She started on me as early as last year, as we were planning more things but not knowing where our lives were going to take us as my Doctor had blurted out to me during our home visit in May, that I had cancer. “I would like to go to the Beanie Festival in Alice Springs next year”. I suppose this is how all adventures start but now was not the time to think about it
My visits to specialists and the number of tests and invasive probing into the affected area started in September. It took a while to realise that the hospital worked in batches of 8 weeks between visitations and further tests.
My chemotherapy and radiation treatment took 7 weeks of intense streaming of chemicals and radiation rays but to everyone’s surprise, I did not suffer any side effects which is the lot of many cancer patients. I mooted to the Doctors and staff that I was going bush when I was let loose again and they all agreed that it would be a good idea
We were supposed to leave at first light on 3rd of June but upon finishing all the jobs on the Friday 1st June I suggested that we could leave then and by 2pm we were on the road.
I thought that we may go and camp in Parachilna Gorge that night by going through the National Park to Blinman and then turn west along the gorge road, but by the time we got to Hawker I decided to head straight up to Parachilna and then head east from there to the gorge. When we pulled up on Surveyors Hill where there is a covered picnic seat and some interpretive signs, for a glance at the scenery of the Flinders Ranges and the rear wall of Wilpena Pound and decided to stay there for the night. The cold southern wind blew all night and woke us from a fitful sleep every couple of hours. The first night’s camping is always like that. Getting your brainwaves to die down and to get used to the new order of caravan life.
Sunday morning and we refuelled at Leigh Creek and bought a pie. The town has lost most of its inhabitants due to the power station closure and there for the coal mine closure and the future seems to be rumours upon rumours. We drove by Copley, a sleepy little village, some 6 kilometres from Leigh Creek. with some businesses still trading. Then just north of Lyndhurst the bitumen ran out and we were now on a good gravel road and the road was busy.
At Farina we called in to the Underground Bakery where we bought fresh bread and tarts. The bakery had just opened for the season the day before. A group of self appointed volunteers are rebuilding the town little by little every year when winter sets in. The bakery was a triumph that was funded by a government grant and the ovens get fired up during the tourist season and qualified bakers apply their trade to bring delicious bread to some locals, the tourists passing by and the surrounding stations.
There are two stretches of bitumen between Lyndhurst and Marree. One 17km and one 12km in the 80km stretch of road. About 25km from Lyndhurst you turn off to Farina, once the hope of many farmers ,but their crops failed and they moved away. Later Farina became a railway siding but eventually the railway moved to a different location and all the sidings eventually fell into disrepair
We refuelled again at Marree and then made for Claytons Bore on the Birdsville Track where we sat in the hot spa chatting to other travellers.
The artesian bore water is pumped from the station well to the camping area where there is a bush spa, showers and toilets. Judith did the washing( she loves doing the washing) and hung it up on the new washing line which fell over a couple of times until she tied it to the van. We put the annex out so that we could keep the washing and chairs out of the night air. We had a little fire to warm our hands and feet. Before sunset I played BALL with Blaise. Later on I overbalanced inside and fell against the hot stove with a tender part of my thigh…man, did it hurt! Now I sport a serous burn mark on my bum. We were in bed by 8pm listening to some 60’s music on the radio.
Day three and we stayed in bed late and loafed around and although Blaise had us up at 6. It was a bit cool in the van and I found out why. I hadn’t closer the ram air cover. Had showers and did camp cleaning and other things before pulling out at 11am.
We chuffed along at 60km hour. Talked to truck drivers on the UHF radio along the way. Stopped to take photos and to pick up wood before making a dry season camp on Coopers Creek. Total distance driven for the day was 57km.
Day four and we managed about 250km. We saw Cockatiels, Corellas and some kangaroos and four emus and some cattle. The countryside was green up until Clifton Station and then it dried off severely. We collected wood along the way in the morning and turned in to Mulka Ruins for smoko. Then it was on to Mungerannie where we refueled at $1.90 Not bad we thought. Then we had two $15 Hamburgers a wine and a beer that cost $44 but it was worth it.
