Firstly I'd like to thank those that supported our trip and wished us the very best. Also thanks to Terry for putting the artile up on Moke werx and getting it all formatted so that you can get a good idea of our trip with pictures and vids.
For me Mokefest 2013 was a means to get to the start of the ABH, I never imagined it would take so long to get there but I am so glad it did. Spending a couple of weeks with mokers across the nullabor and having a relaxing time going around the southern part of WA was awesome. The weather was treacherous at times with storms, wind and rain day after day was a real challenge. I was rugged up in the moke with jackets and beanies on and hugging every little bit of heat that comes out of the heater. It wasn't all bad, as we know, mokes aren't fond of the heat and to be driving long distances in cool weather at least made the cars run at respectable temperature.
After Mokefest we made our way to Kalgoorlie via Maddogs and eventually on to Laverton. Driving from Laverton to the beginning of the ABH. As we got closer and closer I must admit I did start to get a little nervous and apprehensive. Its like you spend so much time preparing the car and planning the trip that when it finally happens you get filled with excitement and nervousness. I took the deliberate approach of not viewing ABH trips via youtube etc because I wanted to see it first hand and not have any expectations. I think I just focussed on preparing Thomas and whatever will be will be. I guess the old saying of ignorance is bliss comes to mind.
We finally arrived at the turn off and did the usual photo session of the sign as per below.
Unfortunately S&C had left us a message on this sign as we left Laverton which was another kick in the guts. I can never understand vandalism and to have the ABHers names written down on a public sign was disrespectful.We travelled about 130ks from Laverton on the ABH the first day, which wasn't too bad as we didn't get to the turn off until after late lunch. The road was rough at times but not too bad. The road goes from really wide and flat and the further you get in the narrower it gets and rougher with always looking out for rocks and areas of sand and of course those continuing corrugations.
Our first night of camp was at Central Bore Yamana. It was great to be camped near water where we could at least wash some of the dust of us and feel almost human again. Of course one of the dangers of staying near a waterhole is having stock visit you during the night so we camped about 50-100 metres from the water trough. In the morning we woke up to see we had made the right decision as there were a few stock hanging around but quickly left the area once they saw Biggles. Here's a tip though, when camping near a bore with a windmill expect not to get much sleep as the wind picked up that night and the constant clanging of the windmill made for a restless night.
Very close to this site is the actual start of the ABH which most think is at the town of Laverton. So once again we lined up for the photo and Terry the tour guide gave us a history lesson and also more importantly what we were aiming for today and some travelling rules. Terry's knowledge and passion for the outback always outstands me and for those that have travelled with Terry will know it always makes for an interesting trip as you see and find out so much more than just travelling the road and only looking out for tourists signs as POI (Points of Interest). The next few hours we spent driving in sand, corrugations, rocky sections and heat. DS had some problems with fuel so the pump was changed and we headed off again.
Dave's Road report documentary
Our next stop was at Yeo Lake homestead, and wow what a place to stop and have lunch and shelter from the blistering heat, water and a shower. As we pulled up Coxy's car was running a little hot and enjoyed the break, The rat had broken a top engine mount. It wasn't the normal top engine mount as the rat had a mod done which he was told it was suppose to make it stronger. It looked good in theory but the cast rod and the angle of the dangle just couldn't cope with the corrugations and rough terrain.
This is where I had a shower and it was so good. I am not a big fan of hot weather so anytime there is water I am either in it or making the most of the opportunity. At Yeo Lake Homestead there is a working bore pump and here is a photo of the pump.
Its old, rough, costs a fortune to run, creaks and groans, doesn't really do much in the afternoon and doesn't really produce much water without needing a cup of tea, but I wouldn't travel with anyone else than my trusty mate biggles ( who by the way after a few days starts to look like Donald Trump according to Terry). Somewhere out there are some R rated photos of me having a shower at Yeo Lake Homestead with only a Thomas the tank engine cutout placed in strategic position. Hopefully they never surface but there was talk of some special plans for such photos, we will just have to wait and see. I wasn't in any rush to leave the homestead but it was getting a little cooler, the cars had cooled down, we had all showered and eaten so it was time to leave after refilling water bottles from the rainwater tank.
We found some rocks after a while.
