The other day I purchased a book,
it's called "The World's Top Wildlife Photographers".
As the name implies the book features the work of some very
good photographers. There's none of my images in the book
though, a serious omission that I must point out to the publishers,
but that's not why I mentioned it. No really.
Towards the beginning of the book
is a fantastic photo, by Cherry Alexander, of some penguins
standing in a surreal landscape of eroded iceberg. It's a
great shot, and quite well known, but what fascinated me was
the fact that these birds can just live in this environment.
No matter how cold, or windy, or wet it gets, they have everything
they need in their little bodies.
Later I went for a stroll, it was
a very cold and windy evening on the west coast of Tasmania,
so I didn't go far. As I returned though I noticed the truck
sitting stoically on the edge of the beach. Inside I could
see Chris preparing dinner under the warm glow of our incandescent
I realised that no matter how bad
the weather is, we have our own little space capsule that
keeps us warm and dry. In fact, within the confines of the
truck we have everything we need, rather like the penguins.
OK so we need 14 tonnes of technology
and some money in the bank, but it's kind of the same.
My point is (at last) that this
motorhoming lifestyle is almost completely self sufficient,
we are free to drive pretty much anywhere we like, and free
to live pretty much anywhere we like.
And you can probably do the same,
it's easier than you think. Just sell the house, sell all
the crap you've been hoarding, bugger off, and find your own
pristine beach somewhere in this big country.
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Sun 15 Feb 2004
We leave Sundown Creek this morning. That's the end of our time
in the north-west.
After a couple of hours we pull over into a rest
area for lunch.
After eating I'm sitting in my chair when I here
"Hello" from outside. Looking out the window I find that
Craig (our fisherman friend from Rocky Cape) has pulled in.
He's been out fishing, and in fact was out yesterday
in the gale. He only has a tiny dinghy and "nearly lost it
a couple of times". He had to leave one of his nets out over
night as it was too rough to pull it in.
It all worked out though, and he now has two tonnes
of fish to show for his trouble. With a nice catch like that, and
the money it will earn him, he's having second thoughts about selling
the shack at Rocky Cape.
He offers us a fish but I say I wouldn't know
what to do with it. No problems, he'll fillet it for us.
He scrapes some dried "something" from
the timber tray of his truck to create a clean(!) working area,
then proceeds to fillet the travally. Within a minute or so we have
two boneless fillets, ready for the frying pan.
After that we chat for a minute then he heads
off, down to the pub for lunch.
We continue along the highway, eventually pulling
into our spot on the river at Devonport.
Mon 16 Feb
I'm having some film developed today and it won't be ready until
late afternoon, so we'll stay at Devonport for another day.
Nice evening light on the Mersey River.
A pelican gets harassed by a silver gull
Tue 17 Feb
At last we're heading to Cradle Mountain. Cradle is a "Mecca"
for landscape photographers, and I had intended to spend a few days
walking around the mountain. However I'm not actually feeling that
energetic at present, so I doubt that the bushwalking gear will
see the light of day any time soon.
I do however want to visit the Wilderness Gallery,
a gallery devoted to outdoor photography, located just outside the
National Park. I've had photos hung there for over a year now, so
I'm dying to see the place, and also the other photographer's work.
We drive up into the mountains, the drive is through
undulating farm land until the town of Sheffield, but then the road
enters the mountains proper.
After 15 kilometres of winding mountain road we
come across O'Niells Creek rest area and stop for a cuppa. It's
a very pleasant spot though, and we decide to stay for the night.
At around beer o'clock a women rides up to our
window on a bicycle. "My partner's OD'd" she says with
tears welling up in her eyes. "I've called an ambulance, can
you keep an eye out for them?".
Half an hour later we see flashing lights approaching.
I run out towards the road, flag them down, and point them in the
Wed 18 Feb
Today we plan to camp somewhere near Cradle Mountain then ride in
to see the famous peak. We've heard that the price of camping in
the campground is $30 per night, for that amount we'll find somewhere
else thank you very much.
We park the truck in a large gaveled area on the
corner of the turnoff to the National Park, then get a bike out.
We ride into the park, it's a nice sunny day and
we actually get to see the mountain. I'm told that's unusual, it's
normally shrouded in cloud.
To be honest we're not that impressed, the midday
light is flat and, from a photographic point of view, the scene
is dead boring.
After doing the tourist thing we go searching
for a campsite. We've been told that the nearby Lake Lea is a good
spot, but we find that it's not really that great, at least not
worth driving down to.
