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Simpson Desert Trip - May/June 2022

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  • Simpson Desert Trip - May/June 2022

    After a lot of planning and some delays due to Covid and road closures, we finally did it!

    To get a more in-depth experience, we decided to take the 'Combined Route' rather than just drive straight across the French Line. This adds a few hundred km to the distance between fuel stops but fuel was never an issue. BTW, the price of fuel in Finke (NT) was only $2.20/litre compared with $3.05 at Mt Dare, so after visiting the Lambert Geographical Centre west of Finke we filled up mains, auxiliaries and jerrys, with a top-up later that day at Mt Dare.

    The route we took was Mt Dare, Dalhousie, Rig Road to Lynnies Junction, Colson Track, French Line, Erabena Track down to the Lone Gum, Rig Road to Knolls Junction, up Knolls Track to the French Line, Poeppel Corner, K1 Line, WAA Liine and out over Big Red to Birdsville - a total distance of 701 km. My NW Paj used 112 litres over that distance, returning 16 litres/100 km. I carried 88 litres in the main tank, 65 in the auxiliary and just for good measure, another 20 in a jerry can. The new Brown Davis auxiliary tank worked like a charm, but not sure if it was it or the rear bumper bash plate that occasionally struck the sand when the vehicle pitched coming out of a deep depression (slowing down a bit fixes that issue....) Time wasn't an issue for us; we took 7.5 days to do the crossing. The variety of landscape was amazing; there were many changes to it even along the same track. The recent rains produced a carpet of green vegetation in some areas.

    Crossing the Spring Ck Delta (which had re-opened only recently) was straight forward, with easy bypasses around some wetter sections. Towards the other end of the crossing, Eyre Creek was not flowing, but there was lots of water just upstream and there was heavy erosion on the track leading down to the crossing.

    I was in a party of 3 vehicles (Paj, Prado and Jeep Grand Cherokee) and we were surprised at how little traffic we encountered on the route. We went for two days without seeing another vehicle - admittedly this was not on the French Line, which seems to be the most popular route. On the French Line, we encountered maybe 3 or 4 other parties per day.

    Being my first crossing, I could not compare the condition of the tracks to any previous desert experience, but we were all agreeably surprised by the ease of traversing most of the dunes. The sand was generally fairly firm, giving good traction. There were some dunes with lots of loose sand near their tops, and that, combined with the scalloping of the wheel tracks that causes the vehicle to lurch side to side, slows you down to a crawl, but there was still plenty of traction. I ran my Maxxis Razr tyres down at about 15 psi once the dunes started. The only time one of our vehicles needed assistance was when the Jeep driver took an alternate path over a dune, but slowed down too much in the soft sand on top because he couldn't see where the track went, and then couldn't get going again due to being bottomed out after a bit of wheel spin. A simple pull from the Prado got him out and mobile.

    And speaking of the Jeep, when it came time to empty the first jerry can into its fuel tank, no amount of poking or prodding would get the nozzle or funnel through the anti-theft barriers (two of) and into the fuel pipe. I engineered a solution using my swag's ridge pole, so at least the Jeep could be refuelled. Several days later when the owner was digging around in the bowels of the spare tyre well, he found the special Jeep-supplied funnel spout that is designed to get through those two barriers. He didn't even know that the vehicle had such a thing. Now he does!

    When we arrived at Big Red, it had already taken hostage a suspension wishbone on another vehicle that was stranded at the foot of the dune. And while we were there, the owner returned from Birdsville where he had just had the wishbone welded back together. The dune deserves its name - it seems far bigger than anything else we'd seen on the entire trip. On top, it's more like a Sahara Desert dune you see in pictures. My Pajero and the Prado got up Big Red first go but the Jeep needed at least 3 attempts to get up a more difficult route (but would have easily got up first time on the route that I used).

    When we got to Birdsville, the Diamantina was still in flood, so the only way out of town (apart from retracing our steps) was to head north to Bedourie - but even to get there involved a 70 km detour around the closed Cuttaburra crossing. From there it was to Boulia, Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine, Charleville, Cunnamulla, and then for family reasons I detoured to Adelaide on the way home to Victoria, and decided to turn right at Cunnamulla for Thargomindah and Innamincka. The Cooper was flooded for a 14 km section of that road (well west of Thargomindah) with water up to 350 mm deep. I took it very slowly and heard in Innamincka later that afternoon that the road had since been closed. South of Innamincka, the Strzelecki Track was generally in good condition with speeds of 80+ kph easily done in places, although there were a few long sections where road works were being done. The causeway across the Cooper in Innamincka was running fast but only about 130 mm deep. Total trip distance was just on 8,500 km.

