I was sitting alone in the common area of the Hostel with my head buried in my laptop when I spotted Neil, a guy who I’d met in my dorm walking towards me.
“Hey man, what are you doing tomorrow? I’ve got a relocation 4×4 and I’m heading up to Alice Springs, there’s a spare seat if you want to come along?”
I have to admit, my first reaction was to politely decline and continue with my time in Adelaide. Y’know play it safe. But this was my anxiety talking. Going on a road trip with a complete stranger in the middle of nowhere with next to no planning, nah, no thanks. I left it with a simple; “Sounds cool, let me think about it”
Thirty minutes later, after helplessly debating with myself, I’d eventually made up my mind up. We we’re leaving tomorrow morning. Of course we were. I was never going to pass up this opportunity. Isn’t this why I came travelling in the first place? Putting myself out there, taking risks and experiencing new things?
I absolutely love driving, and the thought of travelling 2000km across Australia’s outback in a Toyota Land Cruiser had me as excited as a dog in heat. This is something I’ve always wanted to tick off my bucket list and I’m finally about to do it!
Adelaide to Alice Springs
“Driving from Adelaide to Alice Springs is a cool 2000km, the equivalent to driving from London to Marrakesh, Morocco in North Africa”
For those of you who are interested in Cars, It’s a Toyota Land Cruiser Workmate converted into a camper. It’s powered by a ridiculous 4.5 liter V8 turbocharged diesel with a 5-Speed manual transmission.
For those of you who don’t really care, basically, it’s a huge, heavy, fuel guzzling beast. This car is usually more suited to crossing rivers, not driving economically down highways. With no cruise control, electric windows or central locking, this was a back to basics rugged vehicle, and I LOVED IT!
We set off from the hostel around mid-morning and headed to Apollo Rentals to pick up the 4×4. When we arrived to sign the paperwork, we had the usual insurance spiel from the sales rep. I’ve been a salesman before so I know he HAS to go through all the insurance products, so we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him give his pitch. Fifteen minutes later and we’d bought the Liability Insurance AND Windscreen Cover. Dammit. Damn salesman doing his damn job.
We must have been driving for just over two hours when suddenly the car in front whipped up a stone and launched it into our windscreen. A massive stone chip appeared along with a crack about 5cm long. We both looked at each other and burst out laughing. This “Stupid” $15 windscreen insurance had saved our ass, a screen on our car would have cost us around $500 to repair. PHEWWWW!
After travelling 600km in our first day, we thought we’d reward ourselves by buying some beers and finding somewhere to camp.We ended up stopping in a place called Glendambo. With two fuel stations and a motel it was hardly a town, more of an over sized Truck Stop.
We successfully grabbed some beers from the Motel and headed on a little further until we came across a beautiful salt lake. We’d spend the night here, sipping beers whilst watching the sunset over the lake. The perfect end to a near-perfect day. Or at least that’s what we thought.
Obviously before driving onto it, we’d completed our “thorough” Salt Lake test by “Stamping” on the crust and declaring it safe to drive on.
We slowly rolled forwards being careful not to spin the wheels, we got approximately 5 meters before it all went tits up. It bogged down and we heard the heart dropping noise of the wheels churning away at the soft crust. I jumped out to assess the situation.
Yep, we’re fucked.
The most important thing was to remain calm. We rummaged around in the car and grabbed anything we could to begin to dig ourselves out. Two dining plates and a tyre wrench is all we could muster up. It wasn’t looking good. We managed to find some Iron cladding from other victims of the Salt Lake, hopefully we’d be able to wedge it under the rear wheels to give us some traction.
The sun was setting and we still had no success. With every failed attempt, the car began to sink deeper and deeper. We needed help and we needed it quickly. Luckily the salt lake was only 200m off of Stuarts Highway, with any luck we’d be able to flag down another car.
On our first attempt we managed to flag down a guy in another 4×4. Perfect, It had huge wheels, tyres and a winch attached to the front. Finally we had some luck on our sides. Sam would be the perfect person to pull us out of this boggy mess.
Unfortunately after 2 hours of trying absolutely everything, Sam wasn’t able to help us either. The equipment he had just wasn’t good enough to be able to pull us free. We only made it worse by trying more and more. At this point we truly became aware of this monumental fuck up. It was now pitch black and we had no other option but to wait until morning to try and think of a way out of this mess.
Sam kindly drove us back to the nearest town which happened to be Glendambo. Hopefully the motel would be open and we could stay the night and then ask around for help in the morning. Of course, everything was closed, why wouldn’t it be? It was 10pm and we’re in the middle of nowhere!
Morning came and to my delight, I’d only been bitten by Mosquitoes. Considering we slept on the hard floor, I’d actually managed to get a decent four hours of sleep. Today we were determined to get out of this mess, if not we’d be paying over $1,200 to get the vehicle recovered professionally. I’d rather die trying than pay that extortionate amount, our only option was to ask some locals.
We walked into the BP Fuel Station and approached the woman behind the counter. I explained the situation and she basically laughed in our face. Can’t blame her for it, It was a pretty stupid idea. Nonetheless, she promised she would ring around after 8am to find help. As time moved on, we became more and more anxious to get this sorted, it was gone 8:30am and the woman still hadn’t called anyone, I was losing faith.
I had a brainwave, my Mum had left me her Telstra sim card when she left Australia, with any luck there would still be some credit or data left. I popped the sim card in and voila, I had SIGNAL and DATA! My first move was to quickly google; “Vehicle Recovery Glendambo”
I looked at the location of the advert “Shell Roadhouse Glendambo” This was the OTHER fuel station right next door! Why wouldn’t the BP woman tell us about Paul? Turns out the two garages have an ongoing rivalry. We called him right away, poor fella had just gotten out of bed. Oh well, he’d now spend his morning digging out our 4×4!
The first thing was to create a pathway for our 4×4. We’d have to dig away at the salt lake to ensure no parts of the vehicle were touching the sandy-mud-stuff. It took us almost an hour of constant digging to prepare the ground before we could attempt to pull the car free. In Paul’s words it was all about the “preparation” If we got that bit right, we’d have a real good chance at pulling it free. Funny, that’s something my Dad would say and In many ways, Paul did remind me of my Dad, nothing was ever too much trouble and is willing to explain every step in pure detail.
All the preparation was done. If Paul couldn’t pull us free, we were fucked. Oh and we’d be $1,200 out of pocket. No pressure Paul.
As I anxiously filmed Paul trying to pull us free, my eyes were transfixed on our 4×4. Would it move? He took up the slack on the strap and chain, any moment he would accelerate hard and hope the snap strap would pull us free.
Watch the video here: Coming Soon!
WOOO HOOO, HIGH 5’s ALL AROUND!
Paul had pulled our car free on the first attempt. I couldn’t have been more relieved. After he pulled us free, we followed him back to Glendambo. He offered up the shower in the roadhouse and also helped us wash the 4×4 free of sand and mud. Have you heard of the phrase “Restoring Faith in Humanity”? Well, Paul was a prime example of that. His kindness, patience and generosity helped us out of a real sticky situation and we couldn’t thank him enough.
As our adrenaline subsided, Neil and I decided that after all the stresses and worries, we’d reward ourselves with a Coffee, A Steak Burger and a portion of Chips from the Roadhouse. I don’t think we’ll be taking any unnecessary risks like that again!
Have any of you made any mistakes whilst travelling? If so, tell me about your experiences down below!
Be sure to keep an eye out for Part II of my Alice Springs Adventure!
Coming Soon! Alice Springs Part II – To Uluru