I took a trip down the Tanami to Bililuna yesterday, partly to scout out my new base, and partly for some community engagement. I took the new Senior Ranger along to introduce him to Country.
Technically, the road was closed, and I did not endear myself to Budgie by travelling down without his consent. Mea Culpa. I was very short of time to do this, because I fly to NZ tomorrow. I planned to turn back if need be, and report on the conditions if not. It turned out that the road was passable, if a bit rough and splashy in places. In fact it was not nearly as bad as it was on my last trip to Balgo. It was suitable to be declared, as it was then, “Open 4WD Only”.
It was a good lesson for both Steven the Ranger and I, because this happened:
We had pulled off for a break, and within a couple of hundred metres or so of getting back onto the road the juddering from the corrugations was so bad we stopped to see what was wrong. This was. Our theory is that some of the bumpier bumps had loosened the bead, and the sharp turn back onto the road rolled it off the rim. The damage was complete and swift.
As Steven started jacking up the car, I wound down the spare from under the back. Except all I saw was a frayed cable extending downwards. No spare. Bugger.
Luckily we always carry two, so up onto the roof basket we climbed for the second spare. We got it fitted with a modicum of bad language in the forty degree heat. Having no second spare, and therefore no spare at all now, made us rethink our strategy. We decided to turn back. If you have no spare tyre on board you should head for home carefully.
About 15K back up the road we found the other spare, and the clamp that holds it, sitting in the middle of the road. Lucky. Now we had a spare, we could complete our mission.
Even so, we drove more carefully than usual.
People can die out here.
Had we been stranded, all would not have been lost. We know perfectly well to stay near the vehicle. Apart from the two spare wheels, we always carry a satellite phone, first aid kit, recovery kit, plenty of water, food, a camp stove and utensils, and I have a waterproof and insect-proof hammock.