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Phil Poulter describes the 1996 Calvert Expedition across Australia's Great Sandy Desert

"I have travelled extensively throughout Australia, but the Calvert Expedition – which retraced the 1896 expedition led by Lawrence Wells – is the most memorable trip I have ever done. We camped at one location that was more than 1,000km in any direction from civilisation, and walked past rock carvings that were tens of thousands of years old.

Often there were no visible tracks to be seen. We travelled through country where the spinifex grass was taller than the vehicles, occasionally having to stand on the roof rack to locate the direction that the vehicle in front had gone. One day, late in the afternoon, the lowering sun lit up the spinifex so that it glowed like a sea of shimmering gold. This made it even more difficult to follow the tracks of the vehicle in front. We made an early camp that day.

One group of journalists flew in by helicopter to join us on a particularly difficult sandy section in their clean, fresh clothes. They were mortified, while sitting on their luggage, when we handed them shovels, instead of canapés and cocktails, to help us dig several of the vehicles out of a bog.

One night I walked about a kilometre from our camp and sat on top of a tall sand dune looking back at the dull glow from our campfire, then up at the star-filled night. I thought to myself, 'No human being has probably ever set foot in this place'.


28 Victoria Link, Route 21 Corporate Park, Nellmapius Drive, 
Irene X30, Centurion, Tshwane, Gauteng, 
South Africa

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