The long and not winding road

Zeus and I trundled down to Kalgoorlie where I was a resident back in 20o2, in the wonderfully-named suburb of Lamington. En route I contacted Bec at the Kalgoorlie Miner to let her know about the Leonora ATM break-in so after a morning de-dusting the tent from the Menzies dust storm, I duly wandered in to the Miner.

To my delight, Cafe Relish continues to operate 15 years after I left the capital of the Outback. I had planned to swing by to pick up Bec and myself a cup of coffee, but Relish continues to be sluggish on the service and the queue for coffee was huge so I resorted to take-away from Dome. In good news, Zeus and I did meet this guy:

This magnificent creature is Bruno the pug/jack Russell/chihuahua mix with colouring uncannily similar to El Zeusarino. However Bruno was not as excited to see Zeus as Zeus was to see him, so attempts to get a photo of the two Rotty-coloured pipsqueaks failed. We appreciated Bruno’s awesomeness anyway.

In to the Miner and the newsroom that once felt crowded was now a slightly less crowded open space. Gone (OK, gone for quite a few years) were the brown Coyote computers with black screens and green writing that I had cut my journalist teeth on (and strengthened my finger muscles with the stiff, clacky keys), replaced with slightly less old computers with occasional web access. 

The subeditors were also gone, the paper is now edited remotely from Perth. Sign of the times.

I felt like saying “Back in my day, we walked to school, up hill both ways in the snow with no shoes”… But I refrained.

Bec and her COS were putting together the Monday paper and we discussed the great many crazy stories that only happen in the Goldfields, like the time a guy stole a palm tree and planted it in a roundabout in Boulder.

From there we went to the Spring Fair in Hannan’s Park but sadly Zeus could not go in as peacocks lived in said park and apparently dislike dogs. It was as busy as Bourke Street and I considered a boycott on the basis Zeus had to stay outside, but I then spied a Chinese massage tent and thought after five weeks sleeping on a trailer, a neck rub could be just the ticket.

It was also right next to a door selling dog treats, so once I had been pummelled to within an inch of my life, I bought Zeus some sort of baked doggie cookie.

Once I returned to the gate where Zeus was tied up, he made a suitably unimpressed face and refused to eat it. I presume this was puggy sulking as opposed to any real problem with the purchased goods.

We also ran Buzti through a car wash and then attempted to vacuum the interior of the car, but it proved a challenge as the vaccuum kept getting clogged and the pug hair stubbornly refused to come loose from the car carpet. I also threatened Zeus with yet another bath as they had a dog bath right next to the car wash, but he pointedly explained he had already sat outside a great-smelling market full of kids dropping bits of food on the ground, surely he had been tortured enough for the day?

Dinner at the Palace on the Balcony Bar was, according to Trip Advisor, the best place to eat. Upon arriving I discovered the Palace had been taken over by the former owner of the Exchange, Ashok Parekh, and duly the Palace had experienced a resurgence in popularity as the Exchange waned into a skimpy-driven bar – once upon a time, it was more or less the staff room of the Kalgoorlie Miner.

The next day, Zeus and I tried to get up early, failed, and went to walk the arboretum. It is a brilliant place for a dog walk and I had a pretty excited puggy on my hands, not least because we had been to a pet store and got a new ball. And also a large soft toy pug called Alfie which Zeus chose out himself.

Alfie was also the most expensive toy in the store.

I need to stop letting Zeus make decisions.

Later we went to check out the KCGM Super Pit. We were supposed to be watching a blast of some description and the viewing area of the giant hole in the ground was packed with people, too scared to look away in case they missed it.

For whatever reason there was no blast but we enjoyed watching the haulpaks ascending up the mine wall like little cockroaches. 

We also checked out the golf course, which had been a huge deal back when I was a young journo – the State had agreed to put some money in to make a world-class course rather than a dodgy paddock with a few green scrapes.

I have to say, the combination of red sand and green fairways was pretty spectacular, for a sporting venue.

After Kalgoorlie we made a beeline for the border, stopping to stay the night at Afghan Rock and Pool, an unmarked free camping site about 20km east of Balladonia. It was a bit of an oasis, doubly better because it had great 3G access and an incredibly starry night.

I found out about it from wikicamps. On the way back I’ve been told Fraser Range is the place to stay, however pushing on for another few hours would prove to be an excellent idea as unbeknownst to me, the car was starting to have issues…

…next day was on to Eucla, which was almost unreconisable from my last visit 15 year previously. The roadhouse has been upgraded and the restaurant overlooks the coast with a beautiful vista. Zeus and I ignored all these upgrades and went straight down to the old telegraph station which is subject to moving sand dunes. Zeus was wrapped – no 1080, lots of sand, and weather that suggested fur might be an advantage.

Eucla of course marks the start of the Nullarbor just as Ceduna marks the end of it. In between, you can see things like this:

Pretty damn awesome.

I don’t have any pix from the next two evenings, Ceduna and Port Augusta.

What I can tell you is that after Ceduna, Buzti had a bit of a tantrum and she wasn’t keen to get over it. About 300km out of Port Augusta it felt like the engine disconnected from the drive train and the car slowed down with terrifying rapidity.

I pulled over, propped up the bonnet and walked around looking for something obvious. No oil leak. No weird recordings on the gauges. 

Then I noticed it: the Check Engine Light was OFF.

The little golden spark on the dash had been my constant companion for nigh on 7000km and suddenly it was gone. It was at this point I realised Zeus had jumped out of the car and scooted onto the road… Right into the path of an oncoming truck!! 

I bolted onto the road, arms flailing about like a crazy person and the oncoming truck slowed… Then pulled over. And a man I would come to know as Bob, who was transporting a giant John Deere tractor to Melbourne, got out of the cab.

“What seems to be the problem,” Bob asked.

I explained I hadn’t intended to flag him down but my dog was not known for intelligence and had decided the road looked like a nice place to walk. Bob, it turns out, is a mechanic, as is his brother. Bob followed a now limping Buzti in to Kimba to make sure I arrived safely and called his brother for advice. They came to the conclusion I was suffering transmission problems, however the transmission fluid at that point was still an appropriate colour.

So, I was faced with the decision to push on or call the RAC and hope my coverage would get the car somewhere it could be repaired. Added degree was difficulty was that I had to fly from Adelaide to Perth for a job interview in just a couple of days, so now I was on a schedule.

So we pushed on. Zeus demanded an improved travel position due to now driving at less than 80kmh.

So this is his new spot.

In to Adelaide we limped, and then the car took a turn for the worse and the power steering all but disappeared. It got whiney and noisy. 

The car, Zeus, the trailer and I staggered up the Adelaide foothills to my wonderful coursing Scott and his wife Lisa’s house where we were welcomed. Their wheel-obsessed son Miles (who is adorable) was quick to learn I was the owner of the “Big Red Truck” but the truck was broken.

And so, that’s the latest.

The car will be towed to a mechanic tomorrow to have new power steering fluid put in, new power steering hoses and the mechanic is on a mission to find a second-hand transmission for a TJ Wrangler.

Travelling is restoring my faith in humanity. I have been helped by so very many people, and have barely had a cross word said to me.

The occasional weirdo telling me I looked like my dog due to hair regrowth (true story) the is completely manageable when people like Bob, Helene and Nick, Scott and Lisa and Miles are around to look after me.


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