Simpson Desert 2016 - Day 1

The trip started in the rain, early on the 27th May, 2016.

It was a good feeling to finally set off on the trip after months of preparation and planning. After driving for just under an hour I arrived at Pope’s Cafe and Bakery on Port Wakefield where I had arranged to meet my workmate Jim and his friend Gavin.

Jim didn’t take long to show up and after some coffee and food we set off heading for Port Augusta. Along the way we took a detour to see a small country town where Jim’s family came from. We headed off again and after some time we made it to Port Augusta where we stopped for some lunch and topped up the fuel.

Mid to late afternoon, we made it to Woomera. I was looking forward to seeing this place as it was full of aircraft and rockets. It also has a lot to do with Len Beadell who did a lot of surveying and cutting of tracks and roads using his trusty Land Rover to carry him across the wilderness.

\We paid the Woomera Museum a visit and was lucky enough to find it open. Not always the case I have been told but well worth a visit. Lots of great exhibits of when Woomera was used by both the British and European space agencies in the fifties and sixties. When arriving at the museum you are presented with a Gloster Meteor, one of the first jets in the world to go into service. Having a closer look at the plane it looks like they made a lot of it out of plywood, unless this was added after it had become a carpark ornament. It did look like the real deal to me though.

There is also a Canberra bomber there. They always remind me of when I was little as there was a lot of these aircraft parked up at Samlesbury Aerodrome just outside of my hometown of Blackburn in Lancashire. They had been sold to some tin pot country and then not delivered for some reason and so just stood on the runway, open to the elements, for years and years.

Scattered all around the main museum building are pieces of rockets that were tested at the Woomera proving grounds and then dragged back from where they crashed in the desert. Very interesting to look at. It is such a shame that the same sort of missile and rocket testing is not performed there today. The museum had pictures of when the site was busy and the town looked massive compared to its size today.

An hour or so drive took us to our first campsite of the trip at Lake Mary. Just before arriving it started to rain and the wind grew in strength. We quickly set up camp and made afire to cook our evening meal on. We had a couple of beers and talked about the day until we went to bed and settled in for a stormy night under canvas. At least I did. Jim and Gavin we sleeping on stretcher beds under an awning on Jim’s car. The next morning we plan to meet the third car taking part in our trip and the person who will lead us through through the Simpson Desert.

On our first day we had travelled a total of 584 km which had taken us just short of six hours to complete including stops.  It was an exciting feeling to be actually underway. Two more nights and we should be sleeping in the Desert.