19 March, Tuesday
Today we made slow start. The wheels only started turning at 9.30 am. after we had a great breakfast of bacon and eggs. The flies are still a problem, they are just as bad in Queensland as in South Australia.
Today is the day that we are going to take on Big Red. Big Red is the largest and most famous dune in the Simpson Desert. It is approximately 35 metres above the plains. Apparently it is quite an achievement to make it to the top of Big Red in your 4×4 vehicle. We have to travel 19Km from our overnight camp to get to the dune, so we should be there quite early in the morning. As we approach dune it looks quite impressive from a distance.
Today we are the second vehicle in our convoy, just behind Vic Widman of Great Divide Tours, our excellent guide. Wayne and Jenny, also of GDT were were covering the back of the convoy. We easily made it to the top in 2H. Making it to the top like this was almost a bit disappointingly easy. The view from the top is quite extraordinary. On the one side is a large salt pan with some dry tree skeletons standing in the shallow water.
There are even a few small patches of resilient green grass in the lake. The razor sharp edges of the sand dunes form a sharp contrast between the blue sky and the red sand. Adding the green,white water at the bottom, makes this look like a fake photoshopped chocolate box picture. With the sunlight and shadows constantly moving you can spend a whole day on this dune with your camera.
We drove down to the salt pan and then went over Big Red again along another “easier” route. From here we went to Little Red. The sand on this dune was a bit softer and the leading edge a bit steeper. It also has a slight plateau half way up, which makes it a bit more challenging. I might have been a bit too eager and our two front wheels became airborne at the top. Quite fun. The 3 Troopies and the Landrover could not make it to the top. They had to take an alternative route around the dune to get to the top. So, it so turned out that Little Red was more difficult than Big Red.
Now, it’s time to stop and inflate the tyres again, end of the sand. At Birdsville we had a cleaning session of the vehicle as well as ourselves. A proper shower was very welcome. We stayed overnight at the Birdsville Hotel.
Birdsville is a very interesting town, it used to be known as the Diamantina Crossing and is the most isolated town in Australia. The highest temperature recorded, on a couple of different occasions, in Birdsville was 49.5 degrees C. The Birdsville Races is a horse race held each year in September and the funds raised are in aid of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.
During the 2 days of the event the population swells from about 100 to around 7,000 people for the two days. Birdsville also has an 80 kW geothermal power station, the only one of its type in Australia.