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Member Article: The Rally – Part VII

Day 6 – Devonport to Strahan

After the ferry ride across, the next morning we disembarked and headed the 35km to the Penguin recreation centre for breakfast, collect our lunches and morning briefing. It turns out the recreation centre car park is also the parental drop-off point for the local school, so we had a bit of an audience for most of the morning.

One of the cars arrived on a trailer. Team ‘Mum and Son’ were driving an AU wagon, and unfortunately, their transmission was stuffed. The car was pronounced dead, and they were given a medal. Everyone who’s car dies on the rally gets given a ‘My car died on the Shitbox Rally’ medal.

Again, we were meant to leave towards the end, but one of our teams had dressed up as penguins, and the production crew wanted to get a few pictures of them down at the beach in front of the penguin statues. So we got sent off early, and even with the extra time at the penguins, still probably ended up a bit in front of where we would have been.

The Bass Highway goes through a lot of towns so it was kind of slow going with lots of traffic. An extra 250 cars on the road that were relatively bunched up did create its own congestion. We were the lead car for a lot of the day, setting the pace for the others to follow. Again, we got lots of looks from the locals, all looking at the cars going through. Driving through populated areas was a stark contrast to some of the Queensland towns though, where whole farming families made a special trip out to the end of their driveway to see more traffic in a day than they normally would in a month.

Tasmania is spectacularly scenic. On most other continents it would be its own country. It was a completely different climate, terrain and environment to what we’d experienced the last few days. The toughest roads were over, and most teams were starting to relax. Like a lot of teams, we decided to detour to Stanley, to take a photo of the cars in front of The Nut, a well-known location in Tasmania.

At the Nut, we ran into another buddy group, one of them in an Astroturf-covered Corolla. They’d lost their car key and had been down at the beach. They were spending a long time looking, and part of their buddy group decided not to look anymore and left. It seemed most unusual; you never leave your buddy group. After a little while I spotted a set of keys on their roof rack. It turned out one of the other teams in the buddy group was trying to have a laugh and had pinched the keys, and put them there at some point.

We headed back to the Bass Highway and filled up at Smithton so we’d be able to make it through to Strahan without stopping for fuel again. The road from here was fantastic with lots of amazing fun bends, and best of all, we didn’t really get stuck behind any slow teams.

I’d been speaking to one of the support crew who’d done a reconnaissance of the route a couple of weeks ago who told me about a place called the ‘Edge of the World’. It was about 300 metres off the route and was the point on earth where it was the furthest distance east to west between land. We decided that would make a good lunch spot.

We needed to make a quick stop to check on a car and take a toilet break just before we reached there. Driving in Tasmania takes a lot longer than it does on the mainland. The roads aren’t as good, speed limits are generally lower, and there are tiny little towns everywhere. We were well behind schedule, so we decided to skip lunch, and eat while driving.

A little while later we hit the dirt, and as often happens, we got bunched in with other buddy groups. But in hindsight, that was good because it gave us a chance to take in the scenery, and it was spectacular. A very kind tourist pulled over to let the cars behind them pass, but probably didn’t realise just how many cars there were to pass. The drive took a long time but the general consensus at camp was that was a fantastic day. A place like nothing else on earth. Except maybe a little bit like New Zealand.

We stopped again at the picturesque little mountain town of Waratah for a toilet break and bottle shop visit. Waratah has a petrol station and a pub, but no general store or other shops. While it felt like the end of the day, we still had another 132 km to go. From here it was all sealed roads into camp.

In Strahan, we were staying at the cricket oval, and being a harbour town, we were having seafood for dinner. The choice of salmon, or Lobster. It was also the night for Shitbox got talent, the talent quest. But before the talent quest, it was get to know your rally buddies with Katherine playing a game of hands down if.

The main purpose of the game turned out to be who’s had the least showers on Shitbox Rally. While ordinarily, you’d be lucky to get one or two showers the whole week, every stopover had showers this rally. And they all had water, and some people had utilised those to have a shower every single day. I’d skipped two days and gotten up at 2 am on two occasions to shower, avoiding the queue. During the whole rally, there was just a single person who’d gone the whole week without a shower. A rarity for Shitbox Rally.

Our buddy group spent a lot of time discussing, but it turned out we didn’t have any talent. Neil was able to whip up a poem that included all our team names in it, and I thought was extremely good. But sadly, no cigar. There was some decent singing and a lot of not-so-decent singing. Including a couple of Irish teams putting on a song, but no one could understand a word of what they were singing. But the winner of the night was a team that decided their talent was fitting all 14 of their buddy group into Team BooBoos Mazda 121 sedan.

That night it got down to 2 degrees, a far cry from the 30 degrees at Cobar. The last 24 hours had been my favourite at the rally. We got to sleep in the comfort of a bed, had a toilet that didn’t have to get out of a tent and walk at least 100 metres to get to a shower, and no dust! Then Tasmania had been spectacular, reminding me a lot of the NZ rally.

Words and Photos by Daniel Borton

Paul Hollingworth

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