Day 4 – Cobar to Tooleybuc
There was a bit of relief and excitement in the ranks, the rally book had today listed as just 358km. 258 were sealed, and 73 unsealed. This was made up of 232 from Cobar to Ivanhoe, 226 from Ivanhoe to Balranald, and 54 from Balranald to Tooleybuc. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one on the rally capable of doing maths. In the end, it turned out to be more than the 512km adding the legs together.
At the morning briefing, we were told that the road past Ivanhoe was closed due to flood damage. It was partially repaired, and they were hoping it would be finished in time for us to go through, but it wasn’t. A detour had been arranged, and we’d be given it over the radio in Ivanhoe.
About three-quarters of the first leg was unsealed. We were getting our confidence back in the car and weren’t having any issues. When we got to Ivanhoe, we decided to top up the car with petrol. It only took 11.72 litres and just a third of our 35-litre tank. Ivanhoe was the first spot we’d encountered during the rally that didn’t have some form of Premium Unleaded, a technical requirement in the Alto. Quite a few other teams had a similar idea fuelling up, and we also decided to take a break, eat lunch and relax.
The scout 4WD took the lead on the detour, and several teams were given directions to follow them along the detour route. It was to add a further 40km to the route. The detour road skirted around Muluru Lake and then crossed through a part of the dry late. The only problem was with all the rain in recent times, the lake had water in it, and lots of water meaning that we couldn’t take it. So the organisers got on the phone and started working out alternatives.
And the rallies got organised. The pub opened up and did a roaring trade, the school teachers brought all the school kids out to ignore class and look at all the cars, and a game of street cricket was set up. The main street of Ivanhoe is a connection between Hay and Wilcannia (continuing to Broken Hill). Despite it connecting relatively low populations, and only having 261 people, there was still a bit of traffic going through the town. Each car caused a quick pause in street cricket for everyone to move to the side of the road and give a thumbs up to the perplexed-looking driver driving past.
The break allowed us to talk to more teams that weren’t in our buddy group, and again suss out one of the teams driving a Suzuki Swift to see how their car was going, to give us some idea if there was a chance of it dying and potentially providing a spare parts source.
One of the truck drivers also stopped in town and said the road for our original route was open to trucks and he’d driven it but there were some pretty big washaways, big enough to lose a car.
We were out towards the front when we stopped, and we stopped in Ivanhoe for over an hour. In the end, there wasn’t another way out without a substantial detour of more than 200km, so we took the original route, the same way that was shown on our maps.
The road was properly sealed, with a lane for cars going in each direction, and the surface was in excellent condition. There was one washaway where we had to drive off the road and shoulder, and then back on. On the whole, though, it was a very nice drive, one of the better roads on the rally.
We had a pretty good run in the afternoon. We passed quite a few other groups that had pulled over or were going slow. One of the groups constantly going slow was Buddy Group 4. They had Ba Na Na Na Na which was an early 80’s Suzuki Carry van. As you’d expect from a 40-year-old kei car with the aerodynamics of a brick, it couldn’t get above 80 km/h. But fortunately, because the road was sealed, we were able to pass them pretty easily.
We all stopped in Balranald for fuel and headed for camp at Tooleybuc. Again, we were one of the earliest teams in, and we were greeted with the luxury of beautiful green grass to camp on. No red dirt. We set up camp, and I went for a walk to triage.
Ba Na Na Na Na and Chairman Meow were both in there for repairs. I’m not sure what was wrong with Ba Na Na Na Na, but Chairman Meow (a Ssangyong Chairman) had cooked its alternator. Fortunately, someone else from their buddy group with a Commodore had a spare alternator and being the Shitbox Rally, that was modified to fit the Ssangyong and it roared into life to run the next day.
The catering at Tooleybuc was excellent. One of the options was roast lamb, and I have no idea what the other options were. I stopped listening at roast lamb. The catering was organised by the community rather than a business, and it was back to the very high standard I was expecting. One of the locals, Tracey, who was in her seventies had spent the last two days making 500 slices for the lunch bags the next day.
The locals had also taken advantage of 500 extra visitors with stubby holders made up and wine with labels spruiking the town. Given it was Shitbox Rally, they decided to get a bit cheeky, with the slogan Where the F*&k is Tooleybuc? They made a lot of money that night.
Being a Tuesday, it was Tequila Tuesday, a Shitbox Rally institution. I decided to have a quiet and early night and hung back at the camp while others went across the road to the bowling club for barefoot bowls and a night of partying.
Words and Photos by Daniel Borton