Desert Apparitions 1994 & 2007

It was late afternoon in July of 1994 when we crossed Savory Creek, just to the west of Lake Disappointment in the Little Sandy Desert. The crossing had some wetness to it but it hardly required four wheel drive mode.

Not long after the crossing and after some cross country driving to find the Canning Stock Route Track again, we were making our way towards a small peninsula which juts out into the vast expanse of the dry salt of Lake Disappointment. A convoy of vehicles approached us from the east and we were advised by them via radio that there was no wood at the end of the road for a camp fire. We pressed on regardless as we had a small amount of wood with us.

We arrived at the edge of the lake and looked out over this vast white expanse, shimmering in the late afternoon sun. Soon we had our swag and chairs and paraphernalia rolled out that one needs for a restful camp. We built our meagre wood supplies into a fire mound and then went for a walk to look for more. We were about to walk over the first sand hill to the south when we heard the noise of a vehicle approaching.

Now one has to bear in mind that the places mentioned are iconic names along the famous Canning Stock Route which runs in a north-easterly direction from the town of Wiluna in the Goldfields of Western Australia to Halls Creek in the sub-tropical north. The distance is around 2000 kilometres with the first 700 kilometres without a chance to refuel. Vehicles contend with a range of obstacles such as washouts and sand hills. When it rains it can become very muddy. So whatever you are doing along endless dusty tracks, your vehicle is going to get dirty.

This late model beige coloured Toyota Troopcarrier trundled into our camp. The first thing I noticed was that it was spotlessly clean. No dust, no mud and no foliage scratches. There was only the male driver in the vehicle. The bloke got out and said “G’day”. He was quite tall and was wearing embroidered RM Williams cowboy boots, cream moleskin trousers, a white western style shirt with fringing and an a black Akubra hat. He had a neatly clipped beard and a long pony-tail of hair. He was very out of place amongst we disheveled looking desert travellers!
We were so dumbstruck that we could hardly say anything. But the conversation went into chit chat mode and we said that we were surprised that he was travelling alone. “Oh no!” he said, “my girlfriend is following me in her four wheel drive. She should be along soon”. Without trying to be too obvious I started looking at the Toyota making comments about it and so was able to look in the back of the vehicle where I saw only a small suitcase, a swag and a small esky. He had no recovery gear, no camping gear, no chairs, no radio, and no food supplies from what I could see. This was very puzzling.

Soon enough his girlfriend’s vehicle came into view and stopped beside his. This was a white Toyota Troopcarrier of similar vintage as the other, also in spotless condition. This young lady alighted from the vehicle. She was very attractive with full make-up on and could have been a model on a catwalk. She wore full length embroidered white high heel boots, white jeans, a white western style shirt with and embroidered top and a white Akubra hat! She was very friendly and pleasant and spoke with a cultured voice. After some chit chat we said that they would be welcome to camp close by if they so wished. The bloke then said that he had symptoms of Agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces) and that he was going back to west to camp amongst the trees. And without much else to say he shook our hands, got into his vehicle and drove off. His girlfriend was rather disappointed and she confided in us as she would have loved to camp with us. But she was following her friend and had to leave. Just before she departed she stated that we might as well have the logs of wood she had found along the way and promptly gave us all of her wood. After cleaning out the wood scraps from the back of her vehicle I saw that there was no other luggage or camping gear. And with that she hurriedly shook our hands and was off, following the dust trail of the other vehicle.

We stood there dumbfounded. How? What? Who? There were no answers. It still puzzles us to this day.

We had a roaring campfire that night!

Lake Disappointment

Lake Disappointment

In 2007 a mate and I took a slow journey from our place in South Australia to Darwin, driving all the dirt roads heading north until we hit the bitumen near the Roper River in the Northern Territory. My mate had flown down from his home in Darwin to accompany me on this journey.
We departed from the Flinders Ranges in mid-July and set off on a leisurely pace north along the Birdsville Track. We turned off that iconic road and crossed over at the Warburton Crossing to enter the eastern section of the Simpson Desert. Our journey took us further towards Poeppel Corner and along the French Line. Along the way we met up with a group from the City of Geelong in Victoria who were doing a similar zig-zag trek through the desert. In fact we caught up with them three times before the incident happened.

We had met the group again along the WAA Line where they came in from Lynnie Junction. I could tell it was them from their radio chatter. We let them go so as to wait for their dust to settle.We were within two kilometres from where we met the group and only minutes behind when we crested a dune and saw a brand new Nissan Patrol, spotlessly clean, and stationary on a claypan. The person must have seen our vehicle approaching as we crested the dunes in the late afternoon sun. The vehicle was seemingly waiting for us to pass. As mentioned, it was spotlessly clean. Even the wheels had no dust on them. We stopped as we drew alongside the vehicle and I spoke with the solo male driver who was immaculately dressed in denim clothes. He was well groomed and with his hair combed back into a pony-tail. I noticed that he did not have a dune flag nor any radio aerial on his bull-bar and asked him about that. He said that he had not had time to fit a dune flag to his vehicle. He also told us that he did not have any radios or for that matter a Satellite phone. He said that he was just out for a desert drive. I asked if he had spoken with the mob ahead of us. He said he had seen no one all day. I asked again and he stated emphatically that he had seen no one. We left it at that, said goodbye, and drove on. The following day I spoke with the group from Geelong at Purnie Bore, and they said that they had not seen the vehicle nor the driver at all. That would have been seemingly impossible as there was nowhere to turn off the track unless you ventured cross country. Strange. Very strange, indeed!

Maybe these people have been crossing over in a time warp from the 5th dimension. Maybe in the time-space continuum there are indeed parallel worlds and that we may cross over into one another’s dimension inadvertently. Maybe the man with the pony-tail is the same man crossing my path like a guardian angel. Who knows?
It’s all a mystery………………………

Simpson Desert

Simpson Desert

Posted in 4x4 Travel Stories.