Glenn and Bob's 2012 Gulf of Carpentaria Trip
Introduction - This is a very shortened version of my 5 part Gulf Trip Report which was serialised in 5 issues of the Magazine for Mokees 'Tracks'. This is published monthly by the 'Moke Owners Association of Victoria Inc.' (membership and other information- ) I have included numbered days for continuity and to give the reader some idea of the enormity of the journey.
From PART 1
Day 1
We both left from my place on June 20th 2012 it was a typical Melbourne winter's day. cold but no rain. Our destination on day 1 was Hay in N.S.W. but by Echuca Bob's battery had died. Goodyear here actually had a listing for a Moke battery and 1 in stock! Leaving Echuca we encountered extreme winds and making headway was very hard going for our Mokes but we finally arrived at Hay and a cabin there in the caravan park.
Day 2 Our lunch break was in Ivanhoe where we shared the café with a meeting of both young and old members of the local CWA (Country Women's Association). We also met Debbie here who informed us that there were 2 Mokes in town both owned by herself and she was restoring the best one with parts from the other. Debbie had just ordered a new hood, wheels (Chinese) and tyres.
Day 3 During the morning at White Cliffs Bob's rear right- hand suspension was looking very low. The Hi/Lows were winding themselves down because the lock nut had worked lose. During our next stop, Tiboorburra, we had the honour of being met by another Glenn. He is the Sector Officer of the N.S.W. Police and he and his wife owned a Moke back in the late 70s. Glenn also publishes the local magazine, 'The Corner News' and there just happened to be a story written about us in it. We had been fighting strong headwinds for the next three days and the track now was really rough all the way to Cameron Corner. And you can add to that, driving into the sun while trying to avoid hitting the Kangaroos, Emus, Beef Cattle, Sheep and Goats! We were sure glad to reach our destination for the day.
Days 4-5-6-7 We ventured into South Australia just for an overnight stop at Innamincka (Population 131) and from there into Queensland where we camped out under the stars besides a large Billabong 30 kms south of Hadden's Corner. We were now well and truly out in the wilds and it had been 18 hours since we had seen another vehicle. Next was the roundabout track to Birdsville as the direct new bypass route was underwater.
From PART 2
Day 8
120 kms north of Birdsville heading for Bedourie we were faced with two oncoming Road Trains that were producing large volumes of dust trails. Before they went past we slowed down and moved over to the left to give them plenty of room. Then as the first Road Train went past . . . BANG! BANG! BANG! And again with the next Train BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! We realised then that the dust was not dust but aggregate rock which was cascading off the top of their very full loads. My windscreen took 7 major hits so I pulled over and stopped. When all was clear again Bob was not to be seen. He turned up several minutes later with no windscreen at all! Most of it had blown inside his Moke and worse he had several cuts on his hand and lip. First Aid for Bob then we both settled down and cleaned all the windscreen fragments out of Bob's Moke realising there was 550 kms (343 miles) to go to reach Mt. Isa. Bedourie about 45 kms along the road was our next stop and it was there that the staff at the roadhouse gave us the Mt. Isa phone number of Sunnex/O'Briens windscreen replacement. Unperturbed by the absence of a windscreen Bob followed me 200 kms (125 miles) to Boulia for an overnight stop at a motel there.
Day 9 A phone call to Mt. Isa confirmed that they could cut a laminated windscreen to fit a Moke. So rather than wait a week for one to be sent to us from Townville we opted for the 300 km (187 miles) trip to Mt. Isa along what turned out to be an excellent road. (Moke Club member Dave Margison has driven 10 kms in a Moke without a windscreen and found it to be a very nasty experience indeed. Bob should have been given a gold medal for endurance as 545 kms [340 miles] without a windscreen is an amazing feat).
Day 10 After the windscreen replacement we took Bob's Moke to Tyre Power for a front end alignment. We thought this might stop a peculiar squeaking/grinding noise that had developed. It emanated from the front, maybe the wheels, but was pronounced only when the Moke changed direction and decelerated . . . funny. But not so funny, it still persisted and was a bit of a worry. Much time was spent going to various mechanical repair shops in Mt. Isa to see if they had any ideas about the noise. They had . . . it was the gearbox or the diff or maybe the brakes and rotors or if not the CV or bearing hubs . . . and we still had the noise! Having spent 6 nights in Mt. Isa which was far more than we had planned we headed north once again and onto Normanton.
(Day 15). Just over 500 kms (312 miles) for this day's driving.
Day 16 A short drive to Karumba , almost on the shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria and this was to be the furthest North we had planned to travel. Here we took a night-time dinner cruise down the Norman River and watched the sun set over the calm waters of the Gulf. A really spectacular sight.
