The Four Corners. 2014

Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 07:07


Finally the time had come for the trip up to Devonport to make the Ferry and on to the big Island. After just over 12 months in the planning this trip would take us to all four terrestrial State corners, with a few diversions to some iconic places like the Flinders Ranges, Simpson Desert, SBJT, bottom half of the CSR and on into Perth to volunteer again as Course Marshals in what was to be the final Australasian Safari.
The trip was to take us three months going to Perth, and a further month returning home to Tasmania zig zagging through Great Victoria Desert.
The new 2013 D-Max Space cab was finally ready, despite a number of frustrating problems with the modifications and extras we had added to it. The finished article looked like it would do the job.

We made Ferry in plenty of time, looking forward to a night crossing and a very important date for brekky with Mick O in Melbourne.
After a calm crossing we were ready to start eating the seat covers when we got in the car to disembark. So we gave Mick a quick buzz and the arrangements were made to meet up at his house. It was really good to catch up with Mick and Vic, Mick having just returned from one of his epic trips so there was a lot to yarn about. The excellent food disappeared in a flash as we chatted. What an incredible resource Mick is, the knowledge he has and places travelled to in Australia is really awesome.
The outline of this leg of the trip is to follow the Great Ocean road, through the back blocks of coastal SA and on up to the Flinders Ranges.
Mal, our travelling companion would be with us as far as Port Augusta. Mal had bought our HDJ78 Land Cruiser while he was working in the Antarctic 12 Months or so previously without even seeing it, we had agreed to house it and look after it until he returned from his stint there. The drive around the coast was magnificent despite the rain!

In Port Augusta Mal had to leave us and head for Perth for the imminent arrival of a Grand Child, good thing too as he made it with only a little time to spare, so this was to be the last time we saw our much loved and well travelled Troopy. :-(
Moving right along, we had a major shop in Port Augusta, this was to last us out for the run through to Alice Springs, via the Flinders, Strzelecki, and the Simpson.
The Flinders Ranges are a lot more spectacular than we had imagined and the history of how they formed really interesting. At this time of the year however, the weather was really cold (colder than we had experienced in two years of living in Southern Tasmania). Some of the views from around Wilpena Pound speak volumes of the massive and violent forces involved in how this place was made.

There are a few interesting trails in this area, some historic ruins, famous Stations and rich heritage for the traditional owners.

A small diversion to Leigh Creek and Lyndhurst was handy because it involved crossing the Flinders in two different places in order to get back to Arkaroola, and then on up the Eastern side of the Flinders to join the Strzelecki track.
Talc Alf's place was a must see for us, and as we arrived at his place a huge Wedge Tailed Eagle launched from a fence leaving the Sun eclipsed due to its impressive size, anyone travelling with small dogs should be cautious as this bloke would have had no problem taking off with a Jack Russell sized Tootsie roll in each claw!!!!
Alf wasn't in! Bugger, regardless of this there were plenty of his remarkable sculptures dotted around the place to have a look at.

Arkaroola has some interesting tales to tell with the Skytrek being only a part of it. The Sprigg family have a fascinating history of true grit not only being the family behind Arkaroola, its development and preservation, as well as association with famous explorers such as Mawson and to cap it all off, being the first to drive a vehicle across the Simpson Desert, an early Nissan Patrol. ( We were later amazed as we drove through the Simpson how this family had managed that trip.)
We spent a few days there blown away with the whole story, and also amazed at the enormous numbers of Feral species that have been removed from this area. This place was one of the many highlights of the trip and definitely worth another visit at some point in the future.

The first of the speed humps.
Gill had been having some issues with our laptop and about Arkaroola, we got a number of different coloured 'screens of death'. Not the end of the world, but with 3 plus months on the Mainland it would cause us some problems if we were unable to get it fixed.
On the way up through to Mount Hopeless from Arkaroola I had started noticing that the floor in the Canopy was getting a bit damp and hadn't worried too much as it had rained quite a lot on the trip so far, this was to come back and bite us on the bum a bit further along.
The Strzelecki Track was in superb condition and a great drive through to Montecollina Bore for our first night in the bush proper. With no light pollution, the sky and the stars were really spectacular.
A good variety of birdlife seems to use this water hole, it was quite a surprise to see so many different species making use of the water and life it gives.

