Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Call of the Desert

Editor October 21, 2015

THERE aren’t too many of us that get to travel extensively throughout the heart of Australia, but for one Shepparton couple, Geoff and Prue Dobson the call of the outback keeps getting stronger and stronger.
They have just returned from The Simpson Desert, an area that they have visited many times but as Geoff points out, there is always something new to discover, people to meet and the feeling that your heart is there.
Travelling 6,000 kilometres in 4 weeks, the pair set off at the beginning of their journey from Shepparton, heading towards the Flinders Ranges then onto Maree and Oodnadatta.
Geoff and Prue like to share their experiences with others, but many times they travel by themselves and quite enjoy the solitude of being alone in the middle of nowhere. On this trip, after leaving Oodnadatta, they saw a police vehicle and were informed they were looking for a murderer, which made their solitude a little unnerving.
It wasn’t until further down the track the next day that they discovered that the person of interest to the police had spent the night in the same area, prompting Geoff and Prue to reassess their safety needs.
Next, they found themselves on the southern edge of Lake Eyre in the channel country. The lake is now low, but they have seen it full and what a sight that is.
Geoff points out that the journey of the water to Lake Eyre actually starts in Papua New Guinea and travels under the Arafura Sea under the great divide in Queensland before entering the channel country on its way to Lake Eyre. Geoff says if you ever get to go there, the helicopter flight over the lake is well worth it.
They continued their journey, camping along the way until they arrived at Alice Springs and on the outskirts, they camped at Batton Hill Aboriginal Camp on the north end of the Hay River.
Both Geoff and Prue have built up an affinity with the Aboriginal People they have met on their many travels and this time was no different.
The locals are only too interested to show you their traditional way of life and their culture and give you the opportunity to try traditional aboriginal food.
Near their camp site was the grave of Aboriginal Elder, Lindsay Bookie who was Chairman of the Central Land Council and well respected by all, his granddaughter keeps the site adorned with flowers to honour his memory.
Next they travelled to the east edge of the Simpson Desert, this is cattle country and the main muster had just concluded. Huge road trucks, many four trailers long are used to transport the cattle to Queensland to re-fatten before being shipped to the Asian Market.
They camped on The Diamantina River, it’s a very special place. The Diamantina together with the Cooper Creek and Georgina River all meet up near Birdsville, from there they feed Lake Eyre.
Moving onto Cunnamulla, they hit heavy rain. The countryside was awash, from now on they would have to stick to the main roads.
Next, they visited Bourke then Cobar and camped on the banks of the Laughlin River, from here they entered their final leg of the journey which would take them via the Murray Darling Basin.
Geoff says the most important part of going ‘bush’ is to have the right gear, they have a special off road camper trailer with independent facilities including its own shower, refrigeration and supplies. Which means they are good to camp for up to 10 days.
Even though you may think that civilisation is not too far away, things can change rapidly and if you have a medical problem or a motor vehicle roll over, you can easily become stranded, so they also carry satellite phone, Sat- Nav, radio, 150 litres of water, 200 litres of fuel and dry food to last.
Geoff and Prue treat their getaways more as adventures than holidays and their travels have taken them as far as Cape York and the Torres Straight Islands.
As I mentioned earlier, although they often travel alone they prefer company, not only the interesting people you meet along the way but on this trip, they arranged to meet up with Roy and Merrill Hill from Shepparton and Lester and Caroline Wheatley from Deniliquin.
The Dobson’s will return to explore other areas of the Simpson Desert next year and will take along more friends to show them parts of the heartbeat of Australia.
Until next time,
Safe Travel’n,
Geoff Vallance