A few weeks OC Life caught up with local chap Sean Lander.

Sean and his brother Kurt Lander had decided to participate in the 2016 Mystery Box Rally on a five-day fundraising trip. There is, of course, a whole other number of reason why the two decided to get involved but we decided it was best to let Sean and Kurt share their reasons and their experience with you! The following words are those of Sean Lander.

Fundraising for charity is something more and more people are becoming involved in. Thanks to a number of websites, you can easily get behind a cause and ask for donations. Some people offer to shave their head or grow a mo' in return for meeting a target. But there are some people who like to go a little further with it.

Darren Skuse is one of those people. Having battled cancer as a kid and losing the lower part of his right leg to the disease, he knows what it's like to do it tough. But good luck finding him without a smile on his face.

When Darren was in hospital as a young boy, he became friends with another kid who was fighting the disease, Steven Walter – my cousin. The two clicked over their love of all things motorbikes and formed a lifelong friendship fast.

Sadly, in 2000, after 8 long years, Steve lost his battle. He was 19. Before he passed, he wrote a letter to his family and friends asking them to raise money for research into childhood cancer “so that no other kid would have to go through what I had to”.

In his honour, a charity was established – the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation. They began an annual event called The Snowy Ride, a massive bike event held in Thredbo every November. It was here, a few years ago, that I met Darren.

He told me of the crazy things he does to keep active – wheelchair basketball, hiking, endurance Motorbike rides. The list goes on and on. But nothing is more important to him than helping preserve Steve's memory.

 

But he wanted to find his own special way to do that. So along with his mate Matt Marias, he began a team called “Two Blokes” - the boys would travel the country helping raise awareness and funds for Childhood Cancer research. Every year they enter into a big event. This year, the 2016 Mystery Box rally was that event.

Darren invited my brother Kurt and I to join them on their adventure. It's here that the story gets interesting.

You see, in 2011, our father Tony was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. It metastasised and spread to his lymph-nodes and eventually to his bones. Five years of medication, appointments, expensive trips overseas, more medication and bizarre, radical and experimental treatments later, Tony – my dad - is looking like he is on the mend.

It was because of this that we jumped at the chance that “Two Blokes” offered us. But before we left, we had to raise a minimum amount of donations for the Cancer Council Australia - $3000. Unlike most teams who had 6 months to do this – we had 6 weeks. Thankfully, the people of Orange and the Central West are clearly some of the most generous in the world – we smashed our target the morning of the rally and we were off. Destination – Adelaide. Task – travel 2500km on corrugated dirt highways around Outback South Australia in $500 s##tters! And what a trip it was…

 

NEWS EXTRA EXCLUSIVE
DIARY OF A ROAD TRIP

 

Day 1: Auction. Manhiem Auctions kindly donated 135 cars to the rally. Glorious, pre-loved, well used beasts that ranged from a 1980's Hyundai Sprint (there's nothing fast about it) to 2003 model Falcon's and Commodores. All with wonderful tricks hidden up their sleeves that would wait until opportune moments to surprise us with.

Kurt and I scored ourselves a pristine, 1997, forest green Toyota Rav4 – Automatic. It was fully optioned from the factory too with a sunroof, tape deck AND CD player.

Sadly, Matt had to pull out at the last minute, so Darren had to call his mate Lindsay Martin to fill in as Co-Driver for the Two Blokes team. Lindsay, who has had a run in with Cancer in the past, is almost as mad as Darren, so they made a good, if not wild, team.

They landed themselves a 1991 Toyota Camry. One lady owner, only driven to the shops on a Monday and Church on a Sunday, probably...

Once the auction concluded, the 135 teams were split up into buddy groups – convoys of 5-10 cars that would stick together and support one another along the way. We were buddy group 10.

 

Day 2: 9am and we were on the road. Day 1 was 550km from Adelaide to Wudinna – a small town west of Port Augusta. 9:15am and we were stopped on the side of the road. A small 1993 Ford Fiesta in our group had become dehydrated – draining it's radiator along the freeway. Easily fixed, we were on the moved again.

The first travel day was uneventful, cruising beautiful, smooth blacktops and making the occasional stop to refill the Fiesta's radiator.

We made camp that night, confident we had made good choices with out cars.

Day 3: No more tar. The morning briefing revealed we were hitting the dirt and heading 420km north to Kingoonya – a near totally abandoned farming settlement that now hosts 12 residents, and a pub. It's a one horse town. Literally, there is one horse in the town.

But that was luxury compared to what we were about the go through. We set out with high hopes. They lasted for a while too, until I decided to test the Rav's 4WD capabilities. This was our first casualty – a stick through the sidewall of our tyre and a flat spare.

Until you're changed a tyre on a red dirt road (track) barely wide enough to fit a car that's currently playing host to 135 passing vehicles, you haven't changed a tyre.

Spare on (and somewhat inflated) we were back on the move. For five minutes. The Fiesta had broken down, again.

After tracking the source of the leaking water, we found the water pump was leaking. From here on in it was all about nursing it to our overnight halt where we would attempt to repair it.

But we soon forgot about the leak as the Beauty of the Outback began to take hold.