We meandered along to Tipiolio Campsite at the turnoff to The Inside Track but it looked stark on the Gibber. The Inside Track has been flooded for the past 18 months. So we crossed over the road but that did not seem good either and so we pushed on. Then we got stuck in the roadworks and whilst passing a real big tractor the driver pointed out to us that our door was open. It turned out to be the outer door skin but after that it kept on opening and ockey straps did not work until Jude decided we should use some Hundred Mile an Hour tape and that worked. We had some dust come in through the door but it wasn’t too bad.
Sunset was upon us and I found an old graded road heading off somewhere and so we ducked down there for about 100 metres, did a u-ey and settled for the night. The wind was bitterly cold so we decamped inside after a short ball game. As the sun was setting I took a brilliant photo of it shining up against the cloud cover. I had a snack but Jude just had a cuppa. Pretty tired tonight. We should make it in to Birdsville tomorrow.
Car and van are travelling well and my stone guard seems to be working.
There must have been some rain about 140km out from Birdsville as there were sheets of ponded water in small indentures on the gibber. We spied some Brolgas right on the side of the road and probably less than 100 metres from us and quite unpreturbed by our prescence. The van door opened again and we had to use more tape.
We arrived in Birdsville and our friend Ian wasn’t home. We found out later in the day that he was on his way from Toowoomba. We booked in for two nights next to the people we met at Claytons Bore. I had a trip over Blaise’s caravan lead and fell heavily on my knees on the gibber. A bit of blood and other oldies fussing over me. Jude got some dettol and dabbed the broken skin. I will live to fall another day.Then the Ram Air hatch broke when I closed it and we were fussing about fixing it. I managed to tek screw it back on to the lid but then had trouble with the spring. Phil from next door came over and did a quick repair for us improving on the work I had done. I received word from Joe who was out in the Simpson Desert that he hoped to be in Birdsville on Thursday and I replied that we would wait to catch up with him and his crew.
Wednesday June 7th and I had my 74th Birthday. I got a scarf and warm gloves and a bright torch which had already been bought. Jude did the washing and then I suggested that we go for a picnic on Big Red. That was organised and off we went for some fun. I discovered that Low Range was the powerful gear after three crosses and two failures at Big Red sand dune known to the aborigines as Nappanerica. Other travellers pitched up and we watched their antics. We crossed over Big Red, turned left and then eventually drove over Little Red and after that I spent some time pumping the tyres up again to 30psi.
Later in the afternoon Judith posted a card to her friend Heather and we took Blaise for her evening run with the ball game. Social media was very busy with many well wishes and lovely thoughts for my birthday. When we were young who would have thought that we would be in touch with friends all over the world and even in Birdsville.
Thursday we caught up with Ian and Joe who is coming out of the desert. We we went to play ball with Blaise in an open area near the park and it was there that I noticed that the nut and spring washer was missing from the MUX’s tow-ball.
So the hunt for a new tow-ball nut was on. The Hardware Store didn’t have one, the servo workshop couldn’t care less, the rubbish dump drew a blank and our mate Ian said he’d seen one somewhere but he thought that it might be somewhere in his shed in Toowoomba. So we drove off wondering.
And then I saw this old blue Landcruiser sitting in a yard looking forlorn. It had a tow-ball. I saw an old bloke in the yard, his name was Sonny and he was born in 1944 and called me an old fella and Jimmy in the shed, who owned the two properties of undeterminable age, both indigenous to the area. No worries mate, if you can get it off you can have it.
Well Sonny came to help me and he was quite strong for his age. I held the ball with the Stilson while Sonny worked the nut with my shifter and plenty of WD40. After about half an hour we got it off. Then we went to Ian’s place to get him to help us put the shebang together cos the shaft of the old tow-ball was quite burred. We needed the Stilson. So I went to borrow it from Jimmy.
