Trek 2000 – Across Australia
Trek Across Australia -2000
The Chamberlain 9G Across-Australia Tractor Trek was sent on its way from Steep Point Friday, July 7th, 2000.
32 tractors, plus support vehicles, were waved on their way by Ron Bywaters, one of the co-drivers who drove the original 9G in the 1957 Mobil Gas Reliability Rally in 1957.
Tractors & crews from all around W.A. were joined by tractors from Kyneton, Victoria, & Tamworth, NSW, to be waved off by W.A. Premier Rt Hon Richard Court from Parliament House, on Thursday 29th June. After a stop over & tour of the old Chamberlain site in Welshpool, the crews headed north to enjoy festivities & frivolity in Bullsbrook, Chittering, Moora, & Jurien Bay. The respective Lions clubs are to be held fully responsible for the ever expanding girths with breakfasts, lunches & dinners.
Dongara saw some repair work in Club President Hugh (Cumber) Campbell’s workshop, an overnight camp & the official starting ceremony on Sunday 2nd July with Larry Lobster sending the tractors to Geraldton for the Olympic Flame ceremony at the Recreation Ground.
Due to exceptional coordination & management Vice President Peter Nunn, removed a his sick motor & replaced it with a healthy one that was removed from a tractor in Dongara, freighted up & re-installed. This was all done such that only he was only 3 hours behind the convoy who moved onto the next camp at Carrarang Station
The next day was seven hours of sand hills & corrugations that really tested the skills & patience of the drivers. Eventually a convoy of very tired Trekkers reached Australia’s most westerly point, for a much appreciated rest day at one of the most beautiful places on the W.A. coastline.
After being awaken by Albany’s Lisa Anderson & her bagpipe serenade, some of the group enjoyed a successful fishing charter, although the pet Victorian Chris Dawson felt that his job was to provide all the burley for the whole time. However the fish was enjoyed by the Trekkers, the majority of whom used the time to repack & re-arrange trailers & gear. Already it is becoming obvious that most are carrying too much gear, especially with the notorious Gunbarrel H’Way awaiting after Wiluna, & 1100 red sand hills to be crossed in the Simpson Desert after Alice Springs.
After a brief ceremony at Steep Point itself, at which Ron Bywaters was presented as the 9G Club’s inaugural Life Membership, with Lisa Anderson playing the bagpipes & after Esperance’s Brenda Dowsett sang the Club song, Dongara’s Hugh (Cumber) Campbell & Peter Nunn, led the convoy back over the sand hills into the Murchison pastoral area. With the experience gained on the way in & the repacking of the trailers saw the trip out to be a little less dramatic & a little quicker, although there were a number of boggings & 2nd 3rd attempts at the bigger & softer of the hills.
The Hamelin Pool Telegraph Station Camp Site was the occasion of a BBQ Extraordinaire complete with the most amazing selection of locally made cream cakes. Then from the amongst the oil, gaskets, tools, food, water & camping gear appeared three piano accordions, a complete drum kit & a guitar to provide the music for a bush dance that went till late.
The next three days were spent travelling through the magnificent Murchison, with bush camps on Yalardy, Milly Milly & Belelee stations. The bush is a real picture as the mulga trees are loaded with pods, the wild flowers starting to bloom & many of the creeks & rivers still carrying water.
Monday ,11th July was the day that Meekatharra was invaded, with all the local businesses being inundated, especially all the fitting, engineering & manufacturing shops carrying out minor & major repairs to mufflers, hitches, motors & all bits in between. ‘Old Scraggy’, crewed by the Variety Club group is leaving town with some studs that have been salvaged from the local speedway’s water tractor, such was the ingenuity & assistance required & delivered by the Meekatharra business houses.
The local sportsground was a very comfortable campsite complete with hot showers & a BBQ & drinks supplied by the local constabulary. A R.F.D.S fundraising auction & ‘fines’ session was followed by the Tractor Trek trio till the cold & late hour sent most to their beds.
Wednesday 12th July saw a camp at Wiluna prior to the Gunbarrel H’Way leg through to South Australia & Ayers Rock.
Different Trekkers sent their regards to the schools at Kendenup, Walpole, Scadden & Esperance & thanked them for their continuing interest.
The 9G Tractor Trek 2000 is now some 1700 km. from Steep Point, passing through Warburton community en route for the W.A. border.
The past three camps have been on the ‘infamous’ Gunbarrel H’Way which has taken the Trekkers through some of the most scenic country in Australia. Huge flatlands of Spinifex interspersed with wattles and gums and a multitude of native flora, a lot of which is flowering.
