Chapter Eight

Malanda is the dairy capital for the Atherton Tablelands, the large dairy factory close to the centre of the town supplies dairy products to Cairns, Townsville, Darwin and as far away as Papua New Guinea. In the center of the town is the beautiful old wooden, Malanda Hotel.

It was good to catch up with my friends Rod and Sonya who I’d not seen for some years. They’d recently moved up from Tasmania and purchased an old farm house on a small plot of land. They were in the process of restoring the old home.

Repairs in Malanda, Queensland.

Next day I unloaded the tools from the boot and started work on Hewie. I took off the leaky side plate, drilled out the broken stud and tapped in a new thread. I used the tap to clean out the old bolt holes and tested the new bolts for a nice fit. The problem was with the aluminium plate. It’d been repaired on one end with epoxy glue and on the other end it had been aluminium welded. Much of the surface that was to create a water tight seal on the side of the engine was corroded away. I really needed a new plate, but wasn’t sure where to start looking. Repairing the old one appeared the easiest solution. Rod came up with a sheet of glass, so I soaked some wet and dry sandpaper and stood there for an hour slowly sanding the surface of the aluminium plate on fine paper until an acceptable looking surface appeared. I showed the finished product to Rod, he looked at it dubiously and looked up at me.

“Do you think it’ll get you around Australia?”

I didn’t answer, but instead asked him if he had an old breakfast cereal pack that I could make a gasket from. This time I cut two gaskets from a Corn Flakes packet and gasket gooed them both to the surface of the plate and bolted it up the engine. The new bolts tightened the plate up nicely, with excess gasket goo running down the side of the engine. I fitted the generator back on, filled the radiator up with water and started Hewie. We went out for a quick run, the plate didn’t leak so the cooling system held the correct pressure.

Tapping out a new thread for the exhaust stud.

With the main job finished, I set to work and gave Hewie a good greasing and topped up the oil in the differential and gear box.  He was almost ready to roll.

The next I need was two new tyres for the front. The old ones still had a few more miles in them, but not really enough to get us to Darwin. I’d tried to get new tyres before leaving Ballina, but was told that the tyres I had on Hewie, 155x14 made by Michelin, were not available. They’d simply stopped making them. I found this out just before I was about to leave Ballina, but decided to solve the problem when it became an ultimate necessity. The local tyre shop in Malanda came up with some Goodyear 175x14 size tyres, but they were too wide. The suspension got in the way when the tire fitter tried fitting them on the front wheels. So we tried them on the back, although they were a little wider, they were a good fit. The old Michelins on the back we simply moved to the front. The Goodyear tyres on the back were not only sightly wider, they also were slightly bigger. Hewie’s back end stood a fraction taller, this gave him a slightly sportier look. Not that I was over enthusiast about the look as I’ve never really liked souped up Minors. I’ve always thought that if one wants a sports car, go out and buy one. But why try turning something that never was a sports cars into something that basically never will be a real sports car. I don’t like to say this but someone one told me. “You can’t turn chicken shit into chicken salad.”

With the needed repairs finalised, I said goodbye to Rod and Sonya. Back on the road again I headed down the range, from the coolness of the tablelands back to the tropical heat and humidity of the coast. Hewie’s cooling problem seemed to now be behind him. I stopped every fifteen or twenty minutes and got out and checked for leaks around the plate but it was watertight and the cooling system was holding pressure again. Back at Innisfail again, I headed south along the Bruce highway, turning off at the small town of El Arish and headed out on the coastal detour via Bingal Bay and Mission Beach and then back onto to the Bruce highway again at Australia’s town with the highest rainfall, Tully. From here I continued on to Ingham and stayed the night at the Commercial Hotel again. When on a good thing, stick to it. It’s difficult to get the enthusiasm to pitch a tent when you can get a hotel room with a comfortable bed and clean sheets for fourteen dollars a night.

Mission Beach, North Queensland.

