GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #067



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 material.

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 activities.

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 2011

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 2011

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 stopped.

Thu 22 Dec 2011

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 Sea Lake.

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 were different.

Fri 23 Dec 2011

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 2011

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

We drive 258k to a rest area on the Hume Highway just south of Tarcutta.

Sun 15 Jan 2012

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? What 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 2012

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 toys.

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 2012

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 2012

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 important. Chris.

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 old times.

Sat 25 Feb 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 the rain.

Fri 2 Mar 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 it.

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 aren't we?

Tue 6 Mar 2012

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 2012

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 on fire.

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 years.

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 2012

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 just curious.

We chat for some time about the truck's fuel consumption etc. then they head off.

Sat 17 Mar 2012

Great sunset tonight, check out the birds on the power lines.


Sun 18 Mar 2012

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 2012

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 much use.

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 the spanners.

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 the job.

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 2012

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 three O-rings?

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 seized and I don't have the right equipment. So it's into a nearby brake mob to see if they can crack it.

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 2012

I order the kit, nothing to do now until it comes in.

Thu 22 Mar 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 Tuggeranong Creek.

 Yours truly.

Thu 5 Apr 2012

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. Not good.

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 going north.

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 2012

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 from 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 flat.

Bloody hell.

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 2012

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 2012

We drive up to Bob & Jackie's in Grafton and park in front of their house.

Wed 25 Apr 2012

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 2012

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 water.

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 2012

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 have helped.

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 2012

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 two years.
  • Queensland deluge brings heaviest April rain in almost four decades.
  • Queensland washout:heaviest April rain in decades.

I don't know what happened to the drought but my guess is that it's ended.

Tue 1 May 2012

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 2012

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 anyway.

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 2012

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 2012

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.


Dear X,

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

Dear graynomad,


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.

Dear X,

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 2012

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 2012

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 drive.

Sat 12 May 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 ideas.

After a couple of hours we put the boxes of trailer parts into the ute and return to P&Ms.

Wed 13 Jun 2012

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

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 2012

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 962 watts.
  • 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 60A.
  • Hung second TV/monitor for computer.
  • Added voltage monitor in the cab for the house batteries.
  • Changed both CRT displays (security and reversing) to LCD.

Fri 22 Jun 2012

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 2012

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 2012

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 TomTom.

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 2012

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 work.

Still it's great to be "home".


Date  ::   10 Mar 2012
Name  ::   dburt aka Dennis Burt
Location  ::   SW Idaho and NE Oregon
Comment  ::   Hi Rob- we also cross paths on Steel Soldiers as I am sure you have figured out by now. Anyway, I am sending you some links to the Craigslist classifieds here in our area of Boise, Idaho for RVs that might interest you just FYI.

Rob, feel free to email me at if you ever need any help or have questions!
God bless and take care- Dennis
Date  ::   05 Apr 2012
Name  ::   Jesper
Location  ::   Danmark
Comment  ::   Hi Rob! Seems like you're busy at the moment?! By the end of July this year, we are officially living on the road! We purchased a 25 year old, 11 meter long bus camper today. Thank you for the inspiration!!! Hope your doing okay... All the best! Jesper
Date  ::   05 Apr 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Jesper, good to hear you are very close to hitting the road.

We're doing fine, being a bit slack hanging around Canberra but will start heading north in a day or two.
Date  ::   12 May 2012
Name  ::   Shane and Melissa Newcombe
Location  ::   Jamberoo
Comment  ::   Hey Guys, drop in if you find yourselves over this way any time.( heaps of room)
1315 Jamberoo Rd Jamberoo.
Date  ::   17 May 2012
Name  ::   cees
Location  ::   dronten netherland
Comment  ::   Hi Rob, did hear or see anything for a long time
Hope evrything is ok there.! ?

We miss your travel stories and photos

We go end of this year for a round trip USA again

Date  ::   17 May 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Still here Cees, doing some work on the truck (upgrading the solar system) then we'll drive back to our land and sit there for a while which will probably make the updates even sparser because we won't be doing much.

I've been very slack with the diary updates, sorry about that but of late I have been just too involved in my electronics. I've returned to the monitoring network we talked about way back at Timber Creek after a break designing some other stuff.
Date  ::   21 May 2012
Name  ::   Cees Beers
Location  ::   Dronten Netherlands
Comment  ::   Well great your ok , i already had some bad thought about things that might have happend , good that you work on the solar panels monitoring did you made some good improvements ? and are you going to swap some panels or,,,,,,and meaby time to bring you electronics to the market? hence that make's you even more slack if there money coming in from that side or.....

