4X4 Magazine sunsets and sands tour

At the invitation of friends, I joined the 4X4 magazine 2002 readers’ trip: an expedition across the Simpson Desert.

The following is the log of that trip, each day’s experiences written up by a different participant.

Monday 1 July, 2002 (Annette)

Broken Hill – the place where our journey begins and finally the realization and excitement is setting in. With introductions to our fellow travelers and trip leader over, we all ventured off to the warmth of a local pub for our “first Supper” together {c/- 4+4 magazine} which was a hearty and very substantial meal. In particular, the enormous steak devoured by Geoff – with great ease, I might add.

We rose to a chilly Monday morning and the last of the hot showers for at least five days. Packing up wasn’t altogether uneventful as our neighbours tried to bribe our children into packing up their tents, to no avail. However they did manage to have their washing up done by Gail. All ready to leave, we stopped for numerous group photos taken by Ken, the official trip photographer. At 9.15am we hit the road winding our way out of Broken Hill onto the Silverton Highway, toward our destination, Lindon station.

Our travels brought us through very dry country with the only unnatural sight being 100’s of scattered bottles drunk by many a thirsty traveler no doubt. ‘Snappy Ken’ was quick to take advantage of any photo opportunity which included 1000’s of penned sheep on our way through a desolate sheep station. At one point you knew you were in desert country when your boots sank when they hit the ground. Lunch was eaten under the shade of some gum trees just three hours into the trip. The flies greeted us in abundance and the vortex found it’s way out of the car and into the eager hands both large and small.

We reached the dingo proof fence dividing the NSW & SA borders around 2.30pm with little wildlife to be seen. Only fifteen sun drenched travelers on an adventure.

Geoff’s misplaced map was soon discovered by Gail who was accused by our trip leader of using the missing map as toilet paper. Meanwhile the three amigos were delayed temporarily as ‘Snappy Ken’ sought out the eagle’s nest seen moments earlier. Locked gates, open gates, sand, dust and 348km later we pulled into our campsite for the evening to set up and then enjoy the beautiful sunset and great company around the campfire

Tuesday 2 July, 2002 (John)

After a relaxing evening around the campfire, on the outskirts of Lindon station, we were all looking forward to sleeping under the kaleidoscope of stars, with not a hint of rain in the sky.

Breakfast was quick and easy, I am sure the eagerness of packing up will soon disappear and our tidy repacking of the vehicle will soon be somewhat of a shambles.

Shortly after 9am, we grouped at an old derelict truck for a number of photos. Our official photographer ‘Snappy Ken’ snapped happily. Maybe our guide just wanted to confirm that all 11 adults and 5 children were still on the track.

As we headed off towards the Lindon Homestead leaving behind our ashes, dreams and footprints in the dry claypans, we had to stop suddenly to rescue a set of head phones draped over the Wains bulbar. We soon reached the homestead of Ken and Raylene. The station was 1500 square miles in area or some 4000 square kilometres – give or take little. There are approximately 2000 head of cattle roaming the station along with dingos, mice and other reptiles. The station was named after the 2 sons who founded it – not surprisingly their names were Lindsay and Don.

Raylene whipped up a fabulous morning tea of scones with syrup, jam, vegemite and honey. Than the worst possible thing happened, Teagan doubled dipped with the syrup. After that Raylene took the children and showed them around the homestead including the new calves. Erez, Tamar, Yonathan, Cara and Teagan finally got to see a dingo and had there photo taken lying on the dingo.

After a relaxing morning tea, the group headed to Cameron Corner. Cameron Corner is where the Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales borders meet. Everyone taking photos surpassed ‘Snappy Ken’. If my memory serves me correctly, Yonathan was the first to jump the fence into Queensland.

We converged on the shop where some scoffed pies and soft drinks. Brian seemed to wait an eternity for some diesel. While most of us brought souvenirs, Teagan brought a paddle pop. When Teagan was asked to share it she suddenly became deaf and elusive, Andrew said she gets this from her mother’s side. The toilets at Cameron’s corner were suitably named Drip-Dry and Flip-Dry.

