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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #068

Editorial

Well here we are, back on our land in central Queensland. I have to say it's great to be back and we plan to drop anchor for some time, maybe even a year or so.

What that will mean to the already sparse chronicle updates remains to be seen I guess.

One reason I haven't posted much is that I've been right into some electronics design, and that takes up all my time. I do wonder as to the sense of this however, much as I enjoy figuring out how to create a piece of electronics gadgetry I think I may look back and say to myself that I wasted too much time doing it.

On the other hand as John Lennon apparently said, "Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted."

A valid point I guess, I've pretty much always enjoyed what I was doing at the time and I suppose a lifetime spent doing what you enjoy is nothing to be sneezed at.

But the other side of the coin can be seen when I look back at my life and think of the things I did. I spent roughly half my adult life traveling and taking photographs and the other half in electronics and computing. I enjoyed both equally as much at the time but when I look back it's the times I've had traveling and taking photographs that I reminisce about, not the circuit boards, control systems and fuzzy-logic algorithms I designed.

There's a message there somewhere I'm sure.

 

Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

 

Wed 4 Jul 2012

We spend most of the day clearing a small area of long grass to give us somewhere to camp. Then we make a rock pile to drive one set of wheels onto, this will level the truck.


The pile of stones that should get the truck level.

 

Thu 5 Jul 2012

First job today is to move the truck to our newly-cleared site. The rock pile sinks a bit under the weight so I still have to use a block to get level.


The car and trailer parked out of the way near our container.

Here's a close up shot of the trailer. Note that we added a tool box on the draw bar. This is very useful for storing ropes and tarps and such.

We also added tie down rings because the standard unit really doesn't have anywhere to run ropes.


Close up of the trailer.

Then we get back into clearing grass, we have friends arriving in a couple of days and we want to at least have the fire place cleared and enough room for them to camp as well.


View of part of the driveway showing some cleared area.

We are removing the motorbike while we are here so we will have a larger lounge room. I think it will stay removed to be honest, we haven't used it much since we bought the car and as it's harder to open the deck when the bike is in place. Therefore we've tended not to use the deck as much as we would have liked.

So as a few people have asked for me to clarify how the bike fits and where it goes here are two photos that may help.

In the first photo the bike is in it's traveling position in what becomes the deck (or just more lounge room) when it's not there. The two doors are actually parts of two tri-fold doors that cover the bike when it's there and provide privacy when the rear of the truck is open as a deck.

In the second photo we see the bike lowered but not yet removed. If you look carefully you can see the other side of the tri-fold doors, the pulley on a lifting bar, and two steel wires going up to the winch.

Once the bike is removed the flap you can see to it's right is raised and inside there's a floor you can't see that is lowered.


View from the lounge room towards the rear of the truck.


Looking from the outside with the bike lowered but not yet removed.

At this point we have a larger lounge room. If we then open the rear of the truck we have a deck.

Thu 12 Jul 2012

We drive out to Mount Perry to check out Gavin and Tracy's new "shouse", a shed with a built in house.

It's a pretty impressive structure and they've worked like navvies over the last 7-8 months to get it finished. There are still things to do but they passed the final inspection the other day so the pressure is off now.

We like it but I don't think we have the stamina to build something similar. Not that I can't still wield a hammer, it's the bureaucratic bullshit you have to endure that would do me in.

We chat until late afternoon then leave, realizing too late that we left a container with 4-5 chocolate biscuits (Mint Slice no less) in their freezer. I don't like their chances of surviving the night (the biscuits that is).

Fri 13 Jul 2012

Today it's into Bundy to do some research on our own capital improvements. We look at containers, timber decking, paving stones, you name it.

The jury is still out though deliberating exactly what we will do.

We know that G&T are also in town and have organized to try and meet up so we can get our biscuit container back. It's not that important we do because I've been informed that they've eaten the remaining biscuits but that container is worth at least $2 (probably less than the 5 biscuits it held).

As we pull into the Bunnings car park Chris says I should ring them. I say I'll do so when we come out of the shop but she insists so I phone Gavin. "Where are you?" I ask, "Just coming out of Bunnings" is the reply.

We chat for a short time then go our separate ways. They get McDonalds and we get to walk around Bunnings getting prices for the various options we have been talking about.

The plan is slowly coming together.

Mon 16 Jul 2012

We've pretty much decided what to do, still talking about it but meanwhile I'm trying to price the job by surfing the Bunnings and Masters web sites. What a total waste of time that is, both their websites are useless.

The Bunnings site has a feedback page, it seems that they want to know how my shopping experience was so I drop them a short note.

 

I swear that this website is totally useless, I'm looking for PVC pipe, there's no top-level plumbing category anywhere that I can find and in "Builders and renovators" not a single mention of plumbing unless you count vanities and toilets. Do builders and renovators not use PVC pipe?

A search for "pvc pipe" brings up everything but, like the "Light Solar Bollard Flc" and the "Aquaflow Shower Controller - Std Elec ...". There is only a single pipe in the list and I know you have dozens, not to mention 1000s of fittings.

If it helps the Masters site is just as bad or even worse :)

Regards
Rob


I never do get a response.

Wed 18 Jul 2012

We have talked long and hard about building a house of some kind, and I did find a nice one on the web and blow me down it they aren't made in Childers, only about 50k away.

I was even pretty keen to go down that route for a while but there are a lot of expenses. $67,000 for the house itself, probably $5,000 for the site works, $10,000 for black and grey water trenches, at least $5,000 but maybe up to $10,000 for various council tests and approvals, plus probably $5,000 for stuff I haven't thought of.

If we got any change out of $100,000 I'd be gobsmacked.

And then there's the duplication, we would need two fridges, two cook tops, two heaters, more chairs, another bed, etc etc.

And we would be forever commuting between the truck and the house to get something that wasn't duplicated.

Frankly it doesn't seem worth it to us. The only advantage I can see (and it's a biggy) is that we would have a domicile that was officially recognized by the authorities. There's no doubt that would be a good thing, but we just can't justify spending that much to get the nod from the council.

