Desert tour in Outback with obstacles from 21. August - 7. Sept. 2005

Traveling in a pause
Near the Coopers Creek

The start of this journey began more unspectacular, which should change soon. The last preparations at the Toyota LandCruiser, like the assembly of the second Spare wheel carrier on the tail bumper, the mounting of the IBS low battery protection for the Engel refrigerator as well as the installation of the new 300 Watts IBS inverter were settled in daily period and we finished with buying and packing. Before sunrise Jonathan and I left before rush hour Melbourne to cruise on the HWY 79 toward Broken Hill at 800 km away . Cooler sound of i-Pod via radio transmitter held us in good mood and we progressed well. Briefly before Broken Hill, we were deepened straight in the hearing book of Lens Armstrong a terrible crash started. From nothing it seems to explode the engine compartment. 1 ½ meter a high steam fountain shoots from the gap of the hood up. Jonathan goes immediately from the gas and pulls the cars to the left side of the road, the engine is already switched off. Perplex we stand in front of the Cruiser to examine the damage. It was worse than expected. Aussies would say, the radiator which f... and we found it actually. All clamps of the radiator upper section were bent upward. The water tube back into the engine mount was blown off reciprocal and lay in the back to the Firewall. The whole engine compartment steamed like a geysir. The question about the cause came up immediately, then the car came directly from a full service and the Trip preparation from a professional Off road Outlet in Melbourne. 

The defective radiator and the old, torn belts

With much luck we reached a Flat Top Truck by CDMA phone from Jonathan RACV and could in Broken Hill organize (Truck with large bridge for loading our LandCruiser) transportation for us 65 km to Broken Hill. During the waiting period we tried to find the cause for the damage: we found one of the two belts alternator water pump laying broken in the engine compartment. Somewhat later we found the second. Both were in extremely bad condition. Our friend of the service was guilty and will have to answer the question why the drive belts change has been forgotten in the service. By the force of the explosion also the hood became bent.     

Our LC on the truck goes to the workshop
On the Land Cruiser will be repaired

At sunset time the truck arrived and the Cruiser was loaded. Next morning the car was unloaded in the BP Roadhouse and we went in Broken Hill to the hotel. We had to stay for whole 3 nights. In Adelaide we had ordered a spare radiator by express, but for inexplicable reasons this was not unloaded on Saturday mornings in Broken Hill. Not to lose more time we bought a second hand radiator of another LandCruiser to install and we were again on the road. The cylinder head gasket had taken fortunately no damage and the water pump was replaced after the return to Melbourne. The entire damage of a small carelessness had the price of 3000 Au $. We do not want to imaging, what would have happened, if the drive belts had kept 10 hours longer; a recovery of larger extent over a distance of approx. 1000 km would have become necessary, since we would then have been so far from an useful workshop in the Outback. Our parts catalogue and the carried repair material would have given us at the most 30% a chance of success, to tighten the radiator again somehow.        

After the supplementing purchase of food we started early in the morning toward Innamincka. A part of the distance resumed us along the Silver City HWY against Tabooburra, then to the the west over MT Sturt. With the help of the NATMAP we wanted to drive directly to the Cameron Corner (Corner Store). But many of the tracks were not discoverable despite of GPS-Navigation. The people of the station are not willing to let strangers to drive crosswise over its country. Therefore we decided to change our journey to the Gum Valley and to the next larger tracks to come via Sturt NP to Cameron Corner. After an ice-cream in the Roadhouse we looked for the crossing to the Bore track. From now on the traffic became quiet with little traffic on the road. The requirements of the driving ability were small, but navigation was sophisticated. Points of navigation had been entered already previous with the laptop into the Garmin, but very many tracks crossed our journey, we had to check regularly the exact coordinates and had to return occasionally to the last mark, in order to remain on the correct track. Wild camping in the sand dunes under millions of stars was now announced for the next nights. BBQ (Barbeque) on the open fire and a cool beer from the refrigerator let arise hardly more desires. A gas stop in Innamincka gave us still the possibility of catching up with the Ranger the track information for Walker Crossings and Warburton Crossings. The lady ranger in charge did not have any information for us about the status of our tracks to go, therefore we decided to choose the Warburton track from the Birdsville track into the Simpson Desert to the Rig Road which was closed at that time. These route to take would cost us 1000 Au $ per wheel in the worst case as penalty! This is to prevent all the 4WD-drivers in strong rain, not to destroy the tracks. 

