During the course of this issue
we drive down the east coast, spending most of our time visiting
It's great to catch up with people,
but this "visit fest" is very tiring, what with
all that entertaining.
Still it could be worse, we could
be working :-)
One thing we notice about the east
coast is the urban spread. There's just so many people that
the towns are merging, not to anything like the extent that
is happening in the USA or Europe, but merging nonetheless.
Highways that I remembered as being
two-lane tracks, with even smaller tracks leading to beaches
where you could camp, are now eight-lane motorways.
And camp on the beach?, forget it.
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Sat 30 Aug 2003
At midday we leave Bargara but it's not until 1:30 that we actually
leave the town of Bundaberg just a few kilometres away, due mostly
to the time spent filling some gas bottles at Bunnings.
We planned to get to Peter & Marie's today,
but it soon becomes apparent that we're not going to make it, so,
on reaching Gympie we decide to call it a day.
The Matilda service station, just out of town,
has a very nice picnic and wetland area adjacent. We pull in there
for the night.
Our duckpond campsite at the rear of the roadhouse.
Sun 31 Aug
Arrive at P&M's, settle in to "our" spot under the
Mon 1 Sep
Still in maintenance mode, today we had all the batteries out for
a spring clean (well it is the first day of spring). Tomorrow I'll
replace various oils in the motor etc, and then I think we're done.
Batteries getting an overhaul on the floor
I know it seems that we spend a lot of time working
on the truck, but that's only because we do spend a lot of
time working on the truck :-)
Any large motorhome based on a old bus or truck
is bound to need a fair bit of looking after, but also we've really
been going through the "shakedown" period for the past
year or so.
In general the vehicle has performed perfectly.
Over two years of living in it, we've tuned a few things, and we've
fixed a few things, but we're very happy with Wothahellizat.
The first time we dropped in to Peter & Marie's
to work on the truck we were here for three months, the next time
it was three weeks, this time it's three days.
Maybe in future we'll just drop in for a cuppa.
Hopefully that's an indication of the way things
are going with regard to working on the truck, because I have to
say, I've got things I'd rather be doing.
This evening we watch Getaway, a show purportedly
about reasonably-priced travel locations.
We've watched the show many times over the years,
and it seems to be the same every time. Far from being about budget
options, we find the prices to be astronomical.
How about a tour around an old house?, just $210
for the day. Or you can stay in another old house, just $420 a day...EACH.
That's our total annual accommodation budget
for a single night. Hmmm, where do I sign up?
I guess this type of show is not aimed at the
"not working, living on a budget, tight arse" demographic.
Thu 8 Sep
We leave P&Ms, probably for the last time because the place
is up for sale, and drive into Brisbane.
I try to impress upon Peter and Marie that their
new place must have a large workshop, otherwise where would we work
on the truck?
Steve and Madeleine (two of our long-term friends
from Canberra) have recently moved to the sunshine state (and I
mean "recently", the phone was only connected yesterday,
and there's still no gas) so we are going to visit them.
We find a nice spot for the truck, near a park
and only about a kilometre from their house, and ride up to find
a very impressive mansion. We stay for dinner (Indian takeaway,
no gas remember) and make use of their phone line to do a little
Fri 9 Sep
After an early morning tea with our friends we hit the road again,
to visit some more friends.
Scott and Chris have just moved out to Russell
Island, and we're dying to see their new house.
Scott meets us on the way to the barge and hops
in the truck for the one-hour trip over Morton Bay.
The barge stops at three other islands before
Russell. After one of the stops, where a couple of trucks leave
the barge, we have to move Wothahellizat to re-balance the vessel.
As I reverse under full lock there's a loud noise from somewhere
in the vicinity of the offside wheel.
Oops, the boat's side wall is closer than I thought.
The house is placed just 100 or so metres from
the bay, with nothing but a grassy park between it and their boat's
mooring. What a great spot, and what a lifestyle they'll have when
they stop work.
Wothahellizat in one of its favourite spots, overlooking the
water. Scott's boat is the larger one in the right-hand photo.
We park the truck right on the edge of the bay,
then spend most of the day playing snooker on Scott's new table.
Scott and Chris built the majority of the house
themselves. After a year it's nearly finished and Scott's had enough.
"I'm sick of having to solve problems" he says. That was
the exact expression I used myself recently.
It's probably a common feeling with people who
tackle a large construction project. At first it's great to figure
out how such-and-such fits onto whatever; how to use a widget for
a different purpose by filing a piece off here, and adding a piece
there; or how to hang that bifold door in such a way that it doesn't
hit the bar fridge.
