Dust devils

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

Matt Wood tack­les the Simp­son in a cou­ple of Iveco trucks

Against an early morn­ing back­drop of glow­ing out­back rock es­carp­ments I rolled out of my swag to con­tem­plate the com­ing day … and to have a wee.

The cries and squawks of birdlife wafted through the trees over­head as our party stirred and shuf­fled bleary eyed into the rapidly grow­ing light.

The early ex­plor­ers faced in­nu­mer­able hard­ships and chal­lenges as they tra­versed this harsh wilder­ness. In those early days Cen­tral Aus­tralia was no place for the faint hearted.

I, how­ever, wasn’t go­ing to be rough­ing it too much re­ally. Our party con­sisted of an anaes­thetist, an ENT spe­cial­ist, an ex-moto GP star and sports com­men­ta­tor, the owner of an ARB store, two ex-RAF chop­per pi­lots cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the globe by mo­tor­cy­cle, a fixit-all truck driver, a dirt bike-mad Iveco en­gi­neer and me … who was told there would be beer.

Which kinda sounds like a very long-winded segue into a bleary-eyed pub joke.

But, in­stead of camels and horses we had trucks and mo­tor­cy­cles. The bikes were a fleet of Honda CRF450s, the trucks an Iveco ML150 Euro­cargo 4x4 and an Iveco Daily 4x4.

As you may have guessed al­ready, the Euro­cargo be­longs to ex-moto GP star Daryl Beattie. This truck is the core of his ad­ven­ture mo­tor­cy­cle tour busi­ness where he guides cus­tomers along some of this coun­try’s most iconic out­back trails. Cape York, The Simp­son Desert and the Can­ning Stock Route all fea­ture as po­ten­tial itin­er­ar­ies for those that want a sup­ported dirt bike blast with Daryl Beattie Ad­ven­tures.

CUS­TOM OFF-ROADER

This Euro­cargo has been ex­ten­sively cus­tomised and fea­tures a Unidan body. This houses stor­age

for camp gear and lug­gage, a mo­bile kitchen, work­shop and ex­ter­nal shower. Un­der­neath the body there’s 1000 litres of wa­ter, 400 litres of shower wa­ter, 600 litres of diesel (aside from the stan­dard tanks on the truck) and 500 litres of un­leaded for the bikes. On the way to and from tours the truck also tows a trailer to trans­port the bikes, in­clud­ing Daryl’s per­sonal set of wheels, an Africa twin.

Power comes from a six-cylin­der, 5.9-litre Iveco Tec­tor en­gine which makes 280hp at 2,700rpm and 950Nm of torque at be­tween 1,250rpm and 2,100rpm. Gear chang­ing is via a six-speed man­ual tranny.

The big camo beast is con­stant four-wheel drive with a two-speed trans­fer case. The front, rear and cen­tre dif­fer­en­tials are all lock­able.

This par­tic­u­lar truck has had a cou­ple of af­ter­mar­ket mods to help it in the rough stuff. Firstly, the Iveco has been fit­ted with an AIR-CTI cen­tral tyre in­fla­tion sys­tem, sec­ondly a set of ex­tremely beefy ad­justable King shocks have also been in­stalled un­der­neath. Sans trailer, this truck grosses about 13,500kg when loaded for the bush.

Also along for the ride was an Iveco Daily 4x4 which came cour­tesy of Iveco head of­fice for some photo ops.

Our start­ing point was Oo­raminna Sta­tion about 35 kilo­me­tres south of Alice Springs. The sta­tion build­ings and the rem­nants of an old film set lie in a nat­u­ral rock am­phithe­atre that lights up in the morn­ing and evening sun.

It also turns out that there are also a cou­ple of bars of 3G phone re­cep­tion from the top of a nearby hill. In ret­ro­spect was kind of amus­ing to see the sil­hou­et­ted fig­ures of phone tap­ping in­di­vid­u­als with faces aglow send­ing last mes­sages to the out­side world be­fore ven­tur­ing into the desert and look­ing very much like a troupe of tech savvy meerkats.

I was able to play out my child­hood Dakar fan­tasies

Our route was to take us to Mt Dare via Binns Track and Old An­dado home­stead and across the 1,100 or so sand dunes of the Simp­son Desert to Birdsville.

A dis­tance of over 1,000 kilo­me­tres. The bikes would be fang­ing it. In the big Eur­cargo though, we’d be slog­ging it.

