For city folk looking to give their spotless four wheel drives a bit of a workout, there are few greater challenges than the ‘Australian Inland Loop’. Along with four friends, Brian and Joy Grant started their dream trek at Arkaroola, in the Flinders Ranges. This 5,000 km circuitous route heads for Birdsville in Queensland, taking in the Simpson Desert, Oodnadatta, William Creek and then back to where they started.
Winding through the sand dunes and desert tracks there’s no end to the amazing sights and experiences - the Dig Tree, where explorers Burke and Wills’ journey tragically ended, Boulia’s famous camel races, sipping beer at the famous Birdsville pub or soaking in a thermal spring gushing out of the ground at 37 degrees centigrade. That spring is a welcome spot for travellers wanting to clean the dust off their rattled bodies in water that is reported to be 3,000 years old.
The part that amazes us, and many others, about the Australian Outback is that while it can be so dangerous, it also can be beautiful. Heavy rains can miraculously cause the desert to burst into life with wildflowers. Something seldom witnessed, but an absolutely superb sight is the rich red desert sand, covered with yellow and white daisies stretching as far as the eye can see.
Beyond what is officially called ‘The Black Stump’ the furrowed and corrugated tracks and shrapnel like stones can shake and shatter a four wheel drive or trailer to pieces – and that’s if the bulldust doesn’t get you first. This talcum-fine-dust fills enormous potholes in the track that can supposedly bog you down to your door handles.But even worse are the rocks and even discarded car parts hidden underneath. Then there’s the intense concentration needed to drive 500 kms, peering well ahead to spot the ever changing road surface conditions while also dodging stray cattle, emus and huge road trains along the way. But there would be delight at the end of the day when we would group the three vehicles like wagons in a western movie, make a campfire and sit back and watch another beautiful outback sunset. These are some of the roughest tracks you’ll ever find in Australia and it’s not for the faint hearted, but the rewards are beyond belief.