Still Going – 663 South Dowling Street, Surry Hills, NSW


It has been 75 days since leaving the Austin airport and this week I have now found a place to make base camp. Its apartment #9 on 663 South Dowling, Surry Hills, NSW 2010. It’s only a 5 minute walk from Centennial Park and a short bike or bus ride from CBD. There is also a shopping center around 3 blocks away with a massive grocery store. Additionally, there are about 50 restaurants within a 1 mile radius. I have no idea why so many restaurants are needed.

Last week

In the past week, I volunteered for a 24 Hour Adventure Race, got an apartment, had a job interview, and moved out of the hostel into my own place. The 24 Hour adventure race was probably one of the most tiring volunteering sessions I have experienced. On friday of last week, I took a train from Sydney to about 10 minutes from the event and got picked up by one of the race organizers. That night we stayed up until about 3AM preparing items for the next day. The next day we woke up around 5 AM to begin moving the participants transition gear from base camp to the transition points along the course. This involved loading each individuals crates of transition gear into a trailer, driving to the transition area, and then unloading them. For 12 hour participants this consisted of two crates and 24 hour participants had 3 crates. Some of the crates would be used at more than one transition zone throughout the race which meant a lot of loading and unloading. This lasted until around 9 PM at which point the Range Rover we were driving caught fire.

An annoying bird at the hostel


The race begins with a kayak segment


The range rover story

The range rover was borrowed by one of the race organizers named Henry. He and his wife had just sold their range rover the week before after ordering a new one which won’t arrive until November. Because the race requires a vehicle that can haul a trailer through the mountains of the park, Henry borrowed his friends range rover. Todd and I had been using the range the entire day to move gear up and down the mountains, on road and off road. We had just finished retrieving the last of some gear from a transition area that was no longer in use and were driving back to camp, when I smelt something like plastic burning. Earlier in the day, Todd had been riding the clutch and the same smell had occurred so I asked Todd if he was riding the clutch. He said no and we began looking for someone burning plastic in a fire while driving to camp. Just as we pulled up to base camp, smoke started to come from under the hood. The smoke was just a whisp, but started to pick up and Todd went to pop the hood. On ranges the pull lever to pop the hood is actually on the passengers side which Todd informed me of when he couldn’t find it on the drivers side, so I went back to my seat to try to pop the hood. I couldn’t get it so I asked Todd to try it and he ran over to help because the smoke was getting thicker. I ran over to the hood to lift it up and flames were starting to come from underneath the hood. Todd began to yell for people to get water because we didn’t have any nearby. The first and second time Todd popped the hood, I dropped it while lifting it up. The third time I got it up and the fire under the hood was full blown, engulfing the passenger side of the engine compartment.  When I saw this, I started determining whether we were going to be able to put it out or needed to evacuate before it hits gas somewhere and explodes. Someone who had been watching the spectacle from the main tent came up with a large container full of water and threw it towards the fire, but half the water went on him and half on the fire, which didn’t do much to put it out. By now the fire had ignited the cover that is on the bottom of the hood and flames were everywhere. More water was being brought by others who had noticed a flaming car had pulled up in camp and eventually we are able to put the fire out in the engine compartment. Next, we put the fire out on the hood. After the smoke had cleared, we found out what had happened.

The Range has dual batteries. The auxiliary battery had a jury-rigged battery holder made out of a metal strap with a tent stake hooked into a hole on the body. This metal battery holder had wiggled loose while we were driving and had shorted out one of the terminals. This must have caused the battery to spark until eventually it ignited. We got lucky, if this had happened a couple minutes earlier, we wouldn’t have had access to water and would have probably lost the entire truck. I called it a night at this point, while others stayed up the entire night to continue picking up gear and bringing it back to camp.


Todd and other inspect the damage, while someone cuts and repairs the damaged wires. Notice the smoke coming from the top of the hood still.


The primary battery was undamaged and the Range was able to be driven back home on its own power. Imagine telling your friend that you caught their range on fire while you were borrowing it. Gotta have a few beers before breaking that kind of news.

A huge pelican near the kayak exit point


The main tent at base camp. The guy standing up int he white cap was the first guy to bring water to douse the fire. The guy sitting down in the white cap is the head of the event management company – Max Adventure.


iBurst Mobile Broadband

I would be streaming live 24/7 right now, but my mobile broadband provider having issues keeping the modem connected to internet service. It has been 3 days since this started and hopefully next week it will be fixed and I can stream.

The future

I have been interested in taking a bike tour. Cairo to Cape Town and biking across Canada are two tours that are tempting me. There is also a tour that goes through South America. If you want to go on one of these sometime or a different one let me know, I am thinking about doing Cairo to Cape Town in a couple of years. Also, I am going to start planning a trip up the East Coast by bike and possibly the North Coast if it is feasible. Anyone that wants to come along is more than welcome to do the entire thing or part of it. I will post the route as I develop it.

3 replies on “Still Going – 663 South Dowling Street, Surry Hills, NSW”

I lived at 663 South Dowling Street for a few months in 1985- it was a sort of backpackers hostel, the house next door was also one.

I used to pay A$35 per week to this slightly dodgy Aussie bloke, called Terry who said he owned the place.

There were at least 30 people living there, my room had six.

Loved my time in Sydney.

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