I've been a bit restless of late. Now
that may seem a strange thing to say given that we travel
constantly but I've think I'm getting a bad case of wanderlust.
You see we're been traveling around
Australia now for about 11 years and to most people that's
an ideal lifestyle. It is to me as well and I'm happy to continue
doing so but lately I've been thinking that maybe we should
be experiencing more while we're still young enough and ambulant
enough to do so.
I floated the idea of going to Europe
a while back and got lots of good feedback from you guys,
Chris isn't that keen but there's still a chance. Then there's
the USA, I've been there before and would really like to do
an extended trip for a year or so.
And what about Africa, I would love
to go back there. And South America, the wildlife in the Pantanal
is supposed to be a photographer's dream. And staying with
friends recently who have just been down to the sub Antarctic
islands didn't help, I've always wanted to go there.
And another thing, my work with electronics
has been all consuming of late and that's part of the reason
the updates here have been so sparse. I love designing electronic
gadgets but that's a pastime that ties you to a computer.
Photography forces you to get outside and see things, admittedly
these days photography also ties you to a computer but at
least you have to get out in the first place to capture the
And "get out in the first place"
doesn't just mean a walk around the park, it may actually
mean a trip to Africa or a year in the US whereas playing
with electronics pretty much dissuades one from such external
Man, life wasn't meant to be easy...what
am I to do?
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Wed 14 Dec 2011
In the past we've driven up through Horrocks Pass
but this time we decided to turn off the highway and head inland
at the town of Crystal Brook. What a pleasant drive, small towns,
stone buildings, wind farms and wheat fields. Very nice.
I one point we see a harvester doing it's thing
in the field, not that unusual around here but this machine has
an attending kangaroo. He's a big bugger and he hops a few times
then turns around to look at the harvester, then hops a bit more.
Where he lives out here I can't imagine, there's
hardly a tree in sight and certainly no areas of bush to hide in.
Fri 16 Dec
We get to Mildura today and drive out to a spot
we've heard about on the river. it's almost in the centre of town
(well on the outskirts anyway) but camping is allowed and it's a
real nice place.
It's called the Psyche Bend Pump Station and
as the name implies there's a pump here. The current pumps are electrical
but the old pump house is still here.
The old pump station and a house boat.
Closer shot of the house boat.
We find a good spot and settle in.
Our campsite at Psyche Bend Pump station.
Is seems that the pumps run 24/7 and that may
become annoying but they are pretty quite so we'll see.
Sun 18 Dec
We get twice the town's average monthly rainfall
in a couple of hours. As the road in here is dirt and easily rutted
by a truck that means we won't be leaving for at least a few days,
not that we have to be anywhere in a hurry.
One nice side affect of the rain is that nobody
needs to irrigate from the channels and therefore the pumps have
Thu 22 Dec
We have to get our skates on now if we are to
get to Steve and Jill's before Christmas day. So we finally leave
our riverside camp and head further east, eventually stopping near
Now with a name like that you would expect at
least a little water eh? Nope, it's as dry as a dead dingo's donger.
I can only assume that when the lake was named in 18whatever things
Fri 23 Dec
We need to buy some supplies today as we're not
sure if the shop in Tocumwal will be open on Saturday, what with
it being Christmas Eve and all, so Chris heads off ahead of me so
she can do the shopping in Echuca before I get there. Then we'll
find a campsite and settle in for the night.
I don't like being separated by that much in case
one of us breaks down, but everything works out well and the timing
is perfect. Just as I am approaching the town she is leaving, so
we back up to the rest area I have just passed and set up camp.
So rather than get into town after a long drive
and then have to spend two hours shopping I get to just pull a beer
from the fridge.
This is one of the good things about not towing
the car, Chris can (and often does) head into a town to do some
shopping while I just carry on and we meet up somewhere down the
track. This saves me from being involved in one of life's more onerous
tasks and also allows her to enjoy it (apparently that is possible
given the right mind set) without me tapping my foot dying to get
out of the supermarket.
It's a win-win arrangement as long as one of us
doesn't break down or for some other reason we don't meet up at
the end of the day.
Sat 24 Dec
We finally arrive at Steve & Jill's. Some
other friends (Hugo & Wendy) are already here in their motorhome
and Adrian & Carrol will drop down tomorrow.
Adrian & Carrol live in the next town and
would normally bring their truck as well but they have it pulled
apart for a much-needed refit. They have been living in it for 15
years and apparently it's starting to look a little tired.
Tue 3 Jan 2012
It's been 40°C for thee days now, about time
we got some nice warm weather.
Thu 5 Jan
We drive up to Adrian and Carrol's to check out
the progress on the motorhome refit. It's looking a little sad I
have to say.
Adrian and Carrol's 1958 Thornycroft.
They have the house on the ground and are living in that for the duration.
Our truck is in better shape that's for sure.
