Simpson Desert what an Epic Journey

  On September 28th, 2019 12 amazing ladies from 7 countries on various bikes came together at Birdsville Queensland to go into an epic adventure to cross the mighty Simpson desert in order to complete the first ALL WOMAN SIMPSON DESERT RIDE and to raise awareness and much needed funds for Dolly’s Dream, a charity that is committed to fight bullying. This epic adventure stretches over 500klm including more than 1,100 sand dunes, including Big Red. Big Red is the name given to a particular sand dune that marks the symbolic edge of the Simpson Desert. Situated approximately 35 kms west of Birdsville and on private property, Big Red (original name Nappanerica) stands well over 30 meters tall and is part of a series of sand dunes stretching across the desert. Some may say that the Simpson Desert is pretty much on every adventure riders bucket list. Our goal was to cross the Simpson desert in four days via the French and QAA lines in order to get to the other side to Mt Dare. This group of girls had various riding skills, and for same the thought of 500k’s riding on desert sand and crossing dunes that increase in size and difficulties was a bit daunting, so we were all glad to have a play on the mighty 40-meter-high BIG RED the day before we left for our adventure to throw out some cobwebs and to give our support team the opportunity to have a play in the desert sand as well. It was satisfying to see, months of planning and training all came together for everyone. We now had a full team together and we couldn’t wait to set off in the morning.   Day 1 – Leaving Birdsville

Finally, the big day arrived, after a well-rested night, the team met in the morning for our final team briefing. 12 girls, three support crew vehicles with Ian, Clint and Dom, plenty of food, fuel, water, and of course we took along some alcohol beverages to reward ourselves after a hard day’s ride. We were heading into the Simpson desert crossing from south to north over the French line from Birdsville to Mt Dare, covering three states and endless dunes. All very nervous, excited and we could feel and taste the adventure in this magical place. The support vehicles were packed to the rim, so at times 20klm per hour in the soft desert sand was as fast they could go. This gave the riders to itch ahead and stop plenty of time to become a tight knit team and to soak up the sheer beauty of the ever-changing Simpson desert.

Our group had quite a diversity of people. Some were quiet, others were loud, however we all became friends for life, knowing we could rely on each other forever. Kim, one of our two grandma’s, came with her DRZ400 from Roxby Downs, and it was very clear early on that she is a special one. Not only by her caring nature as an outback nurse but also how she entertained us with her nudist run on our second camp night, and her jokes and smile were never far away. She made sure through her quirkiness and amazing singing skills to put a smile on each of us throughout the day. We all were surprised upon hearing her story about how she had 2 emergency surgical procedures in 2017 when she gave an interview to ABC North and West South Australia News early morning on day two. One of the procedures found a rare cancer and she was ordered to fully rest for 12 months, no riding no exercise and in my book that is bloody hard. When she heard about this ride in early 2019, she knew this was for her as she wanted to regain some fitness and challenge herself physically and mentally, and what better way to do this by supporting others.

  For Maggie, our girl from Ireland riding in sand was an unknown factor as she couldn’t find any sand in her hometown longer than her bike. I am sure she was nervous like hell till she came to Big Red. The team all agreed that Maggie was a fighter, she grabbed this adventure with everything she had. She left Ireland a few weeks earlier to pick up her trusted Suzuki DR650 which was waiting patiently in Melbourne for her.  From there she was heading up to Toowoomba via Byron Bay, meeting up with the Brisbane girls (Chris, Chantal, and myself) with Birdsville as the final meeting point. Maggie experienced many challenges, riding sand for the first time, having difficulties sleeping at night, heat exhaustion during the day to bike issues, however she never gave up. She powered through like a true champion as the thought of giving up never came into her mind.

  Day 1 came to an end, and we decided to set up our first camp in the heart of the Simpson desert at about 16klm from Poeppel Corner and Hay River turn.

Camp was very special, we had amazing food, coldish beer that tastes like pure gold, awesome conversations and many stories on how many bullets we all dogged throughout the day. The nights were pretty magical as well, the sheer beauty of this magic place soaked into our bones and minds forever. If you ask me to describe the Simpson Desert to you, I would say this is a task no one is able to do. Riding the desert is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

(Not quite sure what the guys are looking for LOL)   DAY 2: We always knew day 2 of the adventure was going to be tough. Half the team only had a few months of dirt bike riding in them, jet alone backing up this epic journey for four days. So with a healthy bacon and egg breakfast, we departed our first campsite heading through the salt lake towards Peoples corner which marked the end of the French line.

