Birdsville to Alice Springs

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 21, 2017 at 23:23
ThreadID: 134161 Views:6820 Replies:8 FollowUps:20
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Am planning to travel from Birdsville to Alice in late August via QAA line, Poeppel Corner, down K1 line, across Rig Road to French Line, Dalhousie, Mt Dare, Finke and finally Alice Springs. I've chosen this route because from what I've read on various forums, this is the more scenic, less boring way to go. What do you think?
Can any one give me a fairly accurate estimate of how many kilometres this trip would be as I need to plan how much fuel and water I'll need? This is the main question I want answered.
Positive, helpful comments only please. :)
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Reply By: Michael H9 - Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 09:46

Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 09:46
We would need to know what type of car you are driving to give a fuel estimate as that would vary wildly depending if you are in an economical 4 cylinder diesel or a v8 petrol Cruiser or Patrol. Also whether you are towing or not. The amount of water would be influenced by how many people in the car and how many days you would like to take for the crossing, that is, are you pushing it or camping a lot. If you allow for around 700kms of sand driving plus an emergency margin in case you get most of the way across and are blocked for any reason, (fire, flood), and have to turn back then you will be in the ball park.
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Follow Up By: Deejay - Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 20:36

Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 20:36
Thanks Michael. My car is a 2006 Patrol with a TD42ti diesel engine that runs well. Around the burbs it uses about 12L/100kms and on touring trips fully loaded, it uses about 13L/100kms. The 2 tanks combined total 128 litres and there will only be 2 of us in the car. A few years back I drove the Canning, south to north and used both tanks plus about 2x20L drums to get to Kunawarritji. Don't know if that's any help to you. The car will be on its max for weight and I won't be towing anything. (Except maybe a LandCruiser like I had to on the Canning :) I'm figuring on using about 20L/100kms. Would you agree with that? Thanks again.
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 10:16

Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 10:16
And of course what fuel you are using, diesel or ULP . . .you would be able to get fuel at Mt Dare, from BV to there via your Rig Rd route, probably ~ 600 - 650km.
As you are probably going up the Finke - Maryvale Rd to Alice (not out the Kulgera and the highway ?), do schedule Chambers Pillar in there if you haven't been there before, well worth the short detour and camp there.
there is fuel at Finke and Maryvale too, estimate it would be about same or less cost than Mt Dare ??
From our trip through Finke last June, their diesel was 2.10/lt.

Do you have a mapping system like Hema 4WD maps ??
It is VERY easy to plot your route, gives detailed distances etc.

Even free Memory Maps on your home computer is great for planning distances / routes not plotable on Google etc.

Fuel, ensure you know what you use for sand / dunes.
Rig Rd is the easiest crossing line, did it October 2015, it was very fast (2 days from Warburton access, it was hot !) and a bit boring to be honest.
Maybe WAA line would suit you, and go down Knolls Tk to visit Approdinna Attora Knolls as well.

For our 3.0 tdi types vehicles, we always aim to take 170lt or so, in case detours or even turn backs are needed.
I usually use around the 100lt mark for BV to Mt Dare.

My mates old V6 3.0 petrol used 117lt on a west - east crossing in 2014, which was pretty good, 2 of them went very lightweight across, carrying 170lt of ULP.

Be trip prepared, crossings are relatively easy when everything goes right.
It only takes some recent rain, heat, a breakdown, or medical emergency, etc, to really complicate things, and become obvious why some extra special preparations are needed for the desert trips.
AnswerID: 607868

Follow Up By: Deejay - Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 20:46

Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 20:46
Thanks for your reply PK. Please see my followup to Michael above.
Re: your route suggestions - they will certainly be investigated.
Re: the mapping system. This is something we'll have to investigate and purchase. I've been doing some research into these things and it all seems a bit daunting (and even contradictory). Not very techno savvy so am finding it also confusing! I've decided not to ask my many questions on this subject yet until we're ready to buy. But thanks for your advice. Are you knowledgeable in this area? Maybe I could contact you in a few months? Thanks again, Deejay.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 08:15

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 08:15
Deejay based on that, I would take the full tanks and a few jerries (188lt) and you should be ok, expect to use around 16 - 20lt / 100 with the sand / dunes.
With full tanks, water, loads, you will be doing the largest dunes in the east, and going the sometimes steeper eastern dune faces, so just need to take it easy to avoid damage to the vheicle . . . no hard track attempts on Big Red but should be ok the route over and a return up the west side, because you're there !!

We always take the 60lt tank of water, and a few 10lt casks, for 2 of us that is way overkill, but it's like fuel, you have to be prepared for anything.