Still all things have to look worse before they
get better, it's been about 15 years since they built it and the
truck has done a lot of miles in that time, it was due for an overhaul.
Of course we did a total rebuild after 6 years so they got much
better value for money than we did.
Sun 8 Jan
Adrian and Carrol drive us all around the place,
they think nothing of driving around half the state and we must
cover 100s of kilometers, we drive up through some of the Victorian
high country, very nice area and we'll come back with the truck
one day, despite the hills.
Mon 9 Jan
We planned to head up to Blowering Reservoir today
but last night I got an email from the Finley Camera Club asking
if I can give a talk at their next meeting on Thursday night.
We had talked about this a few months ago then
we were in WA and I said I would when we were in the neighborhood
but I will not broach the subject again and leave it to the inviter
to get in touch when I get close.
Luckily they emailed last night or we would have
been gone. As it is we decide to fill in a few days down at the
river near Cobram/Barooga. We drive to Barooga (on the NSW side
of the river) and scout some of the campsites with the car.
The best seems to be at Quicks Beach so we move
the circus there.
Camping on the banks of the Murray. This sort of place is about as good as it gets for my money
Thu 12 Jan
I'm giving the talk tonight but just realized
I don't own any shoes. You see with my lifestyle I don't need any,
I'm either loafing around in thongs (flip flops), walking in boots
or working in boots (that's a very infrequent event I'm happy to
say). But shoes have no place in what I do.
Unfortunately the meeting is in the Finley RSL
club and they will have dress rules, so we head off into Cobram
looking for a shoe shop. It doesn't take long as I think there is
only two, and between them only one pair of shoes that are even
close to what I want.
Sat 14 Jan
We drive 258k to a rest area on the Hume Highway
just south of Tarcutta.
Sun 15 Jan
FInally get to Blowering reservoir, it's quite
crowded and to make matters worse the lake is about 80% full which
given the shallow slope of the banks means maybe 300 metres less
foreshore to camp on. We do find a good spot though and settle in
to do some people watching.
It's a bit crowded.
Waiting for a turn at the boat ramp.
Check out the hardware in the above photos, GFC?
Mark & Gail drop in on their way to stay with
family in Tumut, we chat for a while then they head off. Minutes
later the clouds open and it buckets down. All the boat people and
campers are getting saturated and we sit nice and dry in the lounge
room watching the wet people. I love this truck and the way the
shutters allow us to live in/out doors.
Tue 17 Jan
Gail's uncle has a collection of ex-military vehicles
and they have invited us down to have a look so it's into Tumut
for us today. He has some amazing gear, 6x6 trucks, a 25-pounder
gun, 6-pounder anti-tank gun, armored cars etc. Talk about boys
He takes them to shows every now and then, apparently
when towing the 25-pounder you aren't troubled by tailgaters.
We leave at about six still with some shopping
to do, but as it's so late we just grab a few things. We'll come
back into town in a few days.
Wed 18 Jan
Mark and Gail return, this time to camp for a
day or two before they head back home to sunny Queensland.
M&G's GMC motorhome.
The crowds have thinned out, probably because
it's mid week.
A few days ago.
The locals return when the people leave.
Sat 21 Jan
Oh happy days, I'm actually under orders to drink
more beer. Not by the doctor I'm sorry to say but by someone more
You see she wants to start another batch of home
brew and if I stick to my customary one bottle per day we won't
have the 30 empties we need to bottle the brew before we leave.
So I've been ordered to drink 1.5 bottles a day,
and I am one to do what I'm told.
Tue 24 Jan
Chris's computer has a failure in the hard disk,
13 months after we bought it with a 12-month manufacturer's warrantee.
Luckily with age comes wisdom and we always get extended warrantees
on this type of equipment.
So we're covered, but it will mean a diversion
and/or a trip into Canberra before we had planned which is a pain.
Thu 26 Jan
While minding our business in the truck we hear
a loud "wump". Looking towards the sound we see that someone
is bogged and another camper is trying to pull them out.
Unfortunately something broke on the bogged vehicle
and the snatch strap with attached D-shackle went flying, right
into the back of the recovery vehicle.
The D-shackle has actually pieced the metal and
embedded itself in the tailgate. Oops
The damage to the recovery vehicle, taken shortly after.
You can see why onlookers should stand well clear
when vehicles are being recovered, if that had hit someone they
would have had a very bad day from thereon.
You can also see why people are sometimes reluctant
to help, it seems that the two parties don't know each other from
Adam, but now, even if the damage is paid for the good Samaritan
will be inconvenienced for ages while the car is fixed.
Sun 29 Jan
They are all gone. There's just a few campers
left and they are quiet, while the people-watching has been fun
the constant activity and noise was getting a bit tiresome.
Still it's nice and peaceful now, and to mark
the event the kangaroos have re appeared, there must be 20 of them
gazing near the truck.
