Crossing the Simpson Desert

The last year saw us make very little use of our car and we started thinking about selling her. On top of that she had turned 11 and various bits and pieces had started to break down and needed repairs. Given that Martina couldn’t bear to sell her, we decided to instead make more use of her. This was aided by the fact that we were very limited in where we could travel to and there were still a lot of empty patches on our Australia map.

One of the places we had always talked about going to was the Simpson Desert and the area around Cameron Corner and Innamincka. But we never felt comfortable going there on our own. Particularly now that we didn’t have as much confidence in our car due to the various problems we’ve had this year.
This led us to research tag-along tours and we found one that was due to leave in four weeks with the goal of travelling the Madigan Line. We managed to get leave approval and a spot on the tour and spent four very hectic weeks preparing us and the car for a trip that entailed 8 days in the desert with no place to get fuel, food or water.

Then just three days before we were due to drive the car to Adelaide, Sydney had another case of COVID that quickly escalated prompting us to abandon all plans, cancel flights, throw everything in the car and leave as quickly as possible on Friday evening.
We crossed into SA less than 24h later with a cheerful “You guys are free to pass, enjoy your trip!” from the policeman at the SA border checkpoint.
We spent the next 3 days in Clare in a very nice accommodation and worked remotely for two days before heading up to Marree to meet the group we would spend the next 14 days with (or so we thought).
That evening after introductions the team leader announced that he had just been told from NT Health that we are not allowed to cross into NT because they had shut their borders to everyone from NSW. That meant we wouldn’t be able to travel on the Madigan Line but he proposed a route on the SA side of the desert which would be less days but nonetheless a proper desert crossing. It was still unclear, if we would be allowed to enter QLD and go to Birdsville and we didn’t find out that we couldn’t till a few days later.

After sleeping off our disappointment we finally started the big trip that took us from Marree to Oodnadatta on the first day, then onwards to Mt Dare and through the Simpson via the French Line, Rig Road, WAA Line and French Line again. At Poeppel Corner we headed back south towards the Birdsville Track and Marree, since we couldn’t go to Birdsville.
After spending another night in Marree (and our first actual pub/hotel room) we first went further south to Lyndhurst where we started to turn northeast on the Strzelecki and then Old Strzelecki track to Innaminncka.
There once again we had to change plans, since Coongie Lakes NP was still closed due to flooding. Markus and I decided to leave the group at this point and head to Cameron Corner on our own, stay the night there in Sturt NP, then drive west to Bourke via Wanaaring and finally home into lockdown.
This was still an often discussed topic all the way to Cameron Corner where we knew once in NSW, we couldn’t turn back. And it seemed very likely that this lockdown would last for quite some time.

The group we travelled with couldn’t have been nicer, a mix of various age groups and backgrounds and cars and skills and we hope to see – and maybe even travel with – some of them again.

The fascination the desert has and its appeal is hard to describe. It is such a vast, seemingly barren and empty space on the surface but magical, peaceful and beautiful once you get to stay and take it in.
We absolutely will go back and spend more time there and hopefully get to travel on the Madigan Line after all.

A selection of the pictures we have taken can be found in our Travel gallery.

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