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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #063

Editorial

Here we are back in Perth after many years. While here Australia suffered the worse floods in history and Bundaberg (our "home" town in as much as we have one) copped it pretty hard.

Thanks to all those who emailed to check that we are OK; we are and about as far from the floods as it's possible to get. Our land should be alright as well as it's up in the hills and also the highest point in the neighbourhood.

What exactly happened to it of course we have no idea but I confess to thinking a lot about going back there lately.


Wothahellizat for sale.

Bet that got your attention. Yes for $5500 you can own what's left of Wothahellizat Mk1, Brian (the fellow who bought the remains of the house body) has decided that he'll never get around to doing anything with it and has put the truck up for sale.

See here on Ebay.

If you want to see some more about it see this diary entry.

NOTE: Last time I looked it wasn't there, maybe it sold.

 

Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

 

Tue 28 Dec 2010

It's up to Harvey Norman today to get Chris a new computer. We settle on a Toshiba that will be OK for me to use as a backup if necessary.

Then it's on to the La-Z-Boy store to look at some recliners, and we walk out of there nearly two grand poorer. Being the Christmas break though we won't see our chairs for a while, but they are cheaper then we saw up north and have swivel bases as well.

Wed 29 Dec 2010

Chris goes to the doctor today so see why see's been having dizzy spells for a few weeks. It turns out she's got Viral Labrynthitis. The doctor prescribes some pills and on reading the pack we see that one of the possible side effects is DIZZYNESS!

Tue 4 Jan 2011

A friends of John's delivers a caravan today and parks it just behind the truck. Chris is leaning out the window when the caravan owner acknowledges her.

"G'day" she says with even a hint of Aussie twang.

Finally, after 30 years she is talking like an Orstrailyun.

Later we drive into Fremantle (Freo) to meet up with Anna & Mike, Chris's sister and bro-in-law.

Wed 5 Jan 2011

Another day in Freo with Anna & Mike.

Fri 7 Jan 2011

Back into Freo today to spent a bit more time with Anna and Mike before they fly out. Then we do some exploring down to Rockingham and up into the hills to have a look at the Jarrahville sports ground where we hear you can camp.

It's a pleasant enough spot and there's a working tap so we may come back. Then we drive down the Serpentine dam and back via a different route that takes us past a prison farm and a great campsite at a lookout opposite the Buddhist monastery.

All in all a pleasant day.

Sun 9 Jan 2011

I started installing the software I normally use onto Chris' new Windows 7 based computer today. I'm doing this for two reasons, firstly to see if everything works so I can migrate my machine to 7 with confidence. And secondly so we have a backup machine on "hot standby", ready to use if mine dies.

Wed 19 Jan 2011

Yay we pick up the new recliners today. It takes a while to get them installed in the lounge room but it's worth it, they are great. Being a slightly different shape to the old chairs they don't swivel all the around but they go far enough, we'll manage.

Thu 20 Jan 2011

While on a roll we laid new carpet in the truck today. The old stuff was great but after just a year or so it's threadbare, hopefully this will be better.

Thu 17 Jan 2011

I change the oil in the truck, we've had the 20ltr drum in the cab since Geraldton and it's good to get rid of it.

We planned to leave today but my boxes (for a gadget I'm making) should be here tomorrow so we'll wait.

Fri 11 Feb 2011

Today I drive up to the north side of town to meet Alice, my half sister I've never met. We obviously share one family trait, that of being hard to shut up, and we chat for hours.

I have a half brother in Tasmania as well, I've met Ben but it was years ago and I'd like to spend some time with him. Maybe when we go back to the apple isle.

One thing we all seem to have in common is a desire to be out of the rat race, Alice spends about a week every month in a cabin out in the bush, Ben regularly disappears with his camper or backpack, and you know what I do.

Mon 28 Feb 2011

So how's the new "regular" postings going eh?

It's been a while but really we've just been sitting here near Perth doing almost nothing so there's been bugger all to write about, unless you're interested in electronics (which is what has been keeping me busy) which is unlikely.

So I'll comment on a political issue instead. To wit the current troubles in Libya.

