Kidney Kar Rally

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!


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.

And we're off...!

_DSC3511It was great to have all the staff, the family and even the dog, all there to say goodbye and good luck to us as we drove off this afternoon, headed for Wodonga. Just a short drive today and only a little bit longer tomorrow when we head to Bathurst. But this is the relaxing part of the trip, so we can afford to go easy! And I get to share the driving too!

The Kar behaved itself, so, touch wood, we hope it stays that way.

Given the load it is carrying, it copes very well - aside from us and our clothes, there are numerous things that are compulsory for the rally, like a jerry can, safety equipment, first aid, 5 litres of water etc plus two spare wheels. Add to that the perpetual trophy we won last year which has its own suitcase and the give-aways for the schools we visit along the way and you have a Subie loaded to the gunnels! Thank goodness for side mirrors!


Fortunately, we don't have to rally with ALL this in the car...once in Bathurst, much of it will be unloaded onto the 'gear truck' which we can access each evening if we need to. But usually we pack in two halves and access the gear truck only on our rest day (unless Ken hasn't packed enough socks to see him through till then!) - this year that will be in Dubbo.

Ciao for now!


And we're off...!

It was great to have all the staff, the family and even the dog, all there to say goodbye and good luck to us as we drove off this afternoon, headed for Wodonga. Just a short drive today and only a little bit longer tomorrow when we head to Bathurst. But this is the relaxing part of the trip, so we can afford to go easy! And I get to share the driving too!

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Counting down...and looking back

Less than 3 weeks to go until the 2016 Kidney Kar Rally begins!

It has been a busy year for us working towards this year's rally. I thought I would share with you some of our experiences from this year to help understand why we do what we do...

Given the work the Kidney Kids did at their annual 2015 camp, creating bright colourful paintings to decorate our Rally Kar, and given we had won the trophy for Best Presented Kar for 2015, we thought we should attend the 2016 camp on the Gold Coast in April to show the Kids the finished product! They were thrilled to see their paintings and handprints transformed into the 'wrap' covering the Kar as well as some photos of themselves! But more importantly for us, we were simply overwhelmed to see the camp, to see where all the money raised gets spent and to interact with some of these amazing kids. The camp provides the Kidney Kids a fun filled 4 days with each other. They are able to enjoy themselves and just be kids, having fun, while still undergoing their dialysis. And I cannot speak highly enough about the volunteers - over 100 of them - who work hard to make sure the 130 kids enjoy the camp. It was well worth the drive from Melbourne and we left the camp re-inspired to try our best to improve our fundraising efforts.


In May we drove to Bendigo to attend an open house belonging to the Johns family. Beccky Johns was a Kidney Kid. She had attended several of the camps until she was 18 and then volunteered at the camps before securing her dream job with Kidney Health Australia. Despite having transplants when she was young, the anti rejection drugs she was still taking many years later caused her to then have to fight cancer. She passed away late in 2015. We had met Beccky several times both at the Big Red Kidney Walks and also on the Rally. She was an amazing young lady, so full of life and with an incredibly positive spirit. Her family home became the grand final project for Channel 9's Reno Rumble following Beccky's passion for home renovation reality shows. The open day following the end of the series helped to establish the Beccky Johns Kidney Discovery Trust set up to aid research into finding non-cancer inducing anti-rejection drugs.

In September each year, we organise a group of staff and friends and family to attend the Kidney Research Walk in Melbourne. We are very grateful to all those who take the time out of their weekend to participate in the Walk and will continue to take part and support this event in the future.


I should also mention the amazing support we get from Kidney Health Australia. We attended a retirement function for their CEO, Anne Wilson at the end of May. Her work for the organisation and her support for the Rally was highly valued and we will miss her at this year's rally. But all the team at KHA do a fantastic job - Dan, Stephen and Colin - it was great to catch up at the camp. And Katie - your 24/7 support for us and commitment to the cause are exceptional - thank you!

[KKR2015] And so it is over for another year...

An airborne Kar 888! An airborne Kar 888!

We arrived home about lunchtime today after what has probably been our greatest road trip ever! The Kidney Kar Rally has yet again exposed us to some of the most beautiful parts of our country and to some of the most extraordinary people you could ever wish to meet. While it is lovely to be home and to be greeted very enthusiastically by our beloved Golden Retriever Banjo, we will miss the adrenalin of the rally and the camaraderie of the Rallytives with whom we have spent the last two wonderful weeks.

To finalise our results for those of you who have been following those, here they are. Day 9 saw us come in equal 22nd for the day with a 2 late, 1 early, 1 late and 1 early across the four stages for the day. This placed us 16th overall for the rally so far. Then, on our final day of rallying, Day 10, with just three stages saw us record latest on all three - 3, 2 & 3 - again equal 22nd for the day.

