Great Victoria Desert - Maralinga Tjarutja September 9 - 11 2018
  As far as I can work out Rodinia drilled two wells.

We are camped next to a road built for access to a well roughly east of the airport.

There are six camels next to the road. No youngsters. The camels are very good at hiding behind bushes.

  The Kutjara-1 well head.

The well was drilled in 5 weeks starting November 2011 to a depth of about 2.5 km.

All that remains is an open area, a post with a sign where the well head tree used to stand until recently, a capped water bore with water at 37m, and a filled in mud pond.

  With yet another military dragon.

Either we are seeing more, or there are more to see.

  There are ten deserts in Australia. The ranger programme at Oak Valley will be part funded by the "10 deserts project".

We are in the south east of the Great Victoria Desert.

At some stage, more by accident than design, we have visited all ten. Though the locations of Pedirka and Tirari were a bit obscure and need some more attention - I haven't yet found them labeled on any of our maps, which doesn't of course mean they aren't.

In this current trip we have crossed parts of the Tanami, Gibson, Little Sandy, Great Sandy, and now Great Victoria deserts. Probably also Pedirka and Tirari.

In the Simpson Desert trip we crossed parts of the Simpson, Sturt Stony, and Strzelecki deserts.

They are all different to the others.

  Next to camp is a magnificent marble gum.
  The central trunk is healthy, and lots of, presumably, basal epicormic shoots that are now almost as round as the trunk.
  Night time on the dune.

A knob-tailed gecko wondering about.

The tail is used to imitate the sound of insects that spiders and ant lions like, so the gecko can eat the spiders and ant lions.

  There's a little bit of clay in the sand, and a weak crust from the last rain.

The crust has been broken from underneath.

  A little gentle excavation and the tunnel of a marsupial mole is revealed.

The mole moves by digging and back filling the tunnel. Its in a bubble of air in the sand.

The back filled tunnel is not quite as dense as the surrounding sand.

  From the well head we traveled a bit east of south on an old shot line.
  The dunes are a bit harder in the morning, and less traveled.
  Distinct vegetation areas. A desert oak and a quandong.

Unproven hypothesis is that quandongs near the tracks are more damaged than further away. The camels use the tracks.

  The praying mantis is about 1cm long and looks like a thin piece of straw ... until it moves.
  The mallee gives way to mulga which gives way to wyola mallee.
  Also open patches of spinefex.
  Wyola mallee is uncommon (or rare). Confined to the area of Australia we are in.

Which is why early in the trip we were interested in its recovery recruitment after fire.

From the top of a dune we see wyola mallee stretching across our horizon before the next dune. The lighter coloured trees.

A site to return to with the drone.

  A stop for morning tea and a surprise single bush banana.

A single fruit on a vine.

  The seeds taste a lot like a green pea.

They only look like bananas.

  Past an old mallee fowl nest with no sign of the fowl.
  We return northwards on a different shot line.


  Very indistinct where fire has crossed.
  Next morning, a few clouds, and a few spots of rain.

The western side of the area we are in seems to have more rainfall.

  Spots of rain until about 10 am as we head north on the Rig Road.
  Clearing weather, an hour later we have blue skies, occasional cumulus, and sunshine.
  The second of two patches of a bush with flowers.
  But our aim is marble gums, old enough to have nesting sites for long-tailed parrots.

There is an east - west band of marble gums conveniently near an east-west road.

We've passed the Mulyawara-1 well. Drilled in 4 months from June 2011 to a depth of 2700m it reputedly struggled through the hard rock. The second well was a bit quicker. I may never know if any oil (or gas) was reached.

As an oil prospect this area looks like an expensive failure. Its probably changed the landscape forever, while giving us access to it.

  A bicycling dragon.

No wheels, just an interesting run, almost all on its back legs, with its head in the air.

  And crossing the road, a mallee snake. Very poisonous.
  The road is straight for at least 75 km, near to where we previously camped.
  An outcrop. Grass among the spinifex.

The (quartzite?) rock is hard.

  Ants fight.
  They also have elaborate entrances.
  The marble gums like sand.

No long-tailed parrots around. We are either too early, too late, or they are somewhere else.

They are nomadic, but pause for mating and nesting in hollows of old gum trees. Like these, where they have been previously sighted.

  A western blue-tongued lizard. Which is really a skink. I think.

It was crossing the road and tried to hide.

  Back to camp, south along the rig road, with an endless view to the horizon.

The camel decided to lead the way for a few km. At a reasonably steady 35-40 km/hr.

Until it tired of us and stopped for a rest in the bush.

Great Victoria Desert - Maralinga Tjarutja September 12 - 14 2018

Sorry, comments closed.