Birdsville to Poeppel Corner and huge Big Red sand dune

Birdsville to Poeppel Corner - Big Red Sunrise

We arrived in Birdsville for two main reasons: celebrate Nissan’s 50th Anniversary of crossing the Simpson Desert and drive from Birdsville to Poeppel Corner.

Read how we got to Birdsville (part 1) and why Nissan organised this event.

We rested the first few days by attending Nissan workshops, lunching at the Birdsville Bakery, and drinking Birdsville Lager at Birdsville Pub.

Birdsville Pub at sunrise
Birdsville Pub at sunrise

The real highlight of the Birdsville Bakery was the Camel Pie which was tasty. To be honest, we were not sure if it was camel meat but we liked it a lot?

Hema - Queensland

Hema’s HX-2 Navigator

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Hema HX-2 Navigator

Convoy early start

To prepare our car for the Simpson Desert trip we had to make one small modification to our car. It was to install a 4 meter, white pole with a flag on the top.

The reason was to be visible while driving on dunes. The top of the dunes and the turns are sometimes very sharp. Drivers often want to accelerate uphill to conquer the dune and not get bogged, so there is always a possibility of a crash if there is another car climbing on the other side of the dune.

By having a flag on a pole, the car is seen much sooner and accident chances are minimised. We had a black pirate flag to be distinctive.

We started very early as there was a lot of driving to Poeppel Corner. It was not that far, in fact only 165 kilometers, but the track was challenging. 

Thus, everybody gathered at the sunrise, in front of the Birdsville Pub. Obviously, it was cold as usual, but we were all ready and nobody was late.

Birdsville to Poeppel Corner - Convoy gathering at 7 am

The first part was to get to the Big Red intersection which was only 38 km away. Initially, it was a dirt road mostly and later it changed to a narrower track.

Track near Lake Nappanerica
Track near Lake Nappanerica

Lake Nappanerica

There are two tracks to cross Lake Nappanerica: one that goes right on the east of the Big Red and one that we took that was going via the Little Red sand dune.

Our track went through and along a dry Lake Nappanerica. The colours of the lake were very maroon due to the vegetation of the lake. We have not seen such colours before.

On the way to Poeppel Corner - Red flowers at Lake Nappanerica
On the way to Poeppel Corner – Red flowers at Lake Nappanerica

The other track (east of Big Red), as we found out later, was completely underwater, and driving it would be a 100 % guarantee to get stuck.

Alternative track to cross Lake Nappanerica
Alternative track to cross Lake Nappanerica – a guarantee to get stuck

Later, we crossed a Little Red sand dune where we took a great dessert photo. It was incredible how far we could see the narrow track. Amazing!

Little Red Sand Dune - What a view!
Little Red Sand Dune – What a view!

This time we only passed the famous Big Red as the plan was to attempt to climb it on the way back from Poeppel Corner.

Little Red Sand Dune
Little Red Sand Dune

Driving through sand dunes

The track to Poeppel Corner goes across the sand dunes. As a result, we had to climb up and down to every sand dune. Some dunes were very soft and there was always a possibility to get bogged.

On the way to Poeppel Corner, we took two breaks. 

Convoy break at the entrance to Simpson Desert National Park
Convoy break at the entrance to Simpson Desert National Park

The distance was not far but it took us 7 hours to get there. The landscape was really distinctive: sand dunes and white salt lakes made this place very harsh for any challenger. 

I am not sure if we could attempt this track only ourselves.

There was even a trailer in the convoy and they managed to successfully cross all the sand dunes.

Poeppel Corner

Reaching Poeppel Corner was quite an achievement. This is where all different states and territories meet: Queensland, South Australia, and Northern Territory.

We stood and studied the concrete post with a metal top. If we had three legs we could stand in three different states at the same time.

There is an interesting history to Poeppel Corner.

Poeppel Corner
Poeppel Corner

Poeppel Corner History

Why Poeppel Corner?

In 1879, Augustus Poeppel surveyed the Queensland on South Australia border. He started at Haddon Corner (SA corner with NSW), and he used pegs and mileposts of waddi trees to mark the distance every quarter mile (400 meters).

Augustus reached the corner of three states in 1880 and mark the place with the 2.1-meter coolabah tree trunk. The trunk was dragged 92 km by camels across salt lakes and sand dunes from the Mulligan River area.