There is a nice spot just down the road, about
a kilometre from the turnoff, on the banks of the Isis River. Eventually
however we decide to stay right where we are.
During the evening the wind picks up, eventually
becoming a full-on gale. Our neighbours (Derek & Joyce, a couple
we camped with near Geraldton over a year ago) have their son with
them and he's sleeping in a tent next to the van. At some point
during the night the tent collapses, and Derek has to extract his
son from his canvas body bag.
Thu 19 Feb
The Wilderness Gallery is located just outside the national park
at Doherty's lodge. It has photographs on display from some of Australia's
best nature photographers. There's some of mine there too.
I spend the entire afternoon looking at the photographs,
and getting to know the people at the gallery. Pat Sabine, the director,
I've dealt with many times via phone and email but it's good to
actually meet her. I also meet Dave and Craig, two other members
of the staff.
We seem to have a lot in common, Dave is a photographer,
and Craig's a semi-retired computer type.
The wind is still howling, we had planned to take
a roundabout way back to the north east, via the high country and
the west, but the weather has caused us to start looking at maps
for an alternative. It's just too cold.
Fri 20 Feb
We stay at the Cradle turnoff. I want to revisit the gallery, but
it's raining and windy, so we just hibernate inside.
Just after lunch the weather abates, or appears
to. It's only two kilometres to the gallery, I should make it before
the next downpour.
I get about half way before the first drops fall.
I spend another few hours looking at photographs
and chatting with the gallery staff. I do like it here, but can't
stay forever I suppose.
When I return to the bike I notice that the tyre
is flat again. I ride home slowly but decide to deal with the tyre
at a later date, in a warmer and more convenient place. I won't
need it for a couple of days anyway.
Sometime during the night the wind picks up again,
it's really howling around the truck.
Our current plan is to head east for another month
or so, then get on the boat back to the mainland. However, if the
weather is no better over on the east coast, we may forget the "month
or so" and just get on the boat.
Sat 21 Feb
The truck won't start, it's been too cold over night (7° this
morning inside the truck) and I'm sure the batteries have never
fully recovered from their total discharge while I was in the Tarkine.
After some ado with the generator and battery
charger we finally head off.
We drive down the first hill, across the flat
and up the next hill, almost.
While crossing the flat I noticed a slight loss
of power. As we start to climb the hill the power loss becomes more
obvious and I find myself changing down gears sooner than I would
expect. Near the top, I have to change down to first gear, not unknown
for us on a steep hill, but this isn't a steep hill.
Eventually it becomes obvious that even first
won't do, I depress the clutch with a view to changing into low
range to get us over the hill, but the motor stops.
It refuses to restart, and we're in the middle
of the road on a hill.
There's no shoulder to pull onto here, the nearest
being about 300m back down the hill. With no motor I've got no compressor
and, very shortly, will have no air as the reservoirs on these old
trucks aren't very large. With no air my spring chamber will engage
the emergency brake, and we will stay right at that place until
the problem's fixed.
I release the brakes and start free wheeling backwards,
trying to reach a spot where I can pull off the road, and trying
to use the brakes as little as possible, because with every activation
I can see the air pressure drop.
After a minute or so the pressure is almost gone
so I pull off the road as far as possible. We're not at the bottom
of the hill but the slope isn't too bad.
Chris jumps out and chocks the wheels.
I think about the symptoms and decide that we
had a fuel starvation problem, and the most likely cause is a blocked
After some investigation that does appear to be
the problem. I don't have a spare and so try to clean the old one.
An hour later the filter is back in place and
we start to bleed the lines, with little success.
At about this time a minibus pulls up. The driver's
name is Dennis, and he owns a fleet of busses.
He has a look and reckons that the filter is still
no good, he's got some in his workshop in Wilmot, about 30k away.
If I want to ride down I can have one.
He gives me directions, which I promptly forget,
then heads off.
We preserver for a while but it's obvious we're
wasting our time, so I have lunch and get a bike out.
Trouble is the tyre's flat, and we have no motor
so no compressed air to inflate it. No problems, I'll get the other
It won't start, probably because it hasn't been
ridden for months.
Still, this is one reason I wanted two identical
bikes, the parts are interchangeable. I pull the front wheels off
both bikes, swap them, then ride down to Wilmot.
When I get there I have no idea where Dennis lives,
so I ask the local store owner if she knows.
"Yes" she says, but is not forthcoming
with any more information.
"Can you tell me?"
"Oh sure, take the first left then it's the
third house on the left".
