The Australian Desert (and Nothing Else)August 15, 2014

Contrary to what most people think, Australia's deserts aren't totally devoid of vegetation. There are large areas where vegetation is very limited. They are found in Australia's interior, mostly in Western Australia and South Australia.

The Great Victoria Desert is the largest desert, covering Western Australia and South Australia. It consists of small sandhills and grassland plains with a packed surface of pebbles and salt lakes. The Great Sandy Desert, found northwest of Western Australia, is next. It contain large ergs, which make the desert look like moon craters. Tanami Desert, the third largest, situated in the Northern Territory, is a rocky terrain with small hills. Thunderstorms are relatively common, an unusual phenomenon reponsible for a one-in-ten-year happening.

Wildflower season

Every ten years, flowers hover above the red dirt. This is the time when the deserts come to life. The rains are responsible for this spectacular display. Peter Latz, Central Australian botanist, spent most of his life studying the vegetation of Central Australia. He found out that no two wildflower seasons are the same.

"That's what I love about the desert," he said.

"There's all different types of daisies, from a unique subset of Australian group of daisies, better known as 'billy buttons'.”

"I'm just loving seeing this field of yellow for this year, knowing we may not see it again for years."

He isn't the only one enchanted by the desert.

Walking to the edge

In 1977, Robyn Davidson set from Alice Springs for the west coast, with a dog and four camels in tow. The Queenslander planned this trip, training camels and learning how to survive in the desert. She never thought that this voyage would attract the attention of National Geographic Magazine - and the rest of the world.

In her own words, why not. During the nineteenth century, many (male) explorers dared to venture into the interior. They were looking for a viable route to Perth, risking their lives for fame and fortune. Ernest Giles, who was born in Bristol, England, was one of those men. He began his first expedition on August 22, 1872, and five trips later, wrote about his accounts for prospectors. They have a mission. Davidson don't have one, which many find appealing.

After her experience was featured in National Geographic, she wrote a book which provided more details. "Tracks" (1980) wasn't only a bestseller, but it also launched her career on travelling and writing. She hoped the book would inspire a younger generation of girls who wanted adventure. The only difference was no modern technology assisted her. (She relied on four camels, namely Dookie, Bub, Zeleika, and Goliath.) This meant exploring the most remote areas wouldn't be considered a solitary prospect.

"It's very, very hard to disappear under the radar now," she said.

"These days it's very hard to detach.”

"I try to factor solitude into my life, because more and more that's becoming a very precious and rare commodity."

The book was adapted to the big screen on 2013.

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