Members Trips

stories from Australia



across the simpson

by Theo

Firstly I would like to suggest that as a first time crossing we learnt something.  The crossing is best done West East if you have a trailer, the slopes are steeper the other way.  Travel with others, even if it is just one other.  Take the Rig Rd and don't feel rushed - allow 5 days.  Take along plenty of recovery gear we used 5 straps and a long handle shovel.  We still had in reserve a winch and an air jack.  And love flies because they'll love you.

   We arrive at Mt Dare late afternoon and fuel up before pitching camp.  Dave, God bless him, lectures us on the perils of taking trailers into the desert and shows us one that he had retrieved today.  We join him and 2 other couples in the pub that evening to exchange yarns and don't leave till 9 - closing time.  The other couple incidentally arrived after dark and had travelled along the Old South Road from Chamber Pillar (they also diverted to see Lamberts centre) but this gave us feeling of having made a good choice of roads even though the Stuart was about 150 K longer.

   Our plan was to take the Rig Rd stopping at Dalhousie Springs, which was a nice place with good facilities and a great place for a swim, and Purnie Bore not as nice but well worth a stop.  Deciding to camp off the Rig Rd and up close to a dune for protection from the winds, it was already quite windy.  We watch the sunset and had dinner away from the flies - only to be assaulted by the nighttime bugs that were not well educated.  They had had no understanding that our yellow lights were designed to keep them away.  Later in the night the winds increased to something like 40 knots we had to get up and further secure the tent but it remained uncomfortable with lots of noise and slapping canvas - just as well I have a hearing problem which allowed me to sleep through it all.  Even the rocking trailer I imagined was just like sleeping in a moving car to put my mind at ease.

   Well one of us had a good night sleep - me, the others looked worse for wear.  After some breakfast we left at 7 and my buddy promptly managed to get bogged on one of our first hills - this was the start of a routine that would be replayed at least half a dozen times.  He would take his best run up and we would pull him over the rest of the way.  What teamwork, everyone had a job, the straps were out neatly shackled together (as many as 5 straps) a gentle pull to the top and everyone rolled up the straps.

   Continuing along the Rig rd we turn off at the knolls track, deciding that we would give this a shot.  At this stage we had not seen a soul but channel 10 comes alive and we know others are nearby and a little further we spot them at the lone gum tree.  They had camped there for the night and had fared no better with the howling winds.  Some pleasantries and they were off to do the WAA track leaving us to ponder the origin of the gum.  We continue along the Knolls a track that seemed to have little use in the first bit but now look well travelled and we follow this to the French Line stopping at the knolls for a break.  Interesting, these knolls are huge outcrops of gypsum and the track is bouncy.  We end up camping about 15K west of Poeples Corner in between two closer dunes and some taller trees.  There was nothing like the wind of the night before - in fact it was quite still.  We even have a campfire, one of only 2 during the whole trip.  Glorious evening, had a shower, dinner and then watched the stars - doesn't get much better than that.

   Well it had to happen, barely on the road again and I got bogged over the top of one of the first hills.  This was treacherous sand, very powdery and even though I had 18 lbs in the tyres got bogged to the floor pan on a downhill slope - just couldn't believe it!  Well luck had served us well this far and we got out to assess the situation - we were in front and my buddy was behind us.  We start digging the sand away from under the car and they decided to look for an alternate route around (there seemed to be one leading between the dunes).  We were pleasantly surprised to find that they had made it around, he had followed the track for quite some distance and eventually he could cross with no dune at all.  A gentle pull and we were out, certainly a very good reason to travel with others I reckon.

   Arriving at Peoples Corner about 9-30 we stopped for photos and coffee, it was interesting as 3 of us stood in separate states at the same time.  Signed the visitor book and note the Exploreoz sticker.  We head for the K1 track and Birdsville over what seems an endless line up of sand hills and saltpans.  About half way along we run into another party travelling west, they plan to turn around at Poeples Corner and return to Birdsville.  They asked about the boats told them that we were looking for the inland sea - he looked confused.  The scenery changes as we got closer to Birdsville to something that looks less like desert but still very dry.  Big red looms and we drive up and walk to the top - no doubt about it this is the biggest sand hill so we decide that with the trailers we would not attempt a drive up.  A couple of people were driving across and the folk we met at the lone gum pulled up as we were leaving.

   The bypass road probably has the second biggest sand hill that we had seen.  It took some effort to get over the top - low second and about 5000 revs but we made it on our second attempt.  There was a second hill just over the top, which got me on the first pass.  Pulled my buddy over for the last time, a rather moving experience for him as the hill was not straight and the angle meant I was pulling off the main track.  Got a glimpse that things weren't altogether when my trailer started ploughing sand and the towrope started cutting into the hill.  From his perspective he was looking at a sudden drop to which I continued to pull him.  All's well that ends well and we completed the Simpson crossing in 3 days and 2 nights.


 thanks to Theo for sharing his trip with us


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