Raider Bruce Elsegood shares with us his detailed diary of the 1996 Raid.
Raid OZ 1996 (Part 1, Sydney to Broome)
During Raid ‘92 I was greatly impressed by the performance of the GS wagon owned by Rolf Breyer. My selection of a raid vehicle was greatly influenced by its performance.
In mid -1993 I bought an incomplete GS wagon body that was straight and rust free, plus a very rusty but complete GS sedan. An easy job, I thought, to swap all the bits and soon have a GS wagon for Raid.
Update newsletters from Ralph Hibble in Perth and phone conversations with David Gries in Melbourne kept me and the other ‘92 raiders informed of the proposed Raid route and other activities.
By October 1994 it was apparent that my GS wagon would not be ready for mid-1995 to allow adequate time to sort out any problems.
Originally, the Raid committee wanted only 2CVs to go on this Raid. They were then told that another “CitroënTour” would leave at the same time, and go to the same places. The committee saw the light and the big cars were permitted to go and act as backup vehicles for the 2CVs.
Then in late November 1994 a GS wagon came available (only one lady owner since new). She had all the receipts for work done up to 1993 but had let the car deteriorate in the last year or so and just wanted to get rid of it.
A short test drive revealed all the spheres were hard and the left front wheel bearing was badly worn. I judged the car to be basically sound and bought it on the spot. Over the next few months I systematically dismantled the suspen-
sion brakes and steering while at the same time checking out the engine and transmission. The little car was a gem.
Early in ‘95 Steve Wedell opened the bookings. There were quite a few advance deposits. When I paid my deposit in May, I was car 29. Steve said there were entries from Germany, France, Switzerland, England, Holland and Aus-
tralia, Steve said he expected more .
By Easter 1996 I was ready for a run in Raid trim to Gayndah for the annual Cit-in, the car went well but overheated a bit when cruising at 120 km/h. This was fixed by changing the sump guard for one allowing more airflow.
Up till this time my co-raider had been Neil Trotter, who with his wife Wendy had been on Raid ‘92, but business commitments caused him to withdraw just after Easter.
In June 1995, David Gries and Paul Mione drove the proposed Raid route in Uli Wittings AK van, there were a few changes to the original route but these were mainly to see landmarks or finalise camping spots.
The route was Ayres Rock (Uluru) then via Kings Canyon to Alice Springs, next we would cross the Tanami desert to Halls Creek. From here the Raid would drive to Lake Argyle on the Ord River before tackling the Gibb River Road and Wynjana Gorge Road to get to Fitzroy crossing.
Our next stop would be a bit of luxury at Cable Beach, Broome before heading South along the coast to Port Headland. Then we were to visit the Hamersley National Park and Mt Tom Price before returning to the coast at Coral Bay. After a few days here, it would be South again via Carnarvon to Hamlyn Pool near Monkey Mia before finishing the raid at Kalbarri some 600 km North of Perth.
After his return from Raid Slovenia, Steve Wedell mentioned that one of our Sydney members, Glenn Bellamy was looking for a ride as a co-raider so, after a short discussion, I had a new co-raider. My son Glen was to come with us for the first week, then return home from Alice Springs.
Early in July all was ready, I had set up the rear of the car with a board in place of the folding wagon seat, and a single seat was fitted for the 3rd passenger, this was to be discarded when young Glen left us in Alice Springs.
A few days before we left, the last update from Ralph Hibble arrived telling us that raiders from 14 Nationalities would participate and that Uli Witting had just completed the final survey, An accurate itinerary including campsites and daily distances made our planning complete.
My next task was to assemble and pack all the spares and camping equipment for 6 weeks away. After doing a few chores around the house we were all set to go on Tuesday July 23rd.
An early start was in order as we were to go to Broken Hill on the first day, Glen and I collected Glenn Bellamy from his place in Annandale at 6.00am and headed west on the expressway, it was cool and clear and we watched the sun rise while crossing the Hawkesbury River at Penrith.
Along the Gt Western Hwy over the Blue Mountains, we were diverted via Bell due to road works on Victoria Pass, arriving in Bathurst about 9.00 am for a stretch and driver change. From Bathurst we drove on to Dubbo where we filled the car and our tummies about noon.
With the hilly country now behind us I was looking forward to cruising on the open plains, all went well for a while but by the time we got to Nyngan the car seemed to be down on power and misfiring under load. This gradually got worse.
By the time we got to Cobar about 2.30pm repairs were needed. First the electronic ignition was returned to standard then new high tension leads were tried. Finally an inspect and clean of the points was done. All seemed OK but the car just didn’t have normal power.
We lost about two hours in Cobar but I hoped the work would come right on the open road, The power had partly returned but just after dark near Wilcannia we stopped again. It was cold and just starting to drizzle rain. This time an adjustment to the ignition timing restored normal power. We refilled in Wilcannia about 8.00pm and set off again in steady rain for Broken Hill.
The lights of Broken Hill were a great relief. It was now about 10.00pm, we booked into a youth hostel Glenn Bellamy had used previously. All the shops were now shut so we had to make a meal from onboard supplies. Then after a long hot shower I was glad to get to bed.
In the morning after breakfast I decided to try to find another set of ignition points, but by 9.00am it was apparent that there were none in town. The morning was cool and clear as we left for Peterborough, and with the car going well on the open road, we made good time arriving about noon.
After refilling both car and people at Peterborough, we set pushed on via Wilmington and Horricks Pass to see the top end of Spencers Gulf at Port Augusta. No need to stop here, so we turned north onto the Stuart Hwy and headed towards Pimba.
The car was going well on the long straight roads of outback South Australia Just before we got to Pimba we passed Island Lagoon, a beautiful lake in an otherwise dry harsh land. We stopped for a drink and a break at Pimba road-
house as the afternoon was now quite hot.
The 350 or so km from Pimba to Coober Pedy passed without incident and we rolled into town about 7.30pm. After checking into the underground backpacker hostel, we went for a pizza in town hoping to see some of the raiders whose cars were parked in the hostel parking area, but they could not be found. I was glad to get to bed about 9.30pm and slept like a log.
Thursday morning was cold and cloudy. After my shower about 7.00am I met some of the raiders making an early start for the trip to the Uluru campground. Glen and Glenn were ready to go just after 8.00am so we set off. The car was still going well and I had relaxed. I was looking forward to meeting up with all the raider friends later that day.
The drive north was uneventful, we met some raiders at Marla roadhouse, here we noticed there had been a lot of rain here and the locals said it was heavier further north. On we went and, as we crossed the SA/ NT border, there were huge pools of water either side of the road.
Arriving at the Kulgera roadhouse in time for lunch, the tank was showing empty and we took 42.6 litres into a 43 litre tank. Both Glen and Glenn had yet to learn to “Trust Me.”
Over the lunch hamburger we discovered that over 200 mm of rain had fallen that morning, the first rain in 5 years.
There were only about 300 km to go now on our pre-raid trek so we again headed north toward the Erldunda roadhouse which marks the turnoff for the Lassiter Hwy to Ayres rock (Uluru).
About 100 km down the Lassiter Hwy, just before Curtain Springs, we encountered a very heavy rainstorm with strong wind and visibility down to about 10 meters at 20 km/h. I could not pull off the road into the already sodden ground and I could not stop as the tourist busses were only slowing to about 60 km/h, there were several tense moments in the rainstorm as the busses passed us. The rain cleared just as suddenly as it started and out came the sun, we drove on to Yulara resort arriving about 3.30pm.
After setting up camp I took Glen and Glenn around to meet the other raiders, our greetings and tales of our trip were interrupted briefly about dark when we cooked a meal. Then we went back to the stories and hellos until late into the night.
Some of the best parts of Raids in Australia are the sunrises and sunsets. So, just after first light, I was awake to go and see the sunrise on Uluru. So was most of the campsite. This is a fantastic experience as the rock changes colour many times as the sun rises.
I was now very hungry so it was back to the camp for a good breakfast before meeting my challenge for the day, yes I would have another go at climbing the rock. In 1992, I climbed it but at quite a cost to my bad leg, this time I was a bit older, but no wiser and probably no fitter but just as determined.
Glen, Glenn and I returned to the start of the climb at about 9.00am to find a strong and cold south westerly wind blowing. After checking our supplies of water we set off.
Young Glen just bolted up the chain, it appears I was too old to stay with him, My co-raider Glenn was a great encouragement to me over the next half hour or so, until I reached the top of the chain. There were many other raiders on the rock and as we passed each other lots of encouragement passed between us.
About halfway between the top of the chain and the summit marker we met Glen returning, he had lots of energy left and would wait for us at the car.
Glenn and I continued on to the summit, caught our breath and took some photos then retraced our steps back to the car. By now my right leg was very tired so after a rest and some lunch we drove to the Olgas and had a brief look at the Olga Gorge and the Valley of the Winds.
By about mid afternoon I was looking for a long rest so we returned to camp, a cup of tea and a sleep, restored my energy.
Glenn called me about 5.30pm to go to see the sunset viewing at the rock. When we arrived, there were lots of cars and parking was in short supply, It’s a bit silly really, thousands of square kilometres of open land and you can’t park the car !!! Oh well c’est la vie.
After the sunset on the rock, we returned to camp to find more friends from all over the world had set up camp. After a quick meal of pasta, done by Glenn Bellamy we again went visiting until about 8.30pm when the Raid startup campfire was lit.
All the raiders gathered to hear David Gries, Ralph Hibble, Steve Wedell and Uli Witting welcome us to the Raid then there was the roll call to see who had made it to the start. We knew some other friends would join us in Alice Springs but there were about 50 cars ready to face the challenge of Raid the following day.
David and Ralph suggested that overseas raiders should team up with an Aussie and where possible one who had been on raid ‘88 or ‘92. I was approached by a group of friends from Raid USA and Slovenia to see if I would be the experienced Aussie raider for their Touring Group. A great honour and gladly accepted.
The talking was all set to go on well into the night but by 10.30pm, I was ready for bed, my bad leg was very tired. The pre raid was now over and tomorrow we would start on Raid OZ ’96.
Raid, Day 1, Saturday July 27th 1996
This was to be only a short journey to Mount Connor, near Curtain Springs, so we didn’t need to be up early. 7.00am would be fine.
By mid morning most of the group who had approached me to be their touring group leader were ready to roll. We were all packed and fuelled. So off we went, as far as the supermarket. Here another halt was called to replenish supplies. Apparently Raid doesn’t run on petrol alone!!
About an hour on the road saw us back at Curtain Springs, from here we took a dirt track off to Mount Connor. Uli had given us directions which proved to be quite accurate. So about half an hour down the track saw us at an open rocky area, this was to be the campsite. Glen, Glenn and I soon moved a few rocks and quickly had our camp established. Some of the other raiders in our touring group decided to look for a more comfortable campsite and finally settled on a sandy spot not far away.
Not long after camp was set up, Glen and Glenn, set off to walk to Mt Connor about five kms away. I decided to remain at camp, soon the first casualty of Raid appeared, Phillipe Mortimer and Anita came in their nice 2CV with a slipping clutch, not bad on the highway but the dirt road had been a different story.
Anita set up camp while we had all the fun, Axel Kaliske (Hobo) from Germany just happened to have a new clutch kit under his seat. So, before the daylight disappeared, the engine was out and the clutch was changed.
While the clutch job was being done I noticed Uli Witting putting a starter motor in his AK van that Iris Stümpfig was driving. Also Stuart Lister had a driveshaft out.
Glen and Glenn returned from their walk just after a fantastic bush sunset. They didn’t make it to Mt Connor before the light started to fade, so they returned to camp in time to have another pasta meal, plain, but good and filling. Then we all got the chairs around the campfire for the end of Day 1.
Raid Day 2
About sunrise Ralph Hibble played a tape of “reveille.” His battery must have been almost flat as it sounded awful! This produced quite a bit of abuse and some laughter, but it had the desired effect however as all raiders were soon up and having breakfast.
Uli had told us the road to Kings Canyon was all bitumen and was only about 200 kms, we were all packed and on our way by about 9.00am.
When we returned to the main road we found a group of cars waiting there The reason for this was a road worker had reported. “One of your funny little cars is broken down about 10 km down that road.” It was Peter Scholz, he and his wife Umgart had had camped the night by the roadside after breaking a tension rod inside the spring pot.
The wheels were set in motion for Uli to get the spring pot off, cut it open, reweld the rod and refit the unit. “We will camp with you tonight at Kings Canyon.” And they did.
Young Glen asked if he could ride in a 2CV, so Natalie d’Olivat from Holland joined Glenn Bellamy and myself in the GS while Glen rode with Rens in the 2CV to Kings Canyon.
Our journey took us through harsh country with high bluffs and long winding valleys, we saw eagles and wild horses in places but no camels.
