After years of wondering what it would
be like to cross the Simpson Desert we finally make the crossing.
It's a great part of Australia and we just love it. To camp
under the stars hundreds of kilometres from civilization is
a wonderful experience.
Despite advice to the contrary the
crossing itself is quite easy, at least along our route which
is west to east on the French Line. At no time were my driving
skills or the ability of our 24-year-old Landcruiser challenged.
My only regret is that we didn't have
enough time, doing the crossing in just three days. This was
because we wanted to travel with two vehicles and Bradley
had to get back to work. Next time maybe we'll try it in the
truck, and spend a couple of weeks.
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Sun 23 Jul 2006
My makeshift shockie bushes have all but died,
smashed by the rough roads. I wonder if they have any replacements
here at the station?
As it happens they do have a lot of spare
parts, mostly for suspensions as that is the part of vehicles that
takes a real hammering out here. They have a bucket of shockie bushes,
so we trawl through it looking for some the right size.
At first we have no luck, but then the boss comes
over and finds four bushes that look about right. He gets some tools
and is about to start work on fitting them. Chris steps in and stops
him, "My husband is quite capable of doing the job" she
Good thing she did, as he still charges $10 for
his time, I'd hate to think what it would have cost us to have him
do the work.
I pull off the wheel and remove a shockie, yep
the new bushes look like a good match. Ten minutes later we're up
and running again. We only needed two bushes but bought all four
so we have some spares.
We then drive around the corner to fuel up.
Some general photos from around the Mt Dare homestead.
While doing so we get talking to one of the employees.
When he learns that this is our first trip across the Simpson he
suggests that we do not go straight across the shortest route (the
French Line) because we will find the dunes too difficult. He advises
us to turn south and drive along the Rig Road as this is an easier
Finally we leave Mt Dare and drive to Dalhousie
Dalhousie is an oasis and a very popular spot,
as the name implies there are springs here, and apparently the swimming
is great, especially if you have just crossed the hot and dry desert
from the east.
While having lunch we notice that the shockie
bushes on Bradley's trailer are buggered, lucky we bought the spares
at Mt Dare.
It's still early, and there's too many people
here for our liking, so after a quick look around, we head off.
We continue to Purni Bore, getting there early
enough to fix Bradley's shockies and replace several loose tech
screws on our Cruiser with steel rivets.
Bradley's camper trailer at Purni Bore.
Mon 24 Jul
I get up
early to take some photos of the bore.
Steaming bore water at dawn.
Here we see the actual bore which is enclosed in a steel cage. The water runs off through an insulated pipe to the wet lands.
Even out here we encounter signs.
Wildflowers are much thicker on the eastern side of the dunes.
We leave Purni bore and drive to the intersection
of the Rig Road and the French Line. According to the advice we
received yesterday we should turn right here and proceed along the
Rig Road because it's at this point, if we persist with the French
Line, that the dunes are supposed to get difficult.
Left to the French Line, or right along the easier Rig Road?
However we didn't come here to take the easy route,
so we lower our tyre pressures and continue straight ahead.
Very quickly we enter Simpson Desert sand dune
country. This is not the classic Sahara-style dune country, rather
a land of undulating vegitation-covered dunes with interdune areas
often consisting of rock-hard clay pans.
Typical scenery on the French Line.
Depending on what you read there are up to 1400
dunes to cross on the French Line, some easy, some not so easy.
I guess the prevailing winds are westerlies, because
the eastern side of the dunes is much steeper than the western side,
therefore it's generally considered easier to travel in the direction
we are travelling, that is west to east.
At around lunch time we reach Peoppel corner.
This is the north-eastern corner of South Australia and a popular
milestone on the trip.
There's a small information shelter and a marker
for the corner. Peoppel placed his marker about 300m away where
he thought the corner was located, not bad with the technology available
After a short drive along the "shore"
of the nearby clay pan we turn right and head east along the track.
From here on it's known as the QAA line.
This ute passed us then didn't make it up the next dune. His mate snatched him back down for another try.
This time he makes it.
Some typical wildlife.
We carry on until just before sunset. The terrain
has changed from open dunes to scrub and we drive a couple of hundred
metres into the bush to make camp.
Tue 25 Jul
drive all day, the terrain has opened up again and now features
huge clay pans in the interdune areas.
One of the clay pans that form the inter-dune space on the eastern side of the desert.
As you can see from the tracks these clay pans
would be a nightmare after rain. We encounter just two vehicles
all day but can here several on the UHF.
It's customary to listen for oncoming traffic
on Channel 10, and to broadcast every now and then so people know
there's someone heading their way.
