Travel Report from IBS Outbacktour from 28.6.2004 - 21.7.2004

Near the lake Eyre the vehicle TOYOTA LC HZJ105

Traversée du désert à travers le désert de Simpson

Travelling route: Melbourne-Adelaide-Port Augusta-Odnandatta-Fink Gorge NP-Alice Springs-Finke-Mount Dare-Dalhousie-Simpson Desert-Birdsville-Charleville-Brisbane-Sidney-Melbourne

The desert crossing of the Simpson Desert started in the end of June with a new vehicle (the new IBS-LandCruiser HZJ105) from Alice Springs to Brisbane was a great success. You will find my travel book underneath.

The journey was started in Melbourne with 2 vehicles, a LandCruiser HDJ100 Sahara with "Treck shek Off-Road"- Camping trailer and the LandCruiser HZJ105.

Up to Port Augusta (SA) I travelled together with a family of my friend the same way. My journey went then alone through the Flinders Ranges, the Oodnadatta Track (the track of the „Old Ghan Railway“) in direction of northwest. From Landhust on in the south of Maree the following 10 days and 4000 km only sand tracks and corrugations were expected. I have chosen the journey to Oodnadatta 
 (crossing the Pink Roadhouse, where pink is the basic colour of almost everything) along the Lake Eyre (a in most time complete dry salt lake with its brilliant silver coloured surface) who these time was a real lake with water up to 20 m deep, because there was a period of heavy rain before. 

Finke Gorge National Park

The Roadhouses in the Outback of Australia have all a landing ground, and most of the time you will see there aeroplanes stationed, then the higher speed and the high comfort let farmers and other peoples use movement by air. The new LandCruiser HZJ105 drives smoother over the rough tracks than my old 60-er LandCruiser. My first stay overnight under a free sky with its stars was ca. 100 km before William Creek along the rim of Lake Eyre. It was absolutely quiet beside of few swarms of gooses flying quite deep over the campground. From Oodnadatta I drove back to the Stuart HWY to the Marla Roadhouse to fill my tanks with gasoline at a fair price. Most Outback Roadhouses sell Diesel, but often at a very high price. After 100 km on the HWY I changed to the west and had to search the right track to the Finke Gorge National Park (NP). The signposts have been removed since years. I got few GPS-coordinates, (but they were all wrong as I found out with my Garmin GPS 60C). Therefore I had to search over an hour the right track. I had to check different tracks going to stations and to turn back (Motto: try and error!) It was important to save coordinates every crossing to be able to step back with certainty if a track was the wrong one. The landscape started to change and became interesting. The many "washouts and riverbed-crossings" and narrow passage trough bushes forced me to slowdown my speed. The red soil shows an extreme contrast to the white tree trunks of the eucalyptus trees.

Finke Gorge National Park River crossing

After 4 hours driving in off-road I found south of the entrance to the Finke Gorge National Park the most beautiful camping spot in this surrounding. A range of the Fink River, plenty of water, in the middle of the high red rock faces and with very high eucalyptus trees. The following day has promised a beautiful off-road experience. To advance further on I had to pass a deep bogy hole or I had to go through the water with a dept of 1,40 m. This water was still there from a rainy period before I came. I had still 5000 km with the Simpson Desert in front of me; therefore I didn't go through the water because I did not want problems with water in axes, differentials and wheel bearings. The detour of 800 m took me 1 hour and few headaches. The boulders and stones along the riverbed were very high. Therefore I had to get off of my car many times to make sure not to touch ground with axes or differentials. The folding of the landing gear was very impressive.

Mount Dare Camp Ground

The rest of the journey to the Palm Valley with the old palms in the middle of a desert was endless along the riverbed. From time to time I had to cross the water without any problems. A short stopover was planned in Alice Springs to have a service of my vehicle and to replenish all provisions for the long desert trip through the Simpson Desert.  

