Simpson Desert crossing tips

Hi everyone. I am helping to arrange a Simpson Desert trip this year and need some advice about appropriate travel distances and times per day as well as which are the best camp sites. The trip will leave Birdsville and travel to Mt Dare via the French Line. The return trip will be Mt Dare to Innaminka via the Rig Road.

What distance do you recommend we aim for each day and how long should it take? It's fine if some days are longer than others. Also, are the camp sites marked on the HEMA maps the best spots to camp and therefore we should aim to make them each day? Is it better to camp at Purni Bore or Dalhousie Springs?

Thanks for your assistance.
Regards
Darren
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Reply By: Turbo 1 - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 10:56

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 10:56
Well what a fantastic trip planned.
There are no formal camping areas, you just pull up where and when you are ready.
The actual driving time is about 24hrs. Most people would take about 4days/3nights from BV to MD.
Purnie Bore is good for a hot shower and Dalhousie is good for a hot swim but as camping places go they are both lousy. If you don't mind crowds you might not mind Dalhousie.
Have fun.
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Reply By: Member - William B (The Shire) - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 11:04

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 11:04
Hi Darren,

I traveled the Rig road a few years back with my father.
1 piece of advise he gave me is, if you come across a good camping spot even if it is a little earlier than you planned to camp pull in and set up because you might travel for a long time after that and not find a better spot.

There are no designated camp sites along the Rig road, just find a good spot and setup camp.

Have a safe and enjoyable trip.

William
PS I wrote a blog of my trip that you can access via my profile
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Follow Up By: InTheGU - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 11:50

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 11:50
The Lone Gum is marked as a 'no facility' camp site on the rig road according to HEMA. Is it worth aiming for or is it nothing worth mentioning? Cheers.
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Follow Up By: rumpig - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 12:12

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 12:12
It's nothing worth mentioning camp site wise IMHO, so don't go all out just to make that a nights camp.
Just look for a largish flat area between the dunes off the track some once the afternoon starts getting on.
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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 12:16

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 12:16
I wouldn't camp at Lone Gum, just a big carpark really.

We camped 3 nights in the desert going W - E recently, just off Rig Road before WAA, Rig again after WAA / Lone Gum visit, then QAA line an hour short of Big Red.

Dalhousie, no fun camping without a small comfort fire.
Purnie Bore would be fine for a shower if needed, but a bit ordinary for camping.
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Reply By: baz&pud (tassie) - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 11:44

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 11:44
Hi GU
Did the Simpson a few years back, it's a great trip, you will love it, as said camp were and when you want.
We spent one night at Dalhousie, and would never stay there again, tooo crowded and the
mozzies near carried us away, would prefer Purni Bore if required a shower.
Enjoy the trip.
baz
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 12:56

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 12:56
Hi Darren,

Purni Bore has a free hot shower plus toilet and maybe worth stretching your legs for a look at the outfall "lake", but otherwise I would not camp there. OK for morning tea at the shelter shed.

Dalhousie is interesting to have a dip in the warm pond and has toilets plus showers but crowded formal campsites. I was put right off it the first time as a clod ran his engine at idle for about an hour...... we had diesel fumes on toast for breakfast!

Mt Dare is only an hour or so on from Dalhousie and is a good place to spend the night with convenient campsites and all facilities including fuel, food and a bar. That is now my preference for an overnight stay.
Otherwise, as others say, just stop next to the track wherever you feel like. If it's a clear night turn off your camp lights and as there will be no other lights nearby the stars will astonish you.

We generally cross direct in 3 full days Birdsville to Mt Dare when we are simply using it to get somewhere else, but 4 days may be more comfortable for you.

Cheers
Allan

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Reply By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 15:05

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 15:05
How many cars Gu , some better spots are smaller ?

No fires at Dalhousie, its a shadow of what it once was.
(Fires are now allowed at Mt Dare provided you bring your own wood.)

We prefer away from things hence don't like little fenced of areas around Purnie bore or Dalhousie.

Which way back? - from your post you could be going to Birdsville via rig or turn south to Warburton Crossing before inna.

Also depends on flavour of a group you might be with , do they get moving on time , are they hopeless and unorganized
e.g. you agree to go at 8am , one guy talks all the time , then as your about to take off he then decides to lower his tyre pressures and your off
late before you start !
(We have had all types).

Several times we have camped only 2 nights, in fact only time we have taken
3 nights is when on a dirt bike and never an issue to find smaller sites just off track.
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Follow Up By: InTheGU - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 15:22

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 15:22
Hi Robin,

There will be 5 vehicles max so a fairly small group.

