Yes the greatest motoring event of the year, the annual Shit Box Rally where 200 cars costing no more than $1,000 drive 3,500 very long kms, sometimes in circles despite relatively modern technology (more of that later), around outback Australia and Tasmania has begun.
We started this great event on the esplanade at Mackay with a least 5 curious locals, a dog and a yet unidentified life forms looking on.
Mackay used to have a population of 120,000 but after the run down in mining 30,000 people have left. Houses that were selling for $850,000 can’t get buyers at $250,000. But the people are great and the influx of 500 rally drivers and their hangers on certainly lifted the spirits of those 5 locals, dog and yet unidentified life form – which come to think of it, may be the remains of my co-driver and Australian Olympic drinking champion Jay Schliech and his companion for Friday night, young master builder of the year (1939) and Byron Bay resident, Todd Knauss. Todd and Jay went on a mission to singlehandedly rebuild the Mackay economy by personally visiting every place that sells liquor in this great regional city. It didn’t end well. But in a tribute to the Queensland health service and Mackay District Hospital both Todd and Jay were able to start the rally on Saturday morning. How good are the new life support systems!
Anyway, after a rousing team photo the Rally got underway at exactly 0930hrs. Exactly may be too strong a word here but it did get underway with Jay vomiting when we passed the last pub he and Todd (now dressed in a shark costume for some unknown reason) supported the local economy in. Morale was high and excitement was at fever pitch with both your representatives on the Weekend Australian team ready to give 110 percent, staying focused, ready to step up to the next level and ready to drive with intensity. We are the team with tremendous mental toughness, but we are the dark horse team showing flashes of brilliance and we are really starting to gel so we could be the sleeper team to be reckoned with.
At WAM, just like the mighty Australian newspaper, everybody’s on the same page.
Enough original thoughts we were off. The motor in the mighty Ford Falcon BA Ute throbbing in anticipation of the 680 miles (or in our groups case 840 miles) ahead to the lovely but remote town of Blackall. After an hour and a few wrong turns we finally got out of Mackay and were on more or less the right road. No one had told us about:
dirt roads that have hidden holes that could hide a herd of wandering elephants if they fell in;
farms that have no fences so the huge Brahmin bulls believe the road is their territory and cars another form of competing bulls; and
kangaroos running in front of the car to either be culled or become breakfast.
More alarming were the forks on the road. No one had mentioned that this was a rally with choices. Our group of nine cars have a track record, when faced with a choice, of making the wrong one. Personally I see nothing wrong with exploring this great country but not everyone including the rally officials feel the same way as me. Arriving in Blackall at 11pm last night to me was a highlight…to others, particularly the good souls form the Country Women’s Association, it was a black mark.
Yours in bad map reading