Two high quartz, granite and gravel landmarks were Mt Everard and Mt Beadell, both of which were scaled as to allow spectacular views of the surrounds & some memorable photographs.
The weather has been extremely kind with warm days and mild nights and though the road has been testing, it has been conquered by the 9’s with relatively few problems. Most Trekkers have agreed that worse roads have been faced in our various home shires.
Apart from two rear tractor wheels being staked, numerous front tire punctures and mud guards falling off, the major headaches have been with trailer problems due to the long periods of corrugations.
Many broken and cracked welds and joins have been repaired, either on the road or later on, whilst in camp. When Esperance’s Peter Barr’s camper trailer broke a spring between Mounts Everard and Beadell, all sorts of repair options were offered and discussed.
It has taken most of the less experienced campers most of the time till now to get the non- essential gear stowed away and a routine for making & breaking camp. Everyone seems to have packed too much gear and food and, it appears that all have managed to leave behind an item that was to have been packed, wasn’t, and would have been used a number of times already.
There have been numerous fuel blockages and oil leaks and minor inconveniences but generally the tractors have coped very well.
Scraggy’s crew were forced to return to Carnegie due to a broken, over-loaded roof rack. After getting the job done, they returned to the spot where they had left their gear and proceeded to repack. However by now it was dark & when it was time to drive on they found that their battery was flat. All 5 crew had to push an over loaded Land Cruiser on one of the roughest roads in Australia to eventually get it going
Sadly, after driving his non-restored 9G from Esperance, nearly 4000 km, Don March is on his way home as his 9G has suffered fatal injuries, all to do with losing water and oil some 50 km. from Warburton.
You can’t throw 130 relative strangers together, in a foreign environment attempting a feat as the Trekkers are achieving, without a few conflicts, however they have been relatively few and the co-operation & assistance to those in need has been incredible and often ingenious.
The Trekkers are divided into regional based groups i.e. Dongara, Jurien, Bullsbrook, Albany and Esperance. These groups travel and camp together and tend to socialise together. However any occasion for the convoy to get together en-mass is well attended. The last big bash was at the Carnegie Homestead when Wes Henderson turned 21 with the aid of balloons, cake, fireworks and champagne, live music, poetry recitals and some very interesting skits.
The next three days will see legs of 150+ km and 235km to get the convoy to Docker River, with a 250 km day to Yulara, as it is not allowed to camp within that area. However the bonus is that there will be two rest days for sight seeing & re-organising.
After that it is on to Alice Springs for a short week of festivities celebrating the Transport Hall of Fame’s 100 Years of Transport celebrations.
Tractor Trek by Peter Barr of Esperance
We said goodbye to Premier Court
And off we went or so we thought,
The Vics broke down but soon got started,
And down the Terrace we departed.
The Police support was mighty fine,
We should have had them all the time.
As their support soon tapered off,
The tractors started getting lost.
Bullsbrook-which way left or right,
Take it easy let’s not fight
Find the Bedford Set up camp
Hurry now it’s getting damp
BBQ in Stewart’s shed
Drinks and yarns then off to bed
Rons patrolling with his horn
Two hours later it was dawn
Misty drive through Chittering Valley
Very tranquil very happy
Bindoon hall smelt mighty fine
With breakfast cooked by Bindoon Lions
Moora lunch by Lions again
Then off we went to Jurien
Three course dinner it was tops
By gee we owe these Lions a lot.
To Cumbers shed and fixing tractors
Fuel pumps, engines, generators
Official start from Priory Lodge
The fishermen then waved us off.
Cumber should have had a nap
As we drove through the Greenough flats
For when we got to Geraldton
He couldn’t find his little map.
We found the oval just in time
And saw the cauldron lit
With 30 tractors in a line
We were proud to do our bit
Northampton did us really proud
And sent us off a happy crowd
Headed North on Susan’s day
Tiara for the Desert Queen
Nunny worked at Overlander
Changing motor through the night
Onto to Carrarang the next day
Trying to find a camping site
This bit ahead is gunna test us
Great big sand dunes looming up
The radios begin to tell us
Quite a few are stuffing up
Let the tyres down, grab a low gear
Rip her back from high to low
Give it plenty, take it easy
Go up backwards that’s the go
Total, absolute confusion
Tractors all around the joint
Four hours later, grinning widely
We’ve made it, Yes we’re at Steep Point.
After leaving the Warburton community, the Trekkers visited the Giles weather station and enjoyed an interesting tour of the most isolated facility in Australia.
