First east to west crossing members John Eggleston, Ian McDonald and Malcolm Wilson reunited for the 50th anniversary trip.
First east to west crossing members John Eggleston, Ian McDonald and Malcolm Wilson reunited for the 50th anniversary trip. Emily Bradfield

First explorers honoured with 50th anniversary expedition

ADVENTURER, naturalist and photographer Malcolm Wilson, of Dalby, was among six explorers to set off on a history-making journey across Australia 50 years ago.

This month, on the 50th anniversary of the first east to west vehicular crossing of the Simpson Desert, a crew of 13 international adventurers have set off on the same path from Cape Byron to Steep Point, straight through the middle of the desert in honour of the original expedition.

The travellers set off last week, stopping in Dalby on the way to reunite three original members Ian McDonald, John Eggleston and Mr Wilson.

As the men admired the modern set-up of the anniversary expedition, they reminisced about their time travelling.

Together they crossed 1100 crests over 12 days between Birdsville and Andado in their specially made Jeeps "Psycho”, "Rhino” and "Hippo”.

ORIGINAL CROSSING: The group had to cross 1100 ridges on their journey across the desert.
ORIGINAL CROSSING: The group had to cross 1100 ridges on their journey across the desert. Contributed

For trip historian Vaughn Becker, a lifetime love of Jeeps started as a baby coming home from the hospital in his family's Jeep.

Mr Becker is living out his dream, retracing the steps of an expedition that caught his 19-year-old eyes.

For years Mr Becker tried to get in touch with the "originals”, the men he admired as a young man, and ultimately it was an ad in the local paper that caught their eye.

"I knew it was coming up to the 50 years so I put in some effort to find these blokes,” Mr Becker said.

"What I always tried to do was to meet them, I never realised we would get to this step.”

Mr Becker teamed up with Jeep contacts to organise the anniversary trip and relaunch the original film.

"I'm very excited because it's a culmination of two years' work,” he said.

"I put a lot of work into this and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to ensure those three gentlemen are recognised for what they did back then because it was a big thing but nobody knew about it. They should have been recognised.”

Mr Wilson well and truly caught the call of the desert 50 years ago, returning three times to the Simpson since.

"The vastness and the emptiness, it was almost spiritual in a way,” he said.

"I think the desert just gets into your blood after a while. It's the challenge too, every ridge was a challenge and once you conquered it you forgot about it because there's enough in front of you than to be thinking about what's behind you.”

ORIGINAL TEAM: The original team had specially made Jeeps to get tehm across the desert.
ORIGINAL TEAM: The original team had specially made Jeeps to get tehm across the desert. Contributed

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