The times they are a changin

As Bob Dylan sung back in 1964 “The times they are a changin” and they certainly have for us in the last few years. In a great and wonderful way with 3 beautiful grandchildren. The configuration and setup we have had in the Ute for the last 6 years has suited us great but with the addition of our crazy Labrador Jess and some little munchkins that will like to come camping with “Mama and Grandude” we needed to do some slight modifications which included putting the back seat into the Ute.

Sounds easy enough but if you recall the back seat area was where we had installed the batteries, the chargers, inverter, air compressor, air tank and all the air hoses and wiring that go with these items. As well as a set of draws on both sides.

Finding new places for the items was not an easy task. It took many weeks to find just the right spots. It was also an opportunity to change over our batteries as we weren’t happy with how the current ones were performing. Now lithium batteries would have been nice but since we haven’t won lotto yet we opted for 2 x 150amp Fullriver AGM batteries. Chris still wanted to keep them low and as forward as he could. Behind the genie proved to be the sweet spot.

With the chargers and inverter just above them on the front wall of the canopy in a little nook that wasn’t been used and well protected.

Chris also installed a new battery monitor, that gave him a lot more information and details.

Another unused little spot is under the back seat. Chris managed to fit 2 compressors, all the air hoses and wiring under the seat and the 2 fire extinguishers easily accessed on each side. The air tank will have to sit outside protected between the cabin and canopy.

A new addition is a 175w solar panel that will be installed on the Ute canopy when we are not taking the kayak. This and the current 100w solar panel on the Ute will charge the FullRivers and starter battery.

When we have the kayak the 175w solar will travel on top of the existing solar on the trailer charging the trailer batteries as we travel and of course like the other one come off and be setup when we are staying put for a while.

All up we think the new changes work very well and will suit us very well for our upcoming trip crossing the Simpson Desert.

Simpson Desert

We head off for our trip to the Simpson Desert with anticipation, excitement, a few butterflies of nerves but with a great sense of adventure. It’s good to have a healthy respect for the remote areas of Australia, a lot can go wrong, a well prepared vehicle is a must. The Simmo has been on our bucket list of places we would like to see for many many years. Finally the time has come.

With a trip like this a lot of preparation and planning is required. You really need to think through every aspect of the trip, do lots of research and ask lots of questions. Many do take their camper trailers across the Simpson and get across perfectly fine, but it’s strongly discouraged. We decided to leave the camper trailer at the Birdsville Caravan Park in storage for 2 weeks, but still have the use of it to and from Brisbane.

It’s a balance of what spares, tools, water, fuel, food, recovery gear etc is needed and what you can leave at home to lighten the load.

The back seat has come out again to make room for the tent, bedding and a few other bits. Chris has secured a table over the top of the compressors etc which, gives us a flat base for packing, protects bits and gives us a table to use 😀

Some rearranging and removing of items not needed has made room for items that usually go in the trailer like clothes, food, plates etc

We are allowing 2 weeks from Birdsville taking the Warburton and Rig road across to Purnie Bore and onto Dalhousie, where we will stay a few days. Run up to Mt Dare to fill up and maybe do a run up to Old Andado.

Then we will take the French line, Poepple Cnr and QAA line back to Birdsville. Well that’s the plan anyway. 🙂

Cooper Creek – The Legend

We have a little tradition that we like to leave after Chris finishes work and get a few hours under our belt. Makes us feel like we are really off on our next adventure. This time was no different with us stopping at our usual place when heading west Swinging Bridge at Cooyar.

We had a very early start the next morning wanting to put a big full days drive in and knock off a few km’s. This trip we had some Audible books we listen to via the Audible App on our phones through the car speakers. It certainly helped keep our minds occupied and the km’s just seemed to slip away. We had a great run and stopped for the night approximately 100km’s east of Quilipie at a large area near a communication tower. It was well off the road, private, quiet and we had it all to ourselves.There was plenty of wood lying around so we had a nice fire and an early night.
We weren’t in a hurry the next morning on the road by 9am with Cooper Creek near Windorah as our goal. With us planning on being there early arvo to just enjoy the area.
There is a lot of road kill on the road, more than we have seen before. It was like slalom through the road kill.
We arrived at Cooper Creek just before lunch, we took the track down to the creek and have a great spot overlooking the creek. After a quick setup, we had lunch and then sat back and enjoyed the creek and bird life.
Cooper Creek is a lot more popular than last time we were there with campers on both sides of the river. On one side there is a 12km nature trail.

