French backpackers stranded in WA

Submitted: Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 11:04
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A good outcome, but how many actions could have been done better?
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Reply By: allein m - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 11:13

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 11:13
Friends from the UK sent me a link from a back packers site in the UK

it says the best phone service in Australia is Telstra Blue tick you will get reception almost every where in Australia

so if your stuck in the outback you can get help

I have sent the link to SES friend who was amazed and forwarded it some one higher up

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Follow Up By: Member BarryG - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 11:26

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 11:26
As far as I know, 'Blue Tick' is given to mobile phones that are the best performers for hand-held use in regional coverage areas. Most (by area, not population) of this country is still not in a coverage area.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 13:02

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 13:02
Testra claims to have coverage to 98% of the population.

Optus about 97.4%

The problem is that that population lives in about 12% of the land mass of Australia.

Despite a few years ago an emergency service person saying that you can call 112 from ANYWHERE in Australia you cant.

No service no connection.

Only option is a Satsleeve or a Thuraya Dual use Cell/satfone
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Follow Up By: allein m - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 13:46

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 13:46
I live in Broken Hill and there is lots of places with in a days drive from me I get no service even with blue tick and external high gain antenna

CDMA was better

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Reply By: Phil B (WA) - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 13:28

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 13:28
Yes a good outcome - fortunately they were on a road that gets a bit of traffic.

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Reply By: Member - Robert1660 - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 14:02

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 14:02
Hi Guys,
I have commented on this forum before about the issue of OS tourists travelling in remote locations. Whilst travelling across The Great Central Road we met a Swiss couple travelling in a hired 4WD Landcruiser camper van. It was of concern to us that travelling on this remote road without any significant mobile coverage was a real concern. They had already found the distances they were travelling quite demanding.
When in the NT a few years ago we came across two people who waved us down and indicated they would appreciate if we could help them recover their bogged HiAce mini bus. On reaching them we found a group of Irish tourists, a number of which had had one or two more Guinness' than they should have. The story of the bogged vehicle was that the boys wanted an off road adventure whereas the girls wanted go swimming.Well the boys got their way and managed to get hopelessly bogged in sand. Fortunately, they were in an area not far from a reasonably busy track. Of course we pulled them out of the sand. However, this does indicate the dangers faced by people who are unaware of the demands of travelling in remote areas.
The hire companies must provide the necessary information and advice for our OS travellers. I am not sure that this is necessarily the case.
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Follow Up By: allein m - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 15:46

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 15:46
The hire companies must provide the necessary information and advice for our OS travellers. I am not sure that this is necessarily the case

what hire company s need to do is prepare a basic book on what is required just basics

contact local police shovel ect

now they new hirer should have to sign for this and if they do come stuck and were not provided with a basic skill form the hire firm should be made to pay for recovery costs
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 19:09

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 19:09
I've hired plenty of vehicles, and in every case, the information and warnings supplied were adequate and comprehensive. The problem is getting hirers to read the info.
In the case of hiring a Britz vehicle, we were obliged to sit and watch a 20 min instructional video - which covered all of the vehicle operation - but it could have covered safety issues in depth as well.
However, the safety issues were well-covered in the written instructions.

In the case of the French backpackers, it seems pretty obvious that they didn't have a hire vehicle - they had bought a $1500, pretty tired "backpackers special", Falcon wagon - and expected it to perform like a 4WD, on what is still a rough track in places.

It's also pretty obvious from the damage to the vehicle, they were going "pedal to the medal" and unable to stop in time when rough sections of road appeared.

The French backpackers wouldn't be the first - or the last - to break down on that road and walk.

I can recall someone scrawling in charcoal on the Ivy Tanks water tank, during the mid-1970's -

Hopefully the backpackers have learnt a few lessons and take more care. It could have been a story with a different and more grim ending, if they'd been travelling in the peak of Summer.