It's pretty bad but our government is doing it's best to help, we've imposed an arms embargo.

Umm, were we selling arms to Libya? I would hope not, or are they referring to that shipment of boomerangs and nulla nullas for the embassy gift shop.

Yep I reckon that's got Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (can I call you Al?) shaking under his turban.

Oh and we've also imposed a travel embargo on him and anyone in the upper levels of his regime.

So I guess big Al's much heralded snorkeling trip to Dunk Island is off then.

All-in-all I think we've done a sterling job helping to rid the world of another bastard dictator.

Wed 9 Mar 2011

After nine weeks we finally leave Perth. That's really slack even by our standards.

We had planned to go south for the summer but there isn't much summer left now so we go north instead. We separate and while Chris drives up to the Carousel shopping centre to get some more of those nice chicken schnitzels from Woolies I top up with fuel in Byford and go straight north.

The route is simple, up the Tonkin Hwy, onto the Roe Hwy, then turn north onto the Great Northern Hwy. I'm heading for Drummonds reserve and will meet Chris there.

After a few hours I drive over a crest and see the Emu Plains wind farm, nearly there. Just before the turnoff onto Bibby Rd for the last 4k to the reserve I see a familiar white Jimny come up behind me. That's pretty good synchronizing.

Minutes later we have the truck nice and level under some trees, although this is not our first choice. The spot we used before now has a bed and an electric organ there, no doubt dumped by a local.


Any one for some chamber music?.


Campsite tucked away in the bushes.

Thu 10 Mar 2011

We drive into Cervantes to get the mail today. A pleasant 100k round trip.

Tue 15 Mar 2011

I go for a drive to get some photos of the wind farm.


The Emu Plains wind farm.

Thu 17 Mar 2011

Time to leave Drummonds Reserve and head up to Ellendale Pool, a really nice spot about 30k from Geraldton.

Chris is behind me but at some point I lose track of her in the mirrors. Right then I feel a strange vibration in the truck, it's not much and has gone in a second, but it was there never the less.

I pull into a rest area to have a look.

There's nothing obviously wrong and by this time Chris has caught up. We chat for a minute then head off. However I within a few metres I can tell that things aren't right. I reverse back into the rest area and we have another look.

I now have my suspicions and feel the universal joints on the front tail shaft. The back one is warm but the front uni is too hot to hold. I look closer and see bright metal. Yep we have a buggered universal joint.

We're only about 70k from Geraldton though and I've driven with a lot worse for a lot further than that, I elect not to do anything for the time being. In a week or so we'll be camped just out of Geraldton, I can fix it there.

We continue up the highway, turn east about 30k south of Geraldton and make our way out to Ellendale Pool, a nice spot we remember from the first time we were around these parts nine years ago.

The area hasn't changed much and we find a good spot to camp.

Thu 24 Mar 2011

Leave Ellendale pool and drive up to Geraldton, going first to the BP depot to fill fuel and water. Then we park the truck and drive into town to pick up our mail.

Having done that we have a cruise around the dock looking for the spot our friends camp when in town. I think we find it, certainly we find the most obvious place and earmark it for future use.

Then drive out to the rest area in Chapman Valley, about 12k east from the big roundabout on the northern side of town.

Fri 25 Mar 2011

I suppose I have to pull that bloody tail shaft out. It's not a big job but there's quite a wind and I spend half my time fighting the tarp I lie on.

Anyway before long it's out on the ground, wrapped up and in the car. I take it into Road Runner truck repairs and impress on them that I've got a lot more time than money and that if it takes a week to get a cheaper part then I can wait. After all it's the front tail shaft and that hardly ever gets used.

It should be ready early next week.

I could buy a uni and change it myself, and if I was in the bush that's what I'd do. But without a large enough vice it would be a pain that probably would involve jacks, lengths of pipe and bull bars, so I'll let the experts do it.

I drop around to the visitor's centre and fill the car with water (well I fill the tank in the car, but you get the idea), then it's back out to the rest area for a well-earned rest.

Mon 28 Mar 2011

Today we both go into town, mostly to see about Chris's license. Her Queensland driving license will run out soon and it's way too much of a pain to get it renewed when out of state. So she'll just get a WA license.

