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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #006

Editorial

We finally head west after six months on the east coast. Within 30k we have tyre trouble and have to head east again. Oh well, that's life on the road I guess.

Another part of life on the road is emptying toilets, there's now a short article on the site about just that. And while we're on the subject, once emptied of course you proceed to fill it again but before that some chemicals should be placed into the loo. There's a recipe for toilet chemicals here, make your own, it's a lot cheaper.

 

 

Mon 11 Mar 2002

We pull into our old spot at J C Trotter park. We'll spend a couple of days in Brisbane catching up with friends and watching a couple of movies.

While here I thought I'd sort out my old emails and I find a copy of the note I sent to my work mates the day I left my job. (Some names changed to protect the innocent)

The story 'till now.

Some time ago, after a stressful day at work, I thought to myself "I don't need this shit". Seconds later I realised that, rather than being just a figure of speech, this was actually a statement of fact, I didn't need this shit, or any other shit for that matter. In fact, if I changed my lifestyle I don't need to work at all, so why should I? After all, I've been slaving away for 18 years now, that's more than anyone should have to stand :-)

So what's the point of this spiel?
I'm leaving PROGRAMS-R-US, today is my last day.

What will I do?
As little as possible, but first I have to finish building our motor home (RV).

We will be selling our houses and most possessions and hitting the road. Australia's a big country and we plan to see it all over the next 5, 10 or 20 years. I also want to spend more time in the US, UK and Africa.

Will I work again?
Possibly, we'll just see how things go. We have investments and I hope to make a few bucks from photography.

Why?
Mid life crisis I guess. PRU is a good place to work, heck I've been here 8.5 years, if I didn't like it I'd have changed jobs years ago. And look at the amazingly low staff turnover. No I'm not leaving because I don't like PRU, just that I realised life's getting away on me. As a friend said recently, "Lately I've been carrying too many coffins".

How many people have you heard of that slave all their life to retire and do "the big trip" or whatever, only to be too old or infirm to follow their dream. Or even worse, wind up in one of the aforementioned coffins before they get a chance.

One thing I know for sure is that, when I'm lying on my death bed (at 95 after being shot by a jealous husband upon returning from a Mt Kilimanjaro climb) looking back on my life I will not be thinking "You know I really wish we'd got XYZ version 1.2.00.02.234.44.1 beta out that friday".

Where will we go?
Everywhere. The truck is a six-wheel-drive ex-army truck, it's capable of going anywhere it will fit.

So there you have it.
We won't be leaving town until next Mar/Apr so those of you who live in Canberra feel free to drop out to the workshop any time. Those coming to the conference in December are also welcome to come out for a firsthand view of "Rob's Folly". It may kill any thoughts you ever had of doing something rash with your life, of course the the opposite is also possible.

Meanwhile you can get the full story and follow the project at http://www.robgray.com

So long PRU, and thanks for all the fish.

Rob

That already seems like a lifetime ago and it's only been two and a half years. Feel free to use this when you have your mid-life crisis.

I also came across the "todo" list I was maintaining while working on the truck in Elimbah. With much glee I renamed the file from TODO.DOC to DONE.DOC then posted a copy here just in case you have any ideas about building your own motorhome. Remember this work was done on a vehicle that was essentially finished, we have been living in it for a year.