Mon 30 Jan
We planned to head up into the mountains today
but at about 4AM this morning it started raining. By 9 it's still
raining so I think we'll stay put for today at least.
Tue 31 Jan...Sat 4 Feb
Still staying put, it rains every day and we hate
driving in the rain, in my case it's mostly because water drips
on my right leg and as that's on the accelerator I can't move it
and I get wetter and wetter as the trip progresses.
Sun 5 Feb
We finally tackle the mountain climb at Talbingo.
It's not as bad as I remember and 20 minutes later we're at the
top. We continue through the mountains and past Kiandra to find
that "our" spot at the top of Sawyers Pass is occupied
by two cattle trucks, they are obviously just checking their loads
and should be off soon but we continue around the corner and find
another spot for the night.
On the side of the Snowy Highway, near Sawyers Pass.
Note to self, it looks like there's a good campsite
just north of Morris Ck.
Mon 6 Feb
Chris heads off early today, her laptop has been
on the blink for a couple of weeks and she wants to get it into
the Toshiba repair centre . So she'll drive up to Canberra via Cooma
while I go cross country from Adaminaby after collecting some mail.
I hang around until about 11 then mosy off.
What with all the hills and picking up mail in
Adaminaby it takes me about three hours to cover the 70k to Marshall
and Diane's at Yaouk.
They are in Canberra for the day so I set up the
truck and wait to see who gets here first, M&D or Chris.
Camping at Yaouk.
For the record Marshall and Diane arrive first.
Mon 20 Feb
We leave Marshall and Diane (managing to get out
the gate without breaking anything, unlike last time) and drive
to the Numerella River via Cooma.
Campsite near the Numerella River.
You're never far from the rubbish eh?
Fri 24 Feb
I emailed an old mate in Canberra yesterday just
to let him know we'll be in town soon. Chuckles and I both pretty
much grew up in the coastal town of Merimbula and it seems that
he's going down for the weekend. As he literally has to drive right
past the truck I ask him to drop in.
Then I decide it's too good an opportunity to
miss so I decide to go down as well. At about 2 he arrives, we chat
for a while then get into our respective cars and head off. Chuckles
wants to get a coffee in Cooma so I take the back road through Polo
Flat and continue down the Brown Mountain.
I don't drive very fast and by the time I'm approaching
Candelo he catches me up and passes. Half an hour later I see him
waiting at the top of the hill on the outskirts of Merimbula.
He has organized for me to stay at his girlfriend's
place and for another mate (Drippo) to come over. Chuckles gives
me directions to Gaelene's and heads off to get some beer.
Chuckles, Gaelene, Drippo and I spend the day
(and most of the night) drinking and generally crapping on about
Drippo is working and Chuckles is off with family,
so Gaelene and I go out to the old wharf for lunch, then talk over
coffee for ages.
Eventually I must leave so it's back in the car
and up the highway. I decide to drive past Wanatta, the sheep and
cattle property we owned in the 60s.
It's changed a lot, the highway that used to run
right past the gate has been realigned but I can still drive up
the old road to look over the gate. The sheering shed looks pretty
much as I remember it, the hay shed is still in the same place as
is the old house. But there's a new house and most of the huge pines
trees have gone.
I then take the back road to Candelo, I grab a
quick photo of the farm from the hill.
View of the house and farm buildings at Wanatta.
The house can't be more than a kilometer away
and yet this lane was the end the earth to me then, and the hill
a real scary place.
Tue 28 Feb
Still raining, at least we're nice and warm inside
the truck and I've used the 1000 snails that have emerged as the
first spark in the rekindling of my photographic interest.
Snail in the rain.
I've been neglecting my photography for over a
year now in favour of electronics but I really think it's time to
reawaken the image-making half of my brain.
After all electronics costs money, keeps me inside
and I don't have the equipment I need to do it properly. Photography
is free, forces me into the great outdoors and I have all gear I
could possibly want (well if you don't count those two new Canon
lenses I just read about).
On the other hand I do like tinkering with computers.
Thu 1 Mar
My God will this rain never stop? I don't think
we've had a rain-free day in over a month and it doesn't look like
stopping any time soon.
There's rain everywhere on the eastern side of
Aus and flood warnings abound, including one for the town of Cooma
just 17k from here.
As I am typing the previous paragraph Chris exclaims
from the cab...
"Wow look at this!"
I look out the door to see that the Numerella
River has burst it's banks and is now ten times wider than the last
time I looked all of half an hour ago.
As it was the other day.
As it is today.
We're on gravel and well above the (current) water
level so I don't think there are any problems but we're supposed
to be in Canberra by Sunday and as I've said we hate traveling in
Fri 2 Mar
We drive up to Canberra today. Another mate (David)
is having a BBQ tomorrow and we want to be in town so we can go
to that. We'll start off booking into the showgrounds (aka EPIC
or Exhibition Park In Canberra) for a night or two then go to one
or two of our favourite freebies.