We have an investment due in a few years, maybe then.

Meanwhile we've decided on what we will do, we need some more storage and I'd like a bit of a workshop. We need a sheltered area to leave tools under and we really need to have a water supply.

So the first thing to do is buy a water tank, then we'll get second container and build a roof between the two. When the dust has settled I may line the new container and add some windows, that will be my workshop.

Thu 19 Jul 2012

I ordered the tank this morning then started work digging the pad for it. It is slow going, not because the ground is tough, but because I'm not. It's quite plain I haven't done this sort of work for a long time.


The tank base gets started.


Later it's beginning to take shape.

Fri 20 Jul 2012

Man we've spent some money today. The two major items are a new line trimmer and a new container.

We planned to get a smaller (read cheaper) line trimmer for Chris but when push came to shove we got one the same as our current trimmer.

Being four-stroke it has more power and if you'd seen our grass you'd know why we need more power.


Love is having matching line trimmers.

One thing I liked about the Stihl FS90 is that it's almost exactly the same now as it was 4 years ago. I hate the way things change every year these days, especially when most changes are cosmetic or add features nobody needs.

This trimmer works well, so don't screw with it.

We also buy a container and are very happy with the price. We planned to buy from the people we got the last one from, they are asking $3500 plus delivery for a second-hand 20' container in OK condition.

But somehow I got onto another mob so we go around to see them before committing.

Good thing we do, they will sell us a "new-build" container for $3500 including delivery. Now new-build is the term for a container that's only done a single trip and it means that they should be in good condition. This one is immaculate and about $1000 cheaper that other places offering them.

It's a cash deal though so we have to go back into town and find an ATM.

We also bought several other things and although I'm not counting I reckon we've spent $5000 today.

Sun 22 Jul 2012

The hole for the tank base is finished. It's quite large but not that deep, in fact I'm not sure it actually qualifies as a hole because one side is at natural ground level, all I've really done is a cut to provide a 4-metre circular level spot for the tank.

It just needs about 4" of granite mixed with some cement to make a nice tank base.

Mon 23 Jul 2012

I've got the stump of the tree that was in front of the container dug out a fair bit and have just wrapped a chain around it when Greg turns up in his 5-tonne truck with the reco granite. He drops the granite and I spot a tow hitch on the back of the truck.

"You don't reckon you could pull this out?" I ask indicating the partially-grubbed stump.

It takes a couple of goes but before long the stump is free of the ground.


The newly removed stump.

Tue 25 Jul 2012

The tank base is finished and we've spread the extra reco granite in front of the container to give a better walking surface.

The two rocks on the ground indicate the position of the new container.


The finished tank base.

Tue 31 Jul 2012

The water tank arrives. We push it off the truck and place it as close as possible to the required spot using the truck's crane. The driver then relocates the truck and we can get the tank to within a metre of the spot, with a little synchronized pushing and dropping we actually get it on the base.

Then some manual shoving and it's in the right place.


The tank in place.

After the tank man leaves I notice that the tank is not quite aligned, it really needs to be rotated by a few degrees. With a rope and the car and some huffing and puffing we get it right.

Wed 1 Aug 2012

20,000 liters of water arrived this morning. We now have more water than we know what to do with but still get the guy to drain the tanker hose into some buckets.

Well old habits die hard and another 25 liters will never go astray.


Pumping 20,000 liters of water into our new tank.

Thu 2 Aug 2012

The new container arrives after lunch. It takes some dicking around but the driver manages to get it almost where we need it. Unfortunately the lay of the land doesn't allow him to align his truck correctly but he manages to get one end in the right place and skew the other end as far as possible.

We've dropped in onto some logs to make it easier to drag and also to get jacks underneath when the time comes to get the container level.

We now have to move that end about two feet, we do have a winch but I decide to try using the car first.

My first two attempts meet with failure as the sharp edge of the container just bites into the log. So I use an old de-bogging technique, I jack the container up as high as I can then just yank it off the jack with the car.

It works a treat and the container lands in exactly the right spot.

All we have to do now is get it level but that will have to wait because we don't have the concrete blocks.

Fri 3 Aug 2012

We drive into Bundy to get a heap of stuff, concrete blocks for the containers and a wheel barrow being the two main items, but also a ladder and a lot of plumbing fittings etc. It takes about 5 hours to complete the shopping and as always we can't get out of town quick enough.

Sat 4 Aug 2012

Today we level the containers. The new one obviously needs doing because the land has quite a slope, but the old one also needs work because we originally set it up to have a lean so it would drain water while we were away.

Now I want it to be level as well.

It takes most of the day with various combinations of jacks and wooden blocks, but finally the two containers are dead level and sitting pretty on their concrete blocks.


The new container on concrete blocks.

Thu 9 Aug 2012

Gavin and Tracy (hobohome) will arrive today, they've spent the last year or so building a shouse (shed/house) on their land at Mt Perry, just 30k up the road and now they are finally getting back to traveling.

They are heading out to the Birdsville races which start on the 31st so they can't hang around too long and I know they are keen to get moving but hopefully they can spend a couple of days with us.

They arrive just after lunch, but all is not well. It seems that Hobohome failed to make it up one of the nearby hills and when the engine stalled the brakes would not hold the bus. They careered backwards down the hill and where eventually stopped by a large tree.

The tree is history and the bus is well worse off for the encounter.


Hobohome looking a little worse for wear.

At this point it's not known how the insurance company will deal with the damage but it's a fair bet that the Birdsville races are not on the agenda any more.

Luckily they do now have the shouse to live in should the buss have to be out of action for repairs, but despite being passed as a dwelling the shouse is not really set up for living at present.

All the power, cooking and hot water facilities are supplied by the bus and if that's away so are those facilities.

Anyway we put those thoughts aside for the night and sit around the fire drinking and talking crap as usual.

Wed 22 Aug 2012

First night without the electric blankets in months. Yay it's starting to get warm.

