Category Archives: Vehicles

 Old Telegraph Track

Bramwell Station is a day’s drive away from Pennefather River.   The campground has space, shade and good hot showers.   In the late afternoon, we watch the station hands sorting weaners from their mothers in the cattle yards next to the campsite.

It’s a big night at the station.  There’s a smorgasbord dinner, with barbecued steak and sausage, a table groaning with vegetables and salads and a sweet sticky toffee sponge dessert.  Music gets us up on the dance floor, winning a bottle of wine for the first to dance.   Who would have thought the singer would include the theme to Gilligan’s Island in his set?

Malcolm and Roothie

A surprise guest at the dinner is Roothie, with his old Toyota Landcruiser, Milo.  He’s a four wheel drive legend and creates a buzz of excitement when he arrives with camera crew in tow.   Malcolm chats up Roothie, while his wife, Olive, makes a beeline for the handsome young camera man.

A high spot is the duet singing “Love Potion Number 9”.

The night is hot and steamy.  What sleep we grab is disturbed by the bellowing of the steers in the yard.    There’s a nervousness in the camp this morning.  Snatch straps are attached to the vehicles, just in case.  Today we are tackling the Old Telegraph Track.

Roothie and crew follow us out as we leave the campsite.  They are filming on the track today.

Old Telegraph Track

The track is narrow, tree lined, one car wide.  It is deeply potholed.   We soon arrive at Palm Creek, our first creek crossing.   A steep mud slide runs into a wet clay hole before levelling off into the creek.  The track runs through the creek to the left then up and out.

People are camped here, watching the attempts to cross.  “I wouldn’t take my tractor down there”, says Howard.  Cars are queueing behind us waiting to cross.

Max goes first.  Down the slide and to the left.   He tries to climb the steep exit out of the water and doesn’t make it.  He winches out.  Malcolm and Olive are through and then it’s our turn.

Richard is revved up, ready to go.  I’m gripping the door handle.   We scramble down the mud slide into the creek.  The ute rolls from side to side.  Richard turns the steering wheel left and we are driving up the creek.  The water is not too high, then the steep slope out is in front of us.   My heart pounds.  The engine revs climb and we shoot up the slope, rocking from side to side.

I can tell you, if I could have opened the door and got out, I would have done so there and then.   Christine, you would have had your eyes tightly closed.

I glimpse the track as we leave the creek behind us.  There’s a deep pot hole on one side and a huge lump of clay on the other.   The engine roars, one wheel drops into the hole and the ute twists sharply to one side.  We fly forward at an angle.  I can see only the sky.  Time slows down.  There’s a loud bang and we shoot out of the exit, landing on all four wheels.

Getting out, I look back at the vehicle.  It seems to be intact.   I hear later that our brand new ute missed a tree by a few inches.

I decide I’m not a fan of hard core four wheel driving.

The rest of the group make their way across without mishap.  Our Old Telegraph Track experience has started.

Your chariot awaits…

When you are planning a long trip into the outback, your vehicle takes on a new and heightened significance. It needs to be tough enough to cope with all kinds of terrain, from smooth freeway driving to scaling 35 metre high sand dunes.  It needs to be comfortable enough for you and your beloved to happily spend many an hour on the road, and most important of all, it becomes your home. It carries your food, water, cooking equipment, bed, clothes, first aid and rescue equipment.

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We bought our ISUZU ute last year as our runaround vehicle – chosen for its comfort, fuel economy and large tray (for dog transport and shifting garden supplies).  A secondary consideration was its 4WD capability.  As long as it could safely be taken on to the farm and out on to the unsealed tracks around the Otways, it would do fine.  But for the desert?

It is interesting how many different views are held on what is needed for a trip like this. We’ve heard all sorts of different opinions expressed with equal vigour and certainty.

There are those who adopt the famous Aussie “She’ll be right” approach and believe a basic 4×4 road car will be fine in the desert.  Then there are the brand worshippers.  We recently watched a 4WD TV show where the local guide, a Landcruiser man through and through, stated there is no point in undertaking any serious outback trip unless a Toyota is involved. Fortunately we will have three of these tried and trusted vehicles in convoy with us.  We hope our Isuzu D-Max will hold her head high in such esteemed company.

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Taking all these views on board, in the end we have done what we think is right. Only time will tell if we have made the right calls.  With the most remote and challenging part of the trip in mind, we have invested in some new features for our ute.

1) A long distance fuel tank – there are sections of our route where there are no opportunities to buy fuel

2) A dual battery system – this means we can run auxiliary power from a separate battery for our “home” needs, such as the fridge, keeping the main battery charged up for its primary purpose

3) Enhanced suspension – to give us greater clearance and robustness to cope with sandy terrain

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4) A bull bar – there be camels and roos out there…

5) A UHF radio and antenna – to keep in touch with our convoy and find out what those road trains are planning.

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6) Extra spare wheels and tough looking tyres, called Mickey Thompsons – to provide more grip and resilience for the outback conditions and spares in case of trouble

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As a result, the ute has grown, both in height and length and now looks a little imposing in the local shopping centre car park!  We think it is ready..