Post up again when ready to look at navigation options, you will get plenty of advice.
I run Hema 4WD maps on the iPad, very good desert maps.
On the phone I usually have the iPhone Mapout app running tracking the route, free software and certainly as much detail on thre as hema, just I prefer the regular map look of Hema for the route following part.
There is as mentioned Memory Mapy, and others like Mudmaps, all sorts of apps and programmes, and of course !! Good old ExplorOz products . . .
ExplorOz Navigation
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 09:48

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 09:48
Deejay, I would endorse everything Les has said.
My fuel consumption of a heavily loaded Troopy would probably be very unlike yours. On our first, somewhat unplanned, trip across the Simpson we were carrying 180L diesel and I began to get worried as we neared Mt Dare but we made it with about 50L still in the tank, These days, with long-range tanks fitted, we carry 270L and I take little notice of fuel consumption. We also have 120L of water in fitted tanks.

Having crossed the Simpson many times on all routes I now prefer the most southern tracks and especially so if the Warburton Track is open. I find it more scenic and less traffic. For us, the Simpson is the "gateway" to the Western Deserts but I still enjoy crossing it. Camp almost anywhere along the route in peace, but not at Dalhousie Springs! Birdsville and Mt Dare have their attractions. lol

On mapping, I run Hema digital maps on a tablet as the GPS function shows where you are at all times. But the Simpson is not difficult to navigate, there are few undefined sidetracks and it is well signposted. Hema publish a good paper map specifically of the Simpson.

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 10:43

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 10:43
Definitely agree re not camping Dalhousie Allan, always a dip though !! :)
Mt 2 main reasons are MOSSIES, and NO COMFORT FIRE ALLOWED !!

Deejay, the Hema maps Simpson Desert maps on their system are a copy of the very good paper map(s) you receive with the Desert Parks Pass you need to cross the SA Simpson Desert Conservation Park.
SA Desert Parks Pass page

You get a couple of detail maps, and overview map of larger region for approaches.
These maps are fine for doing the crossing, as long as you know where you are on the paper map at all times, watch the distances to junctions, etc, keep up to date with where you are.
A pax is good for helping with that while the driver concentrates on the task of dunes and sand etc.

Moving maps like the many types out in the market are great for taking this tiny bit of paper map effort away, me I love paper maps, but using the Hema is a no brainer once you start with a nav system.
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Follow Up By: Deejay - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:19

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:19
Thanks again Les. Your comment about 'as long as you know where you are on the paper' is the main reason we plan to get electronic mapping. I have never had any trouble following a paper map and have never been lost but when I did the Canning I was impressed with how the little icon on a friend's VMS could tell him exactly where he was on the track. From what we've researched, we're leaning toward a Samsung Tab Lite so as we can load the Hema maps, street GPS & Wikicamps (assuming I've got my facts right that is). That's all we want. Don't need a reversing camera or a digital camera or anything else that may be able to be loaded on the thing. If a HN-7 can have Wikicamps loaded onto it then we'd probably buy that. What's also confusing us is the lingo. Thanks again.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:46

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:46
Deejay, that would suit you very nicely, the good thing apbout an ipad or android tablet is the multi uses with apps etc.
With Hema, be aware you can get Hema 4WD Maps, Hema Explorer, and some new online one that from the sounds would be totally useless of course outside mobile coverage (just about everywhere inland !!).
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 09:17

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 09:17
Yes, Hema have a plethora out, of theirs and others they sell.

The Aus-wide set used to be around 250 K and smaller. Android Explorer is now 150K. The set of 4WD maps varies. If you stump up more you can get down to 8, and you can also sub to the State topo maps in scales from 25 to 100 I think.

Hema maps are pretty but given their advertising have more errors than you'd expect. (Errors on the 150 K for example don't appear on the equivalent 4WD map).

You don't need much for the Simpson. As Les said, the permit comes with a Westprint map which is nicely drawn, and in fact if you're used to paper maps then you can just get the coords off a GPS-equipped phone and locate yourself on the map - takes 5 mins to learn how and maybe 1 to do it out there.
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 10:19

Sunday, Jan 22, 2017 at 10:19
We're doing the same route as you Deejay, in early July. Haven't been on K1 yet, but Rig Road is a "piece of p!ss". An ideal trip for first time.

Last June, we did QAA, French Line, then down Knoll's Track to the Rig Road, along Rig to Lone Gum, then up Erabena to WAA Line, then west onto French Line, Dalhousie and Mt Dare.

