Kidney Kar Rally

Day 3 - To Tibooburra

Editor’s note: Kath Downie shares more of her 2017 Kidney Kar Rally adventures in her blog post below!

We always forget how exhausting the rally is!

Ken was looking a little tired this morning. IMG_4830

But, as heralded by a spectacular White Cliffs sunrise, we had another big day ahead of us.

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Above: Sunrise at White Cliffs – breathtaking!

A bolstering – albeit chilly - outdoor brekkie at the White Cliffs Pub was all we needed to kick ourselves into gear.

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A few good hours of driving later, we stopped for lunch in Milparinka. The weather was a balmy 30 degrees – a bit of a change from the shivery Melbourne winter days we’ve become used to!

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A jaunt along the rust-coloured (and spectacularly dusty) Silver City Highway would take us to Tibooburra, our final check point of the day.

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Above: just a bit of dust on the inside of our Kar!

Everyone agrees we have never seen quite so much roadkill as we have on this rally. The first couple of days we were dodging large roo carcasses which added to the challenge for the drivers! But we have also seen a large number of live animals - lots of goats, kangaroos, emus, cows, sheep and frilled neck lizards.

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The landscape seems so bare and bereft of any greenery, yet they all survive (unless hit by a car or truck). Some farmers actually thanked us for forcing the Roos to move away from their properties as we all zoomed through!

What an amazing country we live in!

We finally made it to our check point…IMG_4838

…and our day was bookended by a spectacular sunset, Tibooburra-style.

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Days 1 and 2 - Condobolin, Cobar, Tilpa and White Cliffs

Editor’s note: Kath Downie shares more of her 2017 Kidney Kar Rally adventures in her blog post below!

Saturday proved to be a great start for us, as we managed to get through our first three stages unscathed. The reward? A lunch stop at Condobolin.

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The final stage for Day 1 was by far the longest. There was a lot of jostling for place among the Kars, with some truly spectacular driving taking place – and a lot of dust!

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Above: Coming up on another car and then being overtaken by another...

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Fields of canola brightened the final leg of the day, as we settled in to Cobar for the night.

If the temperature gauge on the Subaru was to be any indication, Sunday was all set to be a day of extremes – and it delivered.
IMG_4820Above: a cold start in Cobar!

From the extremely flat, arid terrain out near Tilpa…

IMG_4822...to our extremely unique accommodation in White Cliffs!

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Now at the end of day 2, we are at equal 11th, so pretty pleased. In the 4 stages yesterday we managed to lose only 5 points.

Today we have completed another 4 stages - the first one was a doozy! A class 5 that took its toll on a few cars and has left us with what looks like a rock in one of our brake drums. This little Subaru has certainly taken a beating over the 4 previous rallies and this one makes 5 - a lot to ask of any car, but hopefully she will get us through to the end!

Dinner tonight is outside at the local pub and while it may be a little chilly, it'll be nothing compared to the minus 1 when we left Cobar this morning!

2017 Kidney Kar Rally - Griffith

Editor's note: Straight from the front seat of the Downies 'Kar', Navigator Kath Downie will be keeping us updated on all the thrills and spills she and Driver Ken face while participating in the 2017 Kidney Kar Rally. Here's her first entry!

We’ve made it to Griffith, the starting point of this year’s rally!

First on the list today was compulsory scrutineering of our Kar. Always held the day before the rally officially starts, scrutineering allows the paramedics to check our first aid kits to make sure they are current, and the scrutineer to check all our safety equipment to make sure we are properly equipped to handle any misadventures that may befall us during the course of the rally.

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Then, following a street parade through Griffith, we had the essential briefings for drivers and navigators.

Above: The 'bible' - everything you need to know during the entire rally is here!

We also had the opportunity to visit the kids at Griffith Public School, who loved meeting Billy the Kidney and checking out the rally cars!

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As day turned to evening, it was time for the official start dinner. It’s an important event, and always an exciting one for us, as we get to find out how well we have done in the fundraising!

These guys below from the Artline Team have once again achieved an amazing fundraising total to take out the Jodie Lanyon Memorial Trophy for the highest fundraising total of more than $47000.

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We are once again thrilled to have been placed 4th in the fundraising total with over $23000! Thank you so much to all our sponsors once again!