The park management said that the showies are
in town because the Canberra festival starts soon, this means limited
spots in the camping area so Chris goes ahead to secure a place.
By mid afternoon we're settled in and listening
to the rain on the roof.
Sat 3 Mar
I rang an old mate from New Zealand today. We
shared a flat (with about 10 others but it was our name on the lease)
in London over the 78/79 winter, fantastic times that I will never
forget. But here's the thing.
Dave was over 6 foot tall and almost as wide,
he was a professional wrestler before I met him and worked as a
debt collector in London before returning to the land of the long
white cloud. They just don't make them any more bullet proof.
That was then and this is now.
Dave broke his leg last year and was laid up for
ages, then shortly after that he was mugged and broke his hip in
five places when he fell. He was in hospital for three months and
a few months later has only just started to walk without crutches.
His wife is getting dementia and he's talking
about them both moving into a nursing home.
He would be about the same age as me, maybe a
year or two older, and yet we are living the life of Riley on the
road, doing 10-day bushwalks, drinking home brew on deserted beaches,
and generally doing what we please.
I am constantly provided with confirmation that
we've done the right thing hitting the road and poor Dave's example
is yet another.
Mon 5 Mar
My computer has been on the fritz for a while
now and it looks to me like the screen back light is on the way
out. The computer per sa is working fine but I have to boot then
hibernate many times (10 or 20) before the light comes on and I
can see anything.
The machine is about three years old and has had
a bumpy and dusty life so I guess it's fair to have issues with
We take it in to the local Toshiba repair centre,
"Three to five days" they say, "Have you done a backup?"
Well I have but we're just looking at the screen
Tue 6 Mar
We get an SMS from the Toshiba automated "keep
the punter informed" system. The parts have arrived. That's
good because I'm having a retro trip using my old HP laptop and
it's not that great.
At least it's allows me to deal with emails and
do a bit of web surfing.
Thu 8 Mar
The heater has been playing up lately as well,
I recognize the symptoms and know the cure, it just takes me a while
to spring into action and so far it's still working (albeit being
very hard to start) so I haven't had enough incentive.
It's an Eiberspatcher diesel heater and we'd be
lost without it. The problem with them is that after while (maybe
every year or so) the chamber around the glow plug fills with burnt
gunge and it blocks up the air hole. Thus the fuel doesn't combust
properly and the resultant smoke makes it look like the truck is
This morning I turn it on but after trying a few
times the computer inside the heater gives up.
OK, time to fix it.
I pull the heater out (note, if you ever install
one make sure it's easy to get out) and try to remove the glow plug
with long-nosed pliers. There is a special tool but last time I
did this the pliers worked just fine.
Not this time, it looks like I need special tool
#RG2335, AKA a 1/2" tube spanner with a slot cut into the side.
The reason you can't use a normal tube spanner
or socket is the wires connected to the glow plug. Actually if it
were just wires you could feed them through the socket but the connector
on the end of the wires is too large for that.
So I drive into Fyshwick (the industrial area)
to get a tube spanner.
By now it's well after lunch and I'm going a visiting
this afternoon so the heater will have to wait.
At 2:30 I rock up to Margo's. Margo is an old
mate from Merimbula and I've only seen her once in the last 30-odd
It's good to catch up and also to learn something
of what mutual friends have been up to.
At some point we get onto the subject of our heater
and how we will not have one tonight. Margo rummages in a storage
cupboard somewhere and emerges with a small electric fan heater
that she no longer needs. Problem solved.
Fri 9 Mar
We finally leave EPIC and head over to a favourite
spot of ours near the lake.
View from our campsite.
Then we drive into Fyshwick and parts further
south looking for carpet tiles and campsites.
We get the tiles but most potential campsites
are still under water or al least closed because of the floods.
At about 4 we decide to drop in to see how the
computer is going, after all they supposedly had the parts on Wednesday,
it's a long weekend on Monday and and I'd rather not spend another
three days using the HP.
The good news is that it's ready. The other good
news (I think) is that as well as replacing the back light they
replaced the the entire screen the keyboard and the main hard disk.
Thank goodness we always buy extended warrantees
for electronic equipment. Now I wonder how good that backup was.
At 6PM we get an SMS from Toshiba to tell us that
the computer is ready, good thing we didn't wait for it because
they are long closed by now and won't open until Tuesday.
Later we hear a vehicle pull up next to the truck,
it's the police.
I stick my head out but they aren't worried about
us camping here just need to know who and what we are I guess. One
assumes that they have already run our number plates and are now
We chat for some time about the truck's fuel consumption
etc. then they head off.