Peopplers corner is a corner of state boundaries in Australia, where the state of Queensland meets South Australia and the Northern Territory. Augustus Poeppel, conducted a survey in the mid-1880s to find the exact location of the central Australian colonial borders. His team used camels to drag a coolibah post to mark the intersection, which is hard to imagine when you get there.                                             Most bikes were easily able to knock out our scheduled distance however our support vehicle had a long second day ahead as the dunes became increasingly harder specially for Ian (my partner) as he was towing the trailer and two spare bikes with him. Unfortunately his air conditioner broke down on the second day, so the Simpson desert became a very hot journey for him and now nearly 10 months later we still find red sand inside the car LOL.

(Ian on the left with Laddie, Sharka’s husband)

All the riders noticed a huge improvement in their riding style as our journey became more increasingly difficult with s bends straight after the dunes, softer sand, huge holes, oncoming traffic and heat exhaustion.  We all pulled through this day reasonably good with only two riders having small injuries. Suzie decided to continue her journey in her car after a fall fairly early on the second day. She joined Dom from North Ireland who drove her brand-new Ford Ranger through the desert as our trusted water guy. Suzie did an amazing job with her efforts in fundraising, having raised the most amount of money for Dolly’s Dream. Deservingly she took the winning trophy for fundraising back home.

Our other injured rider was Rikki, the founder and one of the organizers of this spectacular ride traded her bike with Suzie’s bike, as it was smaller and easier to manage after her fall. She managed to ride to the end, even after her foot ballooned up to an unrecognizable size. On the end of her ride she was able to compare the many bruises from some of her amazing falls, and her broken Mx Boots and off road pants found a new home in one of the trash bins on the end in Mt Dare.

Riding through the Simpson desert was nothing as I expected to be and I am sure the others felt the same as well. After riding the first day, I thought we had this nailed. Our training at Stradbroke Island QLD paid off, but I was so wrong as it got harder and harder each day.

  Each time we took a break we hurled like animals under the smallest or only tree we could find in the desert.

Sharka, who made her way from Adelaide on her big KTM530 came into this journey because she couldn’t stop thinking about how great this opportunity is. So she went out and bought one and got training. Many times, I have heard people say that when riding sand, you should be able to ride a bike that you can touch the ground otherwise you find it nearly impossible to handle your bike in soft sand. Well Sharka is standing just below 5’3 is one of the shortest girls in the team but watching her start and stop her bike each day was just amazing.  If anyone that says “I can’t ride a dirt bike because I am short” needs to speak to her LOL

Amanda our “other short” Canadian praying mantis received her nickname after managing to get caught in a field of prickles. It was hilarious watching her trying to get through this mind field. She only bought her bike a Husqvarna FE450 a couple of months earlier and made the effort to hire a trailer each weekend to drive close to 500klm to the Little desert close to Melbourne in order to practice her sand training.

  Chantal, our Sunshine girl and organizer originally from the Netherlands, rode a Yamaha WR250 through the desert. Nothing could stop this girl, her passion for this adventure, Dolly’s Dream and riding spoke beyond her years. A few years earlier she rode around the world and has written a book “She’ll Be Right” and was one the more experienced and shortest LOL riders in this group. Her efforts in organizing most things for this ride is a tribute to our success in completing this ride. She managed everything from organizing radio interviews, connecting with Dolly’s Dream, buying food, cooking each day and I am sure there is way much more. Chantel was one of the amazing cooks that kept us fed and I am sure without her, many of us would have gone hungry LOL.

Our other grandma in the pack was Jayne who came on board only a couple of weeks before we departed Birdsville, wow what can I say about her. I have seen many riders with amazing riding skills, but she is definitely something from a different planet. Her mission was to complete a double crossing on her own with her trusty DRZ450. She also took on the role of leading us through the desert, navigating with 4W drivers coming over the sand dunes and teaching us some valuable lessons that made our riding through the soft sand so much easier.  Many of us tried to stay close over the sand dunes but soon it became apparent that Jayne was a different league to all of us.

Kate, a pro boxer, was our modest, very kind and a great listener from Adelaide. Kate is an adventurer, a real traveler, and she rode her DRZ400 through the Simpson, but her trusted GS1200 was waiting patiently at home and I am sure it was very jealous as she racks up a lot of kilometers with her like no one’s business.

