Victoria's Deserts: Border Track
Victoria isn't known for its deserts, and rightfully so. Technically speaking, it doesn't actually have any – even the deceptively named Little Desert receives more than 250mm of rain per year, which knocks it of the list. But we're not here for a lesson on nomenclature. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of arid regions in the southern state that'll give you a dose of dusty 4WDing comparable to the country's 'real deserts.'
North-west Victoria is home to a number of national parks. The 380 km Border Track runs from Hopetoun to the Sturt Highway and then finishes just across the border into SA in the town of Renmark. It's sandy tracks wind through remote sections of both the Wyperfeld and Murray-Sunset National Parks, allowing access to some unforgettable mallee-country landscapes. In order to reach these seldom seen spots you'll need a low range 4WD with high ground clearance, at least three days to spare and, most likely, some MaxTrax.
The trip starts with a short drive from Hopetoun to the entry of Wyperfeld National Park. There's a selection of walks near the entry to the park that vary from two hours to half a day, exploring swamps and river red gum creeks. After entering the Park there are a couple of ways you can go about the north-south traverse, with a few different tracks serviced by a number of different camp grounds. However you do decide to progress, be sure not to miss the Wirrengren Plain Track, where you'll find the remarkable wind blow known as the Snowdrift.
Don't forget to lower your tyre pressure before tackling the sandy tracks that lead to the dunes, and then be careful to avoid staking. Once you hit the Snowdrift, whip out the Maccas tray or pull the lid off the Esky and take a ride down the sleek, sandy face. After that you can take the short walk up to O'Sullivans lookout and get a take a few happy snaps. No doubt a day on the dunes will have left you thirsty for some chilled local lagers, luckily it's only 15km from the end of Wirrengren Plain Track to Underbool, where you can relax and refuel.
Image: Be prepared for plenty of sand
The next leg after Underbool takes you into the Murray-Sunset National Park and on to the Pink Lakes. Algae in the lakes secrete a red pigment in spring that turns the waters a brilliant rosy hue. There are a number of walks from the camp-site beside Lake Crosbie, one of which is littered with old machinery that was abandoned when salt miners left the area in the 70s, after six decades of commercial harvesting.
At this point it's wise to check you've got a full tank before you head deep into the Murray-Sunset wilderness, as you won't have a chance to refill for another 200km or so. Along the Sunset Track to the Rock Holes and onto the Border Track proper. The Vic/SA border fence will be visible at certain points along the trail, as you bounce along on lumpy surface that's developed courtesy of heavy trail bike traffic.
The Border Track is incredibly popular with bikers and even sees a number of commercial operations leading groups of two-wheeled terrors. Given that they often travel in big groups, it's often easier to just pull up and let them pass when you see them catching up from behind or approaching from ahead. They're able to keep a good pace along the mogul-patterned surface, so they'll be gone in no time.
As the dunes mellow out you'll hit the Sturt Highway, take a left to Renmark, fill up the tank, dust off the stubby-holder and kick back. It may take a day or two to shake the sand out of your boots, but you'll be glad you took the time to check out the closest thing Victoria has to a desert.