  • Add shock absorbers to rear axles (includes construction of four upper brackets bolted to chassis and four lower brackets welded to axles)
  • Add bonded rubber stabilisers between body and chassis (includes construction of lower outriggers bolted to chassis and upper brackets welded to body)
  • Add rollers to route winch cable around new shock absorbers and stabilisers
  • Add roller to bring winch cable back into line with chassis
  • Remove and replace five 1200x20 crossply tyres with radials
  • Repair 1200x20 tube
  • Run air line from compressor to rear of truck
  • Connect compressor air to truck air
  • Connect air control for winch
  • Move compressor's bayonet fitting so it's more accessible
  • Fill hole on side of engine cowling so hot air from turbo doesn't burn driver's leg
  • Fix passenger's fan
  • Run power to overhead console
  • Install termination block in overhead console
  • Connect AM and UHF CBs to power
  • Remove wasp nest from UHF CB
  • Run coax from CBs through to house, up through bedroom wall and onto poptop roof
  • Make and install brackets (that collapse when hit so aerial doesn't break) for CB aerials
  • Add bracket to stop dashboard panel moving
  • Add soundproofing to cab floor
  • Modify overhead console to house new CCTV monitor
  • Install CCTV monitor in overhead censor
  • Install rear vision CCTV camera
  • Install dorsal vision CCTV camera
  • Run TV lines through body and into overhead censor
  • Make video switch to select which camera appears on monitor
  • Make panel for CCTV control switches
  • Bleed brakes
  • Change oil in all diffs, drop boxes etc
  • Change engine oil and filters
  • Change oil in motorbikes
  • Modify desk top fans to be used as ceiling fans in lounge room
  • Add thrust bearings to all fans to stop noise
  • Install new power point in dunny to run fan
  • Install new power point in kitchen
  • Fit and connect tank full alarm (Turd alert) in black water tank
  • Modify generator's isolation mount frame
  • Fix holes in generator's muffler
  • Run wire from generator to battery charger and install power point
  • Connect circuit breaker for new outside GPO (power point)
  • Install and connect new outside GPO, run wire to circuit breaker
  • Install and connect shore power input socket, run wire to changeover switch
  • Fit fly screens to all windows
  • Fit new ball valves to grey water tank
  • Fit stays to lounge room shutters
  • Make short stays for shutters
  • Remove, refurbish and replace fuel tank cross brace
  • Remove, clean and test batteries from bank one
  • Remove and refurbish cradle for battery bank one
  • Redo all wiring for battery bank one (double the conductor sizes)
  • Remove, clean and test batteries from bank two
  • Remove and refurbish cradle for battery bank two
  • Weld on battery hold down bolts for battery bank two
  • Redo all wiring for battery bank two (double the conductor sizes)
  • Make and fit cross member to hold new battery wiring
  • Make new battery hold downs for both battery banks
  • Tidy all plumbing and wiring around battery banks by adding P-clips to hold items neatly and safely
  • Fit new sideways looking driving lights
  • Connect and test air conditioner
  • Make and fit brackets to store short handled spade
  • Make and fit brackets to store long handled spade
  • Make and fit carry rack for motorbike
  • Make and fit new side mirror brackets for cab
  • Make and fit mechanism for unlatching and winding spare tyre
  • Fix glovebox hinges
  • Make and fit grab rails on cab
  • Modify sling points on both motorbikes
  • Remove and replace warped section of ceiling
  • Add needle valve to poptop hydraulic lines
  • Make trailer for pushbikes
  • Fit bicycle computer (for digital kph speedo) to truck
  • Build control panel & fit monitor, timers etc
  • Build & hang cupboard door
  • Build pelmets for kitchen
  • Fit new light and switch behind pelmet
  • Respray truck under body
  • Respray all tanks & fittings below bodyline
  • Spray entire body with nylon compound
  • Make brackets under body for security lights and fit lights
  • Connect control relays and wire in security lights
  • Connect control relay for interior lights
  • Connect internal hot water system control
  • Connect timer for hot water system
  • Fit compass in cab

I'm knackered just reading about it, still, as I said in the last issue, Wothahellizat is now officially finished although there is still some things to do.

Thu 14 Mar

After another 4AM start we drive up the Bruce Highway to the Sports Complex at Cooroy only to find some good news and some bad news.

The good news...the Complex is a great place to stay, with showers and loos and only a couple of hundred metres or so from the shops and main street. And at $39 per week with power it's a real bargain.

The bad news...camping will no longer be allowed at the Cooroy Sporting Complex as of April this year. And why? Apparently because of the bad conduct of a CMCA member. If this is true, thanks for nothing who ever you are, you've ruined a great spot for the rest of us.

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The campsite at the Cooroy Sports Complex.

On a lighter note, the circus is in residence across the road from the Sporting Complex and, as we pull into the camp site, the existing campers think we are a circus vehicle that has made a wrong turn.

Sun 17 Mar

Up with the sparrows today. A half-hour ride to the Noosa National Park then a half-hour walk to the point at the end of the park to be in place for the sunrise.

It's almost pitch black as I walk along the path. As I round a corner I trip over the largest Black Snake I've ever seen, I nearly crap myself before I realise it's a length of three-inch AG pipe.

