Desert Rescue continues from here.
As The Beast slowly came down the sand dune I could see their camp less than fifty metres ahead of me. Five four wheel drives parked in a makeshift circular camp about fifteen meters from the right hand side of the track and one four wheel drive parked on the opposite side a similar distance from the track. Each vehicle had it’s own a rooftop tent erected and set up, including the Toyota Prado parked by itself, there was no doubt a story as to why they set up camp so far away from what I assumed was the stranded vehicle and I knew I’d hear before the night was over.
I pulled The Beast up on the track, it wasn’t heavily trafficked area and there was plenty of space for moving traffic to see us if they did arrive so my parking wasn’t going to be an issue. As I stopped three men walked around the back of one of the four wheel drives, a Nissan Patrol, to greet me. They were each carrying a beer and had happy smiles on their faces, I didn’t expect them to look at me lovingly but bringing a beer would have been nice.
Obviously no one had told them the person getting out of the big modified rescue vehicle was going to be female because as soon as I stepped down from the truck and they saw me face to face for the first time two out of three jaws drop so far they nearly hit the desert sand. I didn’t react to such a greeting, it happened too often for me to be shocked.
Actually I suppose I did react in a way because of the three men that stood before me it was the one who didn’t looked shocked to see me who I offered my hand to so he could shake.
“G’day, name’s Dean!” I said as I shook the man’s hand.
“Barry, and these two monkeys about to pick their chins up are Mick and Jason.”
I don’t mean to sound rude but it’s a fact of life that I just don’t remember the names of everyone I rescue. I don’t begrudge people the polite effort of introducing themselves, in fact I feel honoured they make the effort to do so. But while I do make an effort to remember names while they are around but I don’t tend to remember them for long afterwards. I remember vehicles more than I remember people.
The party I was rescuing consisted of one Toyota Prado (the stranded vehicle), one Nissan Patrol, two Nissan Navara utes and two Toyota Hilux utes. They were all decked out well and modified appropriately for the types of travel they were undertaking and my initial impression was that the failure looked more and more like bad luck than bad preparation.
I might not remember names but I do remember groups and in the group of six cars their occupants numbered twelve, two in each vehicle I found out not long after getting out of the Beast. There was four couples, three of them married, and two groups of two guys just sharing their trip of a life time together.
The stranded vehicle belonged to one of the married couples which was some what of a relief to me. It probably wont surprise you when I say I’d much rather a married couple in the cabin of my truck on the way back to town than a couple of blokes. It’s not that I’ve ever had a major issue with guys, most of them were too scared when they realise I can handle myself better than they can, it’s just that having another woman in the cabin with me, especially one the male is sleeping with, stops the male doing and saying stupid things.
Shit! I keep getting caught up in my own mind and going off on a different tangent when there is a story to tell. Fuck! I said Shit! Shit! I said Fuck! Where there hell was I? Oh yeah the stranded car.
Travelling in the dark in the desert is possible but it’s fraught with danger even when you have as many lights on the front of your vehicle as I do. Desert wildlife can consist of lizards and snakes, which are not overly dangerous to vehicles unless they get caught in the wrong place, but that’s another story. We also have slightly bigger and more riskier things like wild dogs and foxes then even bigger things like cattle and kangaroos and then we get into the really dangerous ones, the camels and emus, that’s right we have it all. The problem with night travelling is that even with lights these animals can all surprise you. It’s not even a case of the bigger they are the more damage they cause, out here even a small animal could send you off into the scrub causing major damage and as you know it’s my job to be the rescuer not to need rescuing. It’s for that reason I don’t travel at night unless I have to and it’s also the same reason that even before I pulled up at the makeshift camp I knew I was staying over night.
When I asked the owner of the Prado if he minded me looking at his vehicle before I made any decisions about what would happen the following day his first reaction was to remind me that it was a broken tailshaft and something that could not be fixed. He wasn’t totally rude about it but there was a little bit of arrogance in his voice as if I should just accept what he’s said and be done with it.
“Don’t be such a pig Terry,” his wife Sandy said, “she’s here to rescue us, she obviously knows what she’s doing and she doesn’t need your fucking macho attitude.”