The next night we stopped by the side of the road/track. A fire had been through here recently so it was nice and clear and seemed like a good spot for camping. It was just on dark so it was a matter of setup camp and make some dinner. It was still really hot that evening and sitting by the fire was uncomfortable. Although we did have some entertainment that evening, with the roaring fire going we al just sat around and talked as you do, then we started to notice these suicidal locusts or similar looking bugs. They just kept leaping into the fire, it was weird but it was entertainment of some sort to say the least. Coxy then fired up the Sat phone and we got speak to our loved ones and let them know where we were and all is good. That evening the wind picked up, cant remember what time but it was blowing a gale through the camp.
Terry got up, grabbed the spade and well and truly smothered the fire, I got up and went to the toilet and went back to bed and tried to get to sleep while Thomas got blown around. I was expecting stuff to be everywhere in the morning but it wasn't too bad.
Biggles woke up to an esky that was not smelling too good, seems two one litre containers of UHT milk had split on his travels and curdled leaving everything in the esky floating in a pool of UHT yoghurt, mmmmm.
Terry had a couple of broken bolts to repair on DS and The rat needed some exhaust TLC.
We had lunch at Neales Junction where the locals had erected a shelter, toilet and rainwater tank installed. I parked Thomas under the shelter and the boys were quite vocal about my parking. I thought Thomas needed to be out of the sun just as much as we did. About a 100 metres from the shelter is Neales Junction, where the Anne Beadell highway and the Connie Sue highway cross.
There is a visitors book inside an old ammo box and I made a note of our travels and thanked the Beadell family. Unfortunately on the outside of the ammo box was more vandalism with our names on it and at this point we had had enough. We wanted to be free of the vandalism and consistent taunting that we had been subject to so we decided to take a right hand turn and travel the Connie Sue highway. This was not without its concerns, we knew we did not have access to fuel and we hadn't really planned for such a route. We knew there were abandoned railway stations out there somewhere but no access to fuel meant we were going to run out at some stage and need to do a fuel run somewhere somehow. Nevertheless we had made the decision as a group and pressed on. It was mixed emotions to be leaving the ABH but the Connie Sue offered so much more and a track that was rarely used and I now understand why.
Travelling the first part of the Connie Sue was so much fun, I mean I cant explain how exciting it was, seems Len Beadell didn't like to go straight over sand dunes and would weave his route as much as possible around them. So although the Connie Sue runs north to south and Len Beadell liked to make the route as straight as possible but when it comes to sand dunes he would take his track east or west as far as necessary to reach the lowest point of a sand dune. There were times when this just wasn't practical so there some dunes where we just weaved up the dunes and where travelling in sand for a while but it was exciting. The sweeping bends of sand and continuous straights meant we could just let the cars drift around the bends and have the back of the moke hanging out. I have never had the back of Thomas hang out so much. I could have driven on those dunes for hours. The sand was deep in sections and you could feel the car was working but if you kept the speed up , kept the car in the ruts and had your tyre pressure down it was no problem on the cars.
Eventually we got through all the dunes and after seeing a couple of roos lying on the road resting in the shade we thought we would stop for a break and have some lunch/snooze. Here's Donald Trump and Terry having a break.
I cant remember where exactly it was but we came to an intersection and there was my favourite outback icon. A shelter with a big rainwater tank. Gotta love that. So we stopped and had a break again, someone found a tennis ball so we thought we should have a game of cricket. So out came the spade as a bat, couple of water containers as wickets and game on.
Terry bowling, Coxy batting and biggles behind the stumps.
Eventually we made our way down the road back on to the real Connie Sue. This track was ferocious and relentless. I think we did 20ks an hour for days and days. The rocks weren't just little rocks they were decent rocks that you had to consistently dodge or you did damage.
Start of the real Connie Sue, disregard my comment about Bathurst as I really had no idea what day it was.
On the Connie Sue 4 hours later
Our aim was to get to Rawlina only 100ks away so shouldnt take that long....well it took forever. The cars were taking a real pounding and it was so much rougher that the ABH. The difference was that the ABH was corrugated and rough but there were areas of relief, the Connie Sue was just consistent with rocks and it was a true track.