During the dinner, this man – an absolute legend - gave one of the most moving speeches to the entire rally group tonight. His daughter Beccky passed away as a result of the anti-rejection medication she was taking following her second kidney transplant. Congratulations Paul Johns - you held it together and there wasn't a dry eye in the house!

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Tomorrow is Day 1, so stay tuned - fingers crossed we have more thrills than spills to report!

Day 7 - Narrabri to Tamworth

Just an update on the strut...Mike (from Kar 1996, which had been totalled the previous day) arrived a little after 10pm (direct from Dubbo Hospital after breaking his hand in the accident) with our new strut. It was after midnight last night when Dion from Kar 0157 and John from Kar 2009 finished working on our Kar. We can never express our gratitude enough for these guys.

Heading off this morning from Narrabri Heading off this morning from Narrabri

After a pretty good day rallying yesterday, the results posted showed we came 10th for the day and are at 14th overall. They also start a repechage competition from today that is for everyone who at this stage of the rally is not in the top 10. We are equal 6th in the repechage scoring system after the first day.

So this morning we were back on the road ready to rally. A Class 1 for 105km got us started. We think we ended up a minute slow on this one. This was closely followed by another Class 1 of 114km with much the same result.

Lunch today was in the town of Manilla and a solid afternoon of rallying followed. We began with a 96km Class 3 where we again think we were a minute slow and likewise for the 55km Class 4 to finish the day.

We drove through some beautiful countryside but unfortunately we don't really get to appreciate it or stop and take a photo or anything. We had a lot of shire roads today which meant a lot of oncoming traffic. Some of the locals come out to watch us all go past and wave at us, sometimes even stopping you to make a donation. Others just see us in a negative light and really don't want us to be there. There were a couple more Kars lost today either through accidents or mechanical issues and again we were grateful nobody was seriously hurt.

At Limbri approaching Tamworth At Limbri approaching Tamworth

The stages today were so different and had so many different issues to contend with - roadworks, graders, wandering livestock and so many grids and causeways - they all present different challenges.

And so tonight in Tamworth. Some awards were given out tonight. The most notable was the Kraziest Krew which went to Kar 27. These are the boys of Teletubbies fame from the first day. They have had a different theme of costume every day of the rally and kept us entertained with their antics!

The rallytives at dinner tonight raised over $2,000 for one of the drivers to shave off his beard so he could afford to come to next year's rally! So they shaved off one side of his beard and the opposite side of his head! Their logic is that if he finishes the rally tomorrow, they will complete the job...I do hope for his sake he finishes!

The beard/hair cut! The beard/hair cut!

Watch a video of the shave for charity here

So tomorrow is our final day. We have no scores for today as they like to keep them secret until the final dinner tomorrow night. So off to Taree in the morning...goodnight!

Day 5 - Rest Day and Day 6 - Dubbo to Narrabri

Day 5

Before I get on to the days rallying, I should explain why there was no blog post for yesterday - it was our rest day! We usually have a rest day mid rally to allow people to have a break and attend to things like getting their Kars fixed and doing their laundry and well...just having a break! Of course we had pre-ordered two tyres (from two different places) so they had to be picked up and also needed to try to find a rim to replace the one destroyed the previous day. So, we picked up the tyres, found a replacement rim, washed the Kar, unpacked all our stuff from the gear truck, repacked, made up 100 gift bags for the children at the school we would be visiting in Baradine...and that was just the morning! We all gathered for wonderful lunch hosted by Kar 2 at their workplace.

On return to our motel, we reloaded what we didn't need on to the gear truck and filled the Kar ready for an early start. Traditionally our rest day finishes with a fancy dress dinner which this year had the theme "hats and wigs". There were certainly some sights to behold! The auctioneer had also travelled to Dubbo to auction off some more items to raise even more money for the Kidney Kids - a total of $15,000 was raised from the auction which was a great result. There was also a raffle conducted by our Ambo, Phil Hoey which raised even more money, but the raffle prize was 3 x $4,000 to go towards the winners fundraising for next year. Phil works really hard all year raising funds for Kidney Health and donates that money back via the winners of his raffle. He was also presented with a special 'Operation Angel' Award from Kidney Health Australia for his dedication to the cause for over 20 years. Congratulations Phil!

