Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Outback - Birdsville to Poeppel Corner - Day 5

Map names were becoming real places and waking up in Birdsville was one of those moments overland travel is all about.
Simpson Desert - on top of sand dune known as 'Big Red'
An outback town with a population of 100 people (+/- 7000, as the sign says) is a town used to an influx of city 4wd owners and tourists yet the local town folk do not have this 'harassed by tourists' mentality. I loved the fact that everyone we spoke to had a smile and a willingness to talk and share information on the road conditions and the Simpson Desert.

A special shoutout to Kelly Theobald, author and journalist. In 2012 Kelly and her partner completed a crossing of the Simpson Desest in a VW Beetle.  I managed to spend time with Kelly and hear her story on how she arrived in Birdsville and what life is like in the Australian Outback. Kelly bubbles with enthusiasm causing all around her to smile and dream big. Kelly recently published a childrens book titled "Onslo" named after her Beetle.  
Kelly Theobald & Onslo

Birdsville is the departure point for the East to West crossing of the Simpson desert. If you continue on the main road through the town you end up facing a large sand dune and the start of the Simpson Desert!
Our chores for the morning included filling the two vehicles with diesel and the water tanks with fresh water in preparation for the crossing.  The Toyota Prado 120-Series has a 180l factory fitted diesel tank - very impressive size and once filled, the weight of the fuel and the water tank is very noticeable on the vehicle performance and fuel consumption.

The start of the Simpson Desert is a massive sand dune called 'Big Red'. It's a challenge for the fully laden vehicles to crest the dune but thankfully there are a few 'chicken tracks' as the locals call the easier route up.
Land Cruiser 80-Series at 'Big Red'
The Simmo (as many of the Australian 4wd magazines call it, and a name that I don't particularly like) has a very strict season due to the severe heat. The season had only opened mid March which meant that the dunes had had very little impact from vehicles, with many of the dunes crests still perfectly formed with little previous vehicle tracks.  Our route followed the well established QAA line heading almost directly West.

The notorious flies in the outback were in abundance with many comments from locals exclaiming that it was the worst fly epidemic in years.  A fly net covering your face was the only option to get relief from the constant harassment.

The flies and combined with the 40Deg C heat, the Simpson Desert was showing her true colors and proving to be an uncomfortable place.  
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado D4D

Toyota Land Cruiser 80-Series
Twenty KMs from Poeppel Corner, we crossed Lake Poeppel, a dry salt pan.  It was a 2km crossing from East to West and then an easy 16km drive South following previous vehicle tracks.  Little did we know that this pan would cause a drop in the bank balance and would prove to be a tough challenge the following day!
Poeppel Corner

NT / QLD / SA Boundary

We had finally reached our third Corner in Australia.  Only one corner remains, Surveyor-Generals Corner, however this corner is restricted and will have to wait for another year.

Poeppel Corner was the turnaround point for me and the continued crossing of the Simpson Desert for Doug and Ruth.

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