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Trip Report - Brindabella Breakdown


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Brindabella Breakdown - A series of fortunate events.

Sorry about the length ... but there is a bit to tell. And I left bits out.

A recent (January 2012) two night camping trip to the McIntyres Hut area delivered a learning opportunity for this new family of 4wd travellers. I write this to thank and acknowledge all those who willingly involved themselves in our recent ... uummm ... close call.

Shreqs’ new mum, my Lady Fiona, was keen on “camping” but I had resisted. In short, I relented. But how do I go about this? So, a new members of the Southern Tablelands 4WD Club (ST4WDC) was conceived. A roof top tent and annex, awning and fly screen are purchased, fitted and used. We’ve done the basic course (a big thanks to the training team led by Peter) and ONE club trip. We’ve “camped” at Flea Creek, ONCE, and travelled Gentle Annie, maybe half a dozen times.

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We have three days off and I’ve planned this. A recon of the area was conducted only weeks before during a ST4WDC “Brindabella Classic” trip. I knew the track, I knew the conditions and knew my Lady would over cater. I let family know where we were going and when we expected to be back. All I had to do now was get us there, set up, pack up, and get us home. Easy.

Nope, not the way it happened.

We spent two brilliant nights camping. Relaxing, entertaining and peaceful. I got sunburnt despite my Lady’s attention, and she paddled in the River. We laughed at a bunch of (four) young men playing “silly buggers” floating down river. I had unplugged the fridge when we first got here and ran it the next day off a large portable battery we had. We were going home tomorrow anyway. We got rained on both nights just before sunset. My Lady still cooked, under an umbrella. Nice.

Tuesday morning and time to pack for home. It’s all good. Awake early, sort of, and start the pack up after my coffee. On time and ready for an 11am departure, home by 2pm.

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“Oh baby, I’ll just start Shreq before we’re finished to warm up a before the climb out”. Damn Karma!

“Okay” ... “I don’t want to leave” ... “can we come back?”

“Sure”.

Shreq ... turns over but does not start. I’m still coming to grips with the cold start peculiarities that Shreq imposes on me. It’s no big thing ... try again ...

Raaa ... raaa ... raaa, raaa ... raaa ... raaa raaa ... raaa ... raaa raaa ... raaa ... raaa

Nothing. The battery would spin this 4.5 litre beast all day, well, almost. Try again, but this time I’m a bit concerned.

Raaa ... raaa ... raaa, Raaa ... raaa ... raaa Raaa ... raaa ... raaa Raaa ... raaa ... raaa

Don’t panic. Remember what Peter told us on the basic course ... left foot brake ... no, no, no ... uuummm ... don’t panic. I think we have a problem. I try to start Shreq every five minutes and begin my diagnostics. No fridge (died), and food going off, no beer.

Bugga. Now Karma kicks in, sort of.

Andy and his three friends (remember the young guys we laughed at) could hear Shreq trying to start. Andrew stayed and helped me fault find, test and try. Nothing. The conclusion at 1pm (two hours) was dire. We’d checked for spark; okay. A check revealed a blown fuel pump fuse and replaced by Andy from HIS spares. Now I’m embarrassed. A fuse. But still no start. Likely suspect is now the fuel pump. We had checked the fuel lines while disconnected and found no fuel being pumped.

Bugga. I write all the relevant information down. Andy has agreed to make some calls for us. Now this might sound a bit ... odd ... for a man my age but, I gave Andrew my mums’ number. If anyone was going to get things happening, it was my mum. A farmer and farmers wife for most of her life, mum was my “go to” hitter. So we waved good bye to Andrew with our precious notes and best wishes. Ring mum, the mechanic, and the club, in that order. Now we wait.

This was the worst bit for me. Knowing the message had gone out (in a bottle) and hoping we might have some reply, sometime. So I sat and pondered, but eventually resigned myself that we would be camping again for one more night. I rechecked all my checks and tried to start Shreq again. Nope. Now I start considering our worst case scenario, recovery. No engine = no power brakes or steering, and, auto = no engine breaking. The idea of being towed out is, awful. Lets hope someone can bring a fuel pump.

