There was just enough warm light for us to inspect the station ruins at Owen Springs, currently under reconstruction. Being so late we had the place to ourselves and the quiet mallee scrub transferred us back to another more honest and simple time, without the harsh sun to remind us of the equally honest hardships.
The corrugations had loosened the bumpstop bolt on the rear bar and it fell off when we opened the wheel carrier, thankfully noticing it, it was quickly replaced with a spring washer and nyloc nut, and we headed on towards the camping area, designated as a large expanse along the river according to WikiCamps; Lawrence Gorge according to Hema.
The track grew interesting, tight and wheel tracks in the sand but not challenging, the LandCruiser and ARB Intensity lights making it look easy. However we did not find a suitable spot for the swag, it may have been the lack of light but it appeared very overgrown with grass and reeds. I kept going to the other WikiCamps marked camping area, Redbank Waterhole and we struck gold. Only one other troop, all four with 70 series LandCruisers but miles of room for us. We rolled out on the bank, within sight of their campfire glow but out of earshot of our neighbours, the sand would make for a softish landing.
I cooked up sautéed beef with vegetables from the Campers Pantry supply, some tomato paste and herbs to add a bit of sauciness for the rice. Neither of us were interested in a fire so we actually retired early and started an episode of Iron Fist on the iPad.
All of a sudden, my copilot urgently tried to sit up in the swag, saying he didn’t feel right. With shoulders barely out of the zipper, he decorated the nearby sand with projectile vomit. Slowly crawling out of the swag to join the mess, this continued. And then he was forced to stumble off in search for the privacy of….. well, over there as opposed to right here….. and go to the toilet, just as violently.
I set about digging and burying the vomit in the sand and grabbing the toilet bag for him. I then brewed up a cup of electrolyte drink from the First Aid kit. This routine continued for a while before we washed up, alcohol rubbed everything and everyone and hopped back in the swag to sleep.
I don’t know really how long I lasted but I suspect only a few hours as I recall feeling uncomfortable and dizzy and in my dozing ripping open the swag’s fly screen for air? Or easier escape? Not sure. Nevertheless, it was soon my turn. I had the comfort of broad daylight, the heat of the sun, and the company of flies in my stupor. Barely enough energy to brew us electrolyte drinks to try and replenish what was coming up.
It must have been about lunchtime when we decided we were better off getting closer to town just in case this was just the introduction and it was about to get worse. Seemed a real shame, the campsite was perfectly quiet and full of large gum trees for shade.
It was around now that I distinctly started smelling diesel, and after a while became convinced it could not be my overuse of the alcohol hand rub or delirium.
Stumbling over to the LandCruiser, at the pace of an Ent from Lord of the Rings… I made it and bore witness to an aromatic damp patch in the sand. Our secondary fuel tank was leaking. Neither of us had enough energy to laugh or cry.
It took a few hours for us to pack up our meagre setup, rolling the swag took a few goes; mounting and tying it on the roof was a miracle. Crooked or not. I barely remember the drive, but I do remember it was walking pace – because anything faster made me feel like vomiting and it seemed like the best speed for quickly escaping the LandCruiser if said vomiting commenced.
It didn’t and we made it to Alice Springs, took an hour or so. Booked into a cabin with its own bathroom at G’Day Mate and collapsed on the bed. After a while we had showers and my barfing-buddy was feeling more recovered. He walked to the nearby 7-11 for lemonade and bread. I lapsed into a coma of sorts. Couple of days on the lemonade and toast diet and we were ready to try the outside world. We also had to sort out the leaking tank. A phone call to Long Range Automotive and photos of the weld cracks; they organised to send out a replacement to TJM who would swap it over.
All we had to do is patiently kill time in or around Alice. It was looking to be a weeks wait. We drained the secondary tank into the primary and explored Alice Springs, tentatively tried coffee and food at a cafe, I think I had an egg and spinach sandwich. Neither of us wanted meat – thats the main feeling I recall, vividly. Oh and I bought an Akubra.