The longest day of the rally today with a massive 716k taking us around the bottom of the Flinders Ranges and across the border to Broken Hill. The day started with a tyre that needed pumping up a little before we got to the start. We took off on the first stage of the day, a Class 2 of 96k with a warning to be on the lookout for lots of wildlife and wandering livestock! After a short transport we started the next stage of 90k, a class 1 with a similar warning about the livestock and even the potential for a school bus! Stage 3 – a Class 2 of 123k had no such warning, but by the end of this stage we had already encountered 13 gates for the day. Now some of these gates may be open but most are closed. The rule is if there is a pink ribbon attached to it, you must close it after you. So navigators hate gates as they are in and out of the Kar (this year usually encompassed by clouds of red dust) and have to juggle this activity with managing the road book, the Terratrip, their seat belt etc etc…but there was worse to come.
After a refuel and lunch stop at the Caltex truck stop in Yunta, we started the final stage for the day – 194k of what proved to be a very challenging Class 1. With no less than 24 gates in this section alone, the timing was always going to be crucial. We found ourselves behind our favourite nuns in Kar 1308, who this year had a passenger with them – Hippy. Hippy proved his worth throughout the afternoon with his incredible gate opening skills and we were finding ourselves in a convoy of about 8 Kars very close together at each gate. While Hippy opened, the last Kar had to close. We kept our position until the last 30k or so and, realising we were a little behind the expected time, we overtook the nuns and proceeded very quickly through the last part of the stage. I have to admit at times my head went very close to the ceiling of the Kar as we hit some nasty gutters along the way and of course the dust didn’t help! But we made up our lost time, finished the stage and started the 75k transport to Broken Hill.
We drove through a lot of private property today. We always need to be respectful of the fact that these property owners allow us to use their roads as part of our rally and we saw a number of them come out to watch us and take photos today. We also saw some amazing scenery – particularly memorable was in one area where we came over a very steep rise and there over the top was the most beautiful vista of a wide open green valley – it was stunning! We also encountered more cows, lots of Emus and in the last run into Broken Hill, hundreds of wild goats on the road!
To the Musicians Club in Broken Hill for dinner after we had checked into our motel and washed all the dust of both ourselves and the Subie (she looks more like her old self now!). There are always the tales of the Kars that haven’t made it and the work that is going on at night to fix the broken Kars. In the country, much of this is undertaken by locals who do it for no charge and often well outside normal opening hours. There is nothing like the kindness of country people – we have found that in every rally we have participated in.
The biggest surprise of the night for us came when it was announced we had won the day! Yay! We scored even, even, 1 late, even! First place on the longest day…we are delighted!