Tue 28 Aug 2012

I've done it, I finally went and bought the new solar panels, all up I have 4x 250W and 2x 100W panels to add to the truck. They will replace the old 8x 64W panels but the old ones won't be wasted, the plan is to put them on the container roof and feed them into the truck's system when we are on the block.

This is partly because we don't want to waste the old panels and partly because where we park we are shaded for a large part of the day and the extra 500-odd watts will be handy.


The new 250W panels, these things are huge.

These new panels are huge and for a motorhome you have to be careful that they will fit. That is often the deciding factor when purchasing them because although they are all roughly the same area some are long and narrow and others short and fat.

So some careful measurements are in order and if buying from eBay et al make sure the size is really as advertised. Many I found were not.

And speaking of buying, 250 watts is the current sweat spot for price/performance. These cost me $249 each, that's less than $1 per watt. The panels I'm replacing cost more than $10 per watt a decade ago.

Another possible issue with such large panels being used on a vehicle is the strength of the large glass panel. In our case the entire body is mounted on rubber and gets a pretty good ride but I still think I'll add some support in the center of the panel.

Wed 29 Aug 2012

The old container has some pretty bad rust in the roof. I thought I'd grind it all back and apply rust converter and bog but eventually decide to just cut the lot out and patch it with a new piece of metal, checker plate of course :)


After cutting the roof section out, from the inside.


Before the patch.


After the patch.

Wed 5 Sep 2012

I just realized it's exactly 40 years since I first set foot in England, so I hop onto Google Earth and go for a stroll down memory lane.

The men's hostel I lived in on Milmans Lane in Chelsea seems to have gone. I had to do a "midnight flit" (literally) from there, maybe my unpaid back rent sent them to the wall :)

The Edwardian terrace house I lived in on Warrington Cresent in Little Venice is still there, but it seems that all the rooftop areas of the houses are now being used regularly and are set up as small terraces. We had to climb out the bathroom window to get access but it was a fantastic spot for a beer on a warm afternoon.

Then I decide to venture further afield. What about Stonehenge, is that still there? Well of course it is but you can no longer mingle with the monoliths. In 1972 you could freely walk around and even sit on the stones, now you have to view from a distance.

I remember sitting in the car park at dusk wondering where the heck I was going to spend the night. I spotted a small forest up the road so walked up there and slept under the trees with my ground sheet rigged as a shelter of sorts.

Man it was cold and I woke in the pre-dawn light to see nothing but fog. I then sat up and emerged into clear air, there was just a one-foot layer of fog. It was too cold to go back to sleep so I decided to try to get some dawn photos of the stones and legged it back down the road.

The paddock was fenced off even then and I knew there was security but thought it was worth a go. Just as I was about to climb the fence I saw a guard heading purposefully towards the stones. Minutes later he emerged with a person in tow and escorts said person off the premises.

There was no cameras as far as I could tell so how they know someone is trespassing I had no idea, but I figured I had a minute or two before getting nabbed, plenty of time to get a few photos.

I climbed the fence and bolted to the far side of the stones, by this time the fog had thickened and the sun was trying to break through. I got my shots then saw the guard heading my way so I did a runner back to the fence and made my exit.

Later I walked back into Amesbury, the nearby town.

I can't remember how I met Arthur but he seemed like a nice enough bloke and his wife was away so he offered me a place to stay for a while.

I stayed there for several days but he got stranger and stranger, it started with slightly sarcastic remarks that mostly went over the top of my 18-year-old head but the comments and body language got worse and eventually even I started to feel quite uneasy.

I used to always carry a large knife with me in those days and on my last night in Arthur's house I slept with it under my pillow with my hand on it's hilt.

Next morning he was pleasant again and headed off to work. I waited 10 minutes to make sure he hadn't forgotten his wallet or whatever then stuffed my belongings into my pack and bolted.

Fun times.

Thu 13 Sep 2012

I get an email this morning from Peter and Marie. It seems that they are on their way home from the Birdsville races and after an unintended detour they are now heading past Gin Gin and would like to stay for the night.

Sounds good to us and I meet them out on the main road just after lunch to pilot them into the block.


Stan's MAN and P&Ms' Slineaway.

They have Stan with them. Stan is in his 80s and I think a role model for us all as he's still driving that huge MAN around the country.

Admittedly I think he always goes with company but if I'm going at all at that age I'll be pretty happy.

That said it's time for him to hang up his truck keys and the MAN is for sale, it's a very capable vehicle, Stan took it across the Simpson Desert a couple of years ago.

Get in touch with me if you are interested and I'll get his details for you.

Wed 26 Sep 2012

We've done some landscaping around the place as well. In an effort to have at least a small area that's relatively flat and free of ankle-twisting rocks we "paved" the area between the containers with the reco granite the other day.

We plan to extend that across to the truck so we have a path and to contain the granite we'll lay some paving stones.


The front of the new container and the path-to-be.

Here we see the pavers roughly laid out to delimit the path, I originally planned to have a straight path but decided to go a little "Middle Earth" and have it all wonky.

The extension leads will be run through conduit and the lot buried before we put the rest of the granite down.

We've had to upgrade our internet plan. Just a few months ago we went up to 8Gig and thought all our Christmases had come at once.

Well tomorrow is the start of our billing period but about a week ago we realized that we would have trouble so we started cutting down our internet time.

Not by enough as it happens because about 4 days ago we got a 100% usage message from Telstra and had to stop entirely because they charge like a wounded bull when you go over the limit.

This morning we can't stand it any longer so I ring Telstra and up our plan to 15Gig. That's $99 per month for our internet connection, it's becoming a large part of our budget.

Update: Telstra seem to have given us 23gig, that's 15 plus our old 8 not instead of. They do work in mysterious ways though and I've often seen anomalies when we change plan. So I guess we won't know what the real story is until the next bill.

Thu 27 Sep 2012

I love all the wildlife we have here, the other day we were having a cuppa when a 3-foot goanna strolled past. It was interesting to watch him partly because it solved a mystery.

You see there are 1000s of small holes being dug around the block and I assumed is was the work of a nocturnal animal, specifically a numbat because they do that and we've seen at least one around.

