The beer economy, a 4WD through the floorboards and a lost ostrich: My 2018 4WD adventure

The advantage of having your four wheel drive stolen (August last year) is being able to start again and improve on the earlier model. I bought another Hilux, mainly because my first was such a great vehicle and because they’re so common in rural and remote areas there will always be parts and someone who can fix it if something goes wrong.

So I designed a canopy set up that met my needs and had it fabricated in Brisbane. My Hilux is my home so I pretty much carry everything I own in it. My canopy design allows lots of easy access to storage and room to sleep if camping conditions outside aren’t ideal. (By the way, my idea of camping is a rolled out swag so I’m pretty low maintenance.) 

Brisbane to Kalgoorlie as tracked by my GPS tracker
Brisbane to Kalgoorlie as tracked by my GPS tracker

I left Brisbane on February 21. I had a few weeks to get to Adelaide where I’d lined up a week’s work and then I was heading across the Nullarbor to the West Australian Goldfields.

Travelling alone

My first night was spent at a great free camp at Chinchilla Weir. My second night was spent at a fantastic campsite at Wyandra. Cost was a donation in the donation box. It was here I met an interesting couple that reminded my why I was so lucky to be travelling on my own.

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On occasion I’ll sleep in the back of the Hilux. Most times I’m in my swag on the ground or on my stretcher. I only use a tent when there are others around or when the nights are cold.

The retired lady was a former teacher and absolutely lovely. We were having a wonderful chat when her husband walked into my camp and proceeded to talk all over his wife, ‘mansplain’ to her, talk down to her, discredit anything she said,  and generally be a dominant ass. 

They eventually returned to their caravan and I raised a glass to travelling solo.

Camping 30km from the closest human

I was so excited to be going back to Currawinya National Park. I’d been there in the early 90s when the Queensland Government had just taken charge of it. Formerly a sheep station, and 830km west of Brisbane, it’s now one of Qld’s biggest national parks and plays a critical role in efforts to save the bilby.

Not worried about snakes and creepy crawlies, I rolled out my swag on the banks of Caiwarro waterhole. Still summer, it was hot, really hot, but that meant wildlife would come to the waterhole to drink. 

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My campsite at Currawinya National Park, far western Queensland.

The following day I explored the park in 40+ degrees and moved camp to the Ourimperee Waterhole. Nearby was an amazing open-air shower using bore water that is naturally heated in the black pipes.

When a wrong turn takes you to the place you’re supposed to be; My favourite day of 2018.

Upon leaving Currawinya National Park I crossed the New South Wales border at  Hungerford and headed towards Wanaaring on a rocky dirt road. Well, I thought I was. Turns out I missed the turn-off and was unknowingly en route to Bourke. And what an accidental detour it was! 

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The border gate at Hungerford,  far western Qld. The other side is NSW.

A few hours and 150km later, I stopped  at Fords Bridge. I really was at the back of Bourke! There’s not much to Fords Bridge: a pub, an old community hall, and a fire brigade shed. I always stop at remote pubs. Always. That’s where the adventures are! And the Warrego Hotel at Fords Bridge was no exception.

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The publican wasn’t in the pub though. He was in the community hall next door and he was having a hell of a time. Peter Thompson is an old fella with limited mobility. He’d had his car stolen by Bourke locals. The vehicle had been recovered but the engine was ‘cooked”. He’d planned to put it into the hall and that’s where he was going to fix it. But the century-old hall floorboards had other ideas. His 4WD had fallen through the floorboards and onto the ground half a metre below.

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Oops. The floorboards in the old Warrego Hall at couldn’t hold Peter’s ute.
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Peter and the hall had seen better days.

Peter wasn’t giving up, even though his body just about has. He was going to pull the car out with the tractor, then get long planks to cover the holes in the hall floor and have a second attempt at parking the car in the hall. 

And that’s where I came in. I’m not sure he knew what hit him. We discussed his plan, fine tuned it, I got bossy and he followed my direction. One of my favourite things to do is problem-solve.

I dragged the planks in place for him, then guided him in, and then laid palings under his tyres to spread the load across a wider surface area.

