Saturday, September 21, 2002

Simpson Desert 2002

Simpson Desert Trip 2002 - Trip Report

Departed: September 21st, 2002
Duration: Fortnight
Group: QLD Nissan Patrol Club

Back in september 1962 a bloke named Reg Sprigg, along with his family, drove his Datsun [nissan] Patrol across the Simpson Desert from Mt Dare homestead to Birdsville closely following the South Australian / Northern Territory border. In doing so he became the first person to drive a vehicle across the Simpson Desert !!
For the Qld Nissan Patrol Club's 25th Anniversary we decided to follow his route as closely as legally possible and to make the trip more interesting we decided to drive west across the desert on the Rig road to the geographical centre of Australia and return to Mt Dare before following Reg Sprigg's route across the French line to Birdsville.

And so, on the 21st of september 2002, 40 years after the first vehicular crossing, 10 vehicles left brisbane [ collecting another 3 vehicles along the way ] to once again cross this remote region of inland Australia...


Shane and Gail-red GU trayback-4.2 turbo diesel-35x12.5x15 BFG MT's.

Ross and pauline-white mavrick swb-4.2 petrol-235 85 16 BFG KM's.

George and Mary-white GQ wagon-4.2 petrol-265 75 16 BFG KO's.

Alan and Toni-silver GQ wagon-4.2 diesel-31x10x15 BFG MT's.

Des-green GQ wagon-4.2 diesel-31x10x15 B/stone dueler AT's.

Rowan, Jackie, Adam and Brandon-grey GQ wagon-4.2 diesel-31x10x15

B/stone dueler AT's.

John and Evelyn-blue/silver GQ wagon-4.2 petrol-31x10x15 B/stone

dueler AT's/desert duelers.

Jeff, Jane and Jeff-blue GQ wagon-4.2 diesel-31x10x15 desert duelers.

Rob, Carol and Tahlia-gold GU wagon-3.0 intercooled turbo diesel-

265 70 16 Goodyear ATR's

Ben-brown MK wagon-3.3 turbo diesel-31x10x15 Kelly's.

Bill, Kathryn and Kim-white discovery-td5 diesel.

Jim and Tom-white 60 series wagon-4.0 turbo diesel-31x10x15 Savero


Colin and Sylvia-white 80 series wagon- 4.5 petrol-265 70 16 Pirelli



-Saturday morning arrived and 10 eager drivers converged on Gailes roadhouse, with maps ready and routes all worked out we headed off on time, shows how eager we were!

We arrived in Toowoomba a short time later and i took the wrong turn off [that should inspire confidence in my ability to lead them across the desert] and we ended up going through Warwick instead.

Des was losing water and his newly fitted low water alarm kept going off but we had no other dramas and camped a few km's before Walgett on the banks of the Barwon river.

-Sunday finally saw us on the dirt after Bourke and we had to change destination as the road to Milparinka has been closed , we instead headed to Tibooburra and camped at Dead Horse Gully. No fires allowed here though, so we had to sit around a fluoro instead.

-On monday some of the crew went for an early morning walk around the hills while the rest of us packed up and climbed the nearby rocks for a better view of the area.

We all then checked out the old mining equipment at Golden Gully before meeting up with Alan and Toni, as well as John and Evelyn, in town.

With all vehicles fuelled up we drove to Cameron Corner and stopped for smoko and photo's, Ben managed to have the first puncture and we all stood around offering advise while it was changed. most of us were running 30 psi [cold] and Ben was running 35 psi in his kelly's, could this be the reason?
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Next stop was the old double decker bus, there's not much left of it now and with its low ceilings it would not have been a comfortable home.

After here we got fairly spread out due to the dust and we pulled up for lunch at the turn off at Merty Merty and to let everyone catch up. An hour passed and the rear of the convoy still hadn't turned up so i was preparing to drive back and try and find them when we could hear some voices on the UHF, a few minutes later they arrived and after all the scenarios we had considered we were surprised when they said they had stopped for lunch!

