Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Trip That Took Us To Hell And Back

Darwin Trip Sept 2013

First Leg to Cairns

A few days before departure I had the Engel in the back of the car with some prepared frozen meals, makes life a bit easy hey. So the freezer had been going for about 3-4 days and no problems, until one morning I went to start the car....nothing, not a bloody nothing.
RACQ to the rescue and alls good again. Went to my electrician to see if we could sort this out. We could leave it as is and hope for the best, or give him $1100 - $1200 and he would iron out all the wrinkles. No way Jose. I'll take the risk.
Went home and told Fay, so we decided to give the man a lot of money for something we will never ever SEE. In the end the electrician was a very nice man and only charged $880. So that's fixed. If there are any spelling mistakes in these posts, you can fix it because I couldn't be bothered. OK.

Friday 27th Sept 2013

Up early and off we go, major stops being Cairns, Adels Grove into The Territory and visit some absolutely amazing places there, but we won't go there just yet.....we have to get there first. Stopped a few times to stretch the legs, had coffee at one of the reviver stations, told people of our adventure, so on and so on.
Refuelled somewhere, can't remember.
Now to the first free camp of the trip. Mt Ossa, about 70kms north of Mackay, turn left and go to Mt Charlton, then right for a few kms till you get to Boulder Creek. Dirt road, quiet, a creek with a swimming hole, cold but very refreshing, toilet and a fare bit of room. There was only one other camp when we arrived, young girl and a guy, no car just a tent and it all looked a bit scruffy. I called them ferrel's which Fay hates.
Yeah, set up, have afternoon tea, read, swim and chill out. OK, the pictures are coming, hold on.
Had one of my prepared cordon bleu meals for dinner then settled down to watch a bit of telly before bed. A few other people had arrived later in the afternoon, all doing there own thing.
About 9.00pm five carloads of youths arrived, right next to our van, just cars. They eventually proceeded to drink, build a fire to put Guy Fawkes to shame and play really *&%$#!@ LOUD MUSIC. How loud, F%^&ing LOUD. Sleep...........what F%&*^ing sleep. Nil. None. Zero. These arseholes went non stop and were still going when we left at 8am. All bloody night. We got some number plates and we were going to report it to the Police at Calen. Closed, better things to do. Are we keeping count of the bad things that are happening, 1, 2.......
Remember the ferrels I referred to, well they went to bed early and we never sighted them again. You never can tell.

Boulder Creek

 Yes, the water was quite refreshing........

 Saturday 28th September 2013

Off we go, and I can tell you, I had a feeling, a bad feeling in my guts...something was not right. I can still hear those bastards. Fay said there is karma................and those pricks will get theirs soon enough.
Right, we are on the road......fuelled up somewhere, wherever. Tonight's stop will be at the beautiful and prestigious free camp of Toomulla Beach, about 80kms north of Townsville. Yeah, yeah, pictures coming Karen.
A large area with some shade, water tap nearby and toilets and a picnic area for day use.
I'd love to get back at those bastards from last night.
Set up, put the awning out, gee it was hot, getting real tropical. Walked along the beach. A few mangroves and some people fishing, and NO, they didn't catch anything. Again, another first class meal and a bit of telly without those mongrels screaming and yelling crap. I'm sure the girls were worse than the guys. I hope they all get pregnant. Had a good sleep, yes. Oh yeah, this is the middle weekend of the Qld school hols.

Toomulla Beach. On the other side of our van is huge grassy patch in shade.

The grass and toilets in the distance - some campers have erected their own shower.

Sunday 29th September 2013

Again, set off at a good time. It's great when you are free camping you don't have to unhitch, just get up next morning and take off, cool.
Nice drive into Cairns, stopped at Cardwell for smoko, you can see where the devastation has been from Cyclone Yasi in 2011. They have spent some real money here.
Rocked up to Lake Placid Tourist Park about 2ish and setup on the side of a HILL. Well, a slope. But if your brakes weren't working we could have killed thousands. Caravan Parks do it all the time, slopes here, hills there, steep everywhere. Jockey wheel doesn't go up high enough or it doesn't go low enough. Get Real. Don't get me started on where to hang your gear when in the shower. I strap mine to my head now.
During the next few days we go and see Clayton, Wendy, Camden and Phoebe every day and have meals there as well. Stocked up on a few things as when we leave Cairns we head west into the unknown, dirt, dust and plenty of heat.
Some friends from Rocky were also there, Karen and,um, R....M...he drinks this dirt cheap tea, its crap. Yeah, he's OK. It took two days to catch up with them, tourist this and tourist that. Anyway, we did have a few drinks and had a good time, they even invited us back for breakfast. Thanks Karen and sss....Steve, got it, or him. If you want photo's of Cairns, Karen has heaps.