After a fuel and lunch stop at Kings Creek, we arrived at Kings Canyon campground around 1.30pm. Camp was soon established then we set off to explore Kings Canyon. The initial climb is quite steep for about 300 metres then there is a well marked trail of about five km around the rim of the canyon. Together with the other raiders we spent the afternoon looking at this fabulous natural wonder.
Our evening meal was a Hamburger with the works at the campground bistro, when we returned to camp we were told that a camp fire could not be held but a meeting was scheduled for 8.30pm, in one of the shelter sheds, here the news of the day was discussed “in no particular order” and the road conditions and distances were explained for the following day.
At the end of the meeting each touring group was invited to select a native animal to stamp their name tags with, most of the well known ones were gone by the time I got to the stamps box, the best I could get was an Echidna, this caused all sorts of problems, (the Brits) our British friends called it a “hedgehog” and the Dutch and Germans called it “egel.” Oh well, I tried!!
I was writing my name on one of the name tags when my touring group said, “We have your name tag here.” You are “Father Goose.” “Ok,” I said, “Father Goose it is.” I went off to bed to listen to the Dingoes singing to the full moon, a great end to Raid day two.
Raid Day 3
An early start was in order because the Mereenie Loop Road was to be the first day of dirt, about 250 km were to be covered, and if problems were coming, this road was likely to show them up, as it was said to be rough and corrugated. By about 8.30am our group was ready to go, it was cool and clear as we rolled out of the Kings Canyon campground, we were the second group out and the CB radio was alive with “chit chat.” The road was good at first and after about half an hour we came to Carmichael Crag, a lookout that gave a good view back to Kings Canyon, the dust trails of the raiders who had left behind us made a good sight on the plain below.
Being the tailender or shepherd car for a group of 2CVs means that our job was to see them all on the road before leaving, and helping any breakdowns. The group speed on the dirt was about 75 to 80 km/h, so there was plenty of dust when it got going.
About 11.00am, the day was starting to warm up, and a halt was called for a comfort stop and a snack. This turned into “elevenses” and before I knew it, the Brits had the fuel stove and kettle they called the “road train” on. They were making sandwiches for an early de-facto lunch stop. By the time we were ready to go again most of the other groups of raiders had gone past in clouds of fine red dust.
The road got a bit rougher with rocky outcrops lurking to catch the unwary drivers. Corrugations 150 to 200mm high and 300 to 400mm apart. No wonder the locals drive OKAs and Toyota Land Crushers at 100 to 120 kmh. They just float over the top.
About 1.00pm we turned west, away from Hermannsberg and the road improved for a while, then we left the main track (road) to go down a side track boldly marked “4WD Only” to Gosse Bluff, the information boards told us this is the remains of a comet impact several hundred million years ago.
Claude Hermans discovered he had a broken shock absorber mounting and would have to wait for Uli Whitting to arrive to fix it.
This was an interesting deviation and gave us a chance to stretch, go to the toilet and replenish our drinks, even though it’s winter here, the sun is hot and the temperatures during the day can often reach 25 to 30 degrees.
Back on the road again, the surface was a bit better now and the lookout road to Tylers Pass was bitumen. This gave us a good view back to Gosse Bluff. The next place of interest was Redbank Gorge, just a few kms off the road, in the late afternoon sun the red cliffs were beginning to change colours so, after a few photos, the group headed for Glen Helen, our stop for the night. The last 15 or 20 km into Glen Helen, with the sun behind us was hard going because it’s very hard to pick the corrugations, we came down hard a few times to christen the sumpguard, but didn’t suffer any flats.
Camp was established with only a few minutes of daylight left, then it was off for a well earned shower to wash off the dust, before a meal from the excellent smorgasbord spread at the Glen Helen Lodge.
Later that evening, in the cold windy beer garden we had another Raid meeting. Again the events of the day, like Bernt Weise destroying a tyre, and my bonnett pins shearing off. Road conditions and points of interest for tomorrow, as well as other raider inputs were presented in “no particular order.” About 11.00pm, I followed Glen and Glenn back to our tents and listened to the Dingoes in the Glen Helen Gorge singing to the moon.
Raid Day 4
This was to be an easy day. There was a smorgasbord breakfast at the Glen Helen Lodge for those who lacked the cooking skills or were slow starters. Early mornings here are quite cool at this time of year and a warm jacket is often required until about 9.00am, then it’s tee shirt weather all day. After a typical raid breakfast of tea and toast, I took the camera and went to look at the Glen Helen Gorge in the cool early morning sunshine.
Recent rains had the Finke River running into the big pool at the entrance to the gorge, this barred the way to some of the other sights, but made a good subject for my photos.
Back at camp, I took the opportunity to check the car over for loose mountings, several bolts needed attention. I found a few lose but generally everything seemed OK after our day on the dirt.
After breaking camp, our touring group set off on the bitumen road to do the remaining 135km to Alice Springs. Just about 10 km after leaving Glen Helen, we turned off to Ormiston Gorge. This is also part of the Finke River and it is easy to see here from the tilt of the trees and debris in the branches, where the water rushes through during the wet season.
The walk along the dry, sandy river bed, and the clamber over the rocks was lots of fun. Next stop was the Ochre Pits a further 20 km down the road. Again the information boards explained how the folded rock formations had occurred and how the Aboriginals had traded this ochre with tribes as far away as Adelaide or Broken Hill.
Time was passing quickly, so we skipped Serpentine Gorge and Ellery Creek and made a late lunch stop at Standley Chasm. Again the forces of nature had shaped the rocks and the results had us in awe. By now it was mid-afternoon and we decided to head straight for the Heavitree Gap tourist resort, our campsite for our stay in Alice Springs.
On arrival at the campsite, we found quite a few friends who had come up the bitumen from Ayres Rock. My friends, Christian and Claudine Komaniecki from Raid ‘92, were there, together with their daughters, and a group of about 10 other French people and their 2CVs. After setting up camp, I went with Glen and Glenn to meet the French and other raiders, This took until dark , at which time we returned to our tents for a warm jacket before going for an excellent meal at the Tavern, within the grounds of the resort. This I had remembered from our visit here during Raid ‘92. Later that evening we had our now customary “Raid meeting”, detailing the flat tyres and suspension damage sustained by the cars. Then followed by lots of talking to the locals about the state of the Tanami Road then off to bed about 11.00pm.
Raid Day 5
Today was to be a maintenance day to see how the cars had coped with the dirt road. We also needed to get supplies for the next three days when we would tackle the 1000km of the Tanami Road.
Glenn said he wanted to visit the Old Ghan transport museum and Glen wanted to see the Capricorn monument before catching his plane back to Sydney at 1.00pm. I dropped Glenn at the transport museum near the airport then returned to camp to collect Glen and Paul Young who also wanted to see the Capricorn monument as well as get some car parts in town.
The 30 km out to the monument on the Stuart Hwy. and return were uneventful, Paul and I had travelled this road on Raid ‘92 so there were some memories here. Just as we returned to Alice Springs the GS started to misfire and lose power, the same problems I had experienced in Cobar.
I struggled back to camp, collected young Glen’s gear then picked up Glenn Bellamy from the transport museum before getting to the airport with a little time to spare for Glen’s flight back to Sydney.
My afternoon’s work was clear, it appears “McMurphy” had decided to pay us a visit. Well I cleaned the points, changed the plugs, cleaned out the carburettor and replaced the fuel pump during the course of the next few hours, the result was the car was no better!!
I was at the end of my patience when Alf Reichhardt said he had experienced a similar problem about a year ago, and new points were the answer. He had a spare set which he gave me, I put them in and like magic all the other problems disappeared. McMurphy had about 65 other cars he could visit, so he could leave me alone for a while.
During the afternoon Glenn had bought our supplies at the resort shop and sorted out our gear to give us more room now young Glen had gone. There was also a cool drink ready when needed, for which I was thankful. I noticed quite a few cars with bonnets and mudguards off so I wasn’t the only one to be “having fun”. Our test run in the now “full power” GS included a stop at the servo where we topped the tank and filled both Jerry cans for the long trip next day.
I had time for a shower then Glenn and I went back to the Old Ghan transport museum for the Raid startup party, here after a great BBQ meal, the Raid tee shirts were handed out. David Gries and Ralph Hibble gave us a run down on what we were likely to expect on the Tanami Road next day.
We were told that Terrence and Elise Kennedy as well as Rex and Elaine Careek would not be coming with us across the Tanami to Halls Creek. Also I was amazed to hear that Sue Coles thd got her licence fnly about a year before Raid.
The Tanami road was the topic of conversation for the next hour or so until the beer ran out, then Glenn and I returned to camp. I sure was glad to get to bed.
Raid Day 6
There was about 440 km to do today, the first 140 on bitumen, then 300 km of dirt. This suggested an early start but by the time we got away it was almost 9.00am. Our touring group formed up as arranged near one of the servo’s on the northern edge of Alice Springs. After about two hours of driving in the sparkling desert sunshine, we had reached the end of the bitumen. We called a halt before starting on the dirt.
The Tanami Road has a reputation for being rough and corrugated, we were not disappointed, and the 60 or so km from the end of the bitumen to Tilmouth Well roadhouse took almost an hour.
By now it was about noon, while we had a sandwich from on board supplies, Natalie d’Olivat told me she had left some washing back at the campsite. A phone call to their toll free number had the now dry washing packaged and sent to our camp site at Lake Argyle. After several re-addressings the package finally caught up with us in Perth. Thanks again to the staff at Hevitree resort.
As we pushed on, the landscape took on a typical Centralian look, with stunted trees and spinifex, sprinkled with red anthills and occasional low flat topped hills either side of the long red road ahead.
Another 90 Kms or so brought us to Yuendumu, an Aboriginal settlement and fuel stop. The place was strewn with rubbish and most raiders were glad to get some fuel and leave as quickly as possible. All in all it was a very depres-
During the afternoon the instructions for the “bushcamp” campsite became the topic of C.B. chatter. When we at last found the proposed campsite it was covered with litter and not very inviting. Several cars went on ahead and soon found a much better campsite about 10 km up the road.
We left a message at the first campsite and drove the 10 km to the new camp, our tent was soon erected and as the sun was setting there was a pasta meal bubbling quietly on the stove amongst the spinifex. The other raiders soon arrived and soon the sounds of tents going up was mixed with the thump of hammers and tyre pump clatter as the latest crop of flat tyres was dealt with.
Glenn and I were just about to sit down to dinner when Alf Reichhardt, my saviour from the previous day found me with his tale of woe, his alternator had stopped charging about the end of the bitumen and he had done the last 300 km or so on battery power only. Not only that, but one of the tie rods on his steering had come undone and he had a high speed off road excursion. Very unnerving.
Look’s like Alf’s day for a visit from my mate McMurphy! “Could I help with the alternator problem?”
“Yes, I have one in the car, and I will come over after dinner then we’ll fit it up then.”
Barry Annells from England came over as Alf and I were struggling to get the dead alternator out of the GS.
“Give me a go” said Barry.
Well he just turned it to the right spot, gave the front panel a little tweak and lifted it out. Oh yes. The other one goes in just as easily, and it did! All fitted up in about 15 minutes. Then Barry went off to get a beer while Alf and I fitted up the mounting bolts and adjusted the fanbelt, before getting a boost start to run the engine to check the charge rate. All was OK.
I had a drink with Alf and his wife Ailsa, they were much happier now. I don’t remember the campfire that night, but I do remember going to bed very tired after 300 km of corrugations and I slept like a log until sunrise about 6.00am. Later I heard that there had been flat tyres this morning.
Raid Day 7
About the first thing I heard was a road train hammering along the road about 400 m from our tent. When I got outside, it was a cool clear morning with the whole eastern sky ablaze. Another great day for raiding would start soon.
I started the stove for a cup of tea and some toast to get moving, Glenn got up not long after and we had finished breakfast by about 7.00am, most of the other raiders were at about the same stage. We had about 300 km of rough dirt to do that day and the only break was a fuel stop at the Rabbit Flat roadhouse. Road speeds would be about 70 to 80 km/h on good gravel stretches and less than 40 km/h on the bad parts. There were likely to be quite a few flats too.
Our touring group was ready to go about 8.00am, heading north-west with Torsten and Petra in the 2CV van leading the way. It’s the slowest car, so it set the pace. After a couple of hours we passed The Granites Goldmine. “No food ,water or fuel available here,” the sign said, so we pushed on to Rabbit Flat. Again the landscape was spinifex, stones, anthills and the long red road, occasional microwave towers also broke up the otherwise featureless plain. The strong winds we had been told about didn’t bother us today.
About noon our group arrived at Rabbit Flat to join the queue for fuel pump. Buying fuel here is quite an experience. First they tell you petrol costs $1.25 per litre. The trouble is the pump only goes to 99.99 cents per litre. So, in typical outback fashion, then they pump the stuff into your tank with the price showing 62.5 cents per litre, take the readings for litres and dollars and write the “dollars X 2” on a ticket, this you take to the cashier in the roadhouse and pay, the overseas raiders said the fuel was cheap.
