Lake Eyre: Salty Oasis in the South Australian Outback If you are visiting Brisbane and you’d like to make your holiday a different, action-packed one, few day trips are quite as ideal as taking a flight to the scenic Lake Eyre. On the way to there, you will fly to Birdsville before following the Diamantina, soaring over Goyder Lagoon and the southern part of the serene Simpson desert. The flight over the lake itself lasts close to an hour – you start in the north and head southwards towards Belt Bay (the deepest part of the Lake). The best thing about this exciting experience it that you don’t need to worry about packing meals or getting to and from places; the friendly team at travelwest will take care of all your needs, offering you a delicious breakfast, satisfying lunch, and light evening meal. If you are travelling from overseas, all you need to do is ensure that domestic flights are covered in your travel policy, which they usually are. The rest is just about enjoying your journey and taking in the spectacular beauty of the lake itself. Why is Lake Eyre so special? There are many reasons why Lake Eyre is well worth visiting, especially from above. The Lake Eyre Basin covers a staggering 1.2 million square kilometres, crossing the borders of Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia. Many people are surprised to learn that it actually comprises two lakes which meet at a channel. The lake is half as wide as it is long (77km to 144 km, respectively). Lake Eyre rarely fills up but when it does, it is the largest lake in Australia. The People of Lake Eyre: Towns and Properties Around 60,000 people live along the many towns that pepper the Lake Eyre Basin. The best known of these towns is arguably Alice Springs, though there are beautiful homesteads on grazing properties of unimaginable proportions. There are also a wealth of lively, smaller towns such as Longreach, thus named because of the ‘long reach’ of the Thomson River, adjacent to it. While towns like Longreach once depended exclusively on the sheep and cattle industry for subsistence, they now heavily promote the tourism industry, with attractions such as the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, or the Outback Museum, favoured by visitors from far and wide. Longreach is just one of many towns with beautiful gardens, architecture and museums that merit a visit. Visitors catch a show at Banjo’s Outback Theatre, enjoy an exquisite coffee at one of many coffee shops or enjoy a tranquil river cruise. Other popular tourist destinations include Birdsville and Oodnadatta. Strong industries in the area include mining and fossil research. A larger percentage of land is owned or leased by Aboriginal people and some of these lands have a Native Title claim. Indeed, the Basis boasts a rich variety of peoples, who work in various industries – including mining, tourism, conservation of natural resources, etc. Environmental sustainability is important to Basis peoples, who realise the importance of protecting resources if social and economic stability are to be enjoyed. There are various important cultural sites to indigenous peoples, including dreaming tracks, songline indicators, caves, etc. Indeed, the Aboriginal people have cared for the land and rivers for thousands of years. Events along the Basin Two of the most well attended events are the Birdsville Races and the Henley-on-Todd Regatta. The latter, held every year on the third Saturday of August, is a unique event which is, in essence, a ‘waterless regatta’. Instead of towing or pushing the boats, event founder, Reg Smith, deemed that competitors should “cut the bottoms out and carry them”! The day prior to the Henley on Todd Regatta, the HoT Desert Trail takes place – a 27-km walk along the iconic Larapinta trail, in an aim to raise money for charity. The Birdsville Races, meanwhile, are known as the horse races “where the dust never settles.” They take place in Birdsville (formerly known as Diamantina Crossing), a normally quiet town that truly comes alive for this fun event, which will soon celebrate its 135th anniversary. The first race was held in 1882 as a hack and stock horse event but now includes a 13-race programme and prize money of $200,000 AUS dollars. The track is 2000m in circumference and the longest race goes for 1600m. These fun events are just a few reasons to visit Lake Eyre yet if you have just one day, do take in its beauty from the lofty heights of the skies. Contributed by Missi Davis