We farewelled the rocky escarpments of the East MacDonnell Ranges as the Binns Track took us southward toward the Santa Teresa indigenous community. This former catholic mission is now home to many indigenous artists however COVID closures prevented us entering the township to check out the gallery there.
From Santa Teresa the gravel road became the Old Andado Track, reputedly constructed on request of Molly Clark the owner of the historic station at southern end of the route. The road was in good shape, with the surface of graded gravel petering out as we approached the spectacular jump up of the Rodinga Range where it became a sandy and less discernible track.
As we rolled around end of the range the terrain changed and we found ourselves driving through the long swale formed between tall red sand dunes – this signalled that we were now on edge of the Simpson Desert! Although we weren’t crossing it to Birdsville it was a great thrill to be running through the desert after all the obstacles so far.
The Moon Tours escort vehicles had been having ongoing mechanical problems, many caused by the dash from Mt Dare to Kulgera through 250km of mud and slush. Along the way they had replaced brake components and repaired diff seals, with Trent’s Landcruiser getting a full service in Alice Springs on our way through. Now was a new problem, his transfer case drain plug had rattled loose, dropping all of its oil. Luckily I had several litres of gear oil in my spares box to give him, and luckier still the drain plug was still sitting on the bash plate under the Cruiser. The incident happened in a beautiful stretch of desert swale and gave the crew a good chance to catch our breath after running hard through the day.
With Suzzanne at the wheel we continued onward, rolling toward a special landmark. We turned to the east and parked beside a broken down windmill and some rusted out steel water tanks, at a place known as Andado No.1 Bore. Here a yellow star picket marked site of Camp No.1 of the Madigan Expedition…
We had made it to the start of the Madigan Line, the point from which we had planned to launch across the Simpson Desert a week ago, but were thwarted by COVID restrictions and the rains. We would be back at this location in 2022 to have another attempt at this iconic desert crossing.
With the sun setting on one side and the moon rising on the other we drove to Old Andado Station, arriving at our camp in darkness after an exhilarating and entertaining drive. A quick camp set up would do tonight, without even unhitching the X3 from the Cruiser – then a camp fire session to relive the monumental day with our travelling companions.
We awoke to a brilliant clear morning, but not early enough to beat the flies which soon formed a mobile black cloud around us as we had breakfast then completed the origami routine of packing the camper into its shell. Not many others were stirring yet, as we headed across to Molly’s homestead. This is the home that she left exactly as it was when she lived there, to serve as a museum and reminder of pioneer life at the edge of civilisation through the 1900s. Its fitting that she is now buried at her little oasis, just a few hundred metres from the homestead at base of a big red Simpson Desert sand dune.
It will be hard to top the last couple of days, visiting locations that are linked to very reason for us being in this part of the country and seeing the time capsule of Old Andado while it still exists. If you ever have the chance to divert into this isolated little pocket of the Simpson Desert I encourage you to come while you can.
From here we loop back to the west, with yet more iconic Northern Territory sites to see. Join us on the next blog to check them out too.