But we caught the goanna red handed, as he walked around in front of the truck he dug three or four holes, looking for grubs I suppose. So now we know who's aerating the soil.

We have a lot of bird life here and last time we lived on the block we had some tame butcher birds and king parrots.

This time it seems to be the magpies that have adopted us. There's a gang of about 11 that patrol the land, one of which will fly right into the lounge room looking for a handout.

I oblige and now most of his mates drop in as well. It's normal to have 6 or 7 magpies drinking from the bowls we put out or fighting over some water melon. Hours of fun for the whole family, who needs TV?

Which brings me to today's wildlife encounters. While clearing a pile of rocks I found a tiny snake, about six inches long with a black and orange head I don't know what type it was but I relocated him to a safe place.

The next snake we find I am not inclined to relocate though. While on our customary evening stroll down the driveway we find a python about 7 feet long. We watch it for ages as it hunts through the long grass but it seems to have taken a liking to me and keeps heading in my direction.

I think we'll leave him be.

This is a very good example of one of the main reasons we are clearing the grass, pythons are OK but what if it was a tiapan or a brown snake. We want to be able to wander around and not worry about tripping over such critters.

Fri 28 Sep 2012

There's been some questions about the positions of the containers, the roof and the tank so here's a drawing.

 

 

As you can see the proposed roof covers the area between the two containers plus it's large enough to provide a sheltered area and probably a car port as well.

The red lines with arrow heads are 240-volt wiring and the blue lines are the DC wire from the solar panels I will put on the roof of the new container and probably some CAT5 cable in case I want a data connection between the truck and my "office" (the front half of the old container).

All these wires will run underground in conduit.

Mon 1 Oct 2012

While having lunch we look outside to find a swamp wallaby doing the same. Unlike the pretty-faced wallabies who are happy to hang around for hours the swampies only ever pass through at the gallop, we've never had one hang about so this is a real treat.

On a less pleasant note it seems that our neighbour +1 is preparing a house pad on his hill. The dozer has been scraping away for 3 days now and there is a huge scar on the land.


Wallaby.

Fortunately it's not all that visible from where we are but they already had two flat pads so I wonder why they need a third. We'll have to sneak over one evening to have a look around.

I've decided to try and get more of my old photos digitized so have been scanning slides for two days now. I've done about 400 which is about all I can stand doing for the time being.

I have to say though that without a u-beaut scanner this would be mission impossible because of the dirt and crap on the slides. Bear in mind that some of these are over 30 years old and that they have been stored in whatever folders I had at the time with no provision for dust proofing or anything. I even had a filing cabinet drawer full of slides fall from a truck when we were moving house once in the 90s and get strewn all over the road. I didn't realize until we arrived at the new house, God knows how many got run over.

So most of the slides look like this.


Male agama lizard, Tsavo National Park, Kenya. With crap.

Fixable but what a nightmare.

But my scanner (a Nikon LS-4000 that cost $3500 about 10 years ago) uses infra-red techniques to detect the crap and then some fantastic algorithms to remove 98% of it. Resulting in me getting an image that looks like this.


Male agama lizard, Tsavo National Park, Kenya. Without crap.

There's often still a little touching up to do but I have to say that without this feature all but the absolute best of these photos would be lost because it would be just too much work to do this manually. It's possible but I would only do it for maybe a dozen of my favorites, I'd have to forget the rest.

One reason I've been doing this is that I'm worried that either the scanner will break one day or that a future version of Windows will not have drivers for it. In either case I would be stuffed so it makes sense to at least get the raw scans done, even if I don't work on the images to make them look good right now.

Wed 3 Oct 2012

We go for our afternoon walk and see yet another snake. This one is about 4 feet long and unlike the sluggish python we saw the other day this bloke can really motor. Thankfully it's motoring away from us.

Thu 4 Oct 2012

We work every day on clearing the land. Every day but not all day by a long stretch.

Because we both stay up until at least 2AM (sometimes 3) and both have our own computer interests it's usually mid afternoon before we get our arses out of the recliners and into the overalls.


Scenes showing cleared and uncleared areas.


A small lantana plant on the right.

That said we are getting a lot done. The above photos show some parts of the driveway with the left side cleared for about 20 metres down the hill away from the drive and the right side not cleared at all. The difference is actually more pronounced than seen here but that should give you the idea. And below two shots of finished areas.


Some totally cleared areas.

Whenever we fire up the line trimmers we have an audience within a couple of minutes.

Our resident kookaburras know that they are in for a free lunch when we work because of all the bugs we disturb. They place themselves in mortal danger by landing right near the spinning head of the trimmer. They even perch on the arm of the trimmer itself or on our feet.

Sometimes I look up to see six or seven of them just above my head on a branch, or I feel a rush of air as one dives past my head to grab a tasty multi-legged morsel.


Kookaburras waiting for a free lunch.


Results of a couple of hours work.

In the last photo you can see the trailer being put to use as was the plan when we bought it. That's the sticks and lantana from an area only about 20x20 metres, divide that into 25 acres and we have some work ahead of us, not that we'll be doing the entire block.

We're using the trailer to transport the junk to an area where we burn it. We're leaving the cut grass in place though, much as I'd like to remove that fuel as well it's just too much work.

Sat 6 Oct 2012

It's all quite over at the neighbours so we decide to walk over for a sticky beak at the new house pad, only to find that it's a dam.

Wow, it's a monster, or at least looks that way being perched on the side of the hill as it is. I don't know how they will keep it full, even the dams with good catchments struggle around here and this one is almost at the top of a hill.

They also have some shipping containers and they are open, I yell out and there's no response but it looks like someone is around so we make our exit back through the bush to our block.

As we return we notice the sun setting through the smoke caused by all the burning off.


Sunset through the trees.

Sun 7 Oct 2012

While sitting at my computer I catch some movement in my peripheral vision...it's our goanna mate.

He walks under the truck but just before entirely emerging from the shade afforded by the motorhome and re-entering the hot sun he stops.

Just long enough for me to get a couple of photos. He's about three feet long, not large by goanna standards but a decent size.


