Tuesday, September 8, 1981
[Extract from Trekking With the T-Team: Central Australian Safari 1981]
Car hunt all sorted with a Toyota Corolla named Levin, the T-K Team Next Gen turn their attention to sorting out the annual tax return. So, keeping the theme of the attack of the tacks which the T-Team endured on the unsealed highway back to Adelaide almost 40 years ago to the day…]
Once more we all dismounted from the Rover and once more Richard shook his head at the pathetic sight of an airless tyre, this time, the Rover’s, squashed flat on the corrugated sand. Once more we stood guard while Richard jacked up the Rover, removed the flattened lump of rubber, soaked it in a bowl of water, found the leak and commenced the ritual of repairs. And once more he swore as he ripped off the first, then the second, then the third patch in the set that wouldn’t take. Finally, he hurled the remaining patches and glue into the spinifex.
Dad gazed to the horizon and the sun fast sinking toward it. ‘What did you do that for?’
‘They’re a bunch of duds.’ Richard hunted through the tool kit for another packet of tyre patches. ‘How long did you have that set?’
‘Oh, er, um,’ Dad rubbed his moustache, and mumbled, ‘only a few years.’
‘Well, the glue was cactus.’ Richard pulled out a patch from a newer looking box, and then lighting a match, exposed the patch to the flame. After roughening the tube at the damage site, he sealed the patch over the puncture. He stuffed the tube back in the tyre. ‘Now, let’s see what we can do about the pump.’
After returning to the toolbox for some more tools, he fiddled with an electric pump, and then attached it to the Rover’s battery.
We all cheered as the pump chugged into action and filled the tyre with its much-needed air. Mission accomplished, we once again climbed back in the Rover and then raced towards Oodnadatta.
Weariness from the constant stopping and starting, and tyre-changing meant that not much conversation happened between younger cousin (C2) and me. The current corrugations that filled the cabin with a sound like heavy machinery didn’t help. I knew Dad wanted to drive through the night to reach Adelaide. No stopping now. We’d suffered enough delays, and Dad intimated he just wanted to get home, or if not home, at least to the comforts of a creek bed filled with soft sand, like Algebuckina.
However, Dad’s dream of sleeping in cushioned comfort stalled. Ninety kilometres north of Oodnadatta, another trailer tyre blow-out brought us to a complete halt. By this time night had fallen and the diagnosis was grim. We had run out of spares for the trailer.
The men stood at the scene of the tyre carnage. Richard combed the area and shining light from a torch he gathered up shreds of evidence. Dad and his nephews stared with mouths downturned at the remains of the victim, the rim with a few bits of rubber hanging off it.
‘It made quite a few sparks,’ I said. ‘Better than fireworks.’
‘This is not the time to be funny.’ Dad gazed at the gravel road languishing in darkness. ‘We’re in a lot of trouble and I’d appreciate if you could take this seriously.’ He clasped his hands and cleared his throat. I was sure he’d burst into prayer at any moment.
Richard shone the torch in the direction of the Rover. I turned to look. The Rover listed to one side. Surely that can’t be the dip at the edge of the road.
‘Richard,’ I said walking over to the back-passenger side of the Rover. ‘What’s going on with the Rover?’
The torchlight landed on me. ‘Look, we’re—’ Dad began. The light fell on the tyre, a very flat-to-the-rim tyre. ‘Oh.’
I pointed at the tyre imitating a pancake. ‘See, I told you.’ I put my hands on my hips and sighed. ‘Just not our day. Four flat tyres in half a day. How can that be?’
Richard stood staring at the latest casualty. ‘Someone must’ve put tacks on the road.’
‘Does that mean we’re going to camp here tonight?’ my older cousin (C1) asked.
‘Looks like we’ll have to,’ Dad said. ‘And it won’t be very comfortable, it’s all stony.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017; updated 2021
*Feature Photo: It could be worse… © S.O. Gross circa 1942