Gibson Desert -West to Hickey Hills and proof that you ignore Mick O's Rule No. 1 at your own peril!

Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 00:00


Mick O's Rule No. 1 (Always has been, always will be!)

"When travelling, judge the setting of the sun accordingly and stop at least 45 minutes before sunset.Camp must be set, a fire going and all present must be of relaxed disposition with a refreshing beverage in hand so that the fitting homage is paid to the best time of the day....sunset".

Mick O’s rule no. 2. – “Ignore Rule No 1 at your own peril!”

Read on........

A great night’s sleep for a change waking at 5:00 a.m. with the song of the first birds. I was out well before the sun and into a few chores, mending four punctures in the quad tyres and making breakfast.Due to the trials and tribulations along our journey, Scott and John had identified that no factory fitted guard directly underneath the main alternator belt was a key problem. The belt is enclosed at the sides by mouldings but is open at the bottom. This had allowed a stick to penetrate and destroy John’s belt causing the bike to lose all power generation ability. The boys had rectified the situation by cutting up one of Gaby’s plastic wash troughs and folding some strips of tin into clamps. It worked a treat on the Whithorn-Cooke quad so Scotty decided to retro fit the solution to the other two quads as well. It also gave us the opportunity to clean out the accumulated dust, dirt and sticks with a blast of compressed air.

I did a bit of house keeping about the vehicle and whipped up a breakfast of Cheese and egg jaffles. and then headed for a walk along the ridge heading north towards the distant sand dunes. It was interesting picking my way along the shallow rocky gullies looking for signs of water and the possibility of more, silt filled rock holes. I also checked many of the rocky ledges and caverns for signs of recent habitation by the local wildlife. I passed the ceremonial stone that I had located on the previous day and eventually crested the sand ridge a kilometre north of camp.

Taking a different path back, I walked 100 metres or so to the east along the high edge of the rocky belt checking patches of mulga. I came across the old wheel tracks again and could only wonder at the provenance of these traces. Of the fact that they were old, there was no doubt as the sand had blown completely over the depressions making two red ribbons about 5 metres long. In softer sand they would have disappeared long ago. The questions who, when and why come to mind. One thing is for sure, they will last a long time in this environment protected by the sand that filled them.

We had a group photo around the rockholes and on returning to camp, found that Alan Mac's carefully annotated 250K NatMap sheet and blown from the table and lay smoldering in the campfire. Oh bleep ...we're doomed! Thankfully the miracle of modern navigational technology soon saw us headed north west towards the Hickey Hills hoping to reach a Google Earth anomaly that Alan Mac had located on Google Earth images. It was a tough route weaving through thick patches of Mulga scrub We were unable to penetrate them on several occasions and were forced to scout a route around them. Thank god for the quads! I could see some misery fast approaching and it manifested in the form of Outback Al who managed to stake the rear tire on the quad so badly that three plugs could not stem the flow of air. This meant a wheel change for the quad, the first of the trip.

Taking a hasty lunch we headed on across the spinifex country. The Hickeys appeared tantalisingly close and with nothing appearing in the way of a campsite in the late afternoon, the decision was taken to push on hoping that it would be a relatively easy run to the hills. Unfortunately, It wasn’t to be.We soon ran into a rocky range thick with mulga scrub. By this time we had broken Mick O’s rule No. 1 and continued travelling past 4:00 p.m. into the fading light. The end of the day came to us as ugly as it was quick. Out front, Al had entered a thicket of scrub to find his way blocked by a deep rocky gully. On pushing forward he staked a front tyre and then on backing out, staked a second tyre. As I cautiously wound my way after the group, the tyre monitor beeped ominously. I didn’t need the monitor because I could hear the scream of escaping air from the trailer tyre all the way from the cab. I’d driven a stake right through the side wall of the left hand trailer tyre. I would be going no further without a tyre change! That was affected fairly quickly and I managed to move forward about 75 metres to find an area flat and reasonably clear of scrub to provide a suitable camp for the night. The others had already found holes in the surrounding scrub and Al had managed to back out and get a jack under one of the flats before it totally flattened. Three tyres destroyed in less than two minutes! We would be busy tonight (see what I mean dear reader...ignore the rule - suffer the consequences!).

While there was still a bit of daylight, I whipped up a quick and hearty Bolognaise for the 6 of us and then the fun began. The drivers (work) side of the truck resembled a tyre repair centre as we began the process of stripping and patching Alan’s two tyres, two quad tyres and my trailer tyre. Due to the thicker sidewall construction, we had a bit of difficulty reseating Alan’s Cooper STT so I was forced to utilise the old ‘butane method’ once again. The cold night resulted in a fair bit of the gas pooling in a fluid form around the tyre rim as I sprayed. Once ignited, the rim burst into a ring of fire but failed to ignite the gas inside the tyre due to the lack of room between tyre and rim. The muted “oohh” of horror from the assembled crowd changed to an exuberant “ahhhh” once I sank the boot into the tyre sidewall, dropping the edge a fraction and allowing the flame an opportunity to ignite the internal gas.. Mission accomplished and all captured on video for posterity by Gaby and Suzette.

We were all dirty and tired by the time we limped to the fire late in the night. I’m hard pressed to remember if I even had a fortifying beverage but I do know it was a long climb up the ladder into the RTT and that I fell asleep pretty damn quick!

''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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