Travel Buddy Simpson Desert late October

Submitted: Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 15:16
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We are two German backpackers (18 and 22) and want to cross the Simpson desert. We read much about the Simpson desert. We have a Land Cruiser 3.4l. We want to drive the French line west - east.
At the time we planing our trip and the internet suggests that you should not travel alone.

So my question is, how we find a travel buddy or a group of people?

Daniel & Patricia
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Reply By: Member - William B (The Shire) - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 19:01

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 19:01
G'day Daniel and Patricia,

A bit more information about when your travelling, what equipment you have and your remote travelling experience is needed for people to make an informed comment.

At certain times of the year and depending on what route you take, you will find that a lot of other people could be travelling through the desert.

Here is a link to the Simpson on this site,

Simpson Desert French Line

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Reply By: Daniel S11 - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 19:15

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 19:15
We want to travel through the desert late October, early November. A exact date is not set yet and can be discussed. We want to cross de desert in 4 to 6 days.
Patricia is 18 years old and I am 22 years old.

Our equipment:
Land cruiser Prado 3.4l LPG and petrol (each 60l).
Roof Tent
Comett camping gear
2x 20l petrol
2x 20l water
Few tool and spares
No UHF radio

We don't know if we can do it alone so we are searching for a second car.

We habe done a bit remote traveling also on sand but not on dunes.
If you need more information please contact me.

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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 20:24

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 20:24

I have not crossed the Simpson, but I would be worried you have enough fuel with that particular vehicle
You have just enough water for 4 days at that time of the year, .....without realising it you will be expiring significant amounts of water when breathing that dry air.
You have no contingency provision using extra Fuel &water than expected compared to theoretical requirements.
I am not saying it can't be done with that set up, but there would be significant risks
One experienced/regular Simpson traveller once told me, you don't have to go all the way across it to appreciate the Simpson.
In your case consider just a day from Birdsville into the Simpson, camp overnight then return to Birdsville.
Hopefully some people with experience will respond
The Simpson is also closed for travel over summer, I am not sure what date that commences
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Follow Up By: Daniel S11 - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 20:48

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 20:48

Thank you for your comment.
Maybe you are right and maybe I should only do a one day trip in the desert. much safer. But is it worth to buy the desert pass for just one day?
If you only go one day, would you go on the east or west side?

I think I read the desert is closed from December to March.

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Follow Up By: Member Andys Adventures - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 22:18

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 22:18
You will need a uhf radio so you can communicate with others coming the other way. Having a head on at the crest of a sand hill. You will also need a sand flag. And yes you will need a desert pass. I also would have a sat phone or some other device to be able to call for help. There should still be others doing the crossing at that time. If you are leaving from Mt Dare you could find someone going in the same direction and hook up with them. Fuel and water would have to be looked at, but a phone call to either Mt Dare or Birdsville can give you the information as to how much you should have.
Hope this helps a little, just do a lot of reading about the desert and prepare your self for the worst not the best conditions.
Cheers Andy

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Reply By: Theo D - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 22:49

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 22:49
Hello Daniel

I have not tackled the desert myself but have travelled through the cape and surrounds. The cape requires you to be fully self sustainable with everything, but at the end of the day as luck would have it places or small towns/stations that may help you with something (like a breakdown or medical help etc) arnt tooo far away.

The desert will not give you that luxury. You are totally on your very own, even with a travelling companion. On journeys like that you really would like a touring party of atlest 4 or 5 cars. For sure its do-able with less, but the contingency plans and less hands means less help.

