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Simpson Desert, Australia


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#1 enough

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 08:34

The Simpson Desert is Australia’s fourth largest desert and is home to the world’s longest parallel sand dunes, with some being over 200km (125 miles) long. Crossing the Simpson is one of Australia’s iconic desert trips.

Track across the Simpson, French Line:

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The main tracks through the desert run east – west with the dunes running north – south, so the typical “Simo” crossing entails crossing approximately 1000 dunes.

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The Simpson Desert is over 170,000 square km and crosses the borders of Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia.

Sunset on the dunes:-

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The key starting and ending points in a crossing are Birdsville and the historic Birdsville Hotel and Dalhousie Springs. We crossed the desert from Birdsville to Dalhousie in a two vehicle convoy.

Birdsville Hotel:-

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Artist's 4WD, Birdsville:-

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You never know what you are going to see, we came across these guys on motorcycle's trying to cross the desert, no idea if they made it or not....

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A typical crossing takes 4 or 5 days and you need to be totally self sufficient given there is no fuel, water or food available anywhere. What there is are wide open spaces, magnificent red dunes and millions of stars every night.

Simpson sunset:-

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Dingo Tracks on the dunes:-

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It is certainly a unique experience to drive for five days and to stop and talk to every oncoming vehicle in that time.


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Dalhousie Springs is an outlet for the Great Artesian Basin and is a large billabong with a water temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) an amazing place to wash the sand away after the desert crossing.

Steam rising off Dalhousie Springs:-

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#2 Fons Baerken

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 08:38

great reportage, some nice shots among them,
thanks for sharing

#3 Longhiker

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 14:02

Great photos of what must have been a wonderful journey. Inspiring.
There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept. - Ansel Adams

#4 Dallas

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 05:59

That looks like a serious macho road trip! Not for the feint hearted. :) Thanks for posting, Mark.

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#5 DougB

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 13:09

Mark - great stuff. Thanks for sharing that. I will NOT be booking that trip, anytime soon :nono:
Regards
Doug

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#6 armando_m

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 14:06

What a place !!

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#7 Carolyn

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 14:15

Looks like a great trip. Thanks for posting all those photos. I see a trasharoo on one vehicle... love mine! How many miles/km? How many miles/km does your rig get? How much extra fuel did you carry? How did you carry it? I'd love to get a long ranger (made in Australia) for my jeep, but the logistics financially won't work. BTW.... the artists that owns that 4X4 must be quite the character... What psi did you travel at?
Again, sure looks like a great trip.
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#8 enough

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 10:08

Carolyn, never knew that they were called a "trasharoo", what a great name for a great piece of equipment, like you I really love mine. All kinds of things have ended up in there over the years, but normally trash (or rubbish in Oz).

Not totally sure on mileage, think we were getting around 17 mpg. I had around 120 litres (around 32 gallons) in tanks and another 20 litres in a jerry can, but this was unused. Longranger tanks are fantastic and I have certainly considered upgrading mine, but having recently re-done the suspension I am afraid the $ don't work at the moment.

We ran at about 18 to 20 psi most of the way across and we only got bogged a couple of times, a bit of digging and a snatch strap and off we went.

Trip was fantastic, the kids were 12 & 13 at the time and had a ball (as did we), cannot wait to get back there.

#9 Alan7140

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 07:01

Ace stuff. Envious indeed.
Been meaning to do that trip for years, always something getting in the way.

Having to be content with Google Earth, I love the section at the placemark kmz file attached - zoom in a bit and you can clearly see the "road" line, the pairs of tyre tracks, and the hair-raising ride some brave dudes engaged on over the salt pan at left above the regular vehicle tracks - they've broken through the surface and kept going, presumably the dark blobs are where they got bogged & dug themselves out, and that the Google Earth pic was taken so soon after (Christmas Day, 2010) that the wet mud showed up dark where they'd been. Lesson there about sticking to the track, I think, even if it is nothing more than tyre tracks.

Zooming out one can clearly see the sand dunes and the track bisecting them, and following it confirms what an epic drive that is.

