We got going from Old Andado after a terrible night of wind – although when we analysed it we were fine until 2am and then it all went bad. We got onto the track to Mt Dare which we were told was a good road by another traveller – I think we were talking about different roads because this track had long sections of rutted bulldust which was so bad we couldn’t know for sure where the track was or whether we were about to drop into a hole.
We got through only stopping to admire some camel skeletons that had been shot along the way. At Mt Dare we spent some time at the hotel getting a desert parks pass ($163 but that includes all camping everywhere we are going to for much of the next month) , some lunch, fuel @ $2.40/litre (cheap when you don’t want to run out in the middle of the desert), and most importantly, advice on track conditions across the desert (the report wasn’t good but we mapped out the best route with the best local advice).
From Mt Dare to Dalhousie Springs was the worst section of road in the world – hard to describe how corrugated and rough and bumpy this road was. We got to Dalhousie Springs with few stops – various ruins weren’t really worth stopping at because there’s nothing there. We set up camp trying to get the best spot away from the wind – it was easing off though and the forecast sounded positive for it to die down on dusk. We felt a bit better when we heard everyone else talking about the bad wind storm we’d copped – where they were and how they were up at 2am fixing their tent etc etc. It was a widespread storm.
The hot springs beckoned and we bobbed around like tea bags in boiling water – it does actually get a bit overwhelming after too long in the hot water. There is even a few dozen pool noodles there for people to use and even an inflatable boat for the boys to muck around on. We expected more people but the campground wasn’t too busy and people came and went for the large thermal pool so it was very pleasant.
A few late-comers arrived to set up camp and then a convoy of six Subaru’s came in late after crossing the Simpson east to west – aiming to drive across 10 Australian deserts in some sort of race. They were not new subaru’s, lucky they had welding gear and mechanics along for the ride because some of the damage and bush mechanic repairs they talked about would have left most people stuck!
At 4am the “blood moon” total lunar eclipse started – apparently the longest eclipse of the 21st century. Basically the Earth blocks the sun, the moon moves into the shadow but instead of being completely dark, some light gets around the planet creating the red colour. There was some shuffling at 4 o’clock as some keen observers (not us) got up to watch the whole show from full white moon through to dark and then to sunrise but Josh only managed to get up at 4.45, watched the final transformation to the dark red moon, saw about seven shooting stars and then escaped back to the warmth of the tent.
As dawn approached, Josh got up again and watched the moon setting on the horizon with the white just starting to creep back across. Hoping to get a good photo of the steamy mist coming off the thermal springs pool, Josh went down there rugged up in trackies, beanie, jacket – but – seeing three people floating around in the warm water he quickly was back to the car, shorts on and in the water. Put this one on your to-do list because floating around at dawn on a cold winter morning in Dalhousie Hot Springs is something special.
It was a good opportunity to talk to other desert-crossers about their proposed route – one couple from the “NSW north coast” ended up being from Sawtell –small world. We did a short walk around the hot springs which isn’t too exciting. The Dalhousie Station homestead ruins, on the other hand, are definitely worth seeing – so remote and surrounded by arid desert landscape. The buildings are in good enough condition to see the layout, doorways and fireplaces etc. Some restoration of the buildings – more structural stabilisation really and removal of date palms because they are a problem around the mound springs (but some have been left to give it that oasis feel – only males though so they can’t breed and spread).
We took the opportunity here to drop our tyre pressure to ‘desert psi” and we attached the mandatory sand flag to the bullbar which stood 3.5metres from the ground so people could see our flag, as we came up over a sand dune, before they could see our car. The only other thing was a switch from Ch.40 to to Ch.10 on the UHF radio which is the desert crossing channel for letting others know you are nearby (and possibly on a collision course crossing the same sand dune in opposite directions!). With that – and some last minute thoughts about whether we’d forgotten anything – we were off – Simpson Desert here we come.