The Cameron Corner track was surprisingly good with only a couple of blow outs on the dune tops, well marked with sticks and branches as makeshift traffic cones, it does pay to keep the speeds down approaching these crests if only for the possibility of meeting a vehicle coming the other way.
After visiting the first of the terrestrial corners this trip and taking the mandatory photo.

While parking the car prior to heading over to the Corner Store, Gill saw a bloody great Cat walking across the bottom of the car park like it owned the place, when we got into the building to ask if it was theirs, the story that followed was very disturbing, the Boss of the place shoots anywhere upwards of 6 Feral Cats almost every day!! It seems the fence around Queensland see's these Cats wander right past the buildings here.
Anyone who knows me understands how strongly I feel about these animals, and had the Boss been there I would have bought him one of his beers. It's really worrying what sort of damage numbers like these are having on the native animals in this area and in our Country in general, we have seen cats literally everywhere we have been, but not in numbers like this. Perhaps the native apex predator is not here in large enough numbers to have any effect in this area.
Back at Arkaroola there is a old photograph on display of a Feral shoot that shows a mound of Rabbits and a dozen or so Feral Cats in the back of a ute, when they took it upon themselves to declare war on these Ferals. Good effort, when the little native critters are gone, they are gone. Enough of the rant!
Lunch and the company was good at the Corner Store. Heading back West the time had come to move some of the fuel from the under tray tank into the main tank, stopping about 50 kms West of the corner we were greeted with water pouring out of the Canopy???????
Speed hump 2.
The discovery of our 60 litre aluminium tank losing its precious contents of Cygnet rain water was a real concern. This is the first time ever, we have travelled with only one primary water container.
When I had designed the canopy I considered this at length and the result was. 'Its an aluminium tank inside a metal box' what could possibly go wrong? Hmmmm.
Fortunately we had the remains of a 15 litre spring water container in the car and managed to fill this before the last of the water disappeared into the sand. Most of the canopy contents were up off the floor on slides so consequently nothing much was soaked. With that dealt with, we immediately discovered another issue.
This next speed hump became apparent when I tried to bring some fuel down to the main tank from the under tray 95 litre tank, as this tank was higher than the main tank, the plan had been to let it drain in using gravity. This could be done with a drain line from the under tray tank tapped into the filler neck of the factory fuel tank filler, with a stainless steel ball valve inline. To cut along story short, I opened the valve and peered into the filler neck at the outlet from the under tray tank to see nothing coming out????
Another 'Oh S#@*' moment, had that tank let go as well? So I tapped the tank with a spanner and it didn't go ding like an empty one would, so I took off the filler cap for the under tray tank and had Gill look inside the cars filler neck while I tried to blow into the other filler neck. Nothing! We had brought with us the extra piece of that fuel line on the 'just in case we need to help someone out and drain some diesel into a jerry can' theory. This came in handy as I was able to disconnect the fittings in between the 2 tanks and then blow till I was blue in the face, thankfully it cleared and we were on our way to Innaminka for the night. Phew. ( After our return home and removal of the tank it became apparent that the welds at he bottom of the tank had cracked right through the middle.)

Innaminka has a great Pub so the plan was to head in there for a chew.
A friend of ours from EO and Australasian Safari was crossin West to East on the French line and we had planned to surprise him in Birdsville before we crossed going the other way, so the next day Haddon Corner would be the destination. Before we left I scrounged around and managed to buy a water jerry from a bloke who had a broken back window in his Jeep caused by a rock bouncing off of the front of his trailer on the Cordillo Downs road, poor bugger, his family and everything inside the car was covered in dust! Not ideal.
We did get out to the Burke and Wills memorials and Dig tree, pretty sobering really, if only they had been nicer to the local people and learnt from them some survival tips on what to eat, their outcomes might have been very different. They say you never stop learning.

