Once stark desert landscape awash with kaleidoscope of colours

At first there’s just a hint. Pools of water sparkle like diamonds into the distance. They shine more brightly as a newly emerged sun peeps out from the east, its rays hitting at exactly the right spot to make these little patches glitter all the way to the horizon. But it’s still red gibber rock all around, harsh and uncompromising.

“Once we head up to Lake Machattie, that’s where the magic begins,” pilot Jonathon Rae says. He takes off in a Cessna 210, leaving the Birdsville Hotel and bakery behind. Heading north, deep purples, reds and browns blend through what’s known as the Channel Country, more than 200,000 square kilometres of arid landscape and ancient flood plains.

Soon enough the red turns to green – first a patch or two, then a deep, luxurious, emerald green. It’s divided by multiple channels and tributaries — from the air they look like little capillaries of water. Hundreds, possibly thousands of them. The dense greenery spreads out from what looks like an inland sea. This is Lake Machattie – it’s full to the brim and overflowing.

From the ground, soft pastel colours merge the waterline with the sky, broken only by trees, greenery and a breathtaking influx of birdlife.

First published by ABC News