Simpson Desert, part 5

Day 5. 337k into the desert

Simpson wildflowers_08I’ve probably only got a couple more days in the desert so decided to make the most of this one and took my time this morning. I still got up just before sunrise, but I took more time to pack up and enjoy my morning coffee. And I went for a walk. Not too far, and keeping the car in sight, but I had a look around. And found more wildflowers. They are so small and delicate that you really do have to look for them. That’s what I love about travelling slowly, taking the time to see these things.

I got on the road at 8.13am. Four hours and forty minutes later I’d travelled 20k and arrived at Poeppel’s corner. Not because I was driving slowly, because I had to dig myself out of a hole twice, well three times actually. On the same sand dune!

Animals arriving in my campsite are not a good omen for the next day’s travel!

Simpson Poeppel cornerI broke one of my rules of driving the dunes. The shortest and easiest way over the top is straight up. Often you’ll come across dunes where there is an alternate route that winds around. It’s not as steep, but nor is it straight so there is more steering, and more sand to get over because it’s also longer. And usually it’s because the other side is much steeper and heavier vehicles or those towing couldn’t make it straight up so went a less steep route. The track on my side is where they came down again.

At around 9.30 (again) after I’d been travelling for about an hour, I came to a dune that had two paths. In future, I might pull over for a cup of tea at 9.30. It’s not a good time for me.

I stopped at the bottom and took stock. The straight path looked very chopped up, and very soft at the top, so I decided on the alternate track. Another reason not to take the windy track is it’s a lot harder to drive down backwards if you don’t make it up.

Simpson red flowers & clay lakeI didn’t make it, and had to drive down backwards. Getting back down is not just a matter of rolling. It’s still soft sand, and you still have to make it over all those whoops.

Coming down I stopped. I have learned from the other day, and as soon as I couldn’t move, I stopped driving. I was stuck against the inside bank, but not very deep. So I pulled out the shovel and started digging.

That’s when I broke another rule. Never do a half-arsed job of anything when you’re out here. I got back in the car, and tried to move. And got stuck even tighter, and deeper.

As I was against a soft sand bank my wheels had nowhere to turn. The only option was to clear that sand bank and move it all a bit to the left. So I started moving that sand bank. The whole length of the car plus some so that I wouldn’t drive straight back into it and get stuck again when I did move. And then I cleared all the wheels until I could see tread all the way around. And then I cleared underneath the car. And then I did a lap of the car and dug some more. The thing about digging is that the repetition becomes zen-like and you just keep digging. Or perhaps that’s just me.

Simpson trackWhen I decided it was clear enough I got back in and tried again. And moved down the dune.

Next rule not to break is don’t lose momentum. Yep, I got stuck again!

This time I stopped immediately and checked. Not too bad, just one wheel really but I decided to clear them all anyway.

Almost two hours after I started up, I was down the bottom of the dune, where I did what I should have done in the first place and drove the straight track. With no problems at all. I think that was karma for not digging my hole deep enough last night.

In that whole two hours I hadn’t seen another soul. I had heard a voice on the UHF, but they were obviously miles away. Nor did I pass anybody else on the way into Poeppel’s Corner. I really am testing my resilience and ability to not panic, and to just get the job done. And to not cry! If you’re not prepared to dig, the Simpson is probably not the place for you, even if you’re not on your own.

While I’ve pulled up around midday the last couple of days, as I’d only travelled 20k I thought it best to press on a bit.

Just on from Poeppel’s the road skirts around a clay pan. Almost 20k of blissful driving with not a dune in sight. But then it’s right back into it. Along the whoops, up a short rise, more whoops, another short rise, down slightly, and then drop the car into low range and up the steep incline at the top.

Simpson to BirdsvilleAnd repeat.

And then you’ll be lucky and get a short break across a clay pan. Then it starts over again.

By 1.45 I decided I’d had enough. I’d just get over the top of this next dune, and find somewhere to camp where I didn’t have a dune immediately to start the day. But of course, there isn’t anywhere that doesn’t have another dune immediately in front of you. So I decided the next camping spot I saw with wood in it or for collection I would just pull over.

I pulled into a beautiful looking spot in the middle of popcorn wattle, but alas, no wood anywhere. So I moved on. The next spot was the same. Then the third spot, which was perhaps the most beautiful, had wood. So I stopped, and as I pulled up I realised I was famished. I’d had nothing except a cup of coffee since the night before, and had been digging for almost two hours. I was so hungry that I grabbed the green vegetable curry left from a couple of nights ago and ate it straight from the container, straight from the fridge`.

Simpson Popcorn WattleAfter a couple of mouthfuls I felt better. Then I realised I had to eat more than that so made myself continue eating. That’s another thing about travelling alone. I don’t always remember to eat, and that’s dangerous out here as well. You need to keep your energy levels up, and not just for digging yourself out of holes!

Then I collected some wood, and smelled of popcorn the whole time I did it. And put my swag out under a tree where I will smell popcorn all night while I sleep. Then woke up to the smell of popcorn in the morning.

And there were very few flies here. I have no idea why, but I’m not complaining. And no dingoes. At least not that I’ve seen.

Take two with trying to get a photo of the night sky.


Starry, starry sky over my camp in the Simpson Desert

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