What do you do when your car breaks down nearly 1000km north of the nearest city? Well that is a scenario that faced us recently on our trip around Australia.
We were travelling south from Bamaga on our way to Cairns when our car’s engine stopped. We coasted to a stop on the side of the road. A quick inspection revealed the problem was beyond my capabilities to fix. We were 960km north of Cairns, and about 50km south of Bamaga. There is no mobile phone service in this part of Australia The nearest land line telephone was at the Jardine River Ferry Office, about 10km north of our breakdown position. We had a PLB in the glove box, but we were not in a life threatening situation. We had plenty of food and water, and the ability to camp where we were, but we just needed a helping hand. Our remote communication plan was about to be tested to the maximum.
We wrote down on a piece of paper all the Roadside Assistance membership numbers, car registration numbers and telephone numbers we could find, and flagged down a northbound car. My wife – armed with all the details on a piece of paper – disappeared in a cloud of dust.
I was left with our two boys aged 7 and 9 – a broken down car and a camper trailer – on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere. My main aim was to make sure we were ready for anything – so the first thing was to disconnect the trailer and make sure the hitch was transferable to anyone who might turn up.
Miles of corrugations and some large rocks had bent the thread of the towing pin – but 10 minutes of judicious work with a file and I was able to remove the nut, meaning the camper was transferable to other tow vehicles even if they didn’t have a Hayman Reece square receiver.
Next up was to transfer the fresh food out of the car to the camper trailer – just in case we were stuck living out of the camper trailer for a while. Just as I was finishing that job – and the boys were helping by sucking back on a cold lemonade (reducing the amount I had to move) an amazing fellow called Chris pulled up.
Chris and Bonnie offered to tow us back to the Jardine River. It would mean we would be back with Mum – back near a land-line telephone and be at a recognised camp-site. It was an unbelievably good offer, and I graciously accepted.
Chris and Bonnie towed first our camper, then our car back to the Jardine River, where my wife was on the phone to Roadside Assistance. Without Chris and Bonnie – our family would have been spread out, with no communication (other than a PLB for use in a life threatening situation) and no facilities on the side of the road. Their help meant we were together – a much better state of affairs. They only accepted the contents of our spare jerry can as payment for their assistance – and our boys learnt a wonderful lesson.
When you are travelling on remote roads, please stop if you see a car disabled on the side of the road. Someone might be in need of a helping hand. For more information on how to ensure you have a remote communication plan, check out Save Our Selves – a guide to getting help in remote areas