Day 16 -
Hay River Track - Simpson Desert
It was a late start but a nice drive, a bit more interesting, with lots of trees, and many beautiful bright green kingfishers along the river bed, surprising considering the lack of water.
We were happy to get driving considering the absolute swarms of flies crawling into your ears, nose, mouth and eyes, it does make things pretty uncomfortable, I tried to keep the netting down and doors closed, though Jade often forgets, and once they’re in, they’re in.
It was a fairly windy road, but not difficult, though we did lose our sand flag somewhere, and had to fashion a new one from gaffer tape and bright purple and green masking tape… frankly it looks fucking dreadful but it’ll do the job. We also found an electronic trivial pursuit game, and enjoyed playing that for several hours as we poodled along, watching the clouds get darker- big often you see rain clouds in the desert, it looks incredible. (I refuse to show you a close up of the flag because it’s too embarrassing…)
Day 15 -
Middle camp - Hay River Track 2986km
The people at Batton Hill last night were other campers after all, they were four all in all - a family of three with a sweet boy of around 12 years old, plus the Dad’s friend from school.
They’re from Moree and Toowooma, so of course we have mutual friends- that’s how it goes in the outback.
We chatted a while outside the Ox, just after we’d finished breakfast, they seemed nice. I got the feeling the school friend may have recently lost his wife 🙁. We set off reasonably early, after a hot shower courtesy of the group starting up the donkey boiler (fire heated boiler) and it still being lovely & warm for us after they left (they insisted we must hurry to enjoy the warm water 😊 that’s classic Aussie bush for ya). We were aiming for lake Caroline, but got to the intersection at around 1pm, figured the scenery would probably not be that great at this time of year when it’s all dried up, similar to what we’d already seen, but probably not as interesting as the Canning, and decided to push on towards this camp.
The landscape is quite monotonous, but pretty, we’re following the Hay River Bank, which means no real dunes to cross, and it doesn’t change much, but it’s still lovely, the track is fairly windy, we can generally leave it in 2nd in H4, and turn the hand throttle to about 1600 revs, which makes around 20-30kph, and you only really have to steer around steep turns, otherwise the ox just follows the tracks that are already there, so it’s pretty relaxing driving. We passed a herd of camels, with a huge bull, he was massive.
We took over the other group as they let down their tyres on the road, we could hear them talk on the UHF for a while but must have soon gone out of range.
We got to this camp around 5pm, a great time to stop, just as the sun was starting to glow. I had a bucket shower, which felt great, and we put the blanket down to laze around. I used a wet cloth to clean Jade’s skin as he lay there, and then put oil on him to give him a massage for his sore shoulder. I cooked us dinner, Thai red curry, which he loved, the stars were pretty great (as usual).
Day 14 -
Batton Hill - Hay River Track (2,700km)
I woke up totally fatigued this morning. Jade woke me up with an elbow to the ribs… I was in the midst of a disturbing nightmare, and felt groggy from that, and exhausted.
We got up around 9am and got straight to work on the prop shaft, which went in pretty easy. We packed up, filled our waters, had showers, but i felt like I was carrying 200kg on my body the whole time, with a foggy mind and heavy eye lids.
We got a coffee & brekkie rolls as we left to get on the road, which ended up being around 1pm- bloody late.
I promptly went to sleep and woke up around 2.30, moments before we saw a truck on the side of the road, with the driver waving us down.
“Are yous goin to Jervois?” He asked “Tell Denise JD’s broken down and to call Russell at Bonya community” he told us.
We asked if there was anything we could do to help, and he showed us his front tie rod, which had completely snapped in two, with each end hanging down below the cab. He said he was going to fix it with a length of axle he had, but had to cut the splice off it, and didn’t have an angle grinder.
Though we were planning to turn off shortly before Jervois, of course we went there to tell them, and though there was some slight hint of eye rolling (apparently this is a common occurrence, not surprising when he said he ‘was only doing’ 120km on a road where 80km feels plenty fast) they immediately called the community, and we could give them the run down of what he needed.
