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Young-Ho Nam on fatbike across Australian Deserts

Posted: Jun 27, 2014 03:02 pm EDT

(By Kyu Dam Lee, ExplorersWeb South Korea) 

In his quest to cross 10 deserts of the world, Young-Ho Nam from South Korea cycled across The Gibson and The Great Sandy Deserts in Australia.


Mr. Nam started his expedition from Alice Springs with his two team mates, Jason Richard Smith (35) from America, Rian Cope (28) from Australia, on April 20, 2014. They set off for 80-mile Beach, situated along the north-west coast of Western Australia, and completed the expedition on May 11, 2014, after paddling their fatbikes for 22 days.


Water and health issues and route conditions


Mr. Nam said they had two serious issues during their expedition. One was water and the other was health issues. Also causing issues were the conditions (difficulties) of the route, deep soft sand or roughness of surface (as after rain), and the temperature, which played a role in how far and fast they could cycled per day.


The team had to carry water in bags on their fatbikes, but only 5 liters water were allowed per person per day. During the first half of the route they could refill water at 4 small aboriginal (native) villages (at some more than at others), but there was no place to do it during the last 700 km. They carefully studied satellite photos and investigated wells or water reservoirs in case of emergency, but they found it was not so helpful. They were very disappointed when they arrived at useless wells and water reservoirs, not getting water.


During the second half of the expedition, Jason lost his physical strength and could not continue as planned. On May 5, Mr. Nam could not see Rian, who traveled alone in front for next two days. Mr. Nam said that he had to call a rescue team and asked help on May 7, 250 km before their final destination. 


A charted airplane found an exhausted Rian and drop some water on May 9. Rian lost his way in the desert and was deadly exhausted without water. He told Mr. Nam that he already took a last image and wrote a last message to his family.


They continued the expedition and reach the final destination, 80-mile Beach, at 11:00 on May 11; 1,680 km from their start point, Alice Springs. With this Mr. Nam has now crossed 6 deserts in the world. The expedition team completed the goal, but they failed to achieve and ‘unsupported’ and ‘unassisted’ expedition, however. 


Mr. Nam said that it was really a hard job for him, and it reminded him of the Bedouin proverb: ‘You can be alive in desert only if everyone is a friend’. He said that The Great Sandy Desert is really beautiful, but it is a hell without water. 


"It was a nice expedition for me, not only crossing deserts in a remote area but also to experienced strange language and strange culture. It is nice that all three team mates challenged and completed this almost impossible project together."


Mr. Nam added he will do another expedition this coming August in the Gobi Desert, where he had already done an expedition before. It was a 1100 km walk plus 500 km drive by car. So, it was not fully no-motorized as he is aiming.


Gibson vs. The Great Sandy


ExplorersWeb asked Young-Ho Nam to compare the two deserts. "It is not easy to define the areas (boundaries) of each desert. However, we spent almost 2 weeks (14 days) in Gibson. The remaining time was spent in The Great Sandy. It was clear though that the area west of Kunawarritji village is in the Great Sandy."


He said that it was much easier to get water and to cycle in Gibson because it was flatter (with a few hills of ground or sand). Mr. Nam crossed Gibson along Gary Junction Road and he visited some small Aboriginal villages to refill water for his next stage. The villages were 3 to 4 days apart from each other. The road was not tarred, but good enough to cycle.


But, when he entered into The Great Sandy area, the road changed to tracks, yet they called it Wapet Road. It was narrow, curved and tough. Not only was it not easy to cycle but also not easy for 4 wheel vehicles. The track is too narrow and tough to drive. In some parts they lost the tracks. Furthermore, he could not get any water at places marked as well or water tank on his map. There were only traces of them. When they were fortunate to find a puddle, the water was too salty to drink.


With this expedition, Mr. Nam said he crossed 7 deserts: 

Takla Makan (China 2009, not included for this 10-Desert quest), 

Gobi (motorized as mentioned above), 

Great Victoria (Australia, 2012), 

Empty Quarter (Salalah, Oman, to Liwa, UAE, 2013)

Great Basin Desert (Salt Lake, Utah, to Reno, Nevada, 2013)

Gibson & The Great Sandy (Alice Springs to 80-mile Beach, Australia, 2014)


Previously Young-Ho Nam crossed Urasia, from China to Portugal in 2006, cycling 18,000 km, and completed 2,510km along the Ganges River in 2010.




2013 Piolet d’Or Asia: Young-Ho Nam received Grand Prix Award


ExWeb interview with Young-Ho Nam, life is like crossing a desert


South Koreans across Great Basin Desert


#trek #Young-HoNam #Gibsondesert #greatsandydesert






Young-Ho Nam and his team mates, Rian Cope and Jason R. Smith.
courtesy Young-Ho Nam, SOURCE
Jason on Jankins track near Kunawarritji (click images to enlarge).
courtesy Young-Ho Nam, SOURCE
Jason resting on Wapet Road.
courtesy Young-Ho Nam, SOURCE
Camping at Gary Junction.
courtesy Young-Ho Nam, SOURCE
After crossing 'The Great Sandy', towards the final goal: left Jason, right Rian.
courtesy Young-Ho Nam, SOURCE
Distances covered (click to enlarge)
courtesy Young-Ho Nam, SOURCE
Gibson and The Great Sandy Deserts location.
courtesy Young-Ho Nam, SOURCE