Northern Territory to
Encompassing the Hay River, Lake Caroline and extended lake system, Gnallan-a-gea Creek
and Ethabuka Reserve
Covering part of the route of Charles Winnecke's 1883 Expedition in western
traverse in the Northern Simpson Desert begins at the Hay River in the Northern Territory
and concludes on Ethabuka Reserve in Queensland.
first part - getting to the camels
The Expedition begins with a 4WD trip from Alice Springs to the Hay River via the Plenty
Highway and Batton Hill Camp. The country to the east of Alice is cattle country and like
the rest of the lower NT, received record rainfall in 2010. The resulting floods that
careered down the Hay were phenomenal and destructive but rejuvenated a dry desert after
nearly a decade of drought. Even though the Simpson is the driest part of mainland
Australia floods play an important role in the desert ecosystem and in 2010 all the
northern desert rivers flooded south into the dune field.
desert lake section - exploring the extended lake system
After leaving the Hay, the expedition will visit what is known as the Hay River Lakes,
including the larger Lake Caroline. Lake Caroline is accessible by four wheel drivers
heading up the Hay River Track, but there are many smaller lakes and claypans to the south
that are not accessible by vehicle. We will then explore south and west into the dune
country towards the Plenty River, traversing a large arc back to the Hay.
Lake Caroline in 2010
24 00 - into Queensland
Time to take off to Queensland! Following latitude 24 00 will take us straight to the
south eastern corner of Ethabuka Reserve but we will have to create a dog-leg traverse
around the National Park boundary once we reach Queensland. This stretch of the expedition
is pure dune fields - layed out like a never-ending grid into the eastern horizon. The
dunes are not high (average of 12 metres) and by ascending the gentle western face first,
the camels will have no trouble making the traverse. There is no air-conditioned 4WD
'exploring' here - this is authentic, back-to-basics desert travel (without the
fluffiness!) conducted under a secure mantle of safety by experienced expedition leaders
and cameleers. No Tracks or roads. Just desert.
The Border - Ethabuka Reserve
The dunes continue on Ethabuka Reserve and just after entering Queensland we come
to the Gnallan-a-gea Creek. This
is the lower section of the Field River (known as Gnallanagea to the Aboriginal people)
and will almost certainly be dry but will make a welcome break to crossing the dunes.
July 1883, explorer Charles Winnecke's Northern Exploration Party left Farina in South
Australia with camels searching for pastoral country in Queensland north of latitude 26
After travelling north as far as latitude 25 00, he turned towards the Mulligan
River but in September of that year he ventured west across to the Hay River which he
named after Adam Hay of Palparara Station. He also named the Field River (after George
Field of Sandringham Station), the Toko Range and Lake Caroline.
He went as far south on the Hay as 24 33 00 and made several side forays west into
the desert reporting,
"the country appears quite level,and consists of sand, spinifex and low
Queensland/Northern Territory border was surveyed by Augustus Poeppel and Lawrence Wells
(second-in-command) in 1884 with nine other men and a team of camels. They placed posts
every mile along the line. It is extremely likely that apart from Winnecke and Poeppel, we
will be the first camel team to traverse this part of the desert.
camels to the air - the Channel Country
The expedition will finish on Ethabuka Reserve and then begins the last section of the
journey - to Brisbane, capital of Queensland and Australia's third largest city. 4WD's
will take us to Bedourie where the SkyTrans flight across the Channel Country really does
emphasis the scale of the Outback. The flight includes stops in Birdsville, Charleville
The majestic redgums in the Hay River bed
The Hay River in 2010
Difficulty: 4 (3 DEMANDING) 2
Dates: August 20 to September 13, 2011 - expedition completed
Total days including transfers: 25 - 2 day 4WD transfer / 21 days trekking / 1 day
4WD transfer / 1 day air transfer
Trekking days: 21
Departure point: Alice Springs
Finish point: Brisbane
Maximum places available: 13
Full tour price: $7200
Repeat Trekker price: $6840
Above prices include
flight from Bedourie to Brisbane over the Channel Country, access to Bush Heritage
Australia's Ethabuka Reserve, permits for Aboriginal Land access in the NT, 4WD journey
along the northern Hay River and Plenty Highway from Alice Springs. Repeat trekker price
is available to all repeat trekkers regardless of when a booking is made.
Click here to read about life on a desert camel
Looking for something a
little less demanding? The 16 Day River 2 River Trek will
traverse similar terrain (dune fields) and is graded as Moderate.
Every winter our camels can be found working
with Australian Desert Expeditions on scientific and ecological survey expeditions.
Their 2011 schedule includes a partnership with Bush Heritage Australia in the Simpson Desert,
YOU CAN JOIN these surveys and assist the ecologists with their fieldwork.
Please visit www.desertexpeditions.org for more information
All photos (except Winnecke!!) - Andrew Harper