Simpson Desert, Madigan Line crossing 2020
Hosted by Trent Moon; your personal remote travel expert.
Trent Moon has the experience you need to get you across the desert with a lifetime of first hand experience. Trent has been fortunate to spend much of his life in outback Australia with well over a dozen crossings of the Simpson Desert, he has also well travelled in the Victorian High Country, Cape York, the Canning Stock Route and the Kimberley in the foot steps of his parents Ron & Viv Moon.
Crossing the Madigan Line from East to West is one of the most challenging and remote desert crossings in Australia. Travelling with experienced professionals means you can relax and enjoy the journey.
Things really kick off at the famous Big Red Sand dune (named by our friend Denis Bartell in 1980 after one of his many extraordinary desert crossings, check out his book Desert Walker) followed by 750km of vast beauty before you see any kind of civilisation at Mt Dare Station.
Imagine sitting a top a red sand dune in the middle of the largest sand dune desert in the world inside the traditionally owned land of the East Arrernte people, a long dining table tastefully set in full view of the setting sun as you enjoy a quiet drink.
The Madigan Line should not be taken lightly, the track can take it’s toll with vehicles fully loaded working hard to get over the dunes and suspension being pushed to the limit taking on the mogul sections of the track. It is very remote so break downs are not fun, deal with these before taking on a crossing like the Madigan Line. Not your average weekend getaway so preparation is the key. See our VEHICLE CHECK LIST section for vehicle preparation, fuel usage and safety information.
From the east the approach to the dunes are steepest, between the dunes the track crosses an ever changing land. There is a lot more to the desert than you may think.
An unforgettable experience in one of the most remote areas of central Australia.
History of the Madigan Line
The Simpson Desert was the last great blank on the map of Australia. Charles Sturt’s expedition in 1844 had skirted along the eastern edge before he and his men were turned back. In 1886 David Lindsay almost crossed the whole desert from west to east, but turned back before doing so. Then in 1936 Ted Colson, then owner of the Bloods Creek pastoral lease on the western edge of the desert, became the first white fella to cross the sands via a southern route to Birdsville …. and back.
The Madigan Line is named after explorer and geologist Cecil Thomas Madigan who, leading a party of nine men made an epic crossing of the North Simpson Desert, by camels, in 1939. You can read about his story in Madigan’s book: “Crossing the Dead Heart”. Cecil Madigan became the first European to cross the northern Simpson Desert in 1939. He named the desert after the then President of the SA Branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. In 1994 Madigan’s camps were marked with star pickets and plaques. Those small signs were first erected in 1994 by David Owen and Robert Correa, then operators of Owen Correa Outback Adventurers.
In 1939, when Cecil Madigan and his team first crossed the desert, they filled in one of the last great blanks on the map of Australia. The desert had been penetrated by early explorers from the time of Charles Sturt’s expedition in 1844, but not very far. From Bore No1, north of the Old Andado Homestead, Madigan’s group of nine men loaded their string of 19 camels and headed north towards the junction of the Hale and Todd rivers before striking east across the desert. This journey across the Simpson was without any drama and was wet for much of the time, meaning the camels had plenty of food and ended the trip in better state than when they left. It took nearly four weeks to cross the desert and, from Birdsville, they continued their walk south to Marree.
In 1979, Denis Bartell became the first to travel the Madigan Line by 4WD, a route since followed by many adventurous travellers. In 1990 Ron and Trent drove the Madigan Line. In 1994, Owen Correa Outback Expeditions accurately marked the positions of all of Madigan’s camps. It was one of the very early crossings, there was no track or GPS back then. A compass and paper map led the way. It was a tough crossing with 54 punches in 8 days with the desert taking it’s toll on all the vehicles.
About Your Guides
Trent and Stephanie have been sharing their travel experiences with groups for the last seven years, from Australia to Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, Maldives, Fiji and more. Trent grew up in the footsteps of his parents Ron & Viv Moon, 4WD legends and modern day explorers who made a life out of remote travel, publishing 4WD Guidebooks, mapping Australia and travel writing for the best part of 40 years. Ron was editor of 4×4 Australia Magazine for 15 years and is still editor at large today. There is nothing they enjoy more than travelling and being involved with Moon Tours together.
Trent was lucky to start driving in the outback at a very young age and before the age of 12 would often be found behind the wheel taking on Australia’s toughest tracks. Not something we recommend these days.
In 2017 Ron & Trent crossed the Madigan Line with Denis Bartell, who then at 83 had notched up 40 odd Simpson Desert crossings and named Big Red. Denis was the first person to have walked solo West – East, North – South and the first to drive across the Northern part of the desert.