Rabbit Flat roadhouse is unique. For a start, the place is only open, from Friday to Monday. It’s a large shed with the outer walls of corrugated iron. Then, when you walk inside the cashier is housed in a cage made of 50mm square weldmesh. In fact the whole inside of the shed is lined with the same weldmesh.
Food is available here. It’s a “nourishing” selection of frozen pies, sausage rolls and pasties. Cold drinks are also on sale. All the food and fuel is trucked in from Darwin. A generator supplies power for the fuel pumps, microwaves and fridge/freezers. As you can imagine the cost of food parallels the fuel.
To buy food you must first order and pay for it. The cashier then gives you a ticket. You then wait for “someone who is not busy” to fill your order. Usually about a 20 minute wait, but then you don’t have any options as the next food and fuel is several hundred kilometres away!
Our group stayed about an hour at Rabbit Flat. Some even had lunch there, before we headed for the W.A. border about 2 hours (80 km) away. Enroute we passed the Tanami mine and the Lajamanu turnoff. We stopped for a photo at the NT/WA border and adjusted our clocks.
The campsite instructions were again rather vague “Camp at a gravelpit 10 km past the 300km marker in W.A.” Well the 300 km marker didn’t exist, it had been knocked over. There were several gravel pits, so we drove on until about 4.00pm and started looking for a likely campsite.
Just as we pulled up at the site we ultimately used, the GS filled with acrid blue smoke. It must have looked pretty serious because raiders came from everywhere. I looked around to see the cooler and camp battery power cords, now a glowing mass of wires, on a smouldering carpet under a full 20 litre jerrycan of petrol.!
Quick action was called for. I soon had the battery disconnected and the fuel can out of the car. You can leave now McMurphy!! Michael Mohr from Germany described the resulting mass of fused wires and plastic as a “hot wire salad.” Oh well. As we say on Raid, “Shit Happens”.
After our meal I left the car open to air for several hours, but the smell of burnt insulation was with us for several days.
At our customary raiders meeting around a fire after dinner, Steve said there had been eight or ten flat tyres, and Mozart Gamble had to replace a hose. Uli Witting told us we were the biggest of the four Raid camps stretched out along 20 km of the Tanami Road, He had visited them all to be sure all the raiders were accounted for. It appears the campsite directions, while clear to him, had been differently interpreted by others. Uli then gave us the road conditions for the remaining estimated 250km to Halls Creek, via the Wolfe Creek meteorite crater.
The darkness out on the Tanami Road is total. Before moonrise Glenn had found a quiet spot, away from the firelight and was taking timelapse photos of the star trails. Meanwhile back at the campfire I had finished talking to the other raiders and was pleased to go to bed.
Raid Day 8
The dawn gave us a clear sky and the promise of another hot day. Our touring groups had done the extra kilometres yesterday so we didn’t rush breaking camp, so it was about 9.00am when we left the gravel pit campsite.
Some other cars had made up the deficit and while we packed, we heard their chatter over the CB as they passed on the road. The drive to Carranya Station, the turnoff to Wolfe Creek was uneventful and the scenery didn’t alter from the previous day.
On arrival at Carranya Stn. we found the store open. No fuel, but cold drinks and souvenirs being served by a cheerful woman working in the same “birdcage” store as at Rabbit Flat.
When you see an item you like, you must ask to see it, and she will get it off the shelf for closer inspection, the pace of life is slow here, the time taken serving just one customer is of little consequence.
Wolfe Creek crater is 23 km from the road through several gates which had typical “cockies catches” on them to the amusement of the overseas raiders, the people of the outback sure are lateral thinkers.
Soon after the second gate the crater is visible, the low hill is about 50 m high, the signboards at the bottom of the track give details of the impact and the size of the meteorite that impacted here several hundred million years ago.
At the top of the rise, you look out on a vast bowl about a kilometre in diameter with a group of stunted trees in the centre, the crater is too big to photograph and even video cameras have trouble capturing the size of the place. Aerial photos give a much better view.
Back on the road after the entertainment of the gates again, there was about 110 km of dirt to go to the Great Northern Hwy. then 20 km of bitumen to Halls Creek for a much needed shower.
Soon the flat desert landscape of the last day or so started to be broken by low ranges of hills and larger trees were appearing in the dry watercourses. This area is about 500 km from the coast so it gets some benefit from the wet during summer.
The road got rougher from Ruby Downs onward with more stones and washouts in the bottoms of the dry creek beds. There were several flat tyres in our group and I heard of lots more when I got to the campground at Halls Creek.
We reached the Great Northern Hwy about mid afternoon where we paused to regroup before heading off into town. After filling the tank, we were directed to the campsite over the CB by the raiders who were already there.
The raiders were all in one big circular area, with a half metre fence all around to stop car entry. We selected a spot and soon had camp established. Then I went for a shower, the dust of the last few days was well ingrained into my skin. Even after a long hot shower, the red dust was still with me. But at least I felt cleaner. The load of washing I put through fared no better. Even with a double wash, the lighter coloured clothes were tinted ochre red.
After several days of pasta meals, Glenn and I decided to see what the town of Halls Creek had to offer. The Kimberly Hotel was just over the back fence from the campground, but a quick look turned us off. The rowdy locals were all over the footpath and the main bar had the birdcage treatment as well. Oh well, it’s only a short walk into town and there are two roadhouses to choose from.
We had a tasty hamburger with the works at one roadhouse, then went via the supermarket / liquor store to buy some cold beer for the meeting to be held later. I was glad to get back to camp because the locals all over town were rowdy and belligerent, we found out later that pension day had been two days earlier and some locals still had some money.
Other tourists, (Bernt Weise called them terrorists) by now had been attracted to the “Raid Circus” we were all answering their questions and appearing in their videos. The usual reaction was “We have just done that road in our 4WD and it was pretty rough. You guys must be mad”
Our answer was, “Yes, we are!!….Cheers!” This scene was repeated at most of the other campgrounds we stayed at.
Between dinner at the roadhouse, and the evening meeting, Glenn and I booked a flight over the Bungle Bungles for late the following afternoon. We were told the low sun angle gives good colours and contrasts late in the day.
At the evening meeting we heard of all the wheel and tyre troubles and also of the other woes. Barry Sargent had to repair a drive boot with a sock. Bent suspension arms that needed straightening or welding. Clutches that had shaken to pieces and the worst so far. Peter Scholz’ transmission having gear selection troubles. But all cars were here Uli said. Tomorrow was a rest or maintenance day so we could deal with the problems then. A few more beers and stories with other raiders and I was ready for bed.
Raid Day 9
No need for an early start, but I woke up with the sunrise, to another clear day, It would be hot later, and I was glad our tent was under the trees. While I ate breakfast, I watched the aerobatics of the Black Kites, these birds have a wingspan of about one metre, and seen to be constantly on patrol over all inhabited places. They rarely flap their wings, instead they ride the thermals and swoop silently on any morsel, like the toast scraps I threw out.
Soon the fun started. Tyres to be repaired. Kingpins to be greased. Pre filters to be cleaned and re-oiled, as well as all the little jobs you had been waiting for a little free time to do.
Peter Scholz had the engine and gearbox out of the 4WD car about mid-morning and set about stripping the transmission. It was soon apparent that the mainshaft nut had worked loose and the endfloat in the gearset had stopped the selection of 2nd and 3rd gears.
David Gries and quite a few others were employed or most of the day on the repairs to the transmission, as well as advising on other repairs.
Around lunch time, Sue Tyson came around to get numbers for a BBQ meal at the Kimberley Hotel that night. It appears Glenn and I had missed the entry gate to the beer garden on our tour of the night before.
Quite a few raiders who got their maintenance done early, went for a swim and to look at the ruins of Old Halls Creek, a goldrush town of the 1890’s. They said it was a good day.
Glenn and I fiddled with the car, and visited some other raiders, who were also tinkering, for a while after lunch, then as it was Sunday, I phoned home to catch up on news from the family. About 3.00 pm we made our way to the office for the air tour of the Bungle Bungle’s.
There were two planes, and I was pleased we got the six seat twin engine one with big windows and comfortable seats. The other plane was a single engine job with four seats, probably just as good, but I liked the twin. The flight lasted about two hours with the pilot giving us a running commentary on the landscape and points of interest. He also explained how he would set the plane up for photos and give the photographers on each side of the plane an equal chance at the landscape. A fantastic tour made better by having a well informed pilot / guide.
After a shower, we all went to the Kimberley Hotel for a BBQ meal in the very nicely set out beer garden. Here we stayed and watched the Marathon telecast direct from the Olympics in Atlanta.
Being away from the TV for the last two weeks hadn’t worried me at all. We missed the meeting that night but I heard later that Ralph Hibble had an Esky containing a bottle of Bundy stolen and Steve Wedell had minor steering problems. I went to bed after the pub closed, probably about 11.00pm.
Raid Day 10
Our destination today was Lake Argyle, about 70 km on from Kununurra. All up, we had about 430 km to do, all on bitumen. About 20 raiders had decided to go to Lake Argyle via the Duncan Hwy, about 500 km on dirt so they would bushcamp and meet us at Lake Argyle the next day.
The now usual routine of breakfast, pack the tent and load the car, was completed by about 9.00am, we then went into town to get fresh rolls for the trip. Halls Creek is only a small place but they do have an excellent bakery and cake shop next to the supermarket, a pleasant hour was spent replenishing some of our supplies in the air con-
ditioned shops before we headed off .
The Great Northern Hwy goes due North from Halls Creek, and the terrain changes rapidly, the hills get bigger and tropical plants such as pandanus palms and boab trees start to dot the roadside, also the yellow flowered kapok trees were often seen.
Glenn had swapped cars to ride with Steve Hill in the 2CV, so I had the pleasant company of Karin Aherns. During the course of the journey I learned a lot about her home town of Bremen in Germany. Karin had a lot of questions about Sydney and Australia, and this helped the day pass quickly.
Not long before our lunch stop at Warmun (Turkey Creek), we found the Army on manoeuvres, tanks and trucks generally tearing up the landscape and stirring up lots of dust, Karin and the others were worried about the bush but I assured them it would all regenerate during “the wet.”
After about an hour under the trees at Turkey Creek we again headed North. Karin is a keen photographer so there were quite a few photo stops and explanations by me of the plants and landscape. About mid-afternoon we turned east onto the Victoria Hwy for the 45km into Kununurra. This is a bustling town, with about 5000 inhabitants, and is one of the biggest between Broome and Darwin.
We made use of the airconditioned shopping mall to find an icecream and cool drink before heading off to Lake Argyle. Our group of cars arrived with about 30 minutes of daylight left, so a quick set up of camp was called for.
The Brits invited us to contribute to and join them in a communal meal, what a good idea, cooking for 12 is no harder than cooking for two. After dinner we booked a lake cruise and got some beer from the pub before joining the other raiders, now fewer in number, by the pool for the meeting.
All the cars that had come up the bitumen were here, we were told, including Peter Scholz whose transmission was working OK now. The nights here are warm and tropical even in August, so a swim about 10.00pm capped off a great day.
Raid Day 11
This was to be a day of relaxation. Get up late, swim in the pool and tour the dam wall. I had heard at last night’s meeting that the Acadiane of Greg Bracegirdle “Batman” from Raid ‘92 and my co-raider from Raid USA was having problems with the clutch.
After a late breakfast, and filling out the Census form, curiosity got the better of me, so I went to look at his car. The front was already off and the engine was all ready to come out. At first it wouldn’t budge. After much shaking and heaving, a small gap appeared between the engine and bellhousing.
Now we had a chance, first one screwdriver, then two were wedged into the gap, shake and heave more, now two tyre levers could be inserted, more shaking and heaving, and the engine came away. The problem was immediately apparent, the roller bearing in the end of the crankshaft had seized, so the clutch would not fully disengage. We had to break the bearing to get the engine out.
The job now, was to get the inner race off the clutch shaft and the outer race out of the back of the crankshaft. The clutch itself was ok and would go back in.
Lucky me, I got the job of breaking up the bearing outer case in the back of the crankshaft, using a thin cold chisel and hammer. As you can imagine this took some time, but eventually after several cold cans of VB “brain food,” the bearing was out and a new bronze bush could be fitted.
Jost Hashof also had the engine out of his van, he knew all the tricks and it only took half an hour to remove.
About this time a lunch break was called. On my way back to our tent, Jan Rice from Adelaide, one of our on line medicos commented how sunburnt I was. Shorts and a tee shirt here is comfortable, but long trousers, and sleeves together with a hat is the best way to dress.
Ron Westwood, who was camped next to us, had developed an exhaust leak. He was having lots of fun trying to seal it up. The problem was that the leak was on the joint between the pipe and muffler, every time it appeared fixed a rev of the engine blew the exhaust putty away.