Grandkids, Pheobe with milk all over her face, then Camden and Pheobe posing for the camera.

Thursday 3rd October 2013

We had prepared the van and car the day before so this morning we hitched up and took off quick smart.
Our destination is Adels Grove, a privately run Tourist Resort operated by the owners of Lawn Hill Station a few kms away. It is a drive of just over 1100kms so we plan to have two nights on the road, no side excursions, just Adels Grove. Drove through Mareeba, Atherton, Ravenshoe, Mt Surprise and Georgetown. Tonight's free camp is at the Gilbert River about 73kms west of Georgetown. Very basic, plenty of bins but dusty and hot, what do you expect.

Gilbert River Free Camp....always feels good to save $30 / $40 per night, and there are alot of CP's going off their heads about it. About 6pm another van pulled in so it was a peaceful but hot night.

Friday 4th October 2013

Again an early start, uneventful night but it is free and we need every cent we can. Into Normanton for fuel, got that one right, and we fuelled up yesterday at Georgetown. Then to a free camp on the Albert River for the night, six kms south of Burketown. Many single camps for individual vans along the river. At one stop during the day we were talking to an older couple who were travelling and they had an off road  Phoenix, general chit chat. They eventually passed us I think, we were taking it real easy on the corrugations. This couple ended up camping about a km along the river from us so Fay and I decided to take a walk and talk to them. They were saying that some bloke on the two way was saying, "look at those poor bastards, they're going that slow they have stuffed something up bigtime on their van or car". The prick was talking about us. His shockies would have been knackered anyway, he was doin' 80+kms, d&%$head. So we hiked 5000kms to talk to these guys, 54 deg C, stand around talking for 40 mins, no seat and no drink. I hope we are alot better at entertaining people than they are.
That was a real hot night.

6kms south of Burketown on The Albert River.

Beware of big cows, they will charge at your car.

Saturday 5th October 2013

Gee its a long way to Adels Grove but we will get there today. Up and off to Burketown for fuel. No, the older guys had been working at The Gregory Downs Roadhouse for a while serving behind the bar and doing some general jobs about the place. They knew the price of fuel and said not to fill up in Burketown but fill up at Gregory Downs Roadhouse, so that's what we did.
Burketown to Greg Downs and into Adels Grove, all dirt and corries, 240kms.
Fully booked out.           Nah, just kidding, but I can tell you that there were more people than you could poke a stick at, real surprising. We camped in the generator section where we could use the generator to top up the batteries. Not much shade, plenty at sundown, god it was hot and every day was getting worse. General feeling was good about this place but there was not a lot of activities for the mature ones like us. Great swimming hole and some small rapids, the water was refreshing to say the least, but you know the old saying, great when you get in, but its the getting in that takes time. There was a nice bar and meals area so we treated ourselves to a meal. Had to book in and at $30 a head we were expecting something good, better, bloody great. WELL. See below, Corned meat and three veg and not much of it either.
We stayed for three nights and the only way to cool down while living in this furnace was to get wet, wetter the better, two, three, four times a day. We did talk to the girl at reception about what there was to do and as soon as she mentioned canoeing we jumped at the chance as we are avid paddlers, just love it. Fay was the one that introduced it to me. So the next morning we would paddle up the Gorge at Lawn Hill National Park.
Adels Grove. The meal first.......

Sunday 6th October 2013

Had the alarm set for 6.30am because if we could get to the canoes first we would have crystal clear and undisturbed waters ahead of us. This would be great for capturing those early morning reflections. Fantastic. Got there about 7.40 am and we were the first, nobody else. Still nobody, not even the guy to collect the money and give you a hearty shove off the bank. At 8.15am Fay headed to the office and was back quick smart. We are at the wrong place, the gorge is 5kms up the road in the NPark. So where the hell are we now. This is a privately run "campground resort" owned by Lawn Hill Station. Into the car and we get to the gorge with about 5 or 6 canoes ahead of us. I asked the guy in charge how long we had the canoe for, " you've got it for two hours, plenty of time for a couple of swims and reach the top of the gorge and get back".
Experienced paddlers as we are we get a move on to the first falls, nice take some photo's and rest awhile. To get above these falls and continue up the gorge you have to carry and drag the canoe about 60 mtrs to where you throw it back into the water. Fine, no worries. Get to the top falls, well it is really like small rapids and we have been paddling upstream........this has taken us 1 1/4 hrs. I want my swim, and I do, more photo's and a small rest, then decide to nick off quick smart. Non stop paddling and we get back 20mins late. Just as well he didn't ask for a late fee. Seen one gorge.......................seen...
Lawn Hill Gorge or.......Bo.,....//,.. whatever....