I follow the directions and arrive at Dennis'
in a few minutes. He has a filter, it's not the same brand, but
We cut open the old one to find that it's full
of gunk, it's amazing that the truck has been running at all.
We chat for a while, then it's back on the bike.
On my return I install the new filter and we once
again proceed to bleed the system.
This time things work a little better, and before
long the motor is firing.
We drive another 3k to a flat area on the side
of the road and pull over for the night.
Sun 22 Feb
We start early to get the steep gorge road at Cethana out of the
When we hit the top of the gorge I engage 2nd
gear and the exhaust brake, it's then a case of feet-off-all-pedals
until we reach the bottom.
The exhaust brake is a godsend, breaking the truck
at around 13kph for the entire 20 minutes of the downward trip.
We meet several cyclists slogging up the hill,
some wave, some nod, but most don't have any spare energy for pleasantries.
With little or no luggage I assume that they are part of an escorted
tour and are being followed by a support vehicle.
Sure enough, when we reach the very bottom, we
encounter the vehicle and some more cyclists preparing themselves
for the climb.
Feeling that they may be in need of encouragement
I lean out of the window and shout "Nearly there". I'm
sure they appreciated the gesture.
Seconds later it's our turn to go uphill. Still
in second we just plod away, actually finding it faster to go uphill
In second gear the truck sits on about 18kph for
the entire, very steep, climb.
After about quarter of an hour we reach the top
of the climb and pull over for a cuppa.
On two occasions during the day, while pulled
over on the side of the road, we notice bumble bees hovering around
the cab. Maybe they think it's a huge purple flower.
Late afternoon we pull into our favourite spot
near the creek in Launceston.
Mon 23 Feb
Today is spent browsing the shops, and it cost us a fortune. You
see we spotted a great little TV in a shop window and went in for
a look, walking out $400 poorer twenty minutes later.
Still it could have been worse, we nearly bought
two so we could watch different shows at the same time. How stupid
is that? considering that we seldom have reception anyway.
In lieu of the second TV I decide to buy some
Tue 24 Feb
Most of today is spent installing the new TV. It's a 12v appliance
so I run a power line and an aerial coax through the wall to a point
near Chris's chair. While on a roll I repeat the procedure to my
side of the truck.
The TV is a tiny 5" LCD model that uses less
power than one of our light bulbs. Our old television required a
new bulb a month or so ago. The bulbs cost $850, so needless to
say we didn't buy one, and to be honest we haven't missed it much,
we almost never watched it anyway. Still it is good to catch up
on world events occasionally.
We planned to leave Launceston today but didn't
finish the installation until about 3 o'clock so decide to stay
Wed 25 Feb
Up at 7:30, a quick cup of coffee, fill up some gas bottles at Bunnings,
and hit the road.
TIP: We find that Bunnings hardware stores are
consistently the cheapest place to fill gas bottles, and they
usually have a nice big car park.
Our plan is to return to Friendly Beaches today.
Tomorrow we're meeting up with a film crew who want to film us for
a new lifestyle show, then we'll head up the coast.
At about 3 we pull into our old spot overlooking
the beach. There's another camper already here but we park a reasonable
distance from him.
As usual I start chatting to some people, this
time two women from Sydney, but the guy from the camper is hanging
around, his body language indicating that he's a bit agitated.
Eventually he approaches and makes it clear that
he thinks we are too close. I disagree, and anyway we can't fit
"But I had this area to myself", he
says. I sympathise but still insist that there's nothing I can,
or indeed will, do about it.
He invites me over to his van to "see what
he means". I follow, and on arrival I see that not only is
his view totally unobstructed, but in fact we're behind him. He
would have to peer around the corner of his camper to see us.
"See!" he says.
"Well actually now I'm here I don't
see" I reply.
This tos and fros for a while with no resolution,
so I return to talking with the women.
Minutes later he returns, "Don't worry about
it, I'm moving up there". He packs up and moves off.
I do feel sorry for the fellow, we don't like
people camping too close either, but really feel that he's being
unreasonable. This is a very popular spot, if he wants to commune
with nature and no people he should head off into the wilderness.
Eventually I go inside and settle down with a
Before long we hear engines. I look outside to
see four motorhomes pass by and pull into the same spot our erstwhile
neighbour moved to. They park right near him.
Minutes later he's back. There's just too many
people he says, and rather astutely realises that most of them will
be hanging around our truck at some point.
I didn't have the heart to tell him that there'll
be a film crew here tomorrow.
Thu 26 Feb
We spend some time tidying up the truck then just read and watch
the waves. At about five, just as I'm thinking it's happy hour,
the camera crew arrives.
