The Birdsville Track is one of Australia’s most iconic outback tracks. Starting in Marree, South Australia, this 517km historic cattle route transverses the Tirari and Sturt Stony Deserts, ending in Birdsville, Queensland. Traveling along, the scenery seems to never change until you realise abruptly that it has; from stoney plains, to white, elongated dunes to yellow, sandy swales there is incredible diversity if you only just pay attention. This is some of the most arid terrain in the country where the landscape seems inhospitable to most, but surprisingly this region provides prime fodder for the organic beef industry. The rich abundance of mineral salts in the scrub vegetation gives cattle a complete diet without the need for supplements, so unfortunately even the driest of deserts isn’t spared the affects of cattle grazing!
Lake Eyre, the largest salt lake in Australia, is situated in the heart of the country 15m below sea level. Its vast salt plains have a footprint the size of a small country with a catchment area that covers three states. The lake has only filled to capacity three times during the last 150 years, but if you are lucky enough to see it during flood, you will witness the miracle of life’s colour flourish; tens of thousands of waterbirds amass across the country into a spontaneous pilgrimage to breed and feed on dessicated fish and frogs resurrected from the dry earth. The endless reflection on the water will also make you forget where the sky ends and the land begins.
The Flinders Ranges are one of South Australia’s most treasured landscapes with local folk reverently referring to it as God’s country. This ancient band of ranges has weathered over millenia into rugged peaks that can be seen for miles. St Mary Peak, the highest point in the park at 1171m, is well worth the effort as it affords exceptional panoramic views of the pound and the ancient crocodile-looking backbone of the ranges extending north. This is best appreciated from air as you can absorb the entire craggy bowl that is Wilpena Pound, the showcased gem of the park, and the endless expanse of parched landscape to the west in one vista.
Visiting the Gawler Ranges will take you back in time to the days of pastoralism; remnants of historic homesteads, shearing sheds and broken down farm fences can be found throughout the park. The sheep have also left their mark with much of the native vegetation cleared to make way for well trodden paddocks, exposing the vivid granite coloured soils that sleep below. The open plains make it easier to appreciate the local wildlife, such as kangaroos bounding across the landscape and groups of wedge-tailed eagles circling overhead.
Pildappa Rock is the South Australian equivalent of WA’s Wave Rock, but with the added bonus of more anonymity. Managed by the local shire, this mini granite monolith is a stark contrast to the flat agricultural plains that encapsulate it, yet it doesn’t stand out due to the camouflaging blanket of pastel lichen that tucks it into the surrounding landscape.