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Desert Rattler Recce

Desert Rattler Recce

While the rest of us were tucking into leftover turkey on Boxing Day, Rod left home at 6.30am to recce the route for the Desert Rattler Run in August 2015, arriving back in Wongawallan at 2pm on Tuesday 30th December. Here is Rod’s Recce Report…

I drove the eastern section using the Stuart Highway (the north south highway that runs Adelaide to Darwin) as the dividing line. Over a bit more than 4.5 days, I drove 6474k over some of the worst roads in the world.

The experience was overwhelming and the knowledge gained absolutely imperative and just so beneficial for the Desert Rattler Run in August. I now know exactly which route to take and more importantly which not to take, which was some of what I just did.

Probably one of the most destructive to the Toyota Landcruiser was the Great Stoney Desert, that created more rattles and squeaks that one could even imagine. I drove a 60k stretch in low low from a crawl to 10kph. This area and the track cannot be avoided but I am confident the 1929 Model A Ford will handle it.

Some of the towns I went through were Toowoomba, Windorah, Birdsville, Coober Pedy, Erldunda, Kulgera, Finke, Mt Dare, Dalhousie Springs to the Simpson Desert on the French Line and so many more.

This was a proving ground for the Toyota Landcruiser Sahara, which costs $139,000au, and I can tell you it had a number of hiccups that will need to be corrected before the vehicle can be used in the support vehicle team before the DRR. I will be talking to Toyota about the issues. I left with only 19,714k on the clock (virtually a new vehicle) and returned with 26,188 on the clock.

The lonely outback is a place of tragedy and I was cognisant of the fact I was alone and not really fully prepared as one should be but prepared well enough for what I was doing if I kept control of my urges to investigate beyond the realms of a safe, sensible, cautious, investigative recce.

The people that I met along the way that helped me change a tyre and residents of the outback including owners of pubs (these are not hotels).  The pubs are a reprovisioning point and most importantly a wealth of knowledge about roads that criss cross the outback.

On the first leg of the recce from Windorah to Birdsville the road (?) became a river of mud and slipperiness beyond belief as 5” of rain dumped down… what a driving nightmare that was, there was 500mm of water over the road in places and many 180 degree plus circles at times even with skid control on and at times diff lock on and even then I had to reverse up to have another go to get through some of the worst of it. I couldn’t help thinking that this was a stupid thing to be doing and arrived at Birdsville at 2300hrs and it took me seconds to fall asleep in the driver’s seat.

Nothing much, experience wise, changed for the whole recce, if it wasn’t the mud and washouts, it was burning sands and hot rocks that were heated by the sun to a degree that if one held them for too long they would blister the hands.

I could go on and on about just the five days but the above is just a smidgen of the experience yet to come during the Desert Rattler Run and that will be in the 1929 Model A Ford… wish me luck.

PS. One thing that became evident at times is that the Model A Ford would handle some of the tracks better than the modern 4×4’s for a host of reasons…I am confident, it can be done and will be. West to East in a modern 4wd is a doddle, really is, compared to doing it in a car manufactured 86 years ago and only 2wd! No anti-skid, no diff lock!!! And no air-conditioning and modern ‘creature’ comforts.

Conclusion: I think most could do this trip in a ‘lounge chair’ in an airconditioned 4wd…maybe, but to do it in a 1929 Model A Ford will take guts, determination, experience and the will not to quit in the adverse conditions that the outback of Australia puts up against all challengers.   I can do this and I will… Rod.

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