Day 29 to 34 of our Big Trip of the Simpson and now the Flinders Ranges

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015 at 16:02

Member - Matwil

Day 29
Well the damper yesterday did not work out as I had the coals in the fire turned up too high. The outside was charcoal but the inside was still salvageable, so we had the inside with butter. It was delicious. Today with the knowledge we had gained we made another one after we returned from a tour of Sturt National Parkand it was perfect.
The tour to Sturt National Park was very interesting. The Park is so named as the first Europeans to explore the area were a group led by Charles Sturt. Shepherds then ventured out that way when conditions became favourable, but it was the discovery of gold in 1880 that attracted over 3,000 people to the area. Conditions were harsh and deciese and poor results led to the gold rush petering out by the 1890’s, but the infrastructure for Tibooburra had been established and this allowed pastoralism to expand throughout the area.
The original habitants of the area were the Wangkumara people who travelled widely throughout the arid land and were sustained during times of drought by waterholes and permanent soaks. Once the area was developed for pastoral use the people were shifted further east along the Darling River. There is still plenty of evidence of their occupation with middens and stone relics throughout the area.
One of the large pastoral leases was the Mount Wood Complex. The homestead dates back to 1886 and was part of a 500,000 acre lease. This expired in 1972 and was acquired by National Parks. The self drive tour we took was the Gorge Loop road. First stop was a pastoral museum of farm equipment they used around the turn of the 20th century. There was a restored horse drawn Wim which allowed them to wash and clean the wool ready for market. This process reduced the weight of the wool by half, which was a great saving since they had to transport the wool to Sydney. To see the equipment they used was truly fascinating, and showed the ingenuity of the early settlers. The rest of the drive was equally fascinating as the landscape is truly magnificent. When we got back to town we made and ate our damper and then went to the pub. Facinating place with heaps of sketches done by Russell Drysdale on the walls. Great dinner, and then to bed for an early start next morning.

Day 30
Up early, packed up. On the way out we visited a park that has a replica of Sturts boat that he dragged across the continent. They must have been mad. After that short stop we were on our way up to Innaminka via another self drive trail in the North Sturt National Park. This one was the Jump Up Loop road. The country was substantially different to the previous days drive. There were remains of Mount King Station hich originally was part of a 26840 acre lease which also expired in 1972 and acquired by National Parks, and was the start of the STurt NP. The term Jump Up has us intrieged, but as we got closer to the formations the reason for their name became apparent. They just rise up out of the ground, and are truly spectacular. 100 million years ago this was all part of an in land sea. (Sturt was right but a 100 million years too late) . Part6 of the sea base had hard silcrete deposited on it. When the sea retreated there was a large amount of soli erosion, but the harder silcrete remained and somewhat protected the soft rocks underneath, leaving the hard capped jumped ups as you see them today.
We motored on and soon were back on the Silver City Highway and crossed the border into Queensland in the early afternoon. Two things we noticed when we crossed the border. One was the the standard of the road deteriorated, and two there was a noticeable change in the vegetation. I don't know whether this is natural, or it was cauded by the land being used for cattle in queensland and sheep and goats in NSW. Anyway it was noticebale. Also the abundance of wildlife we witnessed in NSW was no where to be seen on the Qld side. Might also have something to the dog fence keeping Dingoes out of NSW. Anyway we motored on without a care in the world, except a discussion on which way we would go to Innaminka. It was finally agreed we would go on the quickest route, even though it was not a major road. But it went past Santos station and we thought there might be something there that would give us some history of the gas and oil exploration and wells in the area. About 20 k’s after we left the main track we were edging along at about 60 klms an hour because the road was rough and suddenly all hell broke loose. I felt a slight shift in the steering and suddenly saw the left side of our bull bar rise in the air and then drop. I hit the brakes and suddenly the right side of the bull bar broke away rose up and fell again and ended under the front right side of the truck. Now it was a do and die effort to stop us turning over, and bring the truck to a stop, which I did as it started to veer of the road. Louise commented “ I think we are XXZZX now” and I replied “I think you are right.”
WE both jumped out and there was smoke coming from under the bonnet and the sound and smell of fire. I ran round and unlocked the bonnet and grabbed the fire extinguisher. My RFS & VRA training came into play. There was no panic from either of us but a fair amount of urgency. I could see our beloved possessions going up in smoke if we don't get it under control quickly. I opened the bonnet just as one cell of the battery blew off the water cap. The battery and wiring was on fire, and the noise dampening material inside the bonnet was on fire too. No time to prop the bonnet open so I got Louise to hold it while I got up wind and hit the fire with the extinguisher. Powder went everywhere. Louise was downwind and started coughing and sputtering. “Don't breath” I said, which in hindsight is not good advice. The flames died and gave me time to disconnect the battery.