As always you need a local address, and as always we don't have one, but they say that a receipt from a caravan park is all that is needed. So we'll have to book into a park for a night.

We get more water and return to the truck.

I then decide to ring the Department of Transport to see what the official story is in on having a local address.

Well the official story is worse. You have to get someone to sign a statutory declaration to the effect that they have known you and that you are living in WA.

But what if you don't know anyone?

It doesn't really matter, just get the caravan park owner to fill out the stat dec form and sign it in the presence of a professional person. What profession? Well all the usual culprits such as JPs, doctors, police, chemists, public servants, in fact just about anyone except a bricky's labourer.

I had to stop him from reading every vocation out aloud or I'd still be on the phone.

"So let me get this right" I say. "I can get anyone to say they have known me for 20 minutes and that as far as they know I plan to live in the state".

Correct.

"And furthermore I have to drag this unfortunate down to a chemist to have his signature witnessed?"

Right again.

"And exactly what does this prove to you about my living in the state?"

"Well it tells us where you live".

"No it doesn't, it tells you I forked out $30 to stay in a caravan park for a night."

"Yes but if we have to get in touch with you we can."

"No you can't, I'll be a 1000 miles away camped next to a creek in the bush."

"Well it's all to do with stopping terrorists from getting false IDs".

I haven't given him any of my details so feel free to openly laugh at this gem, you know I wouldn't mind if the public servant at the other end of the line saw the funny side, but he is serious.

However, looking back on it now maybe that's why we don't really have a terrorist problem here in Australia, the terrorists are either too poor or too dumb to spend $30 for a caravan park receipt and a stat dec.

Yep, with the Department of Transport on the job we can rest easy in our beds at night, safe in the knowledge that all the bad guys have a caravan park receipt.

Wed 30 Mar 2011

We have to brave the bureaucracy today so Chris can get her licence. First stop is the caravan park on the way into town. She books in for the night (of course there's no question of us actually staying there, we have a 9-year no-caravan park record to maintain) and we drive into the Department of Transport office.

We somehow neglect to tell the local office about the stat dec and rigmarole the head office told us about and it actually goes well. Before long Chris is a real sandgroper (West Australian), at least as far as the transport authorities are concerned.

We pick up the tail shaft, get some more water and return to the truck. That will do, it's been a big day.

We never get free stuff. Why I don't know as I've met people who get generators just for putting a bloody sticker on their motorhome.

So imagine my surprise when I get an email from Peter at Kitchenware Direct offering a free set of saucepans in return for my thoughts on them. We picked them up the other day when we got to Geraldton.

So what do I think about them?

The first thing and best feature is what they don't have, handles. This is really handy in a motorhome because the pots stack inside each other, thus requiring less space in our limited storage areas.

For years now we've been cutting the handles off normal pots (I kid you not) to get this exact feature. Remember the Subaru TV ad where the farmer has just finished cutting the roof of a station wagon to create a ute only to have the new Subaru ute drive past?

That's how I feel.

Another neat feature is the knob for the lids, it's magnetic so once again the lids stack properly because you just leave the knob on the top lid for storage.

And finally they are more non-stick than a mafia Don in a New Jersey courtroom. The food just slides right out.

Have a look at kitchenwaredirect.com.au for more details. At the time of writing they are $119 which to my untrained shopping eye is reasonable, especially as they are made by Tefal (Chris tells me that's good).

Thu 31 Mar 2011

I put the tail shaft in and while under the truck decide to grease everything. I find a missing grease nipple on the main drive shaft, so it's back into town to buy one (I thought I had spares but can't find any). While in town I load the car with another 40-odd litres of water, we should be nearly full by now.

Wed 6 Apr 2011

We move to Devlin's Pool, a nice spot on the banks of the Greenough River about 8k south of Geraldton.

Fri 8 Apr 2011

I've decided it's time to get back into scanning of old photos. Apart from the fact that many of the negatives are getting on to 40 years old now we've storing them in all sorts of places for years, and while most seem OK this isn't helping with their longevity. Also one leaking water pipe and I could lose the lot.

