5 Kiwis - 30 Days - The Australian Outback Tour (page 15)

The Simpson Desert has very low overnight temperatures in July and this carried over into the morning for a fairly cool start. As I got up from my tent to boil the billy for a cuppa, I saw numerous paw prints from dingoes around camp. My frying pan that I used to cook tea, had been licked well and truly clean!

Yet again, I was presented with perfect weather and was so grateful of the luck I was having. I eagerly packed up camp, did a check-over on the bike, then set off.

Travelling the Simpson in a West to East direction means early morning riding had me facing directly into the sun. This was quite challenging in places. I had to drop my speed, especially when coming over a dune and I became totally blinded by direct sunlight.
It didn’t take too long for the sun to rise enough that I could pick up the pace and get a boggie on.
While it was the holiday period and there was supposedly meant to be a bit of traffic on this route, I only saw a handful of vehicles. I stopped for a chinwag with many of them, they were all very friendly, happy to share track updates, and the odd joke.
Throughout the day I regularly stopped to rehydrate and eat. I had specific food prepared for this desert crossing. A mixture of high and low GI foods, electrolyte gels, and regular hydration. I was having so much fun that it was hard to force myself to stop riding and refuel, but I was glad I did as this provided me with oodles of energy start to finish; I never hit the wall once. I put this squarely on regularly drinking ample fluids, and eating the right foods. On one of my food stops I pulled under a tree for shade and found this. Classic!
These two vehicles were stuck up to their axels and were winching themselves out. It was satisfying being on a bike, breezing up the dune with ease, and carrying on my way.
It felt great to reach Poeppel Corner, a fairly big milestone in this crossing. From here, it was onto Birdsville.
The riding from this point was simply awesome! The track was in mint condition and had lots of twisting sections with sand berms I could hit at speed.
I had to be careful of the big holes dug by stuck 4X4 vehicles. The odd bad one can be nearly thigh deep. On a number of occasions I’d come over a dune crest at a reasonable pace and had to take evasive action to avoid big holes.
Nearing the end of the route, the dunes got bigger and bigger with the final dune being Big Red.

Standing at 30 meters in height, Big Red is renowned for being one of the biggest challenges on the Simpson crossing. Prior to heading over to Australia, I watched many videos where riders had to have multiple attempts to get up. I heard many riders claiming how challenging it was. So from this, I was expecting a fairly significant challenge and was prepared for the fact I may have needed a few cracks at it to get up. As it happened, I lined up the dune, carried plenty of speed, and breezed to the top on the first attempt.

On top of Big Red

Because this dune pretty much marked the last of the challenges before reaching Birdsville, just a few kilometres away, I parked up and took some time to reflect on the last two days. Firstly, I couldn’t believe how much fun this route was. As a Kiwi lad fairly new to sand riding, I simply loved it and had an absolute blast! This trip officially established my love for the Australian deserts and desert riding.

The group I was riding with are top notch blokes; really good value. I would ride with them again any day of the week, but I have to admit it was brilliant to have a couple of days to experience the Simpson Desert by myself. There is something very cool about riding and camping in a desert solo.

As for the supposed challenge of the Simpson Desert crossing, well, I have to say this was way off my expectations. From the videos I watched and what I had read online I was expecting a massive challenge – but it wasn’t. Granted, I travelled West to East which meant I wasn’t climbing the steeper sides of the dunes, however as I rode over each dune and descended the steeper sides, there was nothing that looked anything close to challenging.

While many of the motorbike videos of crossing the Simpson Desert are far too dramatized and unrealistic, I believe the videos by Phil Hodgens from Motorbikin are the best and the closest to reality. Phil clearly points out the real dangers of riding in the desert without going overboard or scaremongering. He is also a talented rider and shows that the desert can be crossed with ease for competent riders. If you are considering the Simpson Crossing, I highly recommend his DVDs. 

So, after a break on top of Big Red, it was off to Birdsville for the night. I was looking forward to a shower, a good steak and reconnecting with my riding buddies who were meeting me at the Birdsville Hotel.

GPX Files for this Route

As I am writing this ride report, I have just started loading up the route for anyone to download. You can view the start of it here: 30 day Australian Outback route

View GPX Files
Author of this article: RMOTO