Grudgingly we all got up at 7am and set about packing up for the last time, sniff sniff. To be honest though, all of us are actually quite excited about going home today. We all miss our animals, families and of course the luxuries of home, that up until now, had always been taken for granted. By 9.30am everything was packed away, our useless blow up mattress was dumped in the bin, as well as Aaron's busted back lights. We said goodbye to Reflection Pool, and Bev of Coolcalalaya, before hitting the dirt road out towards Kalbarri. Not far from the station, Renae called us on the 2-way and said they needed to stop and put water in the radiator, it was overheating again. Little did we know this would be the first of a multitude of problems that would turn a simple 6 hour drive, into a grueling 13 hours. Seeing as the Jones's didn't have a camper to tow, it's easy for them to catch up to us, so we carried on driving. When we reached the Great Northern Highway half an hour later, there was absolutely no sign of them
. So we called on the 2-way, no response. That could only mean we were out of range, which meant they were still a long way back. On the side of the road we waited, calling over the 2-way every 2 minutes, and swatting flies every second. Twenty minutes went by with no response from them. We debated whether to just continue on ourselves, but there was that niggling feeling of what if they were in trouble. On the dirt road coming up to the highway, there's a road that goes off to the left, giving two places to pop out onto the highway. Not sure whether they would go straight or veer off to the left, we thought it best to drive back to that intersection and wait there. We called and waited, waited and called. Still no response, not even so much as a crackle. We were starting to get really worried, and just started driving back to the station calling over the 2-way now and then. Finally
, we got a crackled response from Renae, our hearts jumped with relief knowing they were alive and okay. She told us they were moving so we turned around and started heading back to the highway. Renae told us they had to wait ages for the car to cool down before they could put any water in, and then Brett found there was actually a hole in the radiator. He patched it up with Spoxy steel and silicone and the whole time this was happening, they could hear us on the radio but we couldn't hear them responding. If we had been able to hear them, we would have heard them telling us to just keep going home. But to be honest it didn't feel right to have spent this whole time together, only to split up on the last day, so I was glad we didn't hear them
. So the journey home resumed and together the four of us hit the tarmac of the highway, happy feelings were up as we knew home was closer than ever. But 15 minutes later, the Jones's had to pull over again. The radiator patch had blown off. This now meant they were going to have to do a stop-start drive the whole way. Home now seemed a very long way away. But their radiator wasn't the only problem our quartet was to endure. Another fifteen minutes back on the road and then BANG!! Then right tyre of our camper trailer burst. We just couldn't believe the bad luck we were getting on our very last day. Changing a tyre is not usually a problem.... IF you have the right jack. Because the camper had been modified and lifted higher than the norm, it meant we needed a Hi-Lift Jack to be able to get it high enough to change the tyre, and that
was the very thing none of us had brought along. All Aaron had was an ordinary car jack, with no winding rod to it, so the poor guy had to lay on a towel on the hot ground, turning the mechanism bit by bit with a shifter. This took forever and a day and by the time the jack was at full extension, it did very little to actually lift the camper very high. It was enough to get the shredded tyre off, but not enough to put the fully inflated spare one on. The only saving grace in this seemingly horrendous situation, was the powered wrench Aaron had bought. It plugged into the cigarette lighter and got the wheel nuts off with ease, once he figured out how to use it properly. This was where we were all glad to still be together, cos it took all four of us working together to get the spare tyre on
. Aaron, Brett and I had to lift the side of the camper while Renae struggled to get the flat tyre off. This took a couple goes as the shredded tyre itself kept catching on the hub and making it hard to come off. The same process was used for putting the new tyre on, and again it took a few goes as it wasn't easy for Renae to put the tyre on under such timed pressure; we could only lift the fully laden camper for so long before the edge was cutting into our hands. Nonetheless we got there and with the final buzz of the power wrench, a 5 minute job had blown out to a 45 minute one. It's actually quite amazing that the camper tyre lasted 4 weeks of traveling a variety of road types, and only now gave up the ghost. With glee, we jumped back in our cars and headed south again..... for at least 3 minutes anyway. Our new tyre looked a little too flat to make it to the next town, Northampton, so we had to pull over again
and pump it up with our air compressor. While we were stopped Brett thought the hub for his axle was loose, so the boys got to work pulling it off, checking it, and putting it back on again. At this point we have traveled 60kms in 4 hours, and the pesky persistent swarms of flies weren't making any of our moods any better. At 1.30pm we were finally moving again, and 15 minutes later we pulled into the fuel station in Northampton. The new tyre was somewhat flat again, it seems it has a slow leak which means we will be needing to stop at every roadhouse to pump it up. While at this station, I called out to the few people around if anyone had a Hi-Lift Jack we could use