Our resident goanna.

Mon 8 Oct 2012

Boy we're using some fuel these days, what with the constant line trimming and using the generator every day (parked in the shade for most of the day).

Plus we haven't filled the gas bottles for about six months and we just changed over to the last one the other day.

So it's into town to fuel up.


Loaded up for a fuel trip into town.

We still have the cradle I built for the Landcruiser, it will hold 8 jerry cans securely so I use that in the trailer. I also tie down three gas bottles.

I hope we don't get rear-ended.

Wed 10 Oct 2012

I'm constantly being asked to join various photography sites, I have no use for them in general and anyway they aren't really designed for my style of photography or indeed my lifestyle.

Here is most of today's response to the last invitation.

The site seems to be mostly Toronto/northern hemisphere based and as such of little relevance to me in the Australian outback. Also, as a nature photographer I am not selling a service as is common for say commercial or wedding photographers and the site appears to be for those with a “service”, in the account setup it even says that you have to be “offering something that is face to face, we do not accept purely virtual offerings”. I spend the majority of my time in the bush, the only things I come face to face with are animals, birds and the occasional lost tourist. I only have virtual offerings.

Also I don’t have an address, these sites never have an option for “located wherever he likes”, and choosing a town of convenience will just show me 1000 miles away from a potential client when in fact I may be near the same town at the time.

I am always being asked to join listing-style sites but my circumstances are unusual and I always have the above or similar issues, at least yours does acknowledge the existence of Australia, some don’t.

Thu 11 Oct 2012

It's raining today so we can't work. Now as you may know I'm not a big fan of rain, mostly because it's so wet, but also anything that gets me out of work has my vote.

So we sit inside and listen to the rain on the roof, which is pretty good in itself but what makes it perfect is the wildlife around us.

There are about six pretty-faced wallabies grazing within a few metres of the truck. Then there are four magpies, two crows and two currawongs eating (and squabbling over) the water melon chunks.


You can't help but love these little critters.

Sun 14 Oct 2012

Gavin and Tracy turn up today. They are now back on the road after trying about eight weeks ago and having the accident that grounded them.

Here's hoping they have better luck this time, which given that so far they haven't hit any trees I guess they already have had better luck this time.

Wed 17 Oct 2012

A while back I mentioned that the kookaburras take a few dangerous liberties with our line trimmers in search of the disturbed insects and I was worried that one or more of them will get hurt.

Well it was only a matter time, and today one of them did get clobbered.

It landed right on the spinning head of Chris's trimmer and when I arrive on the scene there is a pile of feathers and a bird on the ground with it's right wing all askew.

I approach but it flys off, albeit with a few less tail feathers. I hope that's the only problem but there's nothing we can do either way.

Fri 19 Oct 2012

While clearing today we see our poor kookaburra mate, he seems active enough in the search for insects we disturb so I guess he's OK. He does look a little strange without any tail feathers though so we christen him "Shortarse".

Sun 21 Oct 2012

Last time we sat here on the block we counted over 50 species of bird which we were quite happy about. There is all manner of feathered wildlife around but we've never seen any emus.

Until today that is. While sitting in the lounge room doing nothing in particular guess what strolls right past without so much as a by your leave, three emus large as life.

Shortly after our goanna mate swaggers through the camp as well.


One of the three emus.


Our resident goanna.

Mon 22 Oct 2012

I've always been a night owl and of late so has Chris. We normally hit the sack sometime between 1 and 2 in the morning but today (or is it tomorrow) when at 4:30AM I say "That's it I'm off to bed" Chris says "Why bother?"

Good point, so I just make us both some coffee and carry on.

Fri 26 Oct 2012

I've uploaded a gallery of Wothahellizat Mk2 photos. See here

WothahellizatMk2 photos

Thu 29 Nov 2012

I guess it's time I started on installing the new solar panels. So this afternoon I remove all of the eight Unisolar panels.

That'll do, maybe I'll do some more tomorrow.

Mon 5 Nov 2012

More wildlife shots from the loungeroom.


Goanna on hind legs.


Friar bird having a drink.

Fri 16 Nov 2012

We went for a walk this afternoon as is our custom, or at least that was the idea but about 50 meters from the truck there's a nice dead tree I've been meaning to move to our "bird" area to give the little darlings something nice to perch on.

So I decide to go have a look at the tree and gauge it's weight to see if I can move it myself.

When I get to it I see a snake wrapped around the trunk with it's head in a hole.


Snake in a hole.

It clearly has a hold of something but can't get it's head back out so after some time I get bored and move on.

I return a while later to see that there's been some progress, the snake has it's head out and also part of whatever it's trying to catch.

It's obviously never going to work though and when the snake sees me it lets go and climbs higher up the tree.

I now have a look in the hole to see a tree frog peering back out at me, apparently none the worse for the experience.


Snake in a hole.


The snake up on a tree limb.

Sat 1 Dec 2012

We are making a deliberate effort to attract wildlife to the immediate vicinity of the truck. And it's working quite well.

It's quite common to have six or seven magpies warbling away under the window. The currawongs uses to be bluffed by the maggies but there's two of them who frequent the place now as well, and often as not they bluff the magpies these days.

Then there's the friar birds, they drop in for a drink and sometimes a bath.

And we're finally starting to have some parrots drop in, just a couple of lorikeets so far but I can here them in the trees and I think they are working up the courage.

And then there's the other animals. I have mentioned the goanna, swamp and pretty-faced wallabies before but now we know that the swampie also drops in for a drink and to eat some of the bird seed at night.

But we also have other visitors.

I've been installing new solar panels over the last few weeks (well one can't rush these things) and I leave the ladder up against the truck over night.


Currawong.


Wet maggie waiting for the currawong to finish eating.


Rainbow lorikeet.

The other night I could hear it rattling so I went out to investigate, only to find a possum peering down at me from the top rung.

Typical, a few hours earlier and it could have helped with the panels.

We now have two possums regularly visit at night to sample the bird's food and also two numbats (I think). Every night we go out to the landing to watch the cute little fellows.