The Birds nests in the shelter are pretty cool, makes you wonder where they got the water from to make these mud wonders.

Haddon Corner is a good little spot just inside some sand dunes, we noticed an Exploroz sticker and one from a Rockingham motorcycle group.

On the way to Birdsville the Sensatyre TPMS alarmed, left rear, so we got the jack out and had a look at the damage. Gill said to try plugging it, why not? I thought, after 3 strings and no more bubbles in the soapy water there was still 20lbs in the tyre. Wonderful thing that Sensatyre system. Friends of ours in WA had had bad experiences with the valve cap type in the past so I knew we didn't want those. MickO speaks highly of the Sensatyre internal units and after playing with ours a bit I'm inclined to agree with him, the alarm must have been pretty much immediate.

On arrival in Birdsville there was no sign of Dunc so we camped in town and as luck would have it, on the way back from the Bakery the next morning a Troopy pulled into Barnseys service station, it was Dunc, so we shot the breeze for half an hour or so and then they were off towards Birdsville on his whirlwind trip.
There were quite a few in the Caravan Park in town and quite a few interesting vehicles one group had an old 40 series and a Defender 90 both loaded up for the trip and another group had an Isuzu NPS with a fifth wheel type body on the back and a massive box under where the hitch would have been, he was running the standard dual wheels on the back. Funnily enough they were from Burnie so we had a yarn there for a while, he showed me some pieces of reinforcing mesh he was planning to use 'if' they got bogged!
Apparently it didn't go well for them we found out from some other travellers who caught us up because of another bloody speed hump, but we'll get to that a bit later. So with the last minute chores done and phone calls made we made off.
To say that the Simpson is special would be an understatement, that's what I reckon anyway.

It was very different from the last time we had been here, no oceans of water between the swales!!!
The days were getting a bit warmer than in the Flinders too and the flies more numerous.

We didn't see much or hear much on the UHF radio the first day, it was turning out to be a fantastic relaxing drive until just after Poeppels Corner.

The shock absorbers in the rear of the car were becoming less effective at controlling the leaf spring rebound this became a real show stopper over the next few days when the brand new Sax shock absorbers failed completely. Our leisurely crossing had turned into an an arduous exercise, the back of the car became a Pogo stick bouncing uncontrollably, in order to get up the dunes as we headed West the tyre pressures were reduced to 8-10 psi fortunately at walking pace they don't get very hot at these low pressures, I had switched the Sensatyre unit over to read the tyre air temperatures instead of pressures. By the end of the third day we couldn't wait to get away from the dunes this meant putting in massive days behind the wheel to get not very far at all really.

The part that Isuzu had sold me (the ute) was terrific, even at these really slow speeds cresting dunes the D-Max has phenomenal tractability, driver error had us get bogged only once on the crossing.
So after years of carting those Maxtrax around we had a chance to try them out in anger, one word, superb!

Originally our plan had been to go via the lone gum and then follow the Rig road as we continued West this had to be amended to continuing on the French Line as we were both suffering from breast bounce related injuries by this stage and the most direct route should see us get to roads the car could handle better a little sooner. At camp one night I removed the new rear shocks to test their resistance, they were better suited to a California Low Rider, completely useless.

It seems every night in the bush since Montecollina Bore at some point we would see aircraft, who knows where they were going.
At Purnie Bore we saw the Mount Dare ute heading East, the story goes that a guy in a Prado was somewhere out near the Erabeena track on three wheels and after getting a price for recovery from Barnsey had elected to have parts taken into Mount Dare and driven to him to fix himself, must have been some quote!!!!!

Dalhousie Springs was a real treat, soaking away the aches of being thrown around by a bucking D-Max and massaged by those little Piranha in the swimming hole was a real treat, it's amazing what pops up with a drop of water!
We saw a few Bikers at the Dalhousie ruins, big BMWs with all the bolt on bits. The building and the stock yards affording a treat for budding photographers, we spent quite a bit of time looking over the ruins here snapping a few shots.
The people that built these were pretty handy, it must have been really impressive when it was a going concern.

