Easter Disaster – an Epic trip to an Epic fail.

It looked like nothing was Wrong – Eucla 2015

The trip seemed to be going so well (See previous post). We’d been on the beach with only a few dramas getting Cameron’s car out and we let the air out of Craig’s tires so he could proceed. Then …..

Let’s start at the beginning:-

Hyden Day one: we all independently head out for Hyden, Western Australia as the first leg of our trip. Craig and Family head out from well North of us, and we head down the freeway and up Armadale road after picking up our erstwhile companions Jeff and Amy. Cam heads out after collecting some of the final provisions. We all hope to meet at the accommodations outside Hyden after lunch at which point we can explore the area and get ready for the next day’s journey.

We arrive well before the rest and have a quick look around. It is determined that a bite to eat and a cup of hot beverage is in order. There is a Café and touristy thing at Wave Rock that serves a nice meal, snack and beverage. We notice that there are a lot of cars around and it seems quite busy. Inside there’s also a bus load of what seem to be Chinese Tourists having a fixed menu meal as part of their “first class” tourist experience. The Café is staffed by local ladies (and one gent) that exude an air of pent up frustration and passive aggressive sighing and tutting that was palpable. The place is a tinder box of angst and retail apathy. This was a source of great amusement and any tourist should make this a must see. Jeff’s highly regarded way to ignite the situation was to ask “What (emphasis), took you so long?” We didn’t do this, of course, but it was a good way to amuse us as we awaited the rest of the crew.

We had three cars, two Sahara Landcrusiers and a Honda CRV. There were four passengers in each and we carried all the food etc. that we’d need for the next 9 days on the road. Not a lot of people realise how far Eucla and Forrest are from civilisation. We are packed to the gunwales and it’s an interesting set of logistics at each stop. But we’re up to the task.

The rest of the crew arrives and we have a pleasant afternoon checking out the rock and its surrounds and we head back for the steaks Cam has procured for dinner. We’re in a couple of the “Resort” houses and these ones have BBQ’s outside rather than inside (like some of the others). There are plenty of beds for the twelve of us. We have some initial dramas with the BBQ’s not having any gas, or now being able to work, but we resolved this quickly and get down to the business of eating. A Quick chin wag and a few G&T’s get us in the sleeping mood.

The road to Eucla is a long one. Our trip is via Norseman. We’re taking a shortcut along the mining road called the Hyden-Norseman road. It seems stupid it’s not the main road as it saves 150kms, but we are now led to understand that the Shire politics in the region don’t want this to happen as it will divert traffic from other towns and businesses. Oh well. I’ll continue to take the shortcut, it seems sensible. We all head out and get to Norseman with a minimum of fuss. We await the smoking bus as they stop every ten minutes for a smoke, so they are 50 minutes behind us. A gas top up and cup of tea refresh us and we head out as soon as Cam’s mob are gassed up and ready.

Eucla The rest of the 700kms to go is pretty dull. Lots of straight roads, a lunch stop (nice Rolls) and a few gas stops. We get into Eucla that night after seeing a few roos bouncing around but we thankfully don’t have any physical contact with any. We get our rooms sorted and all get our orders in for dinner. A decent meal after a long day is on all minds. We are distracted, however, by the red moon / eclipse that are unfolding outside. The damn full moon will mess with our star gazing, but the Eclipse is quite cool to witness (It takes over an hour to actually get there)

The next morning we’re up and about for an excellent feed of bacon and eggs. Jeff cuts a finger to add to the sore back from the day before. We’re keeping him away from sharp things.

Our first excursion is out to South Australia to have a look at the cliffs. These are a good 60kms down the road into South Australia so it’s a good ol’ haul out there and back. We head back and through the WA quarantine. The ol’ girl jokingly decides our “rocky road” is illegal and we have to surrender it. After much hilarity we were allowed through. Cam is let through despite being full of guns and ammo. The Dhoni’s (Craigs crew) are photographing the large Roo thing on the SA side. It’s all bristling excitement.

It’s decided that the beach is next and we head on down there with the Tour De Force De Joure a la Cameron in the lead due to his extensive knowledge of the local flora, fauna, geography and low lifes. We head along the beach and it’s only about 30 feet wide (or so), with lots of bumps. Craig’s momentum is stopped due to mine stopping in front and we have to let his tires down and push him a tad. Worked a treat. My traction action button gets me going in low ratio, as we plonk over to Cam who’s forward momentum has also temporarily halted due to the sand an seaweed combo. The Maxtrax do a grand job and extricate him in no time. Cam does well directing the others to dig and place the maxtrax. We then pump up the tires when the disaster happens and the radiator is pierced (which was later diagnosed as a stick) by something entering into the fan shroud. Water immediately starts pouring from the bottom of the radiator.

Ignominious end to trip

Ignominious end to trip

We limp back to base san water and contemplate what we can do next. Many schemes are suggested and Jeff’s idea to call the insurance gained traction (pun intended). I called SGIO and they were onto it in a flash. We cooked dinner and awaited the outcome of the insurance discussions.

John directing, Kea supporting and the three stooges look for solutions

John directing, Kea supporting and the three stooges look for solutions

Terrific Trio find nothing usefull

Terrific Trio find nothing usefull

SGIO then organised a tow truck with four extra seats to extricate us to Kalgoorlie where the Cruiser would be assessed and then fixed. We originally had Kalgoorlie rooms booked, but the driver (Terry) would be nearly on 24 hours on the road and we decided to head to Norseman instead. We made it most of the way before Terry started getting really tired. We all chatted on the last 159km leg to keep him focussed. It worked a treat. We stopped a few times for food and ablutions to make sure Terry got some respite.

We overnighted at Norseman and headed to Kalgoorlie that morning. It’s another 2 hours in the tow truck. Getting hold of SGIO is impossible as we are on hold so long we keep losing the Telstra towers and getting “no service” Luckily their process means they call me often and we’re able to get some communications going. We drop the car at the RAC depot and discuss options.

Norseman Motel

Norseman Motel – No milk to be had anywhere.

We decide to take the option for a rental car and to head on back to Perth and then return to grab the Landcruiser in four days. At least we get to sleep in our own beds and relax after the traumatic few days. I would have PTSD, but the drama is not over yet and there’s another 10 hours driving ahead of me in a few days to pick the beasty up….. oh joy of joys!!

While this was all happening, the other two cars made it to Forrest (120kms away) in five hours due to the condition of the track. I guess they’ll give a full update next week when they return. It sounds like it has its own set of dramas, but not being there I cannot possibly comment.

Some lessons were learned. Always have decent insurance. Kudos to SGIO and the way they handled things. Apart from some connectivity issues (“we know your time is valuable, so we’ll keep you on hold for a cumulative 4 hours”) they were excellent. Each handoff to the next person worked a treat and they did 100% of what they said they’d do. Without insurance this is probably a $10,000 debacle. Always have a contingency. We spent a lot of time navel gazing at the problem. Do some planning up front and then execute it. Having extra cars in this instance was no help what so ever due to the amount of gear we were carrying. In a life or death scenario, we’d dump it and do the needful, but in this non critical environment of just being stuck, that was not practical. Trucks heading West are full and heading east are empty. Food for thought.

I’ll add some pictures once I get them off the iPad / Canon.


Rob and the three Amigos, Kea, Jeff and Amy!!!