Welcome to the wild west of Australian Outback – the land of bright red sand dunes and abundant wildlife.
Lying on the edge of the Simpson Desert, about 330 km south-east of Alice Springs Old Andado is an iconic Australian homestead that has been restored to its original 1920s condition. In its heydey – years before the mains electricity, running water and phone reception, Old Andado was a working station that ran cattle, sheep and horses.
Today, the Homestead is a kind of a museum that lies between two red sand dunes virtually in the middle of nowhere. Apart from the main house, there are a few dilapidated old work sheds and rusted out trucks scattered around the home paddock, left over from the station’s better days.
There are also some basic amenities – a few dorm style rooms and a shower block, but you have to bring your own food.
My friend and I visited Old Andado as part of our wildlife watching road trip across Australia’s red centre. Since we had all our camping gear with us, we decided to camp at the Homestead, at the foot of a massive dune.
Exploring the Homestead, I kept imagining what it would’ve been like to live and work here in the 1920-s. Surviving with no windows, no fly screens, and no doors when the outside temperatures are 50° C and a host of ants, flies, snakes and other creepy crawlies are keen to get inside to escape the heat of the day. The only source of power would’ve been kerosene that kept a fridge and a stove running; water would’ve had to be carried from the well. And the only way to communicate with the outside world would’ve been via a camel-drawn mail cart that came by every couple of months. Not a world for the faint-hearted.
As interesting as the Homestead was, our main reason for visiting Old Andado was to explore the desert surrounding the station, to see some of the unique wildlife of Australian Outback. Contrary to the popular image of the desert, as a place where nothing lives, the sand dunes around Old Andado were teaming with life.
By day, it was the world of birds and reptiles. Bearded dragons and Goannas sunned themselves among the dunes, while birds congregated in large flocks around waterholes. Budgies, Diamond doves and Zebra finches fought for perching space among the sparse vegetation surrounding small water wells.
By night, the desert turned into the domain of mammals. Spinifex hopping mice, Long-haired rats and desert mice crisscrossed the dunes, darting into the safety of their underground burrows at the slightest sign of danger. Hairy-footed dunnarts scurried quietly in the sparse undergrowth.
One of the more surprising creatures we found was a Spencer’s burrowing frog. Living in the desert conditions, this unique amphibian adapted to living underground for most of the year, only emerging after the periods of heavy rain.
Such an abundance of life attracted a number of predators to the desert. We spotted dingos and feral cats skulking among the dunes at night. By day Wedge-tailed eagles, Brown falcons and Black-shouldered kites took their place. Wherever and whenever we looked we found desert life all around us.
For the adventurous souls, there are caretaking opportunities at Old Andado: https://www.oldandado.com.au/caretakers/
Getting to Old Andado:
- Via the Old Andado Track (section of the Binns Track) from Alice Springs to Santa Teresa and out through to Allambi Station. This leads directly to the Old Andado homestead. 330kms approx 4-5 hours’ drive. 4WD recommended.
Alice to Santa Teresa – 93km
Santa Teresa to Old Andado – 237km
- Via Stuart Highway to Kulgera and then in through Finke Community (Apatula), through New Crown and Andado Stations to the Old Andado Homestead. 531kms approx 6-7 hours’ drive. 4WD recommended.
Alice to Kulgera – 274km
Kulgera to Finke – 139km
Finke to Old Andado – 118km