Herald Sun - Motoring - - Special Report -

WAVE af­ter wave of sand hills be­come ad­dic­tive, rather than bor­ing, when you are do­ing it in the com­fort and style of a mod­ern air­con­di­tioned ute.

But you should never un­der­es­ti­mate the Simp­son Desert.

Take 4-5 litres of wa­ter a per­son a day and enough spare fuel, tak­ing into ac­count ex­tra con­sump­tion in the sand and in low range.

The Simp­son Desert is a harsh place with huge tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tions from be­low freez­ing in win­ter nights to the high 50s on sum­mer days, so be pre­pared with proper cloth­ing and camp­ing gear.

You can’t have enough spares and tools, yet you also want to keep weight down so you don’t get bogged in the sand.

We found cable ties, su­per­glue, rac­ing tape and Si­las­tic the musthave items in the tool box.

An­other low-tech ne­ces­sity is a flag on a stick that you mount on your ve­hi­cle so other driv­ers can see you com­ing up over the steep dunes.

On the more hi-tech side, good satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and UHF ra­dios are vi­tal. They keep you in touch with the many ad­ven­tur­ers ply­ing the few marked tracks.

An EPIRB (Emer­gency Po­si­tionIndi­cat­ing Ra­dio Bea­con) or satel­lite phone is nec­es­sary only if you ven­ture off the track or go in the haz­ardous sum­mer months when there are few other trav­ellers in the desert.

But the Simp­son is not just sand. There are also clay­pans or salt­pans in the south, gib­ber plains, flood plains, low hills, table­lands and ma­jor wa­ter­courses.

The clay­pans and salt lakes can have a thin crust and quickly bog an ad­ven­tur­ous ve­hi­cle.

To­gether with re­cent rains and the soft red sands, they make re­cov­ery gear vi­tal.

We in­cluded snatch straps, but all we ever used were MaxTrax, de­signed and in­vented by 4WD ex­pert Brad McCarthy in Bris­bane.

They are made of ny­lon, so they are light and tough. Sim­ply shove them un­der the car or bike wheels and drive out. No need for an­other ve­hi­cle to res­cue you.

The best tracks are now the QAA Line, French Line, WAA Line and Knolls Track, though weather and us­age can dra­mat­i­cally change the con­di­tion of tracks in a mat­ter of days.

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