After lunch, I returned to the Acadiane to see the engine go back in without trouble. My next stop was the shady end of the pool. Where I stayed most of the afternoon to cool the sunburn. The raiders who had been up the Duncan Hwy also joined the group of us in the pool and told of their adventures.
Just before 4.00pm Glenn and I got ready for the Lake Argyle cruise, we went from camp to the jetty in the bus, then onto a 50 seater boat. Captain Ken, the skipper was a real comic, and was soon “geeing up” his latest audience.
Amongst the fun was lots of information, the lake holds nine times the volume of Sydney Harbour. We were soon several kilometres out from the jetty. The lake is huge. I think Ken said almost 100km long and 50km wide as well as up to a kilometre deep in parts. The evaporation rate and rainfall figures during the wet were all part of the patter.
We cruised around for about an hour, looking at a colony of Euros, furry tailed Wallabies, on an island, these were fed with fruit bread, then we went off to another bay where half meter long carp and catfish eat bread out of your hand. There were fantastic rock formations where the forces of nature had folded the layered rocks up like swirls of icecream.
Just on sunset, we returned to the jetty and watched as the colours of the rocks and sky changed every minute or so. If you ever get the chance be sure to do the Lake Argyle sunset cruise.
Our dinner that night was fish and chips, the catfish make good eating and at about $6.00 for a large serve they were good value too.
Glenn and I then got some beer and waited for the evening meeting. Here we heard more tales of the Duncan Hwy side trip. There had been four flat tyres and someone handed in a “flat” rabbit as lost property. Next thing was an auction of remaining Raid tee shirts. This is usually a lot of fun but it was especially so because of one of the French raiders, Jean Francois Gartin, who spoke almost no English but bid $7.00 on each shirt. This earned him the name of “Seven Dollars” for the rest of the Raid.
After the auction, another Frenchman, Sebastian Barbeau who also spoke no English, told in mime only, of the finding and killing of a spider amongst the clothing and sleeping bag in his tent, all to howls of laughter from the other raiders.
The next day was to be our first on the Gibb River road, so Uli Witting informed us of the expected road conditions. He assured us the backup vehicle would be there to help with any breakdowns. Uli is truly a very patient man.
After the meeting, the Gibb River road and the stories of the Duncan Hwy kept us going until the beer ran out and I went to bed.
Raid Day 12
During the night, Sue Coles one of our group was sick in her tent, she didn’t appear for breakfast, so Jan Rice was called, she said she thought it was sun stroke or heat exhaustion. Sue was instructed to take it easy and drink lots of fluids. We heard later that several other raiders were not well either, also from the sun, reinforcing the rule that a hat and lots of fluids are essential in the tropics.
After breakfast and packing the car, we helped Sue and her German co-raider Thomas Collin wash Sue’s tent etc. We were about to leave when Ron Westwood asked for a push, it appears he had managed to flatten the battery while working on the exhaust, after a few tries the Dyane fired.
Our group then headed off back to Kununurra to get fuel and provisions for the four days we would be on the Gibb River road.
On the way into town, the steering of the GS started to shake badly, I slowed down and about 2 km later the right front tyre went flat. Inspection showed wires protruding through the tread area. This was a typical ply separation and was probably a result of one of the rocks on the Tanami Road.
After fitting the spare we were soon in town. I left Glenn in company with the Brits to get the provisions for the journey as we planned communal meals with our touring group.
Meanwhile I went looking for another tyre. The only 15 inch tyre in town was a 165×15 light truck radial, this had already been “bagged” by Peta Carter for her Acadiane. The tyre didn’t really fit her rim, so we did a deal, I bought the tyre and sold her one of my 145×15 spares, this I would buy back in Broome where her new Michelins were waiting.
When the guy at the tyre service removed my tyre from its rim the extent of the ply separation and rock damage was quite obvious, that tyre went straight in the bin!
After collecting Glenn, we set off to do the 50 odd kilometres to the start of the Gibb River road. I had a nourishing lunch of muesli bars and poppers while we drove. At the start of the dirt we found Uli. He said there were only a few cars behind us and the rest of our group had gone on ahead about 30 minutes ago. By now it was about 1.00pm.
Right from the start the Gibb River road lived up to its reputation, with corrugations straight off the bitumen. About 10 km along the road, we came upon a very sad sight. Sue Coles’ 2CV with its distinctive red dragon on the door, was pushed up on two wheels exposing the right side suspension, an inspection revealed a broken suspension mounting at the chassis.
This car had been fitted with an after-market chassis. This unit was probably OK for Britain, but the Tanami road had started a fatigue crack that the Gibb River road had finished off. The spring pot mounting had torn out and needed welding up. My mate McMurphy was visiting Sue Coles today.
By the time the suspension pot had been removed from the right hand side and sun shades had been set up for the people, Uli had arrived with the welding equipment. But first, we needed to grind off the zinc. This chassis had been hot dipped after construction. Next job was to fit the broken piece back into the chassis and secure it in place. Then out came the welder. MIG wouldn’t look at this job so it had to be an Oxy Acetylene welding job. I have a bit of experience here so I got the job.
The biggest tip we had was a number eight, which was too small for the thickness of the metal to be heated. So I finished up using the cutting torch and bits of fencing wire as filler rods. A large tent peg was also used as a brace.
As I welded, the zinc from the chassis and the bitumen from the underbody were catching fire and running out the holes in the body and chassis. This was a bit of a worry, but a sharp lookout for a fire inside the car and lots of support, in the form of cold tins of V.B. brain food, eased the strain.
By about 3.00pm the chassis was welded, the suspension was in and the car was back on the ground. Sue and Thomas said they would go via the bitumen on the Great Northern Hwy and meet us in Fitzroy Crossing. Rens and Natalie went with them as support. We said goodbye and headed off down the Gibb River road.
Another 20 Kms or so further on we found Christoph Aherns in “Mickey Mouse” with a broken rear arm. Uli was already there so he was in good hands. We could do nothing, so we pushed on.
Andreas Belz told us that a couple of cars had gone off to see El Questro station, about 15 km down a side road and they were expected back soon. Would we wait for them as his group had gone on ahead and he was anxious to catch up with them? Sure no problem.
About 15 minutes later Peta Carter and Phil Otley in the Acadian came back from El Questro. They were the only car down there, so we left with them heading for our campsite at Jack’s Waterhole about 80 km away.
Time was getting away, and the sun was low as we descended the Cockburn range toward the Pentecost river. I misjudged a bad patch in the road and the GS came down hard on the left side. Within a few metres I knew we had a flat, the left rear tyre was split and the rim was bent, I told Peta to go on and wait for us at the river crossing. As I fitted our last spare I hoped we would not have any more flats as I had given Peta the other spare earlier that day.
We were going again in a few minutes and caught Peta and Phil doing a tyre change just before the river crossing. They had hit a rock too.
The Pentecost River crossing is a wide bar made up of stones between the size of an orange and a football. It’s probably no problem for OKAs and Landcruisers with fat tyres, but in our little cars we had to pick our way carefully in the fading light to get across safely. With the river crossing behind us we climbed in the last of the daylight to the top of the Pentecost range.
About 2 kms after the river we came across the Bennets’ 2CV and Ushie Walter in the Matilda car, the right hand arm was off the Bennets’ car and Chris and Hobo were at Home Valley homestead welding up the arm. Bev and Ushie were setting up camp and getting a meal ready for when their men returned. We wished them luck and said we would let the main group know they were OK. It was now dark and we had 60 km to go.
The road was very bad; lots of corrugations and sandy patches. I let Peta go in front to set the pace, but we had to stay well back for the dust and so as not to blind them with our headlights. It took two hours to do the 60 km to Jack’s Waterhole and I was sure glad to hear the other raiders on the CB as we approached. They guided us in and had a cup of tea waiting for us.
I can’t speak for Glenn but I was exhausted, there was a communal pasta meal just about ready. So I ate that, inflated my airbed and lay down fully clothed, probably about 8.00pm. Uli and some other raiders came in about an hour later but I didn’t hear them.
Raid Day 13
The sound of birds woke me about sunrise. Most other dawns had been much quieter, but here the river with its big trees was a magnet to birds of all types. On my way back from the toilet, I had coffee with Batman and Geoff, they said the clutch was going OK and they had no trouble since Lake Argyle.
Most of the other raiders were up now and after I had breakfast I started work on the tyre. Off the rim it came. Soon I had patches on the tyre and the tube, then I used a hammer and a shaped dolly to bash the rim back to the correct shape. All this effort before 7.00am attracted some attention!
Just as I was finishing with the bent wheel, Paul Young came over and said he had a split tyre he had found on one of the Tanami Road camps, a 145×15 and did I want it as a second spare. “Yes, I do!” was the quick reply so he went and got the tyre. It had a 40mm gash in the sidewall so after some preparation I put a truck patch on the gash and fitted it up with a spare tube to my other spare wheel. I was much happier now I had two spares again.
The usual evening meeting had been put off until this morning to let all raiders get to camp. This was quite a lively affair with quite a few stories of the previous day. There were eight tyre failures including mine. Also three sets of shockabsorbers had been trashed. It appears the river crossing had claimed Alf Reichhardt who tore off his fuel line under the car on a rock, and Barry Sargent, who had holed the sump. All the problems were now under control.
Uli told us that the road ahead to Manning Gorge near Mt Barnett homestead was a little better, 230 km then seven more to get to the campsite in the gorge.
I went off for a cold shower at the end of the meeting, after my exertions with the wheels and the dust yesterday. Cold only didn’t matter. Glenn packed the car while I was showering and we left with our depleted group just after 9.00am.
The countryside we had passed through in the darkness the night before must have been quite spectacular going by the scenery today. We were up and down through creek beds with lots of trees then there were large areas of grassy plain. The road was still rough and corrugated but it gradually improved as the morning wore on.
About noon a stop was called at a creek near the Kalumburu community turnoff. The Brits quickly had the “road train” on and soon cups of tea and sandwiches were being consumed. We stayed about an hour at the lunch stop before pressing on toward the Mt Barnett roadhouse.
After the lunch stop the road improved. It was now mainly fast gravel, and we could do 80 km/h in places, then you would get a patch of sand or corrugations so reading the road was still essential.
It’s great country out here in the Kimberley. It’s easy to see why the pioneers, who liked the peace of the outback, settled here on these vast cattle stations, usually measured on hundreds of square kilometres rather than the more usual hectares.
About mid afternoon we arrived at Mt Barnett roadhouse, a nice modern building with wide verandas all round. No birdcage here! Fuel was about $1.00 per litre and there were cool drinks and ice cream in the fridges, hot food was also available and some raiders had a de facto early evening meal.
On the seven km in to the campsite, the left front tyre went flat, inspection revealed wire poking out through the tread area, another ply separation. It’s just as well I fixed up the two spares this morning. After a quick tyre change, we arrived at the Manning Gorge campsite and quickly established our camp. Then it was off for a swim in the water-
The large rock in the middle was a comfortable 30 metre swim, and was soon crowded with raiders, all cooling off and getting the dust out. We stayed here until the sun started to set.
The air cooled quickly and dry clothes soon proved much more comfortable. Glenn and I assisted with the communal meal then sat around talking until quite late. Some raiders went for a walk back to the waterhole after dinner to look for crocodiles, yes, they saw some red eyes in the water. We were told later that they were fresh water crocs and not dangerous.
Raid Day 14
I tried to get a sunrise photo of the waterhole at Manning Gorge, but my camera is a small automatic and the photo didn’t come out as I hoped. At least it’s a record of the place.
After breakfast and packing the car the raiders meeting was called, There had been quite a few flat tyres as usual, and several shockabsorbers had been ruined, but all in all the second day on the Gibb River road wasn’t as bad as most folk had expected.
Uli told us there were only about 180 km of the Gibb River road to go until we turned off, just past the Napier Range, onto the Tunnel Creek road, then 20 km down here we would make camp at Windjana Gorge.
The road was good gravel now with only occasional rough patches. The scenery was similar to the previous day. Our group had no problems and as the morning wore on, and the kilometres slid by we enjoyed the scenery, stopping on several occasions for photos and to look for boab nuts.
Lunch time saw us at a creek bed near the Mt Hart homestead turnoff, a pleasant stop for an hour. Then we carried on to the Napier Range. The pass through the Napier Range is quite spectacular because you can’t see it until you are almost at the range. Then a few kilometres on we turned left onto the Tunnel Creek road.
There were only about 60 km of dirt left on the Gibb River road and another 60 km of bitumen to get to Derby. The 130 km of dirt and visits to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek looked like much more fun.
About half an hour down the Tunnel Creek road we heard other raiders over the CB calling us in to the Windjana Gorge campsite. A well organised and run place, with cold showers again, pit toilets and a cranky ranger. The sights of the Gorge in the afternoon light and the company of the other raiders would more than make up for the shortcomings.
We cooked and consumed our now familiar communal meal of pasta, then got a campfire going. This attracted quite a few raiders. We were just about to start the evening meeting when the ranger arrived and asked us to put the fire out if we had finished cooking because the wind strength was expected to rise in the next hour or so.