WAA is heavy going, especially going west, but on refuelling at Mt Dare, only used 103.3L in a 2015 Landcruiser V8 single cab. Did 648.6kms from Birdsville. Don't recall what our companions used in their vehicles. We had about 130L of water with us, and topped the tanks up at Mt Dare.

I'd imagine your planned route wouldn't be much longer, if any, than our trip in 2016. As far as scenery goes, it's all in the eye of the traveller. Bet there's many, many desert travellers that only do it for bragging rights, or to tick off the bucket list. Haven't done the full French Line, but the Rig Road is good, the road is, for most part, in good order. Thought the WAA Line was quite scrubby, and not as easy to get good views.

There's heaps to see, whether it's the different bird species, huge variety of plant life or the chance to see a camel, dingo and some reptilian specimen. Where dunes are further apart, the scenery is maybe better. Plenty of salt lakes on the on them at your peril!

Is that positive enough? :-)


Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Deejay - Wednesday, Jan 25, 2017 at 22:42

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2017 at 22:42
Thanks for your reply Bob. I thought I replied to you but I can't see it on the thread. I asked for 'positive' replies because sometimes in the past I've received some sarcastic and even condescending replies. But you did very well mate - top marks!
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Reply By: Lupe the Troopie - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 08:44

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 08:44
DeeJay, we may see you on the track - we are absolute virgin's on these tracks so all of the information provided is very valuable.
Enjoy as I am sure it will be a great trip - we certainly intend it to be
Falling down is a part of life, staying down is a choice!

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Follow Up By: Deejay - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:31

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:31
Thanks and good onya mate. We're almost virgins at this too. Have done the Canning 5 years ago without a hitch but had the security of 3 other vehicles. Not so this time. If our leave gets approved, we'll be leaving Brisbane on 27 August, hoping to be at B/ville on the 30th. Will be taking a southerly route as the guys above have suggested. Once in Alice we'll head up & across the Plenty and up to Lawn Hill then across to Atherton where there is an amazing RV park between Atherton and Yungaburra. Leisurely trip down the Bruce and home. Come over for a chat if you see us. We drive a silver/grey Nissan Patrol GUiv with a black James Baroud on the roof - best camping thing I've bought in 30 years! You enjoy your trip too.
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Reply By: Sigmund - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 09:27

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 09:27
I found Finke to Maryvale rougher than the Simpson. Ruts in sand with corro at the bottom. What a pox.

Mt Dare gives some useful info on preparing for and managing a crossing:
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Reply By: Baz - The Landy - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 12:05

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 12:05

Whilst there is no harm asking others to confirm the distances you have calculated for the route, it is critical that you do the planning – after all it is your “seat in the sling” if something goes wrong.

Have you got a set of paper maps that you can trace your route and calculate the distances yourself?

This should be a prerequisite for anyone undertaking remote area travel and I'd encourage you to get a set of the Hema Desert Tracks if you don't already have them.

I raise it because on first read of your post it seems to suggest you are looking for others to do this for you – but accept my apologies if this isn’t the case and it may simply be the way I am reading your request…

So moving on...

The Simpson is an enjoyable trip that deserves more time than a lot of people allocate to it. My suggestion is to give yourself plenty of time to soak it all up, take a couple of days to just set-up camp and explore the local area on foot, especially at night. In fact, being a desert there often is more wildlife on the move at night than there is during daylight hours.

Mind you, that is my preference based on what I look for in this type of trip and it may not be everyone's cup of tea...

A good book to read before heading into the region is “The Simpson Desert: natural history and human endeavour” by Mark Shephard. Or “Crossing the Dead-Heart” by Cecil Madigan (if you can find a copy!).

On the proposed route, most of the tracks are fairly straight forward in terms of navigation as highlighted by others, but clearly conditions can vary.

Fuel usage – I would factor in at least 30-40% above normal consumption for the desert work. It may be greater than what you need, but better to overestimate, rather than underestimate consumption.

And water – it is lifeblood of our existence, so allow at least 4-5 litres per person, per day, with extra for any unexpected delays.

Draw on your experience from your CSR trip; it should give you a reasonable basis for making some assumptions on fuel and water planning.

And that is always my mantra for remote area travel. Plan, have a plan, and review your plan before you drive out the front-gate

Food for thought, hopefully and above all else – enjoy!

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 12:42

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 12:42

Baz makes a very good point....... if you use a paper map to plan and determine the expected distances then you will become more familiar with where you are heading. This will provide you with a background that is useful as you travel.

I am not proposing laying out a detailed plan where you pre-determine every feature and campsite along the way, I dislike that, but simply consider the possibilities so they are recognised when encountered.