Next morning I was up at sunrise, ready for the new day. Most hotels provide a place to make a cup of tea or coffee also some bread, a toaster, a bottle of milk and some corn flakes for breakfast. But the Commercial didn’t provide this self service breakfast. Fair enough, I thought considering the tariff. I stopped off at an early opening café and joined local farmers, sugar cane workers, and truck drivers for a cappuccino. The morning was cool, with another hot day ahead. I sat down with a copy of The Australian, scanned the headlines and opened up the story with news on the war in Iraq. The date was the 18th of August 2004. Since setting out on the trip I’d lost interest in watching television in the evenings. Even if TV was around I’d prefer to read a book or work on my notes for this book. It was like I’d seen so many different things throughout the day anything more visual seemed tiring to absorb. So I relished a morning newspaper over a coffee to keep up with world and local events.

The run back to Townsville took me a little less than two hours, I stopped at the same service station that I visited when I drove up and topped up with unleaded petrol and added the usual twenty millilitre shot of a lead replacement substitute. I’d been told it was the good oil when it came to using unleaded petrol.

At Townsville I turned right, back onto the Flinders highway again and headed west to Charters Towers. The return trip was all a no-brainer. I stopped in, and stayed at the Charters Towers Backpackers again.

On the road early again the next morning, I made a stop at a truck stop for fuel and headed west once again on the Flinders highway. My first stop after and hour and forty minutes was the small town of Pentland. I stopped by a small service station, mainly to check the oil and water, but while there I pulled out the petrol pump hose and topped up the fuel tank. The amount came to a little over eight dollars. I walked in to pay. The small shop sold drinks, ice creams and sweets. Hanging on the walls next to these edibles was a basic collection of spare parts including fan belts, radiator hoses and a shelf devoted to oil. Out the back was a workshop with a few cars being repaired. A couple of mechanics in overalls looked up when I walked in. One left and walked into the shop and I gave him my credit card to pay for the fuel. He then jumped into a rage, cursing me for paying for eight dollars worth of fuel with a credit card.

“It’ll cost me more to process in bank fees than what it’s worth!”

“Sorry mate, I pay for all my petrol with a credit card. Why don’t you negotiate with the bank if you think they are over charging you. Sorry, I’m only a customer. Why complain to me?” I said.

That didn’t seem to help the situation as he continued to blame high bank fees on me - his customer. I signed the slip and walked out to Hewie. A new Holden Commodore drove in past by myself and Hewie and came to a halt at the side entrance to the workshop. Two attractive young women dressed in tight jeans, boots and cowgirl shirts got out and met the two mechanics at the side door. The mechanic who’d just served me had obviously forgotten his anger towards me and had a smile from ear to ear on his face.

Lunch beside the highway at Pentland, Queensland.

I put Hewie into gear and headed across the road and stopped at a picnic table. I got out my thermos, made a cup of tea and a sandwich and sat there under Hewie over to the side of the road and found that the problem was a blown top radiator hose.  I got out some duct tap and hoped to be able to tap it up. But that wasn’t going to work as the hose was an all rubber hose and didn’t have any reinforcing. As soon as I tried to wrap the duct tape around the problem area the hose continued to tear. Eventually the whole hose tore off. I unfortunately had neither a spare radiator hose nor a great deal of water. I poured half the container of water I had into the radiator, got back in and continued driving. I drove slowly and Hewie there was no water pump or thermostat for the sugary substances to destroy. When I got going again it was easy to tell when the engine was getting hot again as the sickly sweet smell of burnt orange juice filled the inside of the car. I stopped the engine and glided to another standstill. This time I poured in a litre of milk and half a bottle Cawarra Estate 2003 Merlot. It was a sacrifice, but worse sacrifices have been known in such dire situations. I was now on my last drop of liquid. I had to find water or else hail a car or truck and beg them for water.