I'm really getting the picture that Purni Bore and Dalhousie aren't great spots to camp at. I guess they'd be even worse in peak season. No fires at Dalhousie will rule that out as fires are a definite.

We travel back via the Rig Road and then via Warburton, Birdsville and Walkers Crossing Tracks to Innaminka.

I'm not in a huge hurry so I'm hoping for 4 days and 3 nights for the east - west run. My co-trip leader is hoping to spend 5 hours a day behind the wheel. When you did just 2 nights camp how long were your days. This site says the average speed across the desert is 33kmh. Is that a fair estimate? How long does it take to get from Purni Bore to Mt Dare given it is out of the dunes?
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:56

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:56
Planning that gets you to where you wish to be at right time really helps GU.

For example we go for 8:30 to approx 4:30 with usual stops so we actually drive for 6 hrs or so and 33 kmh is reasonable not including stops.

It sometimes seems like it to others but we actually don't rush it , rather concentrate on minimizing the everyone's little holds ups that often make a single car trip a lot faster than a convoy travelling at the same speed.

Works well if you get everyone out to Big Red to play day before and make sure they fill up night before trip so you can have a clean start.
Nothing worse than some clown wanting to buy another loaf of bread or go to the loo just when your all about to take off.

On a 2 night trip we like to camp a little south of Poeppel off K1 line, then at Colson junction, and into Dalh around lunch - have a good swim and off to MT Dare for dinner.

Its roughly 70km from Purnie to DalH and another about 70km to Mt Dare and less than 4 hrs obviously road condition dependant.

Its a real pain without a fire and I think thats part of there "Look like where doing something" but in reality make it as uncomfortable as possible plan.
We have our own solutions but one thing you can do is take a gas ring and put a big piece of stainless guaze over it and it glows red and looks good. If just for 1 car then this works well with those cheap cannister stoves and a toast maker on top.








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Reply By: The Landy - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 15:48

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 15:48
Hi Darren...

A couple of things to throw into the mix…

Firstly, 5 vehicles doesn’t sound like a lot, but being organised takes some time and effort, and 5 vehicles, possibly 10+ people is a reasonably sized group. Take the time to think about how the trip will proceed, expectations on the group in terms of departure times, who does what, etc (I put a blog up around this recently).

Timing across the desert will vary, and to some extent could be as slow or as fast (within reason) that you want it to be. But here is something to consider, why not throw in one day that you don’t travel, just enjoy the time amongst the sand dune. Time is possibly a luxury if travelling throughout school holidays, but worth considering.

Also, is it essential you do a double-crossing?

Enjoy…
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Follow Up By: InTheGU - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:00

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:00
Yes, a rest day here or there would be good. I'll run this past my colleagues.

How do I get back if I don't do a double crossing? What alternative would recommend and why?
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:11

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:11
Hi Darren

And yes, that is a fair question on getting back. Depends where you are coming from to start at Birdsville, but was thinking back down along the Oodnadatta Track to avoid doubling back across the desert. Mind you, nothing wrong with doubling back, depending on travelling companions.

And whilst the Simpson is relatively straight forward it can still be taxing on vehicles (and people) so an alternative could be worth considering.

No right or wrong to it all, but all food for thought. Adding, that it is a wonderful place so take the time to enjoy it…

Cheers
Baz
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Follow Up By: InTheGU - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:26

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:26
Hi Landy. Our start and finish location is Brisbane so we will go out via Charleville hence starting at Birdsville and return via Thargomindah and St George hence going through Innaminka.

I'm hoping to take our time a bit so as not to thrash the vehicles so hopefully that helps plus I don't want to drive all that way and feel like I rushed my holiday.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:47

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 16:47
Sounds like a great trip, so enjoy...

We'll be back out that way in July...
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 17:43

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 17:43
Darren,

Thargomindah has only one caravan park, Council operated, but it is a good one. Take a look at the old hydrothermal power generation station on the outskirt of the town. Third one in the world after Paris and London. Still works too but not used for the community.

At St George, I can recommend 'Pelicans Rest' caravan park. Just out of town on the Brisbane side of St G. An easy run home from there.

Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 17:51

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 17:51
Hi Darren following on from what the Landy said I would personally not do the double crossing if you have not been out in the area before. The reason I say that is because the Simpson crossing (apart from a bucket list tick off) is only a part of a central Aust trip experience and I think you will find it much more rewarding doing a return trip via a different route as there is so much more to see.