After the way the suspension had been handling, we left for Oodnadatta and Coober Pedy for a rest and risk assessment to consider our options regarding the rest of the trip to WA for the Australasian Safari.

The Painted hills at Arckaringa were well worth the small diversion.
The weather was bitter and raining as we approached Coober Pedy, we had been here at similar times of the year in the past so the rain was a bit of a surprise! A decent feed at John's pizza place and then for a change we rented a cave for the night at Riba's. This was really quite good, very cosy and as black as ink once inside.
It was quite funny at the introduction given by the Boss lady about the water here being the second purest in Australia, due to the towns reverse osmosis purification process. Mrs Kanga asked where the purest water happened to come from and she said "Tasmania"! We told her we had just watered the Strzelecki near Camerons Corner with about 60 litres of our rainwater from home (incidentally we should be bottling and selling it as it really is good!)
After a couple of freezing days, literally chilling out and climbing all over the D-Max we decided to continue with the plan and head up to Alice Springs for a few days before heading out to Uluru and the Surveyor General Corner etc.
In Alice Springs we would need to get a service on the D-Max and thought it wise to have another set of eyes have a thorough look over the car, this was done by the Isuzu Dealer in town, he mused over the suspension for a while and also had his opinions on the best shocks for the car, wasn't impressed at all by the Sax efforts!!!
The next couple of days in Alice went quickly, resupplying and doing a bit of sight seeing. Devastated to find that the Rivers store had shut down!!!! As well as quite interesting to find that all the Bottle Shops, when open, have a Police presence out the front??
We needed to check that our Transit Permits were OK for our intended routes along the Mulga Park road, the SGC, and then up to Warakurna for the Sandy Blight Junction track, everything was in order.
Chambers Pillar has been a fascination of mine for a long time, so sort of on the way to the SGC we took the small detour to see it and on arrival had the place to ourselves. The trip down from Alice Springs was a nice enough drive, retracing some of the Finke Desert race course and a couple of small stages of the old Ghan railway, there are still quite a lot of railway dog spikes laying around on these sections.
We came across an interesting looking slow moving vehicle in the distance and as we approached noticed that it was under tow!!

The Pillar and surrounding country are quite remarkable.

At first and last light the rocky outcrops in this area light up with ever changing beautiful colours, a better photographer than I would have a very busy time day and night. The night sky was an endless horizon to horizon pool of black speckled with all things celestial.

Gill decided to make some bread in the camp oven, so while I busied myself getting an adequate fire made, the secret Womens business took place and after all the necessary risings etc into the the camp oven it went which was left to bake while the rest of dinner was prepared, a couple of drinks, night sky to ponder and dinner was ready. While I was serving up Mrs Kanga put on the welding gloves to remove the bread, she took off the lid, let out a shriek and behold the bread was gone!!!! What the??? I turned around to see what the fuss was about to see the bread stuck to the underside of the lid of the empty camp oven she was looking into. After it was cut away from the lid, dinner was consumed, and all was good. She had had quite a day after earlier being surprised by a King Brown near the base of Chambers Pillar. After a good nights sleep and breaking camp, we headed down to Finke and Lamberts Centre of Australia. The wild flowers on the track into Lamberts put on a show for us.

From Lamberts we headed back out to the Stuart Highway and then North for a refuel at Erldunda, a couple of drinks at the bar and the day was almost over, so we decided to spend the night camped at the roadhouse. Camped not far away was a Hilux from Tassie. Troy the owner, was wending his way back towards the Melbourne for the Ferry to cross back over Bass Strait, funnily enough he lives at Police Point just across the river from us!
We had some time to kill and thought a trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta would be nice for the small diversion, before heading to the SGC. The vista overlooking Mount Conner was fantastic. The last time we passed through a massive sand storm in central Australia had blown thousands of tonnes of central Australia to the East and its effects had been experienced as far as Sydney! Consequently on that trip Mount Conner was all but a dusty smudge on the horizon.

