Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sandfire Roadhouse

Armed with one hugely costly spare tyre, I headed north. The next leg was a wee bit daunting: 560 km of dirt road with nothing at all along it, according to my new map. I was a bit anxious about the tyres, but felt I had to press on. It was hot and getting hotter. About half way along this barren stretch, one of the front tyres exploded. It's tricky to deal with this on dirt at 200 km/h and the wheel itself and parts of the brake were junk by the time I stopped.

It was the middle of the day. The road was so hot, it hurt to kneel down to undo the wheel nuts. Eventually, I got the front right corner of the car jacked up enough to remove the wheel. By then I was exhausted and mildly panicky. I threw a towel under the car and slid underneath to get some shade. The heat from the road below and the hot exhaust above was grim, but the shade still seemed better than being out in the sun. I might have been slightly irrational at this point.

Half an hour later, a truck going south stopped to see if I was dead. When the driver understood what I was doing, he said, "Come on, let's get your spare on the car and then you can stop about five miles back there for cool shade and cold drinks and people to chat with."

I found that hard to believe, but he was insistent that there was a new place for travellers to rest at. He did most of the work getting the wheel on and the tools packed away and headed off on his way south, and I drove gingerly north. And it was true, there was a place to stop. My memory says it was called Sandfire Lodge, but either my memory is wrong or they changed its name later. There is a place called Sandfire Roadhouse marked on current maps of Australia in the right place, so it's still there.

I was one of their first customers and they asked me to sign their visitors' book and their petition to be granted an alcohol licence, which I cheerfully did. I doubt if they still have those records from 1970 and my name has been changed many times since then, so tracking that down would be tricky now.

They had a spinifex shelter with water running down the walls to cool the wind blowing through. It was better than heaven for me that day. And they had cold soft drinks on ice which made the whole experience seem magical. A lot of my angst over the Dunlop Tyre Service at my previous stop evaporated at Sandfire Whatever. Although I was still aware that I once again had no spare tyres and a long way to go before stumbling on civilisation again, so I took things easy when I finished my rest with the kind people in the middle of nowhere.

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