Continues from here.
So where was I? Oh that’s right I was barrelling along a sandy dirt track headed to rescue one four wheel drive and at least one maybe two blokes from a broken tail shaft. They were part of a group of five other vehicles who’d set up camp and were waiting for me to arrive. I was still nearly an hour away.
For those of you that don’t remember me I drive a heavily modified rescue vehicle out into the unforgiving Australia desert to save stranded travellers. My name is Dean (read back if you need to) I’m a hundred and sixty centimetres tall, well built and desert tanned, oh and I’m female. It’s the gender part that causes the most problem. From men embarrassed to admit they need help, to men who become all macho when they see a woman turn up to help I’ve seen them all.
Most of them are good natured and most of them realise that without me they are screwed, they just get a bit overwhelmed by the desert and it’s remoteness. For some it takes their wives/partners to remind them of that but like I say most are fairly good natured and are just thankful for the help. I have had a few guys who have thought that my secondary purpose for being out in the desert, after saving them, was to give them something to ogle, hit on, and even have sex with, but they generally change their minds fairly quickly. Maybe I’ll tell you about some of those another day.
Ok back to the story at hand. I know roughly where these guy are, I say roughly because no one truly knows every track in the Australian outback and travellers often go further off the beaten track in search of a bit of sand driving or other such thing. In this day of GPS it is a lot easy to find people because I can key in their coordinates but because so many tracks are unmarked sometimes even in The Beast I have to take a long way.
Usually when I get within about twenty kilometres of the point I’ve been sent to I start using the CB radio to call the stranded party. CB radios are more reliable out here than any mobile phone, even satellite phones are hit and miss out here. The biggest issue with CB radios is their range, a range that can be hampered by weather, terrain and the units themselves. There would be very few travellers that head out into the desert without them and some are better than others but between vehicles there is very little that can beat a good reliable CB radio especially given that mobile phone services are pretty much non existent outside the major towns. Even with CB’s and GPS sometimes people aren’t where they are suppose to be and I spend more time looking for them, but the one thing I never do is go home without them.
Given the location I was headed to I decided to take a ‘short cut’ or as I tend to call them an ‘alternate route’ along a dry creek bed. There was no rain predicted and the creek only ever had water in it during the wet season so I was fairly confident that water was not going to be my issue. However the main reason I chose the creek was because going by the coordinates I was staring at on the GPS using the creek would cut at least twenty minutes off my trip and I’d be that much closer to beer o’clock by using it.
Obviously it pays to know your creek when you decide to drive them because while they may be dry some of them are also scattered with dead trees, rubbish and all manner of crap that floated down in the last flood. Some of you city folk might think that’s not a huge issue but when you consider that in the wet season a flood that reaches where I was could have started two hundred kilometres away there is the potential for a lot of rubbish to be shifted. Added to that the fact that many of these creeks can vary in depth and width and it’s not uncommon to find yourself having to turn around because what’s left of the track is not wide enough for your vehicle.
Because some of the dry creeks out here rarely see water some of them don’t even have a name, some are just flood ways, the path a massive amount of water chooses to flow in. Some of them also aren’t named because next season they might not be in the same place. The creek bed I was driving in was one of those, the last time it was wet was during the last wet season, but the season before it was thirty kilometres north of here.
The afternoon was getting on but the sun was still shining bright, the temperature according to the outside thermometer was still thirty three degrees and I could feel it on my right arm that was sitting on the sill of the open window. Why was I not using the air conditioner? Well out here we only use such luxuries when it’s hot!
The first time I saw the glimmer up ahead I figured it was just a bit of rubbish, something that had been there since the last flood and never disturbed, it was a fairly common thing in dry creeks. When the glimmer caught my eye a second time I decided I’d stop and check it out. After I slowed the Beast down and stopped her in the middle of the creek bed I got out and made my way over to the glimmering object.
Sorry to disappoint you but the story of the glimmering object was nothing exciting, it was just a weather beaten checker plate tool box. It was probably once located on the back of someone’s ute and either got washed off as the vehicle got caught in flood waters or just fell off without the owner knowing where it fell off. Honestly you’d be surprised how things end up out here but how it got there was not really my concern. My only concerns with anything I see out of place was making sure it was ok to be left where it was, find out if there was anything identifiable in it or find and take anything that might be useful for my own uses. You might be surprised by some of the things I find out here that don’t appear to belong to anyone, but more on that another time.
In the toolbox I found very little of use, a few rusty tools, a Mag Lite which still worked, fan belts and oil filters that would have made up part of a spare parts kit for a Nissan Patrol and a bottle of diesel oil. I took the oil and the Mag Lite and left the rest then got back in the Beast and resumed my journey.
One thing I have never understood of people is why when they are stranded in the outback they turn off the only reliable communication device they have. I understand the need to preserve power but in this day and age with the number of travellers that have solar power it’s amazing how many people will turn off CB radios but leave on mobile phones that have no reception. It was lucky that my GPS and the coordinates I was given were damn near spot on because the group I was out there to rescue was one of those groups. Six vehicles between them and not one person thought of leaving a single radio on standby so I could alert them to my arrival.
While they’d have known I was coming earlier if they’d bothered to have a CB radio turned on the group was alerted to my arrival a few minutes before I hit their camp because often The Beast does announce her presence before she’s seen.
Remember I told you that I meet a wide variety of people out in the desert? Well I could tell as soon as I descended the sand dune into the make shift camp of stranded travellers that I was definitely in for one of ‘those’ rescues.