From PART 3
Day 18
After descending from Atherton on the Tablelands along an ideal Moke road (263 bends) we were soon in Cairns which was to be our base for 5 days. A lunchtime meeting had been arranged at a waterfront restaurant with 'NQ Mokes'. This is a small and mainly local group of Moke enthusiasts with Max Lincoln being the chief instigator and guiding light. 2 hours of Moke talk ensued during which our trip was acknowledged by the presentation of a Certificate of Achievement. Participants: 10 Moke enthusiasts and a line-up of 6 Mokes in the car park.
Day 21 Autobarn and for my Moke a new set of plugs and leads to stop an infrequent misfiring. Disaster again with Bob's Moke as the front right side wheel bearing started to grind. It was the same noise encountered at Mt. Isa. We both had a spare bearing so without mucking around we got stuck into it. As you can imagine it was quite a job but all went well and a road test revealed the noise had not quite completely gone.
Day 22 Leaving Cairns we headed south but like our outbound journey we had not picked a straight forward route for our return trip. It was back up the Gillies Highway and the 463 bends. This highway goes up 800 metres in 17 kms so top gear was not an option. Back on the tablelands we stayed with my relatives for 2 days at their 2 acre property at Malanda.
Day 27 It was back down to the coast and Townsville where 3 days were spent with friends including Colin 'Squizzy' Taylor one of our club members. He had organised a photographer from the local newspaper to meet us so we got our 30 minutes of fame in colour.
Day 30 We left Townsville and headed inland to Charters Towers before heading south once more and now only 2540 kms (1587 miles) to home.
From PART 4
Lack of space prevents me from relating the many adventures from this part but it was singularly fascinating and covered our journey from Charters Towers south to Gulargambone. The driving during this section was all plain sailing for us and our Mokes. Day 34 On our return trip one of our stops on the Newel Highway was at Dubbo. It's a large sprawling country centre where fuel and coffee were on the agenda. Continuing down the highway our next planned stop was at Peak Hill.
But ... when we were about 8 km out of Dubbo and cruising along nicely with great driving conditions ... over the CB radio came the words "trouble, trouble". I pulled off onto the shoulder of the road and looked back. Bob's Moke was rolling to a stop enveloped in a mist of blue oil smoke ... oh dear!!! I quickly drove back to the disaster. The long oil trail and a strong smell of oil were signs that things were not well. Inspection time ... everything covered in oil, locked in top gear but could still roll, a split in the gearbox casing and most of the engine's 5 litres of oil in a nice long slightly curved line on the highway. We were going to need a sense of humour. Phone calls to RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) and the Automobile Club of N.S.W. brought, in just over an hour, the breakdown vehicle. As the driver braked on the highway to pull in to where we were parked he locked up the front wheels on the oil slick. "Bit slippery out here today boys" said the mechanic as he approached us. "Let's see what you've done" Lifting the bonnet he took one look at the oil covered motor then the oil on the ground, lowered the bonnet and said, "That's ******, I best order you a tilt tray". After another hour's wait Bob's Moke was put on the tilt tray and delivered to a compound yard on the other side of Dubbo. We took out some food and clothes, organised a hire car to be picked up the following day (RACV Total Care) then went off to find a cabin in one of the bigger caravan parks. The overnight temperature was to be -3 Celsius so we stayed in the cabin, cooked ourselves a good meal and relaxed after the day's ordeal. Our first job the next morning was to pick up Bob's new wheels a Holden Cruz from Hertz Rentals then back to the compound yard to transfer all Bob's gear into the Cruz for the trip home. There were several more overnight stops and days spent exploring wonderful museums and places of interest and all great driving conditions apart from this white Cruz behind me all the time!
Day 37 And the final stretch was down the Hume freeway to Lilydale ... HOME ... where Bob and I shook hands and said "See you Saturday night at the presentation dinner". So there you have it, a brief smattering of an excellent adventure covering 37 days, 7250 kilometres (4531 miles) during which we met some new friends and caught up with club members and relatives of mine in FNQ (Far North Queensland). Each Moke used 550 litres of petrol approximately.
I must thank my wife Mary for letting me complete the trip. Considering that she was not well when we left and then got progressively worse during the next 10 days before she came good. It could quite easily have turned out that Birdsville would have been as far as we could go before the 4 day journey home to be with her. And would I ever do a trip like this again??? Hmmm ... NEVER SAY NEVER!!! Analysis of Bob's blow up ... the diff self-destructed after a diff pin became lose and punched a hole in the block. The gearbox casing was also split. No damage to the crank, conrods, pistons and head and minor damage to the gears but Bob did manage to BEND the camshaft!
Our thanks go to Glenn and Bob for taking the time and trouble to complete a daily log of their epic journey thus enabling Mokees and others to gain a detailed insight into their everyday happenings. Also many thanks go to them for picking out these mainly Moke related extracts and many apologies for having to leave out so much really fascinating reading.