Bringing Henry Home - Cairns to Townsville

Saturday, Jun 10, 2017 at 10:00

Peter Beard (WA)

Saturday 10 June 2017

Henry is a 1985 XF Ford Falcon, and he is a shitbox. That’s not a pejorative term. Henry bears the tag with pride – it’s even written all over him. Henry has just completed his second Shitbox Rally, a brilliant adventure that takes 200 teams in old cars worth less than $1000 across Australia raising money for the Cancer Council. In 2017 the Shitbox Rally, including Henry, went from Adelaide in South Australia to Cairns in Queensland along some of the most remote roads of central Australia raising more than $1.5 million for cancer research. This is the story of Henry's trip home from Cairns to Perth but is also the story of his epic journey to get to Cairns in the first place.

Henry hasn't done this trip on his own. Riding with him all the way is Pete, who has also just completed his second Shitbox Rally. Kris, Pete's son, was with Henry and Pete for the trip from Perth to Adelaide and then the rally itself for his second Shitbox, too. Ali is along for the ride home, a great road trip across northern Australia.

Being a Shitbox, Henry has had his challenges. Yesterday Pete and Ali spent an afternoon outside A1 Mechanical in sunny Cairns getting Henry ready for the trip home. Main job was putting a Speedi-Sleeve on Henry's rear left axle in an attempt to fix a leaky seal for the third and (hopefully) final time. The radiator fins needed a good blast out with an air gun to remove bulldust from the Plenty Highway, ditto with the air cleaner. The tail lights weren't working but it was a quick fix - just a blown fuse. A top up with fuel and Henry was ready to go.
An easy trip today, down the coast from Cairns to Townsville. Coastal mountains covered in a riot of trees, vines and ferns look over fields of sugar cane and bananas, their precious hands of fruit wrapped in plastic bags to protect against insects and other damage. The Bruce Highway dips down to the ocean only once on its journey to Townsville, at Cardwell, where travellers get a fabulous view of Hinchinbrook Island.

Very different scenery from Henry's first day on the road nearly three weeks ago. Pete and Kris left Perth on a cloudy Monday morning for the long slog to Adelaide. Clearing Perth fairly easily it was a straightforward drive through the wheatbelt - Northam, Kellereberrin, Merredin, Southern Cross. Change drivers - then it's Coolgardie, turn right and finish the day at Norseman. Henry hummed all the way through the flat plains just seeded with wheat - temperature sitting just right, all the squeaks, rattles and grumbles settling into routine background noise. At the pub in Norseman, Pete fell in to conversation with a local only to discover he is the brother of a long-time friend, who he first met as a teenager working for the WA Government Railways and they are still firm friends. If fact they had just enjoyed a lunch together a few days previously. That's Western Australia for you, two or three degrees separation at the most.

Reaching Townsville, Pete and Ali have settled in to the Quest Apartments in Palmer Street and retired to the Shamrock Hotel across the road to watch the Dockers play Brisbane Lions. Not sure if they will bump into someone they know but judging by the score at half time it will be the Queenslanders and not the Western Australians celebrating a win today...


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