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Published: July 29th 2013
Our journey in
Its a bit remote round here
Waking up at Dalhousie, I peeled back my curtain to watch the sunrise over the scrub, it was a cool morning but it felt quite easy to get up.
We had spent some time considering our next move, do we do the Simpson Desert or don't we? This is an opportunity that unexpectedly presented itself and perhaps it is one that we needed to take full advantage of, after all we are virtually sat on the edge of the desert and it would be a shame not to do it while we are so close.
Knowing that we would be on our own, this was a big factor for us, but equally we know that there is a fair amount of traffic on this route at the moment and if we had any problems then it wouldn't be too long before someone came along. We calculated what fuel we had, we had plenty of food and water to take with us, not to mention the swag to sleep in, which was the reason why we bought it in the first place.
The Simpson Desert is a
large area of dry, red sandy plain and dunes in Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland in central Australia] It is the fourth largest Australian desert, with an area of 176,500 km² (68,100 sq mi) and is the world's largest sand dune desert.
The desert is underlain by the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest inland drainage areas in the world. Water from the basin rises to the surface at numerous natural springs, including Dalhousie Springs, and at bores drilled along stock routes, or during petroleum exploration. As a result of exploitation by such bores, the flow of water to springs has been steadily decreasing in recent years. It is also part of the Lake Eyre basin.
The Simpson Desert is an erg which contains the world's longest parallel sand dunes. These north-south oriented dunes are static, held in position by vegetation. They vary in height from 3 metres in the west to around 30 metres on the eastern side. The largest and most famous dune, Nappanerica, or more popularly Big Red (named by Simpson Desert traveller Dennis Bartell), is 40 metres in height
So we thought we would mull it over
Of the original Homestead
a bit longer only to see if we can find a reason why not do cross the Simpson (reverse psychology).
Although we did have enough diesel, Andy was thinking that if we could find somebody that was going to Mount Dare they may be able to fill our jerry with Diesel can that we keep for these type of situations. Although we had not decided at this point we would do the crossing, it would be a bit of a comfort factor for us, knowing that we had roughly 500k's of desert and we usually have 180 litres of diesel in our tanks which would be ample, but one tank was only 3/4 full.
We had noticed a group of three 4 wheel drives across the camp from us and they seemed to be packing up for a day out, we got the feeling that they would either be getting ready to cross the Simpson Desert or had just done it, thus Andy's mind was working a bit of overtime here,
So using my female charms, I wandered on over and asked where they were headed today. "Mount Dare" came the
reply and thus we got into conversation about the Simpson Desert, they confirmed that was were they were going tomorrow, I explained our conundrum and that we were still deciding our next move and they all suggested that we would be most welcome to tag along with them. (sucked in guys, but you know that now don't you!)
I gave them a $50 note and our jerry can, we joked about them running away with the money, but I pointed out that I knew where there swags were so I am sure that $50 would not get them very far.
We all introduced ourselves, there were far too many names for me to remember at the time, but now I know them all, Tony, Pete, Kevin, Stuart, Steve and Mandy (Steve's wife).
Off they went to Mount Dare and as we were at the hot springs thought we should at least have a dip as we need to get ourselves sorted for the crossing if we go ahead with it.
The water was hot, it is a constant 38 degree from an Artesian springs and are
In the spring
Beautiful at 38 degree's
part of the chain of mound springs that for along the outer rim of the great Artesian basin, the water rises through cracks and fissures from very deep in the earth and is millions of years old, it was lovely in there and as we bobbed around we pondered, there was another couple enjoying the hot springs, Hilary and Glen, we get talking and find that they have just come across the Simpson Desert on their own, East to West and were quite happily telling us that it would really be no bother at all for us.
We have been told that doing West to East is easier, the dunes are not quite so steep, on the Western side so perhaps as we are on the West side it would be a good time to do it.
I think that our bobbing about in the hot springs convinced us it would be the right thing to do, it just seemed that everything was pointing us in that direction, it must not be taken lightly, as it will possibly be the toughest thing we have done to date.
The hot springs also
Whilst bobbing around in the Artesian spring
have those fish that like to nibble on you, a bit like the gararuffa fish that we came across in Singapore. If you hang around by the steps into the springs a lot of them gather around you and you can feel them nibbling the dead skin on your legs and feet I figured it would save me having a pedicure when we get to Alice Springs.
Emerging from the hot springs, it was evident that we had been in too long as I looked like a prune, it also felt cold with the cool breeze. I went to have a shower just in case it was the last one I would have for a few days, the water was cold so I just washed my hair! I wondered why they did not pump up the water from the hot springs to the shower.
Back at camp Andy had already made himself busy sorting the truck out, what to take and what not to take, the idea being that we would try to keep ourselves as light as possible. I got on with sorting out what food we would take with us and made
a bit of a meal plan but also throwing in extra tins "just in case".