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The finished product. Phew!

Peter’s was quietly grateful. I let him buy me a lemonade before I bid him and his dog Cappy farewell. I jumped in my 4WD with a sore back, splinters in my hands and a big, tired smile. He offered me a room at the pub for the night but I was keen to continue my adventure. 

No doubt for the next week he told the story about the smart, bossy, middle-aged woman who came out of nowhere to help him and his 4WD out of all sorts of bother. 

Heading south

From Fords Bridge I headed south of Bourke and camped at the Yanda campground at Gunabooka National Park. There was no-one else there. Bliss. The next day I continued to follow the Darling River and camped at Neila Gaari Station, 90km from Wilcannia. I can highly recommend this place for a stunning place to camp.

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My campsite on the Darling River at Neila Gaari Station.

From there I stayed at Pooncarrie at another gem of a campsite on the Darling River. (Great pub in Pooncarrie with a young publican called Josh). I met three couples there and told them my story about Peter at Fords Bridge. They were excited to pop in and say hi to him on their travels north.

Kangaroo company and an extraordinary national park

I can’t understand why I’d never heard of heritage listed Mungo National Park. It’s rich in aboriginal history and is home to a beautiful shearing shed built in 1869.

I was there on March 1 so it was still very hot. I got a hell of a fright when i heard something at the back of my great campsite in the ‘main camp’ campsite. Kangaroos were drinking from my washing up bucket! Several little wallaby and kangaroo families came to drink from the bucket which I refilled countless times for the next few hours. Each would drink for about twenty minutes! While I never feed wildlife, I didn’t see a problem giving these guys water.

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What’s that Skip? You’re thirsty?

After a night of listening to wallabies drink I packed up and ventured on my to Adelaide where I worked for a week and then continued to my trip west. 

Putting the Hilux in low range at Coffin Bay: my second favourite day of 2018

South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is one of Australia’s best kept secrets – lovely seaside towns and camping opportunities everywhere. At the southern extremity of the Peninsula is the glorious Coffin Bay National Park. The first campground is accessible via sealed road but getting deep into the park requires sand and beach driving.

I hadn’t had much experience on sand so I was nervous, almost to the point of not going into the park. But I was well-prepared, I have a personal locator beacon, I have a UHF radio and knew the rangers were contactable that way (there’s no phone coverage there), a friend knew where I was going, I have all the equipment needed for a recovery, I know how to put my tyre pressure up and down, and I know all the theory about sand driving. It was time for the preparation to meet opportunity. And what an opportunity! The place is magnificent.

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Coffin Bay National Park on the Eyre Peninsula is magnificent.

The driving was fine and AWESOME FUN. I used my gears effectively and didn’t come close to getting bogged. I felt in control at all times. On one of the narrow tracks a ranger in his 4WD gave way for me. We stopped and chatted about conditions further up the track (ALWAYS talk to a ranger when you see one. Local knowledge, stories, tips and advice are invaluable). “You’ve got this far, you’ll be fine!” he smiled. And he nodded approvingly when I told him I’d dropped my tyres down to 13PSI. (I’d passed a bunch of P-platers who hadn’t put their tyres down and were having great fun trying to get through the sandy tracks. When you’re young and silly you can take those risks, I guess.)

At no stage did the ranger say “oh, you’re on your own?” which is something I’ve grown very tired of.  Women tell me I’m brave, some women tell me how lonely I must be (they’re usually the ones who have husbands who do everything for them),  and men assume I’m running away from something and take the opportunity to invade my campsite unannounced to ‘see that I’m ok’ and invite me to sleep in their caravan. (Boy, that future blog’s going to be a doozy!)

Nullarbor bound and a camel and poddy calf friendship

While there are a few places to stop and look at the amazing Great Australian Bight, the Eyre highway across the Nullarbor itself is pretty uneventful.

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Nullarbor views aren’t too shabby.

There are lots of places to bush camp on the Nullarbor, and my new friends Mr Squiggle and Bozo offered a nice reprieve at Fraser Range Station, a great place to spend the night at the western end of the Nullarbor.