Mon 10 Dec 2012

All solar panels finally installed, the theoretical max input is 51 amps and today I noticed 48 at one point. So it looks like it's all working.

You know that sound you get when an air line comes off, the sound of high-pressure air escaping?

Well imagine my surprise to hear that start while making coffee at about 10PM tonight.

I look in all the usual places but then I remember that we've been parked here for a few months now and the truck can't hold its air for a few minutes, so what else holds high-pressure air?

Tyres, that's what.

Sure enough it's the right front tyre and it's going down fast. Now there's a panic to get a jack under either the axle or the hub before the rim settles onto the tyre. But I can't find any of our large jacks. We last used them to lift the containers and I don't remember seeing them since.

Still there's no time to search now so we grab a couple of small car-sized jacks and get them under the axle.

That will do for the moment.

Tue 11 Dec 2012

I go out to the car to get something from it and bugger me if it doesn't have a flat tyre as well. What's going on here?

Later a car approaches, a fairly uncommon event for us.

It's the local rural fire brigade bloke coming to tell us that they will be burning off soon on the neighbour's property. He also wanted to have a look at the place because he remembered it being waist high in grass.

He is well happy with our clearing and says that even if a fire gets to us it will pretty much stop when it hits the cleared area.

"What about canopy fires?" I ask.

Well it seems that we don't get them up here because the trees aren't close enough for the most part.

That's really good to know because there's nothing you can do about those fires except pack up and leave.

So we feel pretty safe with regard to fires now.

Sat 15 Dec 2012

The birds are really starting to appreciate what what we're doing for them. Today, within a half hour or so we have two doves, two pigeons, two crows, maybe seven or eight magpies, a couple of friar birds, four scaly-breasted lorikeets, a blue-faced honey eater and last but not least seventeen rainbow lorikeets.


Rainbow lorikeets love the watermellon.


They don't mind the seed either.


They are fast movers.


Scaly-breasted lorikeets.


Blue-faced honeyeater.

One thing that's been interesting to see is the demotion of the magpies. They used to bully all the other birds (well except the crows) but the rainbow lorikeets have certainly got their measure.

Often a lorikeet will be quite happily eating at one plate of seed and see a magpie at another. Even though a magpie is 3x the size of a lorikeet the plucky little parrot will hop over the chase the maggie away just for the heck of it.

The honeyeater will go to great lenghts to drink while hanging upside down, why I have no idea as it would be a lot easier to just stand on the ground next to the water dish.

Only if the water level is too low for it to reach will it drink from ground level.

The lorikeets often do something similar, but they are more pragmatic and if it doesn't work straight away they drop to the ground.

We've erected a really nice dead tree I found not far away, the idea being that it will provide a good perch for the birds (not to mention make it easy to photograph them) and that indeed seems to be the case. It's temporarily tied to another tree at present but I'll set it into a hole soon.

Thu 20 Dec 2012

We're really happy with the solar panel performance, despite not getting sun all day in this location we haven't used the generator since we finished the panel install.

So imagine my surprise when I get up on the roof today and see that one of the panels isn't even plugged in.

Sat 22 Dec 2012

We're leaving on Sunday to visit friends for the Christmas/New Year period so have spent the last few days clearing up.

Today however we drive out to Gavin and Tracy's (hobohome.com) for a BBQ. They have been on the road almost as long as us and have also somewhat settled on their land.

However they are making noises about going back to WA and they may not be here when we get back so we decided to have a few drinks and a chat in case we don't see them for some time.

Their land is high up with views forever, it's nice to sit under the awning and watch the (somewhat obscured by clouds) sunset.

Previous Issue :: Next Issue

Comments

Date  ::   26 Sep 2012
Name  ::   Dusty
Location  ::   New Zealand
Comment  ::   It's nice to see you back online Rob, thanks for sharing the updates of your adventures.
   
Date  ::   26 Sep 2012
Name  ::   Stu
Location  ::   Sydney
Comment  ::   Great to read the updates Rob. Always amusing and inspirational, keep them up when you can.
   
Date  ::   27 Sep 2012
Name  ::   Bob
Location  ::   Sydney
Comment  ::   Great to hear whats been happening with you both..
Just a question,..the second container looks to be set at an odd angle from the first container, would have thought both should be parrallel with roof between to catch water for tanks.. How will you fill the tanks ongoing?? And where will you put the roof??
   
Date  ::   28 Sep 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   The containers are dead parallel but offset. We use so little water that even if we buy it in that will only cost $190 every 2-3 years. That said I do plan to catch water off the roof.

I'll post a diagram to make the layout more clear.
   
Date  ::   30 Sep 2012
Name  ::   Jesper
Location  ::   Denmark
Comment  ::   Hi Rob! Great to read the new updates. Your solution with the containers looks terrific. We have tackled the bureaucratic problems in a quite similar way, as we have rented a workshop for around Aus $80/month. The workshop fits the bus as well as a container with a kitchen, a bathroom, water- and 240V supply. We have added a washingmachine and a tumbledryer as well. We use the workshop as our (summer)base, and we are registered here as well, so the authorities are happy too...

We hit the road for the first time a few months ago, but only for a short trip. Back in the workshop, we are now fitting the last of the kitchen, the bathroom and a new floor. We'll be leaving for Spain and Morocco around 1st of November. Plan is to reach West Sahara around New Year 2013.

The bus is an ongoing project, but the quality/finish of the build is nothing close to yours. In Europe we're rarely more than 50k away from a city, so we have less worries about running out of supplies. On the other hand we have bigger problems finding a nice (and in particular remote) spot to spend the nights. I reckon you'd hate it.

Best of everything to both of you. Jesper
   
Date  ::   01 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Jesper,

Good to see things are progressing.

You're right I don't like crowded areas, and that probably means most of Europe but that said I would like to come back for a while and that's still a possibility.

The smaller the rig the easier it is to find camping spots, yours is pretty big so that must make life harder in that respect but also more comfortable. Can't have it both ways eh?