Sat 17 Mar
Great sunset tonight, check out the birds on the
Sun 18 Mar
A caravan arrives and sets up, we're not real
happy with this because we don't want the place to start looking
like a Gypsy camp. In places like this we don't put the steps out
or anything, so it's essentially just a parked truck. But when you
add caravans, awnings, tables, chairs, kids on bikes and all the
other crap that normal people have that's a different story.
Late at night we hear some hoons doing donuts.
They have got through the gate into the park proper and are tearing
up the grass. I watch for a while then walk over to confront them.
The car comes towards me, I'm mostly blinded by the lights and about
to side step when the vehicle stops at a distance of about 20 metres.
I continue to approach the car but I must look
uglier than I thought because it quickly reverses, hangs a turn
and heads back to the gate. I get 5 of the 6 characters of the number
plate but don't know the make or model of the vehicle because it
was newish and I no longer know one car model from another.
Mon 19 Mar
The ranger turns up and is obviously talking to
the caravaners about last night's visitors. I join the conversation
and tell I have most of the licence number but that's not really
We're off today, not going far though just down
to the river or maybe a spot we know near Tharwa. At least that
was the plan but I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that we are smack in the middle
of a major city, now normally that would be the bad news but not
when you break down, which brings me to the bad news.
We're broken down.
The foot valve (aka treddle valve) is leaking
air like a sieve, and with no air it's no go. It's been dicky for
over a year but seemed to get better and as I'll use any excuse
to avoid work I haven't checked it out.
So today's travel plans are off and it's out with
An hour or so later I have the valve out, that's
10 minutes to undo 6 of the 7 things that need undoing and over
an hour to do the last one. Isn't it always the way.
We have workshop manuals with exploded diagrams
of the valve and I can see that it's full of springs, I have a feeling
that that may be a problem without proper tools as it's often the
case with springs that you cannot get the Jack back in the box.
Better to get a new valve or find someone to do
Fat chance, after several hours I have identified
the valve as a Bendix unit but it's no longer made. I can however
get a kit for it so that may be an option.
Tue 20 Mar
I decide to have a good look at the valve and
start by pulling off the foot pedal. Bugger me if the majority of
the innards come out with it. Now I see properly what's involved
it's actually quite simple. Two O-rings, 2 springs and a few bolts.
Meanwhile Chris is reading out the instructions
(now why didn't I think of that?). Three O-rings? What do you mean
Hmm, oh yes there's a large hex nut on the bottom
and behind that it looks like there's an O-ring, a non-return valve
and another spring according to the diagram. Trouble is there's
no way I can get the nut off, it's ceased and I don't have the right
equipment. So it's into a nearby brake mob to see if they can crack
They can and I return to the truck, remove the
nut and find two pieces of rusty metal, all that's left of the spring
that's supposed to force the non-return valve up when you take the
pressure off the pedal. Without that spring the valve doesn't close
properly and the air bleeds out the exhaust vent.
That's the problem for sure.
Now that I see how simple the device is I'll just
order a kit and fix it myself.
Wed 21 Mar
I order the kit, nothing to do now until it comes
Thu 22 Mar
The kit is in, $68 and it's it's just three O-rings
and a new non-return valve but no springs. Still how hard can it
be to find a spring.
Quite hard as it happens. In fact there is nothing
even close in all the shops. Not that there's much point looking
in every one because they all have exactly the same display.
It's a compression spring, 1" (25mm) in diameter
and quite soft because all it has to do is lift the small non-return
valve against gravity.
Hmmm, 1" in diameter and quite soft, now
where have I seen something like that. I know, a garden popup sprinkler.
It's been a while since I did that sort of irrigation but that does
ring a bell.
It's straight down to Bunnings and into the garden
section. I unscrew a couple of sprinklers and sure enough the springs
inside look just about right. Too long but that's easy to fix.
The dissasembled garden sprinkler.
The fixed treddle valve.
Fri 23 Mar
What crap weather, still the show must go on and
I need to finish this valve today in case I find more bits are needed
while the shops are open.
Sun 25 Mar
We go into the Old Bus Depot markets today. It's
a bit of a trip down memory lane because I sold photos at these
markets for several years. Unlike most stall owners though I actually
had a proper room so I didn't have to set up trestles and all that
crap every day.
When I left Canberra a friend of mine (Col Ellis)
took it over, he's improved and expanded the setup and has been
selling photos there for about 12 years now.
It's a fun way to earn some money but after 12
years I'd be looking to get out I think.
My old gallery at the Bus Depot markets.
Mon 26 Mar
We leave the wetlands and head down Tharwa way.
I want to do at least one walk along the Murrumbidgee and we know
a spot down there that will make a good base for that.
A nice spot we know near Tharwa.
Sat 31 Mar
I walk from Pine island to Kambah Pool, gee I
love it along this river. The walk is about 13k in length and I
used to do it every weekend. There are other walks along the river
as well, Kambah Pool to Cotter (20k) is one I also did frequently
and I used to run from Point Hutt to Pine Island (maybe 5-6k return)
every day after work.
