The Simpson is one of Australia’s great deserts, and driving across it on the way from Birdsville to Alice Springs proves challenging, enjoyable and far from lonely.

Story By Mark Muller

A soft curse rolls across the sand and wildflowers on the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert. This may sound somewhat incongruous, given the peace and beauty of the surrounds, but then it is the Birdsville golf course, and golf courses and curses, soft or otherwise, are no strangers. Evan McHugh soon smiles, however, his form corrected and the satisfying plunk of ball in cup improves his generally good-humoured demeanour. “People say golf is a good walk ruined, but then I reckon it’s a pretty good excuse for a good walk,” he says. Evan, author of Outback Heroes, among other titles, is spending a year in Birdsville and writing a book about it. He has also been assiduously grooming and repairing the golf course that had fallen fallow on the edge of the town common.
It’s a good thing for those for whom Birdsville marks either the beginning or the end of one of the nation’s must-do desert drives – a Simpson Desert crossing. Whether you head east from Dalhousie Springs, or take the more challenging westerly crossing, the chance to have a round or two of the auld game is a delightfully weird bit of colour to add to the experience. Among the first cardholders of the golf club are Nell and David Brook, well-known local pastoralists and pioneers of Australia’s organic beef industry, so you’ll be in good company if you do decide to have a swat.
The Simpson’s 1100-plus dunes and swales are a slow, sandy roller-coaster and a fair test of travellers’ vehicular competence and fortitude. If heading west, adding a dogleg up through Mount Dare, Finke and along the Old Ghan Line into Alice Springs makes a neat curve from A to B, or B to A, as the case may be. This run is part of a Birdsville-to-Broome trip executed by Land Rover Australia to commemorate its 60th anniversary in our country.

This story excerpt is from Issue #61

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2008