I'm not a natural flyer. Jetstar gotta get there early or else the Mongrels kick you off. That gives you to much time to think so it's off to the Q Club for a sanga and a quick beer to calm the nerves. Then down to the cattle gates. Get jammed into a large tin can. Metro sexual gives talk on Lifejacket under the Seat in case of a crash landing on water. Mate Melbourne to Darwin not a lot of water there. Besides if things go arse up a bloody life jacket aren’t going to be much help when your packed into the glove box with 300 of you closest friends. I once heard that the most dangerous bit of a flight is the first two minutes, so generally spend these counting backwards from 120. Only after that can I relax. That's if you call a 4 hour jetstar flight relaxing.
I've arranged to see my mate Russ in Darwin. I only gave him 4 months notice, so he’s managed at the last minute to get himself a two week contract working bush. The up side is his car is free, and He's just about finished his house reno. Jetstar moved my flight to a 3am arrival from midnight so I’ve begged and pleaded and now arrive at a very pleasant hour in the after noon. His Missus Katie picks me up at the airport, and it’s off to the new Ranch. Russ isn't the greatest in communicators, so I've come with a long list of Questions from his friends down south. We spend the night catching up, and discussing the joys of cohabitation with the Mead.
I'm only here for a week , Saturday Kate and I are off to the Comedy Debate at Mandorh, It's Wednesday. Time is short. I wouldn't mind going to Kathrine and seeing a friend who lives in Batchlor a 100KM Sth, so I need to get going. Russ has kindly left me his car, a 4-cylinder diesel Toyota Ute. Like most cars it comes with a list of instructions, well only one. It has no key so I need to find some thing to stick in the lock to start it. It’s in the back yard. The doors are open and it has a fine selection of dints. It looks like my car on the inside. The passenger seat well is full of old hamburger rappers, empty stubbies, and bits of building rubble, theirs one other thing, the handbrake is lying on the floor. I jam a screwdriver in the lock and twist. Nothing. Flip the bonnet latch, hook up the battery, twist, Broom Broom, It's a goer. I chuck the swag in the back, and I'm off. Well off to Auto Barn. The blinker doesn't, oils low, and the washer bottle is empty. New globe, new oil, new water, now the washer bottle is just not working. Two out of three aint bad.
A couple of hours later I'm at batchlor. From there its only another 30km of dirt road with instructions like turn left at the washout and keep going till you see a gate with a 44 next to it. Somehow or other I find her place. Cinda lives on 75 hecters with her Half a dozen horses, chooks and a nice old solar powered Queenslander. It's a long way from her suburban Malvern upbringing, the nearest shop is 30 Km away, god knows where I can get a latte.We feed the horses, have dinner and catch up. She's up early the next morning to start teaching at the local school. I wave her goodbye, jump in the ute. Click.
Bugger now I know why the battery was disconnected. Fortunately I'm on a farm, there has got to be something around here to get it going. I walk over to the shed and find a battery charger, and a lead .Chuck it on the battery and sit down to read my book. An hour or so later the little green light says the battery is charged, Screwdriver in the lock. Click. Bugger. Time for plan B. Cindas told me she's going off for a couple of days with her friend so theirs no use waiting for her. No mobile phone reception so I can’t call the RACV. The shed has a Fergie tractor in it, I find some jumper leads, and spend five minutes trying to get it started. I'm just about ready to give up when I remember to take it out of gear. Click, Clack Clack Clack. I park it next to the Ute, and try to jump start it. No Good. Next I change the battery with the one from the tractor. Click Now I'm stuffed. Time for a cuppa. The Farm has a slight hill, maybe if I get the Ute to the top I can roll start it. There aint many other options. Back to the shed for a bit of rope, swap the batteries back again. I'm towing the Ute backwards up the hill, stopping every 10 meters to adjust the steering so it follows the tractor. I get it half way up the hill and the rope breaks. The Ute takes off backwards, I stop the tractor and take of after it. I catch it just as it hits the fence at the bottom of the hill. Bugger. No major damage just a bit of paint barely noticeable amongst the other scratches. Back up , get the tractor , tie the rope back together, try again. I've been trying to start this thing for three hours now. At last I get it to the top of the hill. Turn the wheels so it doesn't take off again. ( no handbrake ), and disconnect the rope. I push it down the hill hoping to get enough speed so it will start. Clutch, Third gear, Drop the clutch, the fence is approaching rapidly, a few revs, clutch "BRAKE". I stop just before the fence. The Bastard,s running. I carefully drive it up the top of the hill making sure not to stall it, then I spend half an hour putting all the stuff that I've borrowed back. Just a couple of gates to negotiate. I have to park across the road since it's go no hand brake and I can't stop it and put it in gear because I can't be sure it will start again.