Like I said I get all sorts out here and Terry’s attitude was not rare, neither was Sandy’s.
While the rest of the group laughed at Sandy’s comment Terry walked with me over to his stranded car. It’s not that I didn’t trust Terry to diagnose his own problem it’s simply because I always want to check things out for myself then I don’t get any surprises. There has been times when I have been told the vehicle in need of rescuing had major issues and requires towing back to town only to find the problem was something simple like a loose battery cable. It didn’t happen often but checking things out myself hopefully eliminated that possibility. I didn’t expect Terry, or any of the group who obviously have a good amount of mechanical knowledge between them, to misdiagnose a loose battery cable as a broken tail shaft but I still wanted to check.
One of the other things checking the vehicle did was allow me a chance to check out how I was going to put it on the rear of the Beast. While I do get called to a wide variety of vehicles and after a time one gets to know the best way of chaining them to a flat bed you never can tell by the look of a vehicle what is the best way of securing it. Owners, especially those into heavy modifications, often change all manner of parts and at times they might remove good anchoring points and other times they might make even better ones than the manufacturer did. Checking the vehicle before I tried to put it on the back of the Beast allowed me to check that out.
The was nothing out of the ordinary with the Prado, except for the broken tail shaft, underneath it was a fair stock standard affair and chaining it on the back of the beast would only take about half an hour.
One thing you learn to be out in the bush is self sufficient, take what you need and don’t over pack. Apart from the spare parts I carry for myself, or upon request for a stranded traveller, I only thing I over pack is water and food and food is only ever the basics. Even I can get stuck somewhere, bogged, caught in bad weather, or any number of things and having extra food ensures that if I do get stuck I will survive. On the odd occasion it has also meant the party I’m rescuing has been able to eat as well, but this wasn’t the case with the party of twelve I met with the broken tail shaft, they had more than enough food for themselves and were happy to share. Since the majority of my food is not perishable, at least in the short term, sharing someone elses food for one night is not a drama.
As we sat down around the camp fire we did get to know each other a bit. Now when it comes to camp fires I believe there a few things every camper in the outback should know. How to start one, for obvious reasons, how to control one because camp fires are as much about warmth in the cold desert nights as they are food and how to extinguish one because we have enough bush fires without campers starting them. I still don’t remember all their names but chatting always passes the time between eating and bed.
So I managed to hold my curiosity until after dinner but I could hold it no longer and as I returned from the Beast with a cold beer I just had to ask why they had set the camp up on the opposite side of the track to the broken Toyota and not around it incorporating it into their circular camp. As soon as the question was out of my mouth their was silence around the camp fire, not a single person spoke, the men all looked at each other and the women looked at me with a grim look on their face. Now I may be an outback girl who doesn’t see too many people but even I could see a story was waiting to be told.
“Well go on Mick, tell Dean why we set camp up like this. Or maybe you want to Jason?” Stated one of the women whose name escapes me.
“It’s because Terry farts.” came the reply from Mick to laughter only from Jason. My only thought was that those two guys had spent too long sharing the cabin of a ute.
“OI!” exclaimed Terry.
“No,” started Sandy her tone annoyed but not too pissed off. “When ours dropped the tail shaft we were doing single runs over the dunes and keeping the parked vehicles out of the way. When ours stopped everyone but these two monkeys,” she pointed at Mick and Jason, “came over to see what had happened and what we could do to fix it. These two claiming they knew what had happened and that we were going nowhere fast decided they’d set up camp.”
“Hey, we were just forward thinking, it’s the kind of blokes we are.” Jason replied but there was still no laughter.
Sandy continued. “In the twenty minutes it took us too check everything and figure out our options these two geniuses had tied all the awnings together, secured the camp and were setting up the camp fire and the effort required to move five vehicles to one just wasn’t worth it.”
While technically they might have been right, moving the camp was a lot of effort even if they only thought they’d be staying over night, any moron knows that in the bush it’s always ‘safety in numbers’. They may have only been about 30 metres apart but there is no substitute for safety.
While I made a decision that I would move the Beast closer to the stranded Toyota for the night I also thought about how thankful I was not having to transport Mick and Jason back to town.