We both looked at Clive and we knew were where going no further without help. We hugged each other as the reality of what could have been struck us. If this had happened at a time we were going faster or on a tarred road, I would not be typing this blog today. We were extremely lucky as we were unhurt and in one piece
We then checked on the GPS to establish exactly where we were and realised that it may be a long time before someone came along. I put out a distress call on the UHF radio to only realise that the aerial was connected to the bull bar and was now cactus. We did have a hand held, but is was 2 watts. We put out some emergency calls but no answer, so we now looked at our next option. Pitch the tent and camp the night. We had plenty of food and water so this was the best option. Also by remaining with our vehicle would ensure that we would be found. Too many people have died out here when they go looking for help on foot.
We pitched the tent and set up for the night and decided to wait it out for three days for someone to come along. If no one appeared by Monday, then we will activate our PLB (Personal Locator beacon) and we know that will bring the cavalry. Well now we are set up, we pulled the top off a couple of tinnies and watched the sunset. We had plenty of food and water, Louise cooked up a pasta sauce and we had pasta with home made sauce with red wine… delicious.




Day 31
We woke next morning to a beautiful sunrise. I made the morning expresso coffee and was about to eat breakfast when Louise piped up “I can hear a vehicle”. I answered… “Don't get your hopes up as your senses can play havoc out here”, to only see in the distance two small bright lights on the horizon. About 2 or 3 minutes later I could see a four wheel drive and wondered what was going through their minds when they saw Clive. Immediately behind it was another truck and soon we had four blokes from Horsham giving us a hand. One would you believe was an auto electrician and another a mechanic. After some quick introductions they had removed the bull bar from under the truck, isolated all wiring, checked the underneath and got us up and running again. The truck has two batteries, and only one was cactus. We turned the engine and Clive sprung to life. WE could now limp back to Tibooburra. What luck. One piece of misfortune and two lucky breaks. We bid our new friends farewell as they were driving though to Horsham in one day, packed up and then started to 130 klm trip limping back to Tibooburra at 30 klms and hour, sometimes slower.
We got to the Border with a sigh of relief to be met by the copper at Tibooburra who was on his way to find us to make sure we were safe and to escort us in. We got back to T’burra, pitched the tent and went straight to the pub. There we were greeted as long lost friends. Our story was all over town, and with the bull bar on the roof rack we were the star attraction. “Expecting to rain Kangaroos are Ya” , was just one of the comments. It was a great night so we staid for dinner and had one or two too many. I asked one of the locals what was the population of T’burra. He retorted “Thousands, but a lot died and left us”. The night rocked on. I love outback country pubs and the locals.


Day 32
Next morning a check over of Clive and the bull bar we set off for Broken Hill to get the truck fixed. The insurance company directed us to a repairer there. It took 7 hours for the 300 kilometre trip and we got in at sunset to return to the caravan park we had left a little over a week ago. It was bloody cold as well with a bitter wind.

Day 33
Up early I was around at the car repairers first thing to be told there was nothing he could do for me as he didn't have the equipment or staff to fix it within a month. I rang the insurance company and they suggested that they put the truck on the back of a truck and send it to Dubbo. “But I can drive it I retorted”, Are you sure he replied. “Well I have just driven it 450 klms, so I think it is” . ( Dubbo is too close to home and we have four weeks left of our adventure). “What do you suggest “said the operator. “Well” I retorted “Adelaide is closer by over 300 kilometers” Oh he said. He went away and came back and said we have repairers in Port Augusta. “That will do I replied” as it was closer to the Flinders Ranges where we wanted to go anyway. So we packed up and set off for Port Augusta. Funny thing is on the way up to Marree a month before, we passed by Port Augusta because we may come back one day. Little did we know how true that was.
The drive was slow at 80klms an hour and we got there a little before sunset. But the slow pace gave us time to take in the scenery, which as you get closer to Port Augusta is truly amazing.
Earlier I had rung the company that had fitted the bar and they got onto the Supplier. They were shocked as they had never had a failure of the bar like ours before. They directed us to a supplier in Port Augusta who would check out the vehicle and they were also sending a rep from Adelaide as well. As it was getting dark we went to a caravan park and booked into a room that had beds (nice and cheap) and went to the pub for dinner. The forecast for next morning was zero so the tent was not an option with the frame of mind we were in.

Day 34
Up early had breakfast and down to the supplier. They were waiting for us and soon had a mechanic checking the vehicle. Soon the rep arrived form Adelaide and everything started to happen. After inspecting the vehicle he rang his Head Office. They had never had metal fatigue like this before so didn't even have a protocol to handle it. But handle it they did. They are doing everything they can to fix the vehicle in the shortest period of time and get us back on track for our holiday. A new bull bar is on the way and the other parts we need are on the way as well. The panel beating and cosmetic stuff will be done when we get back to Sydney.
I can’t fault the company’s response. I feel at this stage it would be wrong to name them as they have gone over backwards to fix the problem and the failure was not their fault. Things can go wrong with any piece of equipment, it's the response from the company when it does that is important. If we get back out of here by Friday, we will be more than happy. Anyway it has given us time to catch up on the blog, wash clothes and restock the pantry. We will spend the next couple of days exploring Port Augusta.
Wanting to explore our vast wide land
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