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Best friends: Mr Squiggles and Bozo

The camel was orphaned when he was one week old, and the calf was abandoned by his mum. I stayed at Fraser Range in mid-March and these guys had spent the previous eight months as best friends, united at one week of age.

WA’s goldfields: a 4WD explorer’s delight

What a surprise the Goldfields are! Rich in pioneering history, brilliant 4WD tracks and camping opportunities, and a plethora of fascinating cemeteries that tell stories of incredibly hard yet interesting times, you should definitely put the Goldfields on your bucket list. 

There are these sorts of tracks all over the Goldfields. Make sure you have a good map and lots of water. It’s not hard to work out why many gold miners perished here. This country is not forgiving.

The salt lake at Menzies, north of Kalgoorlie, and the art installation there has to be seen to be believed. Again, I’d never heard of Lake Ballard until I wandered into the Menzies pub. 

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Lake Ballard near Menzies.

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And the Goldfields sunsets are hard to beat…

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Taken near Warburton, WA

NEXT STOP: Birdsville!

My route from Kalgoorlie to Birdsville
My route from Kalgoorlie to Birdsville

After working in Kalgoorlie and exploring the Goldfields for four months I was Birdsville bound for a great three-day concert in the Simpson desert called the Big Red Bash. 

By now it was winter (June 20) so the nights neared zero in many places. I now slept in a tent because of the extra warmth it offered. I took two weeks to get to Birdsville via Uluru and the Oodnadatta and the Birdsville Tracks.

There was so many highlights on this 3,000 kilometre trek which was predominantly on dirt roads. Particularly memorable moments were the lovely grey nomads who drank me under the table somewhere on the Oodnadatta track, the wonderfully welcoming people of Maree (South Australia), camping under a full moon over Lake Eyre and the horses running through my camp at sunrise on the outskirts of Kaltukatjara  (Docker River, just over the NT border). 

Two bloody big surprises

Why have I never heard of the Painted Desert? I didn’t know what to expect and I was blown away by what I saw. 90km south west of Oodnadatta, this incredible landscape is on private property, Ackaringa cattle station. Click on the link to see photos. My own pics don’t do it justice. The homestead offers great camping. And the view’s not bad either.

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Camping at Ackaringa Station.

And then there was this fella! North of Maree on the Birdsville Track I saw an ostrich! I posted the pictures online and did half a dozen radio interviews about what I’d seen. It even inspired a really interesting ABC News story. Read it here and watch my video. Ha – you’ll hear my amazement!

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This male ostrich was on the Birdsville track. I’ve never done a U-turn so quick in my life!

The Big Red Bash

Nine-thousand people made their way to Australia’s best live music event. (Big call, I know.) It’s called the Big Red Bash and it’s held annually on an organic cattle station west of Birdsville with the famous Big Red sand dune in the background. I met my friends Rob and Paula there and we had a ball dancing and singing to the likes of John Farnham, the HoodooGurus, Kate Ceberano, Busby Marou and Travis Collins. 

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My friends Paula and Rob travelled from Sydney to meet me at the Big Red Bash. Cheers!
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I’d crossed three state lines to get from Kalgoorlie to Birdsville for the Big Red Bash.

My pet hate: caravanners who don’t know how to use their UHF.

I had a few weeks to drive from Birdsville to the Broome where I had a few months work. By this stage it was mid-July which is peak grey nomad time. Because I’m not towing a trailer or caravan I’m quicker than they are so I try to avoid them as much as I can.

You see, my pet hate is vehicles on dirt roads who don’t use their UHF radio how it should be. Yes, if you’re travelling through regional Australia you should have a UHF and you should have it on and scanning at all times. If you’re scanning, people like me can contact you and let you know that I’m planning to overtake you or ask you what you can see ahead. SO many travellers keep their UHF on one channel which means, unless I know what channel you’re on,  I can’t communicate with you. Ha – and I wish you could hear what the truck drivers and road workers are saying about you when you piss them off by not being contactable. 

