Bringing Henry Home - Kununurra to Fitzroy Crossing

Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 at 18:00

Peter Beard (WA)

Another delightful drive today through the beautiful Kimberley landscape. The road from Kununurra to Fitzroy Crossing is new to Pete and Ali - every other time they have been up here they have been in the Landcruiser and have taken the Gibb River Road. No one knows if Henry has been here before.

When Pete and Kris purchased Henry two Shitbox Rallies two and a half years ago he had more than half a million kilometres on the clock and, since the odometer hasn't worked since Henry became part of the family, that figure is likely to be considerably greater. He has had a hard life, he has a Reece tow hitch and electric brake controller so he's had a career as a towing vehicle at some stage of his life and the former owner said he had purchased Henry from a group of backpackers. There’s a good chance Henry has done quite a few laps of Australia in his long life. He has also spent time as a dog kennel for some part of his history; the back seat padding is completely chewed away on the passenger side and one of the mudflaps bears the teeth marks of a bored pooch.

After the turnoff to Derby and the Gibb River Road red cliffs erupt from the bright green grass covered plains, and there are brilliant white gums and fat bellied boab trees. A small kangaroo leapt onto the road then bounced back into the scrub as Henry approached, both Pete and Ali relieved that the little creature did not end up underneath Henry. Big cows and wild horses roam the area, Ali on sharp look out for any that look like wandering close to the road.

There is not much in the way of civilisation - Doon Doon Station, then Warmun, then Halls Creek for lunch. Pete and Ali stayed here a couple of years ago as a waypoint for the start of the Canning Stock Route. After Halls Creek there is nothing but red hills, trees, open plains and wildlife until Fitzroy Crossing.

In contrast, there is not much between Oodnadatta and Marla on the Stuart Highway as Pete and Kris and the rest of Group 7 found on the third day of their Shitbox Rally adventure. They spent more than an hour on the side of the track waiting for a recovery team to arrive - Team Lost Claus's Saab hit a rock that proved fatal to the fuel tank. No fuel equals no go so it was onto the recovery crew’s trailer for the Saab and Henry gained another passenger, giving Helen from Team Lost Claus a lift to Alice Springs.

Emerging on to the bitumen Pete and Kris quickly noticed a new growling noise coming from Henry. He wasn't getting angry, rather it was a rear axle bearing. Remember that oil leak back in Adelaide? Well the axle bearing on the same side packed it in and was complaining loudly. At first they tried to increase speed, hoping to do a quick run up to Alice Springs to get bearing, seal and other essential parts before the shops shut but Henry's overheating put paid to that. So it was a sedate cruise up the highway, Pete and Kris both thinking it would be a late start in the morning after going to buy parts and then fixing the problem, otherwise it would the end of the rally for Henry, Pete and Kris. Arriving in Alice Springs they were delighted to find that the local Repco store had stayed open an extra hour knowing that a bunch of Shitboxes would be limping into town probably looking for parts. They got the parts they need and thanked the staff profusely. Now for a night of hard work to make sure Henry made the start line in the morning.

With their own tools, a borrowed grinder and a conveniently donated length of water pipe they pulled out the axle, slipped on the seal, replaced the dicky bearing and put it all back together. Henry's ailments in triage were successfully treated by the boys themselves and after a couple of hours he was discharged with a clean bill of health.

Team Lost Claus's Saab also underwent emergency surgery in triage, a handful of some sort of whacky glue shoved into the hole in the fuel tank to seal it up. It wouldn't start however, the fuel tank had filled with dirt while on the trailer and the fuel filter was now full of crud - a job for tomorrow after trying the Alice Springs auto parts stores for a new filter.

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