For example I say something like "Anybody
heading west on the French Line?". UHF radios have a 5-10k
range, so if I get a response I know to be careful on the dune crests
as I may meet another 4x4.
Just before 4PM we sight Big Red, the most infamous
and tallest of the dunes on the Simpson crossing. Big Red marks
the end (or start if you're heading west) of the crossing, from
here it's just about 30k of dirt road to Birdsville.
We watch as some other travelers attempt the climb.
We sight Big Red and the sign pointing to the "chicken track".
Here we see a 4x4 starting the climb up Big Red. He's already
made it on an easier route (far right of photo) and is about
to try a much harder way.
I know I can, I know I can.
I think I can, I think I can.
He did eventually make it on another route.
I hadn't planned to try the climb, not being that
interested in ticking off conquests. However now I'm here I may
as well have a go. Unlike the other Simpson dunes Big Red is steeper
on the western side, it's quite easy to drive up the eastern side,
but pretty steep when approaching from the west.
I try twice but there's a corner near the top
that sucks all the Cruiser's momentum, and with an old low-powered
vehicle I don't have that much momentum to start with.
We've been travelling on pretty low tyre pressures,
but obviously not low enough for this climb. After my second attempt
I lower the tyre pressure even further, to 12psi on the front and
15 on the rear.
This time we scoot right up the face and over
The Cruiser parked on top of Big Red.
Bradley is towing a trailer and has no chance with a hill
like this, so he backtracks and heads towards the chicken
After spending some time on top of the dune we
drive down the eastern side and make camp. Bradley joins us and
we settle in for the night.
Wed 26 Jul
I'm up early
to photograph the sand dunes.
Our camp at the bottom of Big Red's eastern side.
First light on the dune.
Some sand ripples in the early light.
There's plenty of bugs on the dune as well.
I noticed yesterday that the beautiful weld I
performed on the right-hand shockie mount had broken. So it's out
with the welder to redo the job.
While under the car I find that the exhaust pipe
has broken away from the muffler, so I weld that as well.
Fixing the broken shockie mount, Big Red is in the background.
Having done the chores it's back to some photography.
By listening on channel 10 we can hear when people are approaching
and scuttle up to the top to watch them.
This guy drove up the eastern side to have a look, then dropped
over the edge and came back up from the western side.
These blokes were travelling together. The Range Rover had
a couple of goes before making it after lowering the tyre
I'm not a big fan of Pajeros, like most modern cars you can't
fix them and they are too good to get scratched, but they
are very capable. This one, with a tourist at the wheel, shot
straight over on the first attempt. The good thing about these
vehicles is their huge power, they can just use brute force
to overcome many obstacles.
We saw a few motorbikes on the Simpson, but they all need
backup vehicles as they cannot carry enough fuel.
This photo illustrates the reason for using flags on tall
poles. When approaching a crest you see the flag long before
you see the car.
After an interesting morning watching various
attempts to crest Big Red we head off to Birdsville. Just a few
kilometres away we check out the "chicken track" which
is an easier way over the dune.
I always thought the chicken track actually went
around the Big Red, but it really just goes over a section that's
not as steep.
There must have been some rain recently as there
is quite a lot of surface water over the road. At one such place
I decide to go around the puddle. We almost get around, almost but
Bogged in a mud hole in one of the driest parts of the driest continent in the world.
We're bogged down to the axles, the mud is very
slippery and we're going nowhere. When I get out and walk through
the water I find that it's only about two inches deep with a base
as hard as concrete. Good thing I avoided that.
We do have recovery options for use when we're
alone, but when you have another vehicle why bother?
Bradley drives through the water, we hook up a
snatch strap and he tows us out.
At around 2PM we pull into Birdsville. We haven't
had lunch and so decide to grab a bite at the pie shop. As I climb
the steps I see two of the fellows we met yesterday on Big Red.
"Hear you got bogged" one of them says.
Bloody hell, the bush telegraph works well out
After eating we book into the caravan park and
have a well deserved shower.
Later we walk over to the pub for a meal and a
few beers with Bradley. He must get back home as his holiday time
is almost up. We don't have to go anywhere and plan to take our
time so it's a parting of the ways.
Thu 27 Jul
Dawn over the Diamantina River.
A crow sitting on a dead tree.
We say or goodbyes to Bradley and he drives off.
We'll hang around for a couple of days then slowly make our way
We stay at birdsville, revelling in the luxury
of not having to go anywhere. We've loved the trip but it has been
Here endeth the saga of our 4x4 adventure around
half of Australia. We're still not home yet, but the off-road part
of the trip is over.
The old pub and hospital.
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