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July 24th 2013
Published: August 4th 2013
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Crossing the Simpson Desert - Day 1

Wow, here it is, the morning has arrived and we were up early to get Gypsy packed up and taken around to her temporary home so that we can cross the Simpson Desert and on to Birdsville, Andy even has the awning down before I have emerged.

By 9am we are parking Gypsy up near the Rangers Station and head straight back to camp to hook up with the guys that we met yesterday when I was asking for a favour from them.

There are 3 vehicles in the group and for today we will be ringers and make up the group of 4, they are calling themselves the Mud Crabs, we cannot be Mud Crabs, so they called us Blue Ring Octopus and that is the call sign that stuck with us for the day. We have not yet told them about Kangaroo Jack.

Rolling out of camp at 9.30 and the first job is to stop at the rubbish tip on the way, as we will need to take our rubbish out of the desert with us, we don't want to take
Purni BorePurni BorePurni Bore

The Accidental Lake
any in to start with and the National Parks people here kindly provide us with that service. I have been wondering how they can provide this service when there are Dingo's around, surely they would be able to scavenge from the rubbish tip?

A couple of kilometres later, my question is answered, we drive into an area that has a big pit dug and there is a huge cage over the top of the pit with bolted doors, easy to keep the Dingo's out, we drop our rubbish in, re bolt the doors and head off on the 70k's to Purni Bore for our first break and our Simpson adventure.

Setting our UHF radio's to channel 10, which is the required channel for driving across the Simpson, it is advisable to call out on the radio every now and again to advise the direction that you are heading in as it is preferable to know what traffic is coming your way so that you don't meet on the dunes. e.g. "4 vehicles heading East on the French Line"

Another recommended safety requirement is to have a sand flag on your vehicle this is usually on a long pole situated on the bull bar which hopefully pokes up high enough to give another traveller ample warning that someone is coming up the other side of the dunes, fluorescent flags are useful because you can see them from a distance and they stick out against the sandy coloured back drop. When are on the top of a dune you can sometimes pick them out in the distance and gauge when you are likely to meet the oncoming vehicle.

This road is rough, the corrugations are deep, there are rutted sections and this is expected for quite a number of kilometres, we wonder if it will be like this all the way to Birdsville.

When we were halfway to our first stop point, I noticed that the zip on the canvas cover was undone, so I got Andy to stop so that I could zip it up. Unfortunately when I went round to the back of the truck, I not only smelt gas, I could hear it hissing. Andy jumped out and went to the other side of the truck only to find that our load had shifted and had knocked the knob on the gas open.

This could have been very unlucky for us had we lost all of our gas as that is our cooking facility and could easily have meant that we would have had to abandon the trip. Andy fixes the issue and restraps everything down.

Anyway, problem solved and we rejoined the convoy, stopping at Purni Bore for lunch, we had a bit of a sort out to make sure that everything was safe and we even watched a Dingo wander through, no doubt hoping that someone had left traces of their lunch behind.

Purni Bore, otherwise known as the Accidental Lake, was created by the French Petroleum Company in 1963, they found the water at 1880 metres, this was capped and sealed, unfortunately this corroded over time and the water leaked out at 18 litres per second and created the lake.

Back on the track again and a few kilometres later we eventually arrive on the edge of the Simpson Desert, where we all stop for a photo opportunity before advancing into a territory that we have never experienced before and are looking forward to.

The Simpson Desert is popular at this time of year, the daytime temperature is very forgiving, even though night time can be a little on the cool side. Just worth mentioning that the Simpson Desert is closed during the summer months for safety reasons, the temperatures can reach up to the 50 degrees and is unforgiving, it is not only to protect the people that travel, but any person who would potentially be involved in emergency rescue.

The track is rough in places and the dunes have started, the scenery is fabulous, the dunes are not too high to start with and everything is negotiated with ease.

Not far along the track, Pete said he smelt petrol and he thought one of his jerry cans was leaking so we stopped and Pete remedied the situation by emptying the jerry can into his fuel tank. Pete drives a 4.7 litre V8 Toyota Landcruiser, which he loves immensely and I can quite understand why.