Also could we keep the noise down, I guess the possums and other wildlife must have complained to him of the noisy neighbours. Well we held our meeting anyway then stayed up talking for a while, but the ranger was patrolling the camp, so we put the fire out, and went to bed quite early for Raid.
Raid Day 15
A leisurely breakfast was in order as we only had the morning tour of Windjana Gorge and a look at Tunnel Creek to do before driving to Fitzroy Crossing. The waterhole at Windjana Gorge was about half a kilometre long and 50 metres wide. It is inhabited by lots of birds and fresh water crocs up to 1.5 metres long, a pair of shoes and a handbag in trapper’s terms.
Our walk along the waters edge showed quite a lot of activity by the crocs on our side, but they were staying well out of trouble on the logs and rocks in the sun on the other bank.
I had counted four crocs which the raiders and other tourists were photographing when Gerry Bartlett, one of our raiders who was returning from an early morning bushwalk on the other side of the waterhole, startled the crocs into action.
There were another four which hadn’t seen well camouflaged on the rocks and logs. As a result eight splashes were all there was to see of the crocs. We left then as it would be some time before they ventured out of the water.
On the way back to camp, Morgan Gries showed me a fig, it appeared to be dried and flat, when I asked him about it, he said Big Alex had found it on the ground under the big fig tree on the bank. Alex then stomped on it and given it to him to remind him what would happen if Morgan kept hasselling him.
The 35km to Tunnel Creek passed without incident. It was a well kept gravel road with only a few patches of corrugations. After we parked the cars we went to see this creek flowing through a fault in the limestone range. The first pool was very cold but sandy on the bottom, then as we got further from the entrance, the light faded so, using torches, we picked our way over rocks in and out of the water.
By now the cold was getting to my bad leg, so after about 150 metres I turned back to the entrance. As I waited for the others to return, raiders coming back told me of the very cold chest deep pool further in. I was quietly glad I had come back when I did.
Barry Annells had a bit of bad luck, he tripped on a rock and his new video camera fell into the metre deep water, he recovered it without much trouble but I didn’t think it would be much good from now on.
On the road again, our group had been joined by Paul Young and Elise Buisson in the green Dyane as well as Steve Wedell and James Simons in the gold DS 21. It was now near noon and we had a snack of poppers and muesli bars as we drove the 60 or so remaining kilometres towards the Great Northern Hwy for the run into Fitzroy Crossing.
About 10 km from the end of the dirt, we met Rens and Natalie heading for Tunnel Creek. We told them the road was good and we would see them back at camp. Also we came upon Ron Westwood and Marijke Krijgsman in their very wet yellow Dyane. They had misjudged a very deep creek crossing and had a wet ignition, water was still pouring out of the car when we arrived. Ron was attending to the engine and Marijke was looking to the luggage.
The videos rolled for a while as several other cars crossed, but the call of a cold beer and a warm shower at Fitzroy Crossing campground was too strong to ignore for long.
Finally, we got to the bitumen and about half an hour later we arrived at Fitzroy Crossing. We topped the tank and had a cold drink at the roadhouse. Then it was off to the Fitzroy River Lodge to put up camp.
Glenn and I then drove out to Geikie Gorge to have a look. We didn’t go on the river cruise, which was full of raiders, but instead had a walk along the bank amongst the tropical vegetation.
Some local Aboriginals were cooking fish they had caught when we arrived at the sandbar, which makes a natural dam for the Gorge. Several other raiders were also at the sandbar. We stayed with them for a while before returning to camp.
Happy hour was on in the bar at the Fitzroy River Lodge so we joined the Brits for a while before returning to our campsite for a communal meal with Sue and Thomas as well as Rens and Natalie. We all had lots of stories to catch up on so the evening went on until quite late.
Raid Day 16
No need to rise early today but I did anyway, as usual I was up with the sun. On my visit to the toilet I noticed the well equipped laundry was empty, so I soon had a load of very dusty clothes “doing laps in the Whirlpool.” Then I had my tea and toast for breakfast while they washed.
Back at the laundry about 30 minutes later and the washer was finished, and a drier was vacant. Too good to be true. In went the wet clothes and the coins and I went off to ring up the family in Sydney. Today was Sunday, “phone home day” for travellers, and, would you believe it, even the phone was not being used.
Every thing was OK at home, and as I told of our trip the reaction was. “You won’t want come home.” It had been quite cold in the last few days and they were envious of the hot tropical weather I was enjoying on Raid.
On my return to the laundry I found it a hive of activity, every one had dirty clothes to wash and I was glad I could take my now “pale red” ones away to complete the pack up of camp.
The raiders meeting had been postponed from the night before, mainly because everyone was spread over the campsite and pub. Our first job was to wake Torsten Albers, it was his birthday, so after decorating the car with streamers, we all gave him a loud “Cheers” to wake him up. He took it in good humour. The Tunnel Creek road had destroyed seven tyres, broken the subframe in Kees Brinkhorst’s GS, and split Barry Annells muffler. Barry also said his video camera was returning to normal functions.
Our group of six cars was on the road a little after 9.00am, heading for Broome, about 390 km away along the Great Northern Hwy. We first had to retrace our steps 40kms back to the Tunnel Creek road, then another 175 km to the Derby turn off.
The road headed generally west through scrubby bush and grasslands, with occasional large eucalypts and boab trees as well as the ever present red anthills. The group of 2CVs with Father Goose at the rear made good time on the long flat bitumen highway and about 11.00am we were at the Derby turn off.
Steve Hill and the other Brits were anxious to get to Broome to book camel rides and other tourist adventures, while Glenn and I wanted to go for a side trip to Derby.
Over the CB the group said they would keep us a camping spot in Broome, we said “Goodbye” and headed for Derby, about 40 km away. About 11.30am we passed the end of the Gibb River road and soon came upon the boab “Prison” tree about 6 kms out of town.
We stopped for a look and photo. The tree is estimated to be about 1500 years old, and you can get into the interior through a narrow hole in the trunk. It’s possible to get six or eight people inside this living tree.
Not long after leaving the prison tree, we were in Derby township. Homes up on poles and wide streets were the main impressions of Derby. The shopping mall in the town centre wasn’t open, so we went for a drive out along the causeway to look at the old wharf. It’s huge. They used to export live sheep and cattle from here some years ago and the loading ramps are still in place.
Coming back along the causeway, we heard Alf and Ailsa Reichhardt on the CB to some other raiders, we soon found them at a shady table near the shore and had lunch with then before leaving for Broome about 1.00pm. The scenery en route to Broome was much the same as the run up from Fitzroy Crossing.
On the trip we passed a lot of Variety Club bash cars leaving Broome and heading for Darwin via Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek.
About 3.00pm we stopped for fuel at the Roebuck roadhouse near the turnoff to Broome, one of the bash cars came along side and gave us a broadside with their water pistols. Oh well it was a hot day and boys will be boys.
The last 25 km into Broome took us past the International Airport. What a town of about 5000 people at the top of Australia needs with an airport big enough to take Boeing 747s is beyond me. I guess the town council wants to be ready for the “overseas terrorists” if they decide to come in by air on package tours.
Next stop was the tourist bureau, for a locality map and guide. We knew we were camped near Cable Beach resort so we went off to find the campground, a few minutes away on the other side of town. Our friends had saved us a spot under a mango tree, very tropical. I was glad of the shade that afternoon and the next day.
In the local paper there was an advert for a 2CV the owner was asking $16,000. I must have been a good one or he was trying to cash in on the Raid. This caused a lot of discussion as to the value of cars after the Raid.
After camp was established, Glenn went for a swim at Cable Beach, while I wanted to have a look around town, it’s not very big, and only takes about 20 minutes to do a drive tour of the whole place, at least I had an idea where everything was.
I joined most of the other tourists to see the sunset on the hill above Cable Beach, then returned to camp. Glenn and some of the others were going to see a movie in the historic open air picture theatre, while Steve Hill and another part of the group were going into Chinatown for a restaurant meal. No contest, the restaurant meal won me.
While I was having a shower, I met Barry Sargent and during our conversation he said Broome was the furthest point from Sydney, and the outward bound part of Raid was over. The homeward bound leg would soon begin. I guess he was right but this saddened me because I didn’t want the Raid to end.
We had a nice Asian meal, in a proper restaurant, and a few bottles of wine to celebrate our arrival in Broome, but Barry’s words came back to me on my return to the tent later that night. Part one of raid OZ 1996 had finished.
Raid OZ 1996 (Part 2, Broome to Sydney)
Raid Day 17
Before dawn I woke with water splashing on my face. I hadn’t put the waterproof outer fly on the tent , and a heavy tropical dew was dripping off the leaves of the mango tree. After a few mental “kicks in the butt,” I slept till well after sunrise.
Glenn and I were about to leave to explore Broome. Our aim was to find a 165×15 tyre to replace the one destroyed on the Gibb River road. David Gries gave me a message to ring a phone number in Alice Springs. He also said a raider meeting was on in 30 minutes.
Barry Sargent, kindly offered his mobile phone. When I called the Alice Springs number, a woman’s voice said “Give me your number there and I will ring you back.”
About 30 seconds later I was talking to a journalist in Alice Springs. She had spoken to me at the Heavitree Resort. I had forgotten the incident, but she had lots of questions about the Raid so far. I hope it made a good story if it ever went to print.
At the meeting, David Gries and Ralph Hibble were trying to organise a group photo of the cars on the beach this morning. The tide would be full at about 11.00am so we had to go there at once.
By 9.30am, lots of photos had been taken. However we all had one eye on the incoming tide. Joe Schembri was leaving the beach, when he hit a deep rut in the sand, bogging his “D” Safari to floor level, this happened near at the edge of the only driveway on and off the sand.
The Raid looked like becoming a regatta. With a bit of help from a local in a 4WD, we got the D out and all cars made it safely off ahead of the incoming tide.
The local tourist guide showed, there were two tyre services and one second hand tyre place. The in-town tyre service couldn’t help, but referred us on to several second hand tyre places as well as a wrecker.
After visiting all of these, Glenn and I decided to try the out of town place, Tyrepower, about 5 km out on the road to Entrance Point.
A 165×15 tyre is rare thing in these parts. There had only been one in Kununurra, and my enquiries this morning had been in vain.
The owner of Tyrepower, a big heavily built man, with a florid complexion, had been fitting a tyre to a 4WD rim by hand. He was sweating profusely, as it was now late morning and the day was now quite hot.
“What can I do for you gents” he asked.
“I’m looking for a 165×15 tyre.” I replied. “Can you help?”
“I don’t think so.” He said. “But let’s look on the computer.”
To my amazement the computer showed two in stock. Finding them amongst all the truck, tractor, 4WD and common car tyres took about 20 minutes but, eventually, there they were, lurking in a corner under a layer of red dust.
I only wanted one, but I felt I should have taken both after all his trouble.
Soon I had one tyre fitted and I was surprised to find the price was only $95.00. That’s about what I would expect to pay in Sydney. I promised the chap I would tell the other raiders of our find, and of his assistance. I hope he sold the other tyre to another raider.
Glenn and I then did a tour of Roebuck Bay. We stopped at the hovercraft base and lighthouse before returning to Broome for lunch.
We went to the main shopping area, there were lots of raiders here and our colourful if dirty Raid cars in the main street made quite a sight. We walked through the shops, bought souvenirs, and looked at the picture theatre. Glenn and the others had been here the night before. After this we lunched late under an umbrella on the pavement outside the bakery.
Back in camp, I decided to check over the car. There were no loose bolts. In fact everything checked out OK. The underside hadn’t been badly damaged on the Tanami or Gibb River roads. So I just cleaned the airfilter and left it at that.
About mid-afternoon, Steve Hill announced he was going skydiving. The “Raid Madness” had got to him. He said he would land on Cable beach at sunset. We said we would see him there.
Glenn and I, with Sue Coles and Thomas Collin went to sample some mango wine, from one of the local mango plantations. It was delicious! So we all bought a bottle or two. Then it was back to Cable Beach for a swim and to see Steve land, which he did right on sunset.
Part of the package deal Steve had taken was a showing of his skydiving video at a pub in town. A reduced cost meal was available for the skydivers’ party of friends. Well we had to have dinner somewhere and the chance to see a first time skydive pulled us in.
Back at camp after dinner and the video. Sue Coles produced a slab of cold cans to thank me for welding up her car on the Gibb River road. As our cooler had been out of action since the second day fire on the Tanami road, we had to drink them there and then.
Instant party. Just add people, no problem on Raid, and soon the box was empty. We talked of Steve’s skydiving adventure for a while longer then went off to bed.
Raid Day 18
We were headed for Wallal Downs campground. This is at the southern end of 80 mile beach, some 380km away down the Great Northern Hwy. It was all bitumen, except for the last 10km in to the campsite, which, we were told was a fair dirt road. Natalie d’Olivat’s Lonely Planet Guide book describes it as the most boring road in Australia.