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Checking camera settings at Noosa Head. My old hat is covering my new haircut.

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The sunrise.

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Looking South from Noosa Head.

After taking some photos at Noosa Head I drop down to Granite Bay to look for some old friends, some granite rocks. Two or three of my best shots were taken here 1993 and again in 1995. The larger rocks I find, but the thousands of smaller rounded rocks that used to form a "beach" seem to have gone, presumably due to some high seas over the past couple of years.

And talking of things that have gone, another of my favourite shots was of a Pandanus bush overlooking Granite Bay. I search for that as well, but all I find is a plaque telling me how the Sunshine Coast has a serious Pandanus dieback problem.

Eventually I find the spot, the subject of my earlier photo has gone, leaving nothing but a dead stump. But, right next to it there is a baby Pandanus just starting out, new life from old.

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Pandanus trees overlooking Granite Bay, 1994.

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Pandanus trees overlooking Granite Bay, 2002.

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Tue 19 Mar

Another early start to catch the sunrise in the National Park. This time I only go as far as Granite bay, about half way along the Coast Walk. I'd seen a potential shot here two days ago, and it's just a matter of getting in place before the sun rises over the point.

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Boulders at Granite Bay, looking towards Fairy Pools, 2002.

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Same rocks, higher tide, seven years ago.

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Wonder why they call it Granite Bay?.

Thu 21 Mar

We leave the Cooroy Sports Complex and head to Tin Can Bay. It's been a good week camping with some fellow motorhomers, indulging in a few beers at happy hour and swapping stories about life on the road.

Pulling into Tin Can Bay we head directly to the Esplanade only to find "No camping on the foreshore" signs everywhere. By this time it's getting dark and I'm not in the mood for driving all over the countryside, so we select a spot on a side road, not on the foreshore, and pull over.

A quick dinner then, before going to bed, we program the breadmaker to produce a loaf at 8:30 next morning so we'll have some nice warm bread when we wake. It makes quite a noise when it starts kneading the dough, and I comment that it will probably scare the daylights out of us in the morning.

Fri 22 Mar

Sure enough at 5:30 we are woken by the breadmaker kneading dough, and three hours to go before the bread is ready. Chris goes for a walk while I lie in.

Shortly after a car pulls up and the driver gets out without stopping the motor, not a good sign. While he walks around the truck I peer from one of the windows and see that the car door has something like "Cooloola Shire Authorised Officer" written on the side, that's not a good sign either. He places a couple of sheets of paper on the cab window and leaves.

When he's out of sight I retrieve the sheets. One is a polite note welcoming us to the shire and pointing out that we're not allowed to camp in this location (or any other location in town for that matter). The other is a map showing us where we can camp, somewhere out of town.

As the bread's not ready we decide to leave Tin Can Bay and check out the recommended site while on our way to Rainbow Beach.

The campsite is only a few ks out of town and not a bad place as it happens. We earmark it as somewhere to stay if Rainbow Beach doesn't work out, then head to the coast.

On arrival we park in the car park at the end of the main street. I get a motorbike out and scout for a campsite on Inskip Point, while Chris stays behind to fend off the tourists (busses actually offloaded their passengers so they could look at Wothahellizat). I return with bad news, I could only find one camp site that we could fit into, and that would be a tight squeeze, so we decide to return to the shire-recommended camp near Tin Can Bay at Cooloola Cove.

After setting up camp we settle in to watch the world go by from our deck. Giant cumulonimbus clouds are forming over the coast so I set up the camera and take a couple of shots.

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Storm clouds over the coast.

We then see that it's raining heavily over Fraser Island and think "what else is new, when we were there a few years ago it rained every day".

The coast is getting a real pasting and we are just thinking it's a good thing we didn't camp there, when we feel the first drops. Minutes later it buckets down so we retreat to the lounge room.

We've had a leak in the roof for ages and I've never been able to find it. Recently I removed a ceiling panel that had been warped by the water and replaced it with a panel that was just screwed not glued and therefore easily removable. This time, when the leak appears, I remove the panel and notice water flowing from behind a sheet of insulation. I cut out a strip of the closed-cell foam, and found our leak. Two screw holes, minus screws.

