Red Dirt Revival

Some person, we can’t remember who, brought this to our attention about 12 months ago. There was a re-enactment of an old race meeting that was held way back in the early 1900’s in a dry clay pan near Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Lake Perkolilli is really an out of the way place now, we can only imagine how it felt one hundred years ago! It’s called the “Red Dirt Revival” and red dirt and dust is what you get.

The event was limited to vehicles pre-1940, right up Grandpa’s alley. The only problem was that we didn’t have anything that would fit the criteria. There were going to be some race cars from the original event and others cars that were pretty special. Motorbikes were allowed too. What could we concoct that would be special enough to fit such an auspicious occasion. Grandpa scoured the ‘for sales’ and bits and pieces that friends had until he convinced his boss to sell him an unfinished project, a 1914 Model T speedster. This consisted of a chassis, motor, gearbox and not much else. No problem.

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Because motorbikes were also part of the story, Grandpa’s twin brother got excited about bringing his old 1939 500cc BSA race bike which hadn’t gone for donkey’s years. Then there was also our friend’s Norton big wheel sidecar racer that we used to race even more donkey’s years ago, “How about we take that too”.  Fantastic! It is amazing what harebrained schemes come up after a few beers.

So, it began.

Lots of research was done so that the model T looked just like an old style speedster. The body was built, an exhaust was designed, lots and lots of parts were ordered and it became a monster in our lives.

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I became a shed widow and everyman and his dog came around to see what was happening. There was plenty of help offered which was great, as some parts didn’t arrive in time so had to be borrowed. A radiator and wheels which had to be rebuilt were loaned until these parts would arrive from US.

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Eventually the great day came when the Model T sprang into life. This was really exciting. Now we really are on our way. There were many laps around the front yard to tune it and give everyone a ride.

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That only left the Norton outfit. Time was ticking away and the gearbox and motor needed rebuilding. The more they looked at it, the more work was needed. Maybe it would be best to wait for next time.

Now the vehicles were ready we needed to organise ourselves. Camping with minimal facilities was the order of the day, we needed to take everything for 4 or 5 days. At least there will be toilets. So we organised food, water, homebrew, tents, fuel and shade for all of us. Then we had to contemplate driving 3500km to get there.

We’ve been across the Nullabor before but this time we had a time limit to get there. Four days we had to get there and we made it in time easy. We stayed at Euston, Streaky Bay, Norseman and then Kalgoorlie. The hardest part was finding our way to the end destination. Their signs were cute but not terribly visible.

We turned off where the tar ended and then it was dust for the next five days. It reminded me of riding through the bulldust on our way to the Flinders last year.

When we got settled, we got to see who else was there.  There were ultra-lights, various planes flying in each day, land yacht sailors and lots of old car and motorbike racers. We camped next to a family that we had passed in our travels, where the two sons had rebuilt the 1928 Chev that their father was driving. Our pit neighbour was a fellow whose father and grandfather had both raced in the early days of Lake Perkolilli but he did not inherit much of their knowledge of mechanics. He was much more into poetry when he was growing up. Needless to say, by the time he had met Kevin and various other ‘experts’, he had a much better idea of how to start his Model T and how it should run.

Surprisingly, there were other people that we knew from previous car and motorbike rallies that we were not expecting to see there. They were from Darwin and South Australia and were also not expecting to see us. It just goes to prove that we were not the only crazy ones.

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We all took the opportunity of having a run in the ‘T’ during the practice sessions on Wednesday and Rex took his BSA out for a run. All was going great. Thursday was the first day of timing and I went out for a spin just to get a feel for the track and saw just how much dust we were all going to be covered in.

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Rex was out for another run on his bike and he was flying. I was worried that this was not tar racing. Next thing we knew, there was more dust and he was off. There was no ambulance in attendance but there were plenty of medics and nurses in attendance who were rushed out to check on him.

Kevin was eventually taken out to check on him and found the bike was in a very sad state. The Crank had given way which had spat him off and both he and the bike had done somersaults and landed very hard. We picked up the bike and Rex was taken to hospital to be checked over. They didn’t find anything broken or damaged but he was still quite bruised and shaken but OK.

The next day, the racing continued, which was not quite racing but a ‘re-enactment’ of the original race event. This was so there were not so many CAMS regulations to adhere to. The timing from Friday was to give handicap times for the events on the weekend. The model T was one of the slower cars, so got off earlier. In one respect, this was a good thing as it meant there was less dust to go through. The car kept going better and better which made Grandpa really happy.

The atmosphere was great and the dust and heat was phenomenal. Everyone was coated and there were some pretty eccentric hair colours which reminded me a bit of Trump on a bad hair day. When we finally left and had a wash, it was amazing, the amount of red dust washing off in the shower.

When the weekend was over, it felt like a bit of a letdown, especially for me as I had to fly home and return to work. Also, for the others, as they still had the 3500km to drive and Rex was still not feeling strong enough to sit in the car for hours and hours.

After months of no rain and Grandpa still driving our ute across the country, the only option for me to get to work was on the BMW. Damn. So with wet weather gear and catching the train I managed to survive the week and was pleasantly surprised to see him home on Saturday evening.

With this major episode out of the way, we can now look forward to our next momentous life changing event. That is the next story….

Snowy Walk 2018

2018 wasn’t a big year for bushwalking and had been pretty stressful, especially for Grandpa with family stuff, work, grandkids etc. but I had another week long walk through the Snowy Mountains in December. This time we headed north from Kiandra and followed the Australian Alps Walking track to Bimberi Peak and then out to Blue Waterholes. I joined the same NPA group as last year camping next to lovely old and historic huts each night.