On the way from Cameron Corner, we had to pay a road tax of $10 per vehicle, to enjoy the pleasure of driving through Bollards Lagoon. I am sure the $10 went towards making those corrugations in the road. We asked our tour guide Geoff where the lagoon was and not surprisingly he had no idea. To his credit, he was quick to reply we are driving through it now (maybe). The Amigos were playing spot the ‘Bunyip’ but Ken and I quickly stopped as we were unsure to if our guest ‘Gail’ was a Bunyip.

Again Brian assumed the role of gate keeper – he is becoming a specialist in gate keeping. Our lunch stop was on the side of the road (or was it a track) and the ants came out to join us. The road to lunch was bumpy and we all took the opportunity to let air out of the tyres of our vehicles. Brian’s tyre pressure gauge may have seen better days.

The vortex has become instrumental in our playtime. We are all saying ‘throw it to me’.

On the way again after lunch we again tested our guide Geoff with a question. To our surprise he knew the answer to the gas field question. Maybe he is a guide after all, or maybe his new companion Jeff Cooney told him.

We stopped about 4.pm to set up camp. The group is slowly spreading out and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. The Amigos were assisted by Brian, Bill & Erez to build the mighty loo – maybe this where the term porta-loo came from (Portmans loo).

Eli, Orit, Andrew, Annette and Gail (the Bunyip) had firewood duty and were assisted by the children.

As one Amigo writes this log, the anxiety of the others increases – what will be told, will it be fact or fiction, and will it be incriminating or embarrassing. As the tour progresses, the group will decide whether it’s fact or fiction we want.

Enough for now the log needs another writer.

Wednesday 3 July, 2002 (Orit)

I got the logbook and Gail’s wish was not to be mentioned in the logbook today. I promise you Gail I will not mention you in the log today.

I would like to apologise for last night about the embarrassment I caused everyone in relation to “pajero’. From where I come it is not rude at all and with the right attitude, it is even fun (and you don’t always have to enjoy it by yourself).

As time passes conversations around the campfire developed and we begin to learn more about each other and I can feel the creation of energy that wasn’t there before.

We began the morning traveling along the Bore Track until we arrive at the Cullyamurra Water Hole. A pleasant walk gave us the chance to stretch our muscles and to climb a few rocks. A short drive brought us to Innamincka.

Innamincka welcomed us with a lot of wind and clouds of dust and no chance of staying clean for more than two seconds for those who took showers. At a little museum we were able to read about the life of the nurses and the settlers of the 20th century. Again we had the chance to see how easy and spoiled our lives are today.

After Innamincka we headed off to Coongie Lake and again we drove through endless open space, huge areas that extend your body, soul and spirit and fill them with a lot of good energy that will feed you until your next trip.

The colour of the sand was not red like it was yesterday. It will be nice to see the red sand again when we get into the Simpson Desert if not before.

We arrive at our campsite near a waterhole where the children waded in the shallow water returning with muddy feet.

I would like to pass this log to Bill if he is willing to share with us his view of the Journey.

Thursday 4 July, 2002 (Bill)

Around half past eight this morning I heard a clear voice calling out. At first I thought it was the murzin calling the faithful to prayer in Mecca. As nobody was praying I realized that the little house was going to be pulled down.

We got away at 9am sharp to Kudriemitchie Outback station where it had a show inside of how they lived years ago. The next point of call was the lake, which was a beautiful sight in the sunshine. An ideal place for a holiday if you had a canoe and could swim in case of accidents. The next point of interest was the minor hitch with John, Jeff & Ken’s vehicle.

A lot of people criticize the roads but their bad state is not nature’s fault. Last year I met Percy Blogs Chief Engineer for the highways Dept. who was supervising a road from Charlotte Waters to Abminga. He said the road we were on was too good for motorists as they sped and damaged the wildlife and cattle. So the Highways Dept decided to put potholes, sand traps, loose rocks etc every couple of hundred yards, to make sure the drivers stayed awake (that was Percy’s story anyway).

