Tag Archives: Simpson desert

The Trip Home

fullsizeoutput_12f1We left Alice Springs and started the first day of a massive week in the car. To get us home we had to cover 2500 kilometres in 8 days. I even brought Alec a new DVD to watch on his little player. I needed something different to be played over and over and over.

We followed the Stuart Highway north for a short while than turned east onto the Plenty Highway. The Plenty highway started with bitumen but soon turned into the usual Northern Territory unsealed road. Dusty and corrugated.


I like seeing the open signs.


Sandy and corrugated. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

The kilometres ticked over as we bumped and rattled our way along this so-called highway. We stopped for lunch at the Gemtree caravan park. Later in the afternoon we found camp for the night at Jervois Station. A lovely bush camp not far of the highway.


Gemtree Caravan park for lunch. Might have to camp here one day.



A lovely morning photo of the bush surrounding our camp.

In the morning we got away early and just like the following day, we spent most of it in the car. Lunch was at Tobermorey station on the Northern Territory and Queensland border. A lovely grassed area was set a side for camping. We almost stayed the night. Unfortunately it was too early in the day and we hadn’t done our travel quota for the day.

We crossed the border and was surprised that the road improved. Still dusty and corrugated, just not as much. Maybe it was because we were not longer on the Plenty Highway. At the border it changed to the Donohue Highway.


About to be back in our home state.

Not far from the border we came across a couple of road trains parked near a set of cattle yards. It seem like a great opportunity for a photo. We drove across to the trucks and got a few good photo’s. It turned out the drivers were still about and we all had a good chat. Alec even got to sit in one of the trucks. We were told that 4 more trucks were on their way and will be loading in the morning. The property was de-stocking due to the dry conditions. The cattle were being moved closer to the coast where feed was more readily available.


They make them big out this way.



We passed a couple of the other trucks as we continued on.

We arrived in Boulia late in the afternoon and set up camp at the caravan park. We than treated ourselves with dinner at the local hotel. After another big day in the car the swag actually felt comfortable for a change.


Another town another selfie.

Waking up slowly the next morning we packed up camp and found the local roadhouse. Then fueled the car and ourselves. Nothing like a greasy roadhouse breakfast to get the heart pumping.

As we digested breakfast we drove out of town and headed south. Our goal for the day, Birdsville.


Yes we are heading back to Birdsville. I really want to drive up Big Red. The trip down to Birdsville was fairly uneventful. The road was a mixture of good gravel and some bitumen. It was a lonely road and we didn’t see a lot of traffic.


Nothing to see here.


We came across a look out. The view was amazing. Some might say boring.

We arrived in Birdsville and booked into a cabin at the caravan park. The same one as our last visit. Staying two nights in Birdsville, we used our day off to drive out to the edge of the Simpson desert. To have another attempt of driving up Big Red. With out all the weight of the fuel and water for the desert crossing we did this without a problem.

Once on top of  the big sand dune we spent time soaking it all in. We were lucky enough to have the dune to ourselves. Alec and I had great fun running around in the sand.



Another visit to Birdsville another photo in front of the Birdsville Hotel. 

Satisfied after driving up Big Red. We had an early dinner and got a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we would be back in the car, this time heading east.

As we left Birdsville, we crossed the causeway and the bridge that straddles the Diamantina river. Much dryer than five weeks ago when we crossed it with the tag along tour.


Where did all the water go?

Windorah would be our camp for the night and again the trip was not that exciting. We had traveled this road on the tag along tour and not much had changed. As we got close to Windorah the road turned from dirt to bitumen. That was the last of the dirt road for the trip. Our adventure rapidly coming to an end.

We camped in the town camping area. The same spot we camped during the tag along tour. At least this time we weren’t worried about the water level of the Diamiatina river and if we could get in Birdsville. Again I was lazy and we walked down the local pub for dinner.

We had a great time down at the pub. A fire was going and Alec met a new friend to play with. It was the cooks daughter and the children got a huge plate of nuggets to share.


The next day we traveled 480 kilometres to Charleville. Another day of sitting in the car and not even the excitement of dirt roads to keep us occupied.



Yep another exciting day on the road.


We stayed a little bit out of town at the Evening Star Caravan Park. An absolute gem of a place. Very welcoming, clean and with a bar and fire in the evening.


Not a bad way to relax.


Alec was a little cold in the morning while eating breakfast.

The next morning I woke up feeling a little worse for wear. I might have had a couple too many drinks the night before. So we slowly packed up camp and continued heading east. We made it to Mitchell and came across the Great Artesian Spa. Perfect, exactly what I needed.