Keeping in touch

I avoid caravanners as much as I can by taking the road less travelled. In fact, the roads are actually tracks and it means I go pretty remote and often don’t see anyone for days. Bliss! It also means I have to be self-sufficient. I have a GPS tacking device that allows me to send a daily message to a few friends letting them know I’m out of range but okay. If I don’t send that daily message they’re able to look at my last location via my tracking website and alert the nearest police station. I carry enough food and water for at least a week, plus I carry extra fuel.

From Birdsville to the Kimberley

My Birdsville to Broome route
My GPS tracker reveals my Birdsville to Broome route

From Birdsville I headed to Bedourie for the annual camel races. Such a fun day!

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Then it was up to Boulia and then left into the guts of Australia! 

The Donohue Highway turns into the Plenty Highway at the Northern Territory border and its condition leaves a lot of be desired. But it’s a good drive if you take it easy and don’t mind lots of shakes and bumps. Not all vehicles can handle these rough outback roads though. 

I got off the highway and turned onto a track called Binns Track. I’d planned to head north until I hit the Sandover Highway. 

Travelling on these tracks you see the real outback and no people. Below are photos of my refueling stop (for me as well as the Hilux). I was carrying 60 litres of diesel in jerry cans.

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I kept travelling north, got onto the Sandover highway which was very rough and eventually headed north on a track yet again, passing through two cattle stations before popping out near Ti Tree on the Northern Territory’s Stuart Highway. I love having cattle company.

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The beer economy

It was a treat to be back on bitumen for a while.  I was to head north on bitumen for about 750 kilometres before hitting the dirt west towards Top Springs and then  continuing west to the WA border. 

But first I needed to give the Hilux some care. I had snapped one of six bolts holding my tray on and the remaining ones were loose. Eek. Tennant Creek was chockers with travellers and I was sure that there was going to be a long line of vehicles needing attention by the town’s mechanics. But I stumbled across a brilliant and friendly mechanic who I offered to pay in beer. He smiles and says “see you in 40 minutes” and with that the deal was done and my car was ready within an hour. 

The Northern Territory is well-known for having a beer economy and I can vouch for its effectiveness! 

On the road again

I camped in Tennant Creek the night and headed north for another 400km on bitumen. I turned left north of Newcastle Waters and started the stretch west to the WA border, camping at Top Springs pub, and staying at Humbert River cattle station which the local cop had arranged for me. (Always talk to country cops as well as park rangers!) 

I drove through Gregory National Park which was amazing but very rough on my tyres. There’s no way I’d drive in that park without a second spare tyre. It was slow going and I needed low range a couple of times. FUN!  I took the Wickham and Gibbie tracks, camping at Fish Hole Yards where there’s a gorgeous creek. 

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Made it to the west!

I had one last remote camp site in the NT, this time by the side on the Buntine Highway, near the WA border. Then HELLO KIMBERLEY! Halls Creek, the Wolf Creek crater,  Fitzroy Crossing, Tunnel Creek, Windjana George (flat tyre), Derby and finally Broome. 

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The best of Broome.

I started work in Broome in early August and finished my contract in mid-December. Most weekends I was able to explore the Dampier Peninsula. (I’ve already blogged about that here)

I really enjoyed seeing Broome at its busiest during the dry season and at its quietest from October when it really heats up and the tourists (and some residents) head south. 

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So much more.

This is just a glimpse of ten months on the road. I’m currently in Darwin and will head east in the new year. I’ve challenged myself, surprised myself, learned lots, seen incredible wildlife and landscapes, met some brilliant people and had lots of fun. Let the adventures continue! 

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My birthday celebrations on Cable Beach – Sept 29, 2018.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER: 
Lisa Herbert is houseless not homeless. She’s the author of funeral planning guide ‘The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan’ . She’s been travelling around the country for about four years, occasionally filling short-term contracts for the ABC in places like Kalgoorlie, Broome, Tamworth and Darwin. Lisa enjoys blogging about the unusual graves, memorials and cemeteries she finds on her travels. 
Get in touch with Lisa via Facebook.

Crocs and Curtis Stone: More reasons to love WA’s Dampier Peninsula.

