Surviving the Gibb River Road (famous for blowing tyres and breaking axles) at the very beginning of our trip was a massive achievement. We drove 1,500kms off-road through some of the most corrugated tracks we’ve seen yet and tackled a plentitude of water crossings ranging from trickles to the famous Pentecost River – a good 90 metres wide and full of salt water crocodiles.
Along the way we saw many broken down and abandoned vehicles (including another Mistubishi Delica). As we passed each one we hoped and prayed that we’d be able to make it through in one piece.
Thanks to the dry weather and Alex’s cautious driving we came out at at the Eastern end of the Gibb River Road in perfect condition. What a relief!!! We all thanked the heavens for our luck and on towards Purnululu National Park.
The relief didn’t last long. Only 400kms down the road a loud noise started coming from the right, front wheel. Our stomachs sank.
We stopped on the side of the road, took off the front wheel and 15 minutes later confirmed that our right wheel bearing was gone. Some water inside the bearing was the only clue as to why it broke (thanks Pentecost crossing).
Luckily for us, Alex had brought a spare bearing as part of our ‘Vanda repair kit’. Actually changing the bearing shouldn’t be a problem either – Alex had already done this once and it wasn’t a big job. But unfortunately for us we didn’t foresee that we’d need the most utterly specific of tools to unscrew one bolt in order to finish the job.
Another piece of bad luck left us unable to buy the tool as it was ironically Western Australia day (we’d planned to leave WA that very same day) and all the shops were close. Even the RAC man wasn’t picking up his phone.. we were really all on our own this time.
Thankfully, many enquiries and a few hours later we met a fastidious traveller who miraculously had a T15 star shaped screw driver in his mint-condition tool kit!
So we got to work right there and then on the side of the road and under a 40 degree hot sun (the only shade we had was what the car made). Lots of dirt, sweat, a few swear words and two hours later and Vanda was fixed! The wheel bearing was shiny-new and ready for another few thousand kilometres of driving.
After filling up the fuel tank in Kununurra, we even found free hot showers and were able to clean up and refresh ready for the road again.
Two hours later we even made it to the border of Western Australia and entered into the Northern Territory like we had originally planned.
Often overland travelling can throw you curve balls, but if you’re patient and prepared (and know your car well) you can get out of any situation (especially when you meet other travellers who are willing to help out).