I am a long time user of the Lake King-Norseman road and the original Hyden-Norseman road, and I have travelled both of these roads many hundreds of times, from 1972 onwards - in nothing more than 2WD Holden utes.
I can assure you, they weren't exactly top class roads in the 1970's, with long stretches of sand, deep corrugations, and overgrowth - and so many regular fallen trees, that I always carried a chainsaw.

Not once did I get stuck or break down - because I kept my utes in good condition, carefully picked the weather, never went through them if it had rained within the last 5 or 6 days - drove carefully, carried plenty of water, fuel, food and tools - and I always advised others of my movements and ETA's, and to come looking for me, if I didn't turn up within a few hours of my ETA.

The only time I did get stuck - for a whole day - was when I graded the Eastern section of the Hyden-Norseman road, around 1984, at my own expense, with my own grader, to improve the poor road condition.
The brother dropped me off from the Coolgardie Rd end, to do a days grading heading East, and the grader promptly broke a blade lift component, within an hour of starting off!

I was stuck there for the whole day, able to do nothing! But I had food and water, so no dramas.
When the brother returned in the evening to pick me up, he was rather surprised at how little grading I had achieved for the whole day! LOL
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Reply By: maurice b - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 16:39

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 16:39
In July 2011 I was with a group of friends on the Kitson Track and a French Couple in a Brit's Hire Troopy were lucky we come along as there vehicle had fallen into a deep washout and where unable to get themselves out.They were there two days before we arrived .We dug them out then found they didnt known about the manual hubs which won't engaged
AnswerID: 592274

Follow Up By: Member - Terry W4 - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 18:07

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 18:07
Agree. The hire companies are ignoring their duty of care and may find themselves in deep legal water.

I recently (last month) rescued a disabled Budget hire Prado 150 which had shredded a tyre on the road to Arkaroola from Blinman. Not only were the tyre pressure too high but the driver was being helped by a French tourist couple to lift the car with the provided defective jack. He had not received any advice on how to get the tyre cover off the spare or what tyre pressure to use when driving gravel roads in 40 degree temperatures. .

I had all the gear - hydraulic jack and reduced all of the pressure on his tyres. BTW when I checked the spare it was at 46PSI. We followed him into Arkaroola and he shouted us dinner that night.

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Follow Up By: 08crd - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 21:55

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 21:55
We came across yanks bogged in a 75 series ute, locked in the hubs and reversed out, they didn't have a clue.
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Follow Up By: allein m - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 08:51

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 08:51
the big problem today is the 4x4 with so much technology in them any man or his dog can drive one

but when things turn pear shape and they get stuck in a serious bog they just do not have the skill set or understanding on how to get out

There is a skill in being able to travel in the outback and most think they do not need to learn because of all the technology

things like tyres what pressures what gear is best for this hill or how to use diff locks and so on

people see al4adventure and it looks easy but it is not
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Reply By: Danna - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 18:45

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 18:45
Hi every one.
Most of hiring companies don’t allow OS visitors to go off-road even they hire the 4WD’s. If client want to go 4Wding, they must tell to hire company their intention to do so and they must sign a declaration they will not go to the restricted areas. The restricted areas are usually where most of us, serious 4WDres go. Even such “Hwy” as Birdsville Track and Oodna are off limit to those people.
When it comes to those French, they were unreasonable to go anywhere in that rubbish bin. It is a time people like them start paying for the recovery!
Cheers Dana
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Reply By: Bigfish - Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 19:19

Monday, Nov 02, 2015 at 19:19
Its not only hire vehicles. Many buy cheap 4wds and once the trip is finished sell the car and all their gear before heading back home. Its amazing how ignorant most o/s travellers are of the distances and safety issues when travelling Oz..
AnswerID: 592279

Follow Up By: allein m - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 08:40

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 08:40
I meet a guy from the UK few weeks back at down in Adelaide in a coffee shop only been here few days and wanted to travel and I said you need premium road service and some basic gear

also a decent vehicle the dirt roads can find any weak spots and then you will have more problems

he had the impression you could get help easy

I explained basic road service is around 33 ks in most places you are only a fraction of the roads most trips are 200 to 300 between road service stations and with out road side assitnce it is a expensive day out

what I did shock him with was you really cannot depend on help these days some will stop but others will not
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Follow Up By: Bigfish - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 08:53