The more we approach the Simpson Desert the more the track becomes sandy. The LandCruiser runs silk-softly and has enough turbo power without end. Our euphoria is large and it ran super, we did not recognize that another disaster is under development. Navigation is simple in the Simpson Desert and we were pleased to that ever more largely becoming dunes. The cruising speed became much smaller the more the sand track is becoming more softly. Inspired of this soft track we made constantly video and photo sessions. To different dunes I climbed with video -, photo camera, tripod for good photographs. Jonathan drove mostly the LandCruiser and over radio I have given him hints for best photographs. The first section of the Rig Road we drove to the west and followed then our way to the AAK track to the French track. The heavy corrugations in the track asked very much concentration not to drop out of the track. Every hour we changed the driver. Because we had lost much time with our radiator repair, we had to drive on until late into the night. Using the super +bright Lightforce XGT auxiliary headlight we saw exactly where we drove. Passing Knolls we travelled on along the French TRACK to Poepples Corner, the boundary of Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia. In direction to the east led us the QAA line crossing large dunes and by few dry salt lakes. Under dry conditions with good equipment no problems should occur. During rain or flooding the whole area can turn out as impassable, what is regularly evident at the existing deep, dried up channels. Highest concentration is required continuously to the pilot on the steering wheel, because we doe not want to risk a chassis or suspension damage. 

We installed the antenna extension with the white flag before the entrance into the Simpson Desert on the Outbacker HF antenna, in order to prevent accidents on the dune combs. Regularly we took up our position upon with other vehicles on the UHF channel 10 contact to prevent such unexpected meetings. This evening we reached the Big Red, the largest duene in Australia with 90 m height. After we had reduced the tire pressure to 20 psi, Jonathan took over the first attempt. The start over the west ramp in the turned up and very soft sand was very sophisticated. Despite of enough motor power and well selected switching points the momentum was sufficient to come scarcely not over over the dune. I unpacked the video equipment and Jonathan drove to the Cruiser slowly backwards the dune again down. By radio we discussed the new gear to choose and he started again. Another trace in our track brought the Toyota out of the desired course and Jonathan broke off the attempt. The engine was stopped with an amusing noise. I took over the steering wheel and manoeuvred the car again from the dune down.

 After a new engine start only black smoke came from the exhaust and the sound of the engine had changed to very bad. We found then later one half of the turbocharger, the rotor under the end of the exhaust in the sand. This rotor found the way during the reverse movement of the car by the exhaust into the sand. Engine oil from the exhaust and near the turbocharger already dripped into the sand. Jonathan climbed meanwhile from the dune down and we both made rather long faces. Actually we should be at the latest within 3 days back in Melbourne. Now we stood  2000 km from Melbourne on the wrong side of the largest dune, and 1200 km from a good workshop in the Simpson Desert. We crept together under the vehicle and searched, where the oil loss came. We went through all options: Transportation on a Truck would be extremely complex over the dune,  the purchase of spare parts would be unresolved thereby. Organize a Recovery tractor in Birdsville: would be extremely expensive with Au$ 4000. Repair the engine as good as possible: After long discussion and gathering all information, we unpacked all tools, installed the headlights, we started the disassembly of the air-tubing and looked for sealing of the oil by a cork and clamps. On the other engine mount side we removed the T-fitting with the oil pressure sensor and used this directly. Meanwhile it was deep night and the flies us had almost eaten. Oil-smeared we worked now from the air bypass of the air cleaner to the air intake. To prevent the risk of sucking in metal chips of the damaged turbo-housing and the flight sand to the air hoses of the turbo-housing we had to protect. For the canalization of air only the large air hoses from and to the turbocharger stood for us to the order. After one hour of discussions we had still no useful solution. The hoses were too long, too short or the angles were wrong or the transitions were incorrect. The idea the filter cover housing 20 ° turned out as passable way, whereby then the connections were not to be engaged any longer closely. Owing to the new air cleaner form of the Prado and the 100er of air cleaner the filter had to be only above firmly because of the seal, whereby now under the air cleaner a sponge provided for the necessary contact pressure. Now we looked for the correct combination of hoses, which we sealed with much grey tape hermetically. From the turbocharger housing we tried to remove now the impeller of the turbocharger around leaking out exhaust gases into the engine compartment to prevent. The part could not be removed and it maintained us next 2000 km with an unpleasantly high whistling tone. 