We did the crossing again at Easter via the Warburton/ Rig Road and must say I did not find it as scenic as the French or WAA line route from previous trips. Also for some travellers they will find the dune crossings becoming monotonous after a day or two and will be looking for a change in pace and scenery
My suggestion is to enter via Birdsville and take the French or WAA lines and return via the Oodnadatta track/ Marree Birdsville track then Walkers crossing to Innaminka and possibly return home via Camerons corner,Tibooburra and perhaps even across to Bourke via Wanaaring before heading home if time permits.

This route is ust a thought for your consideration, coming back around the bottom will take no more time than returning via the desert but you will see so much more of the area in doing so

Good luck
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Reply By: Crock1 - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 20:36

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 20:36
Hi GU,
Just got back from the Simpson via the Hay River Track in April. What a great Desert.
A few years ago we did Marree - Warburton Crossing - Rig Road - Mount Dare - French Line - Birdsville. That also was a top trip. We took 7 days to do the double crossing and that was comfortable. The double crossing was interesting as the landscape in the south was very different compared to the French Line. Maybe think about the WAA as this was less used than the French Line.

Also did Walkers Crossing in April which was Rippa.

Have Fun.

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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 04:35

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 04:35
Hi Crock1

I am heading down the Hay River and Walkers crossing and heading down to Mingarannie.

How much fuel did you use. We have 4 100 diesels and my 200 towing a Tvan. Also how long did you take. We plan on about 7 days from Goyders Pillar to Mungarannie.
Any other info, would be great too.

regards
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Follow Up By: Crock1 - Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 22:17

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 22:17
Hi Boobook,
We had 5 vehicles. Our trip Jervois to Birdsville was 745km. This includes Lindsey's bush tucker tour and out to Lake Caroline.

100 series 4.5 petrol = 185lt
100 series V8 petrol = 179lt
200 series diesel = 151lt
Disco diesel = 117lt
Prado diesel = 114lt.

None of us had trailers. We took 5 days from Batton Hill to Birdsville. 7 days on your trip would be perfect.

Lake Caroline was good and the Hay River Track itself was pretty good going apart from a few new scratches down the sides of the vehicles. Not as bad as we expected. There were only a few larger, soft dunes in the area around 102 km North of Poeppel Corner. When we were there it was hot and dry, but beautiful. We didn't see anyone for a week.

A great, remote trip.
I hope this helps
Regards

Shaun.

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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 07:20

Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 07:20
Thanks Shaun, that is great information.

Do you think the bush tucker tour is worth it, and how long does it take?

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Follow Up By: Crock1 - Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 19:46

Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 19:46
I thought it was worth it. We had six kids with us 8-12 years old and they loved it. There wasn't much bush tucker but what we found and ate was great. Lindsey loved having the kids there. We stayed for two nights and the tour was about a 45 km loop. The loop took most of the day which included a stop for lunch. The landscape was beautiful and an interesting part of the Simpson Desert to see. It was also a good relaxing day.
Enjoy
Shaun.
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 21:37

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 21:37
Always camp on the eastern side of a dune - that way you get the first of the morning sun - helps a lot when its subzero and you have ice on the swag!
Also when it's that cold, don't open the fridge, otherwise the contents will freeze :-)
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Follow Up By: InTheGU - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 21:40

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 21:40
Awesome advice there Phil. I hadn't thought of that. How are the sunsets from that side of the dune?
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 22:08

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 22:08



And the same camp at sunrise:

And just another tip - from about the half way mark heading east, you'll start seeing patches of Gidgee in the swales - its the best firewood. Some people don't like the smell, but it never bothered us.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 08:11

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 08:11
Stop it Phil........ your'e making me restless!
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 08:51

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 08:51
Hehe.....Allan, you're not the only one with itchy feet! My next opportunity to go there won't happen until next year and that will be a 3 year gap between Simpson trips - too long!
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Reply By: InTheGU - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 12:25

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 12:25
Does anyone know how long it really takes to get from Innamincka to Thargomindah? Google Maps says 12 hours. Is this realistic?
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 12:47

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 12:47
darren, it's about 350k and mostly bitumen now. So it takes about 4 or 5 hours depending on your driving speed and stops.
But you may wish to detour into Burke & Wills Dig Tree at Nappa Merrie which would add a couple more hours.
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 15:19

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 15:19
Yes, from Inna it's dirt to the QLD border, then a good bitumen road . . . at least to the dig tree turn off we took some weeks back.
It looks like it continues on though, just showing same dirt on Google, which could be old of course.

