Despite the fact that I have about 20 unfinished posts in my drafts, I felt the need to forget them and tell you about the first day of our west coast road trip.
To sum it up in one word: AWFUL. Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong, and it’s not left me feeling very confident.
Now officially out of Cairns, we started heading south towards Townsville. The sun was shining, so we had the windows down and music on, buzzing with excitement. You might not have heard, but Queensland is currently experiencing an unbearable heatwave. Temperatures have consistently been above 40C and the Australian Government is urging people to stay indoors, with air conditioning and lots of water. As we started to feel the heat creep into the car, we realised the two back windows were broken… they rolled down but would not roll back up all the way. We didn’t want to waste fuel by having the air-conditioning on, but as we soaked our seats with sweat, the cool air was a blessing. It was nerve-racking to see a few forest fires and a few dust devils (dust tornadoes) throughout the day, so we grabbed extra water bottles and coolant for the car.
Another Bump In The Road
The plan for today was to drive 8-10 hours towards Alice Springs, and we began researching free campsites to stop at overnight. With the air-conditioning on, we’re started to cool down, but couldn’t help noticing a funny smell: petrol. Eventually, we pull over to the side of the road and start checking the car. Aaron is the first to hear it, but soon we all notice the hissing noise coming from our LPG fuel tank. In the blistering sun, we unload the car to look for tools, as Jacob goes underneath the car to try and fix the leak. Turns out, it’s a more complicated job than we can repair on our own, so we agree to have it looked at in Townsville immediately.
Wallaman ‘Wet Wall’ Falls
Trying to lighten the mood and bring back our sense of adventure, we decide to take a small detour to Wallaman Falls, the tallest waterfall in all of Australia. This World Heritage Listed site is about an hour drive from Ingham, up a very steep and windy mountain road. The views of the surrounding area were incredible, and we were surprised to see only a few other cars at the top when we arrived. Nervous when we couldn’t really hear anything, we reached the lookout point and saw a giant wet wall. As it’s been so dry these past few days, Wallaman Falls was barely trickling.
This Damn Car…
For just a short time after our visit to Wallaman Falls, our brakes weren’t working. Luckily this was sorted as we drove along, but we still really needed to have the fuel tank and windows fixed before driving into the outback. The first two mechanics we saw in Townsville were completely full for another week, but someone suggested we try Fosters Ace, down the road. After a quick consult, we were told to come back at 8am the following morning, where a mechanic could look at our fuel tank. Determined not to let this slow us down, we tried calling mechanics along the route we planned to take into Alice Springs, but no one was qualified to fix our fuel tank. Feeling defeated, we agreed to an 8am appointment and went in search of camp.
The Beach Was Too Good To Be True
A friend had suggested Blue Water Rest Stop, but as it was too far out of Townsville, we went with Saunders Beach Free Campsite. Located right on the beach, WikiCamps assured us it had everything we wanted: free camping, cookers and showers. Unfortunately, this place isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, just a small parking lot with two toilets and a shower on the outside of the building. Despite there being tons of grass leading up to the beach, you can’t camp on any of it. All the other people around had rooftop tents, but we arrived at the campsite as the sun was setting, so quickly set up our new, unused swags on the grass just next to the car. I was still grateful for the shower, even if everyone was watching me.
Ants and Sprinklers
With the remaining light for the day, Aaron and I reorganised the car while Matt and Jacob cooked dinner. Unbeknownst to us, we parked on an ant’s nest, and suddenly they were everywhere: all over our legs, on our bags, on the esky, in the car, and there was no getting rid of them. Cooking in the dark meant we were doing an ant dance to try and keep them off us, while not burning our food.
With the car repacked and dinner cleaned up, everyone was knackered and 9pm seemed like a great time to sleep. We settled into our tents and drifted off… until the sprinklers went off at 12:20am and we got soaked! Between being startled and trying to figure out where the water had come from, it took far too long to get out of the tents and close the waterproof doors. Everything was wet, and it left the tent sticky and humid. I thought we’d be safe at 3am to open the hatch again, but around 4am, the sprinklers went off again.
I’m not sure if even I believe it all
I know this sounds ridiculous. It would make a great storyline for a novel or tv skit, but I swear it all happened… and that was only day one.
Tomorrow is a new day, with its own adventures and horrors. Fingers crossed the tents dry and we get the car fixed, or this trip might be over much sooner than expected.
I’ll keep you posted.