As the Charge Around Australia journey moved into its fourth week, morale remained high in the drive team as they looked forward to continuing on through Queensland and into the Northern Territory.
Day 22 and the team passed through the small outback town of Camooweal not far from the border with the Northern Territory, where the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu people are the traditional owners of areas around the upper Georgina River, including Camooweal.
Through the Northern Territory
Day 23. The drive continued into the Northern Territory and through the flat expanses stretching from Tablelands to the town of Tennant Creek, where the team were unable to roll out the solar sheets for charging as it proved to be too windy. However they were able to spend an evening enjoying the races and meeting the locals at the town’s speedway track.
The traditional land owners of this area are the Warumungu people. They recognise a number of sacred sites in the area, including the Nyinkka Nyunyu Culture Centre, which showcases the people’s stories and art.
Day 24 saw the team drive more than 400km north through the tiny community of Elliot and the deserted town of Newcastle Waters en route to Daly Waters. On arrival, Stuart and Thilo were more than happy to enjoy the friendly atmosphere at the Daly Waters Pub and relax by the pool as the solar sheets harvested plentiful energy from the sun. Unfortunately, there was a problem that prevented the transfer of the energy to the car, but a couple of the university team were due to join the drive in a couple of days time and would hopefully be able to help.
After a day off from driving, Day 26 saw the team continue north through the town of Mataranka en route to the community of Katherine. The guys were able to enjoy relaxing in natural hot spring pools near their caravan site, protected from the 42 degrees Celsius heat by a thick canopy of trees overhead.
Day 28. The team drove from Katherine to Timber Creek. Thilo had a blow out in the support vehicle 5km before arriving at the destination but fortunately was able to change the wheel just in time before darkness fell. Nick and Michael from the university team arrived and started the process of checking the solar charging set up to discover where the problem was.
Day 30 and the team were at the Timber Creek School where they were able to roll out the solar sheets while Nick and Michael continued to run tests on the battery array, solar sheets and system software.
Into Western Australia
Day 31. Having continued driving west, into Western Australia, the team arrived in the town of Kununurra to spend a day visiting the area’s attractions: Lake Argyll, the concrete causeway built over the Ord River known as the Ivanhoe Crossing, and the hydro-power station at the base of the Ord River Dam which provides clean and renewable energy source to Kununurra and the surrounding area.
Day 32 and the team drove 200km to the community of Warmun, where they met local Gija people at the Warmun Art Centre and discussed solar energy, solar panels and electric vehicle charging.
Day 33 saw the team continue their drive, arriving in Halls Creek where they rolled out the solar sheets at the Halls Creek Aquatic and Recreation Centre. Nick and Michael continued to work hard on solving the solar charging set-up problem before they were due to head back to the University of Newcastle.
Good news and bad news
Day 34 and the Fitzroy Crossing Recreation Centre was the venue for both good and bad news. Michael and Nick finished their work and concluded that four of the eight panels had degraded to the point where they were no longer useful, but the other four remained operational. Unfortunately a mini-whirlwind, known locally as a willy-willy, whipped up over the four pegged-out operational panels causing significant damage to all of them. Six more were in production at the University of Newcastle, so it was hoped that they would be delivered to the drive team soon.
Another setback to deal with but all part of the journey and the ongoing learning experience. And the team was ready to recover, get back on the road and continue with the journey.
Day 35. The team continued on to the town of Derby where they pitched camp at a community centre and met a group of local First Nations Australians children who were enjoying a school disco there. The children were interested in the Tesla and the rolled out solar sheets and asked some great questions.
Day 36 saw the drive continue on to the beach resort town of Broome where the team enjoyed a mini-break on the coast overlooking the Indian Ocean. Apart from relaxing, Stuart did carry out a couple of radio interviews, one for ABC Radio Broome and another for ABC Radio Newcastle.
Day 39 brought good news. The University team had managed to successfully repair the four damaged solar sheets, the battery issue had been resolved and 15km of charge had successfully been transferred to the car.
Day 41. Rested and refreshed, the team covered more than 600km heading south down the coast through Lagrange and Eighty Mile Beach en route to the coastal town of Port Hedland. At Port Hedland Primary School they prepared for the first Charge Around Australia roadshow for a while. Weather and ground conditions were perfect for rolling out the solar sheets and getting the solar charging system set up – happy days!
Day 42. The return of the CAA roadshow was a great success with sessions carried out for a number of groups and the children taking great interest in the project and fully engaging with activities including building mini solar cars and running them off solar panels – no batteries included!