But after a while you just want to be able to
open the door and get a bloody beer.
Sat 6 Sep
Today we explore the island on a motorbike.
When we first viewed a street map of the area
it looked as though the entire island was covered with roads. In
fact there's not that many, at least not in the normal sense of
the word "road".
A very large proportion of the street signs point
to half-formed dirt tracks. Some even point into virgin bush.
Maybe the local council gets paid according to
how many street signs they've erected.
There's also been a sense of humour at work here.
One street, no more than twenty yards long, and barely wide enough
to ride a bicycle down, is called Sunset Boulevard.
Years ago I remember a real estate scam whereby
many people from down south bought land sight-unseen, only to find
that the "land" was in fact immersed in seawater twice
I think an expression being bandied around at
the time was that someone "bought one acre, of which two acres
was under water".
Well it seems that this all happened right here,
on Russell Island. That may explain the large number of vacant lots
with water frontage.
Sun 7 Sep
We spend the morning messing about in boats. Scott has to do some
maintenance on his 34' Clipper which is moored just offshore in
front of the house.
After that I make a gadget that will allow me
to create proper 360-degree panoramic photos. Then I discover that
the small 12v battery that drives the winches is making a strange
I climb under the truck and find that the battery
is quite hot. I remove it, top up the water, clean the terminals,
and replace it.
Later, after dinner and a few games of pool, we
return to the truck to find that the lights are dim, the 12v system
is down to 9.5v, and there's about 10 amps being drawn from the
main battery bank.
I climb under the truck once again and disconnect
the 12v battery. It's obviously developed an internal short circuit.
Of course there's no battery shops on the island,
so I'll have to take the barge over to Australia (as the locals
call the mainland) to get one.
Tue 9 Sep
Today I need to get a replacement battery but you don't just drive
down the street to your neighbourhood battery shop when on a small
The next barge leaves at 10:50, it takes over
an hour to reach the mainland. Then I have to ride into Capalaba
to buy the battery, and back again just in time to catch the 1:15
barge back to the island.
Just after 2PM I finally get back.
It's certainly an idyllic lifestyle here, especially
if you're into boating. But you pay for it. That's over three hours
to buy a battery, plus the cost of the barge fare.
NOTE: The barge fees are $11.50 per metre. That's
$138 for our motorhome and usually around $50 for a car.
As the sun sets I wander along the shore looking
Some picturesque sights along the shore.
And some not-so-picturesque sights along the shore
Wed 10 Sep
It's high tide and Scott wants to take the boat for a spin to blow
the cobwebs out. As there's no jetty, it's much better to go out
to the boat at high tide, so you don't have to schluck through the
We just drive the boat "around the block",
or around Karragarra Island, and back to its mooring.
It's good fun and Chris has been pushing to buy
a boat for a while. I wonder if we can A-frame one of these babies
behind the truck.
We spend most of the the remaining day helping
with some of the finishing work on the house.
Later in the afternoon Scott's cat gets into a
fight. It's obviously a bit shaken, and maybe even hurt, so it hides
under the neighbour's house, and cannot be coaxed out.
Scott is thinking that it may need to go to a
vet, but once again, we're on an island, there is no vet. If the
cat does need medical attention it'll be a one-hour barge trip,
plus a drive, at the least. That's of course as long as it's not
too late, and the barges have stopped running for the night.
As I said before, it's idyllic here, but you pay
Fri 12 Sep
We leave the island today. It's been great to stay with our friends
and it's very restful here, but the road calls, as it has a thousand
The other day we booked on the barge and the only
vacancy for the entire day was the 4:40. This will put us back on
the mainland at about 6, too late to be heading off on the highway,
so we plan to camp in the carpark at the barge jetty.
We get to the barge ramp very early because I
want to be first in the queue. This should mean that, as a heavy
vehicle, we go directly onto the barge and straight to the other
end with no messing around.
Waiting for the barge. Note the "no living in temporary
accommodation" sign. Still there's nothing temporary about
Wothahellizat, we plan to have it for years
It's a good plan, which works right up to the
time it's put into action.
NOTE: The approach ramps to the barges
can be very steep, and they are met by equally steep ramps lowered
from the barge.
The result is a deep V-shaped culvert
that will cause grief to most motorhomes with low clearance and/or
The approach to the barge. It doesn't look that steep, but vehicles
with low clearances would have trouble
The barge is early so we sit patiently at the
front of the queue. Eventually the deck hand drops the rope and,
while not actually waving us on, sort of looks at us, implying in
my mind that we should drive on.
