Living in a Marsupial World
Well, it was inevitable. Our Alby finally failed us… or almost did, had we not been super paranoid and taken preventative action. Post Prairie, we reached the small Outback town of Hughenden, which held the turnoff for the Kennedy Developmental Road (on the opposite end from our initial northern attempt after Undara) and Porcupine Gorge National Park.  From this end, the trip up to the Gorge was shorter, about 50 kms on what was supposedly the nicer, better maintained stretch of unsealed road. We were confidently humming along, having made it up 30 kilometers of decent sealed road and 10 kilometers of dirt and gravel track. Only 10 more to go... 

At this point, after pulling over for several large road trains (see picture) to avoid rocks, dust, and any unstable cattle that might fall out, the high-pitched squeak we’d grown accustomed to in our rear left wheel turned into a nasty metal-on-metal grinding sound. We quickly found a flattish patch of weed and dirt to pull over and assess the situation. Even more quickly, we realized this break was beyond our minimal mechanical knowledge of oil changes and blown tires. Being out of range of basic cell service, we popped our hood – the universal sign for “I’m having car trouble” – and waited for a Good Samaritan to stop. We actually didn’t have to wait that long for a rugged Aussie man to come to our aid. He very kindly lent us his satellite phone and we called RACQ (the AAA of Queensland) who said they could send a tow truck from Hughenden and give us a lift back to the town’s garage. 

While we waited in the middle of this desert Outback, we took this opportunity of complete isolation to practice some of our many instruments we’d been dragging along with us. Didgeridoos, a ukulele, jaw harps, and my often-neglected fiddle, which at my stage of learning is not publicly friendly. I’m happy to say I made some progress on a few new songs; the Kookaburra Song and the Jurassic Park Theme Song to name a few (Kevin, if you’re reading this, that last one’s for you).

Safely back in Hughenden at the mechanic’s, we found Alby’s injury had been best-case scenario for a back road breakdown: a retaining pin in our drum brake had broken off (a $5 part to replace). Unfortunately and fortunately, the man we’ve come to fondly regard as “Sandwich Mechanic” (due to his need to eat or go get a sandwich for a good hour before assisting us, and getting very peeved when we interrupted his sandwich time) told us he wouldn’t be able to finish the repair til’ the following morning. I say fortunately here because we happily found out that our RACQ membership, which covered our towing out, also covered accommodation expenses if we needed to wait for a repair. RACQ put us up in the local hotel/motel, which meant actual comfy beds and a real bathroom and showers for a night! Membership paid off in full! The layover night also allowed us to have a great dinner at a Chinese restaurant (yes, Chinese in the Outback) courtesy of my Mom and Charlie - thank you again it was wonderful! 

The next day, refreshed, we went to retrieve Alby, but waited while Sandwich Mechanic took his sweet ass time…probably eating a sandwich. With Alby on the mend, we ventured out on our 3rd attempt at Porcupine Gorge and that bloody road. Foolish, maybe, but we would be damned if we didn’t make it there this time!

Dad (o' Marielle)

I can't tell you how fulfilling it was to see you playing the fiddle in the middle of nowhere in Australia.


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