The Kimberley - A day of high drama on the Mitchell Plateau

Friday, Jul 30, 2010 at 19:00


Friday 30th July, 2010
Mitchell Falls Campground
The Kimberley WA

We were awake early to get things packed before the heat of the day set in. Scott and Gaby have decided to head to Mitchell falls with us as well which meant a little bit of a wait while they packed. What passed as tearful farewells were said to teh rest of the group at 10:00am and we were off. It felt great to be back on the road, the radio banter with Wallychops fading into static as we headed west through dusty country and wild cattle to reach the Carson and the Kalumburu Road at 11:15 a.m. It was getting very hot as we headed south taking lunch in the shade of a few eucalypts just past Theda Station. Reaching the King Edward River campground we made the decision to leave the quads rather than tempt fate and tow them 80 kilometres over the extremely rough track into Mitchell Falls. They were duly left at Dunmarri in the care of a bloke who’d done the shockers on his big F250 while towing his Bushtrakker and was waiting for a new set to be flown in from Kununurra.

We didn’t waste time, heading out for Mitchell straight away. There was a stop for firewood along the way finding suitable offerings easily enough. The road west provided a variety of road conditions but I would have to say that the overall assessment was “poor” condition. Getting close to the Mitchell Falls Campground, Vik piped up mentioned that she could hear a noise that sounded like a flat tyre. With the thumping and rattling of the corrugations I couldn’t hear a thing. She was persistent though and begrudgingly I slowed to down to stop with the intention at the very least of proving her wrong. I’d almost pulled the big rig to a stop when there was an almightily lurch and the car launched upwards and then slammed down hard onto its arse! As I sat there looking upwards at a 40 degree angle, I knew immediately what had happened. Vik, in her wisdom had to add “See!....I told you we had a flat tyre!” Thankfully I had a quiet retort at the ready…”It’s a little bit worse than that darling” says I whilst pointing out her passengers window and drawing her attention to our right, rear wheel rolling slowly passed her window into the bush where it tipped and turned lazy circles like a spinning 10 cent piece on a table top. Thankfully she had the good sense to say “Where did that come from?” and then promptly shut up!

I think my call to Scotty over the UHF indicating I had a “Tyre” problem was understating the issue somewhat. The look on his face as the guppy pulled up behind the Tuck Truck was priceless. Time for the GDEC pit crew to swing into action. It was obvious that the wheel studs had sheered. We recovered the errant wheel from the scrub to find that the rim was in fact stuffed, the inner lip of the rim being folded over by the undercarriage as it departed the scene. Apart from a few scuff marks, the tyre appeared unscathed but was not holding air as it should due to the damaged rim, Damn!

With the light fading fast, our well oiled duo (me and Scotty) swung into action. Our most pressing issue would be extraction of the wheel nuts, not so hard if they were pressed into the axle but a damn site more difficult if they were screwed in. Not being in possession of any ‘easy-outs’, I was dreading this last scenario. Using the Satphone, I quickly rang the mechanic at Drysdale to ask his advice and with much relief, was informed that the studs were in fact pressed and used knurling to prevent twist. Thank god. Now we could concentrate on getting the vehicle up off the ground. At about this stage of proceedings we were joined by a couple of young Victorian blokes, Murray and Toby, who were heading out towards KE River. They were amazed at our predicament and we quickly secured their vehicle jacks to assist in getting the rear of the ute up. It took about half an hour but we soon had everything on the level again making it a lot easier to assess the situation for damage.

Having nearly been stopped at the time of the mishap, very little damage had been done underneath the vehicle and none at all to the disc rotors. Scotty soon had the callipers undone and the disc rotors off exposing the axle. Using a centre punch, I quickly peened out the broken studs and in went a set of 5 new ones (something I’ve always carried since commencing outback travel in the 80’s has always been a set of wheel studs. Some may consider that anal but it certainly payed off here). A reverse process with fitting of new studs and then a new rim and tyre fitted and then the wheel nuts screwed on to pull the new wheel studs through completely. We were fitted, re-packed and ready to go in an hour and a half. Darkness was upon us as we headed the final 10 minutes into Mitchell Falls Campground securing a spot as best we could. The old camp area has changed since 2006 with the day parking are extended to encompass some of what had been o/night camping four years ago. Our nearest neighbours are somewhat loud and somewhat opinionated...about everything. I'll leave you to guess their nationality but let me assure you that their accent is somewhat guttural and clipped! Not the first time we actually wished someone would start up a generator to drown the sound of this bloke out!

A light meal and then to bed in preparation for the hike into the falls tomorrow.

Comment of the day 30 Jul 2010...."John is going to be sooooo jealous he missed this"! (Gaby D - Mitchell Falls Road just before we got going again).

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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