FOOT­LOOSE

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - RON MOON

YOU’LL have to ex­cuse me while I in­dulge my­self a lit­tle. Fifty years ago this month, my mate and I headed off across the Nullar­bor in the first ve­hi­cle I ever owned: an FJ Holden. Back then, the high­way – the term was used loosely – was dirt from Ce­duna in SA to Norse­man in WA. It was 1200km of bulldust, cor­ru­ga­tions and pot­holes you could lose a truck tyre in. The wide road dodged this way and that to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the worst sec­tions but, as there was no in­di­ca­tion as to which was the bet­ter route to take, you were in the lap of the gods on the best way to go – when we got to Norse­man, we crawled out of the car and kissed the bi­tu­men.

Back then, we didn’t know any­thing. We just grabbed our div­ing gear – we were into spearfish­ing and were heading to WA for the Aus­tralian Skin­div­ing Cham­pi­onships – an old sleep­ing bag to throw down on the ground, and some tinned tucker, tea, milk and sugar to sus­tain us. We lived roughly and cheaply, and for fresh food we ei­ther shot rab­bits when we were in the bush or speared fish when we were on the coast. Maybe that was when I got sick of eat­ing fish. Be­fore the so­journ across the Nullar­bor, I re­mem­ber one trip when we were camped at Wanna, south of Port Lin­coln, and one of us had to get up each morn­ing, climb down the cliff and go and shoot a fish for break­fast.

But back to the Nullar­bor trip. Even ba­sic re­quire­ments like tak­ing a sec­ond spare tyre wasn’t in our plans, while the tool re­pair kit con­sisted of what came with the car in the first place (which wasn’t much). We didn’t bother with any spare parts as we couldn’t af­ford them; plus, we didn’t have any tools to fit them if any were re­quired. We didn’t have a re­cov­ery kit (was there such a thing then?), and we had an esky but no ice to put in it.

Still, the trip was pretty un­event­ful. We busted a uni joint while plough­ing through deep sand some­where on the south-west coast of WA while look­ing for a spear­ing spot. We walked and hitch­hiked back to the cham­pi­onship venue and cadged a ve­hi­cle off some­one to go and re­cover our FJ. Then on the way home we had a punc­ture about 20km west of Eu­cla. I can re­mem­ber ar­gu­ing with the then owner/man­ager of the servo about the cost of a tube, which was some­thing like five to seven times as much as you’d pay in Ade­laide; he sim­ply told me to “take it or leave it”.

Af­ter that pur­chase we were broke, so we sat down un­der the shade of a tree near the servo and boiled the billy un­til some­one we knew from the spearfish­ing ti­tles came along. We bludged enough money off them to get to Port Au­gusta, where I had some fam­ily friends who sup­plied us with enough cash to con­tinue our journey.

It took a cou­ple more ve­hi­cles (an­other Holden and an old Pon­tiac) and a few more cross­ings of the Nullar­bor be­fore we got our first 4WD – a 1956 Willys Jeep Wagoneer. This was fairly quickly fol­lowed by a Series 3 Land Rover, where we again thun­dered across the Nullar­bor in 1978, this time with a boat be­hind. That three-month jaunt was spent mainly in the Kim­ber­ley and, while that trip sold us on 4WDS, the seeds of travel and ad­ven­ture had been sown much ear­lier. We’re hop­ing the seeds of travel and ad­ven­ture have been sown with you.

Main: The ol’ Landie in a very wet Pil­bara, in 1978. Inset: Moonie with a few fish from those early spear­ing days.

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