Day 6

We had an earlier than usual start today with 4 stages ahead of us. The first was a Class 2 (ave 80kmh) of 111km. Once again, lots of grids, humps and gutters. The funniest site of the day was a cow by the side of the road on our side of the fence...I picked up the radio to announce that there was a cow on the road but just as I started to speak, the cow jumped back over the fence into the paddock! I never knew they could jump so high!

I thought Ken was driving a little more cautiously than normal and we came in 3 minutes late. But as it turned out, everyone must have been the same as we ended up being 1 minute early. (We only lost 1 point instead of the 3 we had expected). A short transport took us to the second stage - a massive 132km Class 1. Some very rough causeways on this one but we managed to come through one minute early. We then drove into Baradine where the Central School put on a wonderful lunch for us and we gave out some goodies to the 100 kids that attend there.

Then to Stage 3 - a 96km Class 2 through the Pilliga - more of the same with some creeks thrown in for good measure. Once again, we estimated a 3 minute late penalty, but ended up being 1 minute early again!

Some Kars weren't lucky today... Some Kars weren't lucky today...

A very short transport took us to our final stage for the day. Because of some grading work that was being done on the planned route, it was shortened to a Class 3, 50km stage through the Pilliga scrub. About 5km from the end, we hit a hole and we hit it hard. We could smell rubber but a quick check of the tyres seemed fine, so we soldiered on and managed to finish the stage 1 minute early (we thought) but turned out to be even. When we arrived at control, they could smell the rubber too, but we thought it best to try to get into Narrabri. On arrival at Admin, we realised the front wheel was at a funny angle.  A couple of our fellow rallytives had a look at the Kar and told us the bad news...we had bent one of the front struts so it now resembled a banana and hence the tyre rubbing against it was the rubber we could smell. A quick ring around Narrabri to get the part proved unsuccessful, but once again a fellow rallytive from Kar .05 contacted a mate who was driving up from Dubbo this evening to pick up the part we needed. So as I write this, the damaged strut has been removed and the Kar is sitting up on a jack waiting for the part to arrive in the next 10 minutes or so. Once again, our friend from Kar 0517 is here to help, this time, late at night to help put the new strut in so we can continue rallying tomorrow. Seriously, these people are absolute legends!

IMG_4102 Bent front strut!

Day 4 - West Wyalong to Dubbo

Well it was a good day relatively speaking...there were some major changes to the routes we were taking so it was a bit of late preparation for the navigators to change the directions in their road books. The first rally was changed from a Class 3 to a Class 2 as they had to re-route us around a particularly difficult part of the stage, again because of the risk of getting bogged, but 105km later we managed to come through unscathed and in perfect time! A welcome pause in Condobolin for a pit stop and we were onto the next stage - this one a 125km Class 3 - presented us with some challenges like fallen trees, deep gutters and rocky sections but we managed to nail it, albeit 2 minutes early.

IMG_4092 Lunch at the Rabbit Trap Hotel!

A lovely lunch and fuel stop in Albert at the Rabbit Trap Hotel and we were off on what was to be our final stage for the day (the last planned stage was cancelled). This section had been again downgraded from a Class 2 to a Class 1 of 100km with some major changes to the route. We were humming along beautifully and then, 2kms from the end, when we had slowed down to prevent being too early, we hit a concrete causeway, which we hadn't seen as the edge was camouflaged with water. It was a big hit and we knew we had done some damage, but we were determined to make it to Control 2km down the road. They heard us coming...

Anyway, we made it and then pulled over to check the damage. One tyre, beyond repair but worse, the alloy rim...you could see exactly where we had hit that causeway! Thanks once again to Dion from 0517 for his help changing the tyre on some pretty soft ground - this man manages to fit every piece of equipment you could possibly need on a rally into the boot of his Kar and is always there to help - we are most grateful. Fortunately, we had already organised in advance to pick up two new tyres in Dubbo, so now we will have to look for a rim as well! But the good news was we totally nailed the stage once again in perfect time!

The dust creates eerie scenes on the road The dust creates eerie scenes on the road

There were certainly some challenges on Day 4 - driving down tracks that were so tight with trees on either side as well as saplings in the middle of the road that you couldn't avoid as there was nowhere to go, some turns that were incredibly tight, lots of water, lots of mud and massively deep gutters - gotta love it! But we will freely admit, we are looking forward to our rest day tomorrow!

