New South Wales, Corner Country, Northern Territory

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Through the Blue Mountains to the western end of New South Wales called "Corner Country", en route to the Northern Territory via the famous Simpson Desert.

New South Wales

How about a black tie dinner in the bush of New South Wales? Among the other guests of the 2007 Rover's Bush Restaurant were our fellow 4x4 travellers from the Tasmania trip two months earlier. A happy reunion indeed!
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At the western end of New South Wales, Cameron's Corner marks the border between both states of South Australia and Queensland. Recent torrential rains have turned the clay into mud, thus giving us a chance to stretch and sweat a bit. It took the flies only a few minutes to spot us, but we were ready for them, with our new airy fly nets. Thanks to the thoughtful lady who shared this Aussie secret with us!

Corner Country

Corner Country, Australia. Alistair retained its recent "war paint" for several days on the tracks, while driving through Innamincka and the Sturt Stony Desert. We are well on our way to Birdsville -- 600 km north of Cameron's Corner -- and the Simpson Desert gates are now only a hundred kilometers away.
The Simpson Desert: 1240 km of parallel sand dunes which we will cross from east to west, in the opposite direction from the main winds. This means that we will be climbing those sand dunes on the steeper side. Flying a flag is highly recommended in order to be more visible and avoid encountering vehicles from the opposite direction right upon reaching a dune crest.
During our first hour of driving in the Simpson Desert, we crossed two creeks. Since the rains stopped a few days ago, they have shrunk into a couple of large pools. Once past these holes, the next water source is Purni Bore, 300 km away and three full days of driving in the sand.
A thought for the pilot of this motorbike, just a skeleton being slowly sanded by the winds of the Simpson Desert.
Poepple's Corner, a border point between Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory, is right behind us. Beyond this saltpan stretch appears the first dune of the French Line. This track was opened in the early 60's by an exploration team from a French oil company.
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Northern Territory

Northern Territory, Australia. In the morning, we discover that little tracks crossed our own during the night... while it took years for these strange circles to be drawn in the sand by a plant associated with a fungus.
When ascending a sand dune with a heavily loaded vehicle such as ours, keeping momentum is critical. That's when choosing the right path is key to getting across on first attempt. The most frustrating scenario we encountered in the Simpson Desert was when, at the base of the dune, suddenly appeared in front of us 5 to 10 meters of corrugations which made us lose momentum...
As the daylight declines, the sand gradually turns from orange to dark red. The crest of a tall sand dune makes a breezy camp spot for a good night's sleep. It makes a difference when the next day starts early well before sunrise, when the sand is still cold and firm. The dunes ahead of us are the tallest and steepest of the Simpson... that is apart from the so called "Big Red" outside Birdsville.
In the darkness, corrugations are easy to spot under our headlight beams. But as the sun rises in our backs, they become less and less visible.
Gradually, the sand colour turns from red to orange. If all goes well, this third day on sand tracks should also be our last in the Simpson Desert.
The Simpson Desert is a long string of sand dunes. Vegetation is scarce on their crests, while the valleys stretching between series of dunes are covered with bushes.
Small bushes have now been replaced by patches of yellow spinifex combined with an occasional small tree or large shrub: these are clear signs that the other end of the Simpson Desert is near.
We have barely left behind the sand of the Simpson that we slip and slide on muddy tracks again. A couple of hours later, we reach Kulgera and return on tarmac at last. We had left bitumen in Wilcannia, and clocked 1989 km in a row on tracks, the only possible land alternative through Corner Country -- that is apart from 2 km of bitumen near Birdsville which serve as an emergency air strip.
We chose not to rush on our way to Uluru and take the time to explore first a rock formation of lesser fame. Mount Conner is no less impressive yet much quieter.
In order to enjoy the Olgas-Kata Tjuta away from the noisy crowds of tourists, we took the first portion of this track which further on crosses the Gibson Desert and leads to Western Australia.
Ayers Rock-Uluru, an icon of Australian "Red Centre" is encircled by a bitumen road which provides easy access for hundreds of buses and thousands of tourists on a tight schedule.
At Kings Canyon, another touristy stop on our way, Alistair had to wait for us on the parking lot while we continued on foot.
The track crossing the Finke River National Park from south to north led us to this beautifully remote camp spot. During our entire weekend there, we only passed three vehicles in the northern portion of the park. And to think that June is the perfect time of year to camp in the area...
Located north of Gosse Bluff -- or Tnolara in the local Aboriginal language -- Tyler Pass offers a breathtaking view of this gigantic crater -- 8 km in diameter, 200 meters high -- which was created by a collision with a comet.
Bush camping in the West Mac Donnell Ranges with a view in the distance of Mounts Zeil and Razorback.
This track which runs parallel to the West Mac Donnell Ranges takes the amateur geologist to Alice Springs through a detour of pure delight.
Northern Territory, Australia. In Alice Springs, Alistair was treated to an oil change and a thorough checkup by an expert, "Bigjon". A healthy measure before hitting the Tanami Track on our way to Halls Creek and Western Australia.
Northern Territory, Australia. The Tanami Road begins as a one-lane stretch of bitumen cutting through a carpet of yellow spinifex. Two hundred kilometers further on, the landscape has turned into scarce vegetation of low bushes and a dirt track. Alistair's windscreen could testify that there is some gravel too. Luckily, we did not encounter any animal!
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