The Madigan Line Expedition 2020
Across the Simpson Desert
Starting at the iconic country town of Birdsville we’ll head out to Big Red Sand dune (named by our friend Denis Bartell in 1980 after one of his many extraordinary desert crossings, check out his book Desert Walker) and north through private property. Our first nights camp is a special place on Adria Downs Station at Kudaree Waterhole, the bird life through this area is incredible.
Onto Madigan’s camp 16 and 14 before turning West and into the Northern heart of the Simpson Desert and into traditionally owned land thanks to the Aboriginal Lands Council. Over large dunes we make our way across this remote area of the Simpson Desert to Madigan’s camp 1A and the official Start Peg. After a thousand odd dunes and numerous land scapes between them we break out of the desert at Old Andado after finding the Madigan Start peg near Mac Clark Acacia reserve where a small group of Waddywood Acacias up to 700 years old are being protected. Old Andado station, a living, breathing historic monument to Outback farmers en route to ‘civilisation’ and Mt Dare Station.
We end things after about 750km at Mount Dare Station.
Travelling from Victoria and South Australia.
Our first meeting point will be Port Augusta where we will load everyone up with food for the crossing.
From Port Augusta we will head out past the impressive Flinders Rangers on our right and past Leigh Creek before stopping at the iconic Farina Bakery then onto Marree and the start of the Birdsville Track camping at Clayton Bore. The next day we’ll stretch our legs at one of our favourite outback pubs, Mungerannie, before pushing onto Birdsville.
Travelling from New South Whales and Queensland.
We all meet in Birdsville early afternoon in time to drive to Big Red for Sunset.
*You will need to book yourself into Birdsville Caravan Park and Mt Dare as you see fit.
Day One – 145km Birdsville via Big Red to Kuddaree Waterhole via Madigan Camp 21.
Departing Birdsville and crossing the mighty Big Red dune marks the stsrt of the journey. Following QAA Line to Eyre Creek we head north, a relatively easy day as we head further into Adria Downs and the beautiful area following the Eyre Creek passed old Annadale ruins, Madigan camp 21 before getting into Kuddaree Waterhole, an oasis in the desert where birdlife is prolific.
Day Two – 125km Kuddaree Waterhole to Madigan Camp 16
Today we start to head North passing camps 19 and 18 at Mudloo Flats then camp 17 before settling around camp 16.
The track is relatively easy going to Camp 16 and Madigan’s blazed tree on the Hay River Track which is becoming less identifiable each year as the tree grows around the mark. North of here are the remains of a large Aboriginal Midden, a step back in time.
Day Three – 80km Madigan Camp 16 to overnight Madigan Claypan
The track is relatively slow going through mogul dune country as we head west for a the next couple of days as. Some steep dunes await.
Day Four – 70km Madigan Claypan to overnight at Madigan Camp 8
Another day of mogul inter dune country and some spectacular sites as you crest each dune. Flora can change from one dune to the next, often giving way to low open woodlands of Eucalyptus and Acacia.
Day Five – 75km Madigan Camp 8 to overnight camp 5
Today you will start to come out of the heart of the desert where the dunes drop away and the trees start to come back.
Day Six – 150km Madigan Camp 5 to Old Andado Station
After a thousand odd dunes we head South onto pastoral lands once again. The landscape changes to rocky gibber country as we pass Marshall Bluff toward Old Andado. After finding the Madigan Start peg near Mac Clark Acacia reserve where a small group of Waddywood Acacias up to 700 years old are being protected you find yourself at Old Andado station, a living, breathing historic monument to Molly Clark and Outback farmers.
At this point you can say you have crossed the Madigan Line successfully.
Day Seven – 90km Old Andado to Mount Dare
Leaving Old Andado on station tracks the road is wide often with deep bull-dust before arriving at Mount Dare for much needed fuel and refresh. At this point our journey comes to an end and it is up to you whether you stay for awhile or move on to new adventures.
*Please note this itinerary should be give or take a day depending on track conditions, group pace and or any mechanical issues that could arise.
Only the best roof over your head will do on this expedition. The Southern Hemisphere night sky.
You will have the option to book a cabin at Mt Dare and Birdsville, we recommend you do this in advance directly.
As you would expect the best accommodation on the planet can be found out here sleeping under the biggest canvas in the world, the Southern Cross and Milky Way, out here the night sky is lit with stars, a view you can only get in the desert.
We recommend a good swag on a stretcher, roof top camper or tent with some warm bedding inside, it can get cold at night out here. No trailers.
This trip requires you to self cater
Are you and your vehicle prepared?
Its a big journey we can guarantee a few tyre punctures at minimum, its vital you have your car prepped properly, and adequately insured.
ARE YOU AND YOUR VEHICLE PREPARED?
