One of the things that surprise people is Australia’s size. Most people (outside Australia, that is) don’t realize that Australia is almost the same size as the continental United States. However, there are only six states and a couple of territories—so most of the states are mighty large. As a result, states generally possess a geography that reflects Australian geography as a whole: good and abundant beachfront property with some nice trees and a lot of people not far from the shore, behind which lies an immense stretch of generally parched wilderness. This is certainly true of Queensland.
I saw glimpses of Queensland’s less than verdant regions on my first visit to Australia when I visited Cooktown and Charters Towers. But my real adventure in Outback Queensland wasn’t until my fourth trip to Oz. I had wanted to get to Birdsville, to travel the legendary Birdsville Track, on my first trip, but getting trapped in a flashflood in South Australia for a week kept that from happening. So during one of my return visits, my friends Nikki and Richard planned a trip that would take us not only to Birdsville but all over the Corner Country, that geologically wild, wonderful, and decidedly arid region where South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, and the Northern Territory share borders.
Of the myriad remarkable things we saw during that trip, one of the most astonishing was the Simpson Desert. The image below is of Big Red, a 120-foot-high sand dune that marks the beginning of the great Simpson Desert dune field. In the Simpson, there are more than 1,000 dunes, all parallel, all running northwest to southwest, all about 100 miles long, and all standing 1500 feet apart. They look like giant waves in a red ocean. Climbing to the top of Big Red, we had an almost limitless view of the rolling, red landscape spreading toward the Northern Territory. It hardly seemed possible that this was the same state that had offered me my first glimpse of rain forest.