The eve before the storm…. Day -1 Simpson Desert Trip 2016

The day before.

The anticipation. The nervousness. The hope that I remember to pack everything. And the anxiety about the car….

For those of you who have read the previous entries on this blog, you’ll know that the Dejero failed spectacularly last year on the trip to the Simpson. DPF fucked me. That’s as blunt and as kindly as I care to put it. The Achilles heel of the this otherwise great 4WD failed with no warning and no recourse but an expensive repair. What’s worse is it cost me in time, money and embarrassment. To that end, if the thing fails on this trip there will be a reckoning and it will be gone. I’ll replace it with a Landcruiser or a Patrol or a frigging Suzuki Sierra. I shit you not.

At any rate, over the weekend I took it for a leisurely spin to Melbourne and it began surging at 2000 RPMs. Not happy Jan! Got it into the mechanics and he flushed the SCV (suction control valve). It’s running great now. Total non-shout out to the clowns at Bakers in Albury – “Yeah we’ve got a replacement SCV for that model of Pajero. Yep matches the numbers you just read out to us off the chassis.” Only to have the mechanic get there to find out it’s the wrong one. Geniuses! I tell you what, it’s hard to get good help.

I’ve packed the car almost to the roof – the new drawers, cargo barrier and everything else are set to go. It’s only me this year, so if it fails it won’t ruin someone else’s holiday – just mine. There are a number of Prado’s for sale in Albury – I’ll run it down, trade it and take off in one of them.

You can probably tell I’m not in the best place for this trip. I really am nervous about the car – if it fails on me in the desert then it’s a very expensive effort to bring it back. I’m not looking forward to that at all and it’s not going to happen. Everything that should be done to these cars has been done – from the DPF and EGR sort out, to the mods and the run-in after all that stuff. It’s going pretty well so here’s hoping that continues.

It’s been pissing rain here at home and wet in the desert which will make for an interesting trip. The basic plan is this:

  • Home to Broken Hill
  • Broken Hill to Tibooburra or points north of that.
  • Innamincka and then Birdsville
  • The Simpson Desert
  • Mt Dare and maybe sneak over the geographical centre of the country for a look
  • Back to Mt Dare
  • Simpson Desert!
  • Mungeranie or Birdsville
  • Maree
  • The mountains of SA for a couple of nights – maybe Arkaroola?
  • Home

It’s going to be a hell of a trip. I’ll post updates as I go if possible, but it’s more likely that the updates will come through on my return.

Wish me luck.

Drawers and slides baby yeah!

One of the last few things I’ve been looking forward to installing is drawers and a fridge slide. The back of the Dejero is a bit disorganised at the best of times, and even utilising the rear seat well isn’t helping. It’s a bugger to get in to with the fridge on top of it and when I want recovery gear, its rare on I’m parked on a nice flat surface and I can screw about with things. So drawers were a necessity and by extension a fridge slide. I had a good look around at them – there were the 4WD Supacentre ones, ARB, TJM and I finally settled on a nice looking, sturdy set from the Ironman range at Get Off Road in Wodonga. I was told there is an 8 week wait for them to be manufactured and delivered so I paid a deposit and went about my daily life.

10 weeks later, I’ve been on a trip to New Zealand and I’m back – starting to think about the 2016 desert trip… I call the guys at Get Off Road and get some pretty crappy news – they can’t get the drawers and they can’t help me out with anything at the moment. WTF?! This was a colossal customer service fail – they had known about the problem for some time but didn’t let me know, and I’m starting to think that 8 weeks to wait for another set of drawers leaves me without much in the way of a buffer if things go wrong again. I tell the GOR dudes that I’m going to come and get my deposit and go elsewhere.

To their credit the GOR guys ring me back shortly after offering up ARB drawers as a replacement and at cost. It was very nice of them, but the ARB drawers are 850mm long and the space in the back of the Pajero is not 850mm – it’s about 805mm and that’s pushing it (I didn’t fully appreciate how short their arses are until this moment). No problems, they’ve got another plan and they’ll ring me back.

About 45 minutes later they call – they can get Black Widow drawers (labelled as Ironman) and they can have them in 3 days! And they were the cheapest option of all the drawers we’d looked at. I’m over it by now – I was trying to organise all this at work, which is booming and I just want these things sorted out. I say OK and book the damn thing in.

