During the span of this chronicle my
Mum died. She'd been sick for a long time so the news wasn't
unexpected, but somehow that didn't help.
I suppose I went through all the usual
emotions, including the "I should have been there"
and "maybe if we weren't living on the road I would
have been there" guilt trips.
But if I was still working I would
have been lucky to get any time off at all, as it was our
new lifestyle allowed me to spend nearly two months with my
Mum and Dad not long ago.
Try getting two months off work to
stay with your sick Mum, you'd be pushing to get a week or
two's compassionate leave for the funeral.
So I can thank our lifestyle for letting
me spend time with my Mum before she died.
Goodbye Mum, we all loved you, I loved
you, and still do.
Pen and ink drawing
by Winona Gray.
19 January 1921 - 11 July 2002
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Mon 24 Jun 2002
I need to have some sewing done on a camera bag
so ride to a camping store to ask who fixes their back packs. They
send me around the corner but the lady who does the sewing is away
and the owner recommends yet another place and points to their business
card pinned to a cork board.
I write down the phone number and
the address in Wedd St, Stuart Park. I ring the fellow to confirm
that he can do the work, no problems. He tells me how to get to
his workshop but I don't take that much notice, after all I have
I hit the road with map in hand and
camera bag on shoulder. Before long I consult the map, there's no
Wedd St in the index! There is however a Wedder St so I reason that
I must have misread the name, maybe the end of the word Wedder was
covered by a thumbtack or something.
So I ride to Wedder St, nothing doing
here, it's just a suburban street, although I do check each house
as sometimes these small businesses are located under the owner's
Now what? I do have my phone and
could ring again but I would look like a bit of a prat so I try
to recall the instructions. Something about "down the highway...Mitsubishi
dealer...Tint-a-car workshop", oh well let's ride down the
highway and see what pops up.
It's not before I'm almost into the
CBD when I spot a Tint-a-car business, I do a U-turn and, sure enough,
the side street is called Wedd.
Now is it just me, or does everyone
have problems with errors and/or omissions in maps. In this case
it was a very small road, and not a comprehensive map, but when
we were in Brisbane the map we had there didn't even show Morton
Bay Rd, a four-lane major arterial!
Sun 23 Jun
I ride to the famous Mindil Beach markets but
it's Sunday and apparently it's the Thursday market that is massive.
As it was there was not many stalls and I was less than impressed.
Also I think I'm a bit "marketed
out". I spent four years selling photos every weekend at a
market in Canberra and, although I enjoyed the experience, I've
pretty much had a gut full of markets.
I continue on to have dinner with
friends who live in a great apartment on the seventh floor overlooking
There's others at the dinner party.
One couple just flew in from one of the islands in The Gulf with
their own plane. Another fellow used to be a policeman in Arhnem
Land and now owns a gallery here in town, and another owned a company
that provided expensive shooting safaris on the Coburg Peninsula.
There was no shortage of things to talk about.
Wed 26 Jun
We ride down to Howard Springs to my cousins'
house, then it's into their 4x4 and out on the Gunn Point Rd for a
tour of their property.
We've got a cut lunch because the
property is pretty large so the tour will take a while. When I say
large I mean it, about 600 square kilometres, not massive by Australian
standards but still pretty big. It's got Adelaide River frontage,
billabongs, buffaloes, crocodiles, the lot.
We meet some crabbers who live on
the river in pretty rough camps. We sit and talk for a while and
I get a small inside into the lifestyle, there's not as many crabs
as there used to be, can't catch any Barra
these days, Tom got into a fight with one of the members of the
neighbouring camp, Tom was "asked to leave".
One of these guys is actually the
son of a wealthy family in Darwin, but he chooses this lifestyle.
As we leave they they give us a few
On our way back out on the track
to the main road we see a 4x4 coming our way so my cousin stops
them to see why they are on his property. It turns out they are
customs officers on a "training exercise". The Adelaide
river is well placed for smuggling, so we think there was more to
the training exercise than they were prepared to let on.
Thu 27 Jun
We're supposed to check out today but cannot
decide where to go...so we paid for another week.
We have both been having a major
slack attack lately, each day we say that we should go and see something
then decide not to bother. It seems that we had a goal to get to
Darwin that, once achieved, left us with no idea what to do next.
Maybe tomorrow we'll go and see something.
Sun 30 Jun
Our German neighbours have been having spark
plug problems and I've been loaning them some tools to replace their
When they return the tools I ask
how it went and he said that the motor was not running well and
he "would haff to get a mechanic".