A blown radiator hose just before Prairie, Queensland. There were no creeks with water. I used red wine to fill the radiator. Note the bottle of Coonawarra, Cabernet Sauvignon sitting on the radiator and waiting to be poured in.

I found another bottle of warm Coke and poured that in, I was now down to less than a litre. My map showed a small town called Prairie to be the next town. How far ahead I didn’t know. I closed the bonnet and started Hewie up again and slowly headed along the highway. I made one more stop, I used the last drop of water I had – I peed into the radiator. Moving along again, I’d only driven about two kilometres when the sign post, Prairie appeared.  I rounded the next slight bend and there in front of me was a small town, a pub, service station and a handful of houses. A handfull of houses is about ten houses in my books. I thought to myself about the possibility of finding a radiator hose for a 1951 model Morris Minor somewhere around those ten or so buildings.

I drove in and parked in front of the pub, walked in and took a seat at the bar.

The hotel at Prairie, Queensland, Australia

“Can I help you?” asked the young woman behind the bar.

“You sure can! First make it a schooner of beer” I sat and watched as she pulled an icy glass from the freezer and filled it full of ice cold beer from the tap.

“Where have you come from?” she asked.

“I’ve only come from Charters Towers today but I started from Ballina down in northern New South Wales” I said as she looked out the door and spied Hewie sitting confidently out front of the hotel.

“That’s your Morrie, did you came all the way from Ballina, in that?

“Yeah, sure did. So far it’s been a good trip except I blew a radiator hose just a few kilometres out of town. I just limped in on my last drop of water. This beer tastes bloody good!”

“I own an MGB. It’s sitting out in the shed behind the pub. I bought it about a year ago but haven’t driven it much as I’ve just had a baby. It’s out in the back shed gathering dust. Want another beer?”

“Yes thank you, they go down quick around here.”

“I suppose they would if you’ve been stuck out there in the heat with no water. There’s a public phone over there. You can call the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, they’ll come out from Hughenden, it’s only 50 kilometres up along the highway.”

“It’s only a short piece of standard radiator hose that I need. I was hoping someone around here might be able to help. It seems a bit silly to have them come all the way out from Hughenden when all they’ll probably do is tow me in”

“I’ll get my husband to have a look in the shed out the back where the MGB is garaged. There’s plenty old bits and pieces of junk out there. Surely there is something that will fit.”

“I’ll stay the night. Do you have camping at the back of the hotel?” I asked.

“Sure, its five dollars a night to camp out the back, there’s a grassy area to set your tent up on and hot showers and toilets. We also have dinner in the dining room for an extra ten dollars. Tonight is roast chicken and vegies.”

“Sounds perfect, sign me up for the whole deal.”

“Sure will” she replied.

“Take my credit card and keep it until I’ve finished, we’ll settle before I leave. May as well, put another beer on it while you’re at it.” I suggested

“By the way, my name is Audrey, I hope you enjoy your stay here with us.”

I finished my beer and wandered out the back of the hotel to the small camping area. I was the only one there. I found a spot between two trees and set my tent up in the shade. I got out my camp chair and table and opened up the novel I’d started a few days previously. I’d just finished a chapter when out came Audrey’s husband and introduced himself.

“So, you’re the guy with the Morris. Come over to the shed and we’ll have a look at what there is” he said.

He opened the door and there sitting was Audrey’s red MGB, all covered in fine dust, but obviously in beautiful condition. We searched through the surrounding junk consisting mainly of old farm machinery, lawn mowers, tools and lots of old agricultural irrigation pipe. There was miles of the stuff in large coils. Tom cut me a piece of it off which I took over to Hewie and tried it for size. Unfortunately the inside diameter was about an inch and a quarter. What I needed was an inch and an eighth, inside diameter. We searched around some more but gave up when the kitchen called.

“Diner time, your tea is on the table” called the cook who was Audry’s mother.