The Dejero goes in and then a snag – my fridge, an Engel MRF40 is too wide for the Ironman fridge slide. They’ll have to use an Engel one which is more expensive. Having exactly no options I say OK. Then another snag – they don’t have the front for one of the drawers. I’m starting to really think this is much harder than it needs to be, but whatever I go back in a few days later and pick the fucking drawer front up and put it on. I don’t have tie downs for the fridge so I have to run around and organise that – the rear handle for the fridge has to come off because it’s too long to fit – remember I said the the Pajero’s are a short arse: they really are!

Eventually it’s all done and I end up quite happy with the results:

The Engel fridge slide is very smooth and very sturdy. It has a very solid mechanism indeed and so do the drawers. Being so short – only 700mm – there isn’t a huge amount of room. The cargo barrier is excellent too – it’s full length and I feel much safer with it. I look forward to putting it all to good use across the Simmo!

Out and about in the hills

Up behind our place is a fairly large hill. The tracks are steep but pretty reasonable and after a small fire we had go through the place are a lot easier to see. Previously they were covered by blackberries and I had no interest at all in driving up there and scratching my duco for no good reason. It had taken my Hilux up there previously but this time took the Paj. What a difference! A much more capable vehicle in every way – and far more comfortable. I’ve been taking it into a few interesting little spots lately – keep an eye out for some details soon. Anyway – some pics from the entertainment:

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Yes we have had a small fire – about 15 acres burned. It was an accident and this is a couple of days afterwards. The last two photos are very high on the property and this track is very dusty and rocky. It can be very slippery with large rocks that the car trips over on – they spit out from under the wheels. It’s not a sensation that I love but the Pajero handles it well.

Planning for our 2016 trip to the Simpson Desert is well underway. We head over late in June and the excitement is building! Hopefully the Dejero will make this trip and do it well.

I’ve just managed to puncture one of my tyres – right on the tread block is a ragged tear about a centimetre in length. Aargh! That’s a $259 replacement to be done. First issue I’ve had with the Duellers. They’re a great tyre – I’ve travelled about 20,000KM on them since I put them on last year and they’ve been good on and off the road. I find them to be a much better tyre than the Cooper AT3’s so I’ll stick with them for now. Can’t help but like the aggressive looks of the All Terrain BFGoodrich so I might consider them for next time…

Upgrades! 81L Long range tank install

The NS Pajero has an 88L diesel tank standard. With this and the current configuration of the car, I get around 600Km to the tank (give or take). While this is quite good for such a big vehicle, I really want a range of 1000KM plus. This means that I can comfortably take on the big long haul trips with ease. I’ve been hunting around and found the Long Range Automotive tank for the Pajero – here is the link. 81L, Y in fill and 3mm plate steel construction, full baffles etc. Here’s a link to the product PDF they sent me: MPNMRA81L_Brochure

At $2000 installed I was pretty happy to do it. TJM Albury did the installation: and were also kind enough to take some photos for me during the install. The tank fits up under the back between the rear diff and the rear bar. Coincidentally it fills a gap where the Pajero is know to dig into ground – I’m hoping that it won’t happen terribly often, but I am looking at extra underbody protection.

Here is the tank prior to install:

The in-dash gauge and pump switch:


Just a single toggle switch and green LEDs to show level, red to show empty. TJM Albury have done a neat little install.

Behind the back right wheel, the old inflow pipe is removed and a Y inflow pipe goes in. The diesel when pumped from the auxiliary tank is pumped into the inflow pipe to main tank. It’s great to see the gauge go up! Here is a pic of all the hardware that is just behind the back right tyre:

Here it is on the car:


It’s fairly unobtrusive down there and it’s not the lowest point on the vehicle so it shouldn’t get banged around too badly.

The fuel gauge with half a tank in it and the filler pipe – handy to be able to tell which tank you are filling. I’ve yet to do a full tank off the auxiliary but I’ll be interested to see how much I can get into it. So far I’ve done 950KMs and still have a a half full main tank. Not bad eh?

Overall I’ve been very happy with the workmanship and support from TJM Albury – thank you guys!

