So, we find ourselves stuck in Mataranka, of all places to be stuck, working out a plan to get the car fixed. The details of the next week unfolded in an extremely interesting manner.
Firstly, let me say that we are compelled to thank many people who responded to our call for assistance, some prayed and others sent funds to pay for a replacement gearbox. Your support is greatly appreciated!!!!
The only person we know in this area is Mitch. He arrived in Maningrida towards the end of the project to supervise the painting job. Mitch works as a patrol officer and preacher with Frontier Services, a Uniting Church organisation. We called him on Saturday to see if he could help us, or recommend a mechanic in Katherine (about 1hr drive North from Mataranka). The church in Mataranka only has one service every month, and Mitch shares this responsibility with three other churches. What are the odds of Mitch happening to do the service in Mataranka the very next day? Unbelievable!
At the Sunday service, Mitch introduced us to Jim Sullivan, a local property owner. Jim invited us to move onto his property, once our time at Mataranka Homestead had expired. Mitch also recommended a mechanic in Katherine, and offered us a loan car for the week, so we could get around if we needed to. Awesome!
On Monday morning, Daniel drove the car to Katherine, where the first mechanic was unwilling to take on the job, but referred us to Katherine East Autos, just outside of the town. Darren listened to the story about the car being stuck in 5th gear, and said “I’ll bet you’ve been towing your trailer in 5th. I did more than 20 gearbox replacements last year with the same problem.”
Why do I always seem to get great advice AFTER I have a problem? They say experience is the best teacher, but I disagree. I think someone else’s experience can also be a great teacher.
So Darren (the mechanic) managed to find a reconditioned gearbox in the local area, that would be ready by Thursday morning. He would fit everything and we would have the car back this week. This is a picture of the old gearbox and transfer case, after it was removed.
Back at the campsite, we needed to pack everything up and move camp to Jim’s property, located next door to the Mataranka Homestead, so its a move of just over 1km. BUT the car is in Katherine. No problem, Jim loaned us a car, we attach our towball to it, and hey presto, move accomplished! Once we get to the property, we are introduced to Sally and Rohan, Jim’s son and daughter-in-law. Sally says “You could stay in the single mens’ quarters, we are not expecting any guests, and it’s empty.” The single mens’ quarters is basically a four bedroom house with bathroom, kitchen, laundry, everything we need. So now we don’t even have to set up the tent. Totally cool!
The kids have room to ride their bikes around without worrying about traffic. The Waterhouse river runs through the property about 4km away from the quarters, so we drove there a few times for a swim. Jim even took the children out to feed the cattle one day! There were chooks and poddy calves to feed as well. What an excellent experience! that we would never have had if our car hadn’t broken down.
In the meantime, Daniel is chasing two new tyres for the car also. We bought 2 Bridgestone tyres in Echuca, which we have been very happy with, and wanted to get two more. Upon inquiring at the local store, we were told they would be $70 more than last time, each. Ouch! So Daniel sent an email off to Bridgestone expressing how he thought he was being ripped off as a tourist etc..etc.. To their credit Bridgestone Australia responded within 2 hours! “The tyres were within their pricing policy and we had done an extremely good deal in Echuca. Well done, but the price stands”.
Later in the week, when Bridgestone actually did the job for us, they charged us the same price as the Echuca store did in May. I was told “they were on special.” Thanks Bridgestone, another great deal done!
So the car has received a new gearbox and transfer case (The 4WD bit, for the uneducated) and a new clutch plate. Here is a picture of the old one, just to freak out the mechanics who can see the extent of the wear on it. We have driven from Tasmania, through Victoria, South Australia and most of the NT on this clutch plate. It was about 4mm thick!
And even though it means nothing to most people, here is a piccy of the new gearbox in place. Darren also checked the two diff’s for water ingress, as we have done a lot of river crossings, and gave both a clean bill of health. He also advised us on shock absorbers and brakes, all of which are in good order. He was extremely helpful, friendly and worked on Friday night and Saturday to get the car ready for us. Incredible!
God has had a very large helping hand on us this week, and all the details have worked out in ways that we could never imagine. We have seen our prayers answered for financial support, provision of an honourable mechanic, provision of excellent accommodation, even a little paid work for Daniel whilst here. It is humbling to know that God is interested in the details of our lives, as long as we keep communicating with Him, and being faithful to His will.
So now, its back on the road tomorrow, heading for Townsville across the Gulf track!