The drive up the Cape Leveque Road isn’t for the faint-hearted, but my gosh it’s bloody worth it. And so is a good bra.

Cape Leveque, the most well-known place on the Peninsula, is only 240km from Broome but it takes more than three hours to get there. You’ve got to concentrate on the drive because you don’t want to run over any bits and pieces that have been shaken off cars, trucks, trailers and boats ahead of you.

The first 100kms is red dirt, pindan, followed by 100km of bitumen. There are a couple of communities worth visiting on the way. Beagle Bay and Lombadina have incredible missionary histories and their churches have to be seen to be believed.

Cape Leveque is spectacular. It’s the northernmost tip of the Peninsula. Kooljaman is a wilderness camp that’s worth a visit. Facilities are pretty basic and can be expensive (I paid $130 for my beach shelter) . It can be really busy during the dry season but I’ve just had a glorious weekend there in November.

The east beach offers incredible swimming and snorkeling. If you squint you can see me! There are tides like no other in this part of the world. Nine metre tides aren’t uncommon. I was swimming at an almost-high tide.

The west beach offers some awesome fishing (below is a gratuitous photo of the Hilux on the pindan – I just love it!). There’s sand on the other side of that pindan.

Now, it is the Kimberley after all. And while they don’t often mention crocodiles in the tourist brochures, they are around albeit infrequently.

I was chuffed to see evidence of a saltwater croc on my pre-dawn walk at the very location I was swimming at the day before. Yup! Croc tracks!

And check out the brilliant imprint he left behind after relaxing on the beach for a while. I estimated him to be about two metres. There’s a creek about 6km north of the beach so I’m assuming he lives in the mangroves there and just wanders from time to time.

THE PEOPLE YOU MEET

I meet great like-minded people on my travels and every now and again I meet someone who’s worth bragging about. Celebrity chef Curtis Stone is one of those. He was genuinely lovely and was very excited to share his passion for Western Australian produce with me, including some bush tucker that he and some local guides had collected at Kooljaman. He had lunch at Kooljaman and made a point of making his way to the kitchen to thank the young chef. That story made its way to ABC radio. Listen here to hear how over-the-moon the young chef was and how much Curtis was loving his trip north.

Curtis isn’t the only one who can cook up a feast! This is the breakfast I cooked from my beach shack overlooking the East Beach. Not a bad kitchen! The tide was going out at this point. During a high tide the rocks on the beach can’t be seen. If you look closely you can see my ground sheet. That’s where I rolled out my swag.

And how’s this for my bedroom! I often roll my swag out and sleep under the stars. I have to admit this bedroom will be hard to beat. In the far right of the photo you can see the sun coming up. The Dampier Peninsula has the best sunrises I’ve ever seen. (Darwin has the best sunsets, btw.)

GUMBANAN BUSH CAMP.

It’s dubbed the Dampier Peninsula’s best kept secret and I absolutely agree! Gumbanan is about twenty minutes drive east of Kooljaman (close to One Arm Point), and a camp site there is fraction of the cost. For $15 I camped in the most delightful spot (see below). Ridiculous, eh? The bathroom and showers are just as basic as Kooljaman but they do they job nicely. And I didn’t shower or pee alone. There were green tree frogs to keep me company.

I slept in my swag in the back of my Hilux. Heaven really is a great view from a $15 camp site.

The tides are pretty incredible in the north. I sat and watched the tide come in and go out from my camp. Check out the difference in just a few hours!

And a different tidal point of view: Just magic!

It’s a pretty easy place to pour yourself a drink and watch the tides and the wildlife go by. While it be warm in September (the start of what’s called the build up) there’s usually a sea breeze to cool you down. Gumbanan is no exception.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’LL SEE

Feral donkeys aren’t uncommon on the Peninsula. You’ll see their calling cards on the road and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see some.

MIDDLE LAGOON

Another gem of a place on the Peninsula! Again, I was there out of season. And look what I saw from near where I was camped! I was up pre-dawn and saw a whale from my swag. On closer inspection she had a new-born calf with her. More magic!