. We were going to put the Patrol's spare tyre on and take off this slow leaking one, but sadly no one had one and being a Sunday in a small town, the mechanic shop was shut. A young fellow came over and told us of a trick he uses to change tyres on his 4wd when he doesn't have a Hi-Lift Jack. We got some food into our bellies and were back on the road by 2pm. Both cars were on limited time spans, and it was going to be a matter of drive as far as possible before needing to stop. Our hearts were well and truly disheartened by now, and all we wanted to do was just get home. Geraldton was the next town and here we had to part ways with Brett and Nae, they needed LPG and to get globes for their headlights as all they had was their one wayward spotlight. None of us expected we'd be driving at night, but with the string of problems putting us so far behind, it was now a certainty. We pumped up the tyre at a station along the highway, and were off again but on our own this time. Throughout the whole trip, we had always driven between 80 and 90kms to conserve fuel and cos there was no rush. Now that we just wanted to get home fast, we were trying to push the car to 110kms, but we could hardly get it there. Our engine was just too small and powerless to cope pulling the camper and getting up hills at any speed greater than 90kms. Trust me, we both tried. It was a somewhat stressful way to drive, constantly looking in the side mirror to check the state of the tyre, wondering if we would make it to the next roadhouse in time
. Our stops included Dongara, Eneabba, and the Cataby Roadhouse. Each time Aaron pumped up the tyre, he failed to tell me he could hear the steel bands inside the tyre snapping. As home got ever closer, Aaron called his mum to find out if she would be at home in another hour or so. She said they were at his aunty's place celebrating his uncles birthday, Aaron said we would rock up there and surprise everyone. But we made a vital mistake in our eagerness; we didn't stop at Muchea as Midland was only 37km away. Our fuel was low but Aaron was certain we could make it a bit further, so we sailed on past and made the turn towards the Pearson Air Base. Here is where everything came undone. The Air Base had put on an air show this day, and the roads were clogged with everyone trying to leave. We got stuck in the middle of this major traffic jam with the fuel light now beaming at us and the tyre rapidly deflating. As we made it past the main part of the jam, and actually got moving, it finally happened; BANG! We limped off the side of the road into a bus bay, and sat there for a few seconds wondering how we were going to change it with just the 2 of us. Our best bet was to try out the idea the fellow in Northampton had told us. Aaron called his excited mum and told her the bad news, but she said they would hang around until we got there. As we set about getting things ready, a car pulled into the bus bay in front of us, and to our utmost surprise out jumped Brett and Nae. We were all so happy to see each other, it was unbelievable
. Once they left Geraldton with their new headlight globes, the radiator came good and they were able to drive constantly, and thus they caught up to us seeing as we had to keep stopping. Feeling a weight had lifted from our heavy hearts, we told them about the plan we had been told. It seemed simple, but the doing of it was not. The fellow had told us to drive the flat tyre up onto the inflated one, then put the car jack up on a heap of wood (or whatever you can find to sit it on), extend the jack to lift the camper higher than it now is from being on the spare tyre, then whip out the spare and change the tyres over. But what he didn't tell us was exactly how
to get the flat tyre on the spare one in the first place, especially since the busted tyre was shredded to pieces. Seeing as the shredded one WAS the spare for the camper, we were having to use the Patrol's spare, which is a bit bigger, but what choice did we have. Laying the spare tyre in front of the shredded one, I drove the car forward as the boys stood on the edge of the spare to stop it from moving, but to no avail. We did this over and over again trying different ways to stop the spare from moving away, and to allow the flat one to roll up on top. Every time I turned the car on, there was that light telling me it urgently needed fuel, and the longer it took us to do this tyre the closer we got to completely running out. While the rest of us were at our wits end, Aaron came up with a great idea. He ripped the wooden bus stop we were parked next to, out of the ground and used it as a ramp going up onto the spare. It was brilliant and worked a treat! We were all so happy to now be finally at the stage of dealing with changing the tyre. The power wrench dealt with the nuts and we decided not to bother with the car jack, using man power instead. Seeing as the camper was still attached to the car, we were able to take the shredded tyre off without worrying about propping the camper up. With spare tyre at the ready Brett, Aaron and I lifted the side of the camper while Renae struggled to get the tyre on
. Success was achieved after a couple goes, the nuts were put on and we were about to pack up when the boys noticed a bit of a problem. The Patrol tyre was just that much too wide and was touching the inside of the camper's wheel arch. Not wanting anymore blow outs, Brett suggested we use his spare, which wasn't as wide. Off came the tyre again, and on went Brett's one. Now that we're pro's at this process, it was done in a quicker time. The nuts went on for the very
last time and now all we had to do was make the 3km to the next fuel station. Ginger's Roadhouse never looked so wonderful as it did that night. Aaron called his mum to say we were mobile again, and she told us his uncle's party was over and that we should just go straight home. With full tanks and final farewells, we four weary travelers parted ways again and actually made it home without another problem to speak of. Living further south than the Jones's, we didn't pull up at our house until 10.30pm followed by Aaron's parents who were anxious to see us after being gone 4 weeks. When we walked through the front door it was with great relief and happiness. After bringing in almost everything out of the car, we closed the door to an awesome chapter in our lives.
In four weeks we:
Spent: $2,089.85 on diesel
Traveled: 6,122 kilometers
Took: 1,300 photos approx.
Spent: $405 on accommodation
Spent: $3,500 approx. on food, tours and things
Spent: $4,700 approx. on modifications
Total: $10,700 approx.
And it was all well worth it, especially when we found out I had come back pregnant.