Riding across the Simpson

Comdain Homes managing director, James Coen, has been a keen dirt bike rider for 40 plus years, in June he, his brother Peter and four mates ticked off of a bike trip on every rider’s bucket list – the Simpson Desert, the world’s largest sand dune desert.

Stretching between Dalhousie in the Witjira National Park in northern South Australia and Birdsville in Queensland, the Simpson Desert is between 550km and 715km across, depending on the route taken and home to 1,136 sand dunes.

The adventure started in Melbourne where the guys, four riders and two drivers – one in a 4WD ute, the other in a troop carrier – met up for the two day drive to Alice Springs. With the bikes safely loaded on to the ute, the guys encountered their first problem – packing all the food, swags, camping gear, tools, etc., into the troop carrier. Despite travelling light, it’s amazing how much gear you need to be self-sufficient on the four day trip. A bit later than planned, everything managed to be squeezed in and with an over-night-stop in Port Augusta, the boys arrived in Alice Springs to start the real adventure.    

After a bigger than intended night at Lasseters Casino, day one got underway riding south out of Alice, via the Finke track, 260km to Finke, a remote indigenous community where some local aboriginal kids were fascinated by the bikes. With a population of about 250, there’s not much in Finke, but there is a sports hall and footy oval – no grass on the oval, just red dirt! From Finke the riders continued another 80km to Mount Dare, a one pub town the middle of nowhere and the last supplies and fuel stop before Birdsville.

Day 2 started from Mount Dare with the first stop being Dalhousie Springs, a group of natural artesian springs, where the water temperature hovers between 36°-40°, perfect for a dip before a hard day in the saddle. Camp on the second day was at Purni Bore, an artificial bore with plenty of birdlife.      

Leaving Purni Bore on the third day, the boys followed the French Line to Lindsay Junction, approx. 160km of challenging thick soft sand and dunes. They arrived at the junction in the darkness after a long day of riding.

The final day on the bikes was from Lindsay Junction to Birdsville. 40km down the track was Poeppel Corner, where the boundaries of South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland meet. Poeppel Corner is the place to be on New Year’s Eve as it’s the intersection of three times zones, meaning you get to count down to the new year three times!

About an hour out of Birdsville is Big Red, an infamous 40m high sand dune, which despite having had three days to hone their dune riding skills, Big Red still proved a challenge.

Arriving in Birdsville at the end of the ride, sweaty, dusty and a little bit smelly, the refreshing cold beers at the Birdsville Hotel were very welcome.

James says it was an awesome trip, the enduro dirt bikes (a Yamaha, 2 Husqvarnas and a KTM) were magnificent, everyone managed to stay on and the only mechanical problem encountered was a broken suspension shock absorber on the Troop Carrier. They were in the saddle for 6-7 hours each day covering approximately 150km-170km/day. Swaging it was a little chilly at night when the temperature dropped from the day’s pleasant 20° to a fresh 3°, but seeing so many stars in the clear night sky was amazing.

And the next trip James? Possibly the Canning Stock Route he says.

 

Posted: 24th August 2017

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