So today I get one of the neg folders out and make a start. To be honest without the right gear this would be such a huge task I wouldn't even consider it, fortunately I have a you-beaut Nikon scanner from my film days. It will take a strip of negatives and scan the lot in one go. Unfortunately most of my old negs are cut into lengths of 3 so I can only do 3 at a time.

Still it chugs away in the background while I'm doing other stuff, every few minutes I have to swap windows and load another neg strip, but I'm getting a lot done.

Another reason for doing this now is that I'm worried that either the scanner will shit itself before I get around to it, and/or when I move to another version of Windows in the future the scanner will not be supported. That would leave me with 1000s of photos to scan, a $3000 scanner, and no way to do the job.

Sat 9 Apr 2011

Over 500 photos scanned so far. Many I won't keep but it's easier to just scan an entire strip than do a preview and select the good ones.

Mind you when I say "good" ones I'm not talking good aesthetic or even good technical photos. Most of these are just from fooling around in my youth, and as such are in fact worth more to me that my best-selling photo. They are mostly covered in dust and fibre which will need to be retouched, but I'll only do that for the very best ones, for the others it doesn't matter, as long as I have the memories preserved.

Sun 10 Apr 2011

About 900 photos scanned now, I think that will do for the moment. Great though it is to see these old images again, it's also a bit depressing. So to cheer myself up I decide to listen to some music, let's see, some Moody Blues should do the trick.

Well that makes it worse, apart from the fact that much of their music is a bit melancholy it's also from the same era and it drives me deeper into a nostalgic funk.

So I decide to work on the lyrics of one of their songs (with apologies in advance to the Moody Blues). To the tune of "The Balance".

After he had scanned,
And his back was sore,
And his eyes were tired,
He lay upon a recliner,
And he rested,
And while he rested, he took to himself a beer,
And it was good,
So he took to himself a another beer,
And that was also good.

And he thought of those images he had scanned,
And he thought of the places he had been,
And he thought of the faces he had seen,
And he thought of the decades that had passed.

And he understood,
He understood that he had wasted a lot of time,
He also understood that he had not wasted a lot of time,
And he understood that what's done is done,
And cannot be undone.
And he understood that when he knew hurt, or was weary, or felt sore,
It was because he was not young any more.

And he was sad,
Sad for a youth lost,
For it is said that youth is wasted on the young,
But he wondered if middle age be also wasted on the middle aged,
And he wondered if his time was being well spent,
So he asked what really mattered,
And he asked how best to spend his time,
And he asked if indeed he was wasting his time,
But he was not answered.

So he took to himself another beer,
And it was good.

Fri 15 Apr 2011

After a run in with a ranger we decide to leave Geraldton and head inland. We've had a good run with rangers over the years but occasionally you meet an arshole and today is one of those occasions.

I swear if you don't get out and about soon there won't be any point because you won't be able to camp anywhere.

To be fair the problem is mostly on the coast, once you get inland nobody really cares what you do. Fortunately for us we like the inland and aren't that interested in the coast.

We drive about 80k to the locality of Tenindewa, there's nothing here but an obelisk to mark the location of an old school and a few remnants of a previous settlement.

We'll spend the night here then head off.

Wed 29 Apr 2011

We thought we'd leave here today and drive to a waterhole that sounds nice called Camel Soak, but my computer is playing up again so we'll sit here for a few more days in case it has to go into Geraldton to be fixed.

This will mean we're running out of time to get up to Karijini by late May so we'll give Camel Soak a miss this time and head straight out to Mt Magnet then north.

Normally we don't "have" to be anywhere but every few years we make a commitment for some reason or other, this time we have organised to meet three photographer mates of mine in Karijini, they are flying over from the east to photograph the national park.

Tue 10 May 2011

We finally leave our spot in the bush. Nearly a month in a spot we thought we'd stay one night.

It's been about 6 weeks since we filled up with water, we're still good for a couple or three weeks but it's time to start looking around. Just outside a town Chris spots a cemetery sign and drives down the track. I wait out on the road. Within a few minutes I hear on the two way "Plastic flowers", that's a dead give away that there's no tap, no need to water plastic flowers.

