The plan for this trip was to do the Alpine area of Victoria before coming back into New South Wales and meeting up with other members of the Jeep Club of NSW near Kiandra in Koscuiszko National Park. However, fate was to intervene. Read on.
PART 1 - SYDNEY TO JUGIONG
Day 1 - Sunday 26 December 2004 - Boxing Day
Kelly and I left Sydney and head south along the Hume Highway. The plan is to drive all the way well into Victoria and stop overnight as close as possible to Mansfield.
As we head down the highway, I notice that when I turned a little to the right there was a small vibration in the steering wheel. I put this down to the fact that I had the front right tyre repaired the week before and the repairer had not balanced it correctly.
We stop and have morning tea along the side of the road in a small picnic area. We are soon back on our way. About 20 kilometres north of Gundagai, I overtake a slower vehicle. A few minutes later, all hell breaks loose. There is a horrendous noise from the front left and I immediately know what has happened. The front left wheel has come off. Sure enough, a split second later there it is, bouncing right next to Kelly's window. Shit, I hope it does not come through the window.
I put my foot on the brake and slowly started to brake. By this time the front left of the car had dropped and we were skidding along. However, I still had control of the car and I steered it slowing to the left and slowly applied the brake. In the meantime, the tyre has bounced off into the bush (after bouncing higher than the car a number of times).
|Stopped on the Hume Highway near Jugiong after loosing the wheel||The damage is not really apparent|
We end up stopping safely in the breakdown lane. Out we get and examine the damage. Some other cars who are behind us stop as well. The disk rotor is buried in the dirt on the side of the road so it is hard to see what the damage is, but considering the road has a deep score mark in it, it cannot be good news. The front panel is damaged where the tyre bounced into it a few times. I examine the hub and find that at least two of the six wheel studs are broken but four have apparently come loose.
I retrieve the tyre from the bush and phone the NRMA. About 45 minutes later the local NRMA rep arrives in his tow truck arrives. He pulls the car up onto the tray where it becomes apparent that nearly all the lower part of the front suspension section is damaged. He takes us to where his garage is located at Jugiong, about 7 kilometres away.
Jugiong is a small village that has now been by-passed by the newer Hume Highway. It is located on the Murrumbidgee River. The old highway goes right through town. I do not think that it has ever been a big place but it is even smaller now. It consists of the garage and truck stop, a motel (more about this later), a hotel (again more later), a shop, a picnic area and pool, two churches and a Police Station.
We are dropped at the motel by the NRMA bloke. We book in unload all the things we need, including all the meat and drinks from our fridge. At least we will not starve.
The problem is of course that since it is Boxing Day and Sunday, everything will be closed tomorrow and the next day as they are public holidays. It will be hard to get the necessary parts to repair the car. I make a mistake and instead of calling my sister to go to my place to get the key to Kelly's four wheel drive (a HiLux), we decide to wait for the car to be repaired. As it turns out, we should have got the other car and set off in it.
A bit about the motel. When the highway went through Jugiong, I am pretty sure that it was a thriving business and in good order. However, this cannot be said in 2005. There are at least 30 rooms. The one we are in is at the front of the motel and in the busy days would not have been all that good due to the passing trucks. However, it will be quiet considering the only traffic now is a few locals, a couple of trucks that stop for food and some tourists who use the picnic area up the road.
The motel is in a state of disrepair. Our room is not too bad but it does not look like it has had any work done on it for 20 years. It is very hot so I decide to have a swim. Not on your life! The swimming pool is green, with algae everywhere. The swimming pool filter pump is still running but it does not look like it has seen chlorine since Adam was a youngster. This does not stop the owners' children from using it, I suppose they have built up a tolerance over the years.
We explore the town. Well, that did not take long. We come back to the motel and watch some telly. We later hear about a tsunami hitting the Indian Ocean countries, not realising how bad it will be.
