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June 2019


The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet gets a piggyback to a new lease of life

 'Very sad but we're happy it's getting rebuilt'

Gauntlet family resort to tents as flood-damaged home goes in for major repairs

By Dennis Amor
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AN adventurous family of 14 has had to resort to living in a tent while their home a converted 1984 Austral Tourmaster bus undergoes major repairs.

Peter Cairns, partner Allison and their 12 children aged between 2 and 23 have been on the road for 14 years, claiming to be Australia's largest and longest travelling adventure family.

Eight of the youngsters were were born on the road in different locations.

But their astonishing sojourn in The Gauntlet ground to a halt after being bogged in the Townsville floods which left almost 1000 people homeless.

"We tried getting a tow company to pull us out in the last week before the flood but there was nothing anyone could do. We even tried the army," Peter told Caravanning News.

The bus ended up completely swamped in the floodwaters and is now undergoing repairs costing thousands of dollars.

An online GoFundMe appeal launched by a friend and follower of the family's extraordinary travels has already raised over $3000 towards the cost of putting their home back on the road.

Gauntlet kids in tent

The Gauntlet kids in their temporary home

It was only the second time during their travels they had become bogged without successful freeing The Gauntlet.

"We called it 'Sunday Floody Sunday'," Peter said.

"It was starting to get dark and so we went to a little nearby hill where we watched as the bullbar went under.

"The last time Allison walked out of the bus the water was up to her shoulders. We said goodbye to The Gauntlet and watched it fade into the dark."

A tow company was asked to pull the bus out in the week before the flood but there was nothing anyone could do.

"We even tried the army," Peter explained.

"I never wanted to go back to the bus but a fella we met threw me in his 4WD and we went to see if we could get to it after the floods receded.

"I'll never forget seeing it sitting out in the middle of the paddock. Expecting to see complete annihilation, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the water must have peaked at the time we left.

"The first thing I did was look at the dash and saw that all the gauges weren't covered in mud. I walked inside and although the carpet up the front was wet, up towards the rear the floor was completely dry."

Peter was over the moon when the engine "fired up" after spraying WD40 and cleaning the air filters.

"But the bus was in no condition to be driven on the road and was towed away just the other day to repair things like the clutch, gearbox, diff, brakes, alternator, wheel bearings, electrics, pneumatic switches and controls etc etc," he said.

"We watched it go up on the back of the truck and be driven away. It was very sad but we're happy it's getting rebuilt."

He said his family was now living in tents next to where the bus was flooded.

"The caravan parks quoted us between $2500 and $3000 a week to stay in cabins. We're expecting to be tent camping for about four weeks or more while the bus is being repaired."

Peter said there was "a long way to go" before his family could hit the road again.

"There is only so much you can do in a day," he explained.

"We still have to replace many items such as the generator, air cons, water pump and many other things.

"Most of my tools were destroyed and we lost many possessions but we saved a few as well.

"The Gauntlet is not just a bus ... it's a family member. This old bus has given us 14 years of endless memories and has taken us to places we could only dream about.

"It is the only home that eight out of our 12 children know. It will be in our family for a very long time and it will give us more memories into the future."

He praised insurers Ken Tame who had supported the family during its ordeal.

"We would be completely off the road for good had we not been insured," Peter said.

"They have been very good in our time of need."


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the prior written permission of Dennis Amor.

Copyright 2005 Dennis Amor
All Rights Reserved

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