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Driving through the Simpson Desert

About Kathleen

Having it all and enjoying every minute of it .... mostly

Photographer, traveller, adventurer.

You are never too old to go on an adventure.


I had my first lesson driving on sand today, so now I’m ready to tackle the Simpson Desert ... solo!

The Simpson was my original choice for this year’s trip, but I decided against it because I didn’t feel confident that I had enough experience diving on sand.

But now, after an hour driving around in sand with Doc in the passenger seat telling me what to do, I am fine!

Big Red in the Simpson Desert.

Big Red in the Simpson Desert. Picture: Kath Swinbourne

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, there was that one bit where I tried to climb over a very soft sand hill and got stuck. But I did manage to get out again. Without even tipping the car, even though I had one wheel high in the air!

And the bit where I was in the wrong gear, in the wrong drive. But I won’t do that again and that was Doc’s fault, anyway. . But I’m not Doc and I don’t have his experience, so I got stuck.

At least I’ve now had experience getting myself out of trouble!

I know the photos are on hard sand, but that’s just where I stopped to take some photos. I did drive through lots of soft sand. It was so much fun that Doc had to have a turn as well.

And we did have a very nice picnic on the beach.

I have driven on sand before in the outback. Driving from Cordillo Downs to Innamincka, there were a few places I thought might be difficult, but I breezed through. It wasn’t until I got to Inammincka and heard other people’s stories about getting bogged that I realised just how good my car is on sand. I didn’t even notice any difficulties.

That’s one of the benefits of having a very light car.

A practice run on the beach.

A practice run on the beach. Picture: Kath Swinbourne

But that doesn’t give me any experience driving on sand dunes and that’s what I’m going to encounter in the Simpson. Unfortunately, there are very few places where I can practice driving on dunes.

Everywhere seems to have closed off their dunes to 4WDs and are revegetating them. Rightly so, but (putting on the whiny voice) “what about meeee?”. Even the places that do onsite 4WD lessons and practice only give you theory about driving on sand dunes.

However, As Doc said after our lesson: “There’s a lot of sand dunes between Mount Dare and Big Red. You’ll get used to it”

I’m allowing plenty of time. Five or six days to cross the Simpson, so I should have enough time to get bogged a few times. And get out again, of course!

But I’m not quite ready yet. We may head up to  for a bit more practice. And Doc is going to build and install a long-range fuel tank for me so I don’t run out of fuel.

But you know my biggest fear with driving across the Simpson? Finding that even out there, people are inconsiderate and selfish, and leave their rubbish behind!

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