We find out that the motel has a liquor licence. This is because the pub (a beautiful old sandstone building) opens strange hours and sometimes does not open at all. We have a couple of draught beers. At least these are quality. The motel has a barbecue and I spend a lot of time cleaning the muck off it and we cook dinner and have a few drinks out on the grass before going to bed.
Day 2 - Monday 27 December 2004
We wake to see that the news on TV is about the tsunami. Wow, this is something very bad that puts our minor problem into perspective.
I walk up to see the mechanic and he tells me that he has to replace the ball joint, hub assembly, disc rotor, backing plate plus things like bearings. As he cannot start ordering the parts till Wednesday, it will take some time to find the parts and get them delivered. In the meantime he will strip it right down and make sure he has got it all worked out.
I think about what has happened. After the tyre was repaired before Christmas (it took many times as the source of the slow leak could not be found), I had swapped the tyres front to back. It is obvious that I did not tighten the nuts sufficiently. I recall that a few days before we left, I heard a loud bang as I drove down my street. I had checked the car to see what it was but I did not even think to look at the nuts. I suspect that the noise was a nut been flung into the wheel arch as it came loose.
A bit more about the nuts. On the Prado with the mag wheels, the wheel has some slack when resting on the nuts and it is not till the nuts are totally tightened that the wheel is in the correct position. Before this happens it hangs down due to gravity. If you only tighten to the first resistance, then you will not have it tight and the wheel will wobble a little. In addition, the sort of accident we had can really only happen on the left side as on the right side, the force of the rotation of the wheel will tighten any loose nuts. On the left side, the centrifugal force will undo nuts that are not tight. On trucks, wheel studs on the left side are actually threading opposite so that nuts will tighten and not loosen. Why not cars?
It is hot! We walk up the road to the shop and manage to buy a paper. This is not something we can do each day as sometimes the papers are sold out (no idea how many they get but not many).
My thongs break and there is no way we can buy some here. Kelly lends me hers as she has some other sandals. They are a bit tight and I soon end up with blisters but it is better than wearing runners. We see that the swimming pool in the centre of the town is quite nice so after lunch we walk up and have a swim. Looks like everyone from town and nearby is here.
Day 3 - Tuesday 28 December 2004
Still in Jugiong. We walk around the town. We visit the various cemeteries, the churches the golf course (very rough).
There is absolutely nothing to do here. Well, at least we are relaxing.
Day 4 - Wednesday 29 December 2004
The mechanic tells me he has sourced some of the parts but still needs to find others.
We are starting to feel like locals. We drink with the same people each night before dinner. The bloke up the road with the limp, the bushie from out of town and more.
Day 5 - Thursday 30 December 2004
Last night at the bar, one of the locals felt sorry for us and promised to come and take us to the property he managed. This is further up the Murrumbidgee River. Right on 8 am he is here. We climb in the LandCruiser and head out of town. It is about 30 kilometres (from memory) to the property and it is quite nice up this part of the river.
We soon find out that the property is not that far from Burrinjuck Dam and that where I have been a couple of times at Wee Jasper is almost within sight.
It is a nice section of the river and we are given a quick tour of the property before taking us back to the homestead for morning tea. After morning tea he has to go off and do some work so he gives us a few fishing lines and some bait and we walk to a likely spot. This is a bit nicer than staying in Jugiong. We do not catch any fish or even get a bite so we go for a walk along the river. There are some caravans on the other side and a few tinnies. These would appear to be used by fishers.
The manager comes back and collects us and takes us back to the house. He has his (or was it his wife's?) family staying with him and we have a big lunch.
After lunch we do some more sightseeing before he takes us back to Jugiong.
What a great day after being stuck in Jugiong for the past four days. This was a very kind thing to do and was much appreciated. It is unfortunate that as I write this over two years later I do not recall his name.
Checking again on the car's progress we learn that it will be finished tomorrow. All the parts are now here, it is a matter of putting it all together.
For the next part of this saga, Click Here.