The Problem

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Oceania » Australia » Northern Territory » Alice Springs
September 20th 2017
Published: November 11th 2017
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If you are a regular reader of my blog you may have read “The Drive Down”. The last sentence of that blog said, “I'm hoping that for the rest of the trip we can find free sites and not have to pay to camp again!” How wrong I was!!
After we went to Uluru and Kata Tjuta we decided to visit Kings Canyon. Neither of us had ever seen a Canyon and even though it wasn’t exactly on our way we thought it would be worth a visit.

We left the campsite (still free) midmorning after planning to drive to the Canyon in one day, camp then spend the next day hiking and exploring.

Unfortunately, we never made it to the Canyon. We had arrived in the National Park where the Canyon is and our van started making some funny noises, then with a massive bang and a vibration something fell off! The van would not move!

It was the tail shaft. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere and the van would not move! There were lots of old buildings near where we broke down so after pushing and steering the van off the road we looked around the buildings. We later found out they were the old ranger’s lodges.

As we were going back to the van we heard some cars coming towards us and so running to the side of the road and waving like crazy people, we attracted their attention and they pulled over. It was a group of men who were willing to help us. There was a petrol station 12km away and they were kind enough to give us a lift back there, after helping to push the van in to a better position.
At the petrol station they let us use a phone. Luckily, they were very helpful and gave us numbers of people we could call. After phoning some towing companies and getting some quotes we realised towing would cost more than the price we paid for the van. Being over 400km away from the nearest town was a problem!

People at the petrol station gave us a lift back to our van and one of the men looked underneath to see what other damage there could be – and found some.
We spent the night in the van at the side of the road, nothing we weren’t used to - after all we had spent similar nights in the van.

The next day we decided we shouldn’t leave the van alone – we had been warned that the locals would take any opportunity they could. I stayed with the van and Laurent started the 12k walk back to the petrol station, where we’d been told we could use the phone again. Luckily, he managed to get a lift after a few minutes.

While Laurent rang garages, mechanics and tow trucks I read and watched One Tree Hill. After Laurent had made the return walk back to me, he explained what he had found out throughout the day – that basically we were in trouble! After getting a game plan for the next day we had some dinner and went to sleep.

After another early start to the day we sat at the side of the road with a “please tow us” sign. We were sat there for six hours before any one even stopped to talk to us. Luckily one man who stopped could help. He was staying at the petrol station camp site and towed us to a layby close to him. He said he’d come back the next day and tow us to Erldunda, about half way between where we were and the nearest town.

After popping in there on the way to Uluru we knew there was a campsite, petrol and food. The next day the man, Trevor, arrived and the towing began. Just over 200km took around four hours but slowly and surely, we got to Erldunda.

After buying Trevor Lunch we explained to the campsite reception what was wrong, and some workers towed us on to the campsite. Where we had to pay for two nights camping.

We spent the afternoon and all the next day reading and playing cards with our “please tow us” sign again. People asked if we would like a lift but at that time we were still hoping to take the van with us.

After a while it was obvious that our best course of action would be to leave the van there and get to Alice Springs ourselves. At least we could talk to people easily there. We had to pay per day to leave the van on the site, but it was our only option at the moment.

The next morning with a new sign we stood at the side of the road and tried hitch hiking. No one stopped. We knew a bus left at 12:20 so when we still hadn’t been picked up at 12 we decided to take the bus.

We spent the remaining part of the afternoon and all the next day going around to mechanics and second-hand car dealers seeing what our options were. We knew that after either paying for the repairs or buying a new van we would need money and so we needed a job. The owner of the hostel we had checked in to was looking for an Au Pair and with my background in child care I quickly applied and got the job. Extremely luckily one of the staff members in the hostel was going on holiday for six weeks and Laurent could take his job with immediate effect. I was going to look for a day time job as well as my Au Pair was mornings until 9 and evenings between 3 – 7, but at least we both had a job.

Trevor, who had help tow us, had spoken to someone on the campsite and explained our situation to him. The man he spoke to was also called Trevor (nicknamed Trevor 2 by us) lived in Alice Springs and was willing to help us. He had asked Trevor to give us his number and to tell us he wouldn’t be back for a few days. We rang him and luckily, he was back and willing to help in any way he could. He spent a day talking to mechanics to try and get better prices and to find a way to get the van back to Alice Springs.

He hired a tow truck and took us down to Erldunda to pick up our van. He then took us back to his house where he said he’d have a look at it over the next few days and see if he could do anything. After a week we heard back from him, but he couldn’t help us anymore. He let us keep our van at his place until we had found a mechanic.


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