Shazza urged Ernie on but poor old Ernie was struggling.
Shazza knowingly cribbed her body forward and pushed Ernie's gearstick into position the way she had done a million times times before.
'Com'on Ernie, I know you can.
But Ernie wasn't responding the way the had done in the past.
There was an audible grinding of well-worn cogs. Shazza grimaced. Her eyes squinted.
More grinding, a crunch follwed by a dull clunk.
Ernie was in! Shazza's face lit up.
Ernie was now in second gear and the old boy sailed smoothly over the corrugations and across the Wooramel River crossing with spongy tummy-heaving lollops. If Ernie was a young man he'd be getting new shockers fitted. But Ernie was ready to be put in parked in the end paddock and he certainly wasn't getting new shockers.
Ernest Giles is an old man. He's travelled more than three million kilometres on Australia's most remote roads, carrying thousands of adventurers into the Pilbara, the red centre, Ayer's Rock the Kimberley and into the length and breadth of Australia's outback.
To those who know him well, he's Ernie. I was lucky enough to be on Ernie's last ride in 2013. I too fell in love with Ernie. His springs had gone soft so it was a smooth ride. On a few occasions I thought I might have to get out and push and would willingly have done so. Ernie was comfortable, welcoming and friendly; a bit like an old RN Williams boot. This old man had done his bit and it was time he was given a rest in a classic old garage with 1950s rock and roll music, filtered light and the smell of diff oil and axle grease.
Sharon (or Shazza to her mates) was Ernie's driver. She seldom swore at Ernie but urged him audibly through every gear change, around every corner, over every corrugation on Ernie's last run. At Mount Augustus I saw Shazza underneath Ernie. She had taken his gearbox apart and was repairing his ageing drive shaft that was a missing a tooth or two.
|Sharon with Ernie in the Pilbara 2013|
One morning at breakfast Sharon fixed me with a stare that would have frozen a side of beef at twenty paces.
'Dale! You bloody wake me again at 4am and I'll bloody strangle you'.
My misdemeanour was conducting a moon, star and sunrise photography workshop near Sharon's tent at 4am. I would rather have faced a court martial than risk that again..
Ernie belongs to Casey Tours and was named after the famous Australian explorer Ernest Giles, who was the first European to see The Olgas and Uluru.
Shot on Fujifilm X100.
Want to learn photographywith Dale Neill in 2014? Or would you just like to hear some of Dale's ridiculously tall stories?
Click HERE for details.