A final gathering A final gathering of the Rallytives

As we arrived in Moama for our Presentation Dinner, there was a great buzz about who might win the major awards and trophies. But even better, it was wonderful to see Grant again -, Grant was a 'Kidney Kid' who had been on the rally last year (although he is not a kid any more, he has attended the Kids Kidney Camps and knows first hand what those camps mean to the Kids). We also heard from Ethan, another Kidney Kid who at just 18, has already achieved so much despite his medical issues. His story, as with Grant's story last year, was truly inspiring. These kids never cease to amaze us all with their resilience, their strength of character, their openness and their determination. To stand up and share their stories with a room full of 200 people is courageous in itself. Thank you to Kidney Health Australia for bringing these kids to speak to us - they remind us why we do what we do each year in the Kidney Kar Rally and inspire us to return and do it all over again.

And while on the subject of inspiration- the fundraising this year broke so many records it was amazing. The three top fundraisers for the year each raised in excess of $60,000 - congratulations to Team Roboat (Kar 77), Sister Act (Kar 1308) and the Bathurst Surf Lifesaving Club (Kar 8) - you have all set the bar very high for us to strive even harder next year. Team Roboat from the town of Ouyen in Victoria were also what is referred to as 'Rally Virgins' - it was their first Kidney Kar Rally. Their journey was in honour of their brother and father Rohan, who sadly lost his life to Kidney Disease just before he was to participate in his first Kidney Kar Rally. The boys drove his 1984 Statesman Deville and as we discovered when we stopped overnight in Ouyen, this was truly a strongly bonded community who had clearly supported this team to help them fulfil their Rohan's dream. Well done Team Roboat!

Congratulations to Rusty Racing, another Victorian Krew, who were the overall winners of the rally. Congratulations to all the winners of all the awards, but also to everyone who participated - you should all be very proud of our combined achievement of raising over $700,000 for the Kidney Kids!

For our part, we were the 7th highest fundraisers this year and hope to improve on that next year. Of course we couldn't have achieved this without the support from all our friends, family, suppliers, colleagues and staff - thank you all so much - we will be back soon asking you all for more! We finished the rally in our highest position ever - from 24th last year to 14th this year - it will be challenging for us to better that next year, but we were delighted to have made such a significant improvement! Our trusty little Subaru clearly benefitted from her new look - she never let us down! She will now be sent off for some much needed TLC before we ask her to do it all again! She took us 8,000 kilometres and got caked in red dust, bull dust, sand and mud, but she never complained. I think she will always carry the legacy of this rally with the thick coating of red dust that has found its way in to every nook and cranny - we will never get it all out!

Having been awarded the Best Presented Kar during the course of the rally, we were last night presented with the trophy- it is huge! We managed to squeeze it into the Kar for the relatively short drive home.

We have had so many highlights on this journey, way too many to list, but I cannot actually recall any lowlights. The driving was hard and very tiring, as was the navigating. We will always remember our first visit to Uluru and some of the truly amazing natural wonders we have seen on this trip. We will also remember the warmth of the people in all the towns we visited, the kids at the schools, the farmers who let us rally through their properties, the incredible wildlife...but honestly, the people in the Kidney Kar Rally family are a truly fabulous group of individuals who all band together for this wonderful cause.

The organisers Arthur & Kim who work damn hard all year to make this event one of the best and safest held in this country, the Sweeps who make sure all the Kars make it home every night, the Controls who set up in some remote places in all weather conditions to start us off on each stage and check us in when we finish, the Ambos Phil and Les who patch us up and make sure we are fit to drive each morning, the Johnston's Gear Truck guys who carry everyone's spare parts, tyres and luggage all over the countryside, the Photographers who do an absolutely amazing job and produce some of the most beautiful and action packed shots you could ever wish to see, Katie and Steve from Kidney Health Australia for spreading the word and educating communities during the course of the rally while maintaining their sanity listening to everyone's tales at night, the drivers, navigators, passengers, back-ups and Kruisers - you are all part of this wonderful family and should all be extremely proud! Thank you to all of you!

[KKR2015] Day 10 - Ouyen to Moama

Some of the Kars in Ouyen Some of the Kars in Ouyen

And so we come to the final day of rallying in the 2015 Kidney Kar Rally. While everyone is totally exhausted, there is no lack of enthusiasm for what is in store for us today! The first stage was a 122k Class 3. More sand with recovery vehicles at the ready and a very long stretch along a water channel which saw us all somewhat suspended on a narrow rise above it. A little harrowing at times and certainly no room for overtaking, but we think we finished maybe a minute early. The second stage for the day was a 113k Class 1 which we think we finished a minute early as well.

