The following four short reflections were printed in Issue 60 of 4WD Touring Australia.
The outback can be unforgiving, no more so than in the desert. It is a landscape of extremes, the relentless sun baking the earth sapping any microscopic droplet of dew that manages to form in the cool of the night. Life clings to the edge relying on the rare liquid gold falling from the sky. While rains can turn the desert in to a green oasis, many times the rains do not come.
Pioneers of the past came here in search of the inland sea but only found hardship. Carcory Homestead echo’s this suffering, abandoned after drought and the loss of 4000 bullocks. Amazingly modern day cattle grazers continue to eke out a living but even the best farmer cant compete against the fickleness of the desert rains. This image is a reminder of the battle, the fate of a lone cow slowly petrifying in the dry air, no different to the bullocks of the past.
Our busy lives are bombarded with artificial lights and glowing screens. Day and night begin to loose their meaning. It does not take long for our bodies to separate from the natural circadian rhythms which recharge us each day. But camping in the desert changes all that. Waking to the rising sun re-synchronises the body clock. The body becomes more alert clearing the mind and regenerating the soul.
Whenever I camp I make the effort to face the rising sun. There are not many better views than slowly pealing back the zipper to see the day come to life.
The Sturt Stony Desert epitomises the interior of Australia. Stark. Endless. Remote. It is a place that leaves a mark on both car suspension and driver. Walkers Crossing is one of the few tracks which penetrates this isolated desert. Where blue meets burnt orange the dirt road leads to the horizon seemingly reaching a cliff like finale on the edge of the world.
Despite its flat repetitive dimension there is something mesmerising about this unbroken landscape. It is common to travel this path without ever seeing another vehicle. The occasional emu may shimmer in the distance appearing to swim in the mirage but there is little more to distract the senses.
Nonetheless, I would replace the noisy, chaotic, smog filled city roads with this track any day.
If there is one thing that goes hand in hand with camping in the desert, it is the campfire. While the days are warm, once the golden orb dips below the horizon it is time to get the campfire crackling to escape the night-time chill.
There is something in our genetics that has been carried over from our early ancestors that makes us gather around a fire. It is both a ritual and a necessity. When I camp with the family it becomes the central point to sit and have dinner and tell stories. Replacing the technology of city life with simple dancing flames keeps the kids entertained all night, marshmallows and sticks constantly being poked in to the depths.
When camping by yourself the campfire takes on a different meaning. It becomes your friend providing company, seemingly whispering to you and keeping the darkness ghosts at bay. Closing the eyes the warmth envelopes you, the flicker of the flames penetrating your eye lids.
This image was taken in Witjira National Park. I can still smell the Guinness stew, its wafts of herbs mixing with smoke as it drifts towards the darkness of the Simpson Desert.