Being here is almost enough to make me want to
return to Canberra.
Crossing uggeranong Creek.
Thu 5 Apr
We planned to drive most of the way to Sydney
today but just realized that it's the Easter holidays coming up
and if we follow that plan we'll be on the road for Easter Friday.
So we stop at Lake George for the night. We might
sit out the Friday traffic and brave the road again on Saturday.
Fri 6 Apr
We just hang around all day, I get talking with
a bloke who rides past with his daughters, all on horses. He remembers
me building the Mk1 all those years ago.
Working on the assumption that the lunatics will
have got to their destinations today we are supposed to hit the
road tomorrow and get through Sydney while everyone is out of town.
However I don't go to bed until 2AM and at that
point I know we aren't going anywhere the next day.
Chris stays up to finish backing up her e-books.
Sat 7 Apr
I get up at around 7 to find that Chris has been
up all night trying all sorts of things to get a reliable backup.
She spends most of the day on the problem as well,
there are files that just will not copy and we can't figure it out.
Sun 8 Apr
We drive down the Hume Highway and through Sydney.
These days it's not the nightmare it was because the M7 now bypasses
the city. There's still about 7k of non-freeway on Penant Hills
Rd but it's dual carriageway and over with before I know it.
We head up the highway and eventually pull into
a truckstop and park right up the back of the parking area. We have
a nice spot with views of the overflowing garbage bin, and the (not
so) faint aroma of oil and garbage with a distinct overtone of latrine.
Mon 9 Apr
Up to Raymond Terrace where we meet Ron and Pauline,
a couple Chris has been interacting with on the web with the common
interest being e-books.
They're a real nice couple and we chat for quite
some time over coffee and MacDonalds (I've never had Maccas coffee
before, it's actually quite good) .
As we go to leave a motorcycle cop pulls up. He's
interested in the truck and we chat for a while. He tells us that
the southbound traffic is at a standstill, thank goodness we're
We miss the turn off to Coopernook NP due to the
crap directions in the Camps Australia Wide book (one day we must
get a GPS).
Finally we pull up in a reasonable rest area on
the edge of Burrawan State Forest.
Sat 14 Apr
The plan today is to move 100k to the next rest
area, a nice short drive. Because of this we don't have breakfast,
preferring to get going and eat in an hour or two when we stop.
That's the plan, and this is the reality.
The rest area in question has a "no camping
sign", the next one is smack in the middle of town and although
we didn't look for the sign there would have been one.
By now we are well off the dual carriageway (that
stops around Port Macquarie) and the traffic is terrible. So there's
nothing for it but to drive through Coffs Harbour and of course
they are working on the road between there and the next town so
there's nowhere to pull over and a trail of cars behind me.
The rest area at Woolgoolga is also in the middle
of town and there's no camping allowed.
So it's on to the rest area at Halfway Creek.
It's pretty nice but not even close to being level so it's on to
the rest area 9k south of Grafton. We checked it out a few years
ago and recall that it was a nice spot.
Finally we get to it and yes it is good. After
5 hours, 241k of crap roads, dense traffic and rain we can finally
relax, and eat.
After tea I put the generator on, then make coffee.
I can smell petrol and for some time think that maybe I got some
on my clothes when fiddling with the generator but it's too strong
for that so I get out of the truck to investigate.
The filler hose I use to transfer petrol form
the tank to the generator has fallen down and siphoned all the petrol
from the tank. It's still raining so presumably the fuel is floating
on top of the small lake we're straddling.
Ooo that's not good. But the tank was pretty low
so maybe there's not much fuel on the ground. I turn to get back
in the truck and notice that the left-front tyre is almost totally
So now I have to get a jack out and prop up the
wheel for the night, thank goodness this can be done from the outside
with our type of wheel, I would hate to be groveling under the truck
in the rain, petrol and mud. I will probably have to do that tomorrow
but maybe it will be drier then.
I climb back inside but the smell of petrol is
still strong so I get out again to have a good look around. With
the torch I can see a film of petrol on the water, I get a container
and Chris's cigarette lighter and take a small amount of water up
the street a ways.
I cannot get it to light so I try again with water
from a different area, same result.
OK I think we're safe to stay the night, something
of an unfortunate juxtaposition of events though, swimming in petrol
without being able to move the truck.
Sun 15 Apr
It's stopped raining and the petrol has gone so
I change the wheel. I won't fix the tyre here so we'll drive without
a spare for a while.
Tue 17 Apr
We drive up to Bob & Jackie's in Grafton and
park in front of their house.
Wed 25 Apr
It's been great staying with B&J, Bob's two
main interests are SCUBA diving and RC airplanes. I have no interest
in diving but the planes are great.