We stopped for lunch in Kerang and had quite a short turnaround before we had to be back out to start the final stage. The final stage had been changed significantly from what was printed in our road books. Every day there is a Kar that goes out 24 hours before to check the proposed route to ensure it is safe to rally. Clearly this one wasn't so changes had to be made. (There is also a Kar that goes out an hour before the first rally Kar leaves each morning to do the same thing and put out extra caution signs along the way as needed). So what was to be a 95k Class 3 became a 77k Class 2. Everyone's road books now contained amended instructions as well as many deleted ones! This proved to be, for us, one of the best rally sections of the event. There was lots of mud, then dust. A very narrow track and lots and lots of trees and stumps to guide you in the right direction! Mud in that volume is often common in the rally, but this was our first experience of it in this one! It was a very challenging stage indeed and we were shocked to find that, based on the mid-point averages, we came in 10 minutes late! But still, the average will no doubt be at the lower end for this one so we are hopeful of still doing ok. We will find out tonight!

At the end of the final stage of the rally we all gather for a drink where we finish to wait for all the Kars to come in. Once they are all in, we form a parade into the centre of town. Tonight we will all celebrate our survival of the last 10 days and see who wins the remaining awards. I will do a final post tomorrow and let you all know how we finished up.

[KKR2015] Day 9 - Mildura to Ouyen

IMG_2171Well the Road Director promised us 'sand, sand and more sand' and he was not kidding! Once again they had recovery vehicles spread throughout the various stages today in case anyone needed help. We started with a 102k Class 4 and as promised lots of sand and dunes, all of which our trusty little Subie zoomed through without any problem at all. We think we finished maybe a minute early on this stage... Next was a 67k Class 3 - not too much drama there - a few humps, some tourist traffic, nothing we couldn't handle. We finished this one on time we think.

We had lunch at the tiny Underbool Primary School. Only 25 kids and they were super excited to see all the rally Kars and a special guest appearance from Billy the Kidney. Once again, the kids lined up for hugs from Billy, just as they had done in Alice Springs. The judging panel of kids voted our Kar the best! Our long awaited pumpkin soup went down a treat (normally a staple at many of our lunch stops in the rally, we had only enjoyed it once so far!) but the rolls and delicious cakes were scrum my as well.

After lunch we headed out on a 97k Class 1 which didn't start well when an instruction in the road book was misinterpreted and we travelled about 4k up the wrong road before we came upon another rally Kar heading towards us. Many of us had made the same mistake! So began a flurry of U-turns to get us all back on track! Amazingly we still managed to make up the lost time and finished that stage about even. The final stage for the day was a Class 3 of 74k that was to take us into Ouyen. Once again, lots of sand, recovery vehicles at the ready and a whole new experience - wire gates! What a nightmare they were to open and close! Still we came in maybe a minute early. Then into Ouyen - the home town of our highest fundraisers for the year Team Roboat (Kar 77) - and weren't we all given a warm welcome! Dinner was at the Ouyen Club and the locals certainly fed us well and entertained us with a bicycle driven clothesline (our Road Director was the cyclist nominated) containing underpants (of various colours, sizes and gender) with numbers inside them that determined the prize you won in the raffle!!! All very reminiscent of the old days of pluck-a-duck!

No results are posted for the last two days of the rally, so that the winners are unknown until announced on Friday night. So really, while we are always hopeful, we have no idea how we lined up against the averages for the day!

[KKR2015] Day 7 - Broken Hill to Mildura

The mighty Murray! The mighty Murray!

While not as big a day as yesterday, the 568k over 4 rally stages proved to be quite challenging. From Broken Hill we travelled alongside the Trans Pacific rail line to Menindee, had some amazing black soil tracks along the Darling River through Mungo National Park with lots of trees to avoid (which we did fortunately) and through some large private properties. We stopped for lunch at the Pooncarie Hotel and headed towards our home for the next two nights in Mildura.

It's hard to see, but tat's a photographer REALLY earning his keep! It's hard to see, but that's a photographer REALLY earning his keep!

Overall, we thought we had done pretty well, but once again the rally averages were clearly a lot faster than we had bargained for. We started well with a 74k Class 1 for which we managed to come in even. The second stage, a 71k Class 2, we judged to have completed 2 minutes early and we were right on this one. The third stage was a massive 150k Class 3...with lots of gates! We thought we made this one pretty even, but obviously the average times were a lot faster and we were scored at 6 minutes late. After lunch, our last stage of the day was a 172k Class 1 - we estimated we were about a minute late but in fact we were scored at 3 late. Quite a lot of emus and kangaroos and we also faced a lot of tourist traffic, particularly through the National Park. All in all a very scenic day, by the end of which we were incredibly tired but more than satisfied with maintaining 18th position overall. Tomorrow sees a short day, with just 2 stages, so people have the afternoon free to get their Kars repaired before the final two days of the rally.

