Lessons from hiking the Simpson Desert that WON’T make the doco!
So say those who have done more than one; trekking the Simpson Desert is a bit like childbirth.
As soon as it is over you start to forget the pain, focus only on the result and soon start considering another one.
That may be the case for those who hike and go home.
In my case it’s been a long labour.
I have been seeing, reviewing, living and re-living the entire eight days for the past three weeks and soon I will deliver a documentary on it.
The idea of attempting another one is not something I can, or want to conceive. It was really painful, often exhausting, emotionally draining and at times nauseating.
So I’m opting for the immediate withdrawal method.
But staying with the theme, I suppose the whole adventure was a bit like pregnancy.
The thought of it was exciting.
Planning for it involved shopping, including a whole new range of clothing you won’t wear once the experience is over.
Once under way with preparation the due date couldn’t come quickly enough.
And then of course the reality.
“No one told me it would be like that!”
So here are the lessons I learnt that won’t make the the documentary 8 Days in the Desert for Channel 9; a special that follows 13 trekkers venturing into the heart of the Simpson Desert and raising an enormous amount of money for the charity-Youngcare, which helps get young aussies with high care needs out of aged care.
- I now know exactly where the Simpson Desert is and the giant 176 000 kms2 splat of sand and spinifex in the middle of the country is as remote, harsh, arid and hot as Wikepedia suggests and everyone else can imagine.
- I now know where Wellcamp, Charleville, Quilpie, and Windora are because we stopped at every one of those places on the milk-run flight to Birdsville, a small outback town with a population of 109 that swelled to 130 when the Youngcare trekkers stepped off their 7 hour flight.
- I also know that Poepple Corner is the junction of the Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australian borders and that it takes 9 hrs to get there from Birdsville in a 4WD bus driven by a lovely man named Kim, who actually didn’t put the vehicle into 4wd until we failed to get up ‘Small Red’ (the smaller sand dune sibling of Big Red) and that it really was like being in clothes dryer for 9 hrs. (Think being tossed around in suffocating heat and looking out of a window at the same thing for 9 HOURS!)
We all had to hike 250 kilometres, but I now know how long it takes to walk just one kilometre in soft sand, in scorching heat as you dodge prickly bushes and search for the next non-existent bit of shade, which of course changes every kilometre depending on how many bushes, how soft the sand and what the radiant temperature is. (Radiant Temperature- RT= air temperature x 30%)
So : 1 hour:3 km X total kms = hours walked x RT heat x no of bushes
NB: It also takes 12 hours to drive 88 kilometres
3.PE OR HYGIENE
Just to confirm- we had NO showers or toilets.
So I know how to use Wet Wipes to cleanse my entire body, how to utilise left over drinking water to wash hair and that the scene in the movie “Australia” where Hugh Jackman pours, porn-like, a gerry can of water over himself is really hard to do without looking ridiculous.
Note:Wet Wipes work best for no 2’s and tissue paper for weeing (if female).
It’s also best if you choose a spinifex bush well out of the way of other trekkers, ensure you have investigated the slope for run-off, and have allowed enough space to avoid the prickles of the spinifex..
Deodorant and anything that smells remotely nice or even acceptable is advisable.
Yes, shoes and the right-fitting backpack are essential, but the one item we all wish we had was Doc Hollywood’s trekking umbrella.
This is basically just an ordinary, smaller-than-normal umbrella that you take trekking.
At first the intrepid hiking doctor (aka Tom Solano) was ridiculed for looking like a male Mary Poppins in boots, but with the sun blazing and temperatures up around 40 degrees (or 60 if factoring in radiant heat, RT- see maths lesson), he was the only one who had shade, and of course a dry head when it rained. Also a special mention for his starring role in Australia.
So now that I have almost wrapped the doco I can start to reflect on the hiking memories and unpredictable moments of hilarity and achievement, perhaps I’ll concede: It may have similarities to starting a family and some say you can’t just have one child.
So who knows there may be a sibling for the Simpson Desert down the track.
On second thought, I would rather abstain!
8 Days in the Desert airs on Channel 9 in Qld on Saturday May 28 at 4pm.
The rest of Australia Sunday 29 May- check local times.