I've always wanted to build a proper container house, that will never happen I feel but we are happy to add what we consider is just the right amount of infrastructure to make life a bit more comfortable when we are on the block. I think what we are doing will be about right, at least for the next 10 years or so, I may need some more home comforts when I'm an old fart though.
   
Date  ::   01 Oct 2012
Name  ::   Paul
Location  ::   Burnett Heads
Comment  ::   Found you while on the West Australia Tourism site. Spent most of the day reading through your adventures. Your wanderings through the gorges in the west left me speechless. Lovely photography. We've been right around, but only on the coast. Inland next time. Hope our paths cross one day. Now I see you are home, hope it all goes well for you. Regards Paul
   
Date  ::   02 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   If you're at Burnett Heads we've probably already crossed paths in the main street of Bundy :) We'll be "home" for quite a while now, just west of Gin Gin.

I actually prefer the inland in most ways, and it's easier to find good campsites as well, on the coast there are too many no camping signs.
   
Date  ::   02 Oct 2012
Name  ::   Paul
Location  ::   Burnett Heads
Comment  ::   Over the years, we've found heaps of good campsites, but through slackness I've neglected to catalogue them. Luckily, Elisabeth has a good memory for nice spots and we still retain details in our journals. Still, its like photos and music, we'll get that done one day too, same as the road maps. We are having a spell at home after 6 months on the road, including Tasmania.
   
Date  ::   02 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   I digitised all my music about 12 years ago and I'm slowly doing old slides and negatives. I've scanned about 400 slides over the last two days. What a bloody project.
   
Date  ::   04 Oct 2012
Name  ::   Paul
Location  ::   Burnett Heads
Comment  ::   I'm currently getting the LPs onto the computer. Big job because you can't speed it up. Some of the reproduction is not real flash, but its time to pass the vinyl on. Then I'll be looking at the cassettes. Looks like we'll need a bigger hard drive. Looking at free camp sites, have you checked out the north side of the Paradise dam? No signs to say no camping. If you suddenly get the urge to get away for a week, its not far from Gin Gin.
   
Date  ::   04 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   I've got about 20Gb of music (5000 tracks). I did all my music a while back from LPs of dubious quality. I have since replaced much of them with bought MP3s off the web. For about $1.60 a full LP it's not worth RIPping the vinyl I reckon but I didn't have access to that at the time.

Interestingly it was just a week or two back I finally took all the LPs to the tip.

Thanks for the Paradise Dam info, I'll look into it, and make 2-3 copies of that music on separate external drives once you have it digitised.
   
Date  ::   05 Oct 2012
Name  ::   Jim
Location  ::   North Carolina, USA
Comment  ::   I tried to post this yesterday, but your spam filter stopped it. Great to see your update, but I'm not sure what to think about my motorhome hero "settling in." Talking of building a HOUSE, of all things. Not sure my cosmology has a slot for the Gray No-gomad.
   
Date  ::   06 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Well now that you've mentioned the H word, it's only talk and as we know that's cheap. A house is not cheap so I don't see one on the horizon at this point in time (as the politicians say :)
   
Date  ::   06 Oct 2012
Name  ::   Sheridan
Location  ::   Bright
Comment  ::   an update! We have just spent 10 days up at Dubbo and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The kids had a ball. Great to see what you have been up to.
   
Date  ::   06 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Sheridan, good to hear from you. Been a few years eh? We were down your way last Christmas, I should have got in touch.
   
Date  ::   12 Oct 2012
Name  ::   Daina
Location  ::   Wollongong
Comment  ::   Sorry to have missed the Canberra rendezvous! Lost track of you and I was whisked away, sporting another grandchild for future camping adventures. Found my motor home, only to be pipped at the post after putting my buying boots on and making a journey. The hunt goes on. I fancy Stan's MAN but it's way out of my $ league :-)

Always great reading your material, glad to know all is well with you two and reading about the block is just as entertaining, thanks! I plan to wander up your way in winter when I'm finally on wheels.

Know a good site for exploring container home ideas, would be surprised if you don't know it though. Will email the link tomorrow.

Poor Hobohome, another one I have followed, let's know how they get on.

Cheers!
   
Date  ::   13 Oct 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Daina,

Gavin and Tracy will be camping here in a few days when they finally get back on the road. I've suggested to them that they come the other way this time, the way that's not so steep :)

Get in touch if you pass our way.

Please send that link, I may not know of the site.
   
Date  ::   28 Nov 2012
Name  ::   D Burt
Location  ::   Pacific Northwest, USA
Comment  ::   Hey Rob- sure do enjoy your chronicles and your website! Are you putting down roots at your place, or do you plan on some more travels over there? I know at one point you talked about coming over to the US for a look around. Still planning on that? I look forward to more chronicles! Dennis B
   
Date  ::   28 Nov 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Dennis,

We have been putting down some roots, at present I/we alternate between wunderlust and being happy sitting here watching the wildlife. We still plan to get back on the road around next Aug but we'll see what happens.

As for going OS, I'm still keen to at least go to the UK but Chris is not, maybe I'll sneak away by myself for a couple of months :)

She's more interested in going to the US so that's more likely I think.

Trouble is I look at the crap (and expense) you have to go through and wonder if I could be bothered these days. I reckon that I'm over thinking it though, there was a time I'd just get on a plane and figure it out when I got there, maybe I should stop being such an old fart.

Rob
   
Date  ::   03 Dec 2012
Name  ::   D Burt
Location  ::   PNW USA
Comment  ::   I know what you mean about the old fart thing- there once was a day when I too thought nothing of just jumping in a project or adventure and learn, adjust, and cope as I went. Now I have to anylize, think about it, take council from other folks, and usually worry and fret myself plumb out of the idea! Visiting Australia and Alaska was always on my bucket list, but now I'm thinking it just might be easier to watch the videos of someone else's adventure! LOL
   
Date  ::   03 Dec 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   "it just might be easier to watch the videos of someone else's adventure!"