Google maps are ok for estimations on blacktop, but dirt roads they usually triple the times.
Look at surface, and if dirt then allow say avg speed of say 75km/hr to play it safe.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 15:49

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 15:49
Yep Les, The 'Mincka won't be quite the same with a line of Winnebagos at the pumps!
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: AlbyNSW - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 16:06

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 16:06
That will be a sad sight to see Allan
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Follow Up By: Les PK Ranger - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 19:07

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 19:07
There was talk about SA GOVCO laying bitumen on the Strz Tk, no doubt to service Moomba moreso, but I wonder if they might join it up to QLD tar ?
Yes, it takes away from the experience a little.
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Follow Up By: rumpig - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 20:22

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 20:22
12 hours for Innamincka to Thargomidah is definately not right, it can be done in much less time then that. We (myself and a mate) needed to get from Innamincka to Thargomidah in a hurry last year, i won't mention how quickly we got there as that'll send some here into hysterics, but it was less then the 4 - 5 hours mentioned above. The return trip was done that same night sitting on about 80 - 90kph whilst we dodged roos and cows, and that took us around 5 - 5 1/2 hours from memory.
Last year there was only a small section of road along that route North of the oil fields somewhere that was dirt, it went for about 20klms from memory and was in very good condition at the time we were there, the rest is all bitumin.
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Follow Up By: rumpig - Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 07:26

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 07:26
I probably should have written above at the end..."the rest is all bitumin from Thargomindah to the Qld border" (other then that 20 odd klms).... it's a dirt road from the border to Innamincka also, and that was in pretty ordinary condition. We stopped at the border and deflated the tyres on the vehicle we were in due to how rough it was from the border on.
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 20:33

Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 20:33
Innamincka was half remote when we drove the Corolla there in 1978. But really, those days are gone - every man and his dog is up there now - the Strezlecki Track has been a highway for quite some time and the Bitumen won't distract from the current experience. The Winnebagos are coming!


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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 09:41

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 09:41
Some great advice above.

There’s one important factor that hasn’t been mentioned – the good feeling within the group and it’s preservation. With 5 vehicles there may be a dozen or more people interacting and social pressures can develop. Potential for discord rises exponentially with convoy size! Other people’s whinging kids, the pyromaniac who thinks a campfire should be the size of a bonfire, the group that has to destroy the peace of morning by starting their diesel 20 minutes before take-off just to announce that they are ready first, those who can’t distinguish between desert sightseeing and rally driving,……….etc etc.
We spend a lot of time getting the vehicles ready, sorting out the spares and tools we’ll carry, the fuel and lubricants, communications gear, etc etc. That’s the easy bit! Sorting out the people and their much more complicated needs is too often ignored. It’s no good to leave home as firm friends but return home as strangers!
One very good way of avoiding the build-up of tensions is a group get together to discuss the day around the fire at night. Under the chairmanship of the group leader, or better still, one of the more mature kids, every person is called on to share their impressions of the day – what they found special, the best bits, the other bits, any annoyances – and with a firmly enforced rule – No Interjections! As well as drawing the group together and building a big shared picture of the day’s ups and downs this process allows minor irritations to be expressed before they build into major ones. Often those causing annoyance to others are quite unaware of the impact of their actions and are very willing to remedy.
Another social factor worth considering and too often overlooked – In any sizeable group there needs to be an agreed leader. That leader needn’t and shouldn’t dominate, and should encourage discussion when decisions have to be made, but there can arise situations when remote travelling where someone needs to be able to make a firm decision and implement it. Differences of opinion are fine and enriching, but after snatching someone out a few times before smoko it’s time for a frank discussion about tyre pressures and some firm decision making. Likewise in regard to travel speed, stopping times and even place in the convoy. (Placing more capable vehicles in front of less capable ones can save a lot of time in difficult terrain.)

Unrelated to the above, one comment I’d make about your proposed route is that rather than crossing the Simpson twice, I’d be inclined to take a less direct route on the initial crossing and cover parts of all the tracks in a single crossing. Rather than returning via the Simpson I’d prefer some of the alternatives suggested by others.

Cheers
John
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 07:04

Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 07:04
Some very good points about planning...

As you mentioned getting some sort of order in pace before you leave ensures a better chance for a smooth running trip.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - Boobook - Monday, May 19, 2014 at 04:50

Monday, May 19, 2014 at 04:50
great advice John.
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