"Did you replace the leads in
the correct order?" I ask, he said yes and that the leads were
of lengths that made in difficult to replace them incorrectly. We
decided to have another look anyway.
Sure enough the front two leads could
not be swapped because of the lengths but the rear two could. I
suggest that he swap them, which he did, and the motor runs just
Mon 1 Jul
We noticed a leak in one of the water tanks
a week or so back so today I thought I'd check out the problem. I
remove the offending tank (I can remove any tank in about ten minutes)
and find a cracked weld.
Some people have slideout lounge rooms, we have slideout water
I was never very happy with the job
the tank makers did even though I approached several manufacturers
and thought I chose the best one. The mob I selected weren't cheap,
they asked all the right questions about how the tank is being mounted
etc., and appeared to know what they were doing, but on our very
first trip the baffle fell out of one of the tanks.
An now a weld has split. I get a
local welder to come out to the park and pick up the tank.
Wed 3 Jul
It's web site upload time so I need to borrow
a phone line. Fortunately we have friends in Darwin who can do without
a phone for a couple of hours.
While uploading the new material
for the site my friend and I try to organise a bushwalk. The trouble
is that we have totally different modus operandi, Matt has a full
diary and has to nail down the exact days for the walk, I don't
have a diary and refuse to be nailed down at all.
We still haven't resolved the problem.
Thu 4 Jul
We still don't want to leave, so book for yet
I've been hanging around the Nightcliff
Pier lately and getting some good sunset photos.
The cliffs at Nightcliff.
Sunset and the Nightcliff pier (some weird colours that I
seem unable to correct, but you get the idea)
Fri 5 Jul
I ride around the dock area looking for photos.
On seeing some promising subjects I get off the bike and wander around
with my tripod.
A woman from one of the trawlers
approaches, her demeanour is a bit surly but as she gets closer
her expression softens.
"Oh", she says, "I
thought you were carrying some bolt cutters and wondered what you
were up to". We chat for a while, she is the cook on a pearling
boat, they leave tomorrow for 2-3 months at sea.
The "Wayward Bound" is re-enacting Matthew Flinders
trip around Australia.
Derelict boat rests on the mud flats at low tide
Sat 6 Jul
There's a fire close to the caravan park so I
go to have a look. I see hundreds of hawks circling the flames,
presumably looking for the unfortunate animals that are forced to
Hawks circle the fire
Mon 8 Jul
A hydraulic line connection failed again, at
least I'm now aware of the different sound when it happens and don't
continue to activate the ram and flood the storage bin with fluid.
This time I strip the nut while replacing
it but I know exactly where to go for a new fitting, we've been
here too long.
Thu 11 Jul
At 4PM I feel the urge to sit out on the deck,
read a bit about the life of Ansel Adams and generally contemplate
the world over a beer.
At 5PM I receive a phone call that
I've been half expecting, but not wanting.
My Mum died an hour ago.
I go for a long walk down to the
beach and sit on the sand listening to the surf.
Fri 12 Jul
We will not be going to the funeral, it's very
expensive to fly down to Bundeburg, but also my Dad seems to be handling
things OK and he has a lot of support from friends and other family
We decide it would be better for
him to come up to Darwin to get away from things a bit.
Meanwhile life must go on and we
plan to leave the park today. By the time we do a spring clean,
remove the debris from the roof (three weeks parked next to a tree)
and generally pack up, it's after 12 when we finally leave the caravan
We drive to Winnellie to visit Richie,
a fellow motorhomer who has a large workshop. I change the engine
oil, swap the front wheels around to spread some uneven wear and
grease the front end while the wheels are off and things are easier
to get to.
We have a dinner date with other
friends at seven and it's 6:30 by the time we leave Richie's, just
enough time to move the truck into a vacant lot in town and get
Sat 13 Jul
We haven't been moved on (even though the police
have been passed), can't get fuel from the depot until Monday and
this is a nice spot overlooking Mindil Beach, so we decide to stay.
I spend most of the day with Matt,
a photographer I know from Canberra who now lives in Darwin. It's
good to be able to talk about photography again.
The docks on Darwin Harbour.
Mon 15 Jul
We have a late start then I spend some time
again with Matt trying to figure out some nuances of the MacIntosh
After lunch we head out of town,
buy fuel and more food then drive into Howard Springs to spend the
evening with my relatives.
