Wednesday 30 March 2016

3 Corners & a Double Simpson Desert Crossing - Day 8

Day 8 - 30/3/2016 - Camp 3 to Camp 4

At about 3am in the still of the night a dingo started howling.  It sounded like it was sitting in the middle of our camp site.  Then a few dunes over another dingo answered.  It certainly made the hairs on the back of the neck standard up and made it difficult to get back to sleep.

The culprit from the night before

We woke to such a beautiful morning!  And the temperature was fantastic as well.  It dropped to about 13degC over night.

As we progressed further and further along the track it was obvious that this track isn’t as popular as it was narrower and more over grown.

Late in the afternoon we came across the largest salt lake that we had to cross to date.  Because we were the first group to cross it for the season, we didn’t have the advantage of being able to follow or see wheel tracks where anyone else had tried to cross the lake.

So Selwyn went first but ended up getting bogged.  I waited on a firm bit of ground as there was no point me following Selwyn in while he was stuck.  Snowy had a winch so he passed me and went in to drag Selwyn out.  He got Selwyn out to some firmer ground and then Selwyn gave it another shot to see if he could make it through again.  Unfortunately not.  He made slightly more progress, but again, got stuck.

Snowy was running low on fuel so instead of risking running out of fuel while he was trying to winch out Selwyn, he reversed back to where I was on the firm ground to transfer fuel from the jerry cans into the tank.  It was also decided that I would try to make another path to other side of the lake.  There was no point Snowy trying to make the new path and also getting stuck as he had the winch.  We didn’t want to end up in the situation where both vehicles with the winches were stuck.  I didn’t have a winch so it would have made any recoveries a lot more complex and time consuming.  So I was going to become the test vehicle so at least Snowy or Selwyn could rescue me if I couldn’t get through.  I was also the only one that had all terrain tyres on.  The other guys had muddies so it was going to be a lot harder for me.  My tyres were already at about 20psi hot but I dropped them even further to 14psi hot.

It was quite hard trying to pick a line that looked like it was firm ground.  The darker coloured surfaces seemed to be firmer than the lighter coloured surfaces.  It was pretty difficult trying to keep the momentum up, looking for potential hard and soft spots and evaluating the feel of the vehicle as to whether it was bogging down or not.  My first attempt to make to the other side didn’t succeed and I returned to where Snowy was refuelling.  I let the car cool down for a bit and then we picked another location in the distance that I was going to head for.

The second attempt was successful, but only just!  I was in high range 4wd and pretty much had the foot to the floor to keep the momentum going and only just made it through.  There were a few soft sections where even though the foot was flat to the floor and the engine was doing about 3,500 rpm, I would have been crawling along at less than walking pace.  The slowest part was only about 15m from the edge of the lake so it would have been incredibly frustrating if I had got stuck at that point.  Once I got across and on stable ground I had to let the vehicle cool down.  The scangauge was showing the air intake, water temp and transmission temp were all up about 105degC.  After a couple of minutes it had cooled back down to normal temps.

Here is a time lapse video of crossing the salt lake. (If you are getting the post via email you will probably have to go to the blog site to see it).

I reached the other side :-)
Looking back to where the other were
Selwyn and Snowy in the distance before Selwyn recovered
Once I was across, Snowy recovered Selwyn and then they both followed my tracks.  It was still hard work even following in my tracks.

Here is the video of them crossing

Once we were all successfully across the lake we then had to make it back to the track because our path across had led us further north.  So we circumnavigated the edge of the lake back to where the track met the lake.  From there we found an area where we could re-inflate our tyres.

As we were inflating our tyres we heard another group on the UHF heading towards our location.  We eventually crossed paths and filled them in on the conditions of the salt lake just ahead of them and how and where we crossed it.  They said that they were going to make camp for the night as it was too late in the afternoon to be attempting the crossing.  We all thought that they would have had a lot harder time than us crossing as they looked like they only had standard road tyres on and no winches or maxtrax for recovery gear.

Despite it being late in the afternoon we kept pushing on as long as we could before we setup camp for the night.  We wanted to make it to Birdsville the following day and we had lost a couple of hours getting across the salt lake so we pushed on until dusk.

Because I still wasn’t any better I was absolutely exhausted so again after setting up camp I crashed for the night.

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