Yep :)
   
Date  ::   09 Dec 2012
Name  ::   Robert Dickson
Location  ::   Sydney
Comment  ::   Hi Rob,
Whats the latest re your adventures for the last 6 weeks, your notes above stop at 22/10/12, any more construction on the block...

   
Date  ::   09 Dec 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   My has it been 6 weeks already, and just when I was updating frequently. OK I'll post soon :)

Not much construction, a lot of grass and lantana clearing but when we got all the driveway done we kind of downed tools.

I have been adding solar panels to the truck, one more to go.
   
Date  ::   13 Dec 2012
Name  ::   Luis F Cabana
Location  ::   Alberta, Canada
Comment  ::   Found your site and chronicles by chance when looking for ideas on my new Boler trailer (1300) restoration. I am originally from Venezuela but immigrated north in 2006. My other choice was Australia. Your travel chronicles and pictures made me think I may have chosen the wrong place! Well, Alberta is a beautiful place, and its people have been great to me. Unfortunately, the great outdoors are out of commission for half the year, that is unless you like minus 40 celcius temperatures and such...

I will check back regularily,
Cheers,
Luis
   
Date  ::   18 Dec 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Luis,

Thanks for saying g'day.

Still Canada is a pretty nice place, shame about the weather though :) I guess you can always nick across the boarder for the winter.

While it obviously gets colder here in winter and it's more pleasant up north there's nowhere except a few mountain areas where you would be too uncomfortable in an RV even in winter. Especially if you have any form of heating.

Rob
   
Date  ::   17 Dec 2012
Name  ::   Jim
Location  ::   North Carolina, USA
Comment  ::   Hello Rob, Been meaning to ask if you have had any problems with the Sikaflex 252 you used to bond your cladding. I have a new bus project, and I'm thinking of using same to reskin the window area of my Gillig H200LF. I suppose your adhesive would have failed by now if it was going to. Thanks.
   
Date  ::   18 Dec 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Jim,

So far no problems.

Be sure to prep the surfaces according to their specs though, which is to say a cleaner, primer then glue. I did one sheet without that (prepped a sheet, had lunch, then glued another sheet), I realised before I put the sheet up and a few days later when we came to clean the glue it just fell off.

So then I did a test and it really makes a difference.
   
Date  ::   19 Dec 2012
Name  ::   Mike
Location  ::   USA
Comment  ::   Thanks for posting all this. It's a nice vicarious escape from the rat race.

I can't help but wonder why you are getting so many flat tires. Seems like more often than not it's the right front. Might there be something wrong with the tire or rim that is causing this? Or is this typical for Australian bush driving?
   
Date  ::   19 Dec 2012
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Mike, we do have a few flats eh? And you're correct it's often the right front. But different rims because I often take the opportunity to rotate a couple of wheels.

I've got no idea why, maybe I don't fix them very well.

For the first time in 11 years I'm getting a tyre place to do the work for me. For $25 why not, and anyway I'm to old for this shit :)
   
Date  ::   08 Jan 2013
Name  ::   Paul Weaver
Location  ::   Burnett Heads
Comment  ::   Wondering if Santa found his way to your place, and if so was he kind to you?
Hope things in the bush are OK You seem to have done a lot of work with fire protection, but how dry does it look? Loved the photos of the wildlife that come around. Hope things go well for you this year.
Incidentally, my friend with his Silverado, on the Gibb River Road had punctures on the rear right only.
Regards
Paul
   
Date  ::   10 Jan 2013
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Santa drops by whenever I want, no need to wait for Christmas :)

The spare I put on the other day, it's gone flat now, I give up.
   
Date  ::   18 Feb 2013
Name  ::   cees
Location  ::   dronten nethetlands
Comment  ::   Hi Rob,
I have a question did you ever saw in wild and made a pic of a cassuwary?

Other thing as you know we installed 60 solar panels and we love it, it great to see more then 10 Kw is generated when it sees the sun
Hope to generated 17.000 kwh this year
Now we think how to install it on our sprinter,a flex panel woul be ideaal

   
Date  ::   21 Feb 2013
Comment  ::   Hi Cees,

No such luck I'm afraid, haven't even seen one let alone got a photo.

I think Unisolar still make the flex panels, they are very expensive for the power you get though.

We now have 1700W of panels, not much compared to your system but pretty good for a motorhome.
   
Date  ::   11 Mar 2013
Name  ::   Andy
Location  ::   Karratha W.A.
Comment  ::   G'day Rob and Chris,
Glad things are looking good back on the block.
I have finally got the new engine in the 101.
That is it!
No re-wire, no fit out, just the engine.
Remember the edge of the scrub you parked on at the end of my street?
Well 2 miles deep 2miles wide has all been cleared for four hundred bleeding prefab housing for Rio workers, how many ways can one company rape a country?
The peregrine has not been seen at all since they started, and the kingfisher seldom come now due to reduced cover I expect.
Its very sad to see and live amongst it, and the red dust clouds are beyond words mate.
I hope you bothe are well and things are going swimmingly.
Andy x
   
Date  ::   11 Mar 2013
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   G'day Andy,
Good to see some progress with the 101, it's a big job especially for one person.

Shame about the scrub, but that's the Pilbara in a nutshell these days, I don't think we'll be back for a while, maybe we'll wait for the mining boom to bust and then come over to see what's left.

At least when the 101 is finished you'll be able to go somewhere nice for the weekends, there are plenty of nice places around you eh?

We're loving just sitting on our land at present, no real plans to go anywhere although we may sneak south for the summer, we may not as well :)
   
Date  ::   09 May 2013
Name  ::   cees
Location  ::   dronten
Comment  ::   hi rob, hope your both are ok.
I have a experinance question for you.
What is the best water filter system in your truck for drinking water?
And does it kill al bacteria whats in the water?

Regards
Cees
   
Date  ::   10 May 2013
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   Hi Cees, we have a 20-micron sediment filter for general water and that's followed by a .5-micron silver-impregnated carbon filter for drinking water.

The .5-micron filter is supposed to get rid of just about everything down to bacteria IIRC. although I haven't looked into this stuff for years.

Rob
   

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