    I spent quite a few weeks prior to the trip building and fitting modular drawers, fridge slide/enclosure, water storage with pump, and shelving for camera gear etc., air compressor with remote control, installing radios, sand flag bracket on the bull bar, and had a much larger (10") head unit installed in the cabin. All of this equipment and effort paid off - it made the experience more enjoyable, and now that I've done it, I'll be able to embark on other trips with a lot more ease.

    If I could change one thing in my vehicle, it would be to somehow stop the pesky and sometimes-stressful dashboard vibrations when on corrugations. I've had other Pajeros do likewise and it's a real pain. Even with tyres at 15 psi and travelling at <20 kph they can spoil your drive.

    A few pics attached.....

    Cheers

    CJK_2777.jpg
    French Line east of Colson Tk.

    CJK_2779.jpg
    The Paj on top of a small dune
    CJK_2782.jpgA typical descent down a dune


    CJK_2759.jpg
    Amazingly clear skies in the desert! The Milky Way is a real stunner. Taken with my DSLR with a 50 mm lens.

    CJK_2840.jpg
    We walked across this salt pan on Rig Road before venturing onto it. Needed momentum to get through a few softer patches.

    CJK_2970.jpg
    Typical swale campsite, QAA Line

    CJK_3008.jpg
    Big Red is a mighty sand dune

    DJI_0382.jpg
    Local police going out to test the Diamantina depth at Birdsville. The deepest part was (apparently) around the bend. 200 penalty points for passing a Road Closed sign. ~$27k


    CJK_3115.jpg
    Western Queensland is ablaze with green. View from Cawnpore Lookout west of Middleton.

    CJK_3320.jpg
    Slowly and carefully crossing the 14 km stretch of water on the Cooper Flood Plain between Thargomindah and Innaminka




  • #2
    Nice, just also crossed the Simpson. Used 83 ltrs Mt Dare to Birdsville. then same as you had to head North from Birdsville. Bedourie Winton Longreach then south.
    IMG20220607085022.jpg IMG20220610151014.jpg
    NX Pampas Cat GLS MY16
    Member 1228 Pajero Club

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    • #3
      Thanks Aspiro, very interesting report (and that's very good fuel economy Pickle). This is helpful to me as I'm preparing for a Madigan Line crossing in August, and I've noted your comment about no water flowing in Eyre Creek. Hopefully in a few weeks it will be fairly dry further north (where we will cross), as will the roads around Birdsville.
      My friends call me Rob; you can call me .... Rob.
      -------------------------------------------------------------
      MY12 NW GL DiD auto. 2" MD Lovells/Bilstein lift. Bushskinz underbody protection. Home made rear platform with sliding boxes above and lots of space underneath.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Pickle View Post
        Nice, just also crossed the Simpson. Used 83 ltrs Mt Dare to Birdsville. then same as you had to head North from Birdsville. Bedourie Winton Longreach then south.
        IMG20220607085022.jpg IMG20220610151014.jpg
        Thanks Pickle - we did see a group of I think five vehicles with a dark-coloured Jeep, but I thought the group was travelling East to West. Cheers

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        • #5
          Originally posted by outbackogre View Post
          Thanks Aspiro, very interesting report (and that's very good fuel economy Pickle). This is helpful to me as I'm preparing for a Madigan Line crossing in August, and I've noted your comment about no water flowing in Eyre Creek. Hopefully in a few weeks it will be fairly dry further north (where we will cross), as will the roads around Birdsville.
          Thanks Rob for the comments.

          I think it might have been Eyre Creek that we crossed much further North again and there was water flowing there, but who knows whether it will reach the desert.

          Pickle didn't mention which route he took across the desert, so I'm assuming with that low fuel usage he went straight across the French Line, which is about 480 km IIRC, making his economy in the same league as mine.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Aspiro View Post

            Thanks Pickle - we did see a group of I think five vehicles with a dark-coloured Jeep, but I thought the group was travelling East to West. Cheers
            That was us West to East. Mt Dare to Birdsville across the French Line
            NX Pampas Cat GLS MY16
            Member 1228 Pajero Club

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