First appearances of the breakdown
Through the broken turbo generator, we had to heavily modify the air flow
Horizontal spread during the repair of the night

The first starting procedure at 9 o'clock was successfully even if run out engine oil burned. The first driving meters were promising. After all material and tools were stowed away, we looked for a somewhat less high dune transition. The Diesel pump was still adjusted for the turbo and therefore ran the engine much too fat, since now the necessary amount of air of the turbocharger was missing. At the less high dune we had to play still another while, with the correct gear and the correct tire pressure we passed over with much smaller engine performance over the mountain. At 10 o'clock we arrived in the camping ground in Birdsville and some people were astonished, when we arrived with our repaired Cruiser. A telephone call to All America in Holland supplied the necessary information to adjust the engine, which guaranteed to us to drive over the next 2000 km back to Melbourne safely (thanks to All America for the support).The next day we filled up Diesel (250Liter).The distance over 1200 km deserts over Cordillo Downs, Innamincka, Tibooburra, Broken Hill. The Land Cruiser drove now very much slower, because of the missing power. In order to achieve our goal still in time, we drove deep into the night. With largest concentration we tried to prevent a collision with Kangaroo, wild horses, Tromedar or cattle. This fight against Murphy's law was very arduously however successful at the end. At the short intermediate stop in Broken Hill we loaded the original radiator arrived now and continued to go toward Melbourne. 

Continuation of the expedition
Heading to Melbourne

Next day we brought the LandCruiser after an intensive cleaning to the workshop. The result of this journey is that we will examine the most important elementary things themselves in the future before a journey starts after service. The spare part list and the tools must be adjusted.  A complete tool kit is a basic condition for the success of a repair in the Outback. A Victorinnox Swisstool is a practical general-purpose tool. In this 10-days trip over 4300 km we experienced far more challenges and adventures than with the last 150'000 km Outback and Sahara - routes. 


Tales & Stories:

The return trip with our RACV Flat Top truck driver Shorty was extremely entertaining. Shorty told us stories from the Outback, which I did not understand only half right. (Jonathan, the Australian from Melbourne, was not much better off, as he confessed to me later). The stories were sometimes almost indefinitely also for the reason that every second word "fuck" was. Very impressive for us was the speed, drove the truck with our fully loaded cruiser on the loading bridge on HWY. He who at night in the Silver City HWY road was experienced when passing the "supposedly" slow trucks a surprise: Shorty pressed when the vehicle was overtaking at the same height on the Tube and then we sometimes heated with 140 cases through the night.

Our mechanics specialist, Peter from the BP Roadhouse, we must keep best technical knowledge to benefit. In any case, other rules apply here in the outback. Peter's son, also an apprentice mechanic, or rather had practiced with colleagues at the Silver City HWY in Broken Hill "burn outs" and is full of flying from the road. Then Shorty had his Flat Top zusammenzusammeln to the young men march out with their hot racing cars. Here in Switzerland, the guys with cars of 100-150 kW their fun. Holden or Ford vehicles in the Outback 250 kW are equipped with good, just what is needed for the burnouts. At full throttle while turning the rear wheels begins to grip and go through the cars like projectiles. If then turn the hot light boxes and suddenly begins to liability goes straight from the track's gone out into the spinifex, which has celebrated son, of course. What the kids can, can Dad (Peter), thanks to better resource even better. His Lightning yellow tuned Holden SS brings 320 kW to the street, where he short of the record at the city entrance, with 7 3 ticks (293km / h) holds. The police cares a moist, while the boys to kill themselves. As I said, in the Outback to rule their own rules. In the past, people have been killed in the mines, now bring the boys with all the money they earn in the mines, to the street with their supercars.

To leave a sunset in the side window