Eventually we got the whole lot together. I returned Jimmy’s Stilson, gave him my tow-ball and a small contribution for his help and then told him I was from Peterborough and of course he knew a whole lot of people I didn’t but that didn’t deter him from talking, We finally got away from him and returned to the van
Now where was my mini file? Back to Ian’s but drew blank. Scoured the toolbox but could not see anything/ Oh well, will have to buy one in Alice Springs
I had a good sleep in the arvo ………
In the evening we caught up with Joe, Trevor, Les, Dennis and Bob at the Birdsville Hotel and had a great time. Bob we had know for some years before and Joe also an internet friend and someone whom we had met before and Les who we had met in Adelaide.
The next morning the blokes all hit the road early without saying goodbye alth0ugh Les had told me that he and Dennis were leaving early. Bob Young came around to say goodbye
After getting rid of our black water sullage we hit the road. The countryside is extremely flat with sparse trees to be seen on the gibber plains. The road surface varied from being sealed to being gravel and vice versa. At the shoe sign we stopped to hook uo a pair of unwanted shoes.
At Cuttaburra Crossing on Lake Machattie we stopped for smoko around lunch time and then got lazy and stayed the night.
I worked on the stone guard and read my book and threw a Yabbie net in to the billabong
The Yabbie net delivered ten good size Yabbies, 3 little ‘uns and one small Inland Perch fish, the latter being returned to the billabong to live another day. We devoured them this evening in a Pasta and Mornay sauce deliciously cooked up by Judith
There was some traffic heading north the next day but few and far between. Two road trains from the front and the second one kicked up a stone which chipped the windscreen in the bottom right hand corner. I got tired of driving and took a rest for an hour about 100km from Boulia. At Boulia we refuelled, did some shopping and Jude bought a brand new stainless steel tow-ball as a back up.
Whilst reversing back and forth in the campsite I turned too sharp and the back light lens cracked under pressure from the stone guard. I was going to remove it next!! Angry with myself. The lens replacement cost $175 in Adelaide from the wreckers which was better than the $435 from Isuzu.
We were tired out and after doing some internet stuff we fell in to bed
We slacked off for two days. Played Ball with Blaise, the latter disappeared a few times but always came when called. Another traveller started up a generator close by but turned it off after about an hour.
Tuesday: Took our time to get going. Did the toilet, filled up water, bought gas and groceries, took photos of tame Brolgas in Main Street and then took to the Donohue Hwy.
The first 60 or so kilometres are sealed and then it is dirt with the road deteriorating the closer we nudged to the NT Border. We has a tailwind all the way.
We crossed the NT/QLD Border and refuelled at Tobermorey at $2.05 per litre. The camp sites had lawn but at $25 for a site with no power we were not interested.
Just on then Plenty Hwy and the MUX dashboard says that w
e are out of fuel. With 112litres of diesel and no leaks we wondered where it had gone. Decided to ignore it and off we went. There were some bulldust patches but nothing serious for now. We started looking for a campsite at around 3.30 and at 4pm Jude spotted an old quarry and we camped. Had a lovely stew tea and a great fire but we were in bed by 8.30
Wednesday: Awake at 3am then slept till 6am. Started the car. No worries, Today the road was particularly bad with lots of bulldust holes. A bloke in an 80 series and van overtook us and then stopped. So we stopped. He came over and said that we had dropped some liquid. We said thanks and then found water leaking from the front tank. Decided to look at it at Arthur River. We collected some wood along the way, We made camp at Arthur River and then played ball and helped setting up the camp. Just before we found our camp my new GPS enabled Tablet ran out of battery. It turned out that the DC charger was only a 1 Amp charger and I needed a 2.5 Amp Charger. I remedied that in Alice Springs
Thursday and I found a leak from the inlet pipe to the back tank and taped it up. Tripped and fell hitting my head on the caravan’s doorstep and I cut my ear. Much blood and unhappiness. Read books and did camp fire cooking. Took photos. The camp was a bit dusty and prickly but we still enjoyed it.
