Despite being one of the largest deserts on the planet, the enormous Simpson Desert was not named until 1930. Cecil Madigan is responsible for the name, and also famously crossing the desert with a team of nine men and a camel train in 1939. Eighty years late his famous route from West to East across more than 1,300 crimson red sand dunes has became the pinnacle of remote desert crossings in Australia, and even the world.
After months of planning and preparation, we leave the developed world behind fully loaded with safety equipment, food, fuel and drinking water for up to twelve days in the extremely remote desert, fully expecting not to encounter another vehicle or person.
I lower tire pressures all around, expecting rough roads in the short term, and knowing I can go lower further in when the sand will get much softer and climbing the dunes will be much harder.
Day one sees a lot of corrugated dirt road and bull dust before we arrive at Old Andado Station, the last remnant of farming before the dunes begin immediately in the distance. This enormous cattle station, first developed in 1909, was carved out of the harsh and unforgiving desert and stands as a monument to the resilience and persistence of the early Australian stockmen and women.
Leaving the station to the East the enormous dunes begin immediately, and essentially don’t let up for the next seven days and four hundred and seventy miles.
Created over millions of years and continually shifting in the wind, the dunes of the Simpson are the longest in the world. Because they run North to South, we will cross every single one as we journey from West to East, making slow and steady progress up the steep and rutted faces before coasting down the lee side. Once a single dune has been crossed, it’s only a few hundred yards until the process repeats and we line up the next one.
Our days begin to blend together as we climb one dune after another for hour after hour before finding a clearing to make camp, hopefully with a few spindly trees for shade. We hear dingos (Australian wild dogs) howling each night, and walking the dirt in the morning I see fresh tracks on top of our own tire tracks. Each evening the stars are utterly breathtaking, easily the best I have seen anywhere on the planet.
Cresting one dune we see a caravan of wild camels slowly making their way along the ridge top of the dune. Originally brought to Australia to help travel across the vast interior deserts, camels are now an invasive pest, and the estimated one million animals are destroying habitat and competing for food with native wildlife.
On and on we continue, inching closer to our goal, before finally reaching “Big Red”, the most famous sand dune of them all, right at the end of the track. Lowering pressure in the GEOLANDAR X-ATs, the Jeep becomes unstoppable and the Jeep easily climbs the steep face of the biggest and baddest of all dunes.
Over seven days we have successfully crossed more than 1,300 sand dunes over four hundred and seventy miles. The Jeep never once gave cause for concern, always moving forward no matter how soft the sand. During that entire time we did no see another vehicle, or any other people.
The solitude and enormity of the desert leave a lasting impression, and I won’t soon forget this incredible desert crossing.
CategoriesConsumer NewsTeam Yokohama