Week Six. (Sunday 11 August to Sunday 18 August Continued)

Travelling through many kilometres of spectacular landscape in the MacDonnell Ranges, we arrive at Standley Chasm and take in the beauty there. Luckily, we had the place to ourselves for most part. Exhausted by hours of fantastic landscapes and undulating roads, we end the day wearily in Alice Springs once more (third time now) and decide without any hesitation on having ourselves a lovely motel room.

Next morning, we re-stock and re-fuel and head off northward on our long trek to Darwin, the northernmost capital city of Australia. We drive most of the day, arriving at dusk once more at the Devil's Marbles. Fo Fo returns a small piece of landscape after having read many stories of Uluru removed stones being returned years after they had been taken. Some people say it is bad luck to remove stones from Aboriginal Sites. Next day, we drive onwards to Tennant Creek, then Three Ways, we overtake a few road trains on our way. We get petrol at Renner Springs, then have lunch at Elliott. Our intention is to make Katherine for nightfall, but just 16km north of Elliot, whilst sitting in the back seat, I hear an almighty clunk as if something inside the engine has suddenly dropped. I yell out to Fo Fo above the inside noise of our Kombi, to stop and pull over immediately. As we draw over to the side of the HWY, the noise spins down as the engine comes to stop. Fearing the worst, we hop out of XQU and take a look. We start the ignition again, and XQU just goes Ker-chunk. It's immediately obvious that XQU has stopped in the most serious way, and that we are not travelling anywhere North for a while.

Was it because we stopped by UYA 998?

We pack some overnight backpacks, take our valuables, write us some help signs with a black marker pen, grab some water bottles, draw the curtains, and i write a note on the drivers seat; that we have not abondoned our kombi and that we have gone to Elliott to get a tow. I entrust this important note to Puggle, as he looks the most authoritive of our soft animals. Leaving a car in the outback is as good as leaving a prime steak out on the middle of the road and telling the crows and eagles not to eat it. People will remove the tyres within a day, then start on the inside, scavanging engine parts and contents. Car batteries, gas bottles, Jerry cans, roof racks, alcohol, food, sleeping bags, head lights, VW badges, anything and everything.

When we were ready with our bags, we stuck our thumbs out and scored a hitch first go. We get driven back to Elliot in an airconditioned 4WD, travelling at 150km/hr. Our driver has just done 3500km's in three days! We meet the local AANT person, Bob, who helps recover XQU with a spiffy tray top truck. Luckily i had joined up with the NRMA Plus Membership Road Service just before leaving so they are covering our accommodation and eventual relocation. The local guy here is a bush mechanic and wouldn't even look at our German built folks wagon. The transporter service manual that i have doesn't list sudden engine failure noises as a troubleshooting topic. We are currently arranging to get XQU to Darwin so we can get repaired, or even worse, a new engine! I have a 2.0 litre engine already lined up.

We get slightly drunk with the locals at the pub, consisting of fifteen Aborigines and five white men. The bar has an array of signs over the bar of who has been banned from drinking. It lists their offenses and how long they are barred for. On the wall is a photograph of a kombi strapped to the top of a road train. It turns out that six months earlier, a kombi broke down in Elliott. They called the road train drivers and arranged a local to fork lift the Kombi up onto the back of a road train. $200 later, they were in Darwin. Perhaps we will do this also...

Next day we checked out the four shops here, played cards, drank more beer, and did some road train spotting.

The day after that we visited the tennis court, tried to acquire a tennis ball so we could play. We looked at the post office. Fo Fo bought some colour pencils. I rang my flatmate Richard, reverse charges from a newly discovered phone box. I took more photos and did even more updates to this web site.

We get kicked out of our motel room tomorrow. Still waiting on news of getting XQU to Darwin.

At this time, we are not sure of what will happen. Stay tuned.

Did i mention that we are stranded here in Elliott? (735.8km south of Darwin).

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