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 08:53
Another issue I found after retiring to Cairns is that the majority of o/s travellers expect everything to be cheap and try to do a trip on an unrealistic budget. I am sick to death of seeing the hideous painted vans that would be suspect if subject to a roadworthy(as has been proven when crackdowns on these vehicles have taken place). Many do not carry a reasonable tool kit, spares or even a decent vehicle manual. Its very easy for them to say...I,m sure someone will help us. Whenever I go on any trip I plan to be as self sufficient as possible , apart from RACQ Ultimate roadside assist!!!
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Follow Up By: Phil B (WA) - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 09:44

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 09:44
A number of posts have said Hire Cos should do more to inform the travelling - the tourists are told and given info but without 4wd experience they don't realise the significance of the info or appreciate how serious things can get when they go pear shaped.
Many of us had years of experience up our sleeves before we ventured out beyond and knew what might happen and what to expect.
How do we get this message across?

I have a favourite saying 'They don't know what they don't know".

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Follow Up By: Steve in Kakadu - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 10:18

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 10:18
Thislink is appropriate.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 12:30

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 12:30
Australia is a big country which is mostly populated along the coastal fringe. Once you cross the Great Divide and head westward, the country becomes less forgiving, distances between centres increase and facilities become sparse.

How do we communicate the importance of having a plan, a well-equipped vehicle, and what to do in an emergency to people of various backgrounds and whose first language may not be English?

In short, with great difficulty I suspect.

Most travellers to Australia have access to the internet and a few sensible questions in Google will turn up enough responses that will flag to the reader that Australia is like no other place when it comes to harshness and remoteness.

Hopefully this will flag further enquiries.

Websites like ExploroZ provide a wealth of information to those who are willing to ask questions and look for answers.

But ultimately the buck stops at the person travelling and whilst it could be argued there is a duty of liability and responsibility, especially in relation to hire car firms, I suspect their legal departments have it well covered – not that safety should be an exercise in liability management (although it tends to be these days!).

It is worth considering there is a conflict for the tourism promoters, whether they are Government Agencies or private car rental companies to promote tourism and not “scare the kids away” – so this is something that needs to be addressed as part of the solution…

Ultimately, the problem sits close to the “too hard basket” and is left to insurers’ to sort out the aftermath of issues as they arise…

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Follow Up By: Steve in Kakadu - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:00

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:00
This year I noticed a lot more backpackers self driving as apposed to taking a tour, the problem is that those Wicked vans, Jurassic park 4WD's and pre owned backpacker vans are the vehicle of choice.

MVR in Darwin tested 100 Wicked vans for a road worthy 64 failed, yet they are still aloud to hire these pieces of crap to unsuspecting backpackers, the mind boggles.

Another thing, earlier this year the Gimbat ( road to Gunlon) had a major upgrade, drivers disobeyed the speed limit and subsequently there were 10 serious accidents on that road this year including 2 vehicle towing caravans having a head on, all of the other accidents were backpackers in a wicked van or one they had bought from another backpacker.

I was lucky on one occasion when I was nearly taken out by a towed caravan,I was driving slowly in order to show my pax something when this car driving flat out around a corner and through a dip in the middle of the road final saw me and braked, I was able to maneuver off the road safely and thank christ I was because when he finally stopped his van was well past where I was parked we would have been stuffed to say the least.

I guess we just need to keep a look out for these carefree travelers and give them a hand when they need help, after all we are happy to give free advice on this forum, why not extend it to the bush ??
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Follow Up By: allein m - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:37

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:37
the problem is not new I rember currant affair channel 9 20 year or more some company in Queensland hireing out mini mokes

they were death traps the channel nine crew hired one pretending to be tourists and drove it to a inspection station it was towed back to the company it was so bad and they company just refused to say any thing

they are fleecing hard working tourists who have saved a lot of money to go on a trip of a life time and that is sad
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:59

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:59
These French backpackers were driving a Falcon Futura - maybe a hire car, or more likely one of those vehicles that gets sold from one backpacker group to another. So in this case all the concern about 4wd hire is missing the point.