This is a sport we both enjoy immensely.

We've got these in Rocky too.

I'll upload this and see how we go.
That went well so I'll continue.
Over the next few days we didn't drift far from the water hole. On the last day we drove 48 kms down to Riversleigh D Site. "D" being for dinosaur I suppose. There is an information "cave" and explanation of the site. Quite a few fossils.
Very very frightening.


Then on the way back to camp we saw what looked like an old mine beside the road. There was a large hole about thirty foot deep. The sourounding colours were nice so I took some photo's.



I quite like the shadows in these images.

Tuesday, 8th October 2013
Adels Grove to Doomadgee.

Left Adels Grove early in the morning as we knew it was going to be another scorcher. Took Wills Road to Lawn Hill Station, through the gate and onto a track that was no more than two wheel ruts, but  smooth. We hadn’t done much driving around since we last filled up at Gregory Downs Roadhouse so the next stop for fuel would be Doomadgee, 145 kms north but all mainly corrugated roads. I think it took us 2 ½ hrs. Fuelled up and took the Great Top Road to Hell’s Gate Roadhouse, more fuel. We are going to spend a few days at Lorella Springs a one million acre remote and unspoilt destination. After that it’s The Southern Lost City and Butterfly Springs.
It was another 160 kms to Echo gorge for our free camp tonight. Actually Echo Gorge is not sign posted, it is a natural cutting between a hilly range, so we camped at a “scrape” a couple of kms further on. A scrape is an area that has had the top soil removed to gain access to gravel to maintain the dirt roads. It is usually a few hundred metres off the road, there’s lots of them around. Very open and dry but we had it all to ourselves.  

Opened the van door and the battery “Low Voltage Disconnect” alarm was going off. THIS WAS NOT GOOD, THIS WAS VERY BAD. Tried to reset the alarm but the Solar Charger Regulator was displaying some really strange numbers. Usually the battery volts should be 12.6 to 13.5 volts. This was going from 8 to 17.5 volts, up and down and changing each cycle. The power to the fridge had been out for a few hours as well, so it was starting to warm up. I decided to put the generator on straight away and see if we could even things out a little. No go. After a while we had power for 15 mins, then no power for 2 mins. That cycle went on and on all night. The generator ran all night. Those Honda generators can be a life saver, you shouldn’t  go anywhere without one. The fridge temp was slowly coming down so that was good.
We were in the middle of nowhere...and it really was nowhere. Next major towns to the south or southwest were Mt Isa, 800kms or Cairns over 1200kms. Katherine to the west was 650 kms and Darwin 970 kms, so wherever we were going it was a long way.  We knew the plans we had and the places we wanted to go were now stuffed, f*&%#! right up.
Wednesday, 9th October 2013
The “Scrape” to Borroloola and beyond.
Up early, had a 4 – 5 hour drive to Borroloola so we could email Bushtracker and tell them a nice little story about some *&#$@(*^@!*()( batteries. Eventually got there, hot, it is so bloody hot here and everywhere. Sent the email and told them we were headed to Katherine, some 670 kms away, two solid days drive. We had to go to a large populated town as there was no chance of getting the batteries for the van that we needed out here. At best you would be lucky to get a pack of “AAs” that had a 2011 expiry date in this backwater, that’s awful Chris. It’s a fact. We got to The Hi-Way Inn Motel/CP at about 5 pm. Checked the emails and had a reply from Bushtracker. Peter said,