As the light's good they do some of the stand-up
work with Justin doing the presenting, and Bernie operating the
camera. Then we shoot some footage of me using the large format
Eventually the light dies and we adjourn to the
lad's motorhome for a beer or two.
Wed 17 Feb
More filming this morning, then at about lunchtime the lads leave.
NOTE: The show will be called "Motorhome
Safari" and will start in June but, initially at least, only
on Tasmanian TV.
I eat, then ride down to the Freycinet Lodge to
upload some changes to the web site.
As I'm leaving town I spot Justin and Bernie's
motorhome parked outside the pub.
I pull in just as they emerge from the building
with a slab of VB. "Would I like a beer" asks Bernie.
Would I like a beer, does a wombat poo on a rock?
We talk about the film industry and they reckon
I should be doing short stories on video, even indicate that they'd
buy said stories from me.
The idea does appeal to me a lot, but it's quite
expensive (by our standards) to get started, plus a long learning
curve to master the video format.
I'll have to think about it.
Sat 28 Feb
Chris wakes me to say that there's some good surf and another "serious
looking" photographer on the beach.
I grab a long lens and head down to the rocks.
To go in, or not to go in, that is the question.
Waiting for the next set.
The surfers catch some good rides.
And some not-so-good rides
After a while the serious looking photographer
approaches, and we chat about photographing the surfers and his
new digital camera.
It's Kip Nunn, a well-known Tasmanian photographer.
Kip invites me to visit him at his house in Coles
Later, as the sun sets I go looking for some wallabies.
A little Bennett's wallaby. These are also known as red-necked
wallabies, and, in some of these photos, you can see the rufus
colouring that gives them this name.
Amazing sunset light on the hills and clouds.
Sun 29 Feb
The surf and surfers are up again this morning, as is Kip, further
along the beach.
I head down onto the rocks again with a camera
and long lens.
There's more boogie boards than surfboards today.
This young silver gull had been squealing at its parents for
days, but to the best of my knowledge no food had been forthcoming.
A woman walks past, we get chatting and it turns
out that she's Kip's partner. I say that I plan to drop in either
today or tomorrow, then I remember that tomorrow is a work day.
"Does Kip work?" I ask.
"No he doesn't work, he's a photographer",
came the reply.
I couldn't have put it better myself.
After lunch I ride back to the Freycinet Lodge
to do some more work on the web site. Then I drop into Kip's for
a couple of hours yapping about photography.
Tue 2 Mar
I get up early and wander along the beach.
Two shellfish racing across the sand.
Bubbles in a tidal pool.
Seaweed bauble on the sand
After breakfast I do some small maintenance jobs
on the truck, then go for a walk. I don't get far though, within
seconds I'm rushing back to the truck to grab my camera. I've found
an echidna, Australia's version of the spiny ant eater.
Echidnas are incredibly cute little marsupials, and the only
ones to mate face to face, I wonder why?
Later I find a little beetle struggling to get
up a rock, and some of the local wallabies emerge from the bushes.
'Ere, wot you lookin' at then?
Wed 3 Mar
We are supposed to leave today but it's too nice looking at the
waves, after an hour or so I get restless and head off along the
For the first time I have a close look at barnacles.
I've never paid them much attention before, but find them to be
The young ones look like their shells are made
of small sharks teeth.
Young barnacle and muscles
The older barnacles are much rougher, and in many
cases have others of their kind growing on them.
Much larger barnacles, with another barnacle growing on the
Shells in a tidal pool.
After a while I spy a cormorant preening itself
on the rocks.
A cormorant preens itself on the rocks.
I photograph it for a few minutes, then it takes
off. Before long though I notice it fishing nearby.
Fishing amongst the kelp
It soon becomes apparent that it's heading my
way, so I sit and wait, knowing that it will probably emerge from
the water and dry its feathers.
I'm correct, it flies to a rock not far from my
position, and spreads its wings.
Drying its feathers
In general cormorants are very wary of humans,
and will not come anywhere near us. But this one seems almost friendly.
After a while it approaches to within just a few metres, giving
me a nice display from all sides, as he dries, preens, and inspects
the rock's covering of muscles.
Poking around the muscles.
And finally flying away.
After a while the cormorant takes off, and I resume
my exploration of the rocky foreshore.
Amazing structure of a spider web's anchor point
I meet a couple from Germany, they have a Unimog
camper and are on their way around the world. So far they've been
through Europe, the top of Africa, across Russia, down through China
to Singapore, and across to Australia.