We move off along the jetty and the other vehicles
follow. Half way down he indicates that we should stop, then runs
up and says that he needs to get a car on first. "Which one?"
I ask. "Doesn't matter, any car".
Of course nobody can get past us, so we all have
He singles out a car and it drives through. Then
he instructs me to drive onto the barge and park on the left-hand
Based on how I've seen them load these barges,
I'm sure we should be in the middle, but hey, waddoo I know.
I park on the left.
I've no sooner killed the engine when the captain
comes down from the wheel house.
"I'll need to put you in the middle",
Bloody hell!. He goes to the rear of the truck
and waves me back. I can't see down the side of the truck, and to
confuse matters I'm looking directly into the sun.
The offside wheel hub hits a pipe. I hope it's
not an important pipe, because I'm sure it's the same one I hit
on the trip over the other day.
We eventually get squared away and settle in for
People are always asking us if the truck floats! Here's proof, it does.
Taking on more vehicles at Lamb (or possibly Macleay I've
Heading towards the mainland, the smaller and faster passenger
ferry can be seen ahead
At around six we dock, and Wothahellizat gets
it's feet back on dry land. We drive into the car park and settle
in for the night.
Sat 13 Sep
Early this morning we ride over to see Tony & Tricia. They're
on the verge of hitting the road full time, and paid us a visit
in Caboolture a few weeks ago.
At that time they didn't own any mobile accommodation,
but they've just taken delivery of an enormous 5th wheeler, and
we'd like to see it.
When we get to their place we find the "Montana"
shoehorned into the narrow driveway. It certainly looks big, but
we're both blown away when we get inside.
I swear that it's bigger inside than out. With
two slide-outs, and a ten-foot ceiling, this thing just looks huge.
They've had it imported from the US, and Aussie
regulations demand that a door be fitted to the left side. All this
is done by a company in Ballarat.
Tricia has to go to work, and we have to be on
our way, so it's only a short visit. Hopefully we'll meet them on
I've often thought that 5th wheelers are the best
of both worlds (ie. caravan and motorhome). They are as large and
as stable as a motorhome, are more easily reversed than a caravan,
and you have a vehicle to gad around in.
The only thing I don't like is the inability to
get from cab to home without going outside.
We return to the truck and, after a short drive
around some back roads, we reach the M1 and turn south towards the
The motorway is eight lanes for the majority of
the trip, then drops to six, and finally to four, before turning
back into the old highway, just south of Currumbin.
At Banora Point we turn off the highway and park
near another friend's, Vicki. As is the case with most of our friends
we can't park in their driveway, so we find a spot behind a local
facility, getting permission from the owners.
I've known Vicki since forever, and we go over
some old times with the help of a few drinks. Kaleb and Erin (Vicki's
teenage kids) are both very musical which I guess is not surprising
because Vicki used to be in a band and Peter, the kid's father who
died a few years ago, was a very accomplished guitar player.
It seems that music is in the family's genes,
Kaleb very skilfully plays an Eric Clapton number for us.
Sun 14 Sep
A fairly relaxing day with a picnic at the beach.
Nice-looking daisies and coastal scenery near Kingscliff
Mon 15 Sep
Vicki has a broken ironing board and an old bed that's too large
for the recyclers to pick up.
Sounds like a job for Rob the handyman.
We brought the ironing board down to the truck
last night, so this morning I weld the broken part.
Welding the ironing board
Then we cart the board and assorted tools up to
the house and cut the old bed into three pieces.
It's all easy enough if you have the tools, but
if Vicki had to get a tradesman to do these jobs it would cost a
Tue 16 Sep
Finally, after several weeks, I'm going to see the Terminator 3
We've borrowed a "frequent viewers"
card so we'll get in cheap, and sussed out where the local cinema
is, now all that needs to be done is ring the cinema to get the
They have a 1300 number but of course this doesn't
work with mobile phones, so after some ado we find them in the CD
phone book and I dial.
"Just ringing to see what times Terminator
3 is showing" I say, "Oh Terminator 3's been and gone"
is the reply.
Add another movie to the growing "movies
I've missed" list, a list that includes every movie released
in the past ten years.
Wed 17 Sep
I thank our hosts who've kindly let us stay in their grounds then,
at about 10, we break camp and make our way to the highway.
The day is spent driving towards Grafton where
we are visiting still more friends.
There's been vast improvements in the roads around
here since my last visit. The highway is still largely two-lane
but the surface is new and there's plenty of overtaking lanes.
The worst section is probably around Brunswick
It seems that the NSW police are getting serious
about speeding, every few kilometres there's a sign about the use
of speed cameras etc.