“There’s a guy down the road who has an early fifties model Ford Prefect, he might have something that’d fit. But for now let’s wash up for tea.”

After dinner I retired for an early night and woke up at sunrise the next morning. I lay in bed for a while listening to the birds and wondering how I was going to make it to Hughenden. I thought about filling as many containers as I could find with water and heading out. But that’d be dangerous, as there would be no way of calculating how much water I’d need.. My other solution would be to just call the RACQ, maybe they’d have a small piece of hose they could bring out if I told them the size that I needed. More likely they’d just tow me in and order the part from Brisbane. I’d have to wait in Hughenden a few days until the part would arrive.

The woman running the garage across the road was putting out her “open” signs. I was going to get out my stove and make a cup of tea, but instead I packed the tent up and headed over to the garage for a chin wag with her.

I ordered a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin. The young woman went out to the back of the shop into a small kitchen to boil a jug and make coffee from a jar of instant coffee. I took a seat at one of the three small tables covered with plastic table cloths and looked around for something to read, but all I could find were women’s magazines

“How’s business been?” I asked her.

Prairie, Queensland, Australia

“Not bad, I mainly do meals, drinks and ice creams, for the truckies and tourists that pass through. I don’t sell much petrol or diesel. My prices are too expensive, I only have a small tank and the suppliers want me to install a larger tank at the cost of many thousands of dollars. It’s not worth it. Furthermore, I don’t have the money. I just have to sell petrol at the highest price to cover my costs” she said.

“So the wholesale price of petrol is just like anything else that we buy, the more you buy the cheaper it is? I asked.

“That’s it. My only customers here tend to be motor cyclists with small tanks. They stop in and buy a few litres and charge it to their credit card. Buy the time I pay for petrol and the credit card fees I actually loose on the deal”

“But they generally buy a drink or an ice cream I suppose” I asked

“Yeah they do, that’s where I make some money” she said.

“How long have you lived in Prairie” I asked.

“I was born here, I was married, but my husband left, I bought this business a few years ago, I run it with my daughter, she’s sixteen.”

“That wouldn’t leave you much spare time running a business like this”

“You’re right. It’s a seven day a week job, it was tougher when my daughter was still going to school. It’s better now that she can help out more” she said.

I got up and wandered over towards the door and looked out to see an early fifties model Ford Prefect heading down the road towards us. It pulled up next to Hewie. Out climbed a gentleman who introduced himself as Bob with his wife Hazel.

“We heard that there was a Morris Minor in town and were worried that we might have missed you. We got out of bed a little later this morning.” he said.

“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere until I can get this fixed.” I said.

Bob replacing the old radiator hose at Prairie while Hazel and myself look on.

As I opened up the bonnet and showed them the problem.

“No problem mate. I’ve got a piece of hose that’ll fit that, jump in your car and follow me around to my place.” he said.

I followed him around the corner, down the street and stopped out front of a large old corrugated iron shed next to their home. Inside was full of old car parts, hanging on the walls and hanging down from the ceiling. He looked around for a minute then put his hand up to the ceiling and pulled down a length of radiator hose about twice the length that I needed, also it was the exact diameter. He pulled out a knife and measured up the correct length and cut off the required amount. He then got out his tools and fitted it Hewie. I told him what I’d put in the radiator to limp into Prairie, so he got the garden hose out and flushed out the mixture of Coke, beer, orange juice, milk, wine and urine.

Bob and Hazel with their Ford Prefect. Prairie, Queensland, Australia

“That should get you going again!”

I sat and talked with Hazel while Bob went into their house and came out with a big pot of tea and some biscuits. He set up our morning tea on a table under the shade of a tree beside the old shed. We sat and drank tea and ate biscuits while he told me of their life in Prairie and his life on the railway.

Back on the road again, it took a little less than an hour to drive into Hughenden. I was expecting a much larger town, but found a place that appeared to be slowly becoming a ghost town. I stopped in a garage to check the petrol, top up with oil and water. Just joking! Hewie was running like new and hardly using a drop of oil or water.