So 7th for the day and 16th overall - we don't think we are doing too badly at all!

IMG_4094 Best presented Kar for 2015 (ours) next to the 2016 awardee. Just needs a clean!

Orange to West Wyalong

Billy, the Kidney Kar Rally mascot, waves us off Billy, the Kidney Kar Rally mascot, waves us off

Nothing special to report from last night really...we managed to move up a few places, only losing 2 points for being early in the first section, 3 for being early in the second and believe it or not, we were even in the last stage! We had a lovely dinner at the Orange Ex-Services Club and a long chat with Pam & Dick Graham who are 'sweeps' on the rally and have been around the rally circuit for years and are a never ending source of some very funny stories! Spent the night at the Templars Mill Motel and it was lovely - highly recommended.

Frosty mornings! Frosty mornings!

We woke to a frosty morning with ice all over the Kar and headed off for breakfast back at the Club. At the briefing from the Road Director, he advised some changes and unfortunately another stage cancellation (was to be our last stage for the day), again due to the hazardous conditions. We are only grateful that safety is always the prime concern on the Kidney Kar Rally.

Our first stage this morning was over Mount Canobolas - an 82km Class 3, so an average speed of 70kmh. There were some parts that were quite a deal slower, with some very rough rocky sections and a fair bit of water. We even had ice on the road in the early part of this stage! But some beautiful scenery when I could glance up quickly from the road book, terra trip and radio duties! Right towards the end we went through a rough creek and from that point a noise started in the front wheel area. No it wasn't a flat...we decided to press on as we only had a few k's to the end of the stage. When we pulled up to control everyone was looking at the front wheel area and it turned out a large piece of cowling had torn off and was rubbing against the wheel. We headed into the next town (Eugowra) and Dion from Tumut (Kar 0517) helped us out - he simply cut it off and pulled it out and threw it in the nearest bin! And so we went on!

The next stage for the day was a 98km Class 3. So many narrow cattle grids, my bones were starting to shudder! Lots of water again and some detours around large water filled holes to avoid us doing too much damage! At the end of the stage we maybe came in a little early...

An early lunch at the Services Club in Forbes was certainly welcome, albeit a little short in time before we had to leave to make it out to the starting control for the last stage of the day. This one was a 98km Class 1, so the average speed should be about 85kmh. As it is an easier stage we also had to participate in a visual navigation exercise where we had to answer specific questions along the way. They are worth points so everyone tries hard to spot the answers and the answer sheets are handed in at the final control.

Canola at last! Canola at last!

As the last stage was cancelled, we headed straight into West Wyalong where we will be staying tonight. We took the opportunity of some spare time to have our damaged tyre looked at in town, but alas it was not fixable and they didn't have a replacement for it, so until we get to Dubbo we will just have to manage with 5 tyres and one spare rim!

Dinner tonight at the West Wyalong Services Club before we head off to rally our way towards Dubbo in the morning. The following day is a rest day, so other than shopping around for some tyres, we can hopefully rest up and reorganise our gear truck storage a little!

Day 2 - Oberon to Orange

From a very chilly Oberon this morning, we headed off on a short transport section to reach the first rally for the day. A 64km Class 3 with lots of forest and quite a few Roos. We hit some big rocks and fallen trees but the Kar seemed to bounce over most and we came through unscathed!

IMG_4068 Plenty of sheep to slow us down!

Then a 40km transport section to take us to our second rally for the morning - but first we had to get past the sheep! Fortunately it didn't take too long as the farmer was there in his golf buggy and had his kids helping to herd the flock across the road! Anyway, onto the next rally section - this one a class 4 of 83km. This section replaced the one that was originally planned so we had replacement pages for the road book. Lots of very short distances between instructions so there were lots of turns and I really had to keep my wits about me to make sure my instructions to Ken were clear and we didn't miss a vital turn along the way! We hear many weren't so lucky and missed the odd turn here and there, but we can be thankful we did well!

