Onwards! Or Not?
So, having departed Bungunya and the Prickles, our plan was to head to Sydney for a few days, and then get to Melbourne by the 5th of December. There we would catch the ferry to Tasmania, where we would be celebrating Christmas with uncle Hans and Audrey in Hobart.
After crossing the Queensland-NSW border, the drive was going well. It was a bit hot, I'll admit, but other than that we were quite happy being on the road again. But the happiness wasn't meant to last... Just north of a town called Gunnedah, there was a pop and a fizz, and the car died quite suddenly. Damnit!
So, after having pulled onto the side of the road, I started guessing what could be wrong. After opening the bonnet (read passanger seat), I concluded that the temperature dial on the dashboard must be broken, because the engine was HOT! So, after a quick google search saying that you should just wait it out, instead of for example pouring water over it, we sat down and did just that.
After about an hour or so, the engine had cooled to such a degree that water drops didn't sizzle when hitting the engine. So I popped the radiator cap to see if it still had coolant. It did. So I figured we'd just take it easy until the temperature dropped as we got further south. So I jumped into the driver seat and cranked the engine. The starter engine sounded good, but the engine just wouldn't get going. Damnit...
So with a glass marker we had laying around, we wrote "HELP" on our front and read windows, and started looking on the Internet what could be the issue. After a while two guys in a ute stopped and came over. They said they couldn't give us a tow because they were in their company car. But they concluded that it must be the fuel pump being busted. So they apologized they couldn't be of more help, gave us the number for a towing company in town, and went on their way.
Not wanting to give up and pay $200 for a tow, we waited some more. After a while a guy with his two young sons in a cattle truck stopped. He came over and had a look around, but didn't conclude on anything regarding the engine. He did however say that he might be able to give us a tow tomorrow if we still hadn't had any luck. So we exchanged names and numbers, and off he went.
Still not wanting to call a towing company, we settled in on the side of the road for the night. Hoping that Joe might be able to come to our aid tomorrow.
That night was the worst night we've ever had in the van. It was still harvest season, so trucks were going by like crazy all night. And we're talking big 3-4 trailer trucks here. Often honking their horn (for whatever reason) when going past us. And every time we would wake up thinking one of them had a blown tyre or had fallen asleep, and were heading straight for us.
But the night passed without any accidents of fatalities. To say the least we were pretty relieved when morning arrived. After calling around town and collecting towing fees for the different towing companies, Joe finally called! He told us to hang in for another hour. He was on his way! Whoho! Things were finally looking up again.
So, after an hour or so, Joe did arrive. And soon behind him followed his wife, Heidi. While Joe hooked the car up to the tow bar, Heidi came over with some breakfast, cold water and a snack! We had a talk, and she told us that Joe would give us a tow into the mechanic they used for everything, and that he would give us a fair price for whatever was wrong with the car. She also said that we were more than welcome to stay at their place while the work was being done. Such a lovely couple!
So the tow went alright, and upon arrival the owner, Ivan, came to greet us. After I gave a description of what had happened, and how the engine cranks but won't catch, he quickly concluded that it was probably the timing belt that had snapped. Damnit! It would be a pretty dear piece of work. $600 dear. Also the engine might have been damaged during the accident, so we might end with having to get a new engine as well, which might cost more than the car was worth. Terrific...
Without much choice, we told him to go ahead with it, and call us as soon as he knew more. He said the car probably wouldn't be ready until the day after. Joe headed off to work, and Heidi took us to their place. She showed us our bedroom, and told us to feel like home. So we did. We took a nap. A much needed nap after the night and day we'd just had. Afterwards we took a shower and got settled in a bit. Heidi quickly insisted on making us some lunch, and not long after some coffee and snacks were made available as well... Too kind these Australians!
After that, the kids soon came home from school. They had 2 sons around the age of 6-8 I'm guessing, and a daughter aged around 10-11. We all just spent some time getting to know eachother, and watched a pretty horrible Olsen-twins movie. Good times. Heidi's mom also came to visit, and soon some cold beer got put in front of us.
The whole time we were a bit worried about the car having engine damage, but the company and comfort of the Joe and Heidi's family made us not think about it too much. When evening arrived, Joe came home from work, and Heidi had prepared some lamb chops. After dinner we had a few more beers and exchanged some culture (talked).
In the morning Ivan called, and said that the car will be ready in the afternoon, but they still didn't know if the engine was damaged or not. So after having thanked Heidi for her hospitality, Joe took us into town. We spent an hour with him at the sale yards, before thanking him and saying goodbye.
We had a bit of a wander around town, where we came accross a swedish florist. We got talking, and we decided to send Joe and Heidi some flowers as thanks. We also ended up being given a Daim chocolate bar from the florist's personal stash. Mmmmh! Norwegian milk chocolate never tasted so good!
After having spent our 2nd hour at Macca's, we got a call from Ivan. He had good news! The engine didn't show any sign of damage, and the car could be picked up in an hour or so. Woho! So we spent another hour syncing and downloading stuff on Macca's WiFi, before heading over. We thanked Ivan, paid the $588 we owed him, and got on our way!
Buuut the joy didn't last long... After about 10 minutes it was time to switch over to LPG instead of petrol. But, nothing happened. Gah! We pulled over and gave Ivan a call. It was late, but he told us to take the car in and he'd have a look. After having taken a look, he concluded that it was a solinoid in the back that was stuck, and it wasn't anything they had done when they fixed the timing belt. Unfortunately he couldn't fix it, seeing he wasn't licensed to do any work on gas. Oh well. We'd just have to run on petrol for a while.
Buuuuuuut, when pulling away we noticed a big puddle of oil underneath the car. Turns out the sealant put around the engine and timing belt compartment wasn't put on right, and the engine was spewing oil! Ivan was probably more disappointed than us, because this was an error made by the mechanic. Which meant the whole operation had to be done over again.
By now it was 8PM, so Ivan said we could just park the van in the back yard and sleep in the car there if we wanted to. Not wanting to bother Joe and Heidi so late, we accepted. We spent the whole next day at Macca's. What a day! And around 2PM, Ivan called and said that we could pick the car up again.
After having made the obligatory "Are you sure you got it right this time?"-joke, we set off once again! But having spent a few days in Gunnedah, we decided to head straight for Melbourne instead. Going to Sydney now would just be a waste of both petrol and time, seeing it was now the 1st of December.
That's it for our time in Gunnedah. next up will probably be Melbourne and the crossing of the Bass Straights on the Spirit of Tasmania!
Pictures of course: https://goo.gl/photos/vqWLdBTXFwiPh9bMA
And as always; cheers!