Poeppel Corner to Birdsville

Heading off from Poeppel Corner meant heading north again, roughly following the NT/QLD border. This track follows alongside the salt flat mentioned previously. It seems to stretch on for miles. Along the way, we dipped on and off the salt flat as it was just quicker to travel on the flat that on the track.

The QAA line was much like the French Line so we rolled along at our usual pace of about 15km/h, however, the dunes were indeed getting bigger.

Crossing the NT/QLD Border on the QAA Line

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During one of our regular stops to check the roof rack bolts on the Jeep, we noticed that it had indeed sheered again. Wow, it must be copping a hammering to sheer through that bold like it’s doing.  Having been down this path before, Rob grabbed the drill, we drilled at the piece left inside and sure enough, it popped through like the last time, never to be seen again. Perfect, now just to fit the new bold and we’ll be on our way.

While we were doing this Kath took a walk around the Jeep to check things out. Now, if anyone has ever watched a John “Roothy” Rooth video from years gone by, he would tell you to look out for certain things on your daily maintenance checks.

One of these is shiny clean spots where metal might rubbing off the dust, possibly highlighting a bolt that’s come loose. The other is places dust is collecting more so than others, indicating a possible fluid leak which is trapping the dust.

Well, Kath has always remembered this and her eagle eye spotted just such a patch on the chassis rail of the Jeep while we were stopped. There appeared to be a leak coming from the passenger side floor pan. This is odd, as we don’t really carry any fluids in the footwell, not since the pub run in Cape York, but that’s another story.

Upon lifting up the mud trapper mats and inspecting the footwell we noticed that it was soaking wet. On even closer inspection the fluid was green, which wasn’t a good sign. Anyone who knows anything about vehicle engines knows that green liquid can only be one thing, the engine coolant. Engine coolant can also be red, but ours is green and it’s leaking out the air vent.

How so? Well, as everyone knows, cars have heaters and heaters work by routing some of the warm coolant water through a radiator behind the dash before it goes back to the main radiator under the bonnet. Knowing this is handy for another reason which I’ll go into at the end of this post, however the fact that we have engine coolant leaking out from the air vent can only mean that the heater behind the dash has ruptured in some way, and is allowing coolant to escape the pipes and will be slowly draining away.

Losing engine coolant is not the best situation to be in when in one of the remotest parts of the world, however, this is the situation we found ourselves in. We were roughly one day and one night away from Birdsville but had a few things on our side.

  1. The leak was fairly slow
  2. We had lots of water and actually even had 5 litres of green engine coolant with us (thanks Rob)
  3. We had 4 vehicles in the convoy in case we needed to send people into Birdsville
  4. We had our Satellite phone in case we needed it, and
  5. We had time up our sleeve

So we forged ahead and added ‘Coolant Check’ alongside the periodic Roof Rack bolt check, topping it up as required.

Tonight will be our last camp in the desert and last chance to use some of the firewood we’d brought along with us. So we set up camp in a great little spot off the side of the road and got the fire going. Can you believe I didn’t take a single photo of this campsite? However, I did take a bit of drone footage in the video below.

QAA Line Campling Drone Footage

After a top nights rest, we were on the last leg of the QAA line, which also involves tackling the renowned Big Red. Before getting to Big Red though one has to pass over the first real challenge for east to westbound travellers, which is the first dune to the east of Big Red.

For those following along will remember that the eastern side of the due is steeper and more challenging. This is true for all dunes except for Big Red, so for travellers heading wet from Birdsville there first real challenge isn’t Big Red, it’s the dune just after.

For our direction of travel, this wasn’t an issue, but we did stop at the bottom to witness some adventurous souls try to get a caravan up little red. Here is some Drone Footage of the first attempt.

Westbound Simpson Desert Caravan – Attempt 1

They did eventually make it up, but I don’t think their engines will ever be the same. The noise coming out of all vehicles was horrendous.

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We moved onto Big Red, which was our challenge for the day. We watched as people attempted to destroy their CV joints by tackling the tough up ramps, but this wasn’t really for us. Also, the flies in the area were in plague proportions so we took the easy ramp up and took some shots from the top. Check out the image gallery below.

Atop Big Red

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This was it really, the last part of the desert journey was the drive into Birdsville. This was relatively uneventful, save for a few images captured to commemorate the moment. It wasn’t quite the end of the journey, as we still had a long way to go to get home, but as far as our Simpson Desert adventure goes, this was the end of the road.

Birdsville – We Made It

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There were still some challenges ahead of us though. The White Crocodile (Gary’s Courier) had sustained a bent chassis along the way so items were re-arranged even more so than before for the journey home.  Also, we can’t forget about the leaking coolant from the Jeep.

We figured that it would be pretty straightforward to bypass the header by cutting one of the heater hoses and directing the coolant flow to the outlet side. To be sure though, I gave my Jeep Mechanic (www.sevenslot.com.au) a call to confirm. I sent a picture and they sent it back marking up what to do. After we measured twice, we hacked into the pipe, bypassed the heater core, and use one of the stainless steel hose clamps from the spares box to hook it up. Winning!

Of course, this meant that we were without a heater in the Jeep, and it just happened to be the coldest period in 30 years in this region of the country, which was fantastic timing don’t you think?

So we pulled on all the clothes we had for our drive home, but hey, at least we made it!

Crossing the Cooper Creek – Wearing everything for warmth!

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