The German Boomerang Champion


Kms travelled: 5265

WINS: 

  • Peace Gorge at Meekatharra turned out to be unexpectedly awesome
  • Finally have set-up and pack-up down to a half-hour exercise
  • Met the German Boomerang Champion and his Broome bicycle, helped him fix his email

LOSSES:

  • Zeus found two dead cats and took quite some convincing to leave them in situ
  • Left my travel clothes line in Peace Gorge. Had it out because I washed Zeus after he rolled in a 20-year-old doormat and was covered in greasy grime
  • Still have not replaced my spork

Ok so this was basically me driving in to Meekatharra:


For the final 100km I was driving in the red. I had a jerry can with more fuel as a backup, but part of me just wanted to see if it’d make it, so Zeus and I slowed to a steady 80kmh in a consumption-saving mode and aimed to cruise in the last hour of the day to the nearest servo.

To my surprise, we came up to a rig travelling even slower – probably doing 40 or 50kmh in a 110 zone. As we got closer, it became apparent this was no ordinary rig. I took a guess the van was an early 80s vintage, but as I drove past (still at 80kmh) I saw the towing vehicle: A spectacular genuine mid-1970s Toyota Landcruiser in army green.

It was breathtaking.

It was basically my dream car. 


So it was with some quiet celebration on my part that about an hour after I had driven through Meekatharra (there is literally nothing going on there on a Sunday) and headed out to the Peace Gorge campground, the retro rig I had so admired pulled up in the same camping area as I.

As Zeus and I returned from our afternoon walk, we were greeted with an accented roar: “I promise not to disrupt your peace” from a tall, white-haired man wearing two sets of spectacles and a hat with a fly net over top.

He promptly jumped on his bicycle and took it for a spin…


“This is my new bike. My old bike was stolen in Broome and I reported it to the police, but they couldn’t find it so they let me have this one instead,” he said.

“It’s fantastic, my back is straight, it has nice low gears and today is the first time I’ve ridden it for a while because my knee has been bad. Ask me about my nephew,” he said.

“How’s your nephew?” I replied.

“He’s fine but I hate my knees.”

I mentioned I had overtaken him en route into Meekatharra and had admired his car. He replied the painfully slow pace was on account of his knee as he was struggling to put pressure on the accelerator. However as I got to know him, I suspect Jurgen Preuss simply doesn’t like to hurry. He once had to drive a 12-hour detour around the Yarloop bushfire to get back to Perth in time to meet his brother who had flown in from Germany. He drove the car hard that day, then drove straight up to Broome. By the time it got there, the car needed new gearboxes (both the normal one and the low-range one). That hurried escapade cost him about $5K in repairs.

On his genuine 1977 Landcruiser.

 Zeus and I bashed out another evening wander around, where the hound found yet another bit of bone to cart around like a three-year-old with a toy, becoming quite perplexed when he couldn’t scale up the rocks with it in his mouth. This was after the wash so he’s still a little damp in this pic.


Upon our return to camp we were greeted with German yodelling which again bemused Zeus and Jurgen showed me his fairly creative wiring in the van. This 1978 special had been knitted out with solar panels on the roof and coloured lights that changed hue with a remote control – red, green, blue or white.

The solar panel power was stored in a series of batteries and used to power everything from an electric razor to his modem. Yet the inside of the van was still in a time warp: wood veneer, and the stove was bright orange.

His skills with electrics dated from his time working as a television technician in Darwin, apparently.

“On a television screen, to create white it is these three colours, blue red and green,” he told me.

“I asked a lady once how she thought the quality of the image was. I thought she said ‘horrible bitches’.”

Jurgen has been referring to pictures as ‘horrible bitches’ ever since.


Into the evening Jorgen told me he had saved money to move to Australia in the early 70s by buying old boats in the Netherlands, driving them back across the German border, giving them a bit of spit-and-polish then on-selling them the following week. He is a qualified advertising executive in Germany and had worked on campaigns for Coca Cola, but when he moved to Australia he returned to boat building, fixing the gel coat on new boats as they were made.

“Someone mixed too much hardener with the fibreglass and it caught on fire, right next to a 44-gallon drum full of acetone. The whole place exploded, that was a week after I moved here and I’ve been running ever since.”

After the explosion, he bought a caravan – a ‘house on wheels’ which he had wanted since he was a child. The 1978 model he now has is the new one, his old one was a 1977 model and it had sub-standard cladding which meant it warped  after “100,000km or so.”

“This one is much better” he said.

And this is where the story gets really weird.

See it turns out, Jorgen is a champion boomerang thrower and maker. In the 90s he headed up a business to make boomerangs in a partnership with Aboriginal communities and famously was challenged by his friend Ken Colbung to a throw-off.

At the time, Ken could still throw further but that didn’t last long. 

Apparently I might have had an incredulous look on my face as in the morning, Jorgen asked if I’d like to see his scrap book about the boomerang business…


Jurgen’s business had been tasked with providing boomerangs for the 2000 Olympic opening ceremony.

At the time he would simply travel from east coast to west coast, running TAFE courses for indigenous kids on boomerang making and throwing, and other craft such as carving. He even designed a leather boomerang quiver.

Anyway, Jurgen was having a bit of trouble with his computer so I gave him a hand with it and also bookmarked this page – so hello my incredible Boomerang-throwing, bicycle riding, German-beer loving friend if you are reading this! You can leave a comment on the bottom of the page if you like, but you might find it a little bit too technology-like.

He promptly gave me a lecture on having tyres far too wide for my car – “you need cheese cutters, they are much cheaper and improve contact with the road” – and told me the old Landcruiser ran like a Mercedes on the Gibb River Road with sufficiently flat tyres as long as you go slower enough.

The water pump-thermostat-clutch fan which marooned me in Port Hedland was surely because I rushed the corrugations in Karijini without sufficiently flat tyres.

And that, ladies and gentleman of the blogosphere, is the lesson I took from Jurgen Preuss. 

If you want things to last – be it your body, your car, your happiness… You’ve got to take it easy and remember the journey is better than the destination.

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