And finally we come to Julianne, our red hair “tail end charlie” that always kept watch on those that struggled. It didn’t matter if it was getting you out when you bogged your bike into the might soft sand or just making sure we all had enough water throughout the day. Julianne was our mother hen, coming from a farming background and rode her bike like she was hurdling in her life stock. It was amazing to watch how confident she was in her jeans and shirt when everyone else was wearing complete amour.

  Chris was the other rider of the QLD team, she rode with us a few weeks prior to the Simpson ride with us at Stradbroke Island

Me in my old gear before deciding to create female protective gear designed by female for females 🙂

Our last stop before heading out of the desert was Daleshousy, the famous water spot. I thought I knew what hot water was, but this water hole was so hot that you thought your skin was peeling off, but to be honest no one cared as it was water. Having no shower for four days whilst riding at 40+ temp hot water was better than none. At least the wind after was cooling us off.

We all could stop laughing.

Finally after four days of riding we managed to arrive in Mt Dare. Our arrival was pretty emotional to all of us. For some this trip was in the making 12 months particular for Chantal and Ricki and for others only a few months, however four days of total concentration, we finally made it into Mt Dare. It took a little while for all of us to realize that we all made it through in one piece, tears and hugs followed and a very cold beer tasted like gold. For me, I couldn’t believe I made it alive through the desert, thank god for some air conditioning, a much-needed shower and a beer or two.

I can only speak for myself, but arriving at Mt Dare was something I will never forget. I felt every emotion a human being could have. I was so excited that we finally were in Mt Dare so I could take the longest shower in history, but also I was soooo happy I made it in one piece. Many people in the past had to be airlifted out of the desert. My journey of abuse stopped right at the front carpark of this little pub, the only house on the end of the desert. I grew as a rider and as a person, and I will carry those memories of the desert ride for the rest of my life with me. Before I come to the end of our amazing story, I need to acknowledge our amazing other support crew. Clint was definitely the crazier one out of the three. He managed to give us girls a nudes ride on Chris bike, we had to stop him using any bikes as we were not sure if he came back home with a working bike….yes he had way too much fun riding those dunes on the end of the day, however he was amazing with the delivery of our very valuable food resources. On the way home he also had the chance to ride

Laddie…Laddie…Laddie, well whilst he wasn’t an official support crew, but I am sure we couldn’t do it without him. Laddie came with his wife Sharka for support but I am sure he didn’t know what he was getting into. We all enjoyed his company, his laughter, the not so funny dad jokes and his amazing bike skills…on the bike and off the bike. Laddie was always there to lend a hand, either through cleaning up, fueling our very thirsty bikes, or just being the moral support we so needed at times. Thank you Laddie for being such an amazing person.  

Dom was our quiet support crew member. He traveled with Maggie from Ireland and drove our much precious water and of course our alcohol. I am sure Dom couldn’t believe what this amazing land had to offer us. Thank you Dom from the bottom of our hearts…you will never be forgotten 🙂   Throughout the night of celebration, some left earlier to make their way home due to work, Jayne our extraordinaire retired early as she was heading back into the desert only hours later for her solo attempt back to Birdsville…what an amazing and inspiring woman. Obviously for some the beer tasted better than for others LOL. Kim, Stuart, Clint and another Mt Dare visitor managed to raise another $350 with lots of alcohol in their system by shaving off their hair for Dolly’s Dream….awesome job…well done guys LOL

Our ride home the next day was pretty equal adventure as many experienced other obstacles, such as blown car tyres, lost wheels and break down. I believe we had 4 blow ups and 8 flat tires in total. Our support vehicles have changed some of their shapes as well LOL.

Clint and Chris managed to lose a wheel of their trailer that created a bush fire, lucky the fire brigade came to the rescue fairly quickly.

I have to admit I never saw a bush fire close up, and man that was hot. No one got injured or harmed. 

However we still had an amazing time as we found many other exciting things that the bush had installed for us. A couple of Artesian springs were very much welcomed by all of us LOL

Kim’s home made toilet was gold…no more squatting down LOL

Please note…..not our underwear LOL

In total we raised under $25k for Dolly’s Dream with more donations ticking in. On behalf of all the riders I like to thank our sponsors and supporters that stuck with us from the moment we all decided to participate in this amazing journey. Without all your help we couldn’t have done this amazing event, something I most certainly and I am sure we all will cherish for the rest of our lives. If you like to come along on our end of 2021 Simpson desert ride please leave me a message and I will connect with you. Cheers Stephanie