Off we set, me and Oliver, my partner in stupidity, to drive our newly purchased Mitsubishi work van turned campervan from Cairns to Broome.

Excited and a bit nervous about the prospect of driving across the Australian Outback, we set off, partially brain-damaged, I realise now, from too many Jäger Bombs at The Woolshed.

“Seeya Cairns,” we shouted (Muriel’s Wedding style). Everything was great and we were looking forward to getting away from the madness of the east coast and out onto the open road. Cruising through the remoteness, eating dust and listening to The Proclaimers’ “King of The Road”.

Life was good.

A day and a half later though, our engine started to make a grind, clunk, spurt, noise and I suddenly noticed a red light on the dash which I hadn’t spotted before.

“Erm, did we check the oil since we left Cairns?” I asked Oliver.

We were approaching a small town called Richmond so we quickly stopped at the roadhouse, bought some oil and, with a sigh of relief thinking “phew… that was close,” drove on.

Around 15km later the same noise interrupted our game of Count the Roadkill. Grind, clunk, spurt. But this time there was also a cloud of dirty smoke and the engine cut out.

Oliver managed to calmly steer us off the road while I started inwardly panicking about being murdered, starving to death or becoming feral with the roos.

Our only option was to take our important belongings and hitch a ride back to town.

I never thought the day would come when I’d be flagging down and then climbing into a huge road train.

After various phone calls playing the damsel in distress (and that was just Oliver), our van was towed back to the campsite in Richmond, where the mechanic (also the town’s fireman) came and tended to our van.

One week and two massively bored/sheepish backpackers later, we were still waiting for a reconditioned engine to arrive by freight. Of the 400 inhabitants of the town, around 390 of them knew our story (I think the other 10 were on holiday) and our daily walk up “the street” involved being laughed at by a huge, obese man who sat outside his shop/house all day sweating profusely while one of his 20 cats did a shit inside.

Richmond is famous for its dinosaur museum, but being skint we didn’t want to fork out the $12 entry. Instead we spent our days browsing and comparing how much more expensive Black and Gold tins of beans were in the Outback compared to Cairns.

Two weeks later, and with membership at the library and bowls club, our engine arrived and was fitted by the mechanic, who with his wife and dogs had become our friends. Our friendship quickly ended when he handed us the bill for $2,200, but we understood. There was nobody to blame but ourselves (although I actually blame Oliver).

We spent our last night on the campsite with our newly fixed van and a box of goon to celebrate, hoping we could make it to Darwin on credit.

After a couple of drinks, three backpackers turned up looking very sheepish.

Excited by the prospect of being able to socialise with people under 50, we headed over. After a short conversation it turned out their campervan engine had died because they hadn’t filled it with oil.

I shook my head in disbelief and said, “I can’t believe you ran out of oil in the Outback…”