I was dead to the world as the sun rose over the Bathurst dustbowl. By 10am I’d managed to catch enough sleep to unzip my swag and emerge into the hot breeze. My head was throbbing and there was a lump in my stomach, but I put it down to the physical battering of the past two and a half days. Clemo was passed out, sick, on his bedroll; food poisoning the likely culprit. I was ready for a lay day, even if we were in a crap spot for camping. I needed one.
Smithy broke the news that we didn’t have enough water to stay another day; if we didn’t get moving, and something else went wrong, we risked running out. Fortunately, Riley, Smithy and Lily took the lead getting the Patrol fixed and packing up, while Wouter cooked up some damper and helped as well. I was moving as if in a daze, with a rising tide of nausea threatening my ability to function helpfully. I held it together enough to do a few basic tasks while the cars were packed, then curled up in the back of the Patrol as we started along the bouncy track out of our personal Cape Tribulation.
I was thrown violently out of my stupor as the car dropped into a huge hole. Smithy leaped out, barking a string of curses before he could get back in control. I went and sat down, head between my knees, as the boys used our shiny new hand winch to retrieve the Patrol. An hour later, we were back on the road. The car was, mercifully, functional, though the steering arm was so bent that Smithy was driving with an upside-down steering wheel.
It was getting later in the afternoon, and a cool, humid breeze was blowing as we bumped slowly out of Bathurst. I felt a little better, but Riley was starting to suffer (as you can see above). We had to pull over for him a couple of times and it was dark before we reached Kalpowar Crossing, our halfway point to Musgrave Roadhouse. Every bump brought my nausea closer to tipping point, and the warm, gritty water in my bottle barely stayed down.
As we crossed yet another bumpy grass plain, Smithy stopped to check on the steering arm. I couldn’t stand it anymore, and ran off into the long, dry grass. I felt a bit better having cleared my stomach, but within minutes the nausea had returned. I developed a craving for a lemon powerade: cold, tangy and refreshing. I was watching the clock like a time bomb, as Musgrave closed at 10pm. I’d fallen into a haze, with the clock reading 9:37pm when Smithy abruptly stopped the engine. We’d arrived.
I grabbed my wallet and staggered inside. I was still muddy, red-eyed, pale and tired. I lurched to the fridge and grabbed a powerade from the top shelf. I had it open before I got to the counter, the first sip like cool, refreshing gold (not knowing I’d get double value out of it by tasting it all over again later). The bloke behind the till sized me up suspiciously as I fumbled $20 out of my wallet.
“You look like shit, mate.”
I clutched the powerade, sighed, and raised my head.
“Mate… you don’t know the half of it.”
Behold: The morale-o-coaster graph of the 90-hour saga! Click to view large; key turning points are marked where they fell!
Want to go back to where it all started? Part 1 is here.