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We were to meet early on Monday morning in Cooma, so on the way down, I visited our daughter and grandkids. It was hot, so they headed off for a swim in the creek, then out to the back paddock to find a suitable Christmas tree. We spent the rest of the afternoon making decorations and playing with puppies.

Sunday afternoon, I set out for Cooma and fuelled up just down the road. Never before have I done this, but I put petrol into my diesel car! Ahhh! Only 5 litres but I didn’t know if this was enough to cause a problem. Blokes in the service station were not sure either and there was varying courses of advice from other customers. I would trust Grandpa’s advice but with the wonderful NBN now connected at home not working and Grandpa not having a mobile phone, I couldn’t call him. The neighbours were out, other mechanically minded friends were not answering their phones either and NRMA would just tow my car to the nearest service centre and work on it tomorrow. So I could only take the safe option and called my son-in-law to come and help. Wonderful Todd, came with jerrycans and tools and drained the tank so I could refill it with diesel.

So finally, I was on my way, much later by now. Eventually, everyone got back to me and they all said “no worries, that amount wouldn’t have caused a problem”. Next time, I will know.

One of the best parts of going for a long walk is the preparation. I like to dehydrate some of my own food as I know what is in it and it tastes just as good rehydrated. This time I tried Hommus and bananas as well as the old standby spag bol and a nice lamb curry. The hommus and flat bread was for lunch which is the trickiest meal to plan for. It was great for the last few days when cucumbers and cheese had expired.

I also like to go low tech, so we have stuck to our Trangia but it is difficult to decide on how much metho to take. I have taken 1 litre for a week long walk and had lots left over so I thought 500ml should do it. After the first night cooking and rehydrating dinner and a cup of tea, I thought, no way was this going to last the whole week. But I found that if I only put a small amount of metho in the burner it boiled the water so much quicker and noodles could just be brought to the boil and let stand to become ’al dente’. Lesson 1.

Barely had we got ourselves settled into our walk, when it was boots off for our first creek crossing, a double crossing in fact, a creek and then 20 metres to the Eucumbene River. Even though it is midsummer, the water was flowing fast and cold. The day was quite chilly and windy but the weather was meant to warm up during the week.

We walked across some wide plains and saw lots of horses and piles of horse shit. The first night was spent near Witse’s hut, there were lots of gaps between the slabs but it was a good place for a fire and chat. The clouds came over grey but there was no rain.

Day two was clear and sunny with numerous creek crossings and then Murrumbidgee River. Lots of undulations today with some bush bashing and it got much warmer. First time ever, I started to get blisters. Lesson 2 – wear boots a few times before long walk to get feet used to them again. Tonight at Miller’s hut, a mish-mash of corrugated iron, was a very pleasant spot near a creek for a wash.

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Day three started cloudy which is a good thing as my legs got sunburnt yesterday. Lesson 3, the UV rating is much higher down here and wearing shorts at home is not the same thing as wearing shorts here in the alpine area. More ‘wild horses’ today and big riding groups camped at the next campground plus road gangs doing up the roads for Snowy 2.0 exploratory work, so it was nice to turn again onto the walking track and we stopped at Hainsworth’s hut for morning tea. There were lots of wildflowers blooming, paper daisies and billy buttons and lots of others I don’t know the names of.

We spent a lot of time discussing the NSW legislation which now gives protection to the wild/feral/horses/brumbies in the Snowy Mountains National Park. In fact gives precedence to the protection of these feral animals OVER our native species. This is so mind bogglingly stupid and has given every ‘horse lover’ in the country somewhere to dump their horses. There are certainly some horses that I imagine ‘look like’ a brumby, whatever that is but there are many hundreds and maybe thousands more that look just like your very nicely bred suburban horse. And they are breeding very well too. Rant over.

We arrived at Old Currango homestead around two. I found two mushrooms growing just near my tent, so that was a gourmet treat to go with my Deb potato, tuna, dried peas and cheese for dinner. We had to walk for water but a cup of tea and a sleep was good. When I woke someone said ‘rain is coming’, so I quickly grabbed dinner makings and stove and headed to the hut. We watched the rain travel down along the valley and miss us completely. What a spectacular sight, I think we have all seen photos like these and it was magnificent. Later, I just sat and watched the sun go down and the birds from my tent, a scarlet breasted robin and gazed out over the plain. Very peaceful.

 

Day four we were ready early and left before 8.30, the day was going to be hot but most of our walking was through forest and shaded. We had lunch at Pocket’s hut, just restored and you could still smell the paint. I also tried my hommus for lunch, fantastic.

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There were gentle undulations until right at the end when it was a severe up and then down to Oldfield’s hut for two nights. I felt one blister pop on the way going down, ouch. Oldfield’s was the best hut so far, you could imagine people living here hundred years ago or more. Now it just seems too close to Canberra airport and peak flight time was rather noisy. There were lots of kangaroos and wallabies, playing, fighting, mating and generally going about their business. Everywhere so far we have been seeing so many feral horses and not a lot of kangaroos, we discussed this and don’t know if that was a real connection or just coincidence. Another reason why the horses shouldn’t be there.

Day five was a day walk up Bimberi Peak. It sounded daunting 15km and 800m ascent and descent. We could see it right in front of us from the hut and it looked big. It is the highest peak in ACT and NSW/ACT border runs right along the ridge, so when we got to the top, we had one foot in ACT and one in NSW. The walk was not rushed and so much easier without full packs on. On the way back, we stopped at the creek for another wash and felt pretty good, even me blisters were feeling better.

Day six we decided to cut short the last night and walked to Blue Waterholes where some of the cars were parked. Then it was all over and back to Kiandra and zoom, back up the freeway to home.