Like a big warm bath.



After the swim and lunch we were back on the road. However driving was the last thing I felt like doing. 88 kilometres down the road we pull up and found a place to sleep. Roma was the town and a nice hotel for our last night for the trip was found. Only 287 kilometres was traveled. The next day was going to be a 500km day to get us home.

Leaving Roma the first thing I notice was the amount of traffic on the road. We were no longer in the remote desert county of central Australia. As Brisbane and home got closer the end of this adventure also got closer. We finally arrived home after 7 weeks of travel. But not the home we left 7 weeks ago. But a new home for me and Alec, but that’s another story for another time.


That’s a Bit Random.

Somewhere between Boulia and Birdsville I pull off the road to take some photo’s. The landscape was like the moon and just went on forever. This was the sort of country where you might pass one car an hour.

I climbed up on to the roof rack of the patrol to try to get a photo that really encapsulates the remoteness of this county.

As I was taking photo’s I notice a speck in the distant coming along the road. As it got closer I realised it was a bicycle. I watch the bike approached then a small wave and a nod was exchanged with the rider when he passed. As if nothing was out of the ordinary.

Maybe 6 weeks of fly’s and heat were starting to get to me.


Believe it or not but there is a bike in this photo.

Birdsville to Alice Springs Simpson Desert Crossing


We woke up early and with a mixture of excitement and anxiety had breakfast and packed the car. Once our morning briefing was over we left Birdsville behind to cross the worlds largest sand dune desert.


No, I wasn’t letting Alec run around in the desert with no shoes on. I got him out of the car just for the photo. This was often problematic. He didn’t like the fly’s. I don’t blame him. They were terrible.

It will take 3 days to travel the 600 kilometres between Birdsville and Mt Dare. This is the real deal. Once we start the crossing there will be limited help. Medical or otherwise. A vehicle recovery service is based at Birdsville and Mt Dare. As you could imagine the service does not come cheap and is not covered by any of the automotive club membership’s. RACQ, NRMA etc. We carried 140 litres of fuel, 50 litres of water and enough food to feed an army for a week. As well the usual spare parts, tools and first aid.

We drove the 40km to the edge of the Simpson desert and to the first and the largest sand dune of the Simpson desert. Big Red. Here we dropped tyres pressures and had another short talk with our group leader. We then proceeded one by one to cross the first of many dunes that we would have to navigate over the next three days.

Forty metres at its highest point big red has to be crossed if traveling east to west or vis versa. However the main track doesn’t take you over 40 metres of dune. You drive over a smaller section know as little red. Big red is reserved for the people who want to challenge themselves and there vehicles.

On our rest day in Birdsville, most of the group went out and tackled big red. Much easier when not loaded up with fuel, water and camping gear. Alec and myself decided not to go and have an easy day. We both needed it. We would have the opportunity to try the following day as part of the crossing.


Everyone gathered on the western side of big red. There is a number of tracks to try. The left hand one being the hardest.

Big red is north along the dune about 500 metres from little red. Myself and a couple of other’s had a go at the various different routes up the step section of the dune. Did I make it up? You will have to watch the video below.

I tried a couple of times. Each time I only just missed out. I could have tried different tyres pressure, larger run up or one of the easier tracks. But I was concern with my fuel usage and time was getting on. After all we were about to cross a desert. I was little bit disappointed I didn’t make it up. Maybe next time.

After our play on big red we headed west into the desert. Over the next three day’s we drove up and down sand dunes, rolled across flat salt lakes and felt and saw the isolation and beauty of the desert. The absolute vastness of Australia is really brought home when after two long days of travel, you crest a dune and you can still see nothing but more dunes. It really is an amazing experience and something that no picture can truly capture.

But I going to try anyway. Because pictures are much better than reading my dribble.



Alec was fascinated by the salt lakes.



Alec standing at Poeppel corner. The intersection of the South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland borders.





This is what happen’s when you give a four-year old a go pro.


It’s amazing the reaction Alec got with the camera. I certainty don’t get this sort of excitement when I have the camera.

By mid morning on the third day the sand dunes started to become smaller and the track less sandy. We stopped for lunch at an abandoned oil well. It is now a running bore, creating a small oasis in the desert. While stopped we inflated our tyres back to gravel road pressures. The soft sand dunes behind us now.

After lunch we continued along the dry and dusty track to Dalhousie ruins. The ruins were the original homestead of the first settles in the area. It’s hard to believe that a living was made from such a vast and unforgiving landscape. The area is no longer farmed and is part of the Witjira National Park. We left the ruins and made our way to Dalhousie Springs. Our camp for the night.


