Mitsubishi celebrated 30 years of its diamond logo in Australia with a trip full of desert sparkle.
The scrub out here disappears in a gentle arch, extending horizon to horizon, overwhelmed by a washed-out blue sky. The giant sky fills the landscape; it isn't called big-sky country for nothing.
This is South Australia's desert heart, the geographic centre of the state and the playground for Mitsubishi's 30th anniversary celebrations in Australia.
Our four-day exploration of the South Australian desert with a fleet of Mitsubishi 4X4s started at Balcanoona, just west of Lake Frome.
Flying in from Adelaide on a charter plane, we watched the coast's blonde soil gradually deepen to rich ochre and the spine of the Flinders Ranges rise from the plains below.
This area was an inland sea millions of years ago, and with forces shifting the earth's crust the mountain ranges formed, much if it enduring almost unaltered with its tough quartzite outcrops.
This harsh dry region has been the home of Aboriginal tribes of the Adnyamathanha (meaning 'rock people') for at least 15,000 years, although archaeological evidence shows a more consistent population in the last 5000 years.
European exploration started in 1802 under the instigation of a Matthew Flinders survey and exploration party.
From the 1850s pastoral leases were taken, and copper mining and — for a while in the 1870s — agriculture was successful (though it subsequently collapsed, thanks to the easing of unseasonal rainfall). Today mining and pastoral land are key industries in the Flinders.
With the charter flight bumping to a stop on the airstrip at Balcanoona, we eased into our fleet of Mitsubishi Tritons, Challengers and Pajeros for the 18km drive up the road to Wooltana Homestead.
The homestead is nestled into the side of the range and looks out onto the gibber plains. We pulled up for lunch alongside the remains of the old shearing shed, thought to have been built in the early 1900s.
With time to explore around the ruins and the scattered remains under a baking sun, you began to get a sense of the harsh life early settlers had here.
From Wooltana we headed south then west through the Vulkathunha–Gammon Ranges National Park, heading for Leigh Creek, around 120km away. As we turned off the Arkaroola Road the smooth wide dirt road of the gibber plain quickly turned into single track threading its way across the undulating terrain.
To read the full story grab a copy of February's issue of 4X4 Australia magazine, on sale now!
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