[KKR2015] Day 8 - Mildura to Mildura

An "easy" section of one of the rally legs! An "easy" section of one of the rally legs!

Only two stages today, so everyone had the chance to make repairs to their Kars etc before we start the final two days of the 2015 Kidney Kar Rally! The day started with a Class 3 over 94k. More gates, sandy tracks and plenty to keep us on our toes. We came in even and were more than happy with that outcome. The second stage of the day was a massive challenge! A Class 4 over 85k that had more humps in it than I would like to remember! And they were all big ones and just didn't seem to ever stop! A couple of corrections along the way where instructions were so close together I struggled to keep up with my navigation directives to Ken, but fortunately these were quickly corrected and we came in on time.

IMG_3273So at the end of the two stages we scored even and even, one of only two Kars to do so, both 4 wheel drives so we still lost our 2 points for the day for having that advantage. But once again, happy with an equal 5th on the day moving us up to 17th overall!

Tonight was the fancy dress or theme night we usually have once during the rally and this year the theme was 'Masquerade'. There were some very creative masks indeed although when you need glasses to see where you are going, it did present a minor problem! The Ambos (Phil & Les) held their raffle tonight raising nearly $5000 which was immediately presented to Kidney Health Australia!

Tomorrow we head to Ouyen - where this year's highest fund raisers hail from. But not before a visit to the tiny Underbool Primary School where we stop for lunch. The Road Director has promised us lots of sand tomorrow and will apparently have lots of recovery vehicles out on the tracks to pull people out of trouble...sounds like it's going to be another big day!

[KKR2015] Day 6 - Wilpena Pound to Broken Hill

Yippee! Yippee!

The longest day of the rally today with a massive 716k taking us around the bottom of the Flinders Ranges and across the border to Broken Hill. The day started with a tyre that needed pumping up a little before we got to the start. We took off on the first stage of the day, a Class 2 of 96k with a warning to be on the lookout for lots of wildlife and wandering livestock! After a short transport we started the next stage of 90k, a class 1 with a similar warning about the livestock and even the potential for a school bus! Stage 3 - a Class 2 of 123k had no such warning, but by the end of this stage we had already encountered 13 gates for the day. Now some of these gates may be open but most are closed. The rule is if there is a pink ribbon attached to it, you must close it after you. So navigators hate gates as they are in and out of the Kar (this year usually encompassed by clouds of red dust) and have to juggle this activity with managing the road book, the Terratrip, their seat belt etc etc...but there was worse to come.

nunsAfter a refuel and lunch stop at the Caltex truck stop in Yunta, we started the final stage for the day - 194k of what proved to be a very challenging Class 1. With no less than 24 gates in this section alone, the timing was always going to be crucial. We found ourselves behind our favourite nuns in Kar 1308, who this year had a passenger with them - Hippy. Hippy proved his worth throughout the afternoon with his incredible gate opening skills and we were finding ourselves in a convoy of about 8 Kars very close together at each gate. While Hippy opened, the last Kar had to close. We kept our position until the last 30k or so and, realising we were a little behind the expected time, we overtook the nuns and proceeded very quickly through the last part of the stage. I have to admit at times my head went very close to the ceiling of the Kar as we hit some nasty gutters along the way and of course the dust didn't help! But we made up our lost time, finished the stage and started the 75k transport to Broken Hill.

We drove through a lot of private property today. We always need to be respectful of the fact that these property owners allow us to use their roads as part of our rally and we saw a number of them come out to watch us and take photos today. We also saw some amazing scenery - particularly memorable was in one area where we came over a very steep rise and there over the top was the most beautiful vista of a wide open green valley - it was stunning! We also encountered more cows, lots of Emus and in the last run into Broken Hill, hundreds of wild goats on the road!

To the Musicians Club in Broken Hill for dinner after we had checked into our motel and washed all the dust of both ourselves and the Subie (she looks more like her old self now!). There are always the tales of the Kars that haven't made it and the work that is going on at night to fix the broken Kars. In the country, much of this is undertaken by locals who do it for no charge and often well outside normal opening hours. There is nothing like the kindness of country people - we have found that in every rally we have participated in.

The biggest surprise of the night for us came when it was announced we had won the day! Yay! We scored even, even, 1 late, even! First place on the longest day...we are delighted!

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