Thursday, April 1, 2010

Expect the unexpected – or how loving a Valiant saved my ass

CAIRNS – TOWNSVILLE (Monday 29th March 2010)
The heading of this entry should have read ‘Cairns to Bowen’. Well that was the plan anyway. But with an absolutely perfect run so far, I guess we almost had to expect that something would go wrong eventually. Still, as far as things going wrong go, I’m still pinching myself over the uncanny nature of this particular “hiccup”.
After a pancake breakfast and pineapple juice at Cockie’s Cafe and a quick chat to our camping neighbours at the idyllic Palm Cove Caravan Park, we hit the road at around 11am yesterday. The neighbour had recommended we make the 10km detour on the road heading south of Cairns to check out Josephine falls. Bas was also keen to hit up the Cairns skate park again so we decided to head into Cairns via a bike repair shop to get a new tyre and tube for the BMX so he could get his last dose of the awesome park before the long trip home.
We set off from Cairns at around 1.30 pm and planned the 550km trip with a couple of stop overs at Josephine Falls and Mission Beach to have us in Bowen by around 9pm.
Josephine Falls were incredible, and the ten minute walk through lush dense rainforest to get to them was a welcome break for our car-bound legs. Recent flooding and cyclonic rains saw the waterfall become a raging torrent with the power unlike anything I had seen since my trip to Niagara Falls back in 1990. Even so, the water ran crystal clear and I regretted not bringing the water bottles to grab some of that living vibrant water for later, but I did scoop as much of it as I could into my hands and made sure I drank my fill.

Off again the next detour was the link road to Mission Beach – about 30 km off the Bruce Highway. Once again, a detour well worth making. Mission Beach was everything I’d heard it was; long stretches of white sandy beach, coconut palms lapping at its’ edges and rainforest all around.I stopped for plenty of photo opportunities – the van at the Mission Beach sign, the van at Clump Point with Hinchinbrook Island in the back ground, the van in front of the big Cassowary. Bas was not so impressed...

Finally it was back onto the Bruce for a planned run all the way through to Bowen. The time was 3.30pm. By 7.20pm we were about 20km out of Townsville and about 200km away from Bowen and looking good. By this stage the fuel was getting precariously low so I was relieved to see a Mobil petrol station up ahead. Got back in the car, turned the key and – nothing! The car has up and died completely, no lights, no spark, no central locking – nothing. I sat there for a few minutes praying to the vehicular gods and goddesses, Saint Christopher and did a hoodu voodoo dance around the car and stroked her and pleaded for mercy. I regretted not taking out roadside assistance with RACQ before I left and pondered my options. It was clear we were not going to make to Bowen tonight.

“Who can I call?” I thought and then it struck me. I’m just outside of Townsville. The couple with the gorgeous silver Valiant Station wagon who had so kindly invited us around to their house and offered to fix my car’s clunking lived just North of Townsville, so I gave them a call. It turns out that Yabullu petrol station is their local servo, and we are only ten minutes from their house. Shane and his neighbour Murray drive around with jumper leads and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s a flat battery. And, as luck would have it, the Yabullu Mobil just happens to carry new batteries. Murray and Shane take to the tools and five minutes and much thanks and praise later, we are back on the road.
By then it was 8.45pm and it was clear that driving the extra two hours to Bowen was not a good idea, so Shane said we might as well park the van at their place, and get a good start in the morning. I say copious prayers and thanks to all the powers I had called on and my doubt that there ever really was a thing called coincidence has been blown out of the water once and for all.
Of all the places we had stopped along the way; of all the remote, out of the way dingy little petrol stations I had filled up at and all those random off-the highway detours we had made, we broke down here – ten minutes down the road from a couple of Valiant-collecting rev heads with a shed full of tools and cars in various states of restoration who just happen to have given us their details. All this because I stopped to admire one gorgeous 1966 silver Valiant Station wagon on the side of the road on Friday night.

Now that’s synchronicity...

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