Madigan Line 2006

Submitted: Thursday, Jun 22, 2006 at 23:37
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Just a bit of a report on our main trip. We left Adelaide with 6 vehicles - two TD traytops, a 105series petrol, a 90series TD Prado, a troopie, and a traytop Patrol. All of us had done a few Simpson trips and for two of us it was our second time on the Madigan Line. We knew it was a bit of a rough trip, so kept the vehicles as light as possible, shared the spares etc etc

The aim was to follow as many of the camps as possible - the route being that followed by Cecil Madigan in 1939 during his crossing of the north Simpson Desert - all well described in his book "Crossing the Dead Heart".

First night at Lake Hart, an unexpected medical problem forced two vehicles to go back to Adelaide, but fortunately about 5 days later they were to rejoin the main group at camp 13 after coming up the Hay.

The remaining group of 4 went ahead, via Coober Pedy, Oodnadatta, topped up fuel at Mt Dare, then up to Andado station where we had been kindly given permission to traverse the station tracks to camps 1, 2 and the Twins. The Twins are two hills that can be seen many kms away - a cairn at the top has many messages from travellers from many years ago.

As we were unsuccessful in getting permission to do camps 3,4 and 5, we went cross country, to avoid traversing the North-West Simspon Desert Aboriginal Land. The track thru camps 3,4 and 5 would have been a lot easier though. Cross country travel here was very rough - firstly thru the thick scrub where the Hale and Todd Rivers fade out. But the dune country between here and the Colson track had some of the tallest dunes of the whole trip. Every dune had to be checked on foot to find a suitable way across. There were many hidden stakes - 3 tyres were staked on this day, which was described by everyone as the hardest day of the trip. There was some consideration to pulling out at this stage, but after some reassurances that it would be more routine after camp 6, the group stuck together for the rest of the trip. After crossing the Colson track, more very soft, tall dunes made the crossing difficult. The mogul-like spinifex makes any run-up impossible - the vehicles just need to crawl across in low range 2 and 3. 40kms in a day is a full day's travel.

Once camp 6 was reached, the going was easier as there was a track to follow! Even so, the rough, slow going was hard on vehicle suspensions as they lurched from side to side. One vehicle damaged a panhard rod bush, which was doctored up at camp that night. The track was also pretty hard on the passengers, who spent most of the time holding on to the J**** bar. Occasionally they would have a break by taking a walk up the track and letting the vehicles catch up!

Our group's camps were usually in a reasonable clearing with the odd tree and good firewood, so were good to rejuvinate the spirits for the next day. The next couple of days travel was good, with a rest day being slipped in at the Gidgee Claypan beyond camp 11. Madigan's oval is rarely visited - its a unique formation - looks like a footy field out in the desert, and according to the visitors book, had not been visited since the group I was with in 2004. Unfortunately, the footy and cricket stumps had gone back to Adelaide!

The grind continued to camp 12 - again the dunes get bigger and the going gets a bit tougher, but all the vehicles managed without recovery. But a very loud knocking noise troubled the rear end of the 90series Prado. It was hard to find the cause but after running it up on a spinifex clump, it was found that the LH rear upper control arm had snapped. The vehicle was still mobile, and a sat phone call to a mechanic friend reassured us that the vehicle could continue and the noise stopped after the arm was removed.

While this was going on, the other two vehicles had made good time up from Adelaide, up the K1 Line, Hay River track and then coming along the Madigan Line from the east. The original group of 6 vehicles were reunited near camp 13, which was fantastic. We set up a bush welding outfit with 3 batteries and simply welded the control arm back together and reinstalled it. Worked like a charm for about 10 kilometers, and broke again. So it was again removed and we set about having a more serious attempt at bush welding it when we camped for the night. This time we braced the broken section with some pieces of mild steel, so it was now much stronger than the original piece. We had to be very careful to not damage the rubber bush with the heat. But never heard another noise from it again!!