From what I can tell you may be grossly underprepared. No uhf, no sat phone, no personal epirb or spot locator etc... those things are the absolute basics. Id pack a sat phone before a water bottle every day of the week. Its a critical yet basic item. As a bloke once told me 'its better to be looking at it then looking for it'.
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Reply By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 22:52

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 22:52
Mick Taylor may come back with some info.....sorry
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 23:41

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 at 23:41
Daniel, and Patricia, I have been out there about a dozen times and would not do a full crossing solo at that time of year. It is a big ask to try and find someone to support you, but no harm trying. You are making a great start by asking the questions.
Yesterday it was 40.8 degrees C in Birdsville. Give it a few weeks and it will be hotter, and out in the desert particularly where there is no shade it is dangerously hotter.
The flies will be really bad.
The sand will be softer because of the hot weather.
Your vehicle is not up to it. I've driven Prados, same model as yours across the Simpson and they went fine back in 2000. But your vehicle must be getting on to 20 years old. Lots of things can fail.
Petrol vehicles are difficult. It is hard and dangerous to store petrol in the heat - you can't store it in the vehicle, and you say you have a rooftop tent. The roofs of those Prados came with a 70kg limit.
You cannot buy LPG in the outback. Can get it at Coober Pedy to the west or Hawker to the south.
There will be few people out there in November, and in any case you should not go out there relying on others assistance.
When I was your age I drove a Corolla wagon out through Innamincka and up to Birdsville in December. With hindsight it was silly but was the only time available to me for the trip. We had a fair share of problems but were able to fix them and keep rolling. So we did rely on a bit of good fortune.
The suggestion of a day trip or overnighter from either end is possible. I'd suggest you do it from the west. That way you can visit some magic permanent waterholes - Eringa Waterhole, Dalhousie Springs, Purnie Bore and you can buy petrol at Oodnadatta (not sure whether Mt Dare has ULP?)
If you do it from the east, I don't think you'll get past the first big sand dune after Big Red.because of the weight, soft sand and chopped up dune.
AnswerID: 614279

Reply By: Member - J&A&KK - Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 00:07

Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 00:07
Hi Daniel and Patricia

I hope you are enjoying, or will be enjoying Australia. It's an amazing country, huge and few people. So many wonderful places to see and often a long way between these places.

Almost every year in Australia tourists die in our outback and remote areas. They die because they are inexperienced outback travellers, are under prepared, do not have basic survival equipment and do not advise local police or others of their travel plans.

Others in the forum have stated what you may need. At a minimum you need a satphone and an emergency locator beacon (Epirb), plus decent tools, spares, fuel, water, shovel etc etc. If you travel with a group you have to be self sufficient. You cannot rely on your travelling companions to supply you with the things you do not have.

Enjoy Australia. Forget the Simpson Desert it is only for very well prepared and experienced travellers. There are so many other places you can visit.

All the best on your travels.

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Reply By: Daniel S11 - Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 06:26

Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 06:26
Hey Guys,

Thank you for your advice.
Of course I would rent a satphone or/and a beacon.
I know it is not the right time (to hot), but in june we are not here anymore.
We want to visit the uluru und maybe there is enough sand for us. Our alternative is go through Alice Springs take the highway 12 (forget the name, something with p, I think) and drive back south. That is a much safer route, I think. Do you know if there is also much to see? I didn't read about that yet.

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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 23:37

Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 23:37
Why not go south from Alice along the Old Ghan towards Finke and visit Chambers Pillar, Mt Dare and Dalhousie Springs, then cut back to Oodnadatta and go south from there? Plenty of outback in that trip.
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Reply By: CSeaJay - Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 09:50

Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 09:50
D & P
Good on you for doing your research and asking the questions that you do!
AnswerID: 614287

Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 10:41

Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 at 10:41
Hello Daniel,
A number of others above have spoken of the extreme risks of Simpson Desert travel, but here is a link to comment from the Police Officer who had years of responsibility for that area.

I have made 10 unacompanied Simpson crossings but am well experienced and prepared. On one W to E crossing in early November the temperature was 42 degrees and our air-conditioner failed. Not a disaster but very uncomfortable. We encountered only one other vehicle during that crossing.
This year we crossed to drive up the Hay River Track. Our starter motor gave trouble and required repeated "jiggling" to get it to operate.
These are illustrations of how things can go wrong even with a well prepared vehicle.

