Today we are finally going to head off on a track neither of us have travelled before – the Rig Road. We had planned to travel this section with another vehicle but they had to cancel at the last minute due to a family emergency. While this is not ideal we are confident that we have good supplies and a good communication system in place. We have finally delivered the last boxes from the back seat so now we can just put our swag in there instead of tying it to the roofrack each morning.
The Birdsville Track was in good condition, some bits good, some not so good and a few gouge marks where people had driven through when the track was wet. We’d been on the road about an hour when the coolant alarm went off. Graeme had just lifted the bonnet when a car and caravan went past…and didn’t stop. Maybe the rules have changed now that more people are travelling outback roads but I was really surprised and a bit taken aback that they didn’t stop. Even if it was just to say ‘I’m not good with mechanical stuff but I can take a message to the next town for you’. As it was, the problem was a wire that had shaken loose on the gravel road so we were mobile again in a couple of minutes.
Soon enough we turned onto the Warburton Crossing Track and found that it had just been graded. This was unexpected. You couldn’t ask for a better track surface. No corrugations and no bulldust holes. During our lunch stop we had one of those ‘he said, she said’ conversations. He said ‘where is the sand flag?’ She said ‘wherever you packed it’ He said ‘I thought you packed it….’
We had the pole so it just needed some lateral thinking. A bright orange dry sack, some cable ties and a roll of first aid tape and we were all set.
Although we had left the graded track a long way back it was still easy travelling along this section of the Warburton Track. We camped at near Kuncherinna ready to start on the Rig Road the following morning.
We had been told to look out for the Coolibah Tree. You won’t miss it, we were told. I was sceptical. How would Graeme and I know one tree from any other? They were right. We did find it and very impressive it is too.
In the morning we met another party of 4WDs heading up the Warburton Track/K1 line and Hay River. We turned onto the Rig Road proper.
Some parts were good, some parts were sandy, nothing was too difficult to drive. We had low tyre pressures and were just pottering along. The first day the track winds around dry lake beds then you hit the sandhills proper.
No one had used the track for a while and we were able to enjoy driving along seeing animal tracks rather than wheel tracks. The sand is a lighter colour than in the north Simpson Desert and in parts the ridges are covering the track.
We travelled for three days without seeing anyone else on the track. It was quite incredible. To lie in your swag at night (now was when I appreciated that there were no covers, mesh or poles) and see 180° stars. It was like sleeping in a snow dome. Sleeping outside under the stars must be the best form of relaxation ever. That is if you can stop watching the stars long enough to go to sleep. It only takes a couple of nights before you can tell the time by the position of the stars. Of course every night before sleeping one must check out the Southern Cross and calculate south (just in case). The saucepan rises about 3am. The budding astronomer son Adam would tell me that it is part of the Orion constellation. However, a saucepan I can see. No way can I see Orion the hunter.
We met a couple of 4WDs just near the western edge of the Rig Road, just before we turned onto the French Line. Compared to the Rig Road the French Line was a highway. Not that the driving was any easier but the number of cars using it.
We stopped at Purni Bore where we discovered that the toilet has been closed. It is blocked with household rubbish and Parks need to wait for maintenance crews. I can certainly understand the National Parks closing the toilet but I am concerned about people just leaving their toilet paper to blow around in the wetlands. That will be awful.
The wetlands around Purni Bore are a cacophony of bird song. Birds and lizards (and probably more than a few snakes) are everywhere enjoying the morning sunshine. We drove into Dalhousie Springs early in the afternoon.
Travelling on the French Line gives a good perspective of travelling along the Rig Road. While we would have preferred another vehicle for safety, there was nothing too challenging along the Rig Road. Our tyres were deflated and we just pottered along the track in 4WD. There were no sandhills that needed a second attempt. The Road was quiet, we saw a mining vehicle go past early one morning but other than that, we didn’t see anyone, nor did we hear anyone on the radio.
We used the Westprint Simpson Desert Map for reference.