After camp 16,we left the nice Coolabahs on the Hay River, and it was on to the Qld side - where the owner of Adria Downs Station had kindly given permission for us to visit some of the other Madigan Camps as well as Kudaree waterhole and the ruins at Annandale station, which were in ruins in 1939 when Madigan passed thru. This area has not had rain for almost a year and was looking very dry. None of the waterholes along Eyre Creek had water.

But on the station tracks, it was pretty quick travelling, and we followed the rest of the QAA Line into Birdsville. It was really nice to catch up with Ruth and Ian at the Caravan park, and Karsten at the cafe - we had some of the best coffees at both and also were very spoilt by the Big Breakfast. Had the pleasure of meeting BigKidz (Andrew and Jen) on their way north as well. Our group split up with some having to get mack to work while others did the liesurely run back via Innamincka.

Just some other details - fuel consumption from Mt Dare to Birdsville (780km) was as low as 153litres for the PradoTD, 193 litres for the Troopie and I wasn't sure about the others. The two LandCruiser TD traytops used 134 and 140 litres from Mungarannie to Birdsville via the desert (over 800k) at 15.8 l/100km.

Lots of feral wildlife - especially cats, and as usual plenty of camels were spotted.

Hema maps have the camps marked. Mark Shephard's book on The Simpson Desert is great reading too. The Satphones were good for the groups to keep in touch while we were split. The HF radio (VKS) was as reassuring as always.

Another nice desert trip!! But only consider it if you are very well prepared and totally self-sufficient.

Cheers
Phil
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Reply By: Member - Ian S (NT) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 02:48

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 02:48
Great report Phil,

Know what you mean with spinnifex moguls, I have had 2 trips out there trying to organise a bypass for Mt Dare that travels from Robbie Bloomfield's Andado station at the Twins to Crown land, skirting around and between the 2 indigenous land parcels. East facing dunes in excess of 60 degree slopes. Fantastic country!!

Cheers
Ian@Mt Dare
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:33

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:33
Hi Ian,

A bypass would be great. Or better still, it would be great to see access to camps 3,4 and 5 allowed. Hopefully the remainder of the Simpson desert will remain Crown Land. Pity we didn't meet up this time - hopefully we'll get away again in August - not sure where yet.

cheers
phil
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Follow Up By: Member - Ian S (NT) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 14:41

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 14:41
Hi Phil,

Hope your health is well and we are able to see you in August.

Co-operation for access to Hale River Camps and camp 5 seems pretty low. It might take pressure off a bit with a way around. I saw the tracks emerging from the west on the Colson that some of your guys may have made. I have another trip to finalise the route. Spectacular though, steepest dune about 75 degrees down, like standing the troopy on its nose!!

Cheers
Ian
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L- Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 08:26

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 08:26
Hi Phil,
Good reading. Glad you had a great trip.

Stephen
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Reply By: Member - bushfix - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 08:54

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 08:54
G'day Phil,

a real shame about the amount of cats you saw, one of the most adaptable species on earth. with that and the lack of water out there, what was the bird life like?

re the welding, yeah we've found three batteries to be the minimum number.
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:40

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:40
Yeah, theres a lot of cats out there - usually pretty timid, but seen a couple on each desert trip we've done lately, and see their tracks.

Very little bird life except when we were on the Hay. Sorry I can't remember the species we saw - a mate who was with us is up on all that.

3 batteries certainly works well, but I find I need to tack rather than do a continuous weld - I might experiment at home with a way of reducing the current. I seem to recall a piece of fencing wire to be one way. Any ideas??
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Follow Up By: Member - bushfix - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 10:31

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 10:31
yeah heavy gauge wire which you should have with you anyway I would suggest. Could also use tools I reckon, eg. ring spanners, but they'll get hot of course so you would want to remember that before packing up. that would be an interesting experiment using different size rods.
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Follow Up By: Des Lexic - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 16:39

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 16:39
Phil, we had a problem with a Patrol ute with the tray support crushing and cracking when travelling the Gunbarell last year. We found that 3 batteries in line provided too much heat and 2 batteries worked much better.