Birdsville

It is 385 km from Windorah to Birdsville and according to our Bossy Betsy GPS it takes 4 1/2hrs. The road for the first 100 odd kms Is a single lane bumpy rough bitumen road. You travel through some very flat treeless landscape with a few sand dunes. 266km from Birdsville you hit the dirt/gravel.

For many Birdsville is just a dot on the map. Many wouldn’t think how far it is from the east coast of Qld. What is there and why would you want to go there. Many don’t really realise how remote it actually is. We have been to Birdsville several times but again we are reminded when you have to travel nearly 1600km with the last 266km on dirt road passing through some flat barren landscape that Birdsville is indeed remote and in the middle of nowhere. Of course these days with the Birdsville races and in more recent years the Big Red Bash it’s not as remote as it once was.

We pulled into Birdsville a little after 2pm. First stop was the info centre where we purchased our Desert Parks Pass and booked into 3 O’Clock Creek near Dalhousie. The powers that be insist people book before you go now. Since we didn’t know the exact day like so many other travellers we were told to book several days. Which yep means that we have booked days we won’t be there, like other travellers will do, so the camping areas will be booked out with no one in them. Crazy crazy system that some fat cat in the city office has decided was a good idea but hasn’t thought about the practicality of that.

Every time we come to Birdsville we find discover new things. We had a look around town, then went back to the Windmill camping area to setup camp.

We went to the Birdsville pub for tea, roast meat and veggies was tonight’s menu @ $28.50 each it was a big meal that was so so but filled the tummy and supported the town.

This dog we assume was waiting for his master, and why not have a peak in the window while he waits 🙂

An Adventure of a lifetime

It’s “S Day” we woke feeling a little excited but knew we had a few things to do before we could head down the Birdsville Track to start our Simmo adventure.

We spent the morning letting the canvas on the trailer fully dry and moving things between the 2 vehicles that we either didn’t need to take or did need to. We then dropped the trailer at the Birdsville Caravan Park for storage for the next 2 weeks.

Filled up with fuel and the popped into the Birdsville bakery for a couple of pies, bread rolls and a muffin for Chris. He has had the curried camel before and didn’t like it so this time he got a standard chunky beef and something a little more adventurous kangaroo claret. Chris said the kangaroo was very nice.

Now we were really getting excited as we headed out of town, down the track towards the Warburton Track.

A South Australian Desert Park Pass is required to drive and camp in the Simpson. At time of writing it was $160 and is valid for 12 months. The pass includes a guide, permit and some maps. It can be purchased in advance from the SA National Park website, or from places in Birdsville or Mt Dare. We opted to buy ours in Birdsville just in case something came up that changed our plans, like rain or flooding.

Some areas of the Birdsville track were very rutted from where vehicles had driven along the track in recent rains. In many places there was water alongside the road, water on the road in several places and even some grading being done. All in all it’s not a bad road and we saw plenty of people towing caravans up the track.

A sand/safety flag is also required to travel across the Simpson Desert, check the SA National Parks website for up to date requirements.

The turnoff to Warburton Track is 200km from Birdsville, now the adventure really begins.

Simpson Desert – Warburton Track

We have been given a free copy of an Audio Tour of the Birdsville Track to review. We will do a full review on it soon but what we have heard so far is awesome, so stay tuned.

For some people, like us, crossing the Simpson Desert is on their bucket list. For others it may not even be a thought, for others you may like to, wish you could or the opportunity or practically may not be an option for you. We are not sure if we will have the opportunity to cross the Simmo again which is why we are crossing one way and coming back another route and allowing 2 weeks to do it.

We write this as a record for ourselves, track notes for others planning a trip but also for those who are not as fortunate as us in being able to tackle such an adventure. We hope you can experience your Simmo crossing through our journey.

At the turnoff to the start of the Warburton Track are some signs, one stating that sand flags must be used, Chris stopped and put ours up.

Driving on the first part of the Warburton Track was like driving on a bush access track. Driving through some low-lying areas of the flood plains. At the river is a sign saying no camping, water is for stock only but we knew many ignored this as there was a small caravan already setup. One assumes just come off the Birdsville Track in search of a quiet campsite. Five 4×4’s were just ahead of us and they seemed to disappear around this area as well, we assume up a side track near the river.

About 26kms up we came to a turnoff to the left that wasn’t signed posted. There was a track off to the right as well, we confirmed with the Hema Android map we were on the right track. From here the terrain changed slightly driving past many clay pans, the road became more corrugated and bumpy. Not a terrible exciting track.

19km futher on was some old stock yards, with a large flat clay pan behind it. Many trees lined the dry creek bed behind it. This is where we decided to make camp for the night.