Sat 23 Mar

We decide to spend another day at Cooloola Cove, it's a nice spot and I couldn't be bothered driving anyway. Fortunately the rain has stopped, blown away by the howling gale I suppose.

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Scenery at the Caloola Cove campsite.

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The view's great so we drop the deck.

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You can't get much closer to the water than this.

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It's official, motorhomes can stay here for two days. What campers and caravaners do I'm not sure.

Mon 25 Mar

Leaving the Tin Can Bay area we drive to Childers and pull into the large-rig car park behind the main street.

Some time ago we learned that camping at Carnarvon Gorge was to be commercialised and the National Park's campground was going to close. Our first reaction was that this will ruin the experience of the gorge and that we won't go there again, but today we thought we'd ring and see what the new deal is.

As it happens there is a hiccup in the change over, so the old campsite has been reopened for a few weeks. We instantly make a booking as this will probably be our last chance to stay right in the gorge.

While on the phone I ring one of the new private campground operators to see what they are offering, a camp for twice the price that's bloody miles from the gorge, that's what. Whereas you used to be able to camp right next to the gorge's trail head, you will now have to break camp to drive yourself into the park for the day, or maybe catch a shuttle bus or something.

The National Park's blurb states that the private operators are offering "superior facilities", which may be the case, but with a superior price and inferior location. Another case of the powers-that-be sticking it to the average person.

When will authorities and park owners realise that there are a lot of people out there that don't want or need "superior facilities", just a pleasant spot that's safe.

We take the back road to Bundaberg, through Goodwood, and book into the Bargara Beach Caravan Park once again.

Tue 26 Mar

It's shopping day, we've decided to buy enough food to last us three months so we borrow my Dad's car and head down to Wollies. Naturally we can't buy three months worth of some items, like perishables, but we can sure get most things.

It takes just about all day to buy the food and pack it away in the rig. It is quite amazing to see a station wagon full of food disappear into the motor home and under the floor without a trace, and we still have one empty under-floor storage bin and another one about half empty (or is that half full?).

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Three months of food stored in the floor.

Last time we were in Bundaburg we ordered 48 bottles of Satay sauce, Coles had to order it in specially, they thought we owned a restaurant. This time we cleaned both Coles and Wollies out of many things, for example.

  • 48 chicken breasts, all they had
  • 12 cartons of So-Good Banana Soy, we cleared the shelves but really wanted 24 so will have to go back
  • 11 bottles of orange cordial
  • 10 packets of breadmix, enough for 40 loaves
  • 12 packets of breakfast cereal
  • 16 packets of noodles
  • 12 packets of Saltine biscuits
  • 18 dunny rolls
  • 12 boxes of ice cream cones
  • 6 bottles of long life milk
  • 32 tins of mixed fruit
  • 8 dozen stubbies of beer

There is a heap of other items, but that should give you the idea. Why buy so much?, well firstly the next few months will see us in some out-of-the-way places where much of the food we like is unavailable or expensive. Secondly I hate supermarkets with a vengeance, so any scenario that only sees me in one every three months or so gets my vote. And thirdly, we have the storage so why not?

Fri 29 Mar

We go out early this morning and return to find that the madding crowds we like to avoid have moved in and surrounded us with tents. We'd forgotten that it was Easter, holidays mean little to us these days, they're just an inconvenience because the shops are closed. For hours all we can here is the tink, tink, tink of tent pegs being bashed into the ground, loud kids and even louder parents.

For months now people have been asking where we're going and what our itinerary is and I've had to say that we don't have one. This often doesn't compute with people used to cramming as much as possible into a four-week holiday so I thought it's about time we also had an itinerary.

So, after days of studying maps and calendars and reading up on all the National Parks and places of interest I've come up with the following. It's still not quite finished, but it's pretty close.

Summer - somewhere down south
Autumn - somewhere over west
Winter - somewhere up north
Spring - somewhere in the east

There, now we know exactly where we'll be at any one time simply by referring to our itinerary.

Wed 3 Apr

The generator died today. We used it yesterday to top up the batteries, after days of poor weather, but when we started it today there was no 240v power being produced.

It was quite obviously an electrical problem (as opposed to mechanical) because most of the generator's functions were ok, so I took it to the local Honda dealer, told them the symptoms and also that it was urgent because we want to leave town on Friday. I give them my phone number and they say they'll ring next morning as soon as they've looked at it.