After breakfast and packup, our group went into Broome for last minute provisions and souvenirs. As we were leaving town, we picked up a weak CB signal. One of the 2CVs was stranded at Cable Beach with gearbox trouble. Steve Hill and young Ben Tyson went back to help. They said they would catch us up later in the day or in camp that night.
It was about 10.30am when our group, plus Paul Young’s Dyane left the Roebuck roadhouse after filling our tanks. Natalie’s guide book wasn’t far wrong! This road runs along the coast between five and twenty kilometres inland from the water. The only vegetation is stunted green/grey bushes about two metres tall. The area is nearly flat, with not even a hill to get a view.
It was roasting in the cars, so after about 2 hours driving we stopped for lunch, just past the Nita Downs turn off in a parking bay. The French group was already there enjoying their gastronomic repast we watched them enviously as we ate our rolls and slices of melon.
The Western Australian Statistician says there are three billion flies in Western Australia. A good percentage of them joined us for lunch that day. Rotton little bush flies, about 3mm long and they never give up.
After about 30 minutes of swatting we were exhausted, The French group didn’t seem to be worried by the flies, so we left them to share their lunch.
Another hour or so on the road saw us at Sandfire roadhouse, The flies and stunted bushes were left far behind. Now rolling grass plains stretched as far as the eye could see. After refilling the fuel tanks and getting a well earned cold drink, We were off again to do the 50 km or so to the Wallal Downs campground.
Eighty mile beach is a haven for fishermen and shell collectors. The only accommodation is the Wallal Downs campground about halfway along the beach. It would probably hold about 80 caravans.
The 60 or so raid tents had no trouble fitting in. We established camp and kept a space for Steve.
Next we went to for a walk over the dunes to see the beach. The tide was out, and as is normal in the tropics, the tidal movement is huge, the waters edge was about 3km out from the high tide mark.
Too far to go for a swim. That would have wait for tomorrow.
Back in camp, Steve Hill had arrived, the rescue had been successful and the stranded 2CV was with us again. I noticed, on the way back from the beach the French group had one of their cars stripped down. Apparently dust had got past the airfilter and the car was using a litre of oil per 100km. “We will fit zee new rings before dinner, monsieur Bruce,”
“Good thing they eat late,” I thought. But by about 7.30pm I heard the little car running again.
The sunsets here are as good as Broome, but without the hordes of tourists. Almost all the raiders were on the dunes to see the sun slide into the ocean. For about 10 minutes the clatter shutters and the whirr of motor drives filled the air, words were not needed as we shared and captured this glorious spectacle.
Our communal dinner that night, (pasta again from memory,) was a change if nothing else after town food. While washing up, we heard that a TV news item on Raid, done the day before in Broome, was being screened in one of the nearby caravans.
We were all invited to come over and watch. I don’t think they expected 80 plus people! When the news was over we gave them a “cheers” and disappeared back into the darkness to finish the washing up. This done we sat around under the stars in the warm tropical night, listening to various music tapes and yarning with other raiders who were touring the campground until quite late.
Raid Day 19
An easy day was planned, care was still needed to avoid sunburn as we were still several hundred kilometres north of the tropic. So it was on with the hats and 15+ sunblock cream straight after breakfast.
Kathryn Doddington’s 2CV had been “lazy” to crank on the starter, so here was a good chance to have a look at it. The starter was soon on the table under a sun brolly. As I pulled it apart, I was surprised to find that the innards of a starter motor was a new area for most people. It appears that in Britain and Europe, starter motors and alternators are not repaired, just discarded and replaced with new ones.
The starter had worn brushes, as I had suspected. There was a good supply of red dust inside, a vigerous clean out and free up of the brushes in their holders was all I could do. I reassembled it and it was soon back on the car. It worked like a charm for the rest of Raid.
A few minutes later I had to repeat the job, Ralph Hibble was having the same trouble. His recieved the same fix and also worked OK when refitted. It was now late morning, I wandered around the campground talking and looking at the other jobs being done for a while, then returned to our campsite for lunch.
After lunch, I grabbed my swimmers and headed for the beach. At the top of the dunes, I saw the beach was empty except for the odd fisherman. The water was only about a kilometre away today. Then I found I would probably need to walk another kilometre just to get my knees wet. One of the fishermenadded the finishing touch of joy.
“Just be careful of the sharks, sea snakes and box jellyfish” he said.
I returned to the campground to talk to the other raiders and tinker with their cars, a much more rewarding experience.
During the afternoon, Sue Tyson was canvassing the idea of a BBQ. The shop had steak and sausages as well as salad vegies. What a good idea, we said we’d be in it, then went back to tinkering.
Just before sunset, I again went to the beach to look for shells, to remember the place by. Then I joined the other raiders on the dunes watching the fantastic sunset. It had been an easy day. Quite unusual for Raid.
Our meal was a BBQ with salads prepared by Sue andsome helpers. Most of the other raiders had their meal in the BBQ area too. So at the end of the meal there was the customary raiders’ meeting.
Tomorrow we would leave for the Pilbara. The main Raid would go via Port Headland , but a small group wanted to do a side trip via Marble Bar. They would rejoining us that night at the bush camp. Uli wanted to find out who was going on the dirt road side trip, so he could plan his day. After the meeting we sat and talked for quite a while before heading for bed.
Raid Day 20
Our destination was a bush camp at Coonarie Creek, a small dry creek about 380 km away on bitumen. The first leg was 250 km to Port Headland. We had been warned about speeding here. After getting supplies at South Headland, we would follow the Great Northern Hwy about 130km south towards Mt Tom Price. The campsite at Coonarrie Creek was well signposted we were told.
Glenn wanted to go via Marble Bar, while the remainder of our group wanted to go via the bitumen. We also needed more supplies for the next few days.
Peta Carter’s friend Phil Otley, had injured his back and didn’t fancy travelling 200km on the dirt. The travel arrangements were, Glenn would go with Peta, and Phil would come with me. Another Brit more or less in our group wouldn’t make much difference. I was loosing my Aussie accent anyway I had been told.
After an easy day it was hard to get the raiders moving. Packing up took ages. Then Phil wanted to get a message off to the world on the Internet. It was about 9.30am when we left Wallal Downs for Port Headland.
The first 200 km went easily. Phil and I swapped ideas about the education industries in Britain and Australia. The morning was warm and the scenery was rolling grasslands with occasional low hills.
About 50 km from Port Headland, all the raiders going via Marble Bar were assembled at the turnoff as we passed. We wished them well over the CB.
The 2CVs were now low on fuel, so we went into Port Headland, arriving about noon. This town is the main port for loading iron ore from the Mt Newman mines some 450km to the south east. As we entered town we saw huge railway yards on the left and a large salt mound and evaporation pans on the right.
At the service station on the main road there was a collection of mining machinery and railway rolling stock. We spent a short time looking at these and touring the town. Then it was off to South Headland about 10km away to get the provisions for the next few days on the road. The airconditioned shopping mall was filled with raiders. Like us, they were having a late lunch and buying supplies.
We left South Headland about 2.30pm to drive the 130 km to Coonarrie Creek. This took us away from the coast. Soon the landscape took on the now familiar look of stunted trees and arid rolling hills. About 5.00 pm we found the campsite, and quickly had our camp established. I started another pasta meal for dinner. About 6.00pm the side road group arrived with stories to tell.
Our raiders meeting that night was a chance for the Marble Bar tour group to recount their experiences. Uli said it had been a good day with no bad breakdowns. He then filled us in on the road conditions to Joffre George in the Karijini National park, our next destination.
Mozart Gamble had been persuaded to get his guitar out for a bit of a singalong at the campfire tonight. Soon he was picking chords of some well known songs. The wine and beer was loosening our voices, we sang as much as we knew but the words kept petering out part way through the songs. Then one of the French girls, Maryse Boiteau, asked Mozart if he knew any Edith Piaff numbers.
Over the next few minutes they figured out what music they knew. Mozart picked some more chords and Maryse sang. The song must have been in French because I didn’t understand the words but it sounded beautiful. The raiders were all stunned, and we wanted to hear more from this brilliant voice. Maryse sang more songs and her friend Sandrine Taffonneau played the flute. The effect was sheer magic. It was after midnight when I want to bed with the sounds of singing still coming from the campfire circle.
Raid Day 21
Up at dawn again, I found Claude Hermans and Edith Bosch, a Swiss couple I had met on previous Raids, having coffee and enjoying the sunrise. The cool clear sunny dawn was heralding a fine hot day.
We were to travel about 100km to Auski roadhouse, where we could refuel before touring the Karijini National park, finishing up at Joffre Gorge for our overnight camp.
Glenn was up when I returned from coffee with Claude and Edith.
We had breakfast and packed the car, there was no rush today as we only had 180 km to do and the first 100 km was on bitumen.so it was about 10.30 am when we left the campsite.
The run to Auski roadhouse was uneventful. We arrived about noon and found only one petrol pump operating. It took about 30minutes to refuel the all the Raid cars. During the delay, some raiders had hot showers, and others, including us had hamburgers with the works for lunch.
There had been some talk of Glenn buying Rens and Natalie’s 2CV. To get the feel of the car he decided to go with Rens’ for the afternoon. This was OK by me, I had Natalie as a passenger. During the afternoon we visited Yampire Gorge, the site of one of the first asbestos mines. Then we saw Dales Gorge, where we walked down from the rim through tumbled and folded multi-coloured rocks, like those we had seen at Lake Argyle. A short wander along the cool creek bed, and a swim in the circular pool, were great on such a hot afternoon.
Back up at the carpark on the rim of the gorge, was a goanna about a metre long. With a little bit of coaxing by me he took off at full speed through the spinifex, much to the delight of the other raiders! It was about 4.00pm, and we had about 40km of dirt road to do before we arrived at our campsite.
With about 30 minutes daylight left we arrived at Joffre Gorge campsite. It was very small with only enough room for about 50 cars and tents. There were only pit toilets and no showers here, that swim earlier in the day had been a good choice.
All available spaces were taken, so we just pushed a track through the spinifex to a spot under some gumtrees. Here we removed some spinifex to clear a space for the tents and our group set up camp. Other late arrivals had the same trouble, and copied our example.
The fun started when the ranger arrived to collect camping fees. He accused us of destroying the fragile environment and wanted to fine us. No way pal!
“We had the whole campsite booked. You were told to expect 70 cars, and you have allowed the extra tourists to stay here. Here are your campfees, now tick off.” (or words to that effect).
An aggressive tone and a hostile group of raiders was too much for him, he fledwith the cheque.
Back in our camp we had a communal meal and hoped Maryse would sing.
At the raiders meeting, Ralph Hibble said he thought the spinifex was too dry to chance a campfire tonight. Next, Uli told us of road conditions and sightseeing on offer on our way to Mt Tom Price.
Steve Hill had been battling with a toothache all day. Steve had spoken to Gerry Bartlett one of the raiders who is a dentist. A quick inspection revealed no cavities. Something else was wrong. It would need the use of a dental surgery, hopefully tomorrow. Steve was barely coping with the aid of very strong painkillers.
Gerry knew of a dentist in Mt Tom Price and would try to get the use of the surgery for the next morning. It was Saturday and the dentist would be playing golf.
So Steve and Gerry then set off in the Falcon to drive the 80km each way to the Auski roadhouse to tee up the surgery.
We all sat out at the table under 12 volt fluro lights, swapping yarns and waiting for their return. About 11.00pm we heard the car. Yes, they could use the surgery tomorrow, they would leave early and go to Mt Tom Price in Steve’s 2CV because Gerry needed to arrange a dental nurse. I heard from Gerry that the Falcon had sustained two punctures and broken a headlight when he hit a kangaroo on the trip to Auski roadhouse.
This meant that there were no more spare tyres in the Falcon, so Glenn would go with Simon, Gerry’s son, and Karin Aherns would come with me in the GS.
It had been a long day and bed was great.
Raid Day 22
Not long after sunrise, the “roadtrain” kettle started to boil. Poor Steve couldn’t sleep for the pain, so he kindly decided to make everyone a cuppa. I didn’t have a problem with that but not all of our group were early risers.
Steve packed his tent and belongings into his 2CV, and was ready to go with, Gerry, to Mt Tom Price about 8.00am. The rest of us weren’t in a hurry, and it was just after 9.00am before we went back via Yampire Gorge to the main road.
As we turned onto the bitumen, about 10.00am, Simon Bartlett called over the CB to say he had a flat tyre in the Falcon. Both spares had been used the night before, and my tyre repair gear had been borrowed by another raider. We removed the wheel, slung it in the back of the GS, and drove the 20km to Auski roadhouse to get it repaired.
The guy was very helpful. 10 minutes after I arrived, the tyre was off the rim to assess the damage. The tyre could be patched, but Simon had run over a spoon handle on the road and this had torn the tube to shreds. The tyre was soon repaired, and a new tube fitted, all for $25.00.