This German tourist Lars was camped beside me so when I saw the whales in the bay we jumped at the chance for a closer look. After a couple of hours of whale watching (yes, hours) Lars went snorkeling and this very active whale made a bee-line for him (photo below). I was watching it all unfold from land. Check out this video I took. The drone vision isn’t mine but the other shots are.

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Middle Lagoon has both unpowered campsites and cabins. Of course, I was more than happy with my $15 campsite (low season price). This photo was taken at an almost-low tide.

A MUST SEE

The Dampier Peninsula is a most worthy detour if you’re around Broome. Sadly plans are afoot to bitumen the rough Cape Leveque road, making the Peninsula’s communities more susceptible to grog running and drugs, and providing much easier access for tourists to the Peninsula’s relatively unspoiled environment. The Peninsula’s beauty lies in its unspoiled simplicity. An influx of people and a lack of planned infrastructure to cope with those increased numbers threatens that.

I’ve mentioned just some of the great camping spots. There are quite a few more. And there’s also the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm which is a great place for lunch and a swim (See below. That’s me on the left. Tough gig, right?) It also offers a range of accommodation options.

The Dampier Peninsula is a very, very special place – one of my favourites. You’ll need a four-wheel drive to get there.  And it’s probably best to put your tyres down a bit. The road can be very corrugated in parts and sandy in others.

Oh, and take your rod if you’re going camping. The Peninsula’s got great fishing!

 

ABOUT THE BLOGGER:

Lisa Herbert is houseless not homeless. She’s the author of funeral planning guide ‘The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan’ . She’s been travelling around the country for about four years, occasionally filling short-term contracts for the ABC in places like Kalgoorlie, Broome, Tamworth and Darwin. Lisa enjoys blogging about the unusual graves, memorials and cemeteries she finds on her travels. 
Get in touch with Lisa via Facebook .

When laziness gets you bogged and preparation gets you out.

 

I’d had a great weekend camping and was heading back into town but decided at the last minute to do a little bit of exploring on my way home.

I followed old tyre tracks on sand in an area I didn’t know and where there wasn’t a clear path. While I was in 4-high (high range 4WD), my tyres were still on road pressure. Up until that point I’d had no dramas so I was a little bit over-confident and a lot lazy.

I knew I was in trouble the second I hit the soft sand. With some experience it becomes an unmistakable feeling and there’s an instant difference in your vehicle’s handling. I whacked the Hilux into low range and started reversing. I’d got in that way so I was hoping I could get out that way.

Er … Nope.

I carry a fair bit of weight over my rear axle so my rear tyres weren’t able to lead the way. I had successfully reversed about six metres before she started digging in. I was going nowhere.

And it was my fault.

WHAT NOW?

I had three choices.

  1. Keep trying to reverse. But spinning my wheels would have been dumb. No matter how hard I hit that accelerator she wouldn’t have gone anywhere other than further down into the sand.
  2. Try rocking forwards and backwards. That is, go forwards and back trying to get some momentum.
  3. Swear. Get out of the car. Assess the situation. Swear some more.

I went for Option 3.

On this occasion I didn’t try #2 as there was no point. I was foolishly running my tyres at 40psi. (It hurts to admit that.) Any further attempts to drive out of there would have only resulted in my wheels digging deeper into the soft sand. 

LESSON #1.  Stop immediately when you realise you’re bogged. You’ll only make things harder for yourself later on when you try and dig your vehicle out if you don’t.

PLAN AND PREPARE

Okay. You’re stuck. Now what?

Take your time to work out how you’re going to approach your situation. It can be overwhelming when you’re realise you’re in a bit of trouble but a cool head is critical. Take a deep breath and apply the “oh well” rule. Getting flustered and angry or worried or screaming at your partner isn’t going to help. I mostly travel solo so screaming at someone else isn’t going to work.

Damn.

It was bloody hot and humid when I got stuck east of Broome. Two people had died of heat exhaustion in WA in the week prior. One was a hiker at Kalbarri, the second was a well-prepared motorcyclist on the Gibb River Road. Getting out of a bog can be long, hard, physical work. Heat exhaustion is a serious threat and I was keen to avoid it.