It was a cool place, with old bowsers and niknaks around, pickled animal specimens on shelves at the back of the tiny shed of a shop, which only took cash. They chatted to us about the roads, and gave us an idea of the way of things in that part of the world.
Not long after, we were en route to Batton Hill Camp & the start of the Hay River Track.
The drive here was nice, sitting on 20kph again, the corrugations at that speed just feel soothing, as we listen to music as we go, and see the sun go down. We got out at a particularly golden sunset, to let down our tyres a bit (18 front and 26 rear). This camp seems cool, there are other people here, be good to chat to ‘em tomorrow.
👆🏽Oil changes - don’t drop the washer in yer oil bucket... Day 13
Gemtree Campground - Plenty Highway
We hit the road around 9am, with some bluegrass and woody Guthrie to keep us moving, and got to Alice Springs around 2pm, and quickly set to work.
First up, oil (we use 10l of 15w-40 mineral, preferably shell rimula, is Ox’s favourite, though we could only get 20w-60 today) and genuine Toyota oil filter- regardless of being on the road, we’re fastidious about keeping up oil changes every 5000km, no matter what, and reckon that’s part of the secret to her near perfect condition, and you can see why - that is black as tar after 5000, why would you want to leave it any longer?
Then, new uni joints for the front prop shaft which were previously rattling & toast. We pulled the shaft off, marked it up, and took it to a local mechanic to put the new joints in with a press.
While he was doing that, we got a muffler shop to look over our exhaust. When he saw our repair work, he offered us a job. I won’t lie, this made us feel VERY smug.
Then we went next door to Don Kyatt to pick up some #terraintamer parts (the only parts we’ll use that aren’t genuine Toyota) a new seal and bearing for the prop shaft/transfer case, as it’s been leaking, and new swivel hub and seal for our left front wheel for the same reason.
Finally, we picked up some food supplies (and a bottle of Hellyers whisky, a 10year old single malt from Tasmania that is bloody lovely), packed up, went out for dinner (pizza at Casa Nova) and got back on the frog n toad to the plenty highway, listening to two great Ted Radio hour podcasts, the first about the architecture of choices, and the second on death, which was heartwarming and inspiring.
We got to Gemtree campsite shortly after 10pm, and despite being very tired, found an unused spot to do our regular oil change while our engine was still hot, before a nice hot shower, and finally being in bed now, at 12.30am.
It’s been a busy day. Definitely want a sleep in tomorrow.
Jade’s snoring like a rhinoceros... 🔪🦏 #notrealgoodJade
Leveling jacks? We don't need no stinkin' leveling jacks. Lol.
Sometimes we get all set up and cozy... then realize pressure is building in our heads because we are leaning towards the passenger side where our heads go 🤣. That's when the hubs has to get out, find rocks big enough, put them under the tires and back up just enough to level us out enough.
That's when you know you married right. 😍
What's a funny time when you said "yep, that's why he's the one"?
Day 13 -
Uluru secret sunrise campsite
Sunrise WAS in fact, bloody magical. Getting out of bed at 5.30am was a struggle, but it was worth it when the light hit Uluru.
I had got out all my warm clothes the night before, Jade had not, and was therefore freezing and had to sit inside the ox, though we had been smart enough to face her towards sunrise (I like to face east so we don’t get too much blinding light/heat right in the morning) so it made for a good spot.
I can’t believe we had the whole place to ourselves, it was amazing.
We packed up in what was basically a sand storm, the wind was crazy, it makes you thankful we can completely shut up the Ox while we cook and eat. If we had the set up that 99.9% of people have where you have to be outside to cook, the wind would have made it impossible.
Instead, we sat cosy warm inside with tea and sausage sarnies (+obligatory timtam). We hit the road around 9am, with some bluegrass and woody Guthrie to keep us moving, and got to Alice Springs around 2pm, and quickly set to work.
