Showing posts with label Simpson Desert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Simpson Desert. Show all posts

Belgian Adventurer Completes Solo, Unsupported Trek Across Simpson Desert

A couple of weeks back I wrote about Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke attempt to cross the Simpson Desert in Australia on foot and without the use of a cart to carry his supplies and gear. At the time, he was just preparing to set out for Oz to begin his odyssey, but now just a couple of weeks later, the expedition has come to a successful conclusion, breaking new ground in the process.

Just as polar explorers pull sleds filled with gear and supplies behind them when they head to the North and South Pole, desert explorers often use specially designed carts. These contraptions are built to roll over sand and dirt, and have enough capacity to hold all of the important supplies – including water – that are needed on such an expedition. They are also incredibly difficult to pull for prolonged periods of time, but are a necessary component for anyone traveling "unsupported" in those types of environments.

Loncke, who first crossed the desert back in 2008, was determined to prove that it was possible to walk through the "Dead Heart of Australia" without using a cart to support his efforts. To that end, he elected to use a backpack instead. This forced him to get creative with how he packed and approached this trek, as he had to carry 40 liters of water with him for the journey.

His water alone weighed 40 kg (88 pounds), which didn't leave much room for other gear. In order to save weight he eschewed the use of a stove and carried only 8 kg (16 pounds) of food which consisted mostly of muesli bars, figs, and chocolate. He did carry a tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag however, as well as a video camera, several battery packs, and two 360º cameras that captured the Simpson Desert in a way that is hasn't been seen before. All told, his backpack tipped the scales at  60 kg (132 pounds), when he set off on the journey.

While in the desert, Loncke managed to trek 300 km (186 miles) through one of the most inhospitable regions in Australia. The walk began at Old Andado Station and ended at Poeppel Corner, passing through the geographical center of the desert in the process. He had hoped to continue another 135 km (83 miles) to Birdsville, but when Loncke reached the ranger station in Poeppel Corner he was low on food and water and didn't have enough supplies to continue pressing on.

In addition to the usual challenges that the Simpson Desert poses, Loncke experienced something completely unexpected - rain! He says that it rained hard for three days and two nights, with tremendous lightning strikes across the region. The unexpected precipitation made it harder to walk each day, slowing his pace dramatically. He also reports that it led to soaked clothing and wet feet for those three days, which made for a cold, miserable experience at times. But the unexpected rain also brought a wild flower bloom, something else that was unexpected but much appreciated.

You can read more about Lou-Phi's experiences in the Simpson Desert on his blog site dedicated to the expedition. He is currently en route back home to Belgium, but will likely update it with more information going forward.

Congratulations to Loncke for achieving this impressive feat. He has potentially shown us another approach to desert exploration, and it will be interesting to see if anyone else follows suit moving forward.

Belgian Adventurer to Attempt Simpson Desert Crossing in Australia

Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke is about to set out on another expedition across Australia's Simpson Desert. Back in 2008, he mad a similar journey spending 36 days traversing the "Dead Heart" of the continent solo and unsupported. This time out, he hopes to repeat his success, although he is taking a completely different approach.

Stretching out for more than 176,000 sq. km. (68,000 sq. miles), the Simpson Desert covers parts of Australia's Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australian states. Marked by a dry, sandy red plain and towering dunes, it is one of the most forbidding places on the planet, and home to the longest parallel sand dunes on Earth.

When he completed his crossing back in 2008, Loncke pulled a specially built cart that carried his gear and supplies, including water, behind him the entire way. This time out, he'll leave the cart behind and carry all of his equipment in his backpack instead, something he did while crossing Death Valley last year. His route will be a bit different this time out as well, as he'll travel west to east starting from Old Andado station in the Northern Territory and ending at Poeppel Corner via the geographic center of the desert itself. All told, he expect the expedition to cover about 280 km (174 miles).

The challenges that Loncke faces on this journey are numerous. The desert is extremely hot and dry, so dehydration, heat stroke, and exhaustion are real possibilities. Since he's carrying all of his supplies and gear with him on his back, equipment failure is a serious concern too, as is the fear of potential injuries. On top of that, he'll have to contend with snakes, dingos, and wild camels too, not to mention a host of annoying biting insects. In other words, this won't be a walk in the park, but a seriously difficult expedition through an unforgiving environment.

Loncke says that if he crosses the desert successfully, and still has enough supplies to continue on, he plans to push another 135 km (84 miles) past his end point to the town of Birdville instead. That would bring the entire journey up to 415 km (258 miles), although he'll have to wait to see how he feels physically before making that decision.

Loncke departed for Australia from Belgium yesterday and will spend a few days preparing for the journey before setting out. He should get underway next week, and have quite an adventure in the desert. Stay tuned for updates on his progress.

Good luck Lou-Phi!