If you are visiting Uluru & Alice Springs and would like to experience some desert areas I would suggest either the West Macdonnell Ranges or the East Macdonnell Ranges out from Alice Springs. Wonderful country and true "Outback" without being too remote and dangerous. The highway (with a "P") that you referred to may be the Plenty Highway which runs East from Alice Springs toward Boulia in Queensland. It becomes the Donohue Highway in the Queensland section. This highway passes close to the East Macdonnell Ranges.
Not a difficult route with a goodly number of fellow travellers as it is cattle station territory. And petrol is available along this route.

In any case, out there in November is hot, so carry plenty of water. If you were to breakdown help would eventually come but you need water to stay alive.

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Reply By: Member - J&A&KK - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 02:12

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 02:12
Hi Daniel and Patricia

Thank you for asking questions and listening to the advice of experienced Outback travellers. Allen B has made some good suggestions for places to visit.

We may be able to give you some more ideas if we had a better idea of your travel plans. For example.

What is the location of the start of your journey and what date will you start
What is the location of the finish of your journey and what date will you finish.

No need for a lot of detail but a brief outline will help us. Australia is huge - more than 20x the size of Germany. So distance is a big issue when trying to see a lot of Australia by auto.

Look forward to helping you more. By the way - don't drive at night in the Australian outback unless it's absolutely necessary. It's too easy to crash into cattle, sheep, kangaroos, wombats etc at night. Usually if you hit these animals when travelling at around 100km/hr your car is wrecked and in many cases so are the passengers.

Cheers John

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Reply By: Member - Trouper (NSW) - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 16:59

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 16:59
Yes I would go to Chambers Pillar,Finke and Mt Dare (plenty of sand driving there). Mt Dare haas plenty of Petrol, diesel, and Beer and the campimg is good with showers and flushing toilets which Patricia will appreciate. Then to Oodnadatta and down the track to Marree. Make sure you camp at Coward Springs, an oasis in the dessert.

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Follow Up By: Daniel S11 - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 17:54

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 17:54

Do we need the desert pass for that track?
What the traffic is like? Do we need a Sat phone?
So drove the Stuart highway, visit uluru than to Alice Springs and than back through chambers Pillar...

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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 20:30

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 20:30
No pass or satphone needed for that. You will pass a couple of cars an hour on the Old Ghan road and a few more on the Oodnadatta Track. You can camp at Lake Eyre out of William Creek but beware, a German tourist perished there during summer back in the 90's. Look up Caroline Grossmueller

While you up near Uluru, check out Palm Valley

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Follow Up By: Daniel S11 - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 20:49

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 20:49
Thank you!
All of you are really nice and I thank you for your professional advices and tips what we have to visit!
And we won't leave the car, if we can't drive any more. We take plenty of water and food with us. We also have some tools and and let our relatives know where and how long we go in the "outback", just in case they don't here from us.

Daniel and Patricia
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Reply By: Daniel S11 - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 16:59

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 16:59
thanks for your advice again.

At the time we work in Mildura. In 2 weeks we want to travel again.
Our next destinations are

- Uluru via Stuart highway
- Alice Springs and the sorounding "outback".
- back to the south via highway 12, birdsville.
- Adelaide
- great ocean road
- Melbourne

That's are the safe points (can be changed). We want to see the red center and so we need to do it now, we know it is not the best time. We have no dates and times how long we want to spend at the places so if we like the area maybe 2 or 3 weeks if not maybe only one day.
After Melbourne we have a easy plan or only a direction.

After Melbourne we want to travel the coast to Sydney. We want to see the firework in Sydney, so we have to be there at late December. Depends on how much time we have till than, maybe we go to Tasmanien.
After Sydney we want to do the east coast, Fraser Island, Brisbane, great barrea reef, gold coast...
After that we have no plans so fare, maybe go in the west and do the west coast to Perth.
Depends on how long we need for the east coast.

The journey ends mid April.


Sorry for my not perfect English
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 17:06

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 17:06
Apology not required, old mate. Your English is way better than my German.

Whatever you end up doing, enjoy our wonderful country.