Last weekend we went out to the local RC club
to do some flying, I just watched but was really interested in the
helicopters. Those suckers can fly and unlike normal fixed-wing
planes they do their tricks at arms length so you can easily appreciated
them, not 500 yards away as a dot in the sky.
One bloke was even flying his copter upside down
and cutting the grass.
Anyway it's time to go, we leave Grafton and drive
up to Hugo & Wendy's near Casino.
Fri 27 Apr
I guess I'd better fix the flat. I remove the
tube from the wheel and inflate it to look for the leak with soapy
No luck, bugger it I've got a couple of spare
tubes I'll just use one of them.
Fixing the flat.
Sat 28 Apr
I drive out to Mallanganee to visit Tony, a very
old friend of mine and a partner in crime for many years in the
70s. And I mean that more or less literally, the two of us found
ourselves explaining things to the police on a few occasions.
Now give or take a year Tony and I are the same
age, so I was shocked to see that rather than 58 he has the appearance
of someone closer to 78. He has certainly had a harder life than
me although 40-odd years of smoking has to take its toll, that couldn't
No matter, we spend the afternoon drinking and
reminiscing. Tony has a nice girlfriend which gave him the opportunity
to recount some of our exploits, many of which I had totally forgotten.
How do people remember all this stuff?
For example it seems that at some point on a remote
track in central Queensland I walked off into the scrub for a pee.
Seconds later there's a yell and Tony sees me running out of the
bushes, across the road, and into the bushes on the other side.
Hot on my heals is a large goanna.
Sun 29 Apr
Still raining, we'll stay one more day. I get
on the web to check the weather around the country. Here are some
of the headlines.
- Torrential rain drenches northern NSW.
- Wild weather lashes Tasmania.
- Western Australia cops heaviest rain in almost
- Queensland deluge brings heaviest April rain
in almost four decades.
- Queensland washout:heaviest April rain in
I don't know what happened to the drought but my guess is that
Tue 1 May
We leave Casino and head towards the Gold Coast.
What a crap road from Lismore, so much so that we've had enough
by the time we reach the main highway and pull into a rest area
for the night.
I ring Mark and Gail to explain that we won't
get to their place today because the drive has been too hard, Mark
finds that quite amusing as Casino to the lower Gold Coast is just
a trip of an hour or so for most people.
I guess we ain't most people.
Wed 2 May
We continue up the highway and pull into M&Gs
late morning. Murray and Julie (some mutual friends) are already
there the their bus is in "our" spot so we park out on
the road. We're in a hurry to get north so will only stay the night
Murray and Julie look like they will break the
"friends staying in Mark and Gail's back yard" record
of three months we set a few years ago. They are waiting to buy
a house and there have been complications.
Thu 3 May
So today it's up to Peter & Marie's place
at Glasshouse Mountains just north of Brisbane.
The drive is all freeway and pretty easy but I
find that I am less and less tolerant of all the traffic and people.
I wonder if we'll ever come back though here.
At least the Gateway bridge duplication is finished
and for the first time in (my) memory a trip through Brisbane goes
smoothly with no traffic jams.
Finally we pull into P&M's. As their place
is in the bush and north of the city I consider that we are almost
home, from here there is just a shortish drive to Gin Gin.
Thu 3 May
I've been researching the idea of replacing the
eight 64W Unisolar panels on the truck roof with four 250W panels.
You can get good deals on ePay these days but you have to be careful
who you deal with and really check what's written on their pages.
I find what I think are ideal but the size has
to be just right because there's not much room to spare on a motorhome.
It's different with a house and I assume that's why the data on
these pages is wrong half the time, because it often doesn't matter.
For example the panels I found have a certain
size in the specs and the photo of the J-box on the back of the
panel shows a different size.
The ensuing correspondence goes like this.
180 and 250w panel sizes.
The blurb states that these panels are 109.5x5x83cm for the
180W and 161x5x96cm for the 250W yet the photo of the stickers
on the j-box reads 1326x830 and 1460x940.
Exactly what size are these panels?
To which they respond
Just a quick note to let you know, that all of the information
that we have for this item is readily available on the items
main auction page.
We hope that by placing all available information on this
item in one easy to access location will help solve your issue.
If we can be of any further assistance please don't hesitate
to get in touch as we are always here to help.
What? I tell them that the web page is wrong and their answer is
to check the same web page.
I query the fact that your ebay page has conflicting information
about the size of these panels and am just told to look at
the same ebay page. It's total lack of support like this that
stops me from buying from ebay vendors.
The page says the panel is 1095mm long and the photo shows
1326mm, how am I supposed to design a system if I don't know
the size of the components?
Needless to say we won't be buying from these guys, in fact I'll
drop the idea for the time being.
I do however find some guys that are good and I order two 100W
panels to add to the front of the truck. That will bring us up to
1000W of panels and will do for the moment.
Thu 10 May
Finally got the last batteries installed, that's 14 120Ah batteries
now, put another way that's 840Ah @ 24 volts or 20,160Wh.