Friday: Back on the road. Refuelled at Jervois station and got some water there too. The road improved slightly. Came across a roadworks crew and whilst passing oncoming cars a voice came over the uhf “Is that you, Willem” It was John and Adele Machin from Brisbane. What a coincidence.We had a short conversation about the Dulcie Ranges National Park which I had done a write up about some time before. Going off in opposite directions after our chance meeting the road improved somewhat and we passed another road crew. Then we hit the mother of all cattle grids which bounced the car and then we were plunged into a bulldust hole on the other side of the grid. Leaving the hole the car’s front wheels left the ground. It was quite a serious bounce but nothing touched the ground. I drove down the Binn’s Track road to have lunch at the Plenty river but could not remember if it was 2km 7km or 22km/ At the 9km mark we turned around. At last we found the bitumen a little way past Harts Range Community and after that it was plain sailing to Gemtree. We booked in for three nights and took part in Friday night Padymelon Bowls with our hostess Kate and her son Tom, at the helm. Judith two points for having a melon in the circle.A girl of 9 won the nights competition and a free nights camp for her family. Kate and her husband Aaron and their children run a very slick operation at Gemtree and give their all during the winter months of the tourist season. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights usually have some kind of entertainment on.
Saturday: And I discovered what looked like a leak of some sorts under the car as the splotches could be seen on the van. I jacked the MUX up and crawled under the car to find that there seemed to be a cracked brake hose leaking brake fluid. Hopefully we will make it to Alice Springs. We had visitors to our site by White wing Wrens and a little black male. They were so tame they even hopped on our feet. . I took Blaise for Ball throws and fetch outside the park but she picked up a few prickles in her feet. Saturday night was Roast Night in tthe Pit and 69 attended. During the day we read books, tried to get on the Gemtree Free WiFi and fiddled with things doing a bit of cleaning
Sunday:Decided to leave water tank hose until we get to Alice. Had some other campers join us by the fire and even bring some wood. Slept in fits as I had rolled up my sleeping bag and put it behind my pillows making me uncomfortable. Took my socks off as I got too hot in bed.
Monday: A cold-ish morning heading to Alice Springs. Stopped at T junction for leg stretch and doggy stuff and stopped again at Tropic of Capricorn.
Booked in to Heritage Caravan Park. Set up camp. Went to Isuzu to talk to them. They were not interested and suggested it may be an ARB problem. Pet shop said no fleas here at this time of year so don’t worry about buying stuff. . TV was on again and Masterchef filled the night before we went to sleep. Then Jude watched early morning cooking shows again. Just my lot, I guess..
Tuesday: Shopping and had Windscreen fixed at Windscreens O’Brien. Great stuff Cost$135 tho. However they told us we should make claim to our insurer. Massive washing day. Bought proper charger for Mapping Tablet. Played with Blaise on the banks of the Todd River.
Wednesday: Doing stuff. Balance of washing. Had dinner with Dorothy and Jack Grimm at the Juicy Rump Restaurant at the Convention Centre, Alice Casino. Ouch, those prices hurt but it was Jack’s shout. He insisted
Thursday: Had tyres swapped around at Bridgestone. Great service. Bumped in to our friend, Ianne, at Maccas and she volunteered me to work at the Beanie Festival. We went to Araluen at 4.30pm and listened to the Beanie Festival Convenor speak and then registered for some bits of work in the Gallery and Tea Shop
Friday: Emptied toilet at first light. Went to Beanie Festival Central. Bought some Beanies and Volunteered to work Saturday and Sunday and Monday in Gallery and Tea Shop. Jude did a workshop.
Saturday. I worked in the Gallery and Jude did a workshop
Sunday: Alice Markets were on and we found shady parking closeby. I walked the lenght of the Mall and back and we had the best Thickshake ever at Uncle Eddy’s Icecreamery at the end of the Mall.. That night we had a free roast dinner compliments of the Beanie Festival at the Gillen Club.
Monday: Odd jobs, washing and Jude does another shift at the Tea Shop. We hooked up ready to head south in the morning to the cold country, Brrrrrr.
The trip south was uneventful although we had our 48th Anniversary Breakfast at Cadney Park Roadhouse. We had a night’s rest at a quarry just off the highway and the next night we spent at a favourite stop for us at the salt Lake Hart. Recent rains had the lake covered in water.
The fuel light stayed on all the way home.