We drove a 2014 Jeep Laredo Grand Cherokee CRD diesel – under body plates, Stu Murchison suspension lift, 168 L of diesel – 93 L fuel tank plus 75L long range tank rarely needed but no need for Jerries as a back up.
Uneek front skid plate and Uneek roof rack. BF Goodrich AO 2 tyres. We took two spares but had no flats. One vehicle was staked in one tyre which wrecked it and had a wire in another which was plugged. They were the only issues with tyres from the five vehicles.
We carried a floor water bladder, 120 L, that sat behind the front seats plus another 20 litre container to fill up from bores and the like for washing. A 48 L ARB fridge served us well. We picked up supplies usually at major centres and the odd thing at communities. Most fresh fruit and vegetables were fine in these places.
We used an Oz Tent, no attachments, which went up and down in no time. Everyone was either in a tent or swag. Our Exped Megamats gave us a great night’s sleep, better than most beds in the couple of apartments we slept in Newman and Alice. Usually we were up, packed, fed in an hour and away on the track by eighthish each day.
We drove 11 949 Kilometres
The Jeep used 1 194 L of fuel
which cost $2 115
consumption 10 L/100km
cheapest fuel at Emerald, Qld $1.17.9/L
dearest fuel Kunawarritji, WA $3.40/L
Buying fuel was never an issue as it was always available in towns or communities.
This table shows the places we stopped at for diesel, the litres taken on and cents per litres at the pump.
It was a cool morning again with frost on the tent and table.
The first hour of the drive in the early morning light was lovely. It felt like we had entered a large planned native botanical garden.
The track was tougher today. I had to reverse down the first big dune and later took three goes before getting up a deeply rutted track. However, I took solace in the knowledge I was not the only one. It was slow going again with an average speed of just 16 km/h.
Just before the Knoll’s Track turnoff we came to Lake Tamblyn, a vast salt lake. Unsurprisingly, there was quite an amount of water still lying there. Beside the track across the lake, the white salt was broken into large circles of red where vehicles had driven onto the lake. No GPS obviously!
We drove on our own to the Approdinna Attora Knolls, unusual outcrops in that these glittering gypsum mounds are rock in a sea of sand.
They were hills so we climbed them then later walked on the crusty surface of the lake till we had visions of disappearing below the surface of the mud, and so retraced our steps.
It was an interesting landscape with salt crystals encrusted on tolerant plant, sticks and roots of trees.
We panicked a little when we received a message that the others had found a camp 47 km along the track. That would take us half the night to get there! The message came corrected at 4.7 km. We drove 7 km and still no camp until Paula was sighted standing on the side of the track waving a flag like an aircraft landing officer directing us to land on the adjacent flat top. 47 km should have been 4.7 km which should have been 7.4 km! Fat fingers on the keyboard!
Brad’s dessert was cake served with Weiss Vanilla Bean ice-cream!
31 July, 2016
Like yesterday, the track was undulating and the dunes soft, rutted and difficult to cross and we had failures before bouncing over. Many salt lakes were crossed today, some with water still lying and evidence of severe bogging when it was wetter earlier in the month.
We visited Poeppel’s Corner where the NT, Qld and SA borders meet. In a hole dug by Parks to dispose of travellers memorials they had erected at the site, I found a plaque on a star picket that recorded the first tourist crossing of the Simpson by Rex Ellis in 1971. I sent it to him when I arrived home.
After the border we drove along the edge of a salt lake, at the considerable speed of 80km/h for what seemed like too short a time before hitting the dunes again.
Our camp that evening was 112 km from Birdsville in the most incredible field of desert blooms.
Roast lamb rack and vegetables for dinner followed by a chocolate cake made from an Old Gold chocolate slab, by Brad, of course.
Can things get much better than this?
1 August, 2016
The track between the dunes levelled out a little today so we were able to make reasonable time through this last part of the desert. Although, the sights that greeted us from the top of some of the dunes were unimaginable for a desert.
The red track down the slope was lined on both sides by yellow and white flowers while the swale between the dunes was a green and yellow carpet. Unforgettable.
The track was busy today. We allowed a group of 10 motorcyclists pass westward accompanied by two support vehicles towing large trailers. I wouldn’t have liked to have towed them up some of those dunes from the direction they were going. The descents on the eastern side of the dunes appeared steeper, longer and more rutted.
We came across Mark Paneros who was doing a triple crossing of the Simpson fundraising for the Flying Doctor. The sticker on his car explained it all. He had been going for two weeks and was on his last two days of trekking. His effort was worth a donation.