Despite being foolish with my tyre pressure, I like to think I redeem myself a little by carrying some essentials in my vehicle at all times. A hat, sunscreen and at least 20 litres of water are permanent features. And there’s usually a bottle of scotch in there for when I’m really in trouble.

I lathered on sunscreen, put on my hat and put my water where it was easily accessible so I could have regular water breaks.

LESSON # 2. Slip, slop, slap and slurp.

LESSON # 3. Sips of water don’t cut it. The experts say you need a glass of water every time. 

LESSON # 4.  Take a photo for use on social media for when you’re back at camp and feeling a lot better about your situation.

LESSON # 5. Tell someone if you can. I was in phone range so I rang a friend, sent him the photo and discussed my plan with him. He wasn’t particularly helpful when he asked if I had a winch. He knows I don’t have a winch and the photos clearly show a lack of bloody trees to attach my non-existent winch to.  

MY PLAN

My plan for the Great Unbogging was a text book plan for a text book soft sand bog.

  1. Drop my tyre pressure.
  2. Dig out the sand behind all four tyres.
  3. Put my recovery boards/MaxTrax behind the rear tyres.
  4. Reverse out.
  5. Vow never to drive on sand again without dropping my tyre pressure.
  6. Take photo to prove the Great Unbogging was a success and, in some small way, redeem my credibility after stupidly getting stuck in the first place.

TYRE PRESSURE

The most important thing you need to know about driving on sand is don’t be lazy like I was. PUT YOUR BLOODY TYRES DOWN. The less air in your tyres, the more the tyre is able to spread out on the sand, giving you more surface area for traction. The prime objective is to maximise the length of your tyre so it behaves more like a track on a bulldozer or tank.

On soft sand I usually run my tyres at about 13-15psi. Sure, ask ten people about what tyre pressure they run and they’ll all give you different answers because tyre size and vehicle loads all vary. You can go down to 10psi apparently if you’re in real strife but I’ve never done that. Keep in mind that running low pressures in your tyres increase the risk of rolling your tyres off their rims. Avoid cornering and sharp turns and it shouldn’t be a problem.

DIGGING OUT

You can’t dig out your tyres if you don’t have anything to dig with. Always carry a shovel of some sort. Shovelling sand isn’t too bad. Shovelling mud is the worst thing ever so a pissy little spade won’t cut it. Buy your shovel accordingly.

My rear tyres needed my attention most. They were the ones that were going to save the day/save my arse. But they were also the tyres that were buried the deepest – no surprise there because of the weight of my canopy.

So I dug the sand out from my back tyres and laid my recovery boards (or MaxTrax) firmly against my tread. The boards work best when not laid flat, instead protruding at an angle. That will guide your tyre onto the top of the sand.

 HERE WE GO!

So I’d let my tyres down, dug out the sand from around all four tyres and laid my recovery boards behind my rear tyres. The hard work was done and took less than half an hour. (The last bogging I was involved with took 6 people, 2 shovels, a winch, an airbag, 4 maxtrax, 2 snatch pulls and 5 hours to rectify. (In Top End mud, not my vehicle).

I walked my escape route and worked out that the best place for me to reverse was on the path I had driven in on. I’d planned to follow my tracks until the sand was relatively solid again – about 25 metres. There were no obstacles that I had to dodge.

All going to plan, my low tyre pressure would give my tyres lots of traction on my recovery boards and I’d be on my way.

I started the engine, took a breath, checked I was still in low range, put her in reverse and accelerated slowly. The slow wheel rotation allows your tyre to grip your boards. If it doesn’t work, stop and reposition your boards. You may even have to dig some more to ensure the boards are firmly wedged against your tyre.  Spinning your wheels now would only wreck your boards and dig you further in.

My tyres gripped my boards easily and the Hilux reversed effortlessly.

 

YAY FOR ME, MY PLAN, MY PREPARATION, AND MY EQUIPMENT! 😊

NAY FOR GETTING STUCK IN THE FIRST PLACE. ☹

I drove out of the sand and once I was on solid ground I used my trusty air compressor to pump my tyres back up.

Phew. Time to go home!

