When retirees Fran and Geoff left their Perth home on their eagerly anticipated six-week north-west adventure in September, they had no idea of the joy – and agony – that lay ahead.
The trip up to Karratha and back was to be a taster of life on the road before the ‘big one’ of a year or longer … but one gust of wind changed everything. In their Holden Colorado dual cab ute pulling a 21’ Jayco Sterling, the couple was having the time of their lives as they camped next to the Indian Ocean, mingled with their fellow travellers, and marvelled at the sights and sounds of Western Australia.
Then, at the start of their fourth week, the dream became a nightmare.
“We caught a gust of wind coming around a bend on the road to Exmouth and the caravan swerved onto the gravel and started to sway,” recalls Fran. “I guess with more experience towing a van I might have corrected but I lost control and we ended up in a rollover.”
From there, Fran says everything happened in slow motion.
“As I lost the steering we did a 180 degree turn and then onto the sloping shoulder of the road; a sense that the car was going to roll and then ‘no, we are okay …. OOOPS here we go’ … very slowly … over… bang; the car on its side and the caravan belly up.”
Incredibly, thanks to their seatbelts, neither Fran nor Geoff suffered a scratch.
“I am looking up at Geoff held only by his seatbelt and, once that is undone, he falls gently into my lap,” says Fran. “There is a strange sense of calm as we assure each other we are okay and then reflect silently on our luck, or was it the angels watching over us?”
Fran recalls that the CD was still playing, the engine was still running, and – as she looked up through the passenger window at the sun above – everything appeared to be as it should be in the world … apart from the strange angle she was viewing it at!
Within minutes, good Samaritans were swarming around the vehicle, dialling ‘000’, checking on the couple’s welfare, reassuring them that help was on the way, talking to them as they remained trapped in the car in precarious positions.
After the emergency services arrived and cut them free, the couple says they were overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone from the first people on the scene, to the emergency service personnel, the hospital staff, tow truck operators, nearby caravan park staff and many, many others.
“It’s a truly humbling experience when people give so freely of themselves with no expectation of anything in return,” says Fran.
Although the couple’s car and caravan were complete ‘write offs’, Fran insists this isn’t the end of the road for them.
“It’s a bit sad that it ended as it did as we were having such a great time,” she says. “But, one thing is for certain, once we have ourselves geared up, the journey shall continue.”