“Where have you come from in that? asked the service station attendant.


“You’ve done well” he replied.

The Grand Hotel in Hughenden, Queensland, Australia.

“I expected Hughenden to be a much larger town. It looks like it‘s going to become a ghost town in a few years.” I asked.

“Probably will if it keeps going the way it has been in the last few years. Look at that hotel across the road, it’s just closed. It was a backpackers’ hostel and a pub but couldn’t make a go of it. There is only one pub left in the town now, everyone is moving out to Townsville. I’m the town’s fuel supplier, even I’ve moved into Townsville. I just fly back and forth to keep the business running. Part of the problem is the local council here, they’re bloody useless! Instead of buying their fuel from me they do a deal with some fuel supplier in Townsville. How can small towns survive with a local council having that kind of attitude?” he said.

“I was watching a show on the television the other day where an inventor had invented a system where diesel water pumps on cattle stations can be turned on and off via radio control. The system also included a video feedback to see how well the pump was working and cattle drinking.  Is the future of cattle ranching such that the rancher lives in the city and controls the ranch out in the bush via radio control and the internet. When the cattle are fat enough, all he needs to do is call someone out to round them all up and take them to market all done from the comfort of an office.” I said.

“That’s about right, there’ll be no one left out here in the bush soon.

The main street in Hughenden, Queensland, Australia 2004.

I made my way into the central shopping centre, a collection of old wooden buildings, beautiful if  you’re a tourist like myself. But if you were a local looking for prosperity for your town you’d be out of luck. The main street resembled a cowboy town.

I stopped by and parked out front of a café named  the F J Holden café. Inside I met the owner who told me he’d been named Frank Joseph Holden at birth. The café was full of FJ Holden photos, parts, memorabilia and juke boxes that played music from the 1950’s. I sat down for a plate of fish and chips and looked over the duke box for a song by Hank Williams.

The F.J Holden Cafe in Hughendon, Queensland.


Frank J Holden, the proprietor of the F.J Holden cafe in Hughenden, Queensland.

That night I stayed at the local caravan and camping park. At the back of the park there was an old nurses’ home which had since closed down. The building was now under control of the caravan park which rented out the rooms to travellers. For twenty dollars a night it was a good deal. The place was clean and comfortable with a large kitchen to prepare your own meals. This is generally the problem with staying at pubs - there is generally no kitchen to use.  I’d expect that it would be a popular backpacker retreat if Hughenden was on the well worn backpacker trail, but it’s not. The rooms were full of contractors who’d driven or flown out from Townsville to do telephone, communications and railway maintenance work.

The next morning I continued on my westerly route through to Richmond, about two hours drive. I drove through the small town until I reached the main cross street, stopped to give way to a car and Hewie stalled. I hit the starter and the engine turned over a few times but Hewie refused to start. A few people stood on the corner watching the show. I got out and pushed Hewie into a right hand turn down a side street where I opened the bonnet. Everything looked to be in general running order, I took the distributor cap off and turned the engine over. The points looked a little close together, but not seriously. I got a screw driver out and opened them up a little more. I have a feeler gauge but I’ve adjusted the points so often I now just do it by eye.

I turned the ignition on and gave Hewie another kick of the starter motor and he kicked over and ran smoothly. That was too easy I thought to myself, something in the back of my head was telling me that there was another problem which caused him to stop. But he’s going so I’ll work that problem out when I get to it.

I swung back onto the main road and headed down to Richmond’s big tourist attraction - the dinosaur museum called Kronosaurus Korner.

I did a tour of the museum before getting back on the road again. My next stop not far west of Richmond was the town of Maxwelton a little over 40 kilometres down the road. The museum also served as a tourist information office, I stopped by the info counter and asked the woman behind the counter how big Maxwelton was. She said that she lived there and that there was only her house and a few others. I was surprised I’d thought the town was much bigger.