For the journey to Dalhousie Springs (here are hot mineral springs on the west rim of the Simpson Desert; there springs water after 3 Million years to the surface coming underground from the Great Dividing Range). I have chosen this time the Finke (Race) Track, because I know the Old Andao Track from earlier expeditions. In terms of corrugations the Finke Track is the most brutal track I ever crossed in Australia. The corrugations are so extreme that it was impossible to meet a speed between 90 – 100 km/h. The track goes along an old railway embankment of the Old Ghan and I had to watch carefully possible washouts, because of missing parts of the track.

The LandCruiser was "swimming up" reaching a certain speed. But in this railway track I felt an awful hammering throughout the vehicle and I feared the destroying of my suspension. The vehicle was under very hard vibrations and the dashboard was in a dangerous movement. I had to reinforce the port for my Garmin 60C days before.  The evening in Mt. Dare I found out that my eatables suffered very hard under the vibrations. This even in case of careful packing and placement. Two bottles of bier have been scrubbed off and lost their content. I tried to get around these extreme corrugation but the smother sidetracks generated other problems. The driving over the sidetracks with the "Race Buggies" of the Finke Race has generated long super corrugations (about 50 cm deep and 2.5 m long). Here was a speed of only 20 km/h. A faster speed was bringing the vehicle in high oscillations. This happened to me only once. During the fast entrance of my front axes a high acceleration forced a big crash.

During inspection of the vehicle I found out that the 25 kg Hydraulic-Jack (packed together with the air jack) destroyed the roof box. After a proper fastening of the tools, the torture ended after 300 km and 6 hours driving at sunset in Mt. Dare This evening it took me a long time to forget the high vibrations.

Dalhousie Springs; Lake fed from a hot source

The refuelling in Mt. Dare I started with 170 l. Gasoline into the Simpson Desert. During a rest in Dalhousie Springs I took a bath and swam in the hot water of the  Dalhousie Springs and had a great fun with the warm water fishes of this lake because they picked to my body.     

Simpson Desert Crossing
Simpson Desert Sunrise

During the journey to the east the dunes grow slowly along the French Line. The tyre pressure is reduced from 38 PSI to 28 PSI. 1000 sand dunes are in front of me; I stop to count them at 200. Every sand dune is different. Often it is easy going in the 2nd or 3rd gear to the top of the dune and downward after. Sometimes it goes very slow in the first gear because of the "Rock n’ Roll Corrugations". The LandCruiser HZJ105 has enough torque between 600 and 1800 rpm's because of the Pacemaker Headers and the exhaust 2.5".

The desert is in blossom; I see yellow and white flowers and green leaves because of the heavy rain in the earlier period. Under normal circumstances here is one colour only: red. Very seldom I cross another vehicle. Then we have an intensive exchange of experiences in long talks. The lone camps, on top of one of the endless sand dunes gave me an extraordinary experience. The long sunset and sunrise during a half an hour are spectacular. Having a good steak on the barbecue and to watch the sky with its stars in absolute darkness is an excellent experience. Hundred years ago the crossing of the Simpson Desert was almost impossible and many man have lost her live, doing so. Today using modern techniques and important advices it is possible to travel with almost no problems through a somehow not recovered succession of sand dunes.

Vegetation in Simpson Desert

Over the UHF – Radio channel 10 I heard two other expeditions helping each other to bring a heavy loaded HILUX over the steepest sand dune with the name "Big Red". 8 trials were necessary to cross the steep track from est.

During lunch stop 2 fellows came across me in very high speed with a 80er LandCruiser and asked me for their position. Their mud map gave no useful coordinates.  2 other drivers discussed over radio - CB the usage of gasoline. After a distance of 100 km of the total of 500 km they recognised the usage of one third of the 90 lt. tank. I don't know how the story ended, but:  "They call it fun!"

The long journey from Melbourne to Alice Springs, Brisbane, Sydney and back to Melbourne took me 3 weeks and I had to go for a distance of 8000 km, from this the 4000 km where Off - Road – Tracks. The crossing of the Simpson Desert from Mt. Dare too Birdsville (French Line and QAA-Line) should be planned at least in 3 days. For the full distance I counted an average speed of 64 km/h.

 Beat Wyss; IBS Intelligent Battery System GmbH