Tue 16 Jul
We spend the morning in Palmerston doing some
more food shopping then hit the road and pull into the Manton Dam
rest area once again.
Wed 17 Jul
We drive five kilometres south and turn into
the Manton Dam Recreation Area. Not a bad spot to spend the day but
we can't get the truck very close to the water so only stay for a
coffee break then head off to see what Lake Bennett is like.
Lake Bennett is quite nice as it
turns out but there are no public facilities, the resort appears
to have the lakeside sewn up so we decide not to hang around and
head straight for Litchfield National Park.
At about 4PM, after a quick tour
of the quaint little town of Batchelor, we enter the park and pull
into the Florence Falls 2WD camp ground. There is another campground
called the 4WD Campground but the road in there is too tight for
As it was we had to walk around the
2WD area to find a large enough spot. Some campers suggest a spot
next to them as being large enough but I tell them that I doubt
I could fit between the surrounding boulders. When they look a bit
perplexed (there's plenty of room for normal vehicles) I say "You'll
see why in a minute".
A minute passed and I return with
the truck, the girls I had just talked to just sat with their mouths
We settle in and do a walk to the
falls, it's jam packed with people, mostly swimming, but I see some
promising compositions and will be back first thing in the morning,
before the crowds and full sunlight.
Thu 18 Jul
Up before dawn and down to the falls with the
field camera. Got a promising image or two.
Interesting rock at the plunge pool, Florence Falls
Later in the morning I went scouting
for photos, firstly to the magnetic termite mounds and then to the
The termite mounds are quite interesting
but the official viewing platform has about the most boring view
of them imaginable. This doesn't seem to deter the throngs of tourist
firing their cameras but it's not for me. I ride a way down the
road and walk into the bush to find some more interesting views.
I spot some possibilities and will
return later. Then I ride to the Lost City and get to play "ranger
for a day", well half an hour at least.
As I ride along the rough sandy track
to the peculiar rock formations that make up the Lost City I am
so intent on staying upright on the bike that I don't notice the
change in the air.
Eventually I do get a whiff of smoke
and look around to see that, in all directions, there is a definite
blue haze that denotes the presence of a fire. Come to think of
it it's not as sunny as it was, I look up to see the sun struggling
to shine through a light brown cloud cover. That's not cloud I think.
Anyway the track is now leading away
from the smoke so I continue.
After ten minutes or so looking around
the rocks I return to the car park to see that all the other vehicles
have gone. Hmmm. I quickly climb onto the bike and head back along
Within a few minutes I encounter
two ranger vehicles with fire fighting equipment very sooty looking
"Got a fire on your hands?"
I asked, always quick to sum up a situation no matter how subtle
They did, apparently it was under
control yesterday but got away in the high winds we had this morning.
"Anyone else down there?" they ask, "we're evacuating
the area". I tell them I was the last and volunteer to turn
anybody around that I encounter on the track and close the gate
at the main road.
So for about half an hour I was Ranger
Rob, turning people around and sounding very authoritative about
the fire. As it happens I often do get mistaken for a ranger, probably
because I wear kaki work clothes and walking boots.
Fri 19 Jul
I met the local goanna today, a big fellow,
about six feet long. He seems to do the rounds of the campground looking
for any carelessly placed food.
He walks right under the truck then
heads over towards a couple setting up camp.
I return to my business and after
a while start thinking that, by now, the goanna should be about
where the couple were erecting their tent.
Yep, I reckon he's there.
This afternoon I return to the termite
mounds, I tried to get some photos yesterday but came up with nothing
so thought I'd have another go.
This time I do get some nice images.
The magnetic termite mounds.
Sat 20 Jul
More photography down at the creek...
A rock in the creek at Florence Falls
...then I go to investigate the
situation at Wangi Falls, 32 kilometres away.
As I'm riding out through the campground
I notice that the goanna is causing a bit of a stir among some foreign
I stop to watch and one of them asks
"What to you call this?". Are you kidding?, what do I
call a six-foot goanna? "Sir" I responded, but I don't
think he got it.
I continue to Wangi and was impressed
by the size of the falls, it was not obvious from the photos I had
seen. I was less impressed with the number of people there, still
it is school holidays and a weekend.
I finally get to put another of my
theories into practice today and am pleased to report that it works
When I installed the new fuel tanks
I decided to keep the original 100ltr tank as petrol storage for
the bikes and generator. My reason being that we could easily be
out of town for weeks and would run out of fuel for the bikes as
they only have about a 250k range.