The key question is how to get some key messages across to overseas travellers - like staying with the vehicle, having appropriate means of communication, and having plenty of water with you.

Seems that all the internet connectivity that we all enjoy isnt doing the job of alerting o/s travellers to the steps they must take to stay safe while out here. Or is the case that in the excitement of making travel plans careful research goes out the window. Having said that, to people from Europe where distances are less and the land is more densely populated, it must be hard to really comprehend our distances and isolation without first hand experience.


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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 14:15

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 14:15
Falcon hey ?
So almost 100% road tyres, and cheap ones at that, likely minimal tread.
Even deflating road tyres a bit isn't going to go well on most of our outback 'roads' which are tracks with sometimes sharp rocks, cricket ball size rocks.
Sure, the locals get by, but then of course they have issues too, sometimes accidents, or just abandoning vehicles fairly regularly when things go astray.

Agree, the Jack Absolom tv was great viewing as mentioned in the post below, does 4WD TV or All for Adventure cover things like outback driving and tips for all our outback scenarios ?
I really haven't seen much of them to be able to form an opinion of the modern versions of 4WD tele.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 14:55

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 14:55
the difference between the Jack Absalom shows (and a lot of material of the time) and modern 4wd shows is that the Absalom stuff stood alone and was specifically produced to raise awareness of the issues while being entertaining.

Pretty much all the modern 4wds shows have a primary purpose of selling product and glorifying the adventure.

They glorify the adventure so that you buy the product.

many of these shows border on the irresponsible, showing people doing risky things and going risky places

In many there is an emphasis on illegal modifications and "doin' the hard tracks".

One of the few modest shows that appeals to the normal family who wants to get out there consistently shows poorly executed bordering on dangerous methods and is laughed at in the serious 4wd community as a pretty boy, looking like a well dressed fool ..... of course he's well dressed he has a clothing sponsor.

They are so rediculous there is a well known parody, "Russel Coit", that is closer to the truth than many want to know.

Most of the modern 4WD lifestyle shows don't do the moderate 4WD and touring community any favours and contribute very little to public awareness and safety.

Jack Absalom did more for remote awareness and safety in his couple of books and few short videos than all the 4wd lifestyle shows have done combined in the last 10 years.

I know there may be member or two that crewed on some of the modern shows ...... sorry I call em as I see em.

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Follow Up By: The Landy - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 15:16

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 15:16
Hi Val

The problem is probably not unique to travel in Australia, I’m sure similar discussions are had around “bars” in other parts of the world – bloody tourists!

But I’m hearing you, how do you get practical information to people, potentially in a number of languages, who will do it, and will it meet its mark?

There is a lot of stuff out there, but I suspect one of the big problems when it comes to foreign travellers, particularly the younger back-packer set, is the word of mouth affirmation that “you’ll be right we had no problems…”

Completing something successfully doesn’t necessarily mean that it was done safely, but human nature doesn’t equate it like that, where an all too common assessment is that reaching the goal equates to success, regardless of the implied risk…

Cheers, Baz

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Reply By: The Bantam - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:59

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 13:59
People particularly from overseas continue to not grasp the vastness of Australia or the arduous conditions.

A lot of these people come from places where you are never more than 30Km from the next town and dirt roards are a rarity.

Oh and no matter what you tell them they simply dont grasp the heat issues.

Back in the 80's the Jack Absolom books and videos dis a hell of a lot of good raising awareness & I dare say saved lives ...... Good on ya Jack if ya still kickin',

What we need is a new modern series in a similar vein.

and make em compulsory viewing for all incomming backpackers. ..... make it a visa requirement.

