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dennis batchelder

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Real Men in Docker River
By dennis batchelder
Sunday, August 10, 2008

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My friend Scott and I flew from Melbourne to visit Ayer's Rock (now called Uluru). This was a side trip to Docker River that we made on that long weekend.

Here's what happened to Scott and I on our trip to Docker River and Western Australia (Docker River is a small Aboriginal village located about 250 km (135 miles) west of Uluru. It's on the border of Western Australia, and contains one gas station/store and a few houses).

The story starts in Uluru. Scott and I climbed only up to the chain at Uluru. We decided then and there that real men didn't climb to the top; they only went to the base of the chain. What real men did instead was to walk around the rock (9 km).

But when we started walking around the rock, we spent so much time swatting flies and sweating under the hot sun, that we decided that real men didn't walk around the rock; they drove around it with the air conditioning on. That way real men could spend more time looking, and less time being annoyed and inconvenienced.

As we real men were driving around the rock, Scott hopped out to take a picture. A really old station wagon sputtered up to him. There were three aborigine men inside. They asked him, "Hey there feller, could you help us out and buy us some rum? You can ride with us to Yulara and buy us six bottles. We have the money".

We asked why they wouldn't buy their own rum, and it seems the local Aborigine elders have decreed that no Aborigines could buy alcohol. The men needed a proxy to help them get drunk. Scott declined, and they drove away. We watched their car sputter and lurch forward, and then we went on to see the Olgas, sunset, then dinner and bed.

We got up early the next morning for sunrise, which was absolutely beautiful. Then we decided to head to Docker River and see what was out there.

The road to Docker River is called the "Outback Highway". It is "unsealed". It is also "unfinished". It's just a sand track about 25 feet wide, full of ruts and holes and dips. For two hundred kilometers, we bounced along. We discovered that real men do in fact get sore backsides, just like everyone else. We also discovered that fuel burns a lot more quickly going over sand. Soon we passed the point of no return; we had to find petrol before we'd be able to make it back.

The trip out there was pretty neat. We encountered a road train and a couple of burned-out cars, and the scenery was beautiful. When we were only 10 miles from docker river, we met up with the station wagon of the three rum-seekers from the day before. They flagged us down, and asked us if we had any petrol.

We said that we could get them some petrol from Docker River, and they asked us to tell their families where they were. The main guy told us his name: Paul.

So off we went to the store in Docker River, but it was closed. Soon a man came by and asked us what we wanted. We told him about Paul, and he asked what color the car was. He drove off in another old car to find the storekeeper, and we waited. The man returned in 10 minutes, and told us that the store would open in 45 minutes at 11 am.

We decided that real men didn't twiddle their thumbs waiting, so we told him we'd be back, and we drove on to Western Australia. Now our gas gauge was pretty low - the car was beeping and saying that we had only 40 kilometers left before we ran out.

We decided that real men didn't like running out of gas, so we returned to Docker River. A crowd had gathered at the gas station. There were kids playing "kick to kick" with a rugby ball - I guess it's like playing catch. A bunch of ladies and children were waiting. It was 11:15, the store was still closed, and the real men were getting nervous. What if they had no gas? What if the store didn't open?

Two men came driving up in their pickup truck, the back full of bananas, soda, and chips. The townspeople gathered around it and started buying these goods. We grabbed one of the guys, and asked him for gas.

Bad news. he was out of gas, and wouldn't get another shipment in for a month. The real men were getting pretty nervous. I guess it showed, because he thought pretty hard, and suggested that truly real men could use aviation fuel. When we looked doubtful, the storekeeper assured us, saying, "it should work".

Real men trust storekeepers, especially when said storekeepers hold out the only option in 250 kilometers. So we filled the tank with av-gas, and the car started without a problem. Then we bought an extra can of aviation fuel to bring to Paul and friends. The storekeeper asked one of the locals if he had seen Paul on the road: "Paul out there last night. He ran out of petrol". The local didn't seem that concerned about Paul, either.

We headed back with the fuel. Our car ran fine on the av-gas. And we ran into Paul, now only about 7 miles away. They had pushed the car three miles during the last two hours. Paul and his guys were pretty happy to get the fuel, and they filled up. But as we started to leave, one of the other guys said to me "tikka takka no go". he repeated this a few times, and I had no clue what he was saying. Finally Paul came over and translated: their battery was dead, and they needed a jump.

No problem. Real men can give jumps. Paul said he had cables, so i drove our car over close to his station wagon.

Paul scrounged around in his trunk, and came up with a single cable. Uh oh - not very good. we asked Paul if he had more cables - we needed two. He started digging around again, but he had no luck. The guys were looking under the seats, under the car, and inside the boxes in the truck.

I asked Paul if he had any wire. He came up with a one foot long piece of an extension cord (this guy was a packrat!) We moved the cars as close as possible. Paul stripped the ends with his teeth, and i used his hatchet to scrape some paint off his kangaroo bumper. Then I hooked the cable to the positive terminals, and held the wire between my negative terminal and his bumper. The wire started sparking and smoking, but it seemed to be working.

Paul's car didn't start. It turned over, but didn't catch. What to do? Paul poured about a half cup of the aviation fuel down into the carbeurator. Scott and I looked at each other. we each had a mental picture of real men being consumed in a fireball caused by that arcing wire. But real men finish what they start: I put on my sunglasses. Scott volunteered to sit in the car and rev our engine a bit.

Finally, Paul's car started. It sputtered a bit, but it didn't stall, so we disconnected the cable, said our "thank yous" and "no worries", and then "goodbyes". We drove off to the airport.

The way back was just as bumpy, but it wasn't as noticeable. Real men don't complain about silly things anymore.


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Reviewed by ellen george 8/11/2008
Dennis - Real men have lots of adventures!
And lucky for us they also write about them!
Thanks for sharing with us - as you have been around the world, please share your experiences with those of us who only dream of it. Please?
ellen george


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