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 19:20

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 19:20
Hi Des,

Yeah, we used to always just use the 2 batteries on training days and it seemed to work when we were playing around. For whatever reason, we seem to need to drag out the 3rd battery when welding in anger in the bush. But my experience is limited to a broken trailer axle and that control arm, both of which were substantial bits of steel.

A mate's 79series tray mounts also disintegrated on the Gunbarrel last year. Must be some magnetic effect during a full moon in WA. Can't imagine it would be the corrugations :-))) We remade all his mounts when we got back home, having patched them up with fencing wire which held up OK.
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Follow Up By: Member - Ed. C.- Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 16:14

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 16:14
G'day all,
the problem that's mentioned with heat is related to current, not voltage...

I think you'll find that most commonly available GP (mild steel) electrodes have a Min. recommended OC (Open Circuit) voltage requirement of around 45v, so in fact, 4 batteries in series would be the ideal... (I have used 3 batts on several occasions with good results, have never been satisfied with the results when using 2)...

Generally speaking (IMO), the higher the OC voltage (up to about 60 or 70v) the smoother the arc..
The issue here (w/- bush welding), is that you need to be able to control the current (amps)...
The easiest way to do this in my experience, is to use lighter and/or longer cables between the batteries to introduce some resistance into the circuit.. i.e., don't use your heavy jumper leads to connect the batteries together...

With a bit of experimentation using various lengths of 4 & 6mm auto cable (& alligator clips), it's not too difficult to get the desired current flow.. The light cable can/will get very hot, so you need to keep an eye on your "duty cycle"...

This is my opinion, based on my own experience, YMMV.....

Regards, Ed. C.

Confucius say.....
"He who lie underneath automobile with tool in hand,
....Not necessarily mechanic!!"

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:07

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:07
Thanks for that Ed. Maybe I've finally found a use for an old pair if skinny jumper leads from 30 years ago :-))

Cheers
phil
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Reply By: davidta - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 08:57

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 08:57
We will be up there in about 6 weeks, to do almost the same trip, after we visit the centre of the Simpson.
Sounds great. Can't wait to get back out there !.

David
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:45

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:45
Have a great trip David. On a trip like that, I find you get totally engrossed with what you're doing and what you're seeing. We had magnificent camps - near perfect weather and only a couple of freezing nights. I haven't done geosurveys hill or the centre, but they are on my "to do" list.

According to the visitors books, we believe about 57 vehicles did the Madigan Line in 2005, which is a lot more than previous years. So far this year, theres only been a handful.

Cheers
phil
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Follow Up By: davidta - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:48

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:48
Hi Phil

I'm scared that by the time I get there, there will be a well defined track to follow !
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:59

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 09:59
hehehe I share your concern.

But our tracks from 2 years ago were almost impossible to find. Certainly in the areas that were burnt out a few years back, the tracks are lucky to last hours, let alone years.

Sounds like Stephen and Willem took different routes, so hopefully you'll be track-free!! Can't be too many vehicles out there.

Cheers
Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L- Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 13:02

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 13:02
Hi Phil,
Where we went, we would have loved to be following other vehicle tracks, it would have cut down the puncture rate. When we did our Geo Expedition, we were the 16th group to arrive at Geosurveys Hill since 1993 and only the 8th group through since 1998 - an average of only 1 group every year. Out there it is quite mind blowing seeing some areas of the Simpson that either no white person, or very few have ever seen.

Cheers
Stephen
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 15:41

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 15:41
Hi Stephen,

Yes certainly mind blowing. I guess its the same feeling as crossing the French Line or doing the Canning in the 70's. We are very fortunate in being able to freely access such remote areas. In other countries such as China, offroading is banned. I take my hat off to your group who must have had it a lot harder than our group. Theres another group out there at the moment - it will be interesting to know how they went - they were planning on following our tracks to camp 16.