No relief in sight except for what you did along the way to break up the trip. Like when Donald Trump found a lizard, if you look closely at this photo on biggles' right side leg you can see where the lizard had relieved itself on Biggles. The lizard was an unusual colour but I guess if you spent your life out there you would end up that colour. We had only been out there a week and we were all getting a nice shade of red.
The rats exhaust had copped a pounding and it was time to salvage what we could and work on it later.
We finally arrived at Rawlina, an old railway town now owner by a mining company that is no longer active, with the only residents being a 2 caretakers and a professional roo shooter. The roo shooter sends approximately 20 tonne of roo to Perth a month.
After talking to one of the 3 locals we managed to get permission to stay at the Nullarbor Muster shed. There were showers there, water and a MASSIVE shed. We all stayed in the shed and it was nice to have so much area under cover to ourselves and with a concrete floor. Not sure how but I ended up setting up in one of the corners of the shed only to find I had parked under this sign.
Anyway there were no bids so I got to keep my pride and joy. Next stop was see who was game enough to ride the bucking bull. I think there are some photos of Thomas and I going the full 8 seconds.
Well after leaving Rawlina this day is the day we were going to run out of fuel. The Rat had been going through more fuel than we thought it should and DS was suffering some sort of fuel electrics issue that was not resolved until we got to the bitumen. Fortunately I had filled all my Jerry cans at Laverton, so I knew I should have enough fuel for around 900ks but when you are travelling through sand then down to 30ks for hours you just don't know what sort of range you are going to get. I was confident I would make it through to the fuel stop but DS and the Rat were unlikely. Coxy had put an extra 20 litres of fuel on board for emergency and it was wise that he had. Somewhere along the way we needed to stop for the rat to tidy up a couple of things and terry hadn't heard our call that we were stopping so he had blissfully travelled on. Terry eventually worked out that we were not behind him and as he was low on fuel he had no option but to sit an and wait. He managed to find a tree that had some shade but it seems ticks also liked this spot and they were climbing and biting everyone.
The rat had finally run out of petrol and Thomas towed the rat to the tick infested tree location where we did a recce of our fuel and worked out the distance to get to the next fuel stop. Coxy and I had calculated we had enough to get there but only just and we couldn't afford any diversions or going up the wrong track. We handed the Satphone to Terry, checked over the map and Coxy and I were off for a dash for fuel that was only 91ks away.
After heading down the track for about 10ks Coxy and I started to realise what the situation we were in was truly like. We were travelling at about 20-30ks an hour and the track wasn't getting any better. We started to get into survival mode and started to make notes of star pickets and rock formations at certain distances from where we had left the others. It took Coxy and I almost 4 hours to reach the fuel stop at Cocklebiddy. It was close to 5pm, and I had Terry's dad bedding on board. I was knackered, it was hot and so draining driving the track that we were unsure if we make the return journey that day. Coxy got a tyre fixed and I went and got a steak sandwich with the lot and an ice cold bottle of solo.
After about half an hour we decided we would at least make a start on heading back and camp somewhere along the way and get to the boys in the morning. So on we drove heading back onto the track at sunset. Coxy and i kept driving on and on and each gate talked about what we should do, we kept agreeing to keep pushing on and taking our time. Eventually we reached the boys and it was the end of a long day. Terry fitted a new needle to The Rat and that fix the economy issues, just wished he had of done it sooner and we may have all made it to the bitumen.
This is where ended up camping.
The next day I woke up and thought I would check up on a noise at the rear of Thomas that I thought I had fixed. Lucky I did as the shocker bolt had come loose and was hanging out. Amazingly the nut was still there even after all that time. So I did it up and it was all good to go. Then I packed the car ready to hit the road again and somehow managed to hurt my back which gave me grief for the rest of the trip. In Hindsight it was actually a good thing driving at night, I mean you can't drive fast on these tracks so any roos or other animals you see you have time to stop and it was so much cooler. I think that day it was over 40degrees so you can imagine what it was like in a moke, in the desert travelling at 30ks an hour for almost 4 hours. But having said all that, to me this is what moking is all about, travelling through tough tracks where mokes don't usually go, being challenged and of course being with a group that are like minded, safe to travel with, fun blokes and we all feel part of the adventure.