"Hi Chris,
I can pretty much guarantee that you have fractured a connection in one battery. This is irreversible and you will need to identify which one and maybe jury rig the other to get you going.
 Stayed the night and had a meal at the Roadhouse, and another early start. There was a chance we might get batteries in Katherine, yeah, sure.
Thursday, 10 th October 2013
Katherine and beyond.
Arrived Katherine at midday. Another email from BT telling me what batteries to get and to contact Alco in Katherine and talk to Barry. Things are looking good. BARRY DIDN’T HAVE THE BATTERIES. Now I gotta ring Outback Batteries in DARWIN. NO BATTERIES. Now I gotta ring Jason in ADELAIDE. You know how far away Adelaide is from Katherine, 24,786 kms and about 3 ½ months to transport them. JASON HAS BATTERIES.....but they’re in ADELAIDE. I pay over the phone plus $80 for transport and Jason said he would ship them out to Outback Batteries in Darwin where we could pick them up on arrival. So there was nothing else to do in Katherine therefore decided to keep on going to Craig and Michelle’s at Humpty Doo, 40 kms south of Darwin. This is the reason we are in the north, Michelle celebrates her 40 th birthday on the 26 th. But today is the 10 th, her birthday is over two weeks away. Get the batteries say, Thursday next week, yeah, stick them in and set off somewhere for five or six days, that would break it up a bit. Arrive H/Doo, hot as. Wash the van straight up as no-one is home. Eventually they all arrive home.....SURPRISE. Now we wait for the batteries.
Monday, 14 th October 2013
Humpty Doo
Yep, they say it happens in three's. Oh yeah, number two, well I put the car in for 90,000km service and also have the wheels rotated. They rang and said they couldn't rotate because I really needed a new set of tyres. They are getting close, but will get someone else to rotate them. Front to back, and back to front. The ones on the rear now have a fare bit of meat on them, will do till we get home.
Number three. Had a big storm, just heaps of rain for about an hour and found a leak in the top side cupboards from a cut hole that prob goes to the aerial or dish. Never had it before so should be easy fixed with some sikaflex on the outside. Also found two small screws that had come out of the Vast box. Fixed that, then thought I'll check the screws around the fridge. All of them needed tightening by half to a full turn, so I'll screw myself silly tomorrow. They reckon its the mad season up here.
Oh.....and there is a FOUR. The A/C remote has decided not to talk to the overhead unit anymore. So while not talking to each other the AC can only be turned on manually and it will cool on low speed fan. I have ordered another one on ebay, should be here in a week, so everything is just dandy.
Thursday, 17 th October 2013
Humpty Doo.
Still here in Darwin. I’ve been to Outback Batteries to let them know whats going on. “Yeh man, shee’ll be right”. Translation ..We don’t give a shit. Darwin can get boring. And depressing if you are waiting for batteries. TUESDAY the next week I check again. Reply....Nup. Phone Jason in Adelaide. Adelaide is the capital of another state, it is nowhere near Darwin. Jason says he shipped them Friday week ago. Ah ha, he said he SHIPPED them. He did, BLOODY CAMEL TRAIN. Then on THURSDAY 24 th OCTOBER 2013 they arrive. You see, if you have to post or send any stuff to the NT, somehow it goes via Kathmandu.......ten times. Just don’t send stuff to the NT.
Monday, 28 th October 2013
This morning we left that beautiful, tropical, hot and humid paradise for pastures greener. I’ll catch you all up soon.


Saturday, 20 July 2013

2010 TRIP, NT, WA and The Gulf.


This was the big trip after getting the van and the 4WD. Headed west at the beginning of June 2010. I had never towed anything before, let alone this 2750 kg van. We had only got the car back from TJM a few days before after getting new heavy duty springs and shockies, bulbar with spotties, snorkel, 12,000 lb winch, tinted windows, extended diff breathers, UHF radio, and I’m sure there was more. Nice little price tag that was.
                               Fay having some fun on the first day.
                       Don't forget to fillup before you go anywhere.
                     ............yes, they call this The Plenty Highway.

So, westward ho, via, Boulia and The Plenty Hwy to Alice then The Mereenie Loop to The Rock and on to The Great Central Road to Cervantes on The Indian Ocean. Yeh, we did stop along the way and do all the touristy things, leisurely trip like.
Rainbow Valley, 85 kms south of Alice.
......and this time in colour. It's a fantastic place to camp for the night.
A lonely road.
And The Pinnacles at Cervantes. 
 From here it was up the coast to Exmouth, calling in at all ports. Then to The Pilbara to check out Karijini NP and Marble Bar. Didn’t think much of Port Hedland but Eighty Mile Beach was great even though it wasn’t a free camp. Every day I walked over the sand dunes and caught my four Threadfin Salmon, fantastic place. Broome, Cape Leveque, and the bitumen to The Bungles. Piccaninny Gorge is amazing for photography, but we only spent a few days there. Back down to the turnoff for Tunnel Creek, Windjana Gorge and on to The Gibb for the slog to El Questro……over rated. Next was Wyndham, Kununurra and out to Lake Argyle Tourist Village. We had been told by heaps of travellers to visit this place, and boy, its great…………..has an infinity pool and the view over Lake Argyle and the ranges is to die for.
Lake Ballard, really worth the visit.
The huge open skys of Exmouth.
I think the one thing that really impressed me about WA was the colour and clarity of the water.
Just north of James Price Point.
Cape Leveque....look at those colours.
........and this...
Cable Beach in Broome and this is the cleanest the car would be until we get home.
A free camp for the night.
Piccaninny Gorge in The Bungles.
Another free camp along the track.
This is the infinity pool at Lake Argyle Tourist Village about 65 kms south of Kununurra, cool hey.
                              Another celebration at Lichfield NP.
Rested up at Humpty Doo with family for a week and caught up with the grandkids. Back through The Gulf to Kurumba and on to Cairns to spend more time with family, and then a short cruise into Rocky.
Guess what we bumped into going through The Gulf.
And she was a beauty............lasted three hours and we never stopped.
Even tried a rescue job, but no way, he was hard and fast.