Cheers
phil
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Reply By: Member - Davoe (Nullagine) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 13:10

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 13:10
Excellent trip by the sounds. Good to see that TD ute hasnt been getting left in the shed. How did you find the Wrangler AT compared to the MTR?
AnswerID: 180061

Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 16:04

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 16:04
Hi Davoe,
As you well know, every desert trip is a good trip :-))
I went for the Silent Armours this time to try them out. They are pretty non-aggressive which I don't mind for the sand trips and they certainly rolled a bit easier over the sand. But I would be surprised if they are as strong in the sidewalls as the MTR, even though Goodyear says they have the same puncture-resistant technology, whatever that may be :-))

I staked one as I mentioned in another thread, but Beaurepaires are giving me a new one under their $16 warranty. I reckon you'd be the right guy to test out their puncture warranty!!!!!!

Hope you're enjoying the move up north.

Cheers
phil
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Follow Up By: Member - Davoe (Nullagine) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 19:27

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 19:27
Thanks, Different scenery up here all hills and creek crossiings with spinifex as far as the eyye can see. Good but miss the woodlands. We use mostly bridgestone v steels which do ok but the offtrack driving is prety easy on the tyres coz of the lack of wood. Still plentyy of punctures but mostly on other tyres which float about such as roadgrippers and the factory tyres on thetritons
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Reply By: Ruth from Birdsville Caravan Park - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 15:12

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 15:12
Phil, great report - some others have gone out this week. Thank you very much from the people you assisted at the rollover on the way to Innamincka. They made it back into town safely and stayed with us again. Theo got their vehicle going and after two more nights of rest they headed (again) for Windorah where they had left the caravan, and as far as I know have made it safely back to Ayr.
Weather is still very good - the freeze has finished and mornings are 5 degrees and 24 during the day (and no wind) - just lovely. Great to see you all again.
AnswerID: 180091

Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 15:58

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 15:58
Hi Ruth,

Thats the second rollover we've had to assist in 2 trips!!! Certainly has heightened our awareness as to how simple they can occur. And we must give you a huge thankyou for providing assistance when we unable to rouse either the police or the Shell servo. Your CV goes well beyond that of a caravan park owner! The couple from Duthie station (Derek & ?) were fantastic - I gather they were at your place the night before.

The couple had passed us when we were stopped, and we followed their dust about a kilometer behind for a fair while, so they weren't speeding. We came over a crest and there they were on their side in a ditch, having veered on both sides of the road. Another couple who had narrowly missed a head-on were already there.

Petrol was leaking, so we pulled it back onto its wheels, and towed it to a safe spot. After that it was a case of putting on the billy until police arrived - Greg was very good too!

Glad to know that Theo got the Cruiser going again - seemed like the starter motor was jammed. Did he come back with a free motorhome??

Cheers
phil
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Follow Up By: Ruth from Birdsville Caravan Park - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 08:20

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 08:20
Phil, Theo is now the proud owner of a 'motorhome' which is really a perfectly good camper trailer with fat tyres pumped very high. If the silly owner had dropped the pressure right out of the tyres he would have had a nice trip, instead of abandoning it in the middle of the Simpson. What a 'wally'. Unfortunately, yet another person who cannot, will not be told or accept advice from people who stop to assist. Busy here - all of Victoria turned up this week!
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Reply By: Richard W (NSW) - Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 20:11

Friday, Jun 23, 2006 at 20:11
Excellent trip report and great to read of your assistance to a traveller in distress.
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 09:53

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 09:53
Hi Richard,
Helping at a light rollover is pretty simple. I dread coming across an accident where life is lost or threatened.

I think we met up at Poeppels Corner last year - looks like you've bitten the bullet and got the suspension done now.

