Thursday, 12 June 2008

"The Outback Starts Here"

We had one final errand to run before leaving Perth. Back in December when we replaced the front shock absorbers in Kenya, we had realised that the rear shocks were also due for replacement, and decided that we would get a new set in South Africa. We looked around in Cape Town, but couldn’t find the ones we wanted, so decided in the end to wait until we got to Australia. What we hadn’t counted on was that they are three times the price here. We considered having a pair shipped out from the UK, but although the shocks are cheaper, postage isn’t so it wasn’t worth it. We finally found the one store in Perth that had a pair in stock, so it was there that we headed before our Grande Departe.

It was mid afternoon on Saturday before we were actually on the road north. We had decided to follow the coast to Geraldton, and had spied a likely looking four-wheel-drive track to try things out on. Our first night out of Perth we stayed in the luxury of a caravan park at Ledge Point. The next morning saw us in Lancelin, looking for the start of the track. After a couple of wrong turns some local lads set us right. The track was sandy but firm, and was great fun. At one point we came across a stranded Toyota Hilux that had broken down in the middle of the track. The driver was about to call out the RAC for a tow, but after suggesting a couple of things we narrowed it down to his fuel filter and got him on his way.

After a no-horse town called Wedge the track became almost non-existent, but we plugged on. At one stage we were out on the beach with only a narrow strip of sand to drive on between the dunes and the tide.
Soon enough we turned inland again and the track became better defined once more, and eventually led us to the sealed road. Carrying on north, we found a great campsite at Sandy Cape.

It started raining overnight, and was quite stormy by the morning. We decamped to try and find a sheltered spot for breakfast, luckily finding a covered picnic table at Green Head. We still got wet though, while we waited for our porridge to cook.

From there it was a long drive through to Geraldton for lunch by the waterfront. From Geraldton, we planned to head east into the outback, so decided that now would be the best time to have a go a replacing the rear shocks, just in case anything else should need replacing at the same time. We have had so many stubborn fixings break when replacing parts in the past, and this time was no exception. I had already sprayed the fixings with GT85 lubricant well in advance to let it soak in and try and free things up, but sure enough, when trying to undo the top mount for the first shock the fixing sheared off. Unfortunately the fixing is not just a simple bolt, but required a whole new mounting. So once again, Catkin got to spend the rest of the day traipsing around the industrial areas trying to find the local Land Rover garage. Luckily, and thanks to some very helpful people, she did find one, and even more luckily they just happened to have one of what we needed in stock. Apparently they had ordered one in for a customer who had never picked it up. Catkin arrived back at the carpark over two hours after she had left, but with the required part in hand. By this stage it was too late to carry on, so with the old shock well and truly wired on to what was left of the mounting we went to find a campground for the night.

The following day we started again, taking even greater care with the top fixing on the other side of the vehicle. Fortunately this time it came off with out breaking, much to my relief. After this the whole job was completed relatively quickly, and we finally had our new shocks on. The improvement in the rear suspension was immediately noticeable.

Once that was done we were clear to go. We stopped on the way out of town to top up our fuel and water tanks, as well as filling up the jerry cans on the roof rack. With about 100 litres of water and 230 litres of diesel, as well as enough food to last for about three weeks or more, we were carrying more weight than we ever had before. We drove about 100km inland and found a great campsite beside a watering hole.

On the road between Yalgoo and Mt Magnet the next day we were waved down by an Aboriginal family in a V6 Commodore that wouldn’t go. We gave them a jump start which got them a few kilometres down the road before their car again stopped. In the end we towed them for about 60km to Mt Magnet, where they could have the car looked at. I think the guy was well and truly over looking at our spare tyre on the back door by the time we got there. All the way we were passed by the massive Road Trains.

Since then we have carried into ‘the interior’ and have reached Wiluna. There’s not much here, but now we have to decide where we head to next, based on track conditions, the weather forecast and local advice. It’s likely that we will be heading into some pretty remote areas for two or three weeks, so we probably won’t be able to update the blog for a while, even by text. Don’t worry though Mum, we bought a personal EPRIB before we left Perth, so if everything goes wrong we can at least set it off and await rescue.