Then Ranger Dave appeared about 3pm. What a relief.

“Are you okay?” I sob my tale of unfairness, bad luck and karma. He takes my details and, radios “base”. A dialog is quickly established and “base” now has ALL the info. Base rings my mum. While a communication protocol is being established between my mum, “base”, Dave the Ranger and us, Dave checks McIntyres Hut and returns to update us on planned rescues.

Our mechanic wants to help but doesn’t think an onsite repair is feasible. Mum has also contacted the ST4WDC. The message is ...

“Help is on the way ... tomorrow”.

Phew ... let this sink in. The best bit for me is knowing our SOS got through. And right there is Ranger Dave, telling us that we WILL be checked on again tomorrow. Do we have water, food? We have ample of both. Dave sits with us in the shade and we chat now. We talk about the river and who is using it, road closures and other camping sites. “Club members huh ...” Dave questions. “Yup, recently though” and I explain our history. Dave nods, “yeah, Peter did our training a while ago”. Funny that. It can be a small world.

Resigned to another night in the tent we wave goodbye to Dave the Ranger. He passes just out of site over the hill. I’m up from my chair and ready to fold the tent out and organise for the night. 5pm.

“Honey ... “ my Lady calls. “Why don’t you it try it again”

Yeah ... women. I’ve been trying for almost six hours now! Feeding fuel into the injectors by tube and trying to pressurise the fuel system with the tyre compressor. I’ve tried.

“Yeah ... let’s give it a go. Wouldn’t it be funny if ...”

Shreq ... Raaa ... raaa ... raaa ...vroom.

YOU ARE KIDDING!

Pack up, quick! Select 4wd low and go. I know we have a PETROL problem related to the fuel pump, so, we’re on gas and I know it isn’t enough to get us home. Will we make the black top? Back up Waterfall, left via Webbs Ridge onto Dingi Ridge (call mum when we have reception to), then Blue Range Hut and get lost (stupid GPS). Keep heading down hill until ... tar ... blacktop ... Brindabella road.

The End (and finally)

We are home safe by 7.30pm with a quick stop at the NEAREST lpg outlet. It is only now as I make calls to cancel any planned rescue that I start to comprehend the wheels I (and mum) had set in motion.

I’m pleased to say that, today, my expectations of others have been exceeded. Andrew for his help, concern and reliability. Dave; for his support and professionalism. My Lady for her patience with my volatile nature. And my club.

By 8pm I had made all the calls I could to assure people of our safe return. The ST4WDC was last, intentionally. They receive my biggest thanks. There was already a group of club volunteers (organised by the president) leaving at 6.30am tomorrow to come tow us out.

I’m glad it wasn’t required but we’re ... stunned ... that our club came together so quickly to help such a new member. The club was going to tow a two and a half tonne LUMP that could not stop or turn some 35kms on grade 2/3 tracks. Consider us ... “gob smacked” and grateful.

Epilogue

Roadside assist arrived at 9am. A spray can of carby cleaner goes down Shreqs throat and away we go off to the mechanic. A couple of hours on a hoist and $300 (fuel pump) later Shreq is all patched up, easy. He even gets a drink and wash (with cold water). I suspect my mood would be darker if we had to spend the third night camped.

And most of all too my mum, thank you. It’s great to know you’re there.

Just goes to show ... you can still get into trouble in your own backyard!

My first suggestion for anyone contemplating any remote area adventures. Join a club

Edited by twisty
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Mate thats a ripper and a half of a yarn. God you had me nearly pissin myself a couple of times they way youve written it. Top effort. Glad it all worked out in the end.

Thanks gts. It's surprised me how many people need to be rescued in those mountains. Lots of motorbike riders that have crashed and need to be taken to an ambulance. Often a club trip will pick them up (twice that I know of so far this year).

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