Desert sights in Australia
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About 70km north of Alice, the Plenty Hwy heads off to the east towards the Harts Range. The main reason to detour is to fossick in the gemfields about 78km east of the Stuart Hwy, which are well known for garnets and zircons. You're guaranteed to get lucky at the popular Gemtree Caravan Park.
Remote and beautiful, Mungo National Park covers 27,850 hectares (68,790 acres) and echoes with over 400 centuries of continuous human habitation. A 25km (15.5mi) semicircle (lunette) of huge sand dunes, known as the Walls of China, has been created by an unceasing wind that constantly exposes ancient Indigenous artefacts and prehistoric bones.
The Pinnacles are typical of the kind of eerie landmark this ancient terrain throws up - anomalous pillars of sandstone spread over the desert like soldiers petrified by an angry god. The geological explanation for these striking formations is, if anything, more wondrous than any supernatural provenance.
The Pinnacles are the high point (pun reluctantly acknowledged) of the Nambung National Park. While the Indian Ocean is close at hand, it's hard to credit the fact that these towering stacks, some as high as 3m, are actually formed by crushed sea shells. Compacted by rain over countless millennia, the sand, harder in some areas than others, eroded to form the pillars that…