27 February - The trip to Araps.
Normally you expect to have a little fun on the way to your climbing destination, you know, the usual silly remarks that everyone laughs at, but it’s rarely anything that gives any serious cause for concern. Normally. After picking up the tents from Tom at his work, we (Quang and Adam) headed to Hawkers Corner for a last Kuay Teow before leaving for Arapiles. While enjoying our meal we discussed the option of driving to Araps via Naracoorte. Despite being unsure of the distance or even the exact way to go, we decided that it was worth a try as we had heard it was quicker, even though it was not much shorter. What the heck!
The first half of the trip was fine, loaded up with the essentials (Climbing gear and Coopers Dark Ale) there were no real hassles, we knew that the turnoff for Naracoorte was just before the Town of Keith, some 200km East of Adelaide. At this point I (Adam) took over the driving duties, and we set off for Naracoorte, which is about 200km from Keith. 100km into the Keith - Naracoorte leg I looked down at the fuel gauge which was indicating that we were almost empty. Not worrying too much, I casually asked Quang how far he could normally travel once the needle was at empty.
“I don’t know, I’ve never let it get down that low… why?” Came the answer.
“Because we are on empty.”
“How far to Naracoorte?”
“Ohhh, about 100km.”
“Hmmm, maybe I’d better slow down to 90.”
We drove in silence for a little while, and I watched as the needle moved inexorably down and away from the line that indicates fuel remaining, and did little sums in my head about how far we had gotten since I noticed the gauge and kept coming up with the same answer: “We’re either sleeping in the car, or jogging to Naracoorte for fuel.” I informed Quang.
“how far is it now?” He asked.
“About 40km, an 8 hour round trip - jogging.”
Quang gave me more good news: “I don’t have phone signal, so we can’t call the others.” He said, referring to Stewy, Tom and Megan who were about an hour and a half behind us.
“Great! And even if we do make it, I’m not sure that there will be a petrol station open at 11.00 o’clock at night in Naracoorte,” I added.
“At least we have the tents!” Quang grinned at me.
“Yeah, the others will be really happy if they get to Araps and there’s no tent for them. Heh heh!” I replied, at least finding some humour in the situation.
Five minutes later I noticed the headlights of what appeared to be a truck catching up to us; “I think that tanker we passed has caught up again. Let’s hope this works,” I said as the truck passed us. Speeding up to 110km/h to match the speed of the truck, I got the car to within 5 meters of the rear of the truck and sat in its draught, “Hopefully we can draught this truck well enough to get a tow into Naracoorte,” I said.
“let’s hope so, you know, now that I think about it, I normally refuel at Keith,” Quang informed me.
“Oh, and you didn’t think to mention that at Keith?” I asked a little perplexed by the admission.
“Well, I kind of forgot because we were worrying about finding the turnoff.”
“Fair enough. You know, this reminds me of that Seinfeld episode when Kramer takes a car for a test drive and decides to see how far he can go on one tank of fuel. Oh, and it’s only a four hour round trip to Naracoorte now, 20k’s.”
“Yeah, I don’t know if this is quite as funny though,” Quang agreed.
“No, not so funny now, but later on it will be,” I said while quietly thinking to myself that it would be a real pain the arse to have to sleep in the car somewhere and not be able to climb first thing in the morning.
More awkward silence.
“Where’s the fuel gauge now?” Quang asked after another 5 or six minutes. I could tell he really didn’t want to hear the answer:
“You don’t want to know.”
“MmmHm, below the “E” I don’t think it can go any lower, and we’re still 10k’s away.”
At that point we drove over a small depression in the road, and I noticed that the car seemed to splutter a little, but not wanting to tempt fate I said nothing to Quang while thinking: “Not far now, any minute we’re going to stop.”
After what seemed like an eternity, the truck-driver, whom by now had guessed that we were drafting him, slowed down to 80km/h, a sure sign that we were entering Naracoorte.
“Not far to walk now I told Quang, we might not lose too much time at all,” I said, feeling a little more positive.
“I can’t believe we got this close,” he agreed, giving me a hint that he too had felt the splutter earlier on.
“Oh my God! Is that a petrol station open there?” I asked incredulously.
“I think it is!” Came the excited reply.
“It bloody is!”
“Woooooooooohoooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” We both yelled in unison as the car coasted into the driveway of the petrol station. People were staring at us as if we were mad.
“I wonder how close we got to empty. What’s the capacity of the tank?” I asked.
Filling up the tank, we watched as the meter on the pump registered the amount of fuel going into our 40 litre tank: 37, 38, 39, 39.5, 39.8, 40, 41! Finally the pump clicked off automatically at 41.86 litres!
“Lucky we had that truck to draught.” I said as we both laughed crazily, partly at the absurdity of the situation, and part out of relief.
Giggling like idiots we went in and paid for the petrol. “Let’s not do that again,” Quang said.
“Will we have enough to get to Arapiles?” I asked nervously.
“Yes we should, it’s not as far from here as it was from Adelaide.” Quang laughed.