Over 12months in the planning and preparation, anticipation high and we’re off! Thursday 29th July, Jules and I headed off on our long awaited 9week trip to Qld and back.
Our long term travel buddy, Rod, had ordered a new caravan that will be ready for pickup in mid August. So our original plan was to leave a few weeks earlier, (prior to Rod and BJ leaving), so we could head to Victoria to catch up with my family. We’d then planned to head up the east coast to Canberra to catch up with friends we’d made there in 2019 before meeting up with Rod and BJ in mid Qld around late August. We were then going to travel together for another 4wks, heading home along the top of Australia, taking in the unique locations and getting in some Barra fishing.
Well COVID hit (again) initially putting Victoria at risk, before NSW failed to manage their outbreak, which is still ongoing and getting worse, so some late re-planning saw us plan the following route.
Even this route was put in last minute jeopardy by the recent SA COVID lockdown, however, luckily SA managed to control their outbreak with their borders and restrictions easing at midnight Tuesday morning, just two days before we were planning to head east.
So, here we are. Day 1 of our 60day trek. We’ve planned and checked everything, including getting the car serviced early and managing to get our Pfizer vaccinations completed. A nice, leisurely get away just after 9am – which is highly unusual for us because we’re normally on “Tony time” – with our first stop planned for a free camp somewhere north of Norseman, about 600kms away.
Despite being windy, luckily westerlies which were pushing us, and damp, we were in high spirits, enjoying the drive and the “us” time. Then, approx. 60kms east of Northam there was an almighty bang! Reflexes kicking in, I looked in the rear mirror to see white stuff being strewn across the Great Eastern Hwy and my first thought was we’ve done a tyre and the van had dropped its arse on the Hwy and that white stuff I’m seeing is the rear fibreglass covers. Luckily I was able to pullup quickly and safely, well off the Hwy, on a nice straight and visible piece of road.
My first guess was correct, we’d blown a tyre – completely – it was gone, but I’d managed to pull over quickly enough that there didn’t seem to be any damage to the wheel rim. But on closer inspection we realised that either the tyre guts, and/or the van dropping suddenly onto the rim, had smashed the plastic wheel arch and actually ripped out the bottom panel, including our fire extinguisher and light switches of our door side cupboards.
At first, I (Tony), was in denial, and got straight to trying to change the tyre for the spare. This was when the storms we’ve been suffering through in Perth decided to pass over so I then got VERY wet, muddy and cold, before my rational brain, and Jules’ calm suggestions, made me realise that this wasn’t a simple change of tyres.
So, it was onto RAC – luckily we had mobile coverage – where they organised the fantastic Northam Towing crew to come pick up the van.
Back at the tow yard (in Northam), we managed to offload most of the van contents into the car and started heading home. As we pulled out of the tow yard, we got a sudden whiff of fuel but didn’t think anything off it as we were in an industrial area, pulling out of a smash repairers etc.
As we left Northam we called Rod to give him our news and to advise that we wouldn’t be joining him on the trip. Now that we’d calmed down a bit, Rod’s thoughts were similar to our own in that whilst we were well and truly pissed off, we were glad we managed to control the blow out and pull over safely. It could have gone so much worse… A major blow out like that at 100kms could have seen us easily swerve and roll, or worse yet move into the path of oncoming traffic, especially one of the many road trains. So, with heavy hearts but clear heads we left Northam at around 4pm, heading home.
Just a couple of km’s east of Wundowie (about 70kms from home) the Ranger suddenly flash “low fuel” before all manner of warning lights appeared, so once again we quickly pull off the Great Eastern Hwy, this time facing West.
We get out of the car and there is an obvious and overpowering smell of diesel. I pop my head under for a looksee and the whole undercarriage is dripping in diesel. I pop the bonnet and follow the fuel puddles and spray to what looks like the fuel filter, where one of the three hoses is clearly flapping in the breeze.
FUCK – this was one of may expletives we let loose….
In preparation for our trip, we’d had the car factory serviced just last Tuesday, which included, you guessed it, replacement of the Fuel Filter… We’d only done 500kms since the service, but we now find ourselves stuck on the side of the road again, having dumped over 120ltrs of diesel on the road (Northam to Wundowie). Back on the phone to RAC, who after I’d explained that I wasn’t re-ringing about my earlier caravan claim, said they’d get a local mechanic to call me. An hour later (around 5:15pm by now), the mechanic calls and after I talk him through the situation, he suggests I get the car towed back to Perth as whilst the pipe is probably an easy fix, he said he’s aware of this occurring before and there being other issues. As it’s a lease car and I didn’t want to risk causing any more damage, we then got the RAC to organise another tow truck, this time for the car.
Just after 8:30pm, our old mates from Northam Towing turn up again. Unfortunately for us, they only have one truck on at night and he’d picked up three jobs after getting our van back into Northam. We seriously can’t thank these guys enough. An absolute brilliant crew.
We got the towie to dump the car on the front lawn, thanking him again for their help and managed to get into the house about 9:30pm. Cold, still damp, tired and very pissed off. The girls and in particular, doggo Harri, were happy to see us though.
So, here we are. Friday morning (30th) on which should be our first proper morning on the road but instead, I’m typing this post from home. As I said earlier, the day could have gone much worse so we’re very thankful we’re safe, that the van is mostly cosmetic damage and the car should be an easy fix – insert “fingers crossed” emoji. It does mean, however, that our long planned trip is officially off the cards as it’ll take at least a month, if not longer, to get the van booked in and repaired. I’m still trying to work out what we’re going to do as I’ve now got 9wks of leave booked but no van… We’re thinking about trying to get away locally, down south somewhere for a couple of weeks so I get a break, and I’ll then re-assess, likely returning to work early (yay)..
Post over – yep, it truly sucks to be us today..
In a few years we should be able to look back on yesterday and have a laugh, but right now it’s still pretty raw..