We carry on, eventually pulling into a patch of dirt right near the road.


Another nice quiet spot in the bush.


Almost, note the car on the left, we're right on the highway.

One thing I love about this type of vehicle is that even in a spot like this we're quite comfortable. It really makes no difference to us where we camp at the basic level, naturally a nice view and some piece and quiet is better, but anywhere will do for a night or two.

Wed 11 May 2011

We leave early and drive into Mount Magnet. No luck finding a tap in town but then we drive out to the roadhouse on the north side of town and ask if we can fill up with water after we buy fuel. They say yes so I return with the truck.

After fuelling up I park near the tap and precede to fill the tanks.

A two-up road train pulls in for fuel and the driver and I get chatting. He's a big bloke and pretty rough looking, somehow we get onto the subject of rangers and he recounts a tail of an encounter where he threatened the ranger with being bounced down the road.

Apparently that did the trick and he was allowed to camp.

I always seem to attract these rough types, and strangely enough I get on really well with them, if we hadn't been going different directions Nightmare (yes that's his nickname) and I would probably have broken out a few beers right there. RedDog up in Port Hedland is another example, big as a house, with bright red hair and more guns than you can poke a stick at, yet we yapped and drank until late at night and it would have been early next morning if he didn't have to go to work. And yet had I just met him a couple of hours before.

I'm not sure why that is, partly I suppose with a #2 haircut and full beard I look the part, and I can generally talk the talk. Thankfully I've seldom had to walk the walk :).

Nightmare has trouble with one of the bowsers, it won't go over 999 litres and that's nowhere near enough, the truck will take 2400 litres when dry. That sounds like a lot but when you consider these trucks work on "metres per litre" you realise that 2400 litres doesn't get you that far.

This is one of his last runs in the truck, he's going back out on the oil rigs soon. At $180,000 a year on the rigs I don't blame him.

It takes ages but eventually our tanks are full, we pack up and get back on the road.

It's 122k to the small town of Cue and a further 20k to Lake Nallan. We've read about this lake and it sounds nice so we plan to camp there for a while.

On arrival we see the obvious places to camp but I checked out the lay of the land the other day (using Google Earth) and it seemed at the time that the best spots would be around the southern part of the lake so we explore around there.

There's a bank that obstructs the water views and I'm about to give up on finding a really good site when I spot a break in the bushes. We drive through the break and up the bank to find a great spot with water frontage. As it happens I think the bank is actually a dam wall.

We move the truck into place and settle in.

Sat 21 May 2011

Our phone shits itself today, well actually it's just the USB connector the phone is working OK. But without the USB connector we can't charge the battery and therefore can't use the phone.

The connector has been dodgy for a long time, well over a year ago the pins that handle data failed and we bought a separate modem. I did that rather than buy a new phone because I didn't want to have too many functions in a single device.

Thanks goodness I did because at least we still have the internet connection, and frankly we almost never use the phone whereas I use the internet all day every day (when we have it). We still have to have a phone though, as to how we'll get one out here I have no idea.


Washing day at Lake Nallan.

Sun 22 May 2011

Chris decides to defrost the fridge today. We have a standard domestic fridge but it's been converted to DC and in the process they disable the auto defrost. As I understand it auto defrost works by actually heating the interior somehow and of course this is bad use of energy.

So, just like the old days, we have to defrost manually every few months.

The interior is packed with frost and ice and after a period with the doors open (and fridge turned off of course) we proceed to break off huge chunks of ice. It doesn't go to waste, we put it in the washing machine, when it melts that will be about 5 litres of water we don't use from our tanks.

Now 5 litres won't make that much difference in itself, but it's the practice of thinking about every litre that saves a lot of water in the long run.

For the second time in about 6 months I've got really sore eyes, last time it was spring and I thought maybe it was hay fever. But I've never had hay fever in my life, maybe there is such a thing as "Adult-onset hay fever".

This time we apply my extensive medical knowledge (supplemented by a quick Google search) to diagnose conjunctivitis.