All up, we were away for six months, $8500 in diesel and did 28,000 kms. Not bad for first time nomads. One flat tyre, apart from that the trip went smoothly. The van and car is a perfect match. What a trip.


About Us

Allow me to introduce ourselves......this is my wife Fay, and I'm Chris. I have been retired for eight years after being a Traindriver in Queensland Rail for 30 years. Fay is a Teacher Aide at the local State School and has been there for 30 years, soon to retire as well. We live in Rockhampton.
We both love travel and have had many trips overseas, and now our adventures are closer to home, not that we will totally abandon overseas trips.
Children, yes, living in Munich, Darwin, Cairns and Melbourne. So as you can see we have quite a few places to visit over quite large distances. Grandchildren in some of these places as well. So, let the adventure begin........
A celebratory drink at The Indian Ocean after crossing this vast country from east to west.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Our Rig

In 2010 we decided to purchase a caravan and travel the length and breadth of this massive land of ours. What van should we choose, definitely secondhand but in good condition....cost, $45k to $50k, that would be heaps.
Friends of ours, Des and Bernie ( Bernadette ) had been doing the hard yards, googling and searching for the best van. This was over a period of about 18 months. They finally made a decision on a new van and the wait was three months and a cost of $63k. We couldn't believe it, " you're mad waiting that long, we're going to Brissy and pick up a second handy for $45k".
Six months after they received their pride and joy, and it is a beautiful van, we were off to Brisbane to see what we could get. Des and Bernie had done alot of research, so we knew what to look out for plus I had been doing some research of my own. We were looking for something that would be able to do a bit of off road stuff........not too much.
Burpengary was our first stop..........nah.......too long of a wait, and not quite what we wanted. By this time we were thinking of a new van. Right, check out these Kedron vans. Really nice, but the sales lady said that our Prado could not handle the weight. Well we are definitely not buying a new fourby. By this time we were thinking that the idea of getting a van was not going to come to fruition. Last ditch attempt.......there's some mob on the Sunny Coast making vans, we'll go and have a look.
Bushtracker at Kunda Park. Rocked up, no appointment and asked what the go was. Told them we had a Prado and they said "no worries, we've got just what you want". Did the factory tour and we were sold. Yep, we'll have one of those thanks. Not so easy. We spent most of the day choosing the layout and colours of the leather seats, curtains and flooring. Remember what we said about Des and Bernie....waiting time and cost. Our waiting time, five months, and cost.............I'm not telling. Des and Bernie couldn't believe us, they laughed and laughed, so did we. Worth the bloody oath it was.
The story gets even better. The next five months consisted of buying gear for the van, you know the stuff, genny, Weber, linen, cups and plates and all that. Several thousand dollars later it was "D" day. Spent the whole day at Bushtracker getting tuition on the van, how it works, what to do, what not to do, thank god Fay videoed the whole lot. After spending two days loading the van we headed south of the border and caught up with Des and Bernie for a week to run the van in before we headed back to Bushtracker to get the 1000 km service. The van went fine..............the Prado...........well...not so good, not so powerful. On the hills we were loosing alot, running out of gears. Cut to the four weeks we were heading off for six months to the west via the Plenty and Great Central Hwys. We needed a new car.........200 series TTD.
I can still hear Des and Bernie laughing.
So, there you have it, this is how we got into caravaning............and we love it.
This  Prado really was a nice 4 x 4 , I was sorry to see it go.

       And this is the final result, 100% off road and fully equipped to go anywhere.

.............................and in the rough. you want me to tell you about the shed we had to build to store the van in.....................nah, tell ya later, a whole new story.