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Follow Up By: OutBack Wanderers - Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 22:42

Friday, Oct 13, 2017 at 22:42
When you do the Great Ocean Road, west to east, try and do it on a week day, Monday - Friday, not on the week-end, Sat-Sun, as all the tourists from overseas come down especially for this and they are not very driving savvy, stop anywhere to take photo's including the middle of road, tend to swerve across double lines, cut corners, hurry hurry because they got only two days to see as much as possible.

Watch out for the very slow corners, 15, 20, 25, 30 kph corners, they can be 180' or 90' at times, you'll need both hands on the wheel and concentration, there are no over-taking lanes on the whole journey.

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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Saturday, Oct 14, 2017 at 14:54

Saturday, Oct 14, 2017 at 14:54
Daniel, I think there have been some good responses here, and you are obviously good at taking advice.

I would not do a crossing based on your vehicle, fuel type, equipment, or other.
You would need to be a lot more prepared with gear to buy to enable a crossing, something you may be open to, or you may prefer to keep your travel needs to what you will need for other travels, and not be loaded with gear you might not use again.
As you hinted early on, you are open to just doing a little explore into the desert, and not a full crossing.

The vehicle will use a lot of petrol, and really the 60lt gas will only get you into the desert and out again on the easier terrain, mostly you may need to petrol power to get through the dunes.

I'd estimate you'd need a good 170lt of petrol to be safe-ish, minus maybe 20 - 30lt if you use your gas where suitable outside the main dunes, so around 150lt carried safe.
That is a good 5 more jerries than you have, and carrying them in the cabin ?
Maybe ok for poly jerry cans on the roof if you have a rack and couple of ratchet straps.
That's only a GUESS, some of these petrol cruisers are thristy, and especially so with dunes / sand.

Water, need at least 60lt carried as it could be getting quite hot by then, but 10lt bladder cask cartons are easy to store spread around.
Not only for drinking, but here is usually a need to cover yourself in case a stick stakes your radiator, there's 10 - 15 lt, and some sort of radiator repair stop leak.

You will need a UHF, even just the basic hand held for communications, monitoring ch10, a radio is mandatory in the SA Desert section where the Desert Parks Pass covers, as too a sand flag per their specifications.

You'll need a way to deflate tyres, as these will likely have to be reduced to around 18psi for the sand . . . you can do this with a stick and / or tyre gauge if need be, but you will need to have a compressor to reinflate as needed (around $100) and a tyre repair (plug) kit.

Then there's the weather.
It's going to be getting quite warm out there by early November, it can be very hot too, lots of flies.

I would consider this . . .

Do a run west from Birdsville to the QLD / NT / SA border corner, the biggest dunes are between Big Red and Peoppel Corner, great camping in the dune corridors.
You won't need a DPP for the SA section as you won't be going into that.
A nice 2 day run.
You might choose to camp in the QLD Parks section (QAA Line), from memory it might be $5 or $6 a night per person.
You could do a short run up Hay River Track if you liked, just to check it out, but otherwise just return via the way you came on QAA Line.

A compressor and tyre repair kit is still a useful thing for remote travels you may be doing elsewhere, but you could do without it if you were to drive very slowly the 40km from Big Red back to Birdsdsville, or ask if you can borrow someones 'air' to reinflate to a reasonable 30psi or so as a stop gap measure.
Really though, being self reliant is almost a necessity as you just don't know who's going to be around, and many are keen to get into town after their run across the desert.

You can hire a sat phone from BV for the min 4 days period, though for $160 fee you could just prepare well and expect you should be fine for a 2 day return trip, letting BV Police know your plan by leaving them a bit of a written overview of your intentions, and that you will call in and advise all clear afterwards.
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Reply By: Member - J&A&KK - Monday, Oct 16, 2017 at 00:16

Monday, Oct 16, 2017 at 00:16
Hi Daniel

Your planned itinerary can be done provided you are well prepared. I find that an average of 200km/day when touring on major roads gives you time to see things. For example in one month ( 30 days x 200km) 6000km is possible and you still have time to see the major sites. It you stay on the major roads then there will be other travellers on the roads in case of emergency. However you should always plan to be self sufficient.

