My memories: if it can go wrong, it will! - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Photo: Ross Farley.


This month Ross takes his storytelling a little further afield, recalling a very interesting trip to the desert!

I went to Alice Springs for work and stayed for a few days to see the sights. A friend lent us a 4WD to visit the Finke Gorge (about four hours west of Alice Springs). We parked at the end of the road, explored the gorge, and returned to the vehicle to head back to Alice Springs. When I put the keys in the ignition, the engine immobilizer malfunctioned: it locked us in, sounded the alarm, and would not start. It was late in the day, but one group was still in the gorge, and they took us to a ranger station. All attempts to start the engine failed (we were well out of mobile phone range).

A ranger gave us a lift to Hermannsburg Indigenous community, and from there we made our way back to Alice Springs late at night, dodging wild horses and other animals on the road.

I returned the next day with the owner of the 4WD who had been advised by a mechanic to try the spare key (in the middle of the desert, the immobilizer rejected the key which had always previously worked!). The immobilizer was now working but the starter engine failed. The cost to retrieve a vehicle from the gorge was $1,500 so in a very confined space, we clutch-started the 4WD and I drove it back to Alice Springs (over exceptionally large rocks and soft, sandy riverbeds) without stopping the engine.

On the way we stopped for a late lunch, and concerned that the engine might not start again, we left the keys in the ignition and the engine running with a group of local youths milling around while we went inside the café for lunch. Driving back to Alice Springs, a tyre blew out and we replaced it (even though it took two of us about 20 minutes to remove the tight wheel nuts), all with the engine running and the keys in the ignition.

Fortunately, an abundance of rocks helped stabilize the vehicle while the wheel was on the jack. The day had the obstacles of a TV reality show. It was stressful at the time but a great adventure to look back on. Finke Gorge is well worth a visit but not the place to break down. The 4WD manual said that if the immobilizer failed “phone the dealer”. That’s a great help out in the desert!

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