AnswerID: 592310

Follow Up By: allein m - Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 08:11

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 08:11
i actually live around the corner from Jack and speak to him now and then very nice guy

have not seen him for some time he is getting on now

one day when when i took my daughter to his place he just got off the phone and said to me just talked to some TV guy and have no idea where or who he was lol

fantastic man and very approachable
FollowupID: 860488

Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 11:54

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 11:54
allien, Jack's one fella I'd love to meet sometime, and have a talk to.
If / when you next see him again, can you tell him from me he was much appreciated for all the entertainment and adventures he gave all of us here in Oz.
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 15:01

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 15:01
Annien ... mate next time you see him give him my thanks and point out to him that he probably saved many lives whith those books and videos.

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Follow Up By: allein m - Thursday, Nov 05, 2015 at 20:49

Thursday, Nov 05, 2015 at 20:49
ok I will say some thing to him next time

I actually come from Perth and moved to wagga and then Broken Hill and was amazed to find he was just around the corner from me he used to walk his dogs past my house and that was when I spoke to him

He is a wonderful cheerful guy and as I said very approachable and he to chat with sadly he is getting on now I just looked it up he is 89 now if my maths are correct lol

Born in Port Augusta, South Australia, he worked in the North Mine at Broken Hill, New South Wales, where he has resided for the past 50 years. He was brought up in the Nullarbor, west of Port Augusta, South Australia and from an early age developed a wide knowledge of the Australian outback from Indigenous Australians (Aboriginals) who still existed in tribes at that time.[1]
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Reply By: Gaynor - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 15:51

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 15:51
To add a little balance to this heavily partisan crowd - Australians also die in the Outback. It is not exclusive.

2005 – Bradley John Richards and Mac Bevan Cody - near Georgia Bore, CSR – Australians

2008 – two Aboriginal deaths – near Kintore - Australians

2009 – two Aboriginal Elders – Minyerri, Northern Territory – Australians

2011 – Truck Driver - Gunbarrel Highway – Assuming Australian

2012 – 1 died, 1 survived – Queensland – Australian

1986 - James Annetts and Simon Amos in the Great Sandy Desert – Australians

2013 - Jodie Hall - near Well 42 CSR – Australian
AnswerID: 592313

Follow Up By: Gaynor - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 15:54

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 15:54
I am obviously referencing cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion. This is what a quick search pulled up.

btw. The Search facility on this new program is bad. Easier to search in google to find an ExplorOz topic.
FollowupID: 860466

Reply By: equinox - Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 20:00

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2015 at 20:00

Sounds like they panicked a bit, I can understand that. (I've only read a couple of articles on the story so there may be facts I haven't heard)

They probably thought that they were in a remote area, to the French, especially younger people traveling overseas it would appear to be out in the middle of nowhere. In reality there were not.
I'm wondering why they walked to the east towards Norseman as they were much closer to Lake King....

To be honest this talk of 4WD/ Hire companies taking responsibility, compulsory training and the rest of it is way over the top in my opinion. Only a handful of people get into this type of predicament a year, even less pay with their lives. It is not such a big issue.

More people get run over in the cites, or accidentally get killed by wild animals. I know it is easy to be critical of these people, as most of us reading this forum know better, but you have to look at the bigger picture and be realistic. People dying in the bush as a consequence of lack of preparedness and experience is such a small number of the total of other deaths in Australia from other causes, people just have to take responsibility for their own actions.


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In whatever comes our way.
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Follow Up By: Member - Terry W4 - Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 17:31

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 17:31
Not over the top. Think you will find a lot of damage done to vehicles and stress caused. All it would take would be a small brochure advising hirers to read the vehicle manual, how to use the 4x4 capability, whether in fact they can go off road or not, tyre pressures and 'un-sure of position' advice.

Duty of care met.

FollowupID: 860507

Follow Up By: friar - Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 17:33

Wednesday, Nov 04, 2015 at 17:33
Back in 1970 met up with some Poms,25$ imports, great guys shared a house with them in Perth, I was driving a truck weekly to places like Port Headland Tomprice Goldsworthy, getting a little side tracked here but these 3 Poms got off the boat in Sydney bought a Hillman Hunter,did the Birdsville Track Nullabour & ended up in Perth where I met them, Looking back I would say they were very lucky boys. John.
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