Some ideas for you.

Mildura - Burra - Flinders Ranges - Gammon Ranges -
Marree - William Creek - Cooper Pedy - Painted Desert -
Uluru and Olgas - Kings Canyon - Mereenie Loop Rd to West MacDonnell Ranges -
Alice Springs and a day trip or two to the East MacDonnells

Plenty Highway to Boulia - then to Birdsville

After Birdsville you have some options. But if your destination is Adelaide then down the Birdsville track to Marree then back to Adelaide via Port Augusta.

LPG fuel will only be available in major centres. So plan on only using petrol. Understand the fuel consumption of your Prado very well and make sure you have good reserves in case of problems. Example if heavy rain and the road is boggy your fuel use will go up a lot.

Rent or buy a Satphone. It is the best emergency device you can have, if you don't have an Epirb.

It will be hot in the red centre in November. Be prepared. Make sure you advise people of your plans. If you do break down ALWAYS stay with your vehicle. Make sure you have something that you can make a lot of shade from the sun. An awning on your vehicle or a tarpaulin you can tie to the vehicle and peg to the ground. Please do a web search on Australian Outback survival and learn from it.

Have a safe, happy and interesting time in our country. It is quite unique.

All the best

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Reply By: RussellFJ - Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017 at 21:07

Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017 at 21:07
Hello Daniel and Patricia,
Plenty of info above , You mentioned you work in Mildura.

So how about a trip down the border track ( SA / VIC ) ,plenty of sand hills to drive over ,its a mini desert run . Travel from the North

Test your car and sand driving skills out, not far from home .

Just a thought

AnswerID: 614398

Follow Up By: Daniel S11 - Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 16:32

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 16:32
Thank you for the information.

Is the whole track sand or only a bit?
Drive there many cars and do we have to put on a red flag?
On witch value do you think we shout put our pressure?

Are there gas stations?

Thank you
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 17:22

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 17:22
All dunes are sand, about 1100 of them, vary in size from fairly moderate west side to highest east side.
Won't be many out there late Oct / early Nov due to heat (potentially very hot) and flies.
Yes, you need a DPP and sand flag, and UHF.
Tyres, about 18psi should do it, but if hot and sand very dry, you may need to drop lower, maybe 15psi.
There is petrol at either end, Mt Dare (or Oodnadatta a little further distance to the south) and Birdsville, nothing else.
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Follow Up By: Daniel S11 - Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 18:51

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 18:51
My questions above refer to the border track mentioned from RussellFJ not the Simpson desert.

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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 19:26

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 19:26
Is the Border Track open at that time of year?
The Border Track is pretty much all sand with a few tough dunes. Parts of it are one way only from the north so a flag isn't mandatory. The distance isn't long enough to require extra fuel. I reckon the best part is through Scorpion Springs. It's a good place to test your sand driving skills. Drop tyres to 20psi, I go lower, and adjust to suit if you have to.
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Follow Up By: RussellFJ - Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 19:35

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 19:35
Daniel , there is plenty of info on this site , or google Big desert border track .

You can head south from Mildura to Ouyen then West towards the border .

There are tracks in the Wyperfeld National Park ( sandy) or just head south at the border , ( Its One way so no sand flag is required)

You asked about tyre pressure ... depends on how soft and fluid the sand is , but as soon as you turn off the highway I'd drop down to 26 psi ( HOT ) then lower as required down the track. Again it depends on the track . Fill up at Ouyen before you go .You will be in the Big Desert Wilderness Park ..

There is a link here

and on my other link , a couple of photos of the track too

cheers and beers
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 19:44

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 at 19:44
Yeah sorry Daniel.
The Border Tk between the Mallee Hwy and Dukes Hwy is a nice weekender, and unless wet there are maybe 4 or 5 dunes that can be similar in some ways to Simpson dunes.
We usually go south and camp in Red Bluff (free) campground, though there is a day fee for driving trough the SA Park section.
Next day is an easy drive out and return home.
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