Day 9 Mystery Box Rally Stage 3 - Innamincka to Arkaroola 22 October 2018

Tuesday, Oct 23, 2018 at 05:00

Peter Beard (WA)

Hot, covered in dust, no shower and Ali is feeling fantastic. A day with clear skies and blistering sun - 38C in Innamincka and just as hot further south in Arkaroola. But a hot day has its advantages, as you will see.

Conditions yesterday produced many casualties. If you’re keen, there’s a Cadillac stretch limo sitting on a track in south west Queensland, somewhere between Tibooburra and Innamincka. But first, back to last night and the amazing work of the triage mechanics.

Many, many tyres met their match but, saviour of the rally, there is an Iveco 4x4 truck and trailer combo along for the ride with a range of spare tyres and a full tyre changing machine on board. The tyre man Craig worked like a machine well into the wee small hours much to the relief of those who had flat tyres through the day. Cars in various states of (dis)repair were neatly lined triage. Pete and Ali wandering through were delighted and impressed to find Buddy Group 14 lending a substantial hand. Fury Road and Good the Bad and the Ugly put a new distributor on a fallen EA Falcon, packing the old one away for later. Then it was back to the cars for a last beer before hitting the swags.

James’ sermon this morning included requests for teams slow down when passing other buddy groups parked on the road, two medals for cars that failed to make it out of triage (one of them being the Cadillac that technically didn’t even make it into triage) and a rousing version of “happy birthday” for a Mystery Boxer. Then came the announcement - today’s destination is Arkaroola 420km down the Strzelecki Track. And given the distance and track conditions all teams would be sent out spaced further apart than yesterday. Buddy Group 14 was just hoping to have clean air for Henry to run - the temperature not boding well for keeping Henry cool.

Two buddy groups were called, who then announced they needed to stop for fuel back at Innamincka. Head of support Mick and master of the start line walked over to Pete and asked “Your team ready to go?”
“Yep” replied Pete.
“Anyone need fuel?”
“Nope”.
“Right”.
Over the radio come the lovely words “Team 14 is out next”.

And that is how Henry came to lead the rally all the way to Arkaroola.

The trip was straight down the Strzelecki Track. Originally it was planned for the cars to do the Old Strzelecki Track but track conditions were not good so it was the joy of a smooth, flat, wide and relatively straight trek south. Mines and gas fields keep roads in this part of the world well graded, Henry happily purred along at 90 - 100 km/h, the temperature gauge hovering at half way. Not far out of the Moomba gas fields a skinny dingo glared at the passing procession. A couple of guys working on the side of the road with pipes looked a bit bemused to see a bunch of old cars roar past. They had no traffic control, probably thought they wouldn’t need it. “Only need a couple of cones, it’s the middle of the desert for Christ’s sake!” Little did they know we were just the advance party of 150 cars, some with trailers, and a truck!

Over a cattle grid Henry suddenly stopped. Dead. Had a couple of big spits and rolled to halt. Shit. Box. Now what? Buddy Group 14 pulled in behind and half baled for the bushes for a pee, the other half to under henry’s bonnet to peer under with Pete. Team Fury Road nailed it; the low tension lead had fallen off the coil over the cattle grid. Took all of five minutes to find it and two seconds to fix it and Buddy Group 14 were back on the track.

Thundering along on a smooth track was pretty good. So good that Buddy Group 14 caught up to the scout car - the lead vehicle out that sets the path and pace to camp - not far before the Mt Hopeless (such cheerful names out here in the outback!) turnoff down to Arkaroola. The team slowed down and stopped for lunch in the middle of the baking desert, huddled under the two awnings available among the six cars. A half hour later it was back on the track and before long they caught up with the scout car again, going a bit slow because his buddy on Support 6 was missing. Henry did not like slowing down and was in danger of blowing his lid when the scout called a halt to wait for Support 6. Back to huddling under the awnings and umbrellas, the lady from the scout car kindly donating some frozen asparagus to help cool the burn Pete had picked up from fixing Henry back down the road.

Finally Support 6 turned up; he had had a moment where the trailer and the car wanted to part company on the gravel - a sobering experience for anyone. Scout shot off ahead with the team sign-in sheet (all teams must sign in on arrival so that a full-scale search isn’t mounted for them) leaving Henry and Buddy Group 14 to follow in front of Support 6. Henry got hotter and hotter as creek crossing after creek crossing prevented him getting up to speed and cooling down. With the heater and its fan on full and the windows down, Pete and Ali were delighted to finally turn onto the Arkaroola track. Just 30 kms to go!

In the middle of a stinking hot afternoon Buddy Group 14, lead proudly by Henry, were first into camp behind the scout car. We won a stage of the rally! Well, not really. This is not a race so there are no prizes for getting to the end of the stage first, but it still felt good. But not as good at the showers, the first one after three days, and it was sweet.

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