The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GRA­HAM ERBACHER

BEST DESERT & SA­VAN­NAH TRACKS Len Zell and Ian Glover (Wild Dis­cov­ery Guides, $59.95)

We have a few im­pos­tors lurk­ing in the Aus­tralian out­back. Deserts that aren’t re­ally deserts and plains that plainly are. Does it sound like a dry sub­ject? Aca­demic Len Zell and jour­nal­ist Ian Glover bring it to life in Best Desert & Sa­van­nah Tracks: At­las and Guide. To be clas­si­fied as a desert, an area must re­ceive less than 25cm of rain a year. That rules out the Big and Lit­tle Deserts in Vic­to­ria and the Pin­na­cles Desert in Western Aus­tralia. But it rules in the Nullar­bor Plain and large swaths of Queens­land and out­back NSW that are de­scribed as “mar­ginal” graz­ing land. Semi­arid or sa­van­nah land has an an­nual rain­fall of 25-50cm, with veg­e­ta­tion dom­i­nated by short, coarse grasses.

“There are vast dif­fer­ences in the deserts: the Tanami in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory is flat plains, spinifex and aca­cias, Sturt Stony is a gib­ber plain and the ad­join­ing Ti­rari re­port­edly the only place on the con­ti­nent where Abo­rig­ines could not live be­cause of a to­tal ab­sence of wa­ter,” Glover tells us. “Our sand dune deserts such as the Great Sandy, the Great Vic­to­ria and the Simp­son are ‘fos­silised’ deserts be­cause they are sta­bilised by veg­e­ta­tion; no shift­ing Sa­hara-style sand dunes here.” Prepa­ra­tion to see it all is para­mount. This guide tells us how to for­tify the 4WD, the routes to fol­low and what we’ll en­counter, in­clud­ing an­i­mals and plants. And then there are 120 pages of maps, mark­ing out ev­ery twist and bone-jar­ring turn.

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