I also installed a fuel pump and
plumbed it into the original fuel pickup on the tank.
Well I've been doing a lot of miles
lately around the park and there's nowhere to fill up here so my
bike is on reserve.
So today, before heading of to Wangi
Falls, I stuck the hose into the bike's petrol tank, turned on the
pump, and by the time I'd generally sorted myself out and was ready
to go, the tank was full.
Don't you just love it when a plan
Sun 21 Jul
We plan to shift camp to Wangi Falls today
but I want another try at some photos here so I spend an hour or two
down at Florence Falls.
When I return I notice that Chris
is outside showing the truck's photo album to a couple. This is
unusual in itself because she's pretty sick of answering questions
about the truck.
I rock up just as the questions start
getting technical and help her out. The couple are from Nottingham
(near where Chris grew up) and we get on well.
We chatted for ages then realise
it's after lunch. I don't like late starts so we decide to stay
another night. After all, if you meet some people you like, and
are enjoying yourself, what's the point in moving on. Wangi Falls
will still be there tomorrow, and probably less crowded.
Mon 22 Jul
Wrong! Well half wrong, Wangi Falls is still
there, but it's just as crowded as yesterday. We find a camping bay
and, with some ado, manage to install the truck. You're supposed to
share camping bays here but when we drop the deck down there's precious
little room for another vehicle to enter the bay.
We relax for the rest of the day
then, while having an evening beer on the deck, notice our Nottingham
friends (Terry & Katrina) arriving at the campground, there's
no spaces left so we suggest that we raise the deck to let them
drive their van through and share our bay.
As it turns out it's not necessary
to raise the deck, they just drive straight under it.
Tue 23 Jul
Up for an early morning walk to the top of
the falls then we spend the day swimming and snorkelling in the lake
at the bottom of the falls, and exploring other parts of the park
on a motor bike.
Wangi Falls is a marvellous (albeit
crowded) spot, the aforementioned lake is crystal clear with a large
shallow sandy area and the rest being quite deep. It's quite magic
to float around wearing a snorkel, watching the fish and interesting
piles of logs and general detritus on the lake floor.
The pandanus rimmed lake at Wangi Falls, a magic spot.
Dinghy tied up in the bushes at Wangi Falls.
There's no crocs here because the
area is constantly managed but the sight of a log on the lake floor
still gives me a bit of a start.
Cathedral termite mounds
Wed 24 Jul
We leave Wangi and drive all of five kilometres
to a spot we'd heard about. It's near Pethericks Rainforest, right
on the border of, but outside, the park so camping fees don't apply.
Apparently it was a private campground
that closed because of fire or something. There's almost no facilities
but also no people, a thermal spring, cascades, creeks etc. A great
spot and within easy reach of the park's other main attractions.
A pleasant campsite near Pethericks Rainforest.
The campsite is outside the park, but only by metres.
The dunnies leave something to be desired, still serviceable
Thu 25 Jul
Terry & Katrina leave today, heading for
Darwin to get supplies. We'll stay behind until tomorrow but will
miss their company. That's the down side of making new friends on
the road, you're invariably going different directions and have to
Sat 27 Jul
We return to Palmerston to meet my Dad who's
coming up from Bundaberg on the bus.
I specifically wanted to be at the
terminal when he arrived but as luck would have it, the bus is early
and I'm late. As I run up the road it breaks my heart to see my
old Dad sitting all alone in the empty terminal.
Wed 7 Aug
Today we plan to return to Litchfield National
Park to show my Dad the sights.
We've got cold drinks, lunches, cameras,
the lot; everything a good tourist needs to "do Litchfield"
in a day. At about 8AM we head off, bright eyed and bushy tailed.
We decide to go the top way through
Berry Springs and down the dirt road, and the plan works well. For
We visit Darwin Dam and find an interesting
ex-railway with no rails and a bridge that goes nowhere.
Then we head down the dirt road towards
After about 20k we encounter a fence
running along the road and, affixed to this fence, are warning signs,
hundreds of them, every few metres. Not being quite able to read
the signs from the road I stop and investigate.
The signs tell, in various ways,
that the area on the other side of the fence is a live fire zone
for the Army. Regular "booms" in the distance re-enforced
the message in a way that no signwriter can.
Interesting, but not very.
I return to the car, hop in, and
depress the clutch, WHOMF, straight to the floor goes the pedal.