Some trip, and not without it's trials. On one
occasion the entire vehicle was dropped from a crane while being
unloaded from a ship.
The house part of the truck was destroyed in the
fall, and they had to rebuild it. Not an easy task at the best of
times, but apparently there's no caravan industry in Malaysia, so
obtaining parts is next to impossible.
The German's Unimog camper. A small, but very capable-looking
Thu 4 Mar
Finally we drag ourselves away from Friendly Beaches and drive up
to Bicheno. It's still windy so we drive inland a bit, to Douglas
Aspley National Park.
Finally, nestled in amongst the forest, we find
a place with no wind.
There's some short walks here which we take. On
our return we find two other motorhomes have arrived.
As it's nearly happy hour I allow my arm to be
twisted, and sit down with a beer to talk about motorhome stuff.
Fri 5 Mar
It's beautiful calm and sunny morning, I think we'll stay at Douglas
I take another one of the walks through the park,
then tinker with the computer.
Sat 6 Mar
After a short drive through Scamander we pull into Shelly Beach,
the surf and weather are lousy but there's plenty of surfers checking
out the waves anyway. Apparently this is a good surfing spot, and
they expect some decent waves tomorrow.
We'll hang around and find out.
Mon 7 Mar
Adrian and Carrol find us and drop in for a cuppa. They stay most
of the day then return to St Helens.
Tue 8 Mar
After three days at Shelly Beach we give up on both the weather
and the waves and drive into St Helens.
A pelican takes off from the river at St Helens
Thu 11 Mar
Today is a maintenance day, we also appear to have a leak in one
of our fresh water bladders.
After a ten minutes or so I've removed the bladder
from its place under Chris' chair, and have it on the grass outside
I inflate it and search for leaks with soapy water.
No luck. We do find two small pin pricks that look like they could
be leaks, but there's no bubbles from the soap.
I patch them anyway, then leave the bladder in
the sun for the rest of the day to cure the patches.
The inflated water bladder, with curing patches, drying in the sun
Meanwhile I perform some routine maintenance.
Just as I'm winding up the day Frank & Helen
pull in. They drive what must be Australia's largest slide-on. We
met them at the Barcaldine rally two years ago, and we've crossed
paths a couple of times since.
Frank & Helen's motorhome looks pretty normal at first.
Until you see the house slide off. Possibly Australia's largest
Chris was inside when Frank disconnected the house,
and emerged just in time to see him drive away, without the body.
She thought it had fallen off.
Fri 12 Mar
Today we occupy ourselves with some more maintenance and a general
cleanup of the storage bins.
Our home brew warming up in the sun
At the end of the day, while cleaning up around
the truck, I notice a beetle struggling through the grass.
It's in the shade which is no good for a photo,
so I move it into the brighter light. I also notice that the truck
is reflecting the afternoon sun in a nice manner, so use the reflection
to fill in the shadows.
A beetle ignores gravity in the grass. The great light is caused
by Wothahellizat, a 14-tonne reflector just out of the photo
Sat 13 Mar
For a few days now we've had a rodent in the truck. At first I thought
it was a mouse, but then we started to hear it gnawing at the woodwork.
The noise was loud enough to wake us the other
night. This is no mouse, it must be a rat.
Now I have no real problem with animals living
in the vehicle, but the trouble with rodents is that they are constantly
chewing on things, and one day it will decide to make a meal of
some 240v wiring or something else important and/or dangerous to
him and us.
The rat has to go.
We search the entire truck, finding traces of
our little freeloader everywhere, but of course not the animal itself.
We do have a trap that will catch mice alive,
but it's too small for rats, so we'll have to try poison. I don't
like doing this for two reasons, firstly I don't want to kill the
little fellow, and secondly I don't want to find a rotting, maggot-ridden
rat behind a wall in a week's time.
Still we can think of no other option, so the
baits are placed and we get on with our day.
Our deck folds up to the rear of the lounge room,
covering the rear window and creating a gap between the deck hardware
and the glass. When the deck is raised our view through to the rear
is fairly boring, being just the deck floor and handrails.
At around 11:30, while tinkering on the computer,
I look over the screen at the rear wall of the truck. I can see
through the glass to the folded, deck, the handrails, and the world's
The rodent is walking vertically down one of the
rails, he's fully six inches long in the body.
I leap to my feet and open the rear window, but
he has already scurried into a hole, and back inside the lounge
For the past few days we've been removing all
his food sources and I'm hoping that he is hungry and was actually
searching for a way out. To help him along I lower the deck and
place some food just in front of the hole.