The Madigan Line – Part 2

Part 2 continues on from Part 1 of our Madigan Line adventure, in which we reached half way across the Simpson Desert to Madigan’s camp 11.

From campsite 11 on the Madigan Line, the terrain became flatter with the dunes much smaller than before. The dunes may have been less challenging but the lumpiness in the track still meant slow going. Both campsites 12 and 13 were in hot open areas, so the group were on the lookout for shade where possible.

A small stand of gidgee obliged for morning smoko and there was room for everyone to find some shelter. Not so lucky at lunch, but it was comforting to have a break after the slow driving conditions.

After campsite 14, it wasn’t long before the group reached 15 on the banks of the dry Hay River. Now the Madigan Line joined the Hay River Track and followed the dry river bed to the south.

Madigan's blazed tree

The tree blazed by Madigan on his 1939 expedition of the Simpson Desert

This was a very pleasant drive, no sand ridges and no lumpy track and it wasn’t long before the group reached camp 16 and a historic tree, blazed by Madigan in 1939. The blaze has since grown over and only a pocket in the bark remains, but the tree is fenced for its protection and plaques and visitors books are available for the traveller.

Madigan’s route leaves the Hay River track here and turns eastward again. From here the route heads for the Queensland border and the Simpson Desert National Park. Permission is required from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to cross the national park and this won’t be granted without also gaining permission from the landowner on the other side. Vic had arranged for these permissions and so we were able to continue on Madigan’s route.

a desert wattle in flower

An old gidgee tree in flower

But now the dunes were higher once again and the sand much softer. Camp was set up near campsite 17 amongst a very fine stand of gidgee.

Next day we crossed the national park. There was plenty of adventure to be had in this section. The difficulty in being leader was that after using momentum to get to the top of a dune, it was not always possible to know where the track was on the down side.


Vic found himself at a precarious angle perched at the top of a dune on one side of a spinifex hummock with the track heading off to the left. Digging the spinifex out from in front of the car proved to be the best option and Vic was very relieved to drive back onto the track, with the vehicle back evenly on 4 wheels.

Through most of the national park, the dunes, the vegetation and the views were at their best in the whole trip.

camp ovens cooking by the fire

Camp ovens in the coals – despite the wind and rain

One of the travellers was keen to have a celebratory cook off and so camp that night was just out of the national park where wood collection was not available. This was a lovely spot in a wide valley between the dunes and the celebratory mood was high. Everyone had brought attire appropriate to the occasion and the cooking was in full swing when a storm blew up.

First came the wind, driving everyone to action to tie things down and collect anything that had blown away. Then came the rain – with everyone diving for shelter. Meanwhile the roast was still cooking to perfection on the hot coals.

Soon both rain and wind had disappeared and the travellers reappeared out of their dens a little more ragged than before but ready for a great meal.

This was the last desert campsite. Now the route was through private property and they turned south once more to follow Eyre creek. First there was campsite 20 on the edge of Kuddaree waterhole. Madigan had seen the waterhole with plenty of water, we were not so lucky as the waterhole was completely dry and barren.

Annandale Station ruins

Some of the ruins remaining at Annandale Station

The track was straight and easy now through the private property. Soon there was a deviation to the Annandale Station ruins which had been abandoned before Madigan reached there. There is still a surprising amount of equipment, chimneys and some of the walls remaining there today.

Back on the track again and camp 22 was passed. This is the last camp site to visit in this trek. The present property owner doesn’t allow access to sites 23 or 24. The group kept to the track straight ahead and soon came out on the QAA Line. A left turn and they were headed for Birdsville and an opportunity to play in the sand of Big Red, the largest dune on the Simpson Desert crossing.

And finally, the group headed into Birdsville, and as Madigan had done, toasted the success of their desert adventure at the Birdsville Pub.

2 Responses to The Madigan Line – Part 2

  1. seminars in Marrakech August 29, 2015 at 2:05 am #

    great trip, you should visit also the desert of morocco it’s so amazing

    • anne August 29, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

      Morocco sounds good. I would like to get there someday.

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