by Vicki Wood
SCARS mark a journey that you take, not only on a human body but on a car body, especially after competing in a Road Boss Rally.
In four days, I travelled across diverse terrain from Gladstone to Boulia, taking the beaten track, stopping in remote locations across western Queensland.
The main reason was to raise funds for GIVIT, a not-for-profit charity that "gives goods for a good cause”.
The real reason though was to drive places barely travelled and experience the joys of off-road cruising and visiting the characters in remote towns.
The Road Boss Rally is in its second year, but Jamie Lawson and his father Allan have been hosting similar events for 30 years.
It combines the Australian outback, the characters, the cars, the drivers and the charity to make a winning formula.
It takes Jamie and his wife Michelle a year to plan, with no two tracks ever being the same.
They start with a blank canvas and map out the route and the towns they want to stay in, usually taking it to places that most people would miss.
This year we were travelling from Gladstone to Tamworth, stopping in Boulia for the annual camel races.
I was travelling in style in a 1977 Daimler, a limousine-style vehicle, the type the Queen would sit in the back of and wave to the crowds.
Most of the other 54 cars participating in the rally were jealous of the style that we had, and the comfort as we drove over washouts, creek crossings and rough dips.
The car belongs to Colin Halley, a retired sawmill owner who has a passion for cars and driving.
His crew of Bruce, Rusty, Kev and Jackson all took part in helping to navigate, drive and open gates on the trek.
The Daimler was bought in Hong Kong and shipped to Australia with the idea of rebuilding it for sale. But Colin found that a 1990 Range Rover had the same wheel span and if they lengthened the chassis they could put one under the other.
So it was fitted out with a roll cage, beacon light, extra fuel tanks, a bash plate and many other mod cons to prepare for rallying.
The crew also took turns driving their second vehicle, a 1953 Jaguar - the not-so-comfortable cousin.
This was found in a barn for $350 in a beaten-up state. The seating was just wire, everything was off it, but it had virtually no rust. Colin bought it, stripped it down and replaced everything mechanically but left the body looking like a 1953 war-torn Jaguar.
Starting from the port of Gladstone, it wasn't long before we were off the main track and heading into a practice area arranged so everyone could test out their cars.
It didn't give me a good impression from the start when many lost their way trying to follow the directions. The feeling didn't last long and before I knew it we were on our way and heading towards Baralaba for our first night.
Each day drivers were given timed sections called wackos. They were marked off at a checkpoint and could range from 20km to more than 100km with plenty of hazards.
Most of our driving took us to roads not often travelled by tourists and was well planned, with every dip and crossing marked in the driving book.
Navigators kept a close eye on the trip meter, reading out what lay up ahead and counting down, sometimes in 100m increments, when the next obstacle would be upon them.
The Daimler was surprisingly nimble for an 'old girl' and took only a slight turn of the wheel and gentle caress when going around tight corners for the front wheels to pull us forward.
Each night we camped under the stars or in sheds and many tales were told of past rallies.
Aramac put on quite a show for us, with the State of Origin played on a screen hooked up to a cattle truck.
The roads leading in and out of the town were speckled with metal statues that someone had painstakingly welded and placed across the dusty roadsides.
Camels, emus, kangaroos and the odd dead wild dog were the main viewing from the car windows. The open plains went on for miles as far as the eye could see, with stunning blue skies and magnificent landscapes.
Winton brought a smile to our faces with the Crack Up Sisters entertaining us into the evening and an auction was held to help the sisters build a performing arts school.
By early the next morning, with an amazing sunrise waking us, we would be off for another challenge - and let's face it, that is what most people were there for, the challenge of being able to navigate your way through the terrain in a vehicle you had built especially for the trek.
With 35 volunteer officials and every entrant willing to give a hand, there was always someone to help get you out of trouble. If that meant a flat tyre, oil leak, fuel pump gone, running into a fence or getting stuck on a mound, someone was there to get you out.
The stop in Boulia for two days allowed everyone to make sure vehicles were okay, do any maintenance and take a rest watching the camel racing.
Considered the 'Melbourne Cup of camel racing' Boulia's annual event delighted most and even had people participating in camel tagging and auctions for children in a leg race.
The Road Boss Rally had many laughs, a lot of challenges and has even had a wedding in the middle of the Simpson Desert.
But the drivers are experienced, they have the knowledge and they trust each other - and behind the scenes it is safe and professional.
For further information on the next rally in 2018, go to roadbossrally.com.au.