Thurs 4 Apr

By 3PM, after pruning some of my Dad's trees, there was still no word from the dealer (why do Australian businesses NEVER ring back) so I ring them. "Oh it's an electrical problem" they say "and our electrical guy is away 'till Monday, try taking it to XY Electrical".

I drive into the dealer to pick up the generator and try to give them a mild bollocking for not ringing me, but the fellow behind the counter seems disinclined to take me seriously so I pick up the generator and take it to the car.

As I bend over to unlock the rear hatch I catch my reflection on the window. There is half a tree branch stuck in my beard, they're probably still laughing about the feral-looking "treebeard" and his generator.

I had previously rang XY Electrical and was informed that they fix Honda generators "all the time", so I remove my extra foliage, drive across town and drop it on the bench at XY, in front of a technician with a worried look on his face. I am immediately suspicious.

"Oh it's one of those new ones" he says, thereby confirming my suspicions. Sure enough they can't fix it either.

Later...

I think my hearing must be on the fritz. While typing this diary entry, with the TV going in the background, I hear an advertisement for "brass undies". I've just got to see these I think, and poke my head around the corner to find that the ad was in fact for "bras and undies".

Well I did wonder about the practicality of metal underwear, for the average person at least, Roman gladiators maybe, but then the "Roman Gladiator" demographic would hardly justify an ad on prime time TV.

Sun 7 Apr

The Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) was held last week. By all accounts they agreed on heaps of stuff, or at least came to some compromises. Now call me cynical, but I've always thought that whenever you get several politicians and/or bureaucrats together all you get is COAGulation.

While writing the above paragraph I have a brainout and forget how to spell "bureaucrat", I reach for my Macquarie Dictionary and find the following description...

"an official who works by fixed routine without exercising intelligent judgment"

Hmmm, those dictionary guys really know their stuff.

Mon 8 Apr

More drama with the generator. The dealer's "electrical guy" is back from holiday, he confirms the diagnosis, and begins to fill out some forms to get Honda to approve the repairs under warranty. Then he finds that the serial numbers on our warranty papers don't match those on the machine.

We bought the generator a year or so ago and a couple of thousand kilometres away, so now I have to make several long distance phone calls to try and sort the matter out.

Lesson for full timers
When you purchase a piece of equipment, check your warranty details before you leave town.

Anyway we appear to have that sorted, good thing to because the part required to fix the generator is expensive. Now get this, the entire generator cost us $1590 a year ago, the part to fix it costs $1200! This worries me a lot, next time it may not be covered.

For the record the generator is a Honda EU10i, one of those new inverter-style units, and it's the inverter that's gone belly up.

On the way home I notice a whiff of smoke ahead. As I draw nearer I can see a mound of dirt which appears to be a fire that has been covered in an attempt to put it out. A vain attempt as it happens, because the grass around the mound is alight.

There appears to be nobody in attendance and the flames are slowly spreading towards the neighbouring house and cane fields. I stop, run to the house and knock on the door. No answer. I run to the rear of the house to find the owner head down and bum up under the bonnet of his car, with the engine running.

"G'day" I say. No Answer, "G'DAY" I repeat. A head appears from under the bonnet. "I think you've got a fire getting out of hand..." "Oh shit", he obviously knows what I am referring to.

He grabs a bucket and runs. If there had been three strapping young lads there I would simply have left them to it, but this guy is alone and seventy five if he is a day, so I grab a long-handled shovel and follow.

Before long we have it under control and I leave, "Thanks mate" he says as I walk away and I remember thinking about the idea of Karma and how you get back what you give out.

Within two days someone was to help me and reinforce the Karmic theory.

Tue 9 Apr

I've had a slow leak in a tyre for a week or so now but have been putting off the job of fixing it. I have a good excuse though, you see the weather's been pretty overcast lately so the batteries are not fully charged, and I really need a lot of power to run the compressor if I'm going to change a tyre.

So today we move to a powered site and I get to it. We deliberately selected a site well away from the remaining campers because I know that my working on these big wheels would attract people like a three-ring circus.

Sure enough two blokes do come over before long, and guess what, they're professional tyre fitters from Brisbane.

