It was bad enough coming in to the hut over the slippery mud track last night, but then it rained all night. What was it going to be like going out?
The builders arrived early to start work, so I checked with them on the state of the track. “You’ll make it easy” said the young bloke, full of confidence. Then I pointed out my ute isn’t a 4WD. He paused for thought “Naah. You’ll still be ok. There’s just a couple of places where you might have to go up top.”
Aah, the surety of youth.
So we packed up and headed out. “You might want to put your seat belt on.” I said to Helen “It might get rough.”
I remembered the lessons Doc taught me about keeping the momentum going. I also remembered how many times this ute got bogged going into the farm!
So we went, and I wasn’t slowing down for anything. Not when we bounced over the ruts, or when we slipped sideways across the track. Not even when a mob of roos appeared next to us. And certainly not when Helen grabbed the door and said in her calmest voice – the one she uses for her mental patients – “I think you should slow down.”
I looked at her “I’m not going back for it” I said “I’m not risking that track again”
As we drove off from the gate Helen exclaimed again “My tackle box. We’ve left that too.”
Nothing was going to convince me to drive back on that track. That is until we got 30k down the highway and I realized I didn’t have my phone!
I pulled everything out of the car and checked it all. My bag, my jacket pockets, camera bag, the drawers, wine boxes. I even checked in the fridge. It was no good, we just had to go back.
As we got to the gate Helen looked at me and said “I’ll wait here for you”
So I drove off down the track by myself. Sliding first one way, then the other over the mud. I made it through, but then couldn’t find my phone in the hut!
“Have you checked everything in the car?” asked the young builder. How stupid did he think it was?
“Checked your swag?”
“Your sleeping bag?”
“It won’t be in there. I’d feel it as I was rolling it up”
But I pulled the sleeping bag out anyway. And guess what – there was my phone, rolled up in the sleeping bag! Another one to add to the list of things to check every day!
As I was there anyway I picked up the toilet and the tackle box, and drove calmly and serenely back across the track for the 3rd time that day and picked Helen up at the gate.
“I don’t think we’ve got enough fuel to get to Mitchell now” I said to her, “We’ll go back to St George and you can go fishing there.”
We turned left onto the highway, then I thought about it some more. I looked at the fuel gauge, calculated how far I could get with what remained and changed my mind. “No, we’ll go on to Mitchell.” I said “We should make it.”
I did a u-turn. As I drove onto the shoulder on the other side of the road I found another thing I should have checked but didn’t. As I felt the ute slide, and lose all traction I realized the shoulder of the road was black mud. Very sticky black mud and I was bogged.
But I was determined – I hadn’t driven that track 4 times to get bogged on the side of the road!!
I got out and had a look. I was only centimetres from the road, surely I could make it. I got back in, put it in first and revved. Slowly, slowly I moved forward, then I stopped. I put it in reverse and tried that way. I moved backwards slightly and stopped. I put it in first and tried again. Slowly, slowly I moved forward, then stopped. I tried reverse again, then back into first. Slowly, slowly I moved forward. Then slowly, slowly I moved forward a bit more. Then a bit more and a bit more, and suddenly I was free!!! Back on the road.
I turned towards Mitchell, driving at 75-80ks to keep the revs under 2,500 and conserve fuel. Which was a very good thing when that emu ran out in front of the car!
We limped into Mitchell and straight to the service station where the car took 58 litres to fill up. Easy – we could have travelled another 16k with that last 2 litres!! Kids – don’t try that yourselves. It’s not a good idea to run that short of fuel in the outback!
The sun even came out so we headed straight to the artesian spa pool to relax and unwind. It had been a very eventful, but slow, 200k!