Glen and Hilary walked past and while we were talking a lady appeared and asked if anyone had any kind of sealant as they had a ruptured fuel tank. Andy gave her the sat phone so that she could call her friends who were coming through Mount Dare in the hope that they would be able to pick something up at the service station on their way through.
A while later this lady came back, she said her name was Dale and then asked if we had any hose that she could use to syphon some diesel out of their tank. They wanted to get the fuel level down, below the crack so that the ruptured area could be dried and thus would stand a better chance of being able to be sealed. Andy sorted her out with the hose and off she went.
It wasn't long before she was back again and thanked us for the hose, explained that her husband was sorting things out and fingers crossed it would all work, and as we
had been so helpful she invited us round to their site later for some scones with cream and jam.
We busied ourselves with preparation for leaving tomorrow and making sure that we had everything we needed, we figured that we would be leaving Gypsy for somewhere between 8-10 days and all we really wanted was the basic minimum to keep us going but of course plenty of food and water.
Later on the guys came back from Mount Dare and brought our diesel with them, we were truly grateful that they were able to do this for us, otherwise we would not really have been ready to go in the morning. Again they suggested that we tag along with them, we thanked them and said that we would as long as we didn't cramp their style, but they assured us they had no style to cramp.
Dalhousie camp site is gradually filling up with vehicles again, one or two have already crossed the Simpson Desert but there are various groups getting ready to cross in the morning.
I estimate that there were perhaps 20 - 25 vehicles leaving
here at different intervals tomorrow, everyone is doing the same thing, last minute checks and we learn that there are 3 vehicles with ruptured fuel tanks, which seems rather high, however if you experienced the tracks to get here you may understand why, the word rough does not even come close.
Another person came round to ask if anyone had any spare jerry cans as they did not want to waste leaking fuel, but they are a rare commodity here because everyone's jerry cans are in use. They were prepared to pay but amongst travellers, if someone can help they usually would and most people will work on the "pay it forward" basis.
The last main job on our list was to buy our desert parks pass, so we headed up to the Rangers station and saw the two camp volunteers, we purchased the Desert Parks Pass ($150), they went through the principles of the pass which allows you access and camping in the 7 parks listed but of course we were only interested in the one at the moment. We arranged were Gypsy would be placed while we were away and headed back
Caroline looking cold.
Well it is the middle of winter !
On the way we see Dale and she gives us half hour as her scones are cooking, we went back half hour later with our mugs, the kettle was on the scones had been cooked and with the jam and cream they were delicious. Dale makes exceedingly good scones!
Hilary and Glen joined us and then Dale gave us a bottle of sparkling wine to share between us, she didn't drink sparkling and felt that because we had both helped with their predicament that we should share it, well it was a great suggestion and that meant we had to drink it tonight as we would be going our separate ways in the morning.
By now Dale and Peter's friends were arriving, they were all getting ready to cross the Simpson Desert but we were not sure when they were leaving, we thanked them for the scones and wine and left them to it, wishing them luck with the crossing and no doubt we would cross paths again.
Hilary and Glen suggested a moonlit bob about in the hot springs, which is what they did last
night when they arrived at Dalhousie. I was sceptical at first, the temperature here when the sun goes down drops rapidly and I don't like being cold, it would also feel worse because you would get hot in the springs and get out into the freezing cold.
Hilary assured me that I would feel the benefit and Andy agreed to give it a go, so I gave in and went along with the idea.
The moon was not up as early as it was last night, we went along to the springs and it was still dark, so we slipped in anyway, we had our plastic glasses of sparkling whilst standing around in the shallow bit of the springs, looking up at the stars whilst the sky was dark, what a unique position to be star gazing in.
The moon eventually put in an appearance, it started off as a bright orange, but became whiter as it rose, it wasn't too long before it cast its light across the springs, you can see the steam rising from the water words cannot describe how fabulous it looked and what a pleasure to
experience, having a glass of bubbles, watching the moon rise and enjoying the warmth of the hot spring.
I have no idea how long we were in there but Hilary and I polished off two bottles of sparkling, it was time to leave and we were all hungry and wanted some dinner. We got out just in time for Dale and her group to get in.
This is the bit that I was really going to hate and let me tell you, the initial shock of getting out of the hot spring into the cold air of the evening was a bit of a moment, but as soon as I had dried myself and dressed I felt the benefit and actually felt warm.
The guys crossing the desert had invited us over for a drink with them this evening, it would have been a great idea and I did feel a little bit guilty because by the time we bobbed about in the springs, had some dinner it was getting late and not only that we should have had another drink with Hilary and Glen before bedtime and really we were so tired we bowed out gracefully and slid into bed with the intention of getting up early in the morning to make sure we would be ready for the departure time.
It is a big day tomorrow and a good nights sleep is required.
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