May 23, 2009 14:38
in Tour Overviews by john ::
Today we took our guests to Lake Eyre, an unreachable landmark for most Australians, the great salt sink in the desert heart and lowest point in Australia at 15.2 m below sea level.
The Lake Eyre basin extends into three states, and occupies 1/6th of the Australian continent, equal in size to the State of South Australia.
At 1.3 million sq kms it is one of the biggest drainage systems in the world, much of its waters, under flood, flowing down from Queensland. It has only filled three times in 150 years and for the last few weeks it has been filling again. We reached Madigans Gulf and a sight to behold, along a 4WD road passing through the feral Dingo barrier fence. Geologists believe 20,000 to 50,000 yrs ago the lake was permanently full, the drying a consequence of climate change over 15,000 yrs. The salt crust in the centre is 5m thick.
On arrival our expectant group couldn’t resist bounding straight out onto the great salt expanse determined to experience the sense of isolation and mystique the lake holds and what it is like to walk on. We could see water in the distance which was only a mirage and the further we walked towards it the more we discovered a mirage forming all around or the white of the lake fusing with the sky leaving us with an eerie feeling of infinity.
Some group members turned back to remain connected with the surrounding desert dunes and the bus, while Everald and Rex beat on like intrepid explorers in the never never, toward a solitary stick planted in the crusty surface. After 2 kms they decided the 150 kms to the other side of the lake was probably a trifle far and the mirage just kept moving along with us.
So it was with a great sense of achievement we all headed back to our base at Marree along the rutted 4wd track coated with bull-dust, having achieved the extraordinary – to walk on Lake Eyre. And tomorrow we have a light aircraft flight arranged over the lake to view the flood waters and some of the 20,000 pelicans which have commenced breeding on one of the temporary islands.