This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels April 17


John had bowls yesterday, so today it was my turn to decide the agenda.

We set out to drive the Bridle Track, which extends from north of Bathurst, to the old gold mining township of Hill End, some 55kms from Bathurst. This was a well known 4WD track.

Initially the road passed through farmland, until it reached the Macquarie River. The track then hugged this and its tributary Turon River, all the way to Hill End. But we did not get that far.

Once we reached the Macquarie River, the country became more rugged and there were increasing signs of the mining past of the region. It was, of course, in the Bathurst area that gold was officially discovered in 1851; the Hill End gold rush dated from that year.

The track became unsealed and quite narrow, clinging to the hillsides, with no guard rails. I was not sure this had been a great idea of mine, as the drops were on my side!

At the commencement of the Track, proper, where there were a number of warning signs about what was ahead, we encountered a 4WD, towing an offroad Bushtracker caravan – this despite all the warning signs that the road was not suitable for caravans. I was just glad we’d met him at this point, and not further along where the track was less wide, and someone would probably have had to back up. No prizes for guessing who that would have been.

We had a look around at the Turon River, where there was a ford and the first set of campgrounds – very pleasant area. Continued on to the next set of campgrounds, where John found we had no brakes! These came back after some pumping, but made a nasty grinding noise when he tried to use them.

This was far from an ideal track to be driving with no brakes! It was obvious that the smart move was to go back the way we’d come. We were closer to Hill End than Bathurst, but thought the remaining part of the Bridle Track could get really nasty, whereas the way back was not too bad. Also, we would obviously need a Land Rover mechanic, which there would not be in Hill End.

Once we got back into mobile phone range – a considerable distance back – rang Land Rover Assist, and they arranged for us to take Truck to the Bathurst dealer. Luckily there was one in Bathurst.

The grinding noise was quite bad by the time we got back to town. We were relieved to have managed to get all the way back under our own auspices.

We went for a walk while they assessed Truck.

Came across the local Art Gallery and found it was featuring Merrick Fry’s orchard series. Not really “my” sort of work. I had hoped to view their Lloyd Rees collection, whilst in town, but they only had five of his monotypes on display – disappointing. Lloyd Rees was an Australian artist whose works I’d long liked, and who my brother had known.

Back at the Service Centre, the news on Truck was not good. It seemed that the service centre in Melbourne had not correctly put back the pins that held the right rear brake together, and it had fallen apart and done damage. The repairs were going to cost about $1200! They could not be done until next Tuesday or Wednesday, as parts had to be ordered in, and Easter was looming. We had no choice but to tell them to go ahead.

This was unbelievable incompetence on the part of our Land Rover service centre. On top of the clutch issue we’d had fixed in Canberra. John was steaming. There would be some very heated phone calls to Melbourne!

Land Rover Assist arranged for an Avis hire car for us. A man from the dealership drove us out to the airport to collect it. The car was a V6 Commodore. All computerized – the operating manual was huge! John did not find it an easy car to learn to drive. There was a considerable excess payable by us, on the insurance, should we damage it, so I didn’t think we would be using it much.

We went to the Bathurst Library, where I was able to borrow heaps of novels to read, after telling them our sad saga. Lovely of them and I was happy about that.

We booked five more nights at the caravan park. Had been booked only until tomorrow morning, and had planned to spend Easter heading slowly north west. Were lucky they even had a space available and could juggle things around so we could stay on our site. The five nights over Easter went up to $22.50 a night, after discount.

We were feeling extremely annoyed. This break down was due to sheer carelessness on the part of an official dealer, and was most unfair to us as customers. The vehicle had been taken to them with instructions for a thorough check over and service, because we were going remote – and they then forgot to put back a vital part! It was just lucky that this malfunction did not happen at speed, with the van on the back – or in a busy metropolitan area.

The Land Rover man had told us that there might not be any more Defenders imported after this year, as there are issues about them meeting Australian design rules standards. Something to do with needing to have air bags. We would need to keep an eye on that – and if we were going to buy a new one, as we’d discussed doing – do so while we still could.