Interestingly, his corner peg was placed 274 meters away from the Poeppel Corner current position. That was due to a measurement error.

In 1883, another surveyor, Larry Wells resurveyed the area and relocated the corner peg to its current position.

Over time the corner peg deteriorated because of the desert’s harsh conditions and disappeared from the landscape.

In 1962, Dr Reg Spring did his famous Nissan crossing through the Simpson Desert, and found the peg in the dust and damaged by white ants.

Read more about Dr Reg Spring crossing and why we came to Birdsville.

He replaced the peg with a 44-gallon drum and took the original peg to Adeliade where it rests in the History Trust of South Australia’s relic collection.

Finally, the final version of Poeppel Corner was done by the surveyor Bill Haylock on the 25th of August 1968.

Poeppel Corner - I expain Nell where we stand
Poeppel Corner – I explain to Nell where we stand

Camping at Poeppel Corner

Our camping was not far from the corner of the three states. It was just a designated campaign area without any facilities. The night was not bad, cold as usual but without any drama.

Travel Spiced Life

When you camp in the desert, open your bonnet on the arrival. Mice may try to get to the warm engine, rest there and bite your cables. By opening your bonnet you cool down the engine quickly.

A funny thing happened at night. 

We slept in a tent. During the night we could hear dingo hauling many times. At one moment at night, a dingo tried to push and open our tent with its muzzle. Quite scary I have to say. We know dingoes can be dangerous.

Kasha woke up and tied the zips ends with a shoelace to make sure it does not happen again.

Camping at Poeppel Corner
Camping at Poeppel Corner

Conquering the Big Red

The way back was not that challenging anymore as we have done it already. We learned that sand dune driving is not that bad, considering your car is serviced and you take it easy.

We arrived at the Big Red in the early afternoon. The first thing for everybody was to conquer the bid sand dune.

Arrving at the Big Red
Arriving at the Big Red

There were three ways to get there. The first one was a chicken way, as the incline was very reasonable and everybody can do it. The second option was the straight-up way with a steady but sharp incline.

The last option was for the crazy 4WD drivers. It was situated on the biggest incline of the Big Red. Some drivers attempted this way and actually succeeded.

I selected the middle option, and even I had two diesel cans on the top, a wheel, and a box, I succeeded at the first go.

Big Red - I conquered it in the first attempt!

Interestingly, I tried two more times later on, and I failed. Beginners luck? Maybe.

The view from the Big Red was great and we finished the day with some achievements. We stayed for the night at the bottom of Big Red and went to bed early.

Big Red is home to the most remote music festival called Big Red Bash. Staged in July, every year it brings around 10000 people from every corner of Australia.

It was quite an achievement to visit Poeppel Corner and conquer the Big Red
It was quite an achievement to visit Poeppel Corner and conquer the Big Red

Sunrise at Big Red Sand Dune

Kasha bravely woke up early just before the sunrise and took amazing photos. This place looked really amazing with the morning colours, lake in a distance and golden Big Red dune we were camping next to.

Soon, after breakfast, we drove back to Birdsville. It was Saturday, the final celebration day and concert. After that, long drive home to Brisbane.

Sunrise at Big Red over a dune
Sunrise at Big Red over a dune

Birdsville to Brisbane – On the way back

Our time in Birdsville was very unique. We have done a lot of different activities: 4WD workshops, recovery training, 4WD driving to Poeppel Corner, dinner and lagger at Birdsville Pub, tasting Camel Pie attending the Nissan celebration.

Nissan 50th Anniversary Celebrations - Pat Callinan with Marg and Doug - Dr Reg Spring children
Nissan 50th Anniversary Celebrations – Pat Callinan with Marg and Doug – Dr Reg Spring children

The weather was harsh, not really our favourite. However, we remembered this trip well as there was something we have not done it before.

Going back home, on the way to Quilpie, we almost crashed with kangaroos on the road that congregated in a big group. Later we stopped in Windorah to fuel up and the rest of the road was just boring driving on Warrego Highway without any drama.

Kangaroos on the road to Windorah
Kangaroos on the road to Windorah

It was almost two weeks, but we reached the Poeppel Corner – quite an achievement – don’t your think?

Have you been to Birdsville or you may be crossed the Simpson Desert, please leave your comment below?

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4WD Equipment Checklist

GPS Navigator or compass

Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction

Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD

Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)

Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)

UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency

Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road

High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks

Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking

Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places

Additional fuel canisters

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