25 March 2016 -
The best trips are those that need to be told in parts, as there is just too much detail to have in one sitting. That being said, here is Part One – Good Friday.
Our trip to Yulara, via the original road (that existed prior to the development of the Lasseter Hwy and Ernest Giles Rd in the early 1960s) sure was exciting. Below is a run down of the day’s events.
We left Hungry Jacks at 7am – doing 100km/h. Arrived Stuart’s Well 8am – topped up fuel tanks.
8:30am Ernest Giles Road to Palmer River (approx 30km).
Turn off after Palmer River, down old Ayers Rock Road at 9:15am and aired down tyres.
Stopped at the abandoned Mt. Quinn bore to chat to Chris from Henbury Station. We had pre-arranged access/asked permission, and they were happy to let us through as long as we were self sufficient.
A bit of trouble finding the track from here. Followed the fence line and found a gate, unlocked thankfully. Closed it behind us. Again, followed the fence line on an unused fire trail, for a short time before heading in the direction that the HEMA suggested.
By this stage, we’ve found remnants of the track, most sections unrecognisable. Some clearly visible, but over grown with random scrubs, lots of sticks (rapid tyre deflators), trees (that wouldn’t have been there 20 years ago, let alone 60 years ago when the track was used), and tall grasses.
Although this particular photo doesn’t show it, there was alot of tall grass. To avoid catching any, we all stopped at 10:30am to attach grass mats to the front of our vehicles.
11:30am, and in full sun on a 40+ degree day, disaster struck.
Mike lost his U bolt on the left rear leaf spring (the part that keeps the back wheels attached to the car), on his Toyota Hilux, the second u bolt was held on by a thread when he came to a grinding holt.
His drive shaft had dropped out, the whole differential housing shifted and twisted out of position, and rear wheels were facing the wrong direction.
A bit (lot) of bush mechanical work later, removed the drive shaft, and by, 2:15pm the diff housing was located under the leaf spring, secured with a ratchet strap and some duct tape, and the HiLux was once again mobile (in front wheel drive only).
The decision to turn back and limp back to the highway was made for the safety of everyone involved. The 4WD track posed a bit of a challenge for the now 2WD Hilux. But they managed to make it through, with just a little extra loud pedal in the softest parts.
3:18pm we stopped 3km from Mt Quinn Bore to check and tighten the ratchet strap that was holding his rear axle in place (this required removing the wheel).
We just needed to get the car back to the main road, back to Stuart’s Well for a tow, or ideally all the way back to Alice.
We followed our tracks (not always most direct, but certainly safest), back to the bore. The road from there was much easier.
3:59pm Just as we passed through the gate, the first (and only) puncture of the day was recorded by Rainer, whom caught the side of a very nasty roadside stick, and punched a four finger hole in the side of one tyre.
Meanwhile – sitting down south at Yulara, Our Trip Coordinator Kirsten (and husband Johnno), who chose to get to camp early and get established for the weekend, were checking out our location via the SpotGPS. They were unsure as to what had unfolded, but were keeping tabs to make sure we weren’t stranded.
This also was about the time that Steve, the trip leader, was struck with severe pain from a recurring kidney stone, and was diminished to a distressed, vomiting passenger for the remainder of the trip.
5:15pm we received word that one of the vehicles was having overheating issues and had pulled over to the side of the road for a spell to let the engine cool. After a few minutes, the group reunited on the side of the road and re-inflated tyres for the return to paved road.
6pm back to bitumen at the Ernest Giles/Stuart Hwy intersection. Mike was confident to head back to Alice and this is where we parted ways, while the rest of us headed south towards Erldunda, to Yulara and our camp ground for the weekend.
The stricken HiLux arrived safely in Alice Springs at 7:30pm. We arrived at Ayers Rock Camp ground at 9:45pm after a very long day.
We made a 15km advance, on our 75km off road journey for the day. We had to turn back with our tail between our legs.
Keep an eye out for Part 2.
Ernest Giles Road, Northern Territory