Port Hedland to Katherine

The Wallaby Track: Lionel’s motorhome, Yemmy, continues its tale about the pair’s big trip around Australia.

Lionel jetted from Walkamin Van Park, Qld, to Darwin for the 50-year gathering of Apex 40.

The short trip from Port Hedland to Broome was uneventful and Lionel intended just doing a bit of shopping and then moving on. He had spent some time in Broome when travelling with his friends, Anne and Don, and wasn’t impressed with the town that he said was too ‘touristy’. He needed a pair of sandals to replace the ones that came apart on the rocks back at the Quobba Blowholes, as well as a few groceries as it was a long way to the next supermarket.

What he hadn’t reckoned on was Murphy, who had been laying low ever since wrecking his sandals!

Lionel’s son, Chris, phoned him and he pulled me off the street onto a vacant block to take the call.

That’s when Murphy struck. When Lionel went to move off, my gear lever was stuck in ‘Park’ and wouldn’t come out. He rang for roadside service and eventually the mechanic came and showed him how to poke a screwdriver down a little hole and over-ride a solenoid that stopped my gear lever from moving.

Lionel added these emu ornaments to ‘his’ garden at Walkamin Van Park, Qld.

He suggested it was a faulty brake light switch but I grinned to myself as I knew it wasn’t that.

We left Broome after lunch and camped at a nice, free rest area. Next morning, Murphy had a ball. Lionel did the trick of poking a screwdriver down the little hole near the gear selector but I didn’t go into low gear but after several tries he did manage to get us underway.

That happened every time we stopped, but we struggled on to Kununurra where Lionel did some shopping in the morning. We headed off around midday and he intended putting a few hundred kilometres under my wheels before stopping for the night.

That wasn’t to be! We’d stopped at a rest area for him to eat his lunch and then Murphy struck yet again and I was stuck in second gear and nothing Lionel did would get anything else. He decided to drive very slowly back to Kununurra and get me looked at. He didn’t want me to get too hot so he kept the speed to about 20km/h all the way back.

All the garages were busy and we had to wait a couple of days before one could look at me, so we booked into a caravan park nearby. Lionel decided to go on a tour the next day and left me on my own in the park.

He had been here before but although they had been to Lake Argyle and seen the cottage where the early settlers to the district, the Duraks, had lived, they hadn’t been on the boat trip down the Ord River.

Boat ride on the Ord River.

The cottage site had been flooded when they built the dam and the cottage had been moved stone by stone to its new site, where thousands of tourists visit every year

Lionel told me the coach tour had been great and in particular the river and lake trip in the afternoon. The lake capacity is about eight times that of Sydney Harbour, and Anne, Don and Lionel canoed on it the last time they were here. They had also flown over the Bungle Bungles and the Argyle Diamond Mine, but he said it wasn’t as good as the helicopter trip he did when we left here.

On the Friday morning, Lionel took me to a garage where the boss told us he had a mechanic who had worked on Sprinters like me in his native Zimbabwe.

I was taken out the back into a workshop where the mechanic delved into the electronics that controlled my automatic transmission and proceeded to fix a wire from my solenoid to a button he mounted on my dashboard. By some means, this over-rode the solenoid and let Lionel select the gears. It was all a bit complicated but the mechanic took me for a spin and everything seemed fine.

Lionel gave them what seemed like a lot of money and we set off again towards Katherine, but this time my gears were working correctly and I loved the beautiful straight roads.

We stayed the night in a campsite in Gregory National Park and Lionel made friends with two ladies travelling together in a motorhome that was much bigger than me. Lionel seems to like me well enough even though he says I’m a bit cramped.

The Bungles viewed from the air.

Next morning, we only had a few hundred kilometres to go to reach Katherine but Lionel spotted a sign advertising helicopter rides over the Bungle Bungles from Mabel Station and turned off the road to go in and check it out. He’d flown over them in a fixed-wing aeroplane on another trip but wanted to do the chopper trip as it went much lower.

I never complain about his weight but he had to be weighed before they would let him go in the little helicopter. Apparently it was a bit near maximum load and the pilot wasn’t sure it would get off the ground.

Lionel told me it had been a fabulous trip and worth the $300 he had to pay.

We had been bush-camping a great deal so Lionel decided we could have a night in a caravan park when we reached Katherine and booked us into a lovely park called Shady Lane where he had stayed before.

Next morning, a fellow camper came up and asked, “Are you Lionel Mussell?” It turned out he was a mate of the Eric, who had done so much work on me when they were doing the conversion. Lionel had told Eric on the phone about me playing up and Eric had asked this fellow to look out for us and offer to help.

Of course, by now I was behaving myself but the offer was nice. He and Eric had both worked for the PMG, then Telecom and finally Telstra before retiring. 


The airport in Cairns is 80km from Walkamin Van Park. Dallas – the co-owner of the caravan park – offered to take me to stay in a motel overnight as my flight was to take off at 6am! I was flying to Darwin for the 50-year gathering of Apex 40.

I’d made an extensive list but had left off the most important – my wallet! Shock, horror when the receptionist asked for some ID! Dallas did some phoning and before too long my wallet was brought down by a kindly friend.

The motel was in a residential area with no nearby cafes, so I had to walk a long way to find some food!

The taxi was coming at 4.45am so I didn’t sleep much! It wasn’t long before I was landing in Darwin and starting a great week of adventures that included a trip on the Adelaide River to see huge crocodiles jumping out of the water to try to reach the meat dangled down for them.

We had two buses every day to take us to a huge variety of places, including the museum that showed the bombing of Darwin during World War II.


Unfortunately, we had a few members who caught the virus. One couple quarantined in Alice Springs and arrived in Darwin just in time for the farewell breakfast!

After an uneventful flight back to Cairns, I was picked up by my friends Paul and Carol and their little dog, and got home to Walkamin about 10pm.

I’d bought two emu garden ornaments before going away so putting them into ‘my’ garden was a priority.

I’m heading to Innot Hot Springs soon to join in a muster with the ACC Rainforest Ramblers so I’ll tell you about that next month.