Explorer Andrew ‘Harps’ Harper and his team of 17 camels have returned to the Simpson Desert to resume exploration and walking trips, which ceased during COVID restrictions.

Story + Photos Georgie Mann

“The last couple of years have been really tough for everyone,” he says. “For us, it’s pretty much felt like we’ve been dragged facedown across the dunes and through the spinifex. But this year we are working to get back on our feet, and it’s great to be again offering treks to those who want to come bush and experience inland Australia this way.”

Base camp lies 6 hours south-east of Alice Springs, near Old Andado Station. Travellers join Harps and his Outback Camel Company to explore landscapes only accessible on foot, traversing a patchwork of sand dunes, gibber and spinifex plains, sleeping in swags under the clearest of night skies.

Having traversed Australia from west to east, and clocked up more than 20,000km on foot, Harps has a deep relationship with his camels that is captivating to watch. Each day he and his cameleers saddle and load these ships of the desert with up to 200kg of supplies each. Harps is obviously comfortable managing the animals’ distinct personalities and temperaments. “Camels I understand. It’s the humbug of our crazy world that I have more trouble making sense of,” he says. 

Trekking with Harps is a unique experience – devoid of creature comforts and well off the beaten track – but it’s here among the humps and dunes of the Simpson Desert that one can soak in the wholesome pace of slow travel, and truly connect with the vast beauty of our desert heartlands.

This story excerpt is from Issue #144

Outback Magazine: August/September 2022