A dinosaur sculpture in Richmond, Queensland, Australia.

“Well it was, it was a railway town, but since the introduction of centralised signalling there was no need for the town to exist. Most of the houses belonged to Queensland Rail and they just came in and took away what houses they owned”

“So there’s not even a general store” I asked.

“No way, that went years ago!”

We (myself and Hewie) set out towards Maxwelton. As I drove along my mind drifted back to the last time I’d passed through Maxwelton.

I’d left school back in 1969 and decided to do a hitch-hiking trip around Australia. I’d set out from Sydney and headed over to Adelaide, across to Perth, then north along the west coast of Australia to Port Hedland and up to Darwin. From Darwin, I hitchhiked south down to Mount Isa. Transport was mostly lifts with road trains. These weren’t the powerful and fast machines they are today. Back then, the diesel engine was still only in its infancy. Top speed of most of the road trains was about 35 to 45 mph. To reach these speeds it generally took about five to ten minutes of constant gear changing to get it up to that speed – that’s if the road was flat. It is remark able the advancement the diesel engine has gone through in the last 30 to 35 years.

The roads back then weren’t anywhere like they are t oday. The road from Darwin down to Mount Isa was sealed. Much of this was done during the 2nd World War after Darwin was attacked. From Mount Isa through to Townsville was still unsealed and had very few bridges. Th e road just followed down into the creek bed and out the other side. If there’d been rain, that was just too bad, you waited until the water resided.

I’d arrived at Mount Isa and got another lift west in a small truck through to a little town called Nelia which is just 40 kilometres west of Maxwelton. The town was mainly there to support the maintenance of the then unsealed Flinders highway.  The driver set me down at the road works depot. There was an office in the road works depot and a few houses that made up the town and a small unattended railway station. I rolled out my sleeping bag in the waiting room and slept the night there - with an empty stomach. Next morning I awoke to the sound of an east bound freight train approaching. I jumped out of my sleeping bag and hailed it down. The engine driver applied the brakes and bought the train to a standstill with the guards van and one passenger carriage at the end of the train sitting perfectly in the middle of the station. I opened the door of a dogbox on the old wooden passenger car. As I did the guard of the train appeared at the door of the guard’s van.

“You blokes think this is a benevolent society. You can pay your fare at Maxwelton.” he shouted out at me.

In fact, I didn’t have the money to pay for the fare, because I’d just left school. I was hoping that either the crew would give me a lift in the loco or the guard would feel sorry for me and ignore the fact that I’d jumped his train. The train continued on at its merry way at a speed of about 10 miles an hour. This may seem slow, but it was a relief from the dust and noise of hitch-hiking.  I could lay on the long comfortable seat in the dogbox carriage I was in and drift off to sleep as the train rolled along. After a couple of hours, the train came to a standstill. This was obviously Maxwelton we were at. I was too scared to look out the window for fear that the guard and the station master would see me and ask me for my fare, which I had but wanted to spend on food when I finally reached somewhere I could buy something to eat. I lay low, going back to sleep, waking again when the train was again on a roll. The final destination was Townsville but I alighted at Charters Towers in the early hours of the next morning. It seems that I wasn’t the only hobo travelling, as three others slid off the leeward side of the carriage that morning and unrolled their swags under a tree in the freight yard.

I’d missed Maxwelton on my last trip, but was determined to see it this time. But when I arrived there, I found it had all gone, except for a few houses. I could see where the railway station once was, but the buildings and goods siding were now long gone. All that existed was a small centralised traffic control box, a signal and loop. Trains were now all controlled from Townsville.

The town of Maxwelton had faded into history but maybe I could find something of Nelia. I continued driving and by late afternoon we arrived in the next town further west of Nelia, a town called Julia Creek. It wasn’t that I’d missed Nelia, the town just didn’t exist any more. The road had been sealed some years ago and the town of Nelia now wasn’t needed anymore, so it had just faded into history.

