Friday, October 04, 2013

2013 Caravan Trip

September 2013:

On our last night in Cooktown we caught up with our friends and neighbours from home, Leith and Jenny. They, with some family and friends, were heading up to Cape York. I think it was a bucket list thing.

We left Cooktown and headed south to Mareeba where we stayed at the Rodeo Grounds once more. This time the weather was very disappointing. Strong winds, very cold and rain. Miserable. We were camped next to a young couple with a toddler. They had all their possessions in a box trailer, including their tent. Their house had been washed away in the Bundaberg floods and they weren't quite sure where they were going next.

After three days here we went down to South Mission Beach where we met up with some more friends from Mandurah, Richard and Jill, and enjoyed their hospitality watching the Federal election in their holiday home up on the hill.

From here we continued south, staying overnight at the Home Hill Showgrounds again, then at St Lawrence (QLD 87 in Camps 7). Next we spent a night in Bundaberg, picking up some Bundy coffee/chocolate liqueur for a friend at home and then it was Maroochydore where we stayed in the Maroochy Palms caravan park for 3 nights. It's always pleasant there. While here we visited Allan and Sharon whose blog is listed on the right: Wheroll's Travel Blog ( ).

Next it was a short 5 minute drive down to Mooloolaba. When we went to Mooloolaba in 2008 and ordered our Bushtracker we stayed at an apartment complex right on the beach and noticed this small caravan park right on the beachfront. This year we were able to get in for 4 nights.

I came away with mixed feelings. It's quite difficult to manoeuvre a 20 ft van onto a site, especially when the area opposite the site is crowded out with posts and railings. We managed though. The first two nights were very windy, with some rain. The wind made the surf very noisy and with the van windows open, it was starting to get annoying.

We left on Friday morning, September 20th, and drove south to Caboolture where we turned west and drove up the Daguilar Highway through Kilcoy, Moore and into Blackbutt. I had intended going all the way through Toowoomba to stay at Rudd's Pub in Nobby but I stopped to investigate a metallic screeching noise that was definitely not normal. I walked along the van and saw that the right rear wheel bearings had collapsed.

This was a major Oh Shit! moment. I nursed the van around the corner to the Blackbutt Showgrounds (QLD 469 in Camps 7) and parked up. In a stroke of good luck one of the other people at the showgrounds was a retired mechanic and happily supervised my work. Actually Bert helped quite a lot with hints, tips and confidence boosting, thanks Bert.

It was only 11am so I rang Bushtracker and arranged to get some new bearings. They were only 90 minutes down the hill so we drove down with the hub in the back and Bob, one of their mechanics, put all new greased bearings and a seal into the hub and gave me a new castle nut, washer and split pin. Back up the hill to the van. Fitting the hub could wait until the next morning.

While here at Blackbutt Showgrounds, Mick and Vicki, fellow bloggers ( and BT owners who live up the road in Rockingham, pulled in on their way to Bushtracker for some insurance work. Also joining us were Stuart and Jane from the VKS737 HF network. We had met them in Albany (WA) in 2007. So we had a very pleasant happy hour with Bert and Jane, Mick and Vicki, Stuart and Jane, and us. Sort of made the collapsed wheel bearing almost OK.

I had booked us into Bushtracker to have the bearings in the remaining three wheels replaced. So on Monday we hitched up and drove down the hill again to Yandina Rest Area (QLD 169 in Camps 7). We've been here before and generally it's OK but there was one man there who was having a very loud argument with himself in his tent; obviously off his meds or on something that wasn't legit. He came out of his tent and thought it would be good if I was his new best friend forever but that was not going to happen so we packed up and drove the 10 minutes to Eumundi where the town has set up a new RV Rest Area in the parking area used for their markets. Another Queensland friend and fellow BT owner, Gordon, came over from his home in Peregian Beach to say hullo . That was nice. The next morning, Tuesday, we went into Bushtracker and left the van there for the bearings to be done. They also checked the brakes, suspension,  and pivot blocks as part of a 10,000km service.

So we ended up driving up and down this route 5 times in 5 days but we were able to resume our journey home with confidence that nothing else would crop up. Needless to say, I've been giving myself a severe butt kicking over putting off a job that I should have done at least 12 months ago. It could have been so much worse that I can't stand thinking about how bad it could have been.

So, on Tuesday Sept 24th, we started for home, again.  And also, again, the urge to put some considerable distance under our wheels was irresistible. We stayed that night at Kilcoy Showgrounds but the next day we drove almost to Glen Innes in NSW and stayed at Beardy Creek Heritage Park Rest Area (NSW 152 in Camps 7). Well, almost. We actually camped on the river bank just 500 metres north where the outlook was very pleasant.

From there we drove through Inverell, Moree, Narrabri, Coonabarabran, Gilgandra to a camp site between Warren and Nevertire (NSW 416 in Camps 7).

The next day, Friday Sept 27th, we drove to Broken Hill where we stayed for two days and watched the AFL Grand Final on Saturday. But for some inaccurate kicking, the Dockers would have won. Instead they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

On Sunday we left Broken Hill, refuelling at Yunta and Port Augusta before pulling into the Apex-Lions Park at Kimba for the night (SA 541 in Camps 7).

On the way across the Eyre Peninsula we were experiencing some strong northerly winds making conditions quite warm. Listening to the forecast on the radio, they were saying that the wind would turn south westerly and strengthen. It certainly did. As we were refuelling at the BP in Ceduna it turned and really blew. It was going to be a headwind all the way across the Nullarbor too.

As I drove out onto the highway I entered "HOME" into my navigator just to show you how far it is to the next corner: 1199 kilometres before we turn right !!

Across the Nullarbor the wind was shocking. It was strong and consistent and getting up to 90 kph or so. Our fuel consumption was 33 litres/100 kms so we pulled into a rest area just 30 kms past Nullarbor Roadhouse (SA 585 in Camps 7).

The wind was so strong and buffeted the van so much that it was rocking all night, no pleasure involved though.

We refuelled at the BP at Border Village in the morning, 720 kms to our first turn now.

Our next overnight stop was at 10 Mile Rocks (WA 27 in Camps 7), just 80 kms from Norseman. We met a very interesting family here from west of Toowoomba. Dad, Mum, 4 daughters (1 about 18, twins 16 and a 4 year old). The twins were going for their Driver's Licences and had to get 100 hours of supervised driving in their log books, each. So what better way to do it than pack up the Landcruiser and drive to Perth and back.

After refuelling at the BP in Norseman we overnighted next at the rest area at Burracoppin (WA 245 in Camps 7) and on Thursday 3rd October we drove through Perth to Mandurah and home.

This trip home was our 20th crossing of the Nullarbor  by vehicle (over and back being 2 crossings) and our 4th year in Queensland with our van. We first drove across the Nullarbor 2 days after we got married in 1971, in an XT Falcon sedan. It was mostly unsealed then.

Next year it will probably be time to visit other parts of Australia in which we have not spent much time. Victoria, Tasmania (never been there), maybe Darwin. We'll see you out there somewhere.