due to the efforts of Jol Flemming and the traditional owner Lindsay Bookie. Lindsay has sinced passed away but his extended family run a neat, tidy and very welcome camp facility at Batton Hill where we overnight. Our host then takes us on a bush tucker tour of his land. Depending on the season, we may dig for yams and witchety grubs; collect bush bananas, bush tomatoes and fruits like native cucumber and the yalka, a type of onion found in the area.
An evening spent relaxing around the campfire, is an unforgettable experience as we ponder the country, the old people, their traditional ways and some of their stories.
Step back in time to when aboriginal people populated this arid region of the continent. The Hay River tour is perhaps the most interesting of all tours. Retrace the steps of the earliest explorers, learn of aboriginal life in the desert. See artefacts left where they were last used perhaps thousands of years prior.
This is a track that simply could not be attempted by the inexperienced without the help of a tour guide. The track improves each year but still navigation is by GPS alone in some parts, as there are simply no landmarks. In other areas, knowledge of the few landmarks available is necessary for safe travel. If you really want to experience the Simpson desert, then this is the trip for you.
Once out of the desert, we head for the Queensland channel country and camp on the Diamantina River, before making our way to Lark Quarry, site of the largest set of dinosaur footprints in the world.
The Hay river trip is one you will remember and talk about for a lifetime.
Traveling the Simpson Desert via motor vehicle is not for the inexperienced, that is why a tag-along tour is one of the best ways to experience the desert. Given that vehicle recovery costs from the desert could be more than $4000, a tag along is a great investment. Kimberly has safely crossed the Simpson a total of 22 times, rescued no less than 4 stranded vehicles that were not part of her tour, repaired a broken chassis on the Canning Stock Route that allowed the vehicle to not only complete the trip but to drive 3800 kilometres home. In her travels she has seen a convoy of eight inexperienced drivers reduced to a convoy of three after five of them suffered catastrophic damage due to inexperience. She has been first on the scene at four vehicle roll-overs offering first aid until the medivac helo arrived. Unfortunately those roll-overs were totally avoidable and resulted in three fatalities. She has dealt with major electrical failures of vehicles, transmission failures, cracked fuel tanks, broken wheel studs, smashed freewheeling hubs, collapsed wheel bearings. She successfully navigated her tour across the flooded desert, two years in a row. One year being the only convoy in the desert as it closed in front of her at Birdsville and behind her at Spring Creek Delta. In a year when the crew from a famous Australian 4WD magazine were getting bogged on the Hay River Track, she guided her tour without a single vehicle getting bogged, despite 125 mm of rain. Desert knowledge is essential and you don't get it overnight.
A HF radio such as carried by your tour guide, and an essential safety item may cost more than three times the ticket price for this tour. Cross the desert the smart way, with our tag-along tour. Get your head out of the maps, and enjoy the scenery.