Another short transport to head towards rally 3 - another class 4 of 75km. This one had lots of grids with cattle on the road along the way. The last part of this rally took us down razorback which was a pretty hairy ride from my side of the Kar with a sheer drop down off the edge of a very narrow, rocky road! I admit I was leaning towards the driver just a bit during this part! The views over the Turon Valley during this stage were quite spectacular, but the time you get to glance at it is only a fleeting moment!

IMG_4069 The Turon Valley

Finally it was time for lunch, so we headed back to Mt Panorama to the Bathurst Light Car Club where the SES put on a fantastic lunch for us all!

Due to the road conditions north of Orange, our last stage for the day was cancelled. The 'day before Kar' had been bogged the previous day and the occupants walked several kilometres to find a farmer with a tractor that could pull them out. Much of the track was like this so it was decided to cancel the section, rather than risk dangerous conditions. So from Bathurst, we headed straight to Orange where we spend the night. Dinner tonight at the Ex-Serviceman's Club so if there is any news to report from the dinner I will include it tomorrow!

Day 1 of the Rally

IMG_4059Well day 1 is done! Can't say with my hand on my heart that it was a great day, but we did OK!

Started with a 38 km transport to get us to the start of the real stuff. And start with a vengeance we did. A class 4 (average speed 60km per hour) for 65km where the opening warning in the road book was a triple caution to look out for abundant wildlife! We made it through without hitting any and were a little faster than the average. We had to make a detour at the next transport stage as nature was calling loudly!

Then began a 68km class 3 where we could go a little faster (ave 70) which we breezed through but again a little too quickly. Then a very short transport to reach the most gruelling stage of the day, a class 5 (ave 50km/h) which was an unbelievably rough stage with lots of rocks, lots of slippery mud, humps, deep gutters and fallen trees which had been cut by the 'day before car' to enable us to squeeze through them. About 18km from the end of this section we lost our first tyre of the rally. Unfortunately the wheels had been secured using a rattle gun. If you don't have one with you to unscrew the nuts, they are nigh on impossible to unscrew by hand! So onto our trusty radio to ask for help...no response. We continued to try to move the nuts but no luck. Unbeknownst to us, there had been a major collision way back in the stage where two cars had t-boned each other, so the entire group (bar the first few Kars including us) was held up for quite some time. We were wondering why no rally Kars were coming past...about half an hour later we finally got assistance from the Kar carrying the Teletubbies, who in full costume, managed to get the nuts off and change the wheel for us! It was a sight indeed!

Teletubbies to the rescue! Teletubbies to the rescue!

As it turned out, because of the accident and another Kar rolling onto its roof, the whole stage was cancelled, so we were not disadvantaged at all. Most importantly, no-one was hurt.

IMG_4058 Jenolan Caves House

We then drove down the narrow, windy road to Jenolan Caves House which was our lunch venue for the day. A bit of a detour coming out from lunch before we worked out we were heading in the wrong direction! We finally found our way through the Grand Arch and back up another narrow windy road to the start of the last section for the day - a 53km Class 4 - which alas once again we were a little too much quicker than the average...

IMG_4061 The Grand Arch Jenolan Caves

Still, we arrived in Oberon which is where we stay tonight. Exhausted so heading to bed for some beauty sleep to be ready for a 7am briefing in the morning before we head off to Orange!

We have arrived!

Only just over 5 hours driving today from Wodonga to Bathurst where we were greeted by blue sky and warmth through the Kar windows...of course it was a little chillier outside the Kar, but only a little.

We passed through many towns today - including Young, Cowra, Lyndhurst, Carcoar and Blayney - but the most noticeable thing was the lack of canola. We are very much used to seeing massive fields full of bright yellow canola in NSW and it was sorely missed. We stopped in Gundagai for fuel and a coffee and decided to skip lunch. So we drove through to Bathurst, checked into our motel, caught up on emails and phone calls and put out a Facebook call to the locals to recommend a place to eat! We ended up having an early dinner at Jack Duggan's Irish Pub - great venue and the meals were not only HUGE but delicious!

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After receiving a message from a fellow rallytive (a local) we then made the short walk up to The George' where about 20 of the rallytives were catching up for dinner. As we had already eaten, we joined them for a couple of drinks and caught up with Katie from Kidney Health Australia as well.

It is great to see some of the group we have befriended over the last 7 years or so and we look forward to seeing the rest of them at registration tomorrow.

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