I bought a round of cold drinks and drove back to the stranded group. With the tyre refitted we drove on to Wittenoom village.
This town has been virtually closed own by the government. They are concerned tourists will cause a flareup in the asbestos compensation case. A cheerful woman in the general store, which doubled as a tourist office and mining museum, said the current residents were keen to stay. We bought ice creams here and got a map of the area. The Wittenoom mine and abandoned townsite looked interesting. We toured these. Later I gave Ben Tyson a lesson on skipping stones at a dam near the road, before returning to the village.
We had about 150km of dirt to drive via Rio Tinto and Hamersley Gorges on the road to Mt Tom Price. This took all afternoon, because we had a swim at Hamersley Gorge and marvelled at the folded rock formations.
On arrival at Mt Tom Price campground, we asked Steve Hill about his tooth. It transpired he had an abscess. Gerry had drained it and put in temporary filling. He was much happier now. We quickly established camp then went off for a shower only to find a bus tour camped next to us, had used all the hot water.
While our communal meal was being prepared, I drove into town for some wine and beer to lubricate the throats at the singalong arranged by Bernie Rachelle for later this evening. After dinner we all went over to the campfire of old railway sleepers burning at the back of the campground.
First there was the nightly raiders meeting. Uli told us there was a good dirt road for about 70km, then about 150km of bitumen to the next campsite, a roadside bushcamp near Mt Stewart. Bernie and his touring group had some singalong songs and skits to entertain us. I had hurt my thumb before dinner helping to arrange the railway sleepers for the fire. This was now very painful so I left early and went to bed.
Raid Day 23
After breakfast, Glenn and I had booked to go on the first of two bus tours of the Mt Tom Price mine. About 8.30am we boarded the bus. The very well informed woman guide she and the driver kept up an amicable patter about the people and town of Mt Tom Price and the open cut mine itself throughout the hour and a half tour.
The scale of mining here is enormous. Huge dump trucks with wheels over 3 m tall, able to hold 200 tonnes of ore are filled by scoops nearly as big. This is then loaded onto railway trains up to 3 km long, which take the iron ore to the bulk ore carriers at the coast near Dampier.
On our return to camp, the second group was ready so they left immediately for the tour. It was Sunday again and I rang home. Everything was OK there. We packed the tents, filled our fuel tanks, and headed off about 10.30am.
As promised, the dirt road was hard packed, fast gravel, after about an hour we were on the bitumen. We had a roadside lunch near the Ashburton Downs turnoff, then drove the last 120 km to Mt Stewart, arriving about 4.00pm.
Our campsite at Mt Stewart was quite small, an old section of the road through a creek had been bypassed by a bridge. This was the area we were using. Raiders’ tents were soon appearing in the bush back from the old roadway.
We could hear a herd of cattle “mooing” nearby. One of the raiders went for a walk and told us that a muster was on. The jackaroos were branding and separating the calves from their mothers. Well before dusk, all the raiders were in camp and Uli was here too.
After establishing camp, some of the overseas raiders wanted to go looking for kangaroos. About 20 minutes before sunset, I set off with a group of six people on the hunt, we soon found evidence of roos under the bushes on the bank of the creek.
They had heard us coming and headed off well before we got anywhere near them. Just as the sun was setting we went up the hillside and got within about 10m of two kangaroos on the rise. At the top of the rise we could see several more in the next valley. The next job was to get back to camp. It was now dark, and between us and the campsite was about a kilometre of open plain covered with sharp spinifex, and a small creek. Some people have all the fun!
Back in camp, the communal meal was nearly ready. More Pasta.We told of our adventures as we ate. After dinner at the usual raiders meeting. Uli told us the road to Coral Bay was good including the 80 km of dirt. A show of hands was asked for to get numbers for scuba diving, about 15 raiders, some of whom could barely swim, accepted that challenge.
At the campfire, Mozart and Maryse got the singalong going for a while, then while Maryse was having a break, Mozart was plucking chords. He started picking “Old McDonald had a farm” Joe Schembri got up and started strutting around like a chicken.
Quick as a flash, the Frenchman, “Seven Dollars” was up behind him with one hand over his head, fingers spread, and the other behind him, also with fingers spread to simulate a cockerel.
Joe wasn’t aware “Seven Dollars” was there at first and they did a lap of the campfire before Joe caught on. It was hilarious to watch, all the raiders were howling with laughter. The singing and merriment went on till quite late. A great night.
Raid Day 24
Another kangaroo finding expedition was scheduled for sunrise. Before sunup, about six raiders came with me to the rise where we had seen the creatures the evening before. While we walked they stayed still. So at the top of the rise, we stopped and stayed very quiet and still.
After a few minutes the roos started to graze. Their camouflage was fantastic The only time you could see them was when they moved. We stayed on the ridge for about half an hour, in that time we were treated to a superb sunrise and several more sightings. We returned to camp for breakfast and to pack up.
Our destination was Coral Bay about 310km away, most of it on bitumen roads. There was no great rush to get moving. By about 10.00am the group was ready, we set off for Nunutarra roadhouse to get fuel, and as this was the only food shop until we got to Coral Bay, drinks and snacks were also bought here.
From the roadhouse,just over an hour’s driving brought us to the 80km dirt short cut across from the North West Hwy to the Exmouth road. On this road we started to see wildflowers in the fields. As we neared the coast there were masses of them. A fabulous display.
We arrived at Coral Bay about 3.00pm and set up the tents. Most of the red dust was behind us now, and we were due to stay here for a several days so I took the opportunity to do a load of sweaty, dusty laundry.
Glenn had gone exploring after camp was established and came back with the news that there was a supermarket, bakery and newsagent in the near-by shopping mall. Also the pub at the end of town was preparing a special dinner for an outback air race. The planes were expected to land soon.
Almost all the raiders went to the meal at the pub that night, and stayed on until late for the live band.
Raid Day 25
Glenn and I had decided to see Exmouth this morning. We left straight after breakfast about 8.00am. It’s about 135km from Coral Bay to Exmouth plus a bit extra to look at the North West Cape radio base and the lighthouse on Vlaming Head. The wreck of the “Maitland” which sunk in the early 1900’s is still visible there.
On our return to Coral Bay about 1.30pm, we found the Brits had gone scuba diving. So after a couple of hot, juicy pies from the bakery, we went on a reef tour in a glass bottom boat. This took about an hour and was a great way to see the reef.
Late in the afternoon, a bank of clouds came in. It started to drizzle rain. I had a short sleep about 5pm. When I woke up the Brits had just returned with some Pizzas for dinner.
You have won me!!
The next day, August 21st was a birthday for three raiders, Axel Kaliske, Michael Mohr and Carolyn Sorgel, all shared the same birthdate and year. Preparations for this had been going on quietly all day, a big cake had been ordered from the bakery, and various gifts had been organised.
Just after 8.00pm, a raiders meeting was called. One group of raiders was keen to push on toward Hamelin Pool telegraph station. Mainly to reduce the distance to be covered the next day and also to allow time to go to see the dolphins at Monkey Mia. It was decided to find a bushcamp about 30 km on from Carnarvon.
At the raiders meeting Carolyn and Jurgen announced their engagement. Then followed a strange German custom of cleaning up the garbage. The raiders soon produced several bags of empty beer cans (funny that) which were promptly tipped into Carolyn’s tent. They were good sports about it and cleaned up the mess very quickly.
Now it was party time. Lots of beer and wine, some music from a CD player rigged up from one of the cars and a big group of raiders. The party went on into the wee small hours, highlited by the cutting of the cake at midnight and unwrapping of gifts. The raiders wern’t flavour of the month at the campground that night, but as the albatross said to the rock ….”shit happens.”
Raid Day 26
A late start today. Just as well after the party.
The Brits, who were going whale watching were gone by 9.00am. They were due to return about noon. Glenn and I checked out the shops for souvenirs, then went for a swim.
We were back at camp and packed by about 12.30pm. No sign of the Brits, until 2.00pm. They still had to have lunch and pack up. So it was almost 3.00pm by the time we were on the road.
About 30km south of Coral Bay, the tropic of Capricorn is marked on the road by a broad white line. We stopped here for photos and noticed many raiders had signed the line earlier that day. There were masses of wildflowers in the roadside paddocks, and as we drove along, the colours and scents changed about every 15 minutes.
Just on dark we arrived at Carnarvon. It had been planned to tour the shops here, but our late start had stopped that. Our evening meal was at a roadhouse at the turnoff to town, a hamburger with the works was my choice. Then it was off to find the campsite. After about an hour we heard other raiders on the CB, Ralph Hibble among them. This must be the campsite I thought.
Up ahead, a torch was flashing. It was Ralph directing us into a roadside parking area. He said the campsite was about five kilometres down a side road.
Some cars had gone for a look. They reported, the campsite was small, muddy and not very inviting. It got the thumbs down. Someone then noticed a sign for a roadhouse and campground at Wooramel River, about 50km away. Quickly, we decided we would try for a campsite there.
Our convoy, now about 15 cars, reached the Wooramel roadhouse just before they closed at 10.00pm. This was far enough for me. We had done about 260 of the 480 km from Coral Bay to Hamelin Telegraph Station. My eyes were sore and I was still suffering from the party the night before.
I suspect most of the others felt the same as ten cars booked in and quickly had their tents erected. Five other cars came in later that night. By that time I was dead to the world.
Raid Day 27
A diesel generator started up about 50m away at 5.30am. It was no good trying to get back to sleep so I got up and had a shower. Glenn and I were among the first customers for breakfast at the roadhouse.
Steve Hill was having trouble with his car. It was down on power. So after breakfast he fitted a new set of points and adjusted the timing. This should fix the problem. Soon the tents were down and the cars packed. we topped our tanks and headed for the Hamelin campsite about 8.30am.
This was a great drive. The bright early morning sunshine and masses of wildflowers either side of the road. The kilometres just slid by, and we were soon at the turn off to Hamelin Telegraph Station.
We found the maroon AK van of Claude Hermans towing the Swiss 2cv of Samuel Tercier. It had no power and was using lots of oil. They said they were OK and would see us in camp.
On arrival at the Hamelin campsite, we found the tents of Sue Coles and Thomas Collin and set our camp up nearby. Next I did a tour of the telegraph station museum and went to look at the Stromatolites.
The stromatolites are prehistoric “living rocks.” They only occur here at Hamelin Pool, where there is almost no tidal movement and high salinity, and a similar place in the Bahamas. They are made up of layers of algae and fine sand which is deposited very slowly. The “rocks” grow at the rate of about 1mm in 50 years. Research has their origins dating back over 300 million years.
Another interesting item here was the shell rock. This is composed of millions of tiny shells about one mm long, still quite visible in the compacted and fused rock. It is sawn out of a quarry in the dunes and has been used to build a number of buildings in the area.
About 11.00 am our group left for Denham and Monkey Mia to see where the dolphins are fed. Just after noon, we met up with Sue Coles in Denham. She had been to see the dolphins earlier in the day. After a quick look around town to check out the shops for souvenirs, it was off to Monkey Mia, about 25 km across the peninsula.
Day passes are required for entry to the dolphin area and campground. These were on sale at the entry gate. At the beach and information centre we were told there would be no more feedings of dolphins today, but it was common for them to come back around 4.00pm to feed on small fish in the weedbank about 50m off shore.
As it was now 2.30pm, we decided to wait. Lunch from the local take away was a good idea. We ate fish and chips on the beach while we waited, we enjoyed the antics of the Pelicans, cormorants and sea gulls. They were looking for handouts, I fed them some bread scraps I had brought from the car until the ranger objected.
A few minutes before 4.00pm, the pelicans and cormorants became very active, they were cruising backwards and forwards between the beach and the weedbank. Then, all of a sudden there was a flurry of wings and spray. The dolphins were in the weed bank and fish were darting through the shallows.
For a few minutes, birds and dolphins fed on the fish. Then the birds left the water and the dolphins cruised back and forth along the beach. There were quite a few other raiders here as well as other tourists, about 40 people in all to watch the dolphins. Then all of a sudden about 4.15pm the dolphins left.
We had about 100km to drive back to our campsite, We had been told of was a very pretty beach, called Shell Beach on the way. About 30 minutes before sunset we arrived at Shell Beach. There is no sand here, just millions of shells, all about five mm long. The beach stretched for several kilometres in each direction and was about 300 m from the carpark to the water’s edge. Our group stayed here for the sunset, then we pushed on back to camp in the dark.
When we arrived at camp, we found Sue Coles car rolled on its side. The welding I had done on the Gibb River Road had given way on the dirt road into the campsite. The car could wait for morning.
This was our last night on the road, we quietly prepared and ate our last communal meal together. The realisation that tomorrow we would be in Kalbarri was on everyone’s mind, it would mean the end of raid. There was a raiders meeting, but it was rather subdued. After a few songs and stories, the campfire broke up and we all went off with our own groups. I think we were all a bit sad.
