Week Nine . (Sunday 01 September to Sunday 08 September)
After four wonderful days in Broome, with numerous swims at Cable Beach, and with XQU fixed, we head off southbound for Perth along the WA coast. We are aiming for Port Hedland via Eighty Mile Beach, then down to Ningaloo Coral Reef, then Monkey Mia to swim with dolphins. Our first night out of Broome, we stop roadside and cook up delicious roast chicken over open flames. The next morning, i awake early to hear water dripping off the roof. A strange sensation for us as we have not had any water condensation since we left the Queensland coast. We continue along the road, when after only one hour of driving, XQU just loses acceleration and we draw up the side of the HWY with another engine in-operable scenario. Yes, that's exactly right. Our Kombi has died again. Oh, how many more $ does it take to make a car work?
I crawl under the car again, check all the connections, the fuel pump, the battery connections, that starter motor, the starter solenoid, the distributor cap, the spark plug connections etc etc etc. I suspect the faulty relay has caused the fuel injector to go off line and that's that. No power to the system and no fuel to the engine.
Exhausting all my extensive knowledge on the VW engine and fuel systems, we make lunch out of our remaining supplies, pack all our belongings once more, put Freak in charge of the stearing wheel this time and leave a note on the drivers seating explaining we are off for a tow, back soon. Whilst finishing our evacuation a caravan pulls up and Fran and John ask if we need help. We bundle the lot thinking that we might have to abandon XQU as a tow to Sandfire Roadhouse may not achieve anything and a tow to Port Hedland will simply bankrupt us. But, where there is a telephone, there is help. Once again we call the NRMA, i call my father for assistance in diagnosing the problem furthur and we arrange a tow of XQU to Sandfire Roadhouse and go from there.
We spend the night in a Donga, a two bedroom cabin about 2 metres wide. Listening to Glen Gould on the laptop and cooking up Asian noodles on the trangia. Ah, self sufficiency we can do. 5am the next morning, comes a knock on the door and it's Mick Lanigan with his tow truck. We head off, leaving fo fo aslumber for a few more hours. We drive back some 60km to find XQU, still on the side of the road and untouched. The stories of road carnage by Mick are enough to turn people off driving around Australia for life, not to mention towing a caravan. Some stories involved wedgetail eagles flying inside road train cabins, right through to mini twisters lifting cars up off the road and throwing them down on the other side of the road upside down. It turns out that Mick Lanigan is the local ambulance driver, emergency nurse, the flying doctor contact, the accident investigator, and then his official jobs as tow truck driver and power house operator for the Sandfire Roadhouse. I hop in XQU and Mick tows me 60km back to Sandfire, along the way we narrowly miss a kangaroo, a mad caravan driver trying to overtake us on a corner over double lines, and a road train without brakes (insider knowledge).
Back at Sandfire, i wiggle cables inside XQU and all of a sudden XQU starts as if everything is all ok. After breakfast and some washing, we head off for Port Hedland where there is a Kombi expert who may be able to get to the bottom of our strange erratic car trouble. We sneek out of Sandfire and hope we make the journey of 300kms. Within an hour, we became in-operable again with XQU resting quietly by the road. We have learnt to laugh maniacally now at this behaviour. I suspect an electrical problem is the issue with XQU, causing a short or perhaps an ignition circuit failure. I begin to rewire and recrimp cables that are attached to the double relay looking for the faulty electrical connection. A 4WD pulls up, and i jokingly ask if they are an electrical engineer. An affirmitive reply to my surprise. We potter about checking things, but a retired high voltage electrical engineer didn't know much about cars, so they towed us 120km to Port Hedland.
In Port Hedland we present XQU to WK Motors for analysis. Because we could not move, we were invited to stay in the mechanics backyard next to pig called Oink and a strange man called Pat, living quietly in a caravan. Pat is delighted with the new company and offering us his home brewed alcoholic fruit juice. Over the next two days, Pat slowly drives us mad as we are trapped effectively in Port Hedland. Our friendly mechanics spend hours and hours working out lots of minor problems with the electrics and ignition issues. We take XQU for numerous test drives to replicate the problem but XQU is hiding her erratic behaviour for the meantime. On our second day after lots of fixing up, we take the Kombi on the road to the beach, swim, have lunch with a serial killer, go shopping, refuel and head out of Port Hedland. Then XQU exhibits problems and we crawl back to WK Motors for a second night and more work in the morning. We play cards in the shed, and i sneek into the workshop and spy photograph the ancient 1976 Fuel injection troubleshooting guide from VW. Who knows, i maybe reading this on the Nullarbor on the way back to the east coast. Next morning, Werner the German mechanic takes XQU out for a 130km an hour road test. His results are that XQU is the finest and fastest Kombi he has ever driven and that he had no problems whatsoever. We all shake our heads unable to fully resolve the mystery. So we decided to move on to Ningaloo reef, and if we break down before Whim Creek, Werner would come and save us. So we left Port Hedland, broke down before Whim Creek and got rescued. XQU started working again and Werner drove us like a mad man back to Port Hedland. No problems whatsoever. Werner says he doesn't know what it could be. He suggested that we should get out while we can. We agreed and decided that we could replace the fuel injection computer as the next step. You know, get one brought across the country on a bus or something like that.
So i drove XQU out of Port Hedland like a mad man and XQU performed flawlessly for the next 600km. Perhaps XQU likes to go fast! We arrive near Exmouth after two days of driving. Relieved to be near Ningaloo Reef at long last. We buy some snorkles and drive to the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park for some serious paradise. Kangaroos risk their lives along the way, aiming for the kombi from the side, the front, even from above.. Finally we arrive at the most spectacular beach called Turquoise Bay after 1800kms of hard going, driving, towing, pushing. WA is a very big place, look at the map.