Now I'm quite capable of fixing the tube myself, but they seem willing to help so I stand back hoping to pick up some new tricks.

A good plan as it turns out because I do learn a thing or two.

Wed 10 Apr

We leave Bargara. I'm sad to say goodbye to my parents, but at the same time happy to be on the road again.

We've stocked up on diesel, food, gas, water, and film. Hopefully we won't have to buy much of anything for two or three months.

So, we're gassed up, fuelled up, fooded up, watered up, filmed up and on the road. Finally, after six months, we're heading west and away from the east coast.

But not for long.

After a while I notice a motorist beeping her horn and waving out her window. I pull over, get out of the cab, and as we approach each other she says "I think there's something wrong with your front tyre", we walk to the front of the truck, "I'm a truckie's wife" she continues "and something just didn't look right from behind".

We reach the front but everything looks OK on the outside, however on the inside there's a bulge the size of an orange. If that had blown we would have been in deep doo doo.

I think my good deed just came back to me, was it Karma or the little ivory Budda my Mum gave me, I did rub his tummy and that's supposed to bring good luck.

The woman lives just up the road and says we can pull in there as she has some equipment that may help.

We limp a few Ks and pull into her drive. I start my compressor and proceed to extract the appropriate tools. I'm just thinking that it's fairly hard work changing these big wheels, but not to bad if you have a compressor to run a rattle gun when,

Tshhhhhhhhhhhhh

The compressor blows a poofer valve. I try to fix it but it's a tight fit in the compartment and just too difficult to get in there for the moment. Our current priority is to change the tyre so it's back to the old-fashioned method with a tyre lever.

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The bulge in one of the front tyres.

Not long after we have the wheel swapped with our spare but we now need a replacement tyre. After several phone calls it's not looking good, until one dealer remembers that Hervey Bay Bridgstone just bought a heap of 1200x20 wheels and tyres but they only wanted the rims.

Another call confirms this, so it looks like we're headed back east to Hervey Bay after getting all of 30 Ks on our great western adventure.

We spend the night at the Gin Gin rest area.

Thu 11 Apr

We drive down the highway to Torbanlea then turn off to Hervey Bay. On entering the town we pull over in a field, Chris makes lunch while I extract a bike and chat to some people who "saw it on TV".

After lunch I whip into Bob's Tyres to verify that the tyres are what we want. They are, and they'll supply them fitted for $150 each (we've decided to do both front wheels as the other one was the same vintage as the bulging tyre), for that price they can fit them.

I park the truck outside their workshop and proceed to work on the compressor while Bob's boys change my tyres. I thought they'd have all sorts of hydraulic bead breakers and fancy tools but no, they just bash away with the same tools I use.

At 4 o'clock the job's done and I've ascertained that I can't fix the compressor's regulator, so I decide to get rid of it entirely. The Hervey Bay shire is not camper friendly (big notices as you enter the shire informing us of a $3570 fine for camping) so I buy a half-inch-BSP to half-inch-barb fitting for the compressor and we head out of town, there's plenty of places that are camper friendly.

As we leave town we pass one of those new road-safety bill boards, this one proclaimed "Is there a nut loose at the wheel of your car?", I bloody hope not I thought, but make a mental note to check the nuts on the front wheels.

Fri 12 Apr

An early cuppa and we drive straight to Biggenden. The map shows a small national park nearby so we park in town and I recce the park on a bike. It's a great spot so we move the truck.

Mount Walsh National Park is one of the little gems that everyone drives passed. It's just eight kilometres out of Biggenden, there's a nice camping area with loos right at the base of a part of Mt Walsh called The Bluff, a spectacular granite cliff.

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Parked below Mt Walsh.

There are some really nice cloud formations so I head off on the bike looking for shots.

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This is a seriously nice landscape so I get the big camera out.

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A trough and shelter with Mt Walsh in the background.

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Mt Walsh again, this time framed by some trees.

Sat 13 Apr

We drive all day and make it to Monto. Just a long boring day really with little to do except ponder on life's imponderables. For example, while passing some roadworks I noticed a sign stating that "Loose stones drive slowly" which left me wondering if that's why they gather no moss.

We arrive at 4PM to find that the rest area we intended to stay at is being rebuilt, so we find a nice grassy field on the outskirts of town.

 

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