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 14:38

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 14:38
Indeed, the Desert Parks Pass as mentioned (and with link) in my post above, allows you to pre date your arrival by 2 months, so you can get the info booklet and maps about 5 weeks in advance !!
This is $160 annual pass and the info booklet / maps are excellent for basic planning and give yourself an idea of approx distances to cover.

My general rule of thumb for time to cross is if it is your first crossing aim for 4 days, maybe 4-1/2 days.
This allows fairly easy driving, camp time about 3pm, time to soak it all in, and not too drawn out to mean you have to load up with even more supplies !!
Fuel if exploring in down time, water, food, beer, it all adds up each extra day out there.

If it is hot, 4 days is about all you'd want to be in there for anyway.
It's an reasonably easy 3 day trip, the extra day just allows a more relaxed timeframe.
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Follow Up By: Deejay - Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:45

Monday, Jan 23, 2017 at 19:45
Thanks for your input Baz. No, I did not intend for anyone to do my distance calculations for me. I thought there would be someone on the forum who could quickly and easily say 'Yeah mate, it's around 550 kms' etc. I have a trusty & well used Hema road atlas but the detail and scale is not too good for this part of Oz. Now that I know Hema make a better paper map of the Simpson I'll be ordering it hopefully next week. The Samsung or HN-7 is still a few months away. Thanks all of you for your advice and tips. Deejay.
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 06:10

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 06:10
Hi Deejay

No problem, those series of maps are quite detailed. Enjoy your trip!

Cheers, Baz - The Landy
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Reply By: Member - Noah273 - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 09:31

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 09:31
Hi Deejay,
Are you travelling alone, as in solo vehicle?

We are planning this trip next year and at this stage going alone. Lots of planning ahead :)

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 10:22

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 10:22
The solo aspect brings up a good point to consider.

Although August is fairly busy out there, if going solo, I would be more comfortable driving one of the busier lines, like French or WAA.
Someone comes along fairly regularly, if you find you need assistance for anything you strike that is an issue solo.

Rig Rd is quieter, but if confident with vehicle and preps, I would consider it.
I only carry a PLB and of course have the UHF fitted, but would feel a lot more comfortable with a sat phone, which you can hire one side of the desert, and drop off on the other side (Birdsville Info Centre and Mt Dare).

Needs to be booked, sometimes well in advance, details on Mt Dare website.

The PLB is a last ditch thing, so you can't set it off for a breakdown or solo bogging, at least until you've waited two to three days for others to come by (and nothing), or are running lowish on food / water (always have a plan).
So the sat phone hire is just common sense .

I've done the regular SA and NT crossings 6 times now, never solo, at least one other vehicle with me.
Have borrowed sat phone from a friend, and / or had at least another sat phone in our groups.
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Follow Up By: Deejay - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 19:21

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 19:21
Hi Noah. Yes we are traveling alone - just the 2 of us and the car. We're still waiting however to get our long service approved but not anticipating a knock-back.
You have a good trip too. Safe traveling, Deejay.
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 at 07:35

Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 at 07:35
If you trigger your PLB or SPOT, an emergency bag will be air-dropped, with satphone, med supplies and water. Then you negotiate what you need.

It can be verrrry exxy to do this. One drop required getting a plane from Melbourne! So taking your own satphone, bought or hired, is recommended. It gives you the capacity to get advice on first aid or mechanical repairs so you may not need the cavalry in an emergency.
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Reply By: Member - Warrie (NSW) - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 14:43

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 14:43
Hi DJ, have a look at Eyre Creek QAA line in places. The Wet has been living up to its name so the creek could be flowing.... W

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 16:33

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2017 at 16:33
Right now possibly, it takes a lot to get Eyre Ck flowing though.
August should be right Warrie, mid year is driest time of year up there in normal conditions.
But if there had been significant rain through the area (inc upstream Eyre Ck for example), I wouldn't do a crossing alone.
Claypan boggings would be dreadful without a hand / snatch / winch etc, and you shouldn't expect other travellers to interrupt their schedules to help a solo traveller with little trip prep about conditions . . . although I and I'd say 90% would assist.
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 at 07:38

Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 at 07:38
Yeah, a mate had to fight his way across every claypan. He was with friends but it still took a lot more time and fuel than they'd planned for.
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 at 09:51

Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 at 09:51
Indeed wet claypans and dune corridors would be far worse than finding Eyre Ck flowing or with water.
Eyre Ck is very deep, picture it as almost a semi circle in shape, like the bottom of a 'U' . . . but only an approx + 60km detour via the bypass to the north to get around.
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