31 January 2007………………
Phone rings at 4.15am….
“Mate I’m in the chit! We have two vehicles bogged to the west of Hawker”
“Can you help?”
‘Twas me neighbour down the road. He does contract cleaning of Electricity Transmission facilities in the state. To gain access to these facilities he needs to have an ET contracted qualified electrician to accompany him.
They go clean the place on the other side of the ranges near Lake Torrens. To save 140km return trip back to Port Augusta via Hawker and the next job, they decide to go straight down the old gravel road to Port Augusta.
Road is graded after rains. Yippeee……..but only up to some shearing sheds. No worries. They carry on. Neighbour mate drives a Toyota Commuter Bus 2wd weighing in at around 3.9ton. Electrician has a hired Mazda Bravo 4×4.
Creek is washed out big time but they make it through. Road in good condition for 1km and then deteriorates. Serious washouts. They pick their way around these obstacles. Then they find a ‘ponded’ stretch of road around 250metres in length. These two characters don’t walk through first to check, but drive straight in.
Both the vehicles go down at around 5pm. They stuff around till about 9pm and then give up. No EPIRB (was going to get one, but…..), no Mobile Phone service (wrong side of range), no Satellite phone…..CHITTT!!!!
They are stuck between the Southern Flinders Ranges and Lake Torrens. You might as well be on the moon. NO stations, NO nothing (except the lonely Leigh Creek railway line)…..But…. they can see the lights of Port Augusta….. Good!!!
They start walking. GPS in hand, phone, water bottles, torches. It’s a warm night. Sheep and cattle follow them out of curiosity.
12.10am and they get Mobile phone reception. Ring home. Ring Port Augusta Police on 000. Police not responsive. Ring SES. They say Tough!!! Ring CFS…Double tough!!! Ring Police again…..Triple tough!!! But Police do alert Breakdown service and bloke comes out in a 2wd recovery vehicle. He meets them after they have walked 20km.
“Chitt mate, nearly got bogged in the sand meself” he says. No way is he going anywhere near that wet stuff!
My phone rings. Mate and his chaperone are at Port Augusta in motel. I leave at 6am after throwing some recovery gear in GQ. Luckily I have a full tank of diesel. Missus’ throws in sandwiches, thermos of coffee and some fruit.
Meet them at around 8am. Then we drive to Quorn and call in on another mate and grab more Snatchem Straps, a Stretch Rope(new) and a Tirfor. The four of us hit the road and arrive at scene of the crime at 10am.
I edge as close as to Commuter bus, attach winch cable through snatch block and start winching. Move Commuter about 10 metres and Brawn winch slips out of gear and won’t work no more……. Faaark !!!!!!! Wrap cable around bulbar and attach Snatchem Strap to vehicles. On 6th hard snatch I get the bus on its way and we retrieve it. Good!!! But unbeknownst to me atb that stage I have broken a engine mount on the Nissan!!
Now for the Bravo. It’s a lot further into the slime. I edge forward and get to within snatch range. First, second, third snatch and GQ breaks the surface of the mud and bogs big time. And I only have my plurry Eldorado tyres on with a smoother tread pattern.(There wasn’t time to swap tyres around,eh?). Drop tyres pressures from 25 to 15 in the water, slush and mudddddd! What a mess!! Not going anywhere!
Out comes the trusty Tirfor. As much as I hate working with them they get one out of trouble at a critical time. Much sweat and we move the GQ whilst attached to the bogged Bravo. Get on to firmer ground and reverse out of trouble. Well not quite. Slip off edge of road into ooze. Slam into first high range and flatten it. I get out….Whew!!
On hard ground we attach 2 x Snatchem Straps, 1 x 11mm x 10m winch cable, 1 x Stretch Rope, 1 x Trifor and I x Tree trunk protector. Nothing is by the book. Bow shackles, U bolts and D shackles hold everything together. Bravo driver has no idea what to do but we yell instructions to him. As luck would have it kinetic energy saves the day and I get him moving and retrieve the vehicle.
By now the water we are standing in is hot! The mud is hot! The vehicles are hot!! One can feel the sun burning into one’s skin. Time to put muddy boots on again.
Its 2pm. We make for the creek for lunch. Both Bus and Bravo get stuck in the sand twice and I have to snatch them out.
We have lunch and then drive to Hawker, Quorn and home pumping up tyres along the way
Arrive home at 7.30pm. 610km driven. Out with the Karcher in the street, using rain water and blast the oodles of mud off. Home by 8.30pm.
Never a dull moment……………….