Last Saturday we returned home from a terrifying ordeal.
What started out as a happy weekend drive through the outback soon turned into a hellish nightmare.
We were on our way to James Price Point, travelling along Manari Road, past Quondong Point.
One minute we were watching the clouds roll by, staring at the the endless red dirt stretched out ahead with Belinda Carlisle playing on the stereo. Next thing we know, we’re sinking in muddy water.
Neither of us could have envisaged just how deep that puddle was. We’d crossed a smaller one moments before with little effort and figured this would be ok too.
How wrong we both were.
Before we were halfway across, the car stalled and started screeching and whirring as we were slowly being sucked down into the soft mud.
Forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards, sinking deeper and deeper until we were immobile.
Water started leaking inside and collected around my feet. That’s when panic really set in. We knew we were in real trouble.
Our whole world shattered in a blink of an eye. The tables had well and truly turned.
We had gone from being happy little humans zipping through the landscape in our trusty Suzuki to terrified mortals suddenly finding ourselves at the mercy of the harsh, unforgiving terrain.
I lost all sense of rationale because claustrophobia had set in. I tried to open the door passenger door but couldn’t because of the pressure of the water. Tension soared to boiling point. We were stuck inside this bogged car and I needed to get out. Fast.
Chris opened the driver’s door and a gush of orange water flooded in.
I heaved at my door and scrambled out.
The water was nearly waist high.The oppressive heat bore down. There were no sounds except for chirruping insects hiding in the scrub and trees.
As we stood in this massive amber lake, reality set in. It was about 40 degrees, we were completely alone, we had no phone service, only a litre of water each and no one knew we were out here.
We took our valuables from the car. Chris grabbed our thongs but dropped one of his and it floated away.
We clung to each other as we started slipping and sliding through the swamp.
I felt the mud ooze and squelch between my toes. We desperately tried to reach a patch of solid dirt.
I kept asking over and over again: what are we going to do? Is someone going to drive past? Are we going to die?
I was trying to read Chris’s reaction. He didn’t freak out. He never freaks out. But I could tell he was distressed and trying his hardest not to be for my sake.
I kept thinking about all those foul news stories I’d read and even written about where people get stranded in the outback.
The one bit of advice emergency crews always say is to never, ever leave your vehicle.
But that’s precisely what we did, against our better judgment.
We started walking away from the swamped car in the hope that we would eventually get some signal and dial for help.
We clutched our water bottles as we trekked along the dirt road under the blistering heat.
I hit 000 several times but it was futile.
We figured we’d try to walk for 15 to 20 minutes, but the further we walked away from the car, the more exposed we felt.
After a while we stopped because Chris could no longer walk on his bare feet. The scorching hot dirt had burnt his soles badly.
The situation was hopeless. I started praying.
We got off the road and sheltered momentarily in the scrub to cool off.
It wasn’t long before we decided to head back towards the car to retrieve Chris’s thong, grab the remaining bit of water from the back seat and figure out a plan from there.
The walk back seemed endless. In reality, it may have only been 15 minutes but when you’re doing it in near 40 degree heat, you’re on very dangerous territory.
I conjured up all these images of surviving the night on our own, waiting for help, thinking someone would eventually raise the alarm if we failed to show up to work on Monday. Maybe Tuesday. Can you live that long without water???
As I trudged on, I suddenly heard a faint yell behind me.
I turned to see a Toyota LandCruiser coming towards us.
Chris flagged it down immediately, and two Good Samaritans – a Broome couple, stopped to help.
They gave us fresh, chilled water and ushered us inside to recover in the aircon as they drove us to the site of our car.
I cried tears of joy, relieved that we had been rescued.
They listened intently to our tale of woe, sympathising with us as we recounted our ordeal.
Turns out, we were really lucky because the Greens told us just moments earlier, they had been debating which direction to go in and very nearly went a different way.
The Suzuki was eventually pulled out of the mire but was in no shape to drive, so the couple took us back into town and dropped us off at home.
For the remainder of the day, we sat outside, stupefied by what had happened. I was quite emotional because I really thought there was a big chance we weren’t going to make it back.
We were so grateful to Ben and Belinda, and so hard on ourselves for going into the bush completely unprepared.
I’m glad to say we survived to tell the tale but it just goes to show how much you have to respect the country and land you’re living in because you never know what’s around the corner.