Simpson Desert Crossing

Outback Australia

May-June 2016

In 2016, at the end of May and the start of June, I crossed the Simpson Desert from West to East.

The trip was originally planned with three vehicles. The other two Vehicles belonging to Jim, my friend at work and one of our customers. Our customer was going to be the trip leader as he had already the desert some years earlier.

The trip was planned for and my vehicle was prepared in the previous twelve months before we set off. Both Jim and myself had never crossed the desert before and were looking forward to the trip. 


Day 1 - Adelaide to Lake Mary

27th May, 2016

The first day of our trip took us from Adelaide to Port Wakefield then onto Port Augusta. We headed on through Woomera, stopping at the Rocket Range Museum the on towards our first campsite at Lake Mary. We drove for nearly six hours and covered roughly six hundred kilometers.

Day 2 - Lake Mary to Lake Eyre

28th May, 2016

the weather was a lot better on the second day of the trip. We broke camp and went to Roxby Downs to meet the third vehicle and trip leader.  Having been there for some time we were contacted by the trip leader and were told that due to personal reasons, he was unable to join us on the trip.

We all had a cake and a chat and decided to continue with the trip anyway. We traveled along the Oodnadatta Track to Lake Eyre where we made camp for the second night of the trip.

Day 3 - Lake Eyre to Hamilton Station

29th May, 2016

On the third day we drove from our campsite to William Creek where we had a quick beer in the famous pub that is located there.  We continued our journey and passed through Oodnadatta and onto Hamilton Station for our third night. Our next night will be in the desert.

Day 4 - Hamilton Station to the Simpson Desert

30th May, 2016

We left Hamilton Station and made our way to Delhousie ruins and then onto the springs.  After a quick dip in the springs, we made our way into the desert. We traveled along the French Line and made camp just past Perni Bore. I had knackered the settings on my camera and so the video for this day is made up of a collection of photos.

Day 5 - The French Line

31st May, 2016

Day 5 was spent travelling along the French Line towards Poepple Corner. We made camp at the side of the track that night.  The desert was full of colourful plants and flowers following some heavy rain that had flooded the area a few week before our trip had begun.

Day 6- Poepple Corner

1st June, 2016

We travelled further along the French Line on to Poepple Corner. 

Things went wrong when we crossed the salt lake at Poepple Corner. I ended up wetting my ECU with salty mud and Jim spun two of his tires off their rims while trying to free himself from the mud. Thankfully my ECU dried out without any problem and at camp that night we managed to re-seat the tires on their rims using my on-board compressor and air tank.  This was the first test of this equipment and it performed better than expected. 

Day 7- Poepple Corner to the QAA Line

2nd June, 2016

Jim had a few things to do in camp that morning so we decided to meet at the start of the QAA line.  I drove into the Northern Territory by myself and made my way to our meeting point.  While I was driving, Jim discovered that the crossing of the salt lake the previous day had destroyed his alternator.  He now did not have a way of charging his batteries. His car also has an electric fuel pump which would stop working when there was no longer enough power supplied to it. We managed to keep his car going by jump starting it from my own vehicle.

The entire journey was over 3500 km. The 22 km stretch between Poepple Corner and the QAA Line was my favorite part of the entire trip. This part of the track was very scenic and had a few challenges that made it really enjoyable.


Day 8 - The QAA Line, Big Red and Birdsville

3rd June, 2016

Day eight of the trip took us to Big Red. The largest sand dune in the desert. Jim managed to get to top of this after several attempts.  I did not attempt this due to a warning light illuminating occasionally stating my transmission was overheating. At the time I believed this to be a leak of transmission fluid but weeks after the trip it turned out that the transmission cooler was blocked solid with the mud from the salt lake at Poepple Corner. However, for the rest of the trip, my speed was limited to around 60 km/h and my distance was limited to around 60-70 km before the light would come on and I had to stop to let things cool down.

After Big Red we traveled to Birdsville and enjoyed a cold beer in the Birdsville Hotel and a camel pie from the bakery. We then made our way towards Adelaide along the Birdsville track. Jim soon left me behind due to my reduced speed and the fact that I had to stop for fifteen minutes every hour to let things cool down. I spent this night alone at a mosquito infested Tippipilla Ck Campsite.

Day 9 - Tippipilla to Liegh Creek

4th June, 2016

On day nine, I started my journey early to make the best use of the cool morning temperature. I met up with Jim and Gavin down the road and stopped to jump start Jim’s car.  I then drove most of that day trying to track down some automatic transmission fluid for my overheating gearbox.  I tried several places without any luck at all.  The only place I found some was in Liegh Creek at the end of the day.  I spoiled myself in Leigh Creek and got a room at the hotel.  It was nice to have a nice warm shower, a good hot meal and a cold beer at the bar.

Day 10 - Spent in Copley waiting for a mechanic

Day 11 - Copley to Adelaide

5th June, 2016

6th June, 2019

The next morning I decided to call the RAA to see if I could get my car to a garage to have its gearbox filled up with fluid.  My car was transported to the nearest RAA approved garage which was in Copley. As it was Sunday, the RAA kindly put my up in the Copley Caravan park. This is a fantastic place. If you have the chance to stay there I would certainly recommend it.

Early the next morning, the mechanic turned up at the garage and he changed the fluid in my gearbox. I returned to Adelaide the same day, slightly sad that the adventure that had been been planned for well over a year was at an end. It was a great trip with fantastic company. 

I would love to cross the desert again. Maybe next time by one of the more remote and lesser used tracks.