Outback Adventures: Stranded & Stitches

October 16, 2013 in Australia, Oceania, Travelogue


The night is quiet.

Last week the nights were filled with insect and frog song, in wetter, greener places. Tonight the only sound is the quiet hiss of the gas lamp and the distant drone of a generator providing light in the darkness.

The bumper sticker for sale for $2.50 on the counter in the general store sums it up: “Where in the ‘bloody hell’ is Marla?”  Indeed.

We are in Marla tonight. Not exactly on purpose. 

It’s a long and twisted tale that begins with the Rickards having their van checked before we took off driving into the never-never, followed by several episodes of mild overheating; which James solved by running the heater for a bit. The crescendo was Miss Adeline singing a long, sustained, “AHHHHHH” in the back of the van today to hear the vibrations in her voice produced by something shaking disturbingly in the wheel.

Marla was our lunch stop and we went no further.


38C is rather warm. Too warm for the Toyota Turago. James spent the afternoon between mechanic and arm wrestling the Australian equivalent of AAA. He was told, for a second time, that the over heating could just be the direction that the wind is blowing… which sounds a lot like sketchy bush medicine to me. The kids lounged like languid kangaroos in the shade beneath the gum trees while Tony read, hour after hour: The Princess Bride. The last time we read it we were in Europe. The Rickard children have not heard it yet. I knit. Jacqui tried to keep Adeline cool. The little boys monkeyed around in the sprinkler, left on for their benefit. I called ahead to Cairns and shifted our diving reservations by five days, so now we have plenty of time for diversions.

So here we are, tucked into the campground behind the truck stop. There are warm showers, and mercifully, a swimming pool. Some people might consider it a crisis, but really, today’s been a relatively peaceful diversion. We passed the evening chewing over the possibilities. Tomorrow is meant to be a full 12C cooler than it was today. The guys took a test drive beneath the tepid moon to assess the heating and tire issues. They’re swapping a tire by headlamp now, convinced that the wobble is a worn patch.

If we have to be broken down in the desert, this has been a very pleasant place to do so.

Tomorrow we plan to get out as early as we can and nurse the old girl along the last 450+ kilometers to Alice Springs; a town that dances in my mind’s eye in movie clips and romantic “old west” style photo prints. With a little luck, the tumbleweed mechanics will be right and the problem will be minor.

Oh… I forgot to mention one other little adventure in the last twenty four hours:

Hannah has had four stitches. She was playing with little Joash last evening after dinner and slid on some rocks, tearing a pretty impressive hole in the soft flesh just below her right knee cap. The gap was about 2.5 cm in diameter and a centimeter deep. She’d stuck her finger in up to the first knuckle. We’re happy to report that, should you need it, the hospital in Coober Pedy is up to scratch. She’s sore today, and our plans to hike the full 9 km around Ayers Rock in a day or two will be modified somewhat, but otherwise, all is well. She could have sold tickets to her bandage changing today, the boys were all just a bit green with envy!

Hannah's knee