We stayed at Yulara for the night and met some people from Germany who camped nearby and were good company for a yarn during the evening. After refuelling the next morning, the last of the corners was in our sights and the trip East back towards the Mulga Park road turnoff seemed to take seconds, even with the Sun low and in our faces!Mount Conner looks even more impressive to closer you get to it. The Country that the Giles Mulga Park road travels through is not really what I was expecting, really nice drive through some very scenic Range and Desert country, with the odd Len Beadell plaque to see along the way.

There were a few stretches of road work on the GMP road, graders doing their thing, on the whole the run through to the SGC was on a decent road passing the odd deceased car of varying State rego's.

The 2 markers at the SGC which marked the final landmarks we visited before heading over to continue in WA.

Somewhere along the GMP road I felt that the car was not riding right, so an inspection revealed another speed hump.

The Sax Suspension had thrown another curve ball at us, the 3rd stage leaf on the passenger side of the D-Max had broken, it actually looked like it had shattered! The shock absorbers had failed in the Simpson Desert and the Sax replacements now fitted were not performing well either, now this. So this was to be a deal breaker for the rest of the trip, given where we were, the choice was to limp either West to Laverton or return to Alice Springs to get replacement parts for the vehicle.
Unfortunately the only real solution was to return to Alice Springs for parts and figure out what to do from that point.
The trip back to Curtain Springs ( the closest place to have a real good look at the extent of the damage ) took quite a while longer than expected and we arrived in the dark, after doing all that could be done removing broken parts, the D-Max looked looked decidedly lame now being approximately 80mm lower on the passenger side,we managed to reduce this deficit by repacking all the heavy items on the Drivers side and the lighter things on the Passenger side, even with that done we were still around 50mm out of whack and the road camber wasn't going to help us any.
Dinner was a somber affair, thinking about the plans we had made and letting down the crew at Australasian Safari if we were unable to get parts in time.
Arrival in Alice Springs and a phone signal had us busy with calls and messages. I rang through to Sax and spoke with the Sales Manager who was going to organise the Leaf spring and some other associated parts to be expressed to the G'Day Mate caravan park, where we would stay. In the meantime we had some other calls to make with Gill still trying to fix the computer, and after a number of different colours of 'screens of death', recovered enough to be reasonably useful.
The plans had to be changed quite a radically when Mrs Kanga thought she'd have a look a Ferry availability for the month ahead to get us back to Tasmania.
The final Speed bump, because of our height (over 2.1 metres) there was only one day in the next 5 weeks that had a berth for the car, and that was in 10 days time!!! This meant that if the Suspension parts didn't arrive before Friday ( in three days time) we were going to have to get them forwarded home and leave Saturday morning to make the Ferry in Melbourne, unfortunately that is exactly what happened.
Although Alice Springs is pretty central, express mail can take quite a number of days to actually arrive apparently. David, at G'Day Mate rang me the following Wednesday to let me know the parcel was ready to pick up in Alice and by now we were nearing Adelaide, so I had to ask him to mail them through to our address in the Huon Valley.
The rest of the run down to make the Ferry was pretty uneventful really apart from meeting up with Troy again! The guy we had met previously at Erldunda, he was booked on the same Ferry, small world!
On reflection, it's sort of funny how you can spend a great deal of time and money researching and purchasing products to 'improve' 'strengthen' 'increase the performance' whatever, when one of the few things that gave us NO trouble was the actual car Isuzu had sold us, if the motor in the D-Max hadn't been as tractable as it was, allowing us to get over the dunes so slowly, I reckon we would probably still be bouncing around in the Simpson Desert on the Sax 'Pogo-spension'. Unfortunately the salesman patter for after market 'improvements' is not very helpful when a problem occurs that messes up a trip that took over a year to plan, cost thousands of dollars and happens on another Island far away from your home.
Tempus Fugit

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