2015 Simpson Desert Trip Wrap-up

So it’s been awhile since the trip and I’ve thought a lot about it. There some things that were bad (the Dejero not making it for example) and some things that were great (the D-Max was awesome and the desert was excellent!). Here is a “After Action” summary:

Things that were good:

  • the people were quite friendly everywhere – at the pubs and on the road. It was nice to be away from them all though
  • the solitude was excellent. With just a small, tight knit group we had a plenty of space within it for our own thoughts and to just exist – especially on some of the longer driving stretches. The people we met were perfectly happy to say g’day and then keep going. No-one wanted to stick around for a long chat.
  • the roads to and from the desert were generally very good. Birdsville Track and the roads in to Cameron Corner were excellent. This was both good and bad.
  • the rain helped pack the sand down and the little flowers that bloomed as a result were lovely.
  • the wind was surprisingly helpful – during the first few days it blew the dust plume from the cars away from the trail vehicle which was fantastic – we weren’t driving through dust all the time!
  • the Flinders were surprisingly lovely. I really enjoyed the run up through them
  • my traveling companions were great. Everyone was relaxed and enjoyed the trip. Naturally there were a few tense moments but these went by fairly quickly – it’s not like you can leave someone to walk home! The boys were terrific traveling companions and I’d head off with them all again in a heartbeat
  • my little tent turned out great! I was a bit worried about that.
  • HEMA maps on the iPad were good – I wasn’t sure if the A-GPS would work outside of mobile coverage, however, it did work and it was a treat.
  • no email, no Facebook, no work calls – ahh – just glorious!
  • both cars performed admirably, no mechanical issues, tyre issues or anything else.

Things that were bad:

  • the ground I slept on in Marree and in Tibooburra was like rock. The thin self-inflating mattress was definitely not up to the challenge and even though I borrowed one of Mark’s at Tib, he then suffered as well so that sucked royally
  • the trip from Cameron Corner to Tib was very dangerous – we probably should plan that a bit better (but it was a *hell* of an adventure!)
  • the Dejero’s DPF failure. This overshadowed my whole trip. Certain elements of the Dejero’s configuration would have been fantastic on the trip but without it I felt pretty rotten a lot for the first few days. If it fails again on a big trip like this, that’s it – I’m buying a bloody Toyota LandCruiser!
  • 12V access – I think both cars needed more 12V stuff. Damo and I really had to juggle the power access to keep things charged and the tiny little UHF radio we used only seemed to get one good charge out of the batteries before it was stuffed. Note to self: I still need to get new batteries for those bloody things!
  • we under-catered on food and beer. We ran out of bread, got very, very low on bacon and eggs (particularly after the Egg Incident) and we nearly ran out of beer. Can you guess what the worst of that was?!
  • it was great to have a younger, more gung-ho guy along. Damo is far more adventurous than the rest of us and did stuff we probably wouldn’t have – stuff that was a lot of fun!

Things we can do better:

  • I need to write more on the trip – what I have put down here is a tiny fraction of the stuff that happened but I didn’t document things well enough
  • food organisation and beer – this needs some work going forward
  • water organisation could have been better too – Damo only drank coffee and beer. We didn’t need as much as we took
  • sleeping stuff could be better too
  • camera work and photography – gotta gets me a drone!
  • more time in the desert – the few days we were there were just not quite enough!
  • less sat phone calls – the only ones I got were bad news (my wife’s car did the head gasket😦 )
  • more play time in the dunes!
  • Get the damn Desert Pass before going – procrastinating on that was not a good idea at all

Things that weren’t as we expected:

  • I really thought that the French Line would be a lot harder. We had no recoveries and didn’t really get stuck at all. The only times we did get into any kind of trouble was when we were playing on a hill.
  • We did most of the desert in 2WD which is either a testament to the capabilities of the D-Max and/or the right tyre pressures and/or we had an amazing run… or all three!
  • The temperatures were not as extreme either way – the cloud cover I think managed to keep temps both lower during the day, and higher at night. Don’t get me wrong it was cold at night, but not unbearably so.
  • Dalhousie Springs was far busier than I expected
  • the worst road by far was from Mt Dare back towards Dalhousie Springs
  • the Birdsville Track and the track from Walkers Crossing to Cameron Corner was a dirt highway – I couldn’t believe how good (and boring) the road was
  • its easy to underestimate just how big this country is. From home to Mildura was around the 600 KM mark and from there to the desert was around the 1500KM. It’s 2000 KM to the desert and the same back – freakin’ huge distances! And dirt roads do not mean you can zoom along at 100KM/H either – you’ve got to pay attention to things
  • we did not use anywhere near the amount of water that I expected – not in the least because Damo drinks only coffee, coffee milk or beer. We took 50L, grabbed another 25L at Mt Dare (bore water for washing etc) and came home with about 40L of the nice water and about 15L of bore water. I did drink a lot of bottled water – probably went through more than 24 of those – and they were great. A 600mL hit of water is great during the day.
  • fuel usage in the D-Max was an unknown quantity across the desert and I didn’t really know what to expect. Both of us were pleasantly surprised with the fuel usage and the amount we had left over.