Scott (Scooter) McLean usu­ally steers the big jig­ger on th­ese trips how­ever I scored first stint be­hind the wheel of the ML150 as we rolled out of the sta­tion via some bush tracks heading to­wards Santa Theresa.

LOW-RANGE ROLLIN’

I used low range for a bit un­til we got to the main (dirt) road to join up with Binns Track. The ML felt very much at ease on th­ese roads. The truck is a vi­tal part of the trip mainly be­cause it has all the camping gear, food, wa­ter and fuel on board, so I had to keep pedal to the me­tal. Clearly the bikes are faster but they rely on the truck get­ting there in rea­son­able time.

So I was able to play out my child­hood Dakar fan­tasies in the Euro­cargo. With a mas­sive plume of bull­dust stream­ing from the mil­i­tary spec Miche­lin tyres, I kept the go-pedal nailed while keep­ing my eyes peeled for ob­sta­cles that would have both Scooter and I bounc­ing off the roof.

In fact, while the bull­dust holes were a chal­lenge for the bikes and their rid­ers the big Iveco just ploughed through them with ease. I even man­aged a lit­tle amuse­ment at the bike tyre tracks in the dirt. Here and there you could see the out­line of a body and foot­prints in the dust where a rider had been bucked off in the pow­der fine dirt.

UN­DER PRES­SURE

With tyre pres­sures dropped to 52psi at the front and 67psi at the rear, the stretch from Old An­dado and its pre­served home­stead to Mount Dare proved to be a high­light as we wound through the trees at speed. It was hard driv­ing yet with spec­tac­u­lar scenery.

We rolled into the Mount Dare 400 kilo­me­tres later to set up camp at what would be our last con­tact with civil­i­sa­tion for three days.

From here on in the truck would be much slower than the rest of the party.

The rock and rub­ble strewn land­scape sprawled out be­fore us as we took things at a much stead­ier pace.

We’d left well be­fore the bikes but I had to keep my eyes peeled on the mir­rors and rear­fac­ing cam­era for them as they caught up and at­tempted to over­take.

Once past the oa­sis of Dal­housie Springs and into the desert proper tyre pres­sures were again dropped to 40psi on the front and 62psi on the rear. As we fol­lowed the French Line we started the slow work of sand dune climb­ing and even slower de­scents.

BUSY TRACK

It was still pretty early in the sea­son, how­ever there was still reg­u­lar traf­fic along this route.

The east­ern face of the dunes were al­ready be­com­ing quite carved up as a re­sult of un­locked driv­e­trains spin­ning up the sand. The re­sult is a rut­ted off-set sand stair­case which makes a truck with a high cen­tre of grav­ity like the Euro­cargo rock and buck wildly if a slow and steady ap­proach isn’t adopted.

Af­ter hours of slog­ging up and down the dunes in low range it was al­most a relief to turn south onto the Rig Road and run high range be­tween the par­al­lel dunes.

We rolled to a halt to get a bit more stiff­ness in the ad­justable shock only to find that the hard desert driv­ing had taken its toll. A bot­tom mount­ing nut and spacer had dis­ap­peared.

Thank­fully the shocker was still sit­ting on its mount­ing oth­er­wise there may have been a lit­tle more swear­ing and bush en­gi­neer­ing to re­mount it.

Scooter rum­maged around in his bag of tricks and found a cou­ple of nuts and a spacer. The spacer how­ever was too long to al­low any pur­chase for the nut so we had to cut it down to suit. Be­fore long we had a nut, spacer and lock nut in­stalled and were mo­bile again.

With the sun low in the sky we rolled into camp just off the Rig Road to be greeted by a bunch of

Above: Break­ing camp at Oo­raminna Sta­tion be­fore strik­ing east

Above: Fuel stop at the Old An­dado Sta­tion turn-off

1. 2. The lit­tle Iveco Daily 4x4

Diff locks front, rear and cen­tre, as well as cen­tral tyre in­fla­tion, help the big jig­ger in the rough stuff

Binns Track is a rel­a­tively high-speed run, but you have to con­stantly keep your eyes peeled

The Euro­cargo also acted as a mo­bile work­shop when run­ning re­pairs were called for

The Air CTI sys­tem was in­valu­able in the bush; you can in­flate or de­flate at the push of a but­ton. The spinifex does give the air­lines a bat­ter­ing, though

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