More ambitious is the 550km loop into the fringes of the Simpson Desert along the Finke and Old Andado tracks, which diverge at Alice Springs’ airport and meet at the community of Finke. At the airport, the Finke Track is also known as the Old Ghan Heritage Trail, as it follows the route of the old railway all the way past Oodnadatta to Port Augusta in South Australia. On the way, you’ll pass stands of desert oak and may see camels, descendants of the original beasts led by Afghan cameleers before the Ghan train reached Alice Springs in 1928. It passes Ewaninga Rock Carvings but detours east before Maryvale to the ruins of Rodinga sidings. The section from Rodinga to Finke is the best part of this route, either on the embankments of the actual railway or on the rougher track alongside it, passing other sidings with interpretive boards on the history of this pioneering overland route. As you near Finke, the red sand ridges create some sandy passages, after which you cross the sandy Finke River itself and enter the community.
After Finke, the nature of the route changes as you traverse overgrazed plains to New Crown station; you may prefer to call it a day here and turn west from Finke to Kulgera on the Stuart Highway. To complete the loop via Andado, head east, recrossing the broad Finke, and follow the denuded pasturelands past Andado homestead and on to the ramshackle but still occupied Old Andado homestead. North of here the track remains easy but gets bleaker still as the sand ridges thin out. After a while, the ranges of the East MacDonnells rise from the horizon and bring you back into vegetated and then wooded country for the rough, final 150km past Santa Teresa community and the airport close to town.