We have swapped the red landscape of Mt Isa for the green grass of Orange.
Getting here wasn’t as easy as it could be. Handy hint – if you are going to have car troubles in outback Queensland, don’t have them on New Year’s Day. Or anytime really, as all those little towns don’t have what you need to get on the road again.
We blew a hole in a hose which is apparently important in speeding up, some turbo intercooler thingy. What that meant was anytime we put the accelerator down, a big hissy noise came from under the bonnet and the temperature gauge went up.
This happened only a few hundred kilometres into our six-day trip. So we slowed down and limped to Winton, where nothing was open. The next day we struggled into Longreach and then to Barcaldine, with still no luck. We dubbed the Great Wall the Great Wally, such was our chagrin.
Blackall saw some hope, with a tyre place able to replace the hose with a second-hand version. That got us 200 metres down the road before it blew, so we returned and he dodgied up a metal pipe.
That saw us into the next day, when it ceased to function just before we reached Augathella. A lovely mechanic discovered the pipe had blown off one end of the fitting so he refitted it. That lasted 100 metres into a test drive, and then it blew off the other end.
That mechanic refixed us, and we got a few kilometres before…well, I don’t need to say it. So we crawled to Charleville, which at least was big enough to have large, open mechanics able to order the correct part, and an airport where we could hire a fancy big-arse 4WD and get our butts to Orange before I had to be at work in three days.
Chris and I had an intellectual discussion about when an adventure is no longer an adventure? He felt the word ‘ordeal’ may be more suited to the past few days, but I figured we were still adventuring and decided we had just had a ‘misadventure’.
We did stop for some cemetery touring – we heard of a cemetery off the road just over the Qld/NSW border at Barringun. We weren’t sure of the creek crossings, so decided to take our bikes rather than the hired 4WD – how long could it take to ride three kilometres? Too long, we quickly found out as we struggled through the soft dirt, baked dry by the relentless heat. We decided it would be faster to walk, ditched our bikes and kept going through the 40-degree-plus heat.
It was worth the pain, with the isolated headstones dating back to the 1890s. The graves were in an isolated patch of red dirt, contrasting to the bleached black soil plain surrounds. The fence had fallen or been knocked down by grazing cattle. It was a great outback atmosphere. But we were running short of water – having only planned a quick bike ride rather than an hour of trudging through soft dirt – so we didn’t stay long. It was a huge relief to get back to the car and water.
Two easy days of travel followed, with a little time for fun.
Once I had settled into our accommodation at Orange, Chris drove straight back to Charleville to get our poor Great Wall. It has been fixed, but we have decided we had better upgrade to a more powerful car. It struggles pulling the camper trailer, and Chris is worried about having to cross the Great Divide – we may end up going backwards.
May the misadventures continue.