Raid Day 28
After an early breakfast, I started to prepare the chassis of Sue’s 2CV, this time we had more metal available, more time and the use of an arc welder. There was much discussion and advice from the other raiders as to the best way to reinforce and weld the chassis.
I decided that a simple plating job would be the easiest and strongest so that was what I did. With the pieces of steel prepared, and the broken piece of spring pot mounting fitted up, I started welding. Bernie Rachelle and George Hamada, who have had a lot more experience with arc welding, came over to lend a hand. It was all done by 10.00am and we had the car back on its wheels soon after.
We packed the tents and were ready for the road. Our first stop was the Overlander roadhouse on the North Western Coastal Hwy. Here we topped up the tanks and bought snacks for the trip to Kalbarri. The route took us through rolling fields of wildflowers and crops of lucerne and hay. Over the CB the Brits commented how much like home it looked.
There were about 20 carloads of people from the Western Australian club to welcome us to Kalbarri. The large grassy campground quickly became the usual sea of tents and cars. The Raid circus had arrived at it’s final campsite. After setting up camp, Glenn and I set off to see the attractions of Kalbarri. It’s a lively holiday town with, a few pubs and a sheltered boat harbour. One of the locals told us, Kalbarri’s big claim to fame is that it is out of reach of mobile phones, so a businessman on holidays can ring out but cannot be contacted if he doesn’t want to.
During our tour we saw a Pizza Restaurant, that looked like a good spot for dinner that night. Back in camp, my stock of clean clothes was low, so a stint in the laundry was in order. There would be no time for washing on the drive home from Perth. All my dirty clothes were washed and dried over the next few hours while I chatted with the W.A. club members.
When we returned from the pizzeria, a campfire was going. A short raiders meeting was held to catch up with the events of the day and to inform us of the flea market sale of unused spares and equipment to be held the next afternoon. The venue and arrangements for the final dinner were also explained before we all got on with the serious business of yarning and drinking.
It rained about midnight, I decided to go to bed as the last day of raid was sure to be a long one.
Raid Day 29
The rain continued during the rest of the night, and a constant light drizzle greeted me when I woke about 7.00am. After breakfast Glenn and I decided to do a tour of the coastal attractions to the south of Kalbarri.
Even though we only went 15km, this took most of the morning, the dirt road was being repaired and with the rain it made for slow going between lookouts. We met two Swiss girls, Elaine Magnin and Carine Freymond doing the same tour. Unfortunately their lack of English made communication difficult.
When we got back to Kalbarri, the car was a mess, so the first job was to hose off the mud from the coastal lookouts and road. A proper wash would have to wait until I got home. The rain of the morning had now cleared to a fine warm day. So after lunch in town we went back to camp to check out the flea market
At first there was a lot of looking, and not much buying, but as the afternoon progressed, I noticed the prices had dropped and most of the parts and equipment had disappeared.
I was approached by Dagmar Kuhlmann and her friend Jurgen Roth to show them how to mend a punctured tyre. They intended driving overland through India and Asia to their home in Germany, and were concerned that there might not be tyre repairers available en route.
I showed them the tricks of tyre removal and replacement as well as how to apply tyre and tube patches. I wished them luck on their journey. They’ll need it!
Paul Young came to see me during the afternoon, to see if I could take a gearbox and some other parts back to Sydney. His Dyane was fully loaded and he was returning home over the dirt with Steve Wedell’s group.
No problem with the weight, but space was a bit tight though because Glenn had bought a few spares for his 2CV as well as several jerrycans. Eventually it all went into the GS.
The final dinner wasn’t due to start till 8.30pm, so our group gathered to discuss the after raid plans. Some would stay in Perth for a while, some were flying back to Europe early the next week and Glenn and I planned to take four days to drive back to Sydney.
By 8.30pm we were all seriously hungry. The Raid descended on Findlays Fresh Fish BBQ like a pack of wolves to select their meal from the blackboard menu. Findlays had been a fishing Co-Op for many years, the but the pilot’s strike in the late 1980’s had killed off the markets. They now do a fantastic fresh seafood BBQ, with enormous servings at low prices.
During the last days of Raid, several groups of raiders had been preparing skits and songs as well as awards for the final night campfire. The French group did a Can Can, the Germans did a human car routine with people carrying doors, bonnets and mudguards.
Then a combined group did a song called “The hotel Uli Witting.” Then Mozart Gamble teamed up with Maryse for a few last songs before he presented the awards. These were for such things as the youngest and oldest raiders, most flat tyres and furthest distanced travelled to get to the raid etc.
The evening went on till about 1.30am when we all sang Auld Lang Syne before heading back to the campground and bed. During the night I heard some noise from raiders who either couldn’t sleep or were not prepared to let go of Raid OZ ‘96.
Sunday 25th August
Up around 7.00am for breakfast, then Glenn and I went around saying goodbye to the other raiders. The car was half packed when the final raiders meeting was called about 9.00am, Ralph Hibble, David Gries and Steve Wedell said goodbye to the “Family Citroën” on behalf of the organisers. Then we all gave one last “Cheers!!”
A few more farewells to the people we had missed earlier then we finished packing the car. Our small touring group was now just the two 2CVs of Steve Hill and Kathryn Doddington. We set off for Perth about 10.00am.
We stopped in Geraldton about noon for lunch, then back on the road again. I was dreading the Brits leaving us because that really would be the end of Raid. We were in a roadhouse at the Gingin turnoff about 4.00pm having our last cool drink together when “Batman” Greg Bracegirdle, caught up with us. He said he would pilot us into Perth. Steve Hill had friends to see at Wanneroo so there was a roadside hug and handshake at the turnoff and they were gone.
Glenn and I made our way into the city of Perth, then on to my friends Steve and Jan Twartz home at Booragoon. Over dinner we told them of our adventures of the last month before heading off to bed. What a treat, sleeping in a real bed for the first time in a month.
Monday 26th August
Steve was having breakfast when I woke up. I thanked him for putting us up. He then said goodbye as he had an early start. The rest of the family and Glenn were up soon after, we all had breakfast and said our goodbyes about 8.00am.
It took about an hour to clear Perth. We headed east on the Great Eastern Hwy, stopping at Southern Cross for lunch and fuel, then on via Coolgardie to Norseman. It was about 5.00pm when we filled the tank at Norseman, before joining the Eyre Hwy.
Dinner was at the Balladonia roadhouse about 7.00pm. I thought it was too early to stop for the night, so we headed on to Caiguna about 180km away. This section of the Eyre Hwy has the longest straight piece of road in Australia, 146km, and it was half way along here we hit a small roo.
Glenn was driving, the roo had been on the road, when Glenn braked the roo had hopped off. Then, as we drew level, it jumped right back into the front of the car. We stopped but it was dead. The car was only slightly damaged, the side bumper on the left end of the bumper bar was missing and the crash bar was slightly bent.
Just after 9.00pm we stopped for the night at the John Eyre roadhouse and motel at Caiguna, having done 1170km for the day.
Tuesday 27th August
I woke about 6.00am. The morning was foggy with visibility about 100m. After a shower then breakfast at the roadhouse cafe we filled the tank before leaving about 7.00am.
The fog lasted about an hour before the sun came through. During the morning, we stopped at several lookouts to see the cliffs plunge into the Southern Ocean. Our lunch stop was at the Nullarbor roadhouse. Here we reset our clocks to Central Australian time and promptly “lost” an hour and a half.
We reached Ceduna about 5.00pm then, pushed on to Kimba for the night. The last half hour into Kimba was a bit nerve wracking, the fuel gauge was showing empty, and when we arrived I put 43.6 litres of petrol into a 43 litre tank!
We stayed at the Kimba Hotel. After unpacking, we had dinner and rang Batman’s place in Perth where a post raid party was going on. After a few minutes on the phone to the raiders, then it was off to bed. We had done 1150 km for the day.
Wednesday 28th August
Awake again about 6.00am, I had a shower and packed my bag into the car. It was foggy again. I went for a short walk to look for an early breakfast, but everything was still shut. Back at the car, I was eating a muesli bar, when Glenn appeared. He was all packed and ready to go. He said he was happy to wait until we got to Port Augusta for breakfast. The fog was thinner today and only lasted about 30minutes.
During the phone call to Batman the night before he had mentioned something about the “mileposts” between Kimba and Port Augusta. I soon realised that the initials were IK going east, and KI going west, IK was Iron Knob.
Glenn said he would like to have a look at Iron Knob, so we drove into town and found the tourist centre and mining museum. Iron Knob has an open cut mine, similar to Mt Tom Price.
The woman running the place told us that there had been quite a lot of rain in the last few days, but the mine might reopen for tours later that morning.
We decided to press on to Port Augusta, Here we had breakfast in a roadhouse about 10.00am. Glenn pointed out that this was the only town we would pass through twice in the whole trip.
Instead of going via Broken Hill, we were to head south via the Clare Valley and Burra to Morgan and Renmark. Alf Reichhardt had travelled this road to Uluru and said it was a good trip. There was not much traffic on the roads and we made good time arriving in Burra at noon.
After filling the tank and getting a pie from the bakery next door, we were off again. There was supposed to be 80 km of dirt between Burra and Morgan, This turned out to be about 40km of well graded gravel. The rest was new bitumen.
From Morgan we followed the river and joined the Sturt Hwy near Berri and got to Renmark about 3.00pm.
We planned to stop at Hay, some 430 km away. We topped the tank in Mildura, then watched the last bush sunset near Balranald before arriving in Hay about 8.00pm. After a meal in the pub, I calculated we had done 970km for the day and there were about 750km to Sydney.
Thursday 29th August
Our hotel in Hay supplied a tasty continental style breakfast in the room. We were ready for the last leg of our journey by 8.00am. The now familiar morning fog was with us until Narrandera.
We passed through Wagga Wagga about 11.00am and joined the Hume Hwy about half an hour later. After travelling across Australia, on flat plains, the hills of the eastern ranges slowed us down. It seemed to take ages to get to Gundagai for a comfort stop then we tackled the rolling hills of the Hume Hwy.
After a late lunch near Goulburn, we joined the M5 at Campbelltown about 4.00pm.
I dropped Glenn off at his place in Annandale around 4.30pm then battled the traffic home, arriving at 5.00pm.
The only one home was young Glen, he looked up from the TV and said
“Good trip dad?’
Before I could answer, he was immersed in the TV show again.
Yes, Glen, it was a good trip. And a fantastic Raid.
I returned to work on Friday August 30th, and that night Glenn brought our Dutch friends, Rens and Natalie up to my home for a last goodbye as they were flying home the next morning.
Over the next two weeks or so the other Sydney raiders all arrived home. We contacted each other on the phone to see everyone returned. Then all got together at the club meeting at the end of August.
Since then Elise Bousson has left for home, and I suspect most of the other overseas raiders too.
Swiss raiders Jacques Troyon and Christine Bourquin stayed with Alf and Ailsa Reichhardt, Terrance and Elise Kennedy rang me to say they were leaving for Sth Africa on October 14th.
Uli Witting rang to say he and Iris Stuempfig were driving to Melbourne.
Steve Hill and a bunch of Brits rang at 1.00am Sydney time on October 20th to say “Hi” , they were having a BBQ in the rain (it all sounded very British) and just decided to ring up Father Goose for a chat!
So as you can see I won’t be surprised if the phone rings or there is a knock at the door and one of our “Raid ‘96 Family” is there wanting to say “Cheers” with a fellow raider. We have all shared an experience none of us will ever forget.
Some points of interest
Some data on the Raid, it’s cars and people.
There were at any one time between 65 and 70 cars on Raid.
These comprised 42 2CV Sedans or Vans, 5 Dyane’s or Acadienne’s, 8 “D” Series Cars or Wagons, 6 GS Sedans or Wagons, 2 CX Sedans and 4 “Others” (2 Citrolux’s a Fordroen and a Zombie camper).
The 135 raiders came from 16 nationalities, there were, 50 Australians, 26 Germans, 16 French, 11 Swiss, 10 English, 6 Dutch, 6 New Zealanders, 2 Austrians, and one each from America, Italy, Wales, Czech Republic, Finland, Malta, Ireland and Indonesia. A truly international event.
Raid distance was to be “about 6,000km” according to the Raid leader. This turned out to be rather short of the mark. My GS wagon covered 3,000km to get from Sydney to Uluru, then 7,500 km from Uluru to Kalbarri, and finally 4,500km from Kalbarri to Sydney via Perth.
I was away from home 38 days and spent about $2000. Just over $50 per day. Quite inexpensive for the experiences and the company.
The GS used about 1400 litres of fuel for the whole trip, averaging 9.5 litres/100km. I replaced 2 tyres because of internal fracturing and repaired two others. I also replaced a set of ignition points. The engine didn’t quite use a litre of oil for the entire trip. For a $1000 car I was inpressed with it’s reliability.