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Blue Snoopy is a 2012 Nova Vita Caravan pulled by a 2012 Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab Ute.

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15 July 2011 – Middleton to Boulia QLD

Having gone to bed at 8:15pm on the previous evening, it was no problem at all to get up when the alarm sounded just before 6:00am.

We prepared breakfast and were ready to leave at 7:00am.  It was still dark as we left our camp and we were the third vehicle to depart and the second in our group.  It would have been a matter of minutes after leaving when the rain started.  We managed to drive probably 10 kilometers before it became necessary to turn on the wipers.  The further we headed west, he harder the rain fell and soon we were avoiding puddles on the road to ensure we did not find a large pothole.  The lights of the vehicles in front of us had disappeared and as dawn broke, we were presented with a view of low dark clouds covering a stark landscape.  This is probably the remotest location we have ever been in!

Fortunately there was no traffic coming towards us and we saw a couple of roadside camp sites where caravaners were spending the night.  Our trip today was only short (190k’s) and we had decided to do it relatively slowly.  Much to our surprise, the reduction in speed did not reflect in a reduction in fuel consumption.

The rain was intermittent and the trip was actually very pleasant.  We crossed hills covered in rich red soil and the beauty of the landscape was never ending.  We were presented with vast level plains, several kangaroos and emus who moved away from the road and a herd of cows content in staying in the middle of the road.  We were in Heaven.

Then we arrived at the door of Hell!

Under normal circumstances the diversion off the main road to a dirt side track would not be a problem but when you are probably the third or fourth large vehicle to drive on the dirt (after 20mm of rainfall) it does become a problem. We followed the tracks of the other vehicles with the motorhome only slowing as we ventured further alone the road.  Our 1.6 tonne car attached behind was not helping but fortunately it was tracking straight.  Warning alarms started to lightup in the vehicle as the traction control became confused and our steering wheel was pointing to the right but the vehicle was tracking straight.  We actually slowed to about 1 kph at one point when first gear was engaged to provide more torque.  This went on for about 1 kilometer and to say we were both scared would be an understatement.

Eventually we emerged back onto the “black stuff” with both vehicles covered in mud.  We quickly consulted the manual and determined that the alarms were of no major consequence but our thoughts now turned to the 19 motorhomes coming from behind us.  How would they fair?

“Engine failure – error code 148”: flashed up on the console plus a red warning light.  “What the hell………..”

We lost power and had to stop the motorhome.  We were still in the middle of nowhere when this happened.  We restarted and got underway but the same error appeared again as we entered Boulia.  “Houston, we have a problem”

As we entered Boulia we purchased sufficient diesel fuel to make Mount Isa, unhitched the car and waited for our safari leader to arrive.  After our leader arrived and collected details of our camp site, “He” took our leader in our car out to the site to survey the location prior to sending the motorhomes out.  In the process of travelling to the site, a u-turn in the car almost resulted in the car being bogged in the soft earth adjacent to the road. Boulia was very wet and we later discovered that they had received 20mm of rain.

The site that had been allocated was relatively firm after you made your way through the soft ground near the road.  We returned to Boulia and we lead a small group back to the site where we established camp.  We agreed that provided we had no more rain, it should be relatively safe to be able to get the motorhomes out at the conclusion of the race meeting.

“He” took the car and headed back to Boulia so arriving safari members could be cautioned about the soft ground and directed to our camp site.

As the safari members started to arrive, so did the horror stories of the dirt road we had been forced to travel on.  We became aware that one member of our group was still trapped in the mud and unable to get the motorhome out of neutral.  We also heard that another member had to be pulled from the side of the road after becoming stuck when doing the right thing to let an on-coming vehicle pass.  Another member also had to be pulled from a turning area in Boulia when they became bogged to their axles.  It was hard to believe that all these problems had been caused by 20mm of rain.

Our safari leader attempted to contact the stranded members via their satellite telephone without success.  We also had no luck in doing the same.

Then to add more annoyment to the day, our safari leader had trouble paying for our tickets as EFTPOS facilities were not available and the “OTHER” option was not available when using an access card at the local post office.  Fortunately the local council saved the day in accepting a credit card for payment.

We decided to drive back to the site where our members were bogged.  This was after learning that the local tow truck was out of action.  Our first stop would be at the local Police station but fortunately we spotted three motorhome arriving in town and the members who had been bogged were one of the three.  We had finally all arrived and except for the mud, generally unscathed.

We later heard that several mechanics in a couple of 4wd vehicles had pulled the trapped motorhome free and determined how to get the vehicle back into gear.  We also discovered when visiting the council that the road we had used in the morning had actually been closed at 10:00am for vehicles other than high clearance 4wd vehicles.

By the time all the safari members had arrived at our camp site, the entry to our site had been churned up but fortunately the careful placement of one of the motorhome had assured that a dry area was let for our departure.

Happy hour consisted of many stories about the trip to Boulia and our leaders cooked hamburgers at the conclusion of the Happy Hour.

An Elvis impersonator performed for what seemed like ages and we finally headed to bed just before midnight.  We believe that a small number of our group attended the entertainment.

It had been a long and stressful day!

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