Our final stretch was up Walkers Crossing then to Birdsville where Brian and I enjoyed a glass of beer before dinner.

Friday 5 July, 2002 (Cara)

Last night we had drinks at the Birdsville pub and met our new companions Fraser and Jenny.

This morning at about 7am dad came in to wake us up, ‘rise and shine’, we all got packed up and had breakfast and packed up the tent. At 8.30am Broken Hill time we went to the working museum. It was pretty good, collectables, old done-up machinery, old children’s toys including a little typewriter that brought a tear to Ken’s eye. Even a cool little cardboard record player.

After the museum trip we filled up our petrol/diesel tanks. Than we – well Tamar, Ken, John, Jeff, Gail and me – went to the Birdsville caravan park where we stayed last night, for cuppachinos and milk shakes. We all managed to squish around one table.

We set off from Birdsville towards Big Red on a sandy road. We stopped at the bottom of Big Red and as quickly as he could Yonatan ran up the top of the huge sand dune, happy to be the first in our group up there. Then Cara, Tamar, mum and me walked up barefoot after Orit.

Geoff was the first of the cars on the first side followed by Eli, Dad, Brian and Bill, the boys and Fraser and Jenny. We met some people on the other side trying to getup.

Well, it took Geoff, Gail and Eli one go to get up. It took two goes for Fraser and dad and I won’t say how many it took one of the Amigos cars but it eventually got up. We all clapped and cheered when Brian got up and when John did.

Also Cara had a try in Geoff’s car and, with the help of Geoff on the steering wheel, she got over too. Erez also got over with the help of his Dad,

We went back down the bottom of Big Red on the side we came up. Refilled our tyres with air, as we had to let air out to be able to get over the huge sand dune. We got back on the road-heading north towards Eyre creek – our destination for the night. We came to another sand dune that Fraser got over on first try and it took Geoff three – anyway, well done!!

We arrived at our destination Eyre Creek at approximately 4.58pm to set up camp.

Saturday 6 July, 2002 (Jenny and Fraser)

After a fitful sleep, courtesy of the torch-bearing dingo, we arose to a leisurely breakfast at the Annandale waterless water hole. We depart camp at 10am upstream in search of water. While traveling Geoff gave us graphic description of how he dated camels; presumably this was before he met Lisa. Apparently Afgan cameleers passed on this expertise on camels to him 35 years ago. Doesn’t Geoff keep his age well? We headed north along Eyre Creek and Brian tried his hand at cattle droving. We can award him mustering certificate to go along with his gate-closing certificate.

Around midday, our intrepid leader was proved right when we came upon the large Kuddaree Waterhole, approximately 25 kilometres north of camp. The view from the top of the dune is hard to do justice, with thousands of corellas, ducks, pelicans even brolgas and wading cattle. So much life in this endless horizon of sand dunes. Again, Ken the photographer was kept extremely busy. We drove around the water hole and stopped for lunch. Ken and Fraser went for a bracing swim, while Tamar and Teagan dabbled their toes. Yonatan had a wonderful time with his pet lizard while Erez ran about madly frightening thousands of corellas into the air. This begs the question who is the galah.

On the return journey to Annandale camp we traversed a few kilometres of Madigan’s line where a fairly innocuous looking sandhill stopped Geoff numerous times, it stopped Jeff Amigo several times as well but the rest of us went straight over.

Our intrepid leader lost the trail and we ended up in a dead-end claypan. Portman tried to make it look as though he had planned everything as he went about pointing out LPG stinking wattle. Gail took over the driving and struck out cross-country. The Davidson’s and Cara’s panicked and got out the GPS. The combination of good luck, commonsense and satellites returned us to the safety of home camp. Where we enjoyed our happy hour on top of a large sand dune next to our camp as the sun went down.

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