At last I'm on the road again. The window winder is broken, so I hit the AC. It dosen't work. The vent knobs are all immovable, and in funny positions . The fan and the radio are also dead. Same for the cigarette lighter so I cant charge the phone. The dash looks like someone has cut it out and screwed a different one in with plasterboard screws. Only the gauges and speedo work. I get back to Batchlor and the engine seems to be running ok so I make an executive decision to head towards Lichfield National Park instead
Things seem to be working again, the donk is ticking over well, so I make a stop on the top of a big hill and turn the engine off. Hopefully I can roll start it from here if it wont start again. I turn the stick in the key hole and it chugs over straight away. Twenty minutes later I’m at a Buley Rock Hole, a beautiful swimming spot. Still not totally sure of the reliability of the Ute I park at the very top of the car park, then head off for a swim. There is a series of little rock holes with little falls in between finally ending up in the river at the bottom. Refreshed I start the ute and drive to Florence falls for another swim. Things seem to be working OK in the transport department so I decide head off to Kathrine. Ive got the swag its only another 200 kms. I stop at Adelade River and fill her up.
Ten k down the road the dash lights up like a Christmas tree. GEN FBLT IGN ENG TMP, well at least some lights work on the thing. The engine’s still purring over so I pull up and lift the hood. No clouds of steam, everything looks relatively normal. The fan belts ok. I push a couple of plugs on the back of the alternator, nothing seems loose, still water in the radiator. Maybe it’s just another old Tojo quirk. I’m just a bit worried that the battery may not be charging. It’s a diesel so it shouldn’t need a battery to run but when you turn the key of it stops. I reckon its gonna stop when the battery goes flat. Stuff it I’m here for a good time not a long time. I admit defeat and head towards Darwin. Two hours later I’m back. I park out the front of Russ’s, and unload my gear leaving the donk running. I move it around the corner, turn it off, the just for interest try to start it again. Click Nothing. I reckon I’ve got out of jail free. I close the door ( it dosent lock) and abandon her in the street.
Katie gets home, and tells me the story of one of her indigenous art students. He made $500 selling some paintings, and when asked what he was going to do with it he replied “ I reckon I might buy your husband another car”. She’s boycotted push starting it six months ago, so sometimes when the neighbours are hiding Russ has to bribe the local black fellas with fags in the morning for a push.
Saturday night we jump on the ferry to the debate at the Mandorh Pub. The book festival is on and the subject is books are better than fishing. It was a close run thing but the books won. I try to catch up with my cousin who’s working in the travel lodge a couple of times. I see Balabo at the deck chair cinema, and have a great steak at the Trailer boat club. I also try to charge the battery on the car and have a couple of go’s at getting it started to no avail.
Times up. Darwin Airport, Qantas Club JQ62 MEL Engines roar. Wheels up. 120, 119, 118 …
Russ got home and fixed his car. He changed the battery, then he tried to push start it, then he got his mate to tow him round the block, then he got his other mate who’s a gun with Toyota’s to tow him around the block several times with a bit of tinkering in between, then he bought a new car.