It’s a big journey so it is vital you have your car properly prepared.
Your safety is our number one priority
On board we carry the following.
- Satellite phone
- Large first aid kit including broad spectrum antibiotics, painkillers, muscle relaxants and morphine whistles
- Welding equipment
- Tool kit
How much fuel do I need
- At least 200 litres depending on your vehicle. Calculated on 800km @20L per hundred is 160L + extra for safety margin. Petrol vehicles should be carrying 300 litres and will generally use more than 30L per hundred which is 240L minimum + extra for safety margin. Please know your fuel consumption beforehand.
How much water do I need
- 40 to 50 litre’s per person, 80 – 100 litres per car minimum not allowing for extravagant shower routines.
Every vehicle will be required to have, at the absolute minimum the following.
- Pre-trip inspection carried out by a reputable 4WD work shop, NOT your local car mechanic. We recommend Outback 4WD if you are in Melbourne.
- UHF Radio with external aerial
- GPS with appropriate maps, check out HEMA Maps or similar.
- Paper maps. HEMA Maps or similar
- Snorkel (for example, genuine Toyota snorkel like air intakes are not a sealed unit) Invest in a Safari Snorkel or similar.
- Upgraded suspension a must. We recommend Old Man Emu by ARB
- Heavy Duty all terrain tyres PLUS Two spare tyres on rims. We recommend Cooper ST’s or Mickey Thompson ATZ P3’s
- Dual Battery system. You can’t go past Australian made REDARC dual battery monitors.
- Fridge…a good one. We recommend ENGEL Australia or ARB’s Elements Stainless Steel fridges.
- Camp lighting. We recommend checking out Coleman Australia & Ironman 4×4 for some good product ideas.
- If your using a roof rack it needs to be HEAVY DUTY. Check out Ironman 4×4 and ARB
- Tyre repair kit with plugs
- Basic recovery equipment. Snatch straps, shackles, shovel, axe, heavy duty jack or air jack is a good idea.
- Compressor and tyre gauge
- Basic tool kit
- Fire extinguisher
- Pure Sine Wave inverter if you want to charge lap tops. We recommend PROJECTA
Minimum Spares Kit Recommended
- Fan belts
- Radiator stop leak
- Radiator hose tape
- Two spares tyres on rims
- Air Filter
- Fuel filter
- Brake Fluid
- Engine oil
What camping equipment do I need?
- Swag, tent or roof top (ARB, Coleman, IRONMAN or James Baroud Roof Top Tents – ask about hire options)
- Recommend a stretcher these days for swags
- Camp chair
- Cutlery and dishwashing
- All cooking equipment
- Food and beverafe allowance for 7 days in the desert
- Head torch and camp light. Checkout Coleman & Ironman 4×4
- Axe, shovel
HIRE EQUIPMENT – We recommend Oz Sattellite Rentals
- Roof Top tents
- Camper Trailers
- Satellite Phones
- GPS units and mapping software
- Epirb’s and safety equipment
1 vehicle / up to 2 persons $3500 inc GST / Solo traveller $3100 inc GST
Additional third adult passenger $550 inc GST
Teenage passenger $350 inc GST
Children under 12 years travel free
Includes – Guide and support vehicle, recovery, mechanical and running repair support. Private land access, Aboriginal Land Council permission.
Hire vehicles available. Approximately $3500AUD for 10 day hire.
*Note: We do not include a Desert Parks pass for the Madigan Line. You will cross one small section of the park on route to Adria Downs private property and Eyre Creek. If you plan to visit Dalhousie Springs or Poeppels Corner and the likes either before or after you will need to purchase one.
Camping fees at Mount Dare and Birdsville are not included.
IMPORTANT CONTACT INOFRMATION
RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service)
SA, Port Augusta 1800 RFDS SA 1800 733 772
NT, 1800 RFDS NT 1800 733 768
Satellite Telephone: 08 8648 9555
RACV Roadside Assist – TOTAL CARE: 13 11 11
SA National Parks:
Natural Resources Centre SA Arid Lands. Port Augusta SA 5700
Ph: (08) 8648 5300
Natural Resource Centre – Port Augusta – Simpson Desert
Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5300
Desert Parks Information:
Phone: (+61 8) 8648 5328
Outback Road Report (24-hour automated service)
1300 361 033
Birdsville Police Station 07 4656 5677
Police Link 131 444
Birdsville Roadhouse – Simpson Desert Vehicle Recovery RACQ Contractor
Peter & Bronwynne Barnes
Ph: 07 4656 3226
Aboriginal Lands Council
Alice Springs, NT 0870
Tel 08 8951 6211 or 1800 003 640
Fax 08 8953 4343
FOR PERMITS : firstname.lastname@example.org
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