We headed for Innamincka and picked up some wood along the way and met up with Col and Sylvia on the banks of the Cooper creek, a few of the crew headed to the trading post and bought them out of inflatable mattresses as several had died by this time.
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My long range tank had cracked so after failing with the epoxy fuel tank repair ribbon [doesn't stick to diesel] we jammed some of it in the crack to stop the diesel from dripping and washed the area with petrol then held the putty on with "ferropre" that des the plumber was carrying.

next repair was ross's fusible link on his dual battery system which we bypassed and then we bypassed the faulty isolating switch on des's dual battery system and also found the small leak on des's radiator hose.

-Tuesday saw us all fuelled up and we drove to Kings marker and then had smoko at Wills memorial.

We then drove towards Moomba and took the Walkers crossing track across to the Birdsville track, this track has a great variety of terrain from flat plains, through sand dunes and dry swamps and finally gibber plains where it meets up with the Birdsville track.
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Bill's discovery was playing up with the fly by wire accellerator refusing to work and he had to switch it off and restart it to get the accellerator to work again.

We turned left but pulled up a short time later as Col had destroyed a new Pirelli scorpion, we rang Mungerannie roadhouse on the satphone and were assured that they had the correct size tyre and as we were about to continue Ben discovered two flats on his Kelly's and Des had a seperating sidewall on his Bridgestone dueler AT.

With tyres changed we made it to Mungerannie [easy to find, just turn left at the traffic lights] just on dark and Allan found a slow leak on his BFG mt and Ben had a diesel leak on the top of his long range tank, the tank was removed and the sender seal tightened up and was refitted again just after midnight.
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-Wednesday morning with three new and two repaired tyres picked up we were about to leave when Ben discovered his front spring shackle mount had ripped off the chassis [he had hit a large washout on the walkers crossing track] so while it was being repaired the rest of us retired to the hot pool on the shores of the wetland beside the roadhouse.

With the welding done and testing done in the carpark, Ben found the right C.V. extremely noisy and decided not to risk it in the desert.

Bill and Ben followed us to the Warburton track turn off then headed for home via Birdsville while the rest of us turned left for the Simpson Desert.

[ Bill's problem worsened and he had to drive all the way to Brisbane on the cruise control, if he touched the brake he had to switch off and restart the disco again].

I copped a rock in the windscreen from a speeding green 80 series wagon towing a camper and a piece of wire in a tyre just before we parted but it was only a slow leak and decided to fix it later.

We traversed mainly flat country and dodged around the dunes until the left turn at the Rig road and started going straight over the dunes.

The dunes are quite large with a very fine soft sand capping and a 2 metre steep drop off on the western side, you had to keep accellerating until your rear wheels were on the downhill run or you got stuck as a few found out; the snatch straps got a bit of a workout until everyone settled in to the rythme. The bigger footprint of my 35" tyres gave me a big advantage over the others as i had no problem and was running the same pressures.

One thing we hadn't realised was the flag i had on my aerial to warn oncoming traffic on dune crests was also useful for the following vehicle to see which way the track went as i went over the crest, we rigged up some more until nearly everyone had one and it saved using the UHF to tell the others what to expect.

Several more hard dunes came up along this section and we had a lot of fun on this part of the track.

We skirted along the side of Lake Peera Peera Poolanna and made camp at the northern end and i thought i had better fix my slow leak, 20 seconds with the "safety seal" kit, gotta love those plugs.

Allen repaired a leak in the side wall of his front BFG MT and we all retired to the campfire for jokes, tall stories and Jackie & Rowans yummy pancakes.

-Thursday we headed to the Lone Gum Tree [ and the even lonelier Koala]
for smoko and then tackled the dunes again.
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the track was getting very bumpy and our shockies were starting to fade so when we pulled up for lunch i checked the temperature of all our shockies for interests sake and found the front ones about 4 degrees hotter than the rear ones .