Should get us through the night eh?
Fri 11 May
I drive down to Steve and Madeleine's to stay a couple of days.
They live in one of Brisbane's northern suburbs so it's a short
Sat 12 May
Steve and I go into Brisbane, he needs to return something be bought
because it's faulty and I want to buy some hard disks. The computer
store is right near the center of town and the traffic is a nightmare.
I mention this to Steve and he says that it's actually very good,
there aren't that many vehicles at all.
Man am I glad I don't live in or even near a city.
Mon 14 May
I install the new solar regulator today. It's a TriStar 60A model
that will allow me to upgrade the solar panels considerably. I've
left or old FBR-40 on place though, partly because if I remove it
there will be a large hole on the panel, and partly because that
gives me a redundant system, if the TriStar fails one day I can
swap a couple of wires and carry on with the old regulator.
We're also decided to buy a trailer and I found a nice one on the
web. It folds into three pieces so we can store it in the container
when we're not using it.
Having a trailer will make a big difference in many ways. For example
I can have large objects (like solar panels) delivered to the nearest
depot where I can pick them up.
Also, with a driveway about 400m long on our land it will be useful
to when we get up there and start clearing and we can use the trailer
to transport the debris to our burnoff area.
Tue 12 Jun
We drive down to Peter Cox's workshop, mostly to pick up our new
trailer but also to check out his motorhome which is almost finished.
His motorhome is based on a brand new MAN truck, it's looking pretty
flash but also pretty familiar because Peter has used a lot of our
After a couple of hours we put the boxes of trailer parts into
the ute and return to P&Ms.
Wed 13 Jun
I assemble the trailer, it's not rocket science and the instructions
are reasonable but with about 1000 nyloc nuts I would not like to
do the job without a rattle gun.
Here's a page from the brochure.
If you are interested in these you can see their phone number in
the image and their web site is www.easytrailer.com.au
We bought the bare frame as shown above, you can buy them with
floors, sides etc. I decided to make my own. I also added a spare
wheel which is not included.
Mon 18 Jun
Well I've been a bit quite lately but there's been a lot happening
with the truck, for example
- New power points for Chris's computer.
- TV outlet on Chris's side of the lounge room.
- LED light over my desk.
- Re upholstered my desk.
- New awning to keep weather off the front door.
- Two more solar panels (100W each), total now
- Circuit breaker added to solar panels.
- Four more batteries,
total now 840Ah.
- Roof timbers replaced with marine ply.
- Replaced BPR 40A solar regulator with a TriStar
- Hung second TV/monitor for computer.
- Added voltage monitor in the cab for the house
- Changed both CRT displays (security and reversing)
Fri 22 Jun
We've finally joined the iStuff fraternity and bought an iPad.
We first looked at iPads a couple of years ago and weren't all that
impressed I must say, although to be fair we were looking for something
to read digital books at the time and I don't think they are the
best for that.
Also we couldn't get one to connect to my PC's WiFi.
But lately we've been playing with a friend's iPad and it has one
particular application that I I really do want, GPS navigation.
I tried my friend's and it actually works inside the truck.
So today it's down to JB HiFi where we buy the 64Gig version of
the iPad 3. So far I'm really impressed, as we now have a wireless
router we don't need to connect to the PC and the iPad seamlessly
hooks up to the internet.
I download the TomTom app and that also works out of the box.
And the screen is amazing, I can't even see the pixels.
Sat 23 Jun
Peter Cox brings his motorhome up to P&Ms today.
Peter's MAN motorhome
Both motorhomes parked in P&Ms yard. Note our new (small) awning over the front door
Sun 1 Jul
We finally leave P&M's, we were only supposed to stay here
for a few days as we are keen to get home, but one job lead to another
job etc etc and before we knew it we'd been here a month.
We drive to Mark and Julie's who only live a couple of towns away.
As their place is apparently a bit had to find and I haven't been
there before I use the TomTom. It works great, I already love my
I used to work with Mark at Prime Computers but when the the Australian
R&D section was closed all us engineers went our separate ways.
Mark wound up in silicon valley where he worked for many years with
Yahoo and also where he met Julie.
Their driveway is long, narrow and very steep, why don't we know
anyone with a short, wide and flat driveway?
Anyway we manage to insert the truck in the only available flat
spot and they give us the 20-cent tour.
This is a great spot, up in the Sunshine Coast hinterland so nice
and green. Mark now works from home and Julie has taken up nursing
and works at a nearby hospital.
We'll stay a couple of days but then we really must head north.
Tue 3 Jul
We drive 301k and finally get home.
The block looks much as we remember it, except
the grass is at chest level. That's going to take some work to clear.
And the lantana has gone wild as well, that will take even more
Still it's great to be "home".
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||dburt aka Dennis Burt
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||Lenoir City. Tennessee. USA
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