Over the next 250 odd kilometers we saw everything from dried, desert scrub to lush, green forests and even sand dunes – completely out of place nestled amongst the foliage that surrounded us.

By the time we reached Kingoonya, we were almost speechless.

 

Day 4: Fiesta patched up, tyres properly inflated and cars fuelled to the brim, we received our route for the day. We were headed to William Creek – a town famous for having the only fly-in bottle shop in the World. Population 12. But there was a catch – we would be travelling down the Oodnadatta Track. A road well known for killing the toughest of 4WD's. How could our $500 beasts possibly survive that?

We made our way North to Coober Pedy to resupply – a new spare tyre, puncture kits, air filters and water. It was 2pm by this stage, and we lined up at the start of the Oodnadatta Track. A large, ominous sign warned us that the road was open to traffic but to proceed with caution. A local had informed us that until 6 days earlier, the track had been closed from all the flooding. Gulp.

It took us about 10 minutes to lose any fear we had. The Oodnadatta Track was better than the best road in Orange. Smooth, no potholes, no traffic (discounting the rally teams) and nestled in the middle of some amazing scenery.

We made great time down the Track and as we approached William Creek, we found road closure signs. We began to wonder where we could possibly go after this if the road was closed. Would we have to head back the other way?

How wrong we were. The town of William Creek had closed the highway because we were coming to town. As we drove into the city limits, we were greeted by dozens of tables and hundreds of chairs spread out across the road way. This was a national highway they had closed for us. Life doesn't get much better than this.

 

Day 5: We were headed for the glorious Flinders Ranges and the small town of Blinman, 550km away. We headed out of William Creek and made our way east. Stopping at the southern Tip of Lake Eyre, 12 meters below sea level, we took in it's beauty. But there was a problem.

Darren and Lindsay had bottomed out their Camry on a river crossing and had punctured the side of their gearbox. They were losing oil fast.

We got the radiator concrete out and did what we could to patch the hole. The leak seemed to stop and we continued on.

As we approached the Ranges, we were told the small town ofCopley was our last fuel for nearly 400km. We brimmed the tanks and hoped for the best.

The Flinders Ranges are like nothing you have ever seen. Somewhere between Outback Australia and Yosemite National Park, they are beautiful and surreal. The roads are deadly – hairpin turns hidden on the other side of crests and Emu's ready to play chicken with your car.

You feel like Luke Skywalker did when he went into the canyon looking for R2-D2. I don't have enough space in this article to write how amazing this place was but I urge everyone to visit just once.

Sadly, we didn't have much time to enjoy the view. 100Km outside of Blinman, the Fiesta started played up again. A rock punctured their fuel tank and a driveshaft seal had let go. They were loosing gearbox oil and fuel fast.

We patched them as best we could and nursed it towards camp. Darkness fell with 70km to go. It gets scary then. Emu's and Red Kangaroo's litter the highways. It's pitch black and you're driving through thick dust as a 135 strong car convoy trepidatiously along a twisting dirt road nestled in the hills.

The terror of it is what defined it as the best day bay far. This is what the rally should have been about – working our asses off to get the cars home – not smooth sailing. Cancer isn't smooth sailing. We are here to go the extra mile in support of cancer research – we should be doing it tough.

As we neared Blinman the roads became worse. Constant river crossings, frequent stops, a mosquito population that would put the rabbit species to shame. There was no moon and the trees covered much of the road. The car's head lights were all weak and the cars themselves, strained and exhausted.

As we made camp, we checked the Fiesta's oil. It was bone dry. How we made it that night we will never know.

 

Day 6: We were on our way back to Adelaide. 540Km of mostly tar – thankfully. But things are never as easy as they seem. A severe weather warning had been issued for all over South Australia. Hail, rain, 140km/h winds. And we were headed straight for it.

We put the hammer down and headed for the city, stopping for fuel with Formula 1 Efficiency and blasting on. We didn't care about the problems now we just had to get back to the city before this storm hit.

The revs were high and the fuel was low. 85Km from Adelaide – the Fiesta ran out of juice. We dropped 5 litres from a jerry can in its tank and kept going. We were chasing the storm at this stage, watching it tear south slightly slower than we were moving.

50km out of Adelaide and the damage started to show. Trees across roads, stock escaped, a truck rolled over in a paddock. We knew it was bad but we didn't know how bad.

We made it back to Adelaide at 3:32pm. At 3:48pm, the entire state of South Australia lost power.

But we had made it. We were in for a dark, cold night but we had made it.

 

2500km, $500 cars and some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen in my life.

As we said goodbye to our cars, I know I for one felt a profound sense of sadness. This little Rav4 had just taken across the South Australian outback. Without a single fault (driver error excluded). I had bonded with this little green machine and the thought that I would never get to see it again was terrible. But after what We had put it through, I wouldn't want to own it either.

Whilst the rally might be over, the fund-raising efforts of Darren and his “Two Blokes” team certainly isn't. Darren works tirelessly all year round to help raise awareness of the disease and the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation.

We ask that should you wish to donate money, make a donation to SWCCF. You can find out more information be visiting the Two Blokes website, www.two-blokes.com. You can also find links to their Facebook page to stay up to date or visiting www.stevenwalterfoundation.org.au

 

www.MotorFirma.com on November 1st.