“Truck Driver/Diesel Mechanic”
Must have an adventurous spirit and a full set of working tools – please send photo of tools.
Okay, well it’s not that serious yet but I’m just getting this ad ready for when one more thing goes wrong and hubby finally resigns.
It has all been my fault as I insist we take “the road less travelled” or as it’s better known out here, “the road more corrugated”.
While still in the Pilbara, it was all going swimmingly, as we departed Karratha. We had sat through the induction video and obtain our permits to drive along the Rio Tinto Railway Access Road heading towards Karijini National Park and although it was a dirt road the whole length, it was very well maintained and not a big effort to traverse.
Eventually we arrived in Karijini National Park and the dirt roads continued; some pretty good and some less so. Karijini is a stunning national park with many picturesque gorges and water falls and, depending on your level of fitness, abundant hiking trails to explore. I wore hubby out, hiking into every possible gorge, but it was well worth it; the stunning views of the steep, red-walled gorges reflected in the clear blue water of the ponds and rivers below were breath taking. The gorges were gorgeous!
Leaving Karijini we were blessed with a bitumen road and hubby thought he had it made, until we pulled out of the roadhouse at Auski and onto the road to Port Hedland where a passing 50m long road train (not all the mining companies can afford their own railway system) threw up a rock which bull’s eyed our wind screen. Luckily our insurance covered 90% of the cost but it did mean extending our stay in Port Hedland waiting for one to arrive from Perth almost 1,800 km away.
After it was installed we took a small detour to Marble Bar on our way to Broome; a mere 400 km out of our way, and worth it, even if it did entail a “short cut” comprising a long section of dirt road via Pardoo to Cape Keraudren on the coast.
In Broome I was successful in convincing hubby to, once again, hit the dirt roads and take a side trip to Cape Leveque, a round trip of less than 500 km. Halfway up the cape, at Beagle Bay, we discovered oil dripping from our transfer case after we had engaged low range 4×4.
From there to the tip of the cape the road was bitumen but, by the time we got there, the oil was pouring out. Luckily there was a mechanic in residence at the Kooljaman Resort.
He told us we had blown a seal (I didn’t remember meeting the seal, and he certainly didn’t even buying me dinner beforehand). Our oil topped up, we were able limp back to Broome, albeit without engaging low range, and there we waited for more spare parts to arrive, this time, from Sydney; the glory of driving an imported truck.
Hubby did try his hardest to convince me to scrap my plan to traverse the Gibb River Road, a 660 km long, notoriously rough, dirt road between Derby and Kununurra with many rougher side tracks to various gorges along the route. But would I be deterred?
The first day was a breeze with about 30% of the road being bitumen, the balance being slightly corrugated and very dusty. The biggest obstacle was seeing through the dust kicked up by passing road trains.
We camped at Windjana Gorge for the night and the next morning made a trip to Tunnel Creek.
By day 2 the road had deteriorated but it was still not as bad as the road to Cape York we did last year and it did not deter us from making a few side trips. Over the next two days we travelled into Bell Gorge, Galvans Gorge and then Manning Gorge.
On day 5, by the time we had hiked the 5 km round trip to Manning Falls and back, ferried across the Manning River by means of a tinny and length of rope, and collapsed back at our campsite, hubby was just about over gorges and would have been happy to have Scotty beam him up straight back to civilisation.
Then the radiator started leaking.
At this point hubby was prepared to throw in the towel but I told him it was only a small leak and we did, after all, have 500 litres of water on board the Beast, having just filled up at the Mt Barnett Roadhouse where we had also gloated that, unlike the other suckers, with a 400 litre Diesel tank we were not forced to buy fuel at $2.05 per litre. I did however concede defeat in my endeavours to convince hubby that we should include a quick side trip to the Mitchell Falls, a mere 1,000 km return trip on even rougher dirt roads.
And lucky I did, because as we motored passed the turn-off, and were not more than 5 km into the home stretch with only 350 km to Kununurra an ominous rumbling beneath the Beast brought us to a grinding halt.
Upon inspection to the Beast’s under belly it became apparent that things were not as they should be. The drive shaft (that long tubular thingy that makes the wheels on the bus go round and round), was dangling at an odd angle. The bracket that held it straight was hanging from the underside of the chassis, split in two places. Definitely not good!
My first instinct was to send out a “Mayday” call over the CB radio on UHF frequency, to no avail; no repeater stations within Cooee of here. Hubby’s first instinct was to sell the Beast for scrap metal and fly home.
As with the road to Cape York, the Gibb River Road is no longer the road less-travelled, in fact, it is very well-travelled. Within 10 minutes of us putting out our hazard triangles a cloud of red dust appeared on the horizon heralding the arrival of our heroes; a young engineer named Cameron and his partner Tanya, with satellite phone at the ready. We hastily called the closest facility, Ellenbrae Station, 50 km away.
A very helpful chap named Logan answered our call and said he would try to organise a tow truck from Kununurra and we should call him back in 30 minutes to see if he’d been successful. Unfortunately, Cameron, Tanya and their Sat-phone were heading to Mitchell Falls, but they took our calling card and GPS coordinates and promised to call Logan from the Drysdale River Homestead, over an hour’s drive away, and if he’d had no success, would arrange with someone from Drysdale to summons a tow truck for us.
We settled in for the duration and cracked open the tucker box. Halfway through lunch we heard a car pull up. It was Cameron and Tanya back again. They had got just 5 minutes down the road when they decided to call Logan back to see what he had been able to organise. Unfortunately he’d been unsuccessful in finding a tow truck this side of the next full moon but he would drive out to see if he could help us. What a lovely couple; they even refused our offer of financial compensation for their satellite phone call. Although we did thank them profusely at the time, in the hubbub, we unfortunately forgot to get their contact details so we have no way of contacting them tell them how truly grateful we are for their assistance.
Within the hour Logan, with big white Akubra hat and his handy tool box, pulled up in his trusty Ute. He said that, at great expense ($4,000), a tow truck could be procured from Derby, but not for at least three days. Thank goodness he had the foresight to call a mechanic mate of his and upon his advice proceeded to disconnect the whole rear drive shaft from the transfer case to the rear axle thus enabling us to motor on once we had engaged front wheel drive. It was not a free service and he was rewarded handsomely for his assistance; at least the Beast had less weight to carry with our wallets now empty.
The corrugations increased in depth and breadth and there was one wide river crossing to negotiate before finally, after three days of limping along, we arrived at the turn off to El Questro Station and were overjoyed to finally get back onto the bitumen.
At last hubby could to get out of 2nd gear and really ramp it up to the break neck speed of 60 km per hour and by lunch time we were in Kununurra. That was 4 days ago and we are still here and will be for the foreseeable future until parts can be located and shipped in. We might be eligible for permanent resident’s rates at the caravan park if we are here much longer.
While Logan and hubby were under the Beast, disassembling our drive shaft, I overheard hubby comment that I might need to start advertising for a new driver, and while I was at it, I should stipulate that he also be a Diesel mechanic. It was then that I started to pen my opening advertisement, let’s hope I don’t need it any time soon.