Cheers
phil
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Follow Up By: Richard W (NSW) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 11:32

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 11:32
Phil,

That woud've been right I was with three other vehicles.
Suspension is a huge improvement over standard.
Heading off on a 6 week trip to Cape York next Saturday.

Regards Richard
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Reply By: Robin - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 08:32

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 08:32
Hi Phil

Great stuff , glad you had sucessful trip and would like to here more someway.

We just back from our trip from Birdsville to Batton Hill via Hay and camped up madigan camp 16 14 june , we had no wheels tracks at all south , but it appeared a group had come in across Madigan line and gone out to east , about what date would you have been at camp 16.

We had a number of fixable incidents which will make a good story as we get time and generally found the dessert sand soft but quite driveable even when crossing dunes with no tracks at all. We did not see a single drop of water or wet puddle in our 700km crossing, and only car to be trucked home was a range rover.

Robin Miller
AnswerID: 180163

Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 09:49

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 09:49
Hi Robin,
Sounds like you were in the group of 5 (?+1). We were following your progress on VKS. I think we heard from you when you were at Innamincka and we were on the Hay.

Two of us came up from Beachcomber to camp15 on June12. We then drove out to camp 13 to meet up with our other 4 vehicles, and camped at Camp 15 for a second night.

There were two other vehicles who headed south from C16 on June 12/13, but they got lost south of the claypan, so you may not have seen them. They tried to head east from camp 16, but gave up and headed down the Hay instead.

It would be great to hear more about your trip - I love reading about "fixable incidents" - can usually learn a thing or two from them.

Cheers
Phil
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Follow Up By: Robin - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 10:30

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 10:30
Hi Phil

You explained a thing or two there - for a few km South of Camp 16 and north from beachcomber there were wheel tracks , but not in the middle section in between. We will have to compare plots sometime , we did not use the path that is on exploroz for that section, but rather drove between waypoints as best we could as provided by Jol Flemming for a new path , for which there was no plot.

We found HF radio a little difficult to use and easy to get things wrong. Our operator was named Ken as was VKS operator and messages were not accurate, we drove straight up Birdsville track, not inaminkca.

One little story - one or our guys wanting to see just how far his 3lt Nissan diesel (Navara) would go Drove all way from Birdsville to Gemtree via Batton Hill on main tank, only to run out 150m from fuel at Gemtree.

With radio in hand and a bit of swerving he rolled to a dead stop at the fuel bowser where he proudly took on just 136lt.

Well he knew he would have to prime the near new car , but what ensured was a 2 1/2 hour battle to restart the diesel.

Seemed like there was some restriction in the filter/primer hand pump and it wouldn't pump up. We pressurized the tank via a transfer hose , and it still would go.

Took of rail inlet hose and directly pressurized the inlet pipe with 50psi
and fired it up for a few seconds once or twice but of course not being
connected to tank it died.

Seveteen ice creams later (in our group) the gemtree "mechanic ?" told us to put as much fuel in the filter/pump and tow the "Bloody thing" as its the only real way to kick start these diesels, as he shook his head at "amateurs" crossing the northern simpson without carrying a spare filter.

To many comments and much fun I postioned the "petrol patrol" being deemed as the only car with the grunt required and using a snatch strap (Andrew do not read this) , dragged it down the road for hundreds of meters at 3-4000rpm and forced it into life.

Robin Miller



(Presumeably a partial clogged filter)

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 19:35

Saturday, Jun 24, 2006 at 19:35
Diesels are becoming a bit of a mystery to me too. You used to just bleed the system and if it didn't start, then bleed at the injectors, but the fuel injection seems pretty complicated now. Running the pump dry can do a lot of damage to the pump, but I'm sure your mate won't run it dry again :-)))

I know what you mean with the HF - I was chatting away to one of the operators, and believed his name to be "Roger", but stupidly, I got that wrong for obvious reasons. But each time I use it, I feel more comfortable with how its all done.

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