Before long we were in Eyre Creek and its vast floodplain. Thankfully it was dry because we could see evidence of recent flooding with some boggy tracks we bypassed and bushes which were stained with muddy floodwater.
When we reached the main channel of the creek we took a drive for some distance south in the dry bed disturbing corellas nesting in the trees.
The rest of the party were waiting for us at the foot of Big Red, the last of 1100 dunes and the end of our desert saga. The track was very bumpy at the start with the normal foot high corrugations as on other dunes we’d crossed, then quite soft and loose sand. But steady at it goes, the Jeep made it to the top with ease which I might add was a relief as the audience were sure to report our failure far and wide!
The whole trip was an absolute awesome adventure and we felt so privileged to have been invited to tag along with a magnificent group of old and new friends, so this final ascent required a celebration. We scrambled onto the roof rack, stood on the spare tyre and saluted in triumph.
A walk over the dune, photos in the glare of the midday sun, messages to folks as we had good reception and the celebratory group photo, and that was it. The deserts had been conquered.
Lunch then it was just a 40 km doddle along a perfect road to Birdsville.
Celebrations continued in the Birdsville pub that night and with someone else cooking dinner for a change the mood was great.
2 August, 2016
The Birdsville Bakery was a hive of activity for they not only sold bread but did a magnificent breakfast. It was here we said our goodbyes to each other for some were heading north, others north east and us in a straight line east to catch a first birthday party.
After a quick look around Birdsville we set off east along a good gravel road over gently undulating country which we thought was more like a desert should look like than the green land we had crossed these past few weeks.
We made tea at a windy lookout but drank it in the car when the gale threatened to blow the drink out of the mug.
Near Windorah, the fields were a yellow carpet. Water, greenery, wildflowers, fat cattle, running creeks. The full floodplain of the Cooper Creek was running over the road in many places giving me a chance to wash some dust.
We drove into Quilpie in the late afternoon having encountered more wildlife on this day’s drive than we had on all of the trip. Of course, there were fat cattle, numerous roos jumping into the wildflowers, many pairs of wedge tailed eagles perched on roadkill, large swarms of budgerigars and galahs and six emus.
This country was new to us but once we were on the sealed surface we felt our trek was over and this leg of the journey was the flight home but 1900 kilometres to drive home gives some time for reflection.
This trip was something that we/I have always wanted to do and it far exceeded my expectations. We were very fortunate with the weather. Rain had fallen in areas we drove through in the weeks prior and then fell after we left so mostly we travelled in the dry, which one would expect in the desert.
Following the rain, the deserts were at their best and we were continually amazed at the profusion and variety of the wildflowers, especially in the Simpson. One day on the Talawana Track, I picked 13 different wildflowers growing within a metre of the car door. Those images, the isolation, the long vistas of the track disappearing over the horizon, the starry nights, the red rocky outcrops, the gorges, campfire laughs, the friendship of our companions. That will stay with us. What an adventure!
Following the French Line, we camped the next four nights in the Simpson Desert between the dunes. The map shows our route to Birdsville and the dots our camp sites.
The road was corrugated and the going slow, rarely over 35 km/h and often under 20, but we were happy to shake along at that rate viewing the array of yellow, white and purple flowers that grew to the horizon on either side of the track.
Lunch was in a field of poached egg daisies and below the distant hills was like a field of lucerne.
The dunes were low at first but as the day wore on, they increased in height which was good practice for what was to come.
We paused at the capped Purnie Bore where water is allowed to flow to sustain the creatures that have come to rely on the water.
That night we camped between the dunes and enjoyed a glorious sunset from the dune above our camp.
For five hours driving we managed 80 kilometres, and there was no possibility of travelling faster. It was a great day. The track is very undulating and we continually ride the sand waves till a larger dune appears and over we go to be handed a panorama across the swale to the next large ascent.
The landscape is splendid with wildflowers as before but now a large lavender bush about to bloom has appeared. We are probably a few days early for them but the others are more than a consolation.
Many lizards scurry across the track and a curious dingo lay on the road before lazily wandering off, turning back to give us a look as if miffed we had disturbed its nap.
Just five cars on the track today. Someone reading this might recognise their fridge we found on the side of the track.
Late in the day as we were setting up camp, a Wrangler became bogged on the steep dune near our camp. When they were towed out, it was discovered they had driven in 2WD since Dalhousie Springs, so it is no wonder they were bogged a few times before this.