Bucket List - crossing the Simmo
Ok, so you have done all the prep on car and your ready to tackle the remote outback. Before you do anything, you will need a desert park pass. Order your pass online and you will get the park pass booklet in the mail which is a bit of a must read for first timers. You can pick up your desert parks pass at Mt Dare on the western side or Birdsville on the Eastern side, both of these establishments will hand you a parks pass booklet with your permit.
In the booklet there are plenty of reminders about what you need to do in remote area's including where you can camp. Depending on the weather, crossing the Simpson Desert can be relatively easy one day and extreme the next. Hot blistering temps will suck the hydration straight out of you, and create super soft sand, while rain (which can be rare) can make your trip even harder. Deep washouts, clay based ruts that could swallow your pride and joy and of course you will have to contend with changes in the wind and shifting sands. I could go on but i think you get the picture. This is not a trip for the ill prepared.
The Simpson Desert
Central Outback Australia
When crossing the desert, allow a minimum 2 nights and up to 4 nights depending on how long you want to stay. Most travellers will go from Birdsville to Mt Dare or vice versa. On our trips across, we have travelled west to east (Mt Dare to Birdsville) which has taken 3 days and 2 nights each time.
There are many places to camp along the way, whether you travel the French line or say the Rig Road, there are plenty of places to set up for a night. You really want to find a place in-between the sand dunes that is flat. A lot of area in the desert is not real comporable for camping as the terrain is rugged, full of Spinifex bushes and uneven, but if you keep pushing along the tracks, you will find a great camp site.
When setting up camp, try not to go to far away from the main track, it's not Burke Street at night, there is rarely anyone travelling at these times. There are several clay pans through the desert, try to avoid these areas, when it rains you will quickly be in a sticky situation. The clay can become your worst nightmare. Try and find slightly raised patches wich may have some grass.
The French Line
What to expect
During the day you will become acquainted with flies, the harsh environment is a breeding ground for them and leaving any form of food around will attract them in seconds. There are many different types of bugs and creatures all looking for a feed. Animals to expect include dingoes, camels, snakes and lizards. It is important to use dirty bags and lock up any scraps from dinner so you don't attract them. If you have a camp fire, burn everything you can from your left over meals etc. There are no bins in the desert, you must take out what you take in. Do not rubbish the desert !
Baby wipes are a good source for personal clean ups, use them on yourself before bed to freshen up and keep the red sand and dust out of your sleeping gear.
Grab some paper maps and a HemaHN7 for example. It will pay for itself on this one trip.
If you have been to places like Fraser Island, much of the tracks in the desert are similar. They are sandy rutted tracks that can be affected by fellow travellers. Tyre pressure is the key to making life easy on your vehicle. Try starting at 18 PSI and lower from there. Unfortunately, some people still persist in running high tyre pressures and as a result, they tend to dig up the tracks approaching the top of the sand dunes.
When you see and feel the corrugations before the crest of the dunes, thats normally from hard tyres digging there way up the steep face of the dune.
Take it easy in the desert, going to fast will catch you out in no time. A breakdown here can cost you up to $10k to be rescued. Yes you read that right !
Bring plenty of drinking water, allow for every member of the travel party to have at least 3 litres each per day plus what you may use for meals.
Bring a big torch and LED lighting for your camp site at night, your not alone out here so be pre paired especially for toilet time. Bring a long handled shovel for, digging the car out if you get bogged, digging a camp fire hole, or again going to the toilet. Please dig a hole at least a foot below the surface for toilet runs, burn the paper and fill the hole back in. Don't just do your business anywhere and leave it for the next unsuspecting camper.
Fuel, you will need approx. 130 ltrs for diesel and up to 180 ltrs for some petrol model cars. Check with the fill up points at Birdsville and Mt Dare for up to date conditions.
Travel in a group if you can, you will have more fun and be safer. Enjoy !