Each fortnight, veteran outback truckie Kym Mozol, 62, makes the 1800km round trip to a remote Aboriginal community called Tjuntjuntjara, delivering supplies to its only grocery store.
Based in Ceduna, SA, the trip usually takes about 14 hours each way – if he has a relatively good run. Though the longest it’s taken him is 20 hours. “It depends on the road conditions, sometimes it’s longer, sometimes it’s less,” he said.
Tjuntjuntjara is home to around 100 people and is located approximately 650 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie, in the Goldfields-Esperance region of WA. Mozol has been doing this particular run for seven years. Of the 900km journey, about 600km is on the dirt. The run is about as remote as you can get. He’s more likely to see camels and kangaroos than people.
“You can do a whole trip without seeing anyone. Every now and then you’ll see a few,” said Mozol.
“It’s damn beautiful up that way and there’s no phone service either, so it’s bloody peaceful. You haven’t got all these people ringing you and wanting something,” he laughed.
“When you get some rain out there it’s really beautiful, especially down through the Great Victorian Dessert. Why they call it a dessert I have no idea, as when it rains there it’s very pretty.”
Mozol is also a farmer and has been all his life. His Ceduna property features wheat, barley, oats, cattle and Merino sheep. Like most Aussie farm kids, Mozol grew up driving anything and everything.
“I started driving trucks on the farm when I was nine years old. As a kid, dad had a sheep and wheat farm just out of Ceduna. Back then it was just part of life, you were always driving stuff you weren’t supposed to.”
Mozol ended up getting his truck licence at 22. “But then I went shearing. I didn’t think I was going to make it as a truck driver,” he admitted, revealing he didn’t start driving trucks for a living until he was 30.
He runs his transport operation together with his wife Bethney Mozol, operating a fleet of five trucks. The Tjuntjuntjara trip is now the only outback run he does, with other work consisting mainly of carrying fertiliser, grain and general freight to Adelaide. Throughout his career though, the work has been wide and diverse, including running triples up to Darwin, demountables to mine sites and carrying grain across the whole country.
“Most times I have two drivers going too, but everyone is getting older and it’s getting harder to hire. I try to keep one of the other trucks running year-round,” he said.
Mozol drives a 2000 model Kenworth T604 and has no interest in anything newer or flashier.
“When they’re not all electronic, you have a better chance of being able to fix them when you’re out in the bush. It’s not as smooth as the newer stuff, but you don’t need a computer and qualified mechanic to get going again if you break down. It’s an ex Cleveland Freightlines truck – one of the “Mack Munchers” – with a few million on the clock,” added Mozol.
The journey to Tjuntjuntjara takes Mozol through Nundroo, up to Maralinga, north-west past Oak Valley and then west towards the WA border.
He leaves on a Wednesday and gets there on the Thursday. “It could be at 7 in the morning or at midnight, depending on conditions. Then you unload and turn around and I’m back by the Friday.
“It’s mainly bush tracks. They get graded every two years, but they’re still rough as guts.
“If it’s wet, I stop, have a sleep and go again the next day. The longest it’s taken is 20 hours – but it’s longer than that if you get bogged,” Mozol explained.
On average, he says, he changes at least one tyre on each round trip. Though the most he’s had to change along the run is four. “And then if you break down, there’s only a satellite phone, but that doesn’t really get you out of it. I’ve done centre bearings before, or had broken a wire and had to get someone out there to fix it. When it comes to the truck not starting, it’s frustrating.”
Yet despite all of that, he says one of the biggest challenges comes in the form of a four-legged kind. The camels.
“Sometimes there are a lot of camels. On most trips you’ll see a mob of them, anything up to 15, sometimes there’s even 70-80 of them. At night time they camp out on the road and just don’t want to get off. When I first started, one actually hit my mirror, that’s how close he got!”
There’s no doubt that it’s a tough job and not for the faint-hearted. But Mozol says he still enjoys it. “I like the bush and I like driving out there every fortnight. When I get there, the storekeeper and managers come up, and they’re so glad to see you and bring a cup of coffee and have a chat. Hopefully one day I’ll get a buyer as I want to retire at some stage.
“It’s a pity a few more city people don’t get out and do something in the bush, they don’t know what they’re missing!”