Not good, probably a bit low on fluid,
I'll just pump it a few times to build up some pressure.
WHOMF, WHOMF, WHOMF, still no pressure.
Ooooh, really not good, let's have
I get out and check under the vehicle,
bloody hell there's liquid spewing out. I run to the other side,
dip a finger into the damp dust and take a whiff. No problems, just
water from the air conditioner.
Next I check the clutch reservoir.
It's dry, silly bugger, I didn't check it before we left, so now
The brake reservoir is full, so all
I have to do is transfer some across. But with what?, there's no
tubing in the vehicle. But the battery handles are made of nylon
rope with a piece of vinyl hose to save you from cutting your hands
to shreds as you lift the battery.
I remove the hose and, by dipping
it into one reservoir and holding my thumb over the top of the hose,
I transfer fluid from one to the other.
After a while I get Chris to pump
the clutch and, sure enough, the level goes down. Good, we're bleeding
the air from the lines.
This process continues until I can't
get any more fluid from the brakes, but rather than analyse why
I'm using so much fluid I start to remove a fuel line so I can use
At this time a couple of 4x4s stop
We explain the problem and a couple
of us look under the engine again. We could see the wet earth but
I explained that it was caused by condensation from the air conditioner,
and, as if to back me up some drips broke free from the drain pipe,
which is situated right next to the clutch slave cylinder.
We ask Chris to pump the pedal once
more and fluid gushes from the slave cylinder. Oops.
There's obviously no point continuing
to put brake fluid, diesel or anything else into the lines. So now
Fortunately I've driven a Toyota
before with no clutch, last time it was for fun, this time hopefully
it will get us home.
The technique is not that difficult.
You have to start with the vehicle in gear then, as the revs increase,
back off and drop the gearbox into neutral. Then, while applying
pressure to the stick in the direction of the next gear, slowly
bring the revs up. At some point the speeds of the cogs will match
and gear lever will drop into gear.
Changing down is a similar process.
Our trip was aborted but to return
we have to turn around. I start in reverse and back around 90 degrees,
stop, then start in first to complete a three point turn.
The rest of the trip home goes smoothly,
we are fortunate with the traffic lights and placement of vehicles
at various intersections.
By the time we pulled into the drive
I was wondering why cars bother with clutches :-)
Mon 12 Aug
I've got a small job designing a web site for
a local photographer, so today it's off to work.
I spend most of the week designing
the site and teaching it's new owner how to continue my good work.
I enjoyed the task (and the money
didn't do any harm either) but came away being decidedly unimpressed
with Apple computers. OK I know I'm a PC user but some of the ways
the Apple presented file dialogues, didn't handle missing drivers,
and forced you to use menus at the top of the screen because the
mouse only has one button (ONE BUTTON! come on Apple, get with the
21st century), leave me wondering why people rave about them.
Wed 21 Aug
We'll be leaving in a day or two so it's time
to service the truck and do a few jobs of the maintenance kind.
Trixie (the family dog) is keen to
help, always ready with a wet tongue to cool my face down when I
roll over under the truck, willing to sit on things that need to
be put away, and prepared (under duress) to move out of the way
to allow me access to a grease nipple or an oil filler plug.
She seems to have taken a shine to
us in the few weeks we've been here, and has dug some new dust wallows
around the truck so she can guard us all night.
One such night, at about midnight,
I heard her barking just outside the truck. Nothing unusual there,
she's always protecting us from some hidden danger, but this time
her voice had a hysterical tone to it that I recognised from descriptions
as her "snake" voice.
I investigate and, sure enough, she's
bailed up a large python. Normally the attendant human in these
circumstances will kill the snake but I was happy to let it be,
unfortunately it refused to leave so Trixie had to bark at it for
over an hour.
Fri 23 Aug
It's two months almost to the day
since we hit Darwin. I'm one of those "home is where the hat
is" types, if I'm comfortable then I'm happy to stay and I
settle in for ages (ask anybody I've stayed with :-). But after
a while I start to get a bit stir crazy and feel the call of the
wild, or at least the call of the highway.
We leave my cousins, Laurence and
Marian, and my Dad. I am particularly sad to leave my Dad, he was
run down on arriving in Darwin but has picked up a lot since then
and seems quite perky now. We plan to meet up again in Perth.
We take on a little fuel at Coolalinga
then mosey on down to our old favourite campsite, Manton Dam.
Our Darwin experience is done.
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