Travel Nightmares – Losing Everything

Living a nomadic lifestyle is not just a constant vacation, things go wrong and when they do they can seem monumental. As you may have read in my post about my Emergency Surgery in Vietnam I believe that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. This was never more apparent to me than during my latest adventure. My partner and I had been working in Alice Springs for nine months before we purchased the car of our dreams and decided to escape towards the beach. We had replaced the head gasket, water pump as well as a giant $500 new tyre; we were ready to go.


We had not even made it to the next town (albiet a 500km distance) before we came to a spluttering halt in the red dirt, radiator sizzling away. With some quick bush mechanics consisting of tea to plug the crack (I have never been so glad to be English in my life) we tentatively made our way towards Tenant Creek. All seemed good and the radiator remained drip free so we continued on our way only to be stopped again 50km further by a dead battery.


After a push start it was back to Tenant Creek, the dusty desert town, to buy a new battery (our attempts to escape from Alice Springs feeling extremely meager at this stage). We only made it 100km before the radiator went completely, in retrospect we should have fixed it but if we were to change anything it would be not purchasing the car in the first place. It was too windy to erect the shade sail and ironically I got blistering sunburn in the attempts to do so. We spent six hours in 40 degree heat with thousands of flies to entertain us before a smiling wrinkly eyed workman took pity on us and towed us back to Tenant Creek. We then sat for three days waiting for a new radiator to be freighted by bus from Darwin. If you have been to Tenant Creek you will understand our pain, a population of 3062 half of which are Aboriginal, a once thriving town during the mining boom with pretty much nothing to see or do.


You do get to meet some interesting characters like Rusty the poet, his skin all leathery and unwashed, an insane glint in his eyes. Reading us his published poems about billabongs and Australian afternoons interjected with stories about his time in prison, three scruffy dogs lying under his ancient caravan – the desert is home to countless lost souls. After many a beer consumed in a wild west style bar my partner fitted the radiator and we hot tailed it out of the lonely town and it was all smooth sailing until we reached a Hills have Eyes-esque roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. A failed alternator was the newest headache and after an extremely unwilling jump-start accompanied by muttering under the breath from the elderly man at the gas station we headed for Hervey Bay where we had the alternator replaced.


The ever optimists with Berghain tags swinging from the rear view mirror we made our way onto Fraser Island. We spent a day cruising around and seeing the sights before the final disaster struck. We arrived at a deep stream that made it’s way into the ocean. New Land Cruisers and Hiluxs blocked the  path as their occupants watched the tide. The problem was that the water was a mixture of fresh water from the stream and salt water from the ocean standing torso deep. Our car had a snorkel however if certain parts of the engine get wet then it’s game over. After an hour of cheery beers and conversation with some Aussies on a fishing trip one of the tour guides proclaimed ‘Fuck it’and proceeded to plough three Land cruisers into the water. After his brave and reckless actions the rest followed
suit so as not to look totally feeble. We were included in this, overcome with excitement and with water spilling through our doors we blasted our way through.


As we hot tailed it down the beach the car started misfiring, then lacking power and finally stalling. We made it to Indian Head for the panoramic views however this was when we really had to turn back. We were not sure what happened if you broke down on Fraser Island, there was definitely no towing service or breakdown assistance and I sheepishly eyed up all the tour guides cruisers that of course didn’t have tow bars due to these very situations. It was the same problem that presented when we blew our head gasket at Rainbow Valley and we felt like we were back to square one. Out of pocket, nine months of savings gone.


We quietly made our way back to Eurong where finally we would be off the beach and onto the next challenge which was making it through the deep sand that was the forest floor. The evening had grown late and our fuel was dwindling due to the high revs needed to keep the car from stalling so we set up camp for the night. We did make it back thankfully and after a few days of hopeful Gumtree selling it was a trip to the wreckers. After much deliberation we traded our eleven grand red monster for a metallic green Ford Falcon with an extra $1000 cost. At this point we had given up on the dream and a new one was in sight. At least with this car we could get where we needed to be and go where we wanted, not worrying about breaking down. It was hard letting go and coming to terms with losing so all our money especially as there was no back up savings or parents to call. Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand and put these experiences behind you, dwelling on the past does not change what happened, we can only change the present. Ironically four weeks later we had several offers in the seven grand region for the now wrecked car.


You learn a lot from experiences like this and I have definitely learnt my fair share about cars which is always useful. I also learnt that money is replaceable, it will not be the first or the last time I start from nothing but there’s something exciting about starting fresh isn’t there?

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