Back as a teenager, riding the freight train, I do remember arriving at Julia Creek, waking up from a long afternoon sleep and looking out the window to see the Julia Creek Hotel, an old wooden building, with a long wide verandah, directly opposite the railway station.

As I drove into Julia Creek I ran into a locust plague. The memories of the old pub were on my mind. I headed down to the railway station. The pub and the station were still there, not much had changed since I was last there 35 years ago. I walked into the public bar. It was just as it must have been all those years ago. The afternoon was hot and dry, a few drinkers turned to acknowledge my arrival as I opened the door, and the barmaid looked up and greeted me.

The one locust that Hewie caught during a locust plague near Julia Creek, Queensland, Australia.

“Do you have any rooms overlooking the railway station” I asked her.

”Sure do, here’s the key go up and take a look.”

I went upstairs and found a room with a perfect view of the railway line. The passenger train, (The Inlander) that runs between Townsville and Mount Isa was sitting at the station. I went back down to the bar and paid the barmaid $30 for the room for the night and ordered schooner of Four X beer.

View from the top verandah at the Julia Creek Hotel.

“Dinner in the dining room will start at 6pm if you’re interested” said the barmaid as she handed me my receipt.

I told her and a few other local drinkers at the bar that I’d passed through Julia Creek some 35 years ago and thought that this pub would be a good place to stay and watch trains if I ever came back here.

“Well, here I am again” I told them. One of the drinkers looked up with a smirk on his face.

“Don’t expect to see any more trains than the Inlander now sitting at the station. There’s been a derailment between Cloncurry and the Isa. It’s been a serious one also - the trucks derailed off an ore train in the middle of a cutting. No one was injured, but it’s going to take a few days, maybe more, to clean up the mess,. They’re thinking about building a temporary line around the derailment to try to get trains on the roll again.”

I finished my my beer and headed into the dining room for dinner. During dinner the air became cool as a light breeze came up from the south. It had the smell of nice cool rain. It hadn’t rained in the area for months. I finished my dinner and was walking up the stairs to my room when I heard the sound of rain on the galvanised iron roof. I sat out in the quietness of the old wooden veranda as the sun set, enjoying the fragrances as the dry, parched landscape soaked up the rain.

Next morning, before leaving Julia Creek I stopped by the local library which had internet access and managed to again condense a week of work at my business down to just a few hours. I was back on the road before midday and heading towards Cloncurry.   The wind had swung around to the west. Although blowing just a light breeze it was slowing Hewie down. The rain the previous night had settled the dust and made for a cooler morning. But this didn’t last long as after two hours driving the westerly heated up and started to blow stronger. I was down from a steady 40mph to 35 mph when I started to smell the sickly smell of steam and burnt orange juice. Hewie was in trouble again. I pulled over to the side of the road and opened the bonnet. Steam was gushing out of the radiator overflow pipe.

Welcome to Cloncurry

I let him cool down and topped the radiator up with more water and continued on. The problem was what I’d been expecting since leaving home. The radiator core was too old and corroded. It wasn’t leaking but the fine fins that carry out the heat from the core were mostly corroded away. It needed a re-core.

I continued on, but slower, around 30 mph and after another hour’s drive I arrived in the old mining town of Cloncurry. I filled up with fuel and checked over the engine again. The cooling system was still holding pressure, so all I had to do was drive carefully to avoid over heating.

Welcome to Mount Isa.

We rolled into the mining town of Mount Isa that afternoon. I’d kept my eye out on the two hour drive in for the town of Mary Kathleen. I remember passing through there back in 1969. It had been the first place Australia had mined uranium back in the mid 1950’s. But now obviously nothing was left, even all the houses had been removed. There were no signs of old mining equipment, nothing. The mine had been opened and closed over the years and was finally closed once and for all back in 1982.