The Rancho's and Koni's were around 76 C, TJM's & ARB's &Pedders around 80-82 C and the Nissan ones around 90 degrees C.

We were parked on top of a dune as it was around 40 degrees and had put up shelters from the sun while we had lunch but had to cut it short as a distant flash of light indicated a vehicle heading our way, we packed up and moved off and passed an OKA tour vehicle a few minutes later, i stopped to let him know there was 11 of us but it must have been a bad hair day for him as he looked quite grumpy, i hope his passengers were having a better time than him, the tagalong vehicles behind him were having a good time though.
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We decided to camp at "georges corner" and george tried to charge us a camping fee!! [we did erect the dunny and leave him a deposit though]

John and Allan both had no air conditioning, John's being a blown fuse and Allens losing it gas through a leaking pipe connection.

John's was to have the same problem several more times over the trip.

The night ended with more jokes around the campfire.

-Friday started with col having a flat Pirelli and after that was changed we headed for Purnie bore with the dunes getting smaller and smaller, It was quite a dissapointment when we got there as there was no water in front of the bird hide and the water about a hundred metres away from where it usually was as they have slowed down the water flow considerably.

The next stop was Dalhousie Springs and we were all looking forward to a refreshing swim so some headed straight for a swim and some set up camp.

John's front diff had cracked badly and he kept going very slowly to Mt Dare for repairs.

The dust was starting to blow quite thickly and Rob and Jeff decided to get some rooms at Mt Dare while the rest of us set up camp with the others.

After dinner we all gathered between Georges wagon and tent for more funny stories and had a great time in spite of the thick choking dust, eventually we made for the water where Ross went in nude as he thought we were all skinny dipping, there was a lot of joking about that, the temperature was quite nice but freezing when you got out and the last of us only got out when the fish started nipping.

Everyone headed straight for bed but even the tents got filled with dirt, the swags we were using were not much fun in the dust storm, Gail had enough of the swag and slept in the front of the ute.

I spent half the night designing a "Dalhousie Swag" until i realised someone had already designed one and called it a "tent".

-The dust storm kept up all night and on saturday morning i went for a swim to wash off the dust, It was so cold when i got out that i couldn't walk all the way back to camp to get changed so i had to quickly strip nude and dry off before i froze, I got dressed and headed back to camp and we all gladly left.

A few km's up the road we pulled into 3 o'clock creek to get some drinking water from the tower, no wind or dust and shady trees would make this place a much much better place to camp.

We carried on to Mt Dare and refueled while Allen had his radiator and exhaust brackets repaired.

Shane used 103 litres on the 666 km trip from Mungerannie to Mt Dare,

Ross used 137, George 140, Des 109, Jim 93, Rowan 96, John 146, and Col 147.

John was still repairing his diff and Jim & Tom along with Rohan,Jackie Adam & Brandon had been to the Lambert Centre before so decided to wait at Mt Dare while the rest of us headed off to the Geographical centre of Australia to write our names in the back of the visitors book and take a few photo's.
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Rob, Jeff, Col and Allen were heading on to Alice Springs and said their goodbye's, Des found the bottom bolts missing from his alternator and after he repaired that we headed back to Mt Dare to refuel and camp the night.

-Sunday we took off for the Dalhousie Ruins with Rowan destroying a Bridgestone Dueler AT along the way.

We had smoko while checking out the ruins and mound springs and then drove back to Dalhousie Springs for a good look around and stayed for lunch.
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We then returned to Purnie Bore where people were arriving for a pushbike race to Birdsville in 120 km stints per 10 hour day...

We pulled up at the French Line intersection and let our tyres down to

20 psi before starting onto the first of the soft dunes, we camped in the lee of a dune about 27 km's east of Wonga Junction and had a very cold night.

-Monday saw 3 to 4 mm of ice in the wash up bucket !!