Anyway your brilliant guy so wonn't take long that it will hit the market so we all can benefit from it

Did you already been to Bundaberg?
Date  ::   21 May 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   I've added 4 batteries, a new regulator and 2x100W panels.

I may still yet swap 8 64W panels for 4 250s, we'll see how things go.

Not much chance of my electronics making any money, I couldn't sell something to save myself.

We're still just north of Brisbane, should be back Bundy way next week.
Date  ::   06 Jun 2012
Name  ::   Aly Patmore
Location  ::   Tasmania
Comment  ::   Thanks For Your Inspiration, my boyfriend and I belong to the young beginning motorhome group, just bought a 11mtr Mercedes Benz bus Love the photos, and your explanations and plans for your home, Best from Tassie
Date  ::   10 Jun 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Glad I could help Aly , we plan to be back down your way for the summer of 13/14, maybe we'll see each other on the road somewhere.
Date  ::   12 Jun 2012
Name  ::   Chris
Location  ::   Wotthellizat
Comment  ::   I do think you need to update this diary, so stop drinking all the home-brew and get on with it.
Date  ::   20 Jun 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   That wouldn't be my loving wife by any chance?
Date  ::   25 Jun 2012
Name  ::   Sheridan
Location  ::   Bright
Comment  ::   I think Chris is right! almost 5 months without an entry.
Date  ::   26 Jun 2012
Name  ::   Jesper
Location  ::   Danmark
Comment  ::   Hi Rob! News from Denmark. Bought a 11 m MAN bus. Started building 1st of May. Finished in a few days. Insulated the bus, made a new electricity system, installed cupboards and an IKEA kitchen. Benches and a table. Beds of course. Moving in soon, and leaving 1st of August. Miss your updates! Listen to Chris... ;o) Cheers Jesper
Date  ::   27 Jun 2012
Comment  ::   @Sheridan
Coming in a day or so.

Good to see things are progressing, you've really got your skates on to get that much done. Not long now. I guess you'll head south pretty quick to miss the northern winter.
Date  ::   10 Jul 2012
Name  ::   Kevin
Location  ::   Sydney
Comment  ::   Maybe it is time to put this site to sleep
Date  ::   10 Jul 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   OK you've shamed me into getting my arse into gear
Date  ::   10 Jul 2012
Name  ::   Kevin
Location  ::   Sydney
Comment  ::   Thats good news . Thanks Rob.
Date  ::   25 Aug 2012
Name  ::   Aaron
Location  ::   Lenoir City. Tennessee. USA
Comment  ::   Just checking that you guys are.ok....You are after all sitting in a puddle of petrol ....I hope all is ok. Aaron
Date  ::   25 Aug 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   We got out of the petrol predicament

We're on our land now clearing the long grass and 1000s of rocks + adding some infrastructure to make life a bit easier.
Date  ::   14 Sep 2012
Name  ::   Phillip Hannam
Location  ::   Thredbo Australia
Comment  ::   Hi Rob i am building a camper on a Hino 4x4 can i have 12v for the camper
and 24v for the truck without problems Hann
Date  ::   25 Sep 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Yes that's OK, plenty of people do the same. You may want a second alternator to charge the house while you are driving.
Date  ::   28 Sep 2012
Name  ::   mike
Location  ::   Renmark
Comment  ::   Hi Rob
When I click on the thumbnails they do not get bigger.
Is it my problem or a site problem
Date  ::   29 Sep 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Sorry Mike I have no idea why is doesn't work. I just tried on 4 different browsers and it was OK. What about on other diary pages?
Date  ::   30 Sep 2012
Name  ::   Bruce
Location  ::   Brisbane
Comment  ::   Hello Rob.
Just a question about any research you have probably done concerning registration. We are hitting the road soon in our converted International school bus and don't want to come back to Queensland each year just to have a mechanical insection for re-registering. Which Australian state has the best registration options (I notice you have Victorian registration and I recall a comment way back about changing your rego, but I cannot locate it in your diary).
Thanks for your time.
Date  ::   01 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   I talk about changing the rego in #3, but there's not much info there. We used Vic because it was close. WA doesn't require inspections and neither does SA I believe.

Vic also allows a mailing address that is independent of the garaging address (AKA the nearest caravan park). I don't know if that's the case in the other states.

Note that (in 2001 at least) you don't need an inspection for the changover as long as the truck is currently registered in your name, but we were told very different stories by many people until we got that one.

We went to a small town that didn't have a proper Vicroads office, just a government shop front that did everything. That may have helped as well.

Our Hobohome friends Gavin and Tracy got theirs done in WA, I think they needed an inspection for the changeover.


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