2015 Simpson Desert Trip Day 9

The final bittersweet day of the trip. Camp last night had been fairly subdued and this morning we aired up our tyres ready to get back on the black smooth stuff. We had discussed at length what to do last night and decided to make the big push for home today.

So pedal to the metal (figuratively speaking) we took off. Stopped at Packsaddle for breakfast and then down through Broken Hill and on to Wentworth and beyond. We farewelled Mark and Adam at Wentworth and on to Mildura where we turned back east and travelled home, arriving at midnight tired but satisfied and eager for a shower. The D-Max was doing around 850 KM on the highway to a tank which was very nice.

Unpacking and all that fun stuff to follow. Check out the next post for the wrap up, thoughts on what could have been done better, what we could have skipped and what we’re going to do next time!

Distance Travelled: 1200 KM (total: 4917)

Our four heroes – Damo (far left), Adam, Mark and yours truly (far right)

2015 Simpson Desert Trip Day 8

The first day of the leg home! It was a moderately bitter sweet morning, but at least there were showers and somewhere to sit and ruminate on the universe.

Shortly after our ablutions, we made for the Birdsville Bakery and I ordered and ate 2 curried camel pies. They weren’t bad but Damo wasn’t fussed with his camel sausage roll. I was too full to offer to eat that too🙂

Onto the iconic Birdsville Track and past the race course, already looking finely groomed for the 10,000 person influx due to happen next week. The Birdsville track had been recently graded and was very nice to drive on. Our speed was quite solid along this road indeed. We turned off onto the Walkers Crossing public access route. This road was not in such good condition, but made for far more interesting travel that then almost highway Birdsville track. The track travelled through grey sand with occasional orange spots. A couple of reasonable sized puddles and the two cars were covered in super sticky grey mud. it was a bit feral.

We stopped along the way for lunch near an empty riverbed. The flies here were awful – in fact the worse we had experienced. The little devils were into everything! Lunch was a rather hasty affair and I’m pretty sure I ate at least 3 blowies. Wee bastards!

Our lunch spot – I’m a bit surprised you can’t see the flies in this pic – they were many!

We made our way from Walkers Crossing down past Moomba – the big gas refinery. This was as close as we got

The scale of the joint is impressive, especially given the distance we were from the site. From here we were bound for Cameron Corner and hoped to see the Big Yellow Bus. Alas, we did not see it – it’s been removed because it was a rubbish dump and people were turning a tourist spot into a pigsty. Well done cretins! I believe people like that are referred to as “grubs” and I certainly agree! We were looking forward to seeing it and I was very disappointed it wasn’t there. Of equal disappointment was the quality of the road. They were great! Smooth, well graded, multiple lane… not at all the windy twisty sandy drive we had hoped for. Our sand flags were completely useless and we took them down. It’s a grey nomad paradise out there, which is fine. But for hotblooded young men (which at least one of us is) these big, easy to drive roads were a disappointment. Cameron Corner though was pretty neat. We had plans to head out past the dog fence and find a nice spot to camp. Here are some pics of the Corner:

So for the second time on the trip we were in three states at once. It was pretty cool. The trip down to the dog fence was uneventful, and we went through it and pushed on. The plan to stop and camp somewhere along the way was becoming less of a reality. The country was made up of rolling hills, not much in the way of shelter anywhere so we made the decision to push on. It became apparent that we needed to push hard to make Tibooburra for camp. It also became apparent there are about 50 billion kangaroos, wallabies, and emus in this part of the country. As the light failed and our hi-beams punched out through the darkness it only became more worrying how many critters there were. The D-Max had no bullbat, so we hugged Mark’s rear quarter panel and prayed we weren’t going to smack into anything. Coming in to Tibooburra we found the caravan park, but nowhere to pay! We fixed it up eventually. Straight to the pub for dinner – Damo and I were down to our last few beers so it was bit of near thing!

Dinner was quite good, and the people were friendly. Back to camp with a few extra (beer) friends and a detailed reminisce on what had been one of the more stressful parts of the trip indeed. The ground was absolutely the hardest surface I’ve ever slept on!

Distance travelled: 641 km (total: 3717)