Simpson Desert: - Birdsville, Big Red and west to Poeppels Corner.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 00:00

Mick O

Wednesday 23nd May.
Poeppels Corner, QLD, NT and SA.
S.29.59.710 E137.59.931

A big day in the Simpson today! Like condemned men we had a hearty breakfast at the bakery (bacon and eggs for me, lambs fry, bacon and eggs for Hugh). Then we set off out to Big Red where we faced our first ‘serious’ corrugations of the trip. We remain undaunted! On our arrival, we stopped to deflate tyres to a more sand friendly pressure, much to the delight of our adoring crowd, the 30 plus contingent of late septuagenarians on their outback tour. Hugh fielded questions like the seasoned desert traveller he was....or actually he was the closest to their age group!


I had to remove the hub covers on the front alloys to switch the hubs from auto to lock and then we were off. We took Big Red in our stride, 2nd gear. I had settled for tyre pressures of 30 at rear and 25 psi at front. This seemed to provide an excellent footprint. Obligatory photo stop at the top of red. It provides quite an ominous site as we looked west at the ever increasing sea of dunes. They appeared like sets of waves, getting higher and higher untill in the distance, they blotted out the sun (a little literary licence there).


We soon lost count and concern as we powered over the first few and it was truly surprising the distance between some of the dunes. The swales (or interdunes if you want to be technical) were up to 1.5 kilometres in width and this was often lignum flats of a white powdered clay almost like river flats. Other times the swale would be intersected by another smaller dune. Very green and the various shadows of green gave the picture a surrealist, dappled effect with so many shades of green through to grey.


The track was well defined and although sandy, quite easily climbed in high range 2nd gear. There were the occasional hummocks on the lead up but that only necessitated a change down to 1st gear to power over them at a slower speed. We had morning tea and collected some firewood prior to reaching Eyre creek.


Eyer creek was still full necessitating two southward detours of 6km and 400 metres respectively. Corrugations on the tracks crossing the swales between the dunes became increasingly worse. It was a varied landscape once past Eyre and the eucalypts soon gave way to stunted acacias. There were the odd camel pad left on the track but a sighting of one of the beasts alluded us. The dunes came in series rising in front of you like waves ever increasing in height. The tracks were extremely sandy (as you’d expect in a desert) The soft sand, with switches to the right on the dune tops. Several sharp drop offs on the western side took me by surprise. In other areas, the track had mogulled causing a funny horse riding like motion by the vehicle. There were plenty of hummocks and whoopty-do’s so the driving required constant vigilance.


We passed a few vehicles coming from the west. At one point we stopped for a break and photo opportunity and I realised that one of the rear wheel bags was missing. As it was the one containing the shower hoses, the billy and the jaffle iron, there was much wailing and tearing of hair. Back tracking 10 kilometres or so provided no luck in locating it so I left a note pinned to the “Point six” place of interest post. It had been at least four hours since either of us had recalled seeing the bag so it could be a fair way back. I also gave word to those we encountered headed east hoping that a westbound group behind us would have picked up the bag.


One of the key tricks with the Simpson is track selection, particularly on the approach to the high dunes and when dropping off the top into the unknown. The long bonnet of the vehicles means that there is often a time lag when cresting a dune before you are actually able to see what’s below you on the other side. One general rule is to follow the most used track and not the older or original paths. It can quickly lead to disaster with the vehicle dropping into a steep sides blow out or lead you onto a dune face sideways before you know it.



We reached the Qld/Nt border and then bearing roughly south, followed a salt lake for 22km to the intersection and the short run into Poeppels corner. Here a surveyor's peg marks the spot where you can stand in 3 different States with just 2 strides - the junction of the borders of South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. A replica of Augustus Poeppel's original marker stands near the current surveyors peg (the original is now in Adelaide, part of SA' Historical Relics Collection) The flies were incredible. We opted to set up camp 300m past Poeppels corner as this is where I had told people I would be should they discover my bag. As the flies were so bad, we opted to wait for the sun to go down before pulling any food items out for dinner. I was much relieved to hear my name being called over the UHF near sunset. A group behind has my bag having had it passed to them by the young couple we first met going east. We can shower again. They won’t be at Poeppels till the morning so I will get it then.

It was a beaut sunset with the myriad shades of blue and gold fading into the blackness of the night sky. Smoked trout risotto for dinner with a crisp white. It’s going to be a chilly night.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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