Through country that has had between 500 to 700 mm of rainfall in the 6 months preceding Easter and thus colourful, vibrant bushland the Trekkers headed for the Northern Territory border.
A stop at Lasseters Cave, where the famous prospector sheltered just before he died in 1931, and a camp just prior to Docker River were made, before a long days haul onto the Olgas and Uluru National Park.
Being able to see the Olgas at the end of a long dusty road in the afternoon sun created huge excitement amongst the Trekkers, before they went onto Ayers Rock itself.
Two rest days for climbing, walking and exploring the Olgas and Uluru followed. The Dongara crew then started developing their party reputation and well supported the local pubs and bars till the wee small hours.
The Albany group moved onto the picturesque Kings canyon a day early, however the rest of the Convoy made their transit bush camp at the base of Mt Connor, which is an eroded volcano plug and some very unique microenvironments that would not be expected in such dry areas.
This was also repeated at Kings Canyon, which is similar geologically to the Bungle Bungles, and also contains the very unique ‘Garden of Eden’. This large water hole at the bottom of the canyon is almost a mini rainforest complete with bird life and animals.
On the way out of Kings Canyon Resort saw the first major mishap of the Trek with the Albany based tractor ‘Bits and Pieces’ being rolled on a gravel corner. However minor damage only was sustained and the tractor was righted and driven on. The occupants at the time suffered minor injuries, and though taken into Alice Springs hospital, they were checked out and discharged that afternoon.
A cold Alice Springs, especially with frosty mornings, was the venue for the 5th birthday of the Transport Hall of Fame and their attempt to raise funds to restore and house ‘Big Bertha’. This was first Australian commercial road train owned and operated by Central Australian transport legend Kurt Jorgenson.
A gala dinner for 1300 people, with Slim Dusty as the entertainment, a BBQ on the famous ‘Ghan train’ and a parade of restored and modern trucks and vehicles, including the tractors were all part of a successful week that raised $50,000
In interesting side note when the local paper ‘The Centralian’ reported the above success they used a photograph of a line of 9G’s under the headline.
Lots of things to see and do in Alice Springs , but by the end of 6 days everyone was ready to get moving again.
The Heavitree Gap Resort was the venue for a seafood and steak buffet for the Trekkers on the last night in Alice Springs. Enough prawns and crayfish was donated and airfreighted into Alice Springs by M.G. Kailis and set the scene for a great night of food, dancing and fund raising. A number of Chamberlain and trek memorabilia were raffled and auctioned and the funds raised for the R.F.D.S. and Children’s Hospitals is closing on $40,000
Two bush camps with a visit to Old Andado Station, which was built in 1922. Mrs Molly Clarke, who admits to being nearly 80, still lives in this example of outback pioneering.
A visit to Mt Dare homestead for fuel and refreshments before two nights at Dalhousie Springs. Originating in the Great Dividing Range, and taking around 3,000,000 years to travel to the desert where it re-appears as a 80 mt x 40 mt 28C hot mineral bath. Absolute luxury in the middle of the most unlikely spot. Also a visit to the ruins of the original Dalhousie homestead which has been long abandoned.
There was a brief stop at Purnie Bore, another mineral spring outlet, and then into the Simpson Desert National Park.
The Esperance and Jurien groups decided to travel south and take the Oil Rig and WAA tracks as they were reputed to be easier travelling, whilst the rest of the convoy continued through on the French line, named for the seismic exploration company that pushed the track through in 1956.
One thousand, one hundred and four sand hills and 4 bush camps later, over some of the toughest country tractors and trailers could be aimed at, the convoy regrouped at the base of ‘Big Red’ the final and highest sand hill before Birdsville.
There was a lot of frustration and waiting, until the crews established and practised systems of getting the heavier vehicles over the hills.
Getting a 4WD or a single tractor over first, to then assist the following vehicles and trailers over was the usual method used by the groups in differing variations.
There were concerns for possible damage to the tracks and the environment, however other tourists have reported that the tractors have packed the track down and actually improved the going.
Of constant surprise to all Trekkers were the lushness and the diversity of the vegetation to be found through out the Simpson Desert and its surrounds.
Gary Snook, from Jurien broke his camper trailer chassis on the WAA track which necessitated on the spot repairs, and Rod Copeland smashed his trailer hitch 2 hours from the end of the French line, and had another bush camp whilst waiting for Peter Nunn’s hitch to be ferried back to him.
However all the crews were convoyed into Birdsville for a BIG afternoon and night at the Birdsville Pub.