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#10 Dallas

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 08:45

Why don't we try and put together a photographers.travel zone crossing? It would give me an excuse to visit my brother in Oz. And meet some of our Australian friends. :)
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#11 Alan7140

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:32

Hmmm, not a light trip to contemplate, Dallas. Personally I reckon those two blokes on their sidecar bikes were nuts, but then even nuttier types have ridden pushbikes, camels or simply walked across that desert towing their stuff in handcarts. Many have died, as well. Minimum sensible attempt for a vehicular crossing would be two fully equipped 4WDs with long range tanks, recovery gear, sat phone or radio, extra wheels/tyres, water carrying capacity....etc etc. Whilst the track is fairly well travelled by now (clearly discernible on Google Earth) and gps is commonplace, getting lost isn't so much the problem that it might have once been, but a breakdown could mean a good long wait before anyone could get in to help and it is conceivable that there might be no-one at all on that track for weeks at a time. The Simpson Desert is literally in the middle of nowhere and the French Line is a thrill-seeker's road - hence the "iconic Australian desert crossing" tag - it doesn't provide a common connecting route between anything that you'd want to connect to on a day-to-day basis, so is one primarily for serious adventure. Of course ideally nothing goes wrong and the trip is a blast, but if shit does happen it is usually very deep shit indeed.

There are better, more easily accessible places to go, particularly for a photographic expedition with a bit of variety, than tackling the Simpson. It is arduous, and most time would be spent driving if you were thinking 10-14 days overall (it takes a 2-3 day drive from just about anywhere just to get to the start, and as long or longer to get back to civilization). Whilst I haven't made the crossing myself, I had a big involvement in the 4WD club scene in the 1970's & '80s and heard first-hand stories from many who had had some very hair-raising experiences indeed on that crossing. I particularly remember a slideshow involving a furiously burning FJ40 shorty Land Cruiser which had been driving "tail-end Charlie" in the convoy, and from which the occupants had escaped by the slimmest of margins - they'd inadvertently trapped some saltbush or spinifex grass between the exhaust and the car body which then set alight, burning through the connector between the standard fuel tank under the driver's seat and the long-range tank in the rear, so the engine didn't die immediately and fuel fed the fire while they still drove on unsuspectingly. By the time they realized there was a problem the rear underside was fully involved, and a couple of minutes later the whole vehicle was completely alight, complete with a flame-throwing LPG cylinder on the roof rack which had blown its relief valve. Made for an extraordinary photograph, but not one you'd really want to be taking when you're days away from help and have just lost all your gear.

Edited by Fred Nirque, 15 October 2012 - 03:35 .

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#12 Dallas

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 05:31

Sounds hectic! So not really a trip of photographic value?

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#13 crowecg

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 10:22

You can read about some interesting trips at 4x4 Earth - flicking through them you come across warnings like 800km!!!! between fuel stops. Australia is a pretty big place, its 4-5 hrs to fly from one side to the other. Classic road trips like the Sturt Highway from Adelaide to Alice Springs is best part of 1500km and the Simpson Desert would be a side trip off that (and as Fred said, you'll probably have to drive back to where you came from as it is still a long way to civilisation once you've crossed the worst of the desert).

If you're after a photo trip here, you really need to decide what you want, particularly if you want to limit it to a week or two. In terms of climate you've got everything from Alpine mountains through deserts to tropical rain forests.

#14 Fanie

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 18:24

This one is now on my bucket list, I just love desert landscapes, and the open space.

Have done enough overland travel in 4x4 vehicles to prepare for this, a bonus would be to get a knowledgeable local along who knows some of the local geography and history to colour the picture as you go.....
Enjoy Global Warming while you can, the next Ice Age is on its way........

#15 Alan7140

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 22:23

You might also research the north west of Australia, Fanie, there are some incredible desert and arid landscapes up there around Marble Bar (winter only, way too hot in summer!), and also the other iconic Australian expedition trip, the Gunbarrel 'highway' and Canning Stock Route. Huge distance involved, but if deserts are your thing...
I reckon the best bet is to contact one of the major 4WD clubs in either Western Australia or NSW or Queensland - they're the ones who regularly travel these places.




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