There's nothing to be done about it out here, I'll just have to grin and bear it.

Tue 24 May

We drive to an old (now decommissioned by the look of it) rest area 12k south of Meekatharra. Then we get in the car and drive into town to find the Woolworths I thought was here.

There is no Woolworths, just a local IGA store which we don't normally mind but in this case they have nothing but soggy and rotten vegetables.

Chris is not impressed.

There's no Telstra shop either, despite the Telstra web site saying that there is. There's a cabinet in the IGA with a few phones, that's what passes for a Telstra shop in Meeka.

Oh well, we'll have to wait to replace our phone.

Chris buys a few vegetables at amazingly high prices then we go looking for water. Eventually we find a tap at the local sports centre. I have a drink, it seems OK. We'll be back in the morning.

This is information (about water supplies that is) sadly lacking in all the travel/camping books and web info. We need a comprehensive list of taps accessible to the travelling public for all towns. Often the local visitors centre will say that water may be available at the caravan park even when there is a tap in the main street, so you can't rely on their info.

Wed 25 May 2011

We fill up the water tanks at the sports centre then leave town. It's about 430k to Newman so that's a two-day trip for us,

The Great Northern Highway is just chocka block with massive trucks, talk about the land of the long white road train. Many have wide loads like dongas (temporary accommodation) or earth-moving equipment, presumably all destined for the mines.

We do around 250k then pull over into the bush, right next to a cattle grid which for some reason we didn't see.

All night it's brrt-brrt as cars cross the grid, or brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt-brrt if a road train goes past.

Thu 26 May 2011

It's early in the morning, I've been awake for ages and my eyes are killing me. Chris rouses and consults the clock. It's 3AM, as I can't sleep anyway and we want to get into Newman we get up and hit the road.

By mid morning we are camped at a nice billabong just 5k from Newman. We head into town to do some shopping and see about a new phone.

As it happens the Woolworths is good and the prices not much different from what you would pay in the city.

The shopping centre even has a passable Telstra dealer (part of the Retrovision store) with staff that know their onions.

I ask about the cheapest no-frills phone, they recommend the Telstra T100 for $49. Done, I'll have one. Sorry they have none in stock, but I could try the post office.

The post office has none either so I return to Retrovision and ask them to save one when the new stock arrives. We'll be back this way and can pick it up then.

We return to the truck and I find my mouse has died, looks like we're going back into Newman tomorrow.

Sat 27 May 2011

Back into town to buy a mouse from the retrovision store, while there I tell them to forget about the phone, we've organized for one of my photographer mates to buy one and bring it over.

Mon 30 May 2011

We're off to a spot we know near the Karijini National Park, a trip of 185k. As always I don't really want to move but as soon as the wheels start rolling I'm eager to get on the highway.

Over the years we've mostly had a cordial relationship with the truckies on the road, like today for example I see a road train approaching so when he is close (and seeing a long clear run ahead) I pull over as much as I can and slow down when I see he's committed to passing.

As our cabs align there's a toot-toot and I look across to see him waving. When he's past he alternates his indicators to say thanks.

And then there's this.

Same as before only this time, despite having most of the road and a clear run ahead he barely moves aside thus forcing me further onto the shoulder and eventually with nowhere to go I clobber a white post.

I get on the UHF.

"You there arshole?" (Well I think it's important to start off on the right foot don't you?)

"Yeah, what's the problem?"

"What's with cutting me off?

"What's your f'ing problem, if you're gunna pull over then pull right over"

"Listen mate I pulled over as soon and as far as I could, you had room for two rigs"

"Why don't you #$%$ get back to #@$(&^ Victoria..."

At this point I figure there's little point in continuing the discourse, fun that it is, and I switch back to our normal channel.

Note to self: Dang I hate having Victorian number plates.

We continue and eventually arrive at the Albert Tognolini (aka Mungima Gorge) rest area/lookout. We scoped this spot a few years ago and know that there are many great campsites to be found if you drive along the ridge line.

We do this and set up camp on a large flat spot with great views over the hills.

If we get phone reception for the internet this will be the best campsite in the Pilbara.

 

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