We got to Uluru for sunset, which was lovely, if also drowning in tourists. And watched the wonderful rock light up red.
I cooked us pad Thai for dinner, before we went to find a secret sunrise campsite I knew of.
While we drove, something suddenly seemed amiss - “we don’t have instrument lights” I pointed out to Jade “… shit”. After some googling, we concluded as we didn’t have tail lights either, it must be a fuse (rather than a dimmer rheostat issue which was also a possibility) which we located in the kick panel and replaced with a 25A fuse rather than the 20, reasoning that the extra lights from the wheel carrier bar etc might have pushed it over. We also replaced the right tail light cover to adjust the cable which seemed too tight & liable to fuse or fail.
I was pretty stoked we found the campsite, last time it was swarming with people and cars, this time it’s just us. In the middle of the dunes, with nothing to be seen for miles other than beautiful Uluru just visible against the dark blue night sky, and silence all around, it’s an incredible spot.
We decided as we had reception, it would be the perfect evening for ‘bush cinema’, and watch O Brother Where Art Thou with the last of our Lagavulin, plugged into the Ox’s sound system.
It feels absolutely freezing but allegedly it’s 19 degrees, which feels impossible.
I can’t wait for Jade to see the marvellous view of Uluru from here, it’s going to be magical.
Day 12 -
Ururu / Kata Tjuta
Giles Meteorological station was pretty average tbh… no balloon to be seen, just a small visitors centre, but very cool to see Len Beadell’s grader and cartoons, he was quite the graphic artist.
The great central road was corrugated as hell, but very beautiful, though we didn’t stop as much as we’d have liked so we could make the most of our time at Uluru and the surrounds.
We got to Kata Tjuta around 3pm, and took a walk through the gorge, along with twice a Roman army’s worth of tourists, complete with net fly covers over their heads, floppy wide brimmed hats, and full on hiking boots. Meanwhile, Jade and I strolled past barefoot in dirty shorts but remembered to put on shirts for once 👌🏽 It was a lovely walk, but nothing quite compares to our next stop later that afternoon, beautiful Uluru...
Warakana/Giles: Great Central Road
We managed a reasonably early start, & set about fixing the mounting bracket immediately. We quickly realised the way we‘d planned to mount it meant it could foul on the prop shaft, so had to work out a different way of attaching it.
Jade drove me insane doing what I call his Private Fraser “WE’RE DOOMED” routine, basically repeating that it won’t work & saying helpful things like “we’ll just put it on and if we hear a big bang we’ll know our prop shaft’s gone”… 🙄 I’ve learnt to ignore him when we stumble upon any mechanical hurdle & he says we’ll have to sell the Ox for scrap metal & burn our licenses, but it still shits me no end, especially considering he’s an amazing engineer & we pretty much always work it out.
After a short hiatus, we figured out how to mount it better, with the bushes seated & all fitting securely. Even the hardest shaking barely budged it (enough for a bit of give so it won’t snap)- we were very pleased, especially when we got to the graded but corrugated track to find dozens of broken exhausts littering the road 😰. We made good time today, the track got much better so we could go 60-80kph rather than 20-40kph. We got to Bungabiddy rockhole at around 3pm where we had a walk & a nice swim in the somewhat green waters, but it was lovely all the same.
We got to Warakurna Roadhouse around 5/6pm (i’m still very confused what time it is, we keep crossing between west and central time…) set up & showered in the pubey/grimey/pissy amenities block which I did not enjoy, I felt dirtier afterwards than before, especially my feet, which I wanted to drag along the sandy ground outside to grind off the residue. I don’t like admitting it- I know it sounds princessy, I just prefer washing with a bucket outside in the dirt, than inside man made places filled with other people’s grime… it’s the same as feeling so much safer out there in the middle of nowhere, than here near towns with people around.
We cuddled up together early, him holding me is so nice, he’s very sweet. He drives me crazy but I love the handsome bugger.
We’re visiting the meteorological station in the morning, I better sleep.