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Down UnderCar Trouble & the Kindness of Strangers

On 9 August 2004 from Lake Argyle, Western Australia , trackback

We left Fitzroy Crossing on Friday morning, but after a while the car seemed to be pulling back (suddenly lose power) at higher speeds. So I pulled into a rest area and at that time the engine stalled as well, and I could not get it started anymore. Unfortunately, this happened between Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, 140km from both towns (they would be considered villages back home, with a population of around 1500). So there we were, stuck along the highway in the middle of nowhere, with no GSM signal either. Fortunately, we were not the only ones at the rest area, and I went to a couple standing with two utes (pick-up trucks). They checked out my car, but could not find anything that was obviously wrong. So they got on the radio to ask for a ride to Halls Creek or a satellite phone to call the RAC (Royal Automobile Club, WA’s ANWB/ADAC/AA). Next thing we know this large road train (truck with 3 trailers) pulls in, and we got the RAC on the satellite phone. However, they were charging A$200 just to get out there. In the meantime, a tourist from Melbourne with his parents had pulled in as well, and he offered to tow us to Halls Creek in his rented LandCruiser. That seemed the most viable option, so we ended up getting towed for 140km to Halls Creek. Indeed, the kindness of strangers. It was not easy though, since power steering was not working and the brakes were really bad because the engine was off. But we made it, and called the RAC from the Shell service station. It took them 2 hours to arrive from a workshop not even 5 minutes away, so that was not a good impression. But they had the engine running within 5 minutes by adjusting the distributor. Of course we thanked the tourist from Melbourne with a good supply of alcohol (he would not accept any money, and beer is currency in Australia).

On Saturday we had not even got back to the highway before the car stalled again. So we called the RAC again, and it got fixed again. Once more he adjusted the distributor, but told us it should really get fixed. However, no one in Halls Creek had the time or the parts to fix it soon, so we decided to take it easy and see how far we could get. We managed to get to Turkey Creek, and had the engine cool off there for a while. When we departed the problem only seemed to have gotten worse, and I did not think the car would make it to Kununurra, 200km along the highway, so I turned back to Turkey Creek. There I called for a mechanic, and an old typical Aussi guy with a long white beard showed up. He was thinking the problem was in the spark plugs, but those turned out to be fine, and he also came to the conclusion that the distributor was broken. Luckily, he had a second-hand one in one of his engines, and he built that into mine. If you consider that Turkey Creek is just a roadhouse and an aboriginal community, it is pretty amazing that I managed to get my car fixed there. But after almost two hours it did get fixed, it was running smoothly, I was 90 euro poorer, and we were on our way again.

We managed to get to El Questro without any further problems, and we joined Ray and Jenny (an Australian couple we met at Silent Grove campsite) for dinner. El Questro is a 1 million acre Wilderness Park (that is about the size of the Netherlands) with some very upscale accommodation in the homestead (500 euro per person per night), but also chalets and campsites. Needless to say, we stayed at the latter, but spent most time at the bar, using the bar’s campfire to heat the marshmallows.

Sunday morning Sally, Claire and I went to Zebedee Springs: natural hot springs in the El Questro Wilderness Park. After relaxing there for a bit, I brought Sally and Claire back to the campsite for some sunbathing, and I went to El Questro gorge. I was surprised to see a few 2WD vehicles in the El Questro resort, because it is necessary to cross a river to get there, although the river is not deep at all. A lot of roads in the Wilderness Park were 4WD tracks though, impossible to do by 2WD. This was also the case for the track to the El Questro gorge, part of it was very sandy (needing lots of ground clearance) and there was a turn-off in the middle of a creek crossing. The gorge itself was great to hike in because it was very narrow, and the steep cliffs walls gave a lot of shadow. I did the full hike, requiring to wade through waist-deep water at the halfway pool. The hike was supposed to take 2,5 hours, but only took me 1 hour. At the end there was a beautiful waterfall streaming into a rock pool, so I went for a nice swim there. After driving back I joined the girls sunbathing at the river, and we made some nice dinner.

Monday morning we packed everything in the car and were ready to leave El Questro, but the car did not do anything. I got the mechanic and it turned out to be just a loose battery contact, so after that was screwed on everything worked and we drove to Kununurra. We made it just a fuel, food, and tourist information stop, and continued on to Lake Argyle, where we spent the afternoon at the pool of the caravan park.



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