No heat stroke, no hissy fits, no damage (except to my pride) and no scotch required.

 

ABOUT THE BLOGGER:

Lisa Herbert is houseless not homeless. She’s the author of funeral planning guide ‘The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan’ 

She’s been travelling around the country for about four years, occasionally filling short-term contracts for the ABC in places like Kalgoorlie, Broome, Tamworth and Darwin.

Lisa enjoys blogging about the unusual graves, memorials and cemeteries she finds on her travels.

Get in touch with Lisa via Facebook .

 

Lisa Herbert lives on the road in her well-equipped 2010 Hilux SR

 

 

Life on a remote cattle station: my visit to Alderley Station

Working on a cattle station is high on my bucket list. I’m just not sure what I could offer to a station manager though. I’d love to be a station cook. But I can’t cook …

Looking after 15,000 cattle is a big job. On Alderley Station in remote western Queensland, a team of station hands joins the bosses for breakfast even before the birds have started stirring.

I dropped in on my way to Darwin and was welcomed with an offer of beer and bed.

The sound of a diesel generator that powers the station’s few houses and workshops breaks the early morning silence — a sign that the boss is awake and the workers should be too.

The generator chews through about 1200 litres of diesel a month. It’s turned off overnight, leaving the property with no power. When I got up to pee in the middle of the night I was thankful for my trusty torch.

It was 6am when I joined the team for breakfast. The station’s owners, Frank and Radha Blacket are my age. They dine with their team which isn’t that common. Often cattle station managers and bosses tend to do their own thing. But this couple is very hands on and accessible.

The work for the day was dished out at breakfast. Some of the team will spend the day putting in a cattle grid and servicing the motorbikes, while a few ringers will join the boss mustering. About 1000 cows and calves needed to be brought into the yards. It will take most of the day.

The Blackets own three properties in the Boulia region in western Queensland, totalling more than half a million hectares.

The number of cattle is forever fluctuating, with stock being bought and sold all the time.

“We run Charbray cattle because they’re versatile. They can go to live export and they can go to the southern, domestic market as well,” Mr Blacket said.

Prices dictate where the cattle are sold. The Blackets’ biggest market recently has been the live export trade.

“They’ve needed a lot of cattle and we’ve been able to supply them,” Mr Blacket said. “Sometimes they want emergency loads so we can supply them pretty quick.”

Mrs Blacket does not only spend time in the station office crunching numbers and doing deals. Like her husband, she is hands-on, often behind the wheel of a road train, trucking her cattle to market.

“We’re in a good position to be able to go to whichever market is paying the premium at the time,” she said.

Despite Alderley Station being closer to Townsville Port than Darwin, the Blackets’ cattle are exported to Indonesia from Darwin. That’s a 1,850km on a truck from the property at Boulia to Darwin Port.

The rowdy ringers.

Meal times on Alderley Station can be a fun, loud affair. The station cook, Bella, is a 21 year old studying an agribusiness degree via distance ed. She’s one hell of a cook and the ten station hands are big fans of her work. (A blog about Bella is coming.)

Most of the ringers (station hands) are young guys who love the lifestyle and sense of family at the station. They’re a rowdy mob – sitting together laughing, spinning yarns, teasing and even flirting with the guest who’s twice their age!

Dillon Fox, from Boonah in Queensland, is a carpenter by trade. Keen for a change, he joined his brother on Alderley Station five months ago and has not been fazed by the long working days on the property.

“It’s a good lifestyle. You don’t really notice it as work,” he said. “We’ll have a few days when the work slows down, go to a campdraft or something.”

Martin Bolton is helping Dillon put up a new fence. Once working in property development earthworks, he has recently taken a new career path.

“Out here we get a go at everything — cattle, welding, tyre fitting. You’ve got to be an all-rounder here,” said Marty. “It’s good to learn different things.”

Away from the wind and the hot sun, Ethan Tindale relaxes with a beer after dinner. Originally a Townsville lad, he is happy living and working in western Queensland.

“The people, the community — it’s like being a big family,” he said.

“You know everyone in town and once you get accepted here it’s a really comfortable place to live.”