Short Trips from Melbourne: Nepean Point (and Winston’s breakdown)

There’s heaps of things you can do in Melbourne and even more so just at its doorstep. Keeping in mind that distances in Australia are a bit different to Europe… Yes you have to drive some hours to get there but it’s worth it.

So after spending a relaxing early morning pacing around a busy Sunday market, we hopped in the car and headed towards Point Nepean and its national park. Point Nepean is located at the tip of the Peninsula below Melbourne. After approximately 100km we arrived and took in some of the Australian history during both World Wars. Meandering through Fort Nepean, which was an important defence facility protecting Port Philip (the body of water just below Melbourne), was a unique experience.

As you enter, you notice a silent aura, occasionally being disturbed by small gusts of wind. Texts explaining each room’s purpose capture your sight. Old rusty cannons wearily point towards the open sea and cause you to occasionally wonder and imagine the fort as it once was. 

Enough with the history lesson… though it is most definitely worth checking out (bring a fly net). After taking everything in we journeyed back towards Winston, who was left alone in the car park because cars weren’t allowed to enter. Little did we know, Winston was not happy being neglected.

So half way through our journey back to Melbourne, Winston decides to take a strike. Our RPM meter shot down to 0, the dashboard lights starting playing a piano light-show, and the speedometer indicated 40km/h whilst we were driving at least 80. After a few freakout moments, we pull Winston out of the highway and to a side road to check things under the hood.

This is where we made our first mistake. We turned the engine off. What we realised is that our alternator (the thing that charges your battery when you drive) had mostly ripped. Alongside this, our battery, which was probably older than you, could not get our engine going again as it was flat. So there we were, 50km away from Melbourne, unable to move.

Luckily for us though, Winston is a Diesel engine powered car. This is important, and you’ll understand why in a second.

Laurent jumped into the driver’s seat and geared Winston into 2nd. Simone got behind Winston and start pushing. As said, Winston has an old Diesel engine, which meant it needed a powerful surge/charge to get started, but once it was started, the car would work using little, if any electricity. So the plan was to push him until the engine turned enough, to power the dead battery sufficiently, to start the car. Keeping in mind that the exact thing that was charging our battery was mostly ripped and could hardly charge it. Another thing we knew at this point, is that we had turned the key to try and start the engine dozens of times, which meant we were slowly but surely flooding the engine…

With all the odds stacked against us, and what felt like a 200m sprint with weights on your shoulders, we turned the key and Winston puffed out some black smoke clearing out all the sh*t we almost flooded him with. Finally, some relief.

Now; to find a mechanic who was open on a Sunday… Yeah… No. Not happening. Not even in Melbourne. So we went to a Woolworth’s parking lot. Our parking choices were extremely limited since we had to park somewhere we could sleep and jumpstart Winston the next morning. So we prayed that the management at the Woolies would allow us to sleep in their ‘2-hours only’ parking lot for the night. Fortunately for us, Australians are awesome. They allowed it and the next morning we went to find a mechanic to fix Winston.

A new alternator costs a lot, somewhere between 900 – 1500$. So after taking him to the three closest mechanics (who charged very high prices or could not help us with our problem), we went back to our lovely German mechanic who had fixed Winston before. Keep in mind, that every time we stopped Winston at a mechanic we had to jump start him…

Luckily our stereotypically German mechanic and his daughter Simone (his daughter’s name was also Simone… “everybody laugh here”), fixed him up for a very reasonable price and we were good to go again.

What a day. We learned all this stuff about cars (thanks google) and dealt with our first big mechanical failure on the road. Everything seemed to go wrong but somehow, it still went right. We knew nothing about alternators, batteries, or how it all worked. So for anyone too scared to take on the road due to their lack of knowledge, know this; we didn’t know any of it either. As a wise man once said; “everything will be good in the end, if it ain’t good, it ain’t the end” – or something like that.

Random obstacles will appear on the road but you’ll always surprise yourself with how much you’re capable of and how much you can get through. All you’ve gotta do is give yourself the chance.

tl:dr: we went to Nepean Point and our van broke down. After a series of problems we managed to push start the van again to get it going. Had to park (and sleep) in a Woolies parking because it was a Sunday and mechanics were closed.

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