In hindsight last Saturday’s events seemed unavoidable… inevitable even? It was like the day was cursed. It was after all my 13th day on the road.
Saturday the 28th April 2012 was possibly the most enduring day of my life. I would happily drive across Australia solo, but I never ever want to venture down Balladonia Road again without another one or two four wheel drives joining me, two spare tyres and more daylight hours left to reach its end at Israelite Bay.
After spending the previous day along with that morning driving across the Nullarbor – a road so long and remote it contains 4 separate Royal Flying Doctor Service landing strips along its length – I stopped in Balladonia for lunch before venturing onto the Balladonia Track. I had hoped to get started on the track that morning, but I only made it as far as Cocklebiddy the night before – 2.5 hours east of Balladonia on the other end of Australia’s longest straight road. I had originally planned to spend the night in Balladonia, less than 1km from the tracks entrance, meaning I would have the entire Saturday to take my time making my way towards Israelite Bay. But even given my plan I didn’t expect what was to come.
For quite some time I had attempted to locate as much information on the Balladonia track as possible, but there really wasn’t anything. I searched 4×4 blogs and forums. Asked everyone I knew of who may know of it, but no luck. There was so much effort put in simply because this was really the only part of my trip I was concerned about. It was the only time I would venture along a track only accessible by 4WD in an area so remote.
If I sit here and break down the track into surface types etc there is nothing I haven’t come across in the past. Soft sand hills, mud, sharp rocks, and extreme corrugations. But when you add these together, stick it 100km from your closest person, in an area so remote a satellite phone has no signal, and minus the friend from my passenger seat and the 4WD I was used to having not far behind… than you have a completely different scenario. You have a guy desperate to get to the end, but crawling so slow in the hope he won’t pop a tyre leaving no spare. You have a track which is over 150km long, but a track which took me over 3 hours to travel just 60km.
I didn’t reach Israelite Bay until after night fall. At that point I had been driving non-stop for over 6 hours. Picture driving from Sydney to Newcastle solo along surfaces that test 35 inch mud terrain tyres connected to one of the world best touring 4WD. Along a track who’s entrance is full of warning signs that make you wonder what the hell are you about to get yourself into. Where your average speed is around 20- 30km/hour. And by the time you reach the end your closest person is 160km back along that same road or 180km along an equally tough road. Plus you have no means of contacting that person or any other for that matter. If something happens even something simple like getting two flat tyres its a case of sitting around for days until someone wonders where you are and sends another to search for you.
I have never been so terrified in my life. I am the guy that white water kayaks every weekend with no concern. The type that is happy to jump off a bridge connect to a bungee rope or sit in complete darkness alone in the hope a “scary” movie may actually scare me. I have never felt anxiety like I did when on that track. By the time I reached Israelite Bay where I was meant to set up camp for the night I decided to skip it and make my way to Esperance, which was another 180km away. As much as I wanted and needed to rest I knew I would have to endure the same anxiety the next day, so I simply wanted it over and done with. I wanted to see Israelite Bay in daylight, but not that much! After leaving Balladonia at around 12:30pm I made it into Esperance at 10:30pm that night. Over 9.5 hours of driving!
Big Foot my troop carrier is a trooper itself. What a great great car. I wouldn’t have made it out without help if it wasn’t for my BFG 315xR75/16 Mud Terrain tyres and my 50mm Tough Dog lift kit installed by Wholesale Suspension in Penrith, NSW. I am so grateful for their kind support.
I did film some of the trip with my GoPro mounted to my windscreen so as soon as I get some time to go through all the movies I will post it. I only have a few photographs. Like I said I just wanted it to be over so the urge to stop and take photos was not on my mind. Sorry!!