Cunnamulla, Yowah and breaking down in the outback.
After our beautiful station stay we stopped over in Cunnamulla to get a few supplies and see the museum and Cunnamulla Fella statue. Most embarrassingly for my boys I played the Cunnamulla Fella song for them while we were at the statue (thank you Spotify!), let’s just say they didn’t appreciate me dancing to it in front of the statue. The museum was good but I’d be happy not to do it again, there’s not a lot of interactive stuff for kids but there is a lot of old things to look at including an old telegraph switchboard among many other things. After the muesum we went to get some food supplies, the local supermarket was a little disappointing as the day we were there they had no meat, no bread, a very small choice of veggies, and not much fruit. Luckily we found a butcher that was open that we were able to top up some meat supplies, Cunnamulla is a pretty small place and it made me very grateful for the choices we get back home. We decided not to stay in Cunnamulla but continue on through Eulo to Yowah, the home of the Boulder Opal.
Yowah was Joel’s request, the rest of us would have been happy to miss it but he really had opal fever and was determined to try his hand at fossicking for these types of opal after his fun in Lightning Ridge. There’s 2 places you can stay in Yowah, the free camp or the caravan park. We decided to go to the caravan park so we had access to water. And as it turns out the caravan park has a washing machine that is free, best $25 a night I’ve ever spent! You will only understand how exciting this is if you’ve ever lived in a van full time with kids. Most caravan parks charge $4 per load and our little washing machine can only fit very small loads, which means no sheets, no towels and no jumpers. So this was the highlight of my visit to Yowah, clean sheets on all 3 beds, clean towels and clean clothes, it was like winning lottery, everything got washed! No but seriously Yowah is tiny, there is not much there in the way of services except a pub that opens one day a week and the small general store that is part of the caravan park, it is actually quite well stocked and the owners are truly lovely! There is hot pools and a beautiful lookout and a fossicking area and that managed to be enough to keep us busy enough for a 3 night stay. The oldies in the park were so amazingly friendly, and we managed to meet some the first afternoon at the damper and billy tea get together. We were even able to buy a jar of raw honey from one of them that has a market stall, it was pretty convenient given we had actually run out of honey that morning! The boys also got a man to rub back a couple of their Boulder Opal they found, he was in the park doing his own and happy to show Joel and the kids how it all worked. All in all a worthwhile stop, if you’re not rushing through.
After our Yowah stay we set off headed for Charleville and planned to stop in at Quilpie for a lunch and a leg stretch which we did. About 45kms out of Quilpie a light came on in the dash of the BT-50, more often then not lights coming on in the dash while driving mean trouble so we pulled over and pulled the manual out to see what this one meant as it was one we had never seen before. Now I’m lucky enough to have both a dad and a brother that are mechanics and they’re so amazing to be able to ring and ask if there’s ever anything wrong with your car, so after determining that we had no idea what a ‘powertrain warning lamp’ was we called them. Obviously they told us to check this and that including oil, water and hoses. After determining the things they thought it could be we decided we’d risk trying to keep going as we figured whatever it was it would be easier to get fixed in the bigger town centre of Charleville. All went well for a few minutes and the light had even gone out after we had stopped for a short time. Until it came back on along with the engine light. Now I don’t claim to know anything about cars whatsoever but I do know the engine light coming on is never a good sign! We pulled over again, and after another couple of phone calls determined what they thought it to be and again decided to try to get to Charleville, we were kinda too far gone to turn around and get back to Quilpie but still 150kms to Charleville. Again all went well for a minute or two,until the car started losing power. Crawling along in limp mode doing 60kms per hour and still having 150kms to go to get to Charleville wasn’t ideal. So that was it, we knew then and there it was a call for help job and found somewhere to get right off the road. Thing number one I’m grateful for is there was a flat, safe place to get completely off the road.
Only problem was, the limited service we had minutes earlier was now non existent! Before we had left we had installed a cel-fi system to our van which is essentially a service booster for your phone. We had actually done this for 2 reasons, 1 the kids needed access to internet for their schooling and 2 we needed access to it for our work, so Joel being pretty handy had installed it hoping that we could still go bush and still have access to internet so we could all still do our thing. The second thing I am grateful for is having access to this! As soon as we turned it on we got service on our phones so we were able to call RACQ. Without it, I think it would’ve been a very long walk!!
After determining where we were with RACQ and being put through to Quilpie we realised help was probably quite a while off as they were already on another job way out the opposite way to where we were and wouldn’t be back until at least 8pm that night. To be honest I think we’re lucky Quilpie even had a tow truck as it’s not the hugest place! We told them we were fine to stay the night, we were well off the road, we had food and water and we were safe. By this time it was 4.00pm anyway so we found some sticks to light a bonfire, organised dinner and sat down to enjoy the sunset.
This entire time we were thinking whatever was wrong with the car was not going to be an easy fix. Joel who never really lets anything bother him didn’t seem too fazed and I was just thinking it would be what it would be and we’d just work it out as we went. To be fair though, deep down I had a million things running through my head, most of which were: seriously!!! What else could we have happen? fires, floods, funerals and covid. Maybe the universe is trying to tell us to just go home!
We ended up having a lovely night, we ate dinner around the campfire and spent the night watching the beautiful stars! Archie and Ashton ran around making survival videos. Ashton’s end of episode line was “I’m Ashton Webb and this is extreme survivalist!” I think the funniest part was when Archie was filming an episode on how to use fire to make a torch so you can see in the dark and next minute Joel yells out in the background ‘Hey Cath, do you want the lights on?” Before switching on the very bright outside lights on the caravan and lighting up Archie’s whole scene in his video. Mostly though the movies they made are quite clever, and I’ve honestly never laughed so hard in my life at some of the things they do! Maybe I should put them on YouTube or something?!
Anyway at 7.30am the next morning, true to his word the RACQ guy showed up in his tow truck with a small car on it so we were able to get back to town too. It turned out Joel and my dad and brother had worked out what was wrong and it was only a hose, thank goodness but the problem was that even if we could’ve fixed it the lights on the dash needed to be reset so that the motor would run properly. So we decided to get it towed back to Quilpie, it was a Friday and luckily the mechanic there was able to get us the part we needed from Charleville by lunchtime so after spending the day just wondering around Quilpie and filling in the time. By about 2.30 that afternoon and $180 later we were back on the road, and we headed off to Charleville. Crisis averted!
All in all it all worked out pretty well! What we originally thought was wrong would’ve been about an $8000 fix so when it turned out to be a hose and cost only $180 and took less then a day we were all pretty happy! We had a beautiful, slow night under the stars and half a day exploring Quilpie and another story to add to the adventure. I think that’s a win!