Simpson Desert - Hay River 2009

Day 5 - Rest Day - Birdsville


The 5th day marked our first rest day of the trip. However there was nothing restful about the sound of crows calling at 5:00am in the morning. (Bought back memories of our rooster wakeup call in Eulo) During breakfast we almost witnessed a plane crash as one of the local single engine aircraft took a nose dive towards the river, thankfully pulling up at the last minute. Gerry, the man with the billy to satisfy three women continued his attempts to catch a feed by throwing the yabbie trap into the local river. However the land did provide him with one yabbie which was promptly taken by the local wildlife as he prepared to cook it.

Leading up to lunch we visited the local establishments to see what Birdsville had to offer. Steve sampled the local cuisine at the bakery by trying a very unusual curried camel pie. Though it may sound disgusting Steve assured us that it wasn’t that bad. Perhaps we have found a solution to the camel problem in the desert. The group visited a local museum displaying a number of antique items from Australia and overseas. The owner, an elderly stockman was very enthusiastic about his collection and was more than happy to demonstrate the operation of a number of classic appliances.  He was particular fond of the old skool washing machines and seemed very interested in showing the visiting women. However none of them displayed any kind of interest and therefore we moved on to a very stubborn mule who refused to work much to the entertainment of us and the annoyance of the stockman. If you’re interested the museum is for sale if you have a spare million dollars.

The afternoon bought what would be our hottest day so far and with the heat came a sand storm. For the entire afternoon we were pelted with red sand which seemed to get everywhere.   It was therefore only natural to get our own back on the sand by heading out to the largest dune in the desert - Big Red. In the process of getting to Big Red we diverted and attempted to climb Little Red. A number of vehicles stopped to lower their tyre pressures before having a run at the dunes.  Little Red proved to be a challenge for the collection of manual cars in the group.  Any combination of wrong gear and/or tyre pressure led to multiple reattempts on the dune.   A couple of fellow 4 wheel drivers from other group queried us about our tyre pressure and gave us their input on what was best.    It seems everyone out there are experts on 4 wheel driving.

After we all successfully climbed Little Red we followed a path to the one and only Big Red.  The dune presented us with two scalable paths to conquer this Red beast. After a number of failed attempts to climb it was apparent that the left side was by far the most difficult to scale with only the auto petrols making it to the top.  However in the end everyone made it up either the left or right side.   Some on their first run, others after numerous attempts and modification to their tyre pressure. One could reflect on the old phase “Quit while your ahead” as a number of vehicles went down the dune and climbed it again, more importantly attempting to climb the difficult side. This led to some embarrassing runs including the only vehicle with locked diffs joining the others in wedging themselves half way up. The Hilux after just scaling the easier side, turned around and in its attempt to climb a 5 metre high lip to get down the difficult side of Big Red, became the first car to need recovery.

Darren compiled a video of our afternoon on Big Red, which you can see here

After we finished enjoying ourselves on the dune we sat down and enjoyed the sunset across the desert at the base of Big Red before returning to camp. However it appeared the day’s exploits on the dune had led to the first mechanical fault as the Sierra began to display an overheating issue. Once we returned to camp the majority of us went about our regulary evening routines as the owner and a number of self proclaimed experts began the process of diagnosing the problem on the sick Suzuki. A problem that was resolved later that night when it was realised the connectors on the thermo fan were back to front so the air was being pushed onto the radiator rather than the hot air being extracted from it.   A sigh of relief, especially from Tim and Cameron!

The day began with another beautiful sunrise around the fire

The sky changes every minute

Lots of resupplying going on - food, beers, fuel, and..  water.. ;-)

After hitting up the Bakery, next stop was the Birdsville Museum - a real work of art

 This board showing the various types of barbed wire (each with a name!) and when they were used - and I thought barbed wire was barbed wire!

Same deal with conduit

And axes..

This fella was our tour guide - full of information, and a real character

Trouble One, Trouble Two and Trouble Three!!

Saws, mincers, ...

P.K and Lifesavers!

Shell Card anyone?

Shell everywhere!


An old Traeger radio

Jewellery for horses

Sucks to have horns!

The Birdsville Pub - an icon

Sturts Desert Pea

And again

The Royal Hotel - been like this for a while now..

There was a terrible sand storm, but it was no better in camp, so off we went to look for sunset on Big Red, and the challenge of the dunes.

Cam and Hayden doing some body art

All the cars at the bottom - easy way on the right hand side - harder way on the left

Darren (or is that Hayden) starting their run up for Big Red

The rest of the cars lined up and ready

Spectators on the top - yes, sand everywhere

Always something for the kids to do

Tim beached himself on the harder side

He's got a high clearance, so when he's beached, he's really beached..

Time to get the shovel out

Darren giving it another crack


Cam had overheating problems - turns out his thermofan wires were back to front

Everyone looks on hoping he'll get sorted - off to the desert tomorrow!