Alec in front of some of the Dalhousie ruins. You have to be tough to live out here.


Alec enjoying a swim in the Dahousie springs.

Once camp was set up we had a swim in the spring. It was like having a warm bath. Which was good, we hadn’t had a bath or shower for three days.

We spent the night in the tent. We were warned that the mosquitoes would be bad. This created a bit of a problem. Normally we would have dinner early before the mosquitoes arrived. We couldn’t do that this time as the fly’s were bad. I wasn’t taking any risks, mosquitoes love Alec. I decided we would eat a whatever was handy meal in the tent and chill till bed time. We both had fun reading books and playing games till we both nodded of to the sound of dingo’s howling in the distant.


 I couldn’t cook so this is what we had. It wasn’t very flash but it filled our bellies and we didn’t get eaten by mosquitos.

The next morning we set off to visit the first slice of civilisation that we had seen since leaving Birdsville three days earlier. Mt Dare Hotel. Which is the finishing point of our Simpson desert crossing. Here we fueled up the cars, had lunch, toke photo’s and enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction of what we had achieved. Alec even got a well deserved ice cream.IMG_3917IMG_0558

We then headed north, leaving South Australia and entering Northern Territory and to our last camp for the tour. Old Anandado Station. Our camp was situated at the old homestead of outback pioneer Molly Clark. She passed away in 2012. The homestead has been preserved as a museum and is open to the public for viewing.



It was green around the homestead. Some very localised rain had fallen in the area. 


The resting place of Molly Clark. Also in the photo is the current caretaker. He has lived and worked in the area most his life. Well worth a chat around the camp fire.


Not a bad sunset.

We had a slow start in the morning for our last day of the tour. Alice Springs our destination and a day of driving. However it was some of the most interesting driving on the tour.



We traveled parallel with the dunes for a some time. For some reason I really enjoyed the drive.


As we got closer to Alice Springs the dunes stopped and the mountain ranges started.

We were making good time and was approximately 150km away from Alice Springs when one of our group called over the radio. Their four-wheel drive had lost drive and had no choice but to pull over. The transmission had sprung a bad leak and no road side repair would be able to get them any further. A tow truck was the only option.


Getting the vehicle off the track and into the shade.It will be some time before the tow truck would arrive.


Rest in Pieces. Oh so close.

We left the stricken vehicle and made our way to Alice springs. We found a bed in a caravan park and got ready for our final meal together at the local sports club. Over dinner we recounted our adventures, laughed about the mishaps and exchanged contact details. Tomorrow we would be going our separate ways. I could not of asked for a better bunch of people to travel with.


We made it.



Nine started seven finished. We had another one of the group leave after we crossed the desert due to health reasons.



 The Award For The Worst Place To Stop For Lunch.


Eating lunch next to a carcass of a cow might not the best idea that was had during the tour. But I not sure it was the worst either.

Alec’s Making Money Skills.

I had with me a dust pan and brush. I use it to sweep out the tent. A fellow traveler realised this was a good idea and asked me if they could borrow it. Unfortunately whenever I got the dust pan out Alec would play with it and get upset when I toke it off him. So I told our travel companion that he would have to negotiate with Alec. After much haggling a rental fee was agreed upon. A princely sum of five dollars.


Alec was very proud of his new-found wealth.

A Big Thankyou.

A single father taking his four-year old son to cross the Simpson desert is not something most parents would think do for a holiday. For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea. I not sure what that makes me. Totally insane maybe.

There are many reasons that I want to do trips such as this one with Alec. I obviously enjoy them but also I want Alec to experience life outside the cosy surrounding’s of the suburbs. To grow up with wonderment and amazement and not to be afraid of world and the people in it.

I like to describe this trip as an adventure and not a holiday. A holiday always sounds like relaxing on a beach drinking cocktails. This trip definitely wasnt that. We had tough times but also many amazing times.

However none of this would have been possible without help. I owe our fellow travellers a huge thankyou. You all toke to Alec and treated him not like a four year old but another person in the group. Including him within the group and maybe spoiling him a touch. All helping to make his trip awesome.

I also thank everyone for helping me. Might have been keeping an eye on Alec while I was busy setting up camp or putting up with a tantum while having lunch. Every little bit helps.

A big thankyou to Paul the managing director of Tag along tours of Australia who was also our guide for this adventure. For taking the risk of letting us do the tour and the many times Alec interrupted during you talks with the group. Your professionalism and dedication to the tour was outstanding.

Thankyou for the amazing memory’s.