Whilst we were having our lunch break, we were overtaken by another group of vehicles, we heard one of them put a call out to the members of their group, "our roof racks just fallen off!" We should not be surprised after the punishment everything takes on these tracks.

They get sorted and decide to have lunch so we overtake them again and take a right turn off the main French Line toward the WAA Line. This route has been recommended because it should be less traffic, the dunes maybe slightly steeper and also the track maybe less damaged.

This is such a great feeling, I think that both of us cannot keep the smile of our faces, we are enjoying being with the Mud Crabs and they seem to have a great sense of humour, so we should be good for a few laughs on the way.

Steve and his wife Mandy are Mud Crab Control, he was very keen not to drive too late into the day and enjoy the experience of being in the desert, after all this is something that none of us have done before and maybe wont do again for a while, so at around 2.30 we pull up for the day after finding a suitable

Taking a break
site for all of us. According to my GPS and in conjunction with my Hema Maps app on the iPad we had covered 111 kilometres, with the average speed of about 33.7kmh.

There are rules listed in the Desert Parks Handbook which states that you are not allowed to camp more than 500 metres from the track edge, I believe this is to stop people from damaging the dunes and the flora further in.

Just one small point to consider when camping, it is preferable to get the sun in the morning as it rises over the dune, if it has been a cold night you would appreciate the warmth of the sun as it comes up and will also help dry any moisture out of your camping gear. So camp under the dunes on the Western ridge side, meaning that as the sun rises over the Eastern side of the dune you will get the sun.

Camp fires are permitted in the Simpson, however you are not permitted to collect wood. Our fire is on the go early and we all sit around to enjoy the feeling of being in the desert and amongst the sand dunes.

There is plenty of chatter going on but eventually the subject turns around to initiation into the Mud Crabs, now I am worried, initiation ceremonies usually mean something awful is about to happen. Mandy makes mention of my very clean white shirt, if I wasn't worried before then now I am.

I sneak off to take some photos but it is not long before I am called back, there are three of us in this initiation, Stuart (Steve and Mandy's son), Andy and myself. Now this is where I should explain what happened, but I cannot reveal the sanctity of the initiation due to cultural sensitivity. We were also presented with our very own Mud Crab sand flag with the call sign of "Mud Crab 2".

Seriously though, Tony was the Master of Ceremonies and he did an excellent job! CDBDII. It was all good fun and thankfully in very good taste.

I feel very disorganised not having the trailer, so it does not feel easy to get dinner sorted and cooked, but this is the first night and we do have to get ourselves organised, which we will probably just about do by the time we get ourselves into Birdsville. (oh, it is just fair to mention that Andy cooked the chilli and rice, I helped with preparation and organisation, so it was a team effort)

We ate our dinner sat around the camp fire, the moon is coming up over the dunes on our right hand side, as the sun sinks behind the dune on the west, it is a full moon, just like last night it is pretty amazing.

Discussing the different places we had seen on this journey we happened to mention Lake Caddibarrawirracanna, Kevin said "that's mentioned in a Rolf Harris song". We were surprised when he also happened to mention that he probably had that in his collection, so in a few minutes we were all listening to it, much to the disgust of some of the Mud Crabs!

We felt really tired tonight, we were fed well and bed was all ready for us to slide into. Both of us looking forward to sleeping in the new swag for the first time. There was just one problem, I had not accounted for this little problem of mine occurring when I zipped myself in on my side of the swag.

Andy said "What's the matter?" I replied saying that I was not terribly comfortable with enclosing myself in is little cocoon, it is almost pitch black. Even though this swag is bigger than our other one and a lighter coloured canvas, it worried me that I would wake up in the night in a panic as I have done on occasion, but it is not limited to swags!

So Andy suggested that I get the luminous tabs and put them up in the swag to give me a reference point. I did this and also left a gap in the outer canvas so that I could see the night sky outside and have a little bit of air coming in, it was quite distressing in a way as I needed to do this, we wont have Gypsy for around 8 days and there is nowhere else to sleep, I have to get over this problem, but deep down I don't know how.

I rolled over to face the little gap in the canvas and went to sleep for our first night in the Simpson Desert.

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