How And Why We Dashed Across The Simpson Desert In A Week From Melbourne With A Haval H9 And Great Wall Steed. This week we look at one of our companions.

IN PREVIOUS articles I’ve stated my ideal convoy size is four cars; enough for companionship and safety, but small enough to be nimble and handle my semi-planned nature of trip leading. We have talked about the Haval H9 and the Great Wall Steed, so now it’s time to introduce J, who came along in her new Triton fresh from the accessory shop. Here’s a few questions I thought of, if you have any more feel free to ask in the comments.

Why did you want to do this trip? 

“Five or six years ago I made it to Birdsville with a group of friends ready to head across the desert. Unfortunately one of the other cars had a problem that took two days to rectify. That cut out my spare days, so I had run out of time. Over the following three years I tried to head across again, but each time the dates various friends had available didn’t match when I could get annual leave.

I lamented this to Robert one evening and he said he was wondering if it was possible to get across the Simpson reasonably comfortably in one week from Melbourne (even though he gave me credit for the idea). It didn’t take any effort to convince me. So the trip was born. It then took us a couple of years to get our annual leave  coordinated. Robert had planted the seed, and I wasn’t going to let it go.”

What did you expect from the crossing?

“I expected a week of technically difficult driving. However I found the drive to be quite straight forward. The most challenging sections were those where I was the lead vehicle cresting dunes. They got taller and steeper the further east we went. We passed three vehicles and two of them did not have appropriate sand flags. I had my heart in my mouth as one crested the dune I was about to crest myself. I had no idea they were coming – we were well flagged, and chattering on channel 10 as per Simpson rules – they were silent and practically invisible.”

How different was the crossing to what you expected?

“The actual drive itself was not as challenging as I thought it would be. It is a lot of dirt road driving and a lot of sand dune cresting. But this is not terrain that needs the most skilled driver to negotiate. What it did need was the preparation – because out there, particularly when we did the crossing, you are on your own.”

What were you glad you prepared?

“I spent a lot of time preparing the Triton. But just about all of it I could have made do without. Jerry cans could have replaced the long range fuel and water tanks. I could have used a 5w hand held radio instead of the hard-wired one, and I could have packed more into the back instead of on roof racks or cargo drawers.

One thing I am glad I didn’t skimp on was the suspension. After much discussion and research I settled on the ARB Old Man Emu heavy duty set with a 300kg permanent load rating. There was one washout I went through that was a little steeper than the others so we got a little ‘lift’ as we came out of it. Robert, who was my passenger at the time, just looked at me and said “Well the suspension just paid for itself”. The Simpson is a long drive. The roads and tracks can be poorly maintained, if maintained at all. I was carrying a fair bit of weight. The stock suspension would have made it (just look at the Haval and Steed) but the upgrade just took the pressure off other components – and the driver.”

What didn’t you need?

“Whilst there are some things I took that I didn’t use, I wouldn’t choose to leave them behind. I took extra water and fuel – more so than necessary – but I would rather over-cater in that regard. I took two fridges and used one as a freezer. It was a luxury, but everyone agreed that having an ice-cream in the middle of the desert was worth the effort. Next time I probably wouldn’t worry about it, as I had enough room in the fridge for everything I needed to keep cool.”

What are three things you’d tell someone else who is doing it?

“Share the cooking duties amongst the group. We had originally planned to share the cooking amongst us, however different dietary requirements soon ruled that out. So I compromised by making sure everything I had could be either cooked in a pot of boiling water, or with a quick fry up. I spent some time before I left cooking or preparing and then vacuum sealing every meal. But I was still cooking every night.

Take the time to check over your vehicle – every night and every morning. After a long day in the saddle the first thing you want to be doing is spending time setting up camp and enjoying dinner and a bevvie. But a quick walk around the vehicle and a look underneath will save agony the next morning. I found I had a loose wire on my dual battery system, so I was able to fix it before the fridge temp rose too much. If I had not spotted it until the next morning I would have been disposing of a lot more food than I did. (I did throw out the chicken – just in case.)

A morning check is just as important. The tyres have cooled so you can get an accurate reading of the pressures. The fluid levels have settled too. The engine is not hot to the touch so hoses/wires/belts can be checked that they are still secure.

Don’t pack glass. I had a bit of spare fridge space so I offered to take some of the drinks for others whose space was limited. The corrugations, bumps and rattles do not mix with glass bottles [ tip; use stubby holders or other packing materials] . I think my fridge still smells of beer! Never again.”


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  1. People have been crossing the Simpson Desert for over 100 years in vehicles of some sort! The indigenous people of this country walked across it, what is the point of this discussion?

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