Just as we were setting the tent up a big gust of wind camp up and we had to hold tight onto the tent and peg the awning on the Ute down. Didn’t take us long to be set up, with our bed looking pretty cosy in the tent. There was plenty of small dry wood lying around so we collected some up for a fire.

Cameras and tripods came out for the anticipated sunset. The sunset itself was a bit of a fizzy but the afterglow sometime later nearly caught us off guard as we raced back to our cameras.

It was a pleasant evening around the campfire looking up at the open clear skies and the millions of stars.

We were snug as a bug in the tent and were surprised when we zipped the door down in the morning how much warmer it was in the tent. We were greeted with the sky lit up with red and yellow hues, awesome.

Chris re started the fire which we sat around eating our breaky. Can you get a more awesome start to the day.

The group of five 4×4’s passed us as we were packing up, we weren’t in a hurry and had morning tea by the remains of the fire before heading off.

Starting to get into sandhill country now, the vegetation is sparser. Approx 16km from the yards we crossed into the National Park. The terrain changed again with lots of dead trees and flat clay pans in the swales of the Sandhills. The road changes many times, with corrugations, sand and ruts.

60km from the yards is the old Kuncherinna Oil well, there is an old sign that marks the spot but it is very hard to read. We climbed up and explored one of the sandhills.

Just a few meters up from that is Kuncherinna Junction, which is the turn off to the Rig Road and K1 Line. GPS 26° 42’ 11”  138° 15’ 58”

 

Simpson Desert – Rig Road

The Rig Road was originally constructed by the petroleum companies to support semi-trailers carrying heavy oil rig equipment. The road was clay capped to make it easier, now the road is badly eroded in some parts. The Rig crosses the southern part of the Simpson Desert.

On the Warburton we were driving along the swales, as soon as we turned onto the Rig Road we started going over Sandhills. Some of these were very rutted, some were very soft and sandy on the top, some like to give an extra challenge with a turn in soft sand at the tops.

Peera Peera Poolanna Lake was a dry salt lake, that was absolutely huge. You drive along the edge of it for km after km. We stopped and went for a walk on it, totally fascinating. Dry cracked clay making interesting patterns encrusted with white salt. The top layer was hard and crusty but not that far under the surface it was damp.

The lake seemed to go on forever, just when you think you had come to the end of the lake and went over a sandhill you came to another section or side to it. It seems Peera Peera Poolanna Lake is a series/group of lakes.

We only saw one other traveller coming in the opposite direction that asked about the condition of the Warburton and told us what the Rig was like.

You would think out here there would be plenty of places to find a camp spot, but in a tent you want to find a flat spot void of vegetation hopefully in a bit of a sheltered position as the wind does come up a bit. We often saw tracks leading off to such spots were other travellers had gone in search of a similar spot. We found our spot between 2 Sandhills on a flat clay pan, approx 110km from the yards we left this morning.

After a quick wipe down last night it was sooooo nice to have a shower tonight. We ate our tea watching an awesome sunset over the Sandhills. And sat under the awning reading until it got too cold to stay up.

It was a bit cooler last night but warm enough under the covers. Cool morning with the sun not up and since we were at the western base of a sandhill it took a while for the sun to reach our camp spot. Note to self camp on the Eastern side next time.

We had several trail bikes and 4×4 pass us in the opposite direction. The guys on the trail bikes were being a bit silly and doing one wheelers.

We stopped at the old Poolawanna Oil Well for some photos.

Knolls Track, WAA Line & Erabena Track

Chris decided he liked the idea of doing a slight detour off the Rig Road and take the Knolls Track up to the WAA Line across to the Erabena Track and then back onto the Rig.

The Knolls Track runs from the Rig Road to the French Line. It is sandy in the southern end but to the north the going is quite slow as the track bounces over gypsum formations near the knolls as we were to find out later. Rig Road/Knolls Track Junction GPS 26° 23’ 23” 137° 39’ 31”

The Knolls Track was narrow and was like we were driving half way up a sandhill at one point. We had a couple of 4×4 and some trail bikes we had to move over for heading in the opposite direction. We were told there was several more.

At the junction of Knolls and the WAA Line there were approx 10 trail bike riders having a break. They informed us of a lot more bikes and 4×4’s coming our way along the WAA line, so much for being quieter.

The WAA line is an east-west line. It is unclayed and is supposed to be a quieter track. WAA Corner GPS 26° 19’ 28” 137°38’43”

The WAA Line was sandy, rocky, had holes in the sand, it was very much up and down, round bends, lots of low bushes close to the road giving the Ute a few new pin stripes.