I decided not to give the tyres the customary "kick" this morning as i was afraid they'd shatter !

We didn't see another car all day and with the view from the top of the dunes showing a faint track heading straight as a die to the horizon, it made us realise just how remote this place really is.
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The dunes continue to get higher and further apart with most having a soft sand "cap" and large bumps on the ascent keeping the speed to First high, for a break we headed down to the Knolls for a look before returning to the French Line and camping about 9 km's to the east.

We had a nice campfire with heaps of jokes and embarrassing stories making it one of the most enjoyable nights so far.

I put up our tent for Gail as we were expecting wind and a cold night but it wasn't too bad.

-tuesday we drove the claypans and dunes until we angled across the salt lake to Poepple Corner and had our smoko in three different states.
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We signed the visitors book, left a sticker on the signs pole and departed for Big Red.

The dunes were getting higher and so was our anticipation, we dropped tyre pressure to 16 at the simpson sign, all talk was on which gear, which range, what speed, psi etc;

we finally arrived, couldnt wait to change range or let down tyres and just blasted over in first high !
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Jim made it next, Des had a couple of goes and let the tyres down a bit more and made it, Rowan got stuck in Des's holes but made it next try,

John had a few goes but it spluttered to an idle every time he reached the steep bit so he tried different techniques, speeds and revs to no avail, he even tried reverse but lost traction so he meekly went round the chicken track while Ross and George blasted up.

After a bit of discussion we threw a spare gerry can of petrol in it and he had another go and made it no worries.

[ when we got to birdsville we changed a "I made big red 1st try" sticker to "I made big red 9th try" and stuck it on his car when he wasn't looking]
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We aired up to 30 psi and headed to Birdsville to celebrate, John got a blocked fuel filter on the way and we set up camp at the caravan park and headed to the pub for dinner.
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-Wednesday, a late start this morning.

We fueled up with Shane using 99 litres for the 526 km's from Mt Dare to Birdsville, Ross 142, George 131, Jim 83,Rowan 103, John 155,

and we found out later, Jeff 120, Rob 100, and Col used 155 litres.

We went to the Birdsville working museum, fascinating place, before lunch at the pub and then hitting the road to Cadelga ruins and also stopped at the Cordillo Downs woolshed for a look around.
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Rowans side step broke so we stopped at an old waterpump for a look while he removed it.

That night we camped a few Km's south of Cordillo downs.

-Thursday saw us hit the road for Innamincka and we stopped at the Reg Sprigg cairn [ S:27.11.998 E:140.53.299 ] and added a few more rocks before continueing on.
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We refueled and stocked up on souvenirs and then visited Bourks grave and paid our 11 bucks to visit the Dig tree.

Next we made tracks for Noccundra, i pulled over to get some firewood while George took over the trip leader job, he'll never live it down because he missed the one and only turn off he had to make !!

-Friday was a boring drive on the black top, Johns alternator was putting out 17 volts but with lights, fans and demisters on he managed to keep it down to 14 volts, we pulled up and camped at St George.

Ross threw the pot out with the water and had to go for a swim to retrieve it which got a good laugh and we had an "awards ceremony" which had us laughing through our last night on the road.

-Saturday saw us stopping for smoko at Dalby, ross found the cause of his missfire to be a badly corroded coil lead which broke off in the distributor cap, we broke the cap trying to get the broken bit out and none could be found in town so we screwed the broken coil lead to the cap and drove to Warwick where a new one was waiting for us.

Five minutes later we hit the road for home with everyone peeling off at their respective turnoffs.

For me it was a fantastic fortnight almost entirely due to the attitude of the rest of the crew; "When the going gets tough, the tough get laughing" pretty much sums them up and we all spent half our time laughing !!

When you travel the simpson desert and look off to the side of the track you really appreciate the awesome challenge Dr Reg Sprigg undertook to drive across this remote and inhospitable terrain, lucky he was in a NISSAN !!

Shane Gerrish

photos at ...