Big Red is the last and biggest of over 1100 sandhills you have to cross in a west-east crossing of the Simpson Desert. Standing some 34 metres above the plain it presents a considerable challenge. Here is what it looked like to us coming down the penultimate sandhill:
Don and Patsy are talking to a stranger. I didn’t speak to him, but I gather he was a day tripper with his girlfriend out from Birdsville having a bit of fun on Big Red. This is what Big Red looked like from the plain where we’d stopped:
Here Ian G-J and Don are assessing the task in front of us while Patsy continues to chat with the stranger:
Here some of us are listening intently to what the stranger has to say:
Four main tracks up the sandhill were apparent. The easiest looks like the fourth on the right, which curves around a tree. There is actually a fifth which if you look carefully you can see heading off on the far right.
Don, our lead driver, tried the fourth track on the right and failed. In the next two images we see the stranger tackling and failing the tracks on the left.
Given some confusion on the camera time-stamps I don’t know whether those attempts were before or after our drivers put their heads together to assess the situation:
The consensus was that Big Red had won, that it was too high, too steep, too soft. We didn’t have to head back to Alice Springs, as Betty had been secretly fearing. Easy to overlook, there was a way around. Here is the tatty sign which gives you a choice between tackling Big Red or going to Birdsville. I understand the latter involves crossing Big Red further south where it is easier.
Last post we left Len looking intently at the monster sandhill, wondering whether there was a way over.
He decided to have a go. He tried the path Don had tried, and failed.
Then he took off on the fifth track on the far right. Momentum is essential for success crossing the dunes, and he had plenty of it ….. the red flag attached to the bull-bar is bent right back to near the rear end of the vehicle:
Here he is nearing the top:
By the time the camera reloaded he had disappeared. Then he appeared on top of the sandhill, the monster conquered!
In the blink of an eye there was another photo from closer up:
That one was taken by Marion from the northeast rather than the west. Darral had charged up the track where Don had failed. Here’s a longer shot:
Then she looked back to where they had come from:
It’s hard to see, but in the centre of the photo Eoin and Betty’s vehicle is about to burst over the crest. Then she looked down:
Then along the pristine crest:
By this time Don and Patsy had appeared next to Len:
Followed within two minutes by Ian and Irene:
Within seven minutes everyone was up, that is except Len’s passengers, Margot and I. Len had told Margot that if he succeeded he would come back and get us. I didn’t hear that and told him not to bother, Margot and I would walk up. Frankly I didn’t see that eventuality arising!
So we were left recording the various attempts, Margot with Len’s heavy ‘tiger tamer’ camera and I with ours.
Eoin took the track where Don and Len had failed but Darral had succeeded:
Don took after Len:
Here’s another look back from the top. Taken by Eoin, it shows Ian taking off and only the stranger remaining on the plain. The stranger subsequently followed Darral and Eoin up the sandhill.
Here’s a series of 20 photos capturing our frolic on Big Red. The order is simply as they came off the various cameras.
Amongst that lot are several photos of a platform high on the dune where people pay considerable amounts to experience champagne sunrise breakfasts. Sunsets are also said to be spectacular.
It took me at least 10 minutes to hoof it up Big Red. Margot told me to go on ahead and gave me Len’s heavy camera to carry.
I had four minutes, perhaps five on top of Big Red and managed to take ten photos, eight of which appear above. Then people were leaving and we did too! Our adventure on Big Red was behind us and we were soon travelling south towards the Birdsville ‘road’.
We travelled south for about 20 minutes:
After about 20 minutes we came to the gravel road into Birdsville where we pumped up our tyres:
While this was happening, Margot looked about her. Here are some of the photos she took:
Big Red was certainly a highlight of the trip. Next post, Birdsville at last!
Note: This post is the tenth in a series on our Red Centre holiday.