We ended up passing so many bikes and 4×4’s we lost track all heading home from the Finke Desert Race. Hopefully today will be the most traffic we will see.

We crossed several salt lakes, which are lots of fun to drive on when they are dry.

We stopped on the edge of a large clay pan near a salt lake for lunch before we crossed the lake. It was awesome. There was lots of wheel ruts where people had decided to get off the main track and got stuck. Have to say it was lots of fun crossing it.

The sandhills started to get bigger after this, lots of curves and twists. As we came up the top of the crest it could be hard to see which way the track went. Chris would get on the CB and say, ” single vehicle west bound on the WAA about to come up a crest” letting oncoming traffic know we were there. At one point we did have to back down to let 2 vehicles come through.

It was pretty slow going, the Ute had no issues at all going up the sandhills.

Erabena Track runs from the Rig Road to the French Line and is clayed. WAA Junction 26° 19’ 26” 137°20’ 44”

Erabena Track was pretty corrugated the whole length we travelled on it. It was a lot wider and more heavily used. We didn’t see any other traffic on this track.

Back on the Rig

The Rig was also pretty corrugated to start with. We came across James and Trinity from Bulldust and Backroads who we had been chatting to via the MySwag forum, it was nice to meet face to face and see that they were safe and enjoying their own adventure on the Simmo.

Approx 6km further up the Rig is the Lone Gum Tree, which is not actually a gum tree, it is a Coolabah tree which is a box eucalyt.

There we met another couple of fellow adventurers travelling in some sort of truck off road motor home, I’ll let the photo show you what we mean.

We chatted to them about where they had been and they told us some stories about the accidents and mishaps some of the trail bikes had been having. An ambulance had to do a late night run out to Poepple Corner to attend to someone who had seriously hurt themselves on their trail bike, and this was before the Finke race. It’s a long way from help out here.

A few kms past the Lone Gum Tree we pulled off the road to stop for the night. Didn’t take us long to setup and find we had plenty of wood for a nice cosy fire.

We heard a dingo howling last night and the wind came up for a while. We re started the fire to have breaky by it. On the road a bit earlier this morning.

It was slow going on the last 100 odd kms on the Rig. The road was corrugated, narrow, very rutted in places, windy, sandy. This end of the Rig is certainly rougher than the end we started at. Chris hardly got out of second gear.

Markers are placed at 5km internals along the tracks so that travellers can easily identity their position if they should break down, need assistance or communication with other traffic. The markers have 2 components 1) A track designation code of 3 letters which is an abbreviation of the track’s name. 2) The number code which show in km’s the distance from Dalhousie. In the photo below, the marker shows we are on the Rig Road and 158km’s from Dalhousie. We found these could be hard to find and the tops were often missing or chewed off.

At lunch time we stopped at the base of a sandhill and had a bit of an explore.

We came across some more Finke riders and their support vehicles as well as 2 lots towing camping trailers.

We have heard from several travellers that the French Line is pretty churned up from all the traffic and people towing trailers. Hopefully it will settle back down before we come back across it.

We stopped for the night 2km from where the Rig joins the French Line, tomorrow we should be at Dalhousie.

Dalhousie

We were up early and on the road by 9am wanting to be at Dalhousie for lunch.

The small section of the French Line we went on had much smaller sandhills than we had been on the day before but they were far more chopped up. Some big holes in the dunes.

We made Purni Bore by morning tea, we had planned to stop there but it was packed with bikes so we just went up the road and had a cuppa.

The Spring Creek Delta Bypass Track from Purni Bore to Dalhousie is a shocker. Some parts were gravel, some very rocky, rutted, then there would be a big area of sand that would also be corrugated or chopped up or both. There were a few clay pans that were smooth. Then it would be back to the rough stuff.

We were glad to get into Dalhousie but were reminded we have to do that section again in a few days.

Yah, hip hip hurray we made it 🙂 we crossed the Simpson and the Ute did great. We celebrated by having lunch and a good soak in the Dalhousie springs to get rid of the dust from the last few days.

It was a warm day and it would have been nice to dip the feet into some cool water instead the waters of Dalhousie were rather warm in fact too warm. Still it was nice to soak the cares of the day away for a short time before we got too hot and had to hop out.

We dropped our rubbish from the last few days at the rubbish disposal on the way to 3 O’Clock Creek. We figured we could have stayed at the campground at Dalhousie as there weren’t a lot of people there but decided we would go to 3 O’Clock Creek.

The area is mostly rocky but we did find a few smooth flat areas we could make camp. There is a water tower to fill up tanks which we have already seen a few doing.

There wasn’t a lot of flies on the desert but they are out and about here driving us nuts.