One of the most common signs asks "How fast
are you going now?". Not very fast as it happens, and thanks
for rubbing it in.
I planned to stay at a rest area I remembered
near Maclean, but we arrive to find that it's been upgraded to a
visitor information centre with a pokey little car park and a "no
We continue to Cowper and cross the river into
Brushgrove, where we camp in the town common.
Tomorrow we'll go into Grafton to stay with some
All this visiting is getting quite exhausting
Thu 18 Sep
I met Bob & Jackie when I lived in Grafton in the late 70s,
and helped with the renovation of their house.
Twenty-five years later they're still renovating.
I accuse Bob of being a serial renovator, to which he pleads guilty.
Sat 20 Sep
Bob and I spend a large part of the day shooting the bad guys on
his "Blackhawk Down" computer game.
I haven't played a computer game since the original
"Space Invaders" so I'm a little rusty, but soon get the
hang of it.
At about midnight we're a bit bleary-eyed and
call it quits. I return to the truck (parked outside on the street)
to find that Chris has had visitors.
Apparently some of the locals youths were banging
the side of the truck. They must have thought it was empty, because
when she opened a shutter and yelled at them to "GO AWAY"
(or words to that affect) they bolted.
Sun 21 Sep
We leave Grafton this morning and continue south.
We decide to drive on the back road to Coffs Harbour,
via the small town of Glenreagh. Apart from preferring the quieter
country road, I have ulterior motives for this choice of route.
About twenty-odd years ago I spent the day photographing
the railway station at Glenreagh. At the time the station was active,
and there was much talk about restoring the nearby line to Dorrigo
as a historical train ride for the tourists. To populate the restored
line, a lot of rolling stock and steam engines were to be brought
up from Newcastle.
I expected that, by now, the station would be
a bustling centre for historical train buffs.
Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I
discover that, not only has nothing been done, but that the station
is no longer used, and has fallen into ruin.
There is a small amount of rolling stock on the
siding, in a decrepit state, but the station's platform has been
demolished and all the associated buildings are in a very bad state.
In apparent contradiction the the state of the
facility, a rather weather beaten sign at the entrance declares
that the site is to be renovated over the next three years.
Some of the buildings at the Glenreagh Station.
A motley collection of rolling stock...
...and old machinery.
Looking down the tracks towards the station. On the left is
the scene as it is today, on the right as it was twenty years
ago. See a page with both
photos side-by-side (opens a new browser window).
We move on, eventually camping in a rest area
south of Coffs Harbour.
I have literally just finished the above paragraphs
when a Harley look-alike motorbike pulls up. The rider is a Glenreagh
local who saw us drive through town a few hours ago.
Apparently his wife said "What's that"
as we drove through town, (I did inform him of the correct pronunciation
for the truck's name).
Apart from discussing the truck, we talked about
the railway station. He informs me that there is another shed further
down the line, and that they have enough track to run short trips
on a "trike" before long.
As to the station renovation?, he reckons it will
be another ten years before that happens.
Mon 22 Sep
Today is a fairly lazy day, we do drive, but only for a couple of
I'm finding this east-coast driving to be more
stressful than I'm used to. What with the hills, the winding roads,
and the incredible amount of traffic, it's not much fun.
Admittedly there are quite a lot of overtaking
lanes which help.
At about four we pull into a rest area just north
of Taree. It's a large area and there's already a motorhome in residence,
so we park at the other end.
We do this for various reasons, firstly, we like
our space and don't like being too close to other campers; secondly,
most other campers feel the same; and thirdly, there's a chance
the other camper will turn on a generator.
And sure enough, shortly after we arrive, we hear
the distant purr of a generator.
We park as far as possible from the original occupants of the rest area
Tue 23 Sep
At 5:30 we wake, and because there is nothing else to do we drive.
And we drive, and we drive, until about 2PM, when we figure we've
had enough and decide to stop at the last rest area before Sydney.
I've never tackled Sydney traffic with the truck
before, and think that a good night's sleep might be in order before
Unfortunately there is no signage for the rest
area in question, and before we can react we've shot past the entrance.
Between here, and the frenetic city traffic at
Hornsby, there's nothing but divided, no-exit freeway. It looks
like we're going to "do" Sydney today, like it or not.
At 2:30 we enter the hustle and bustle and proceed
along the "Cumberland Highway". I use the quotes because
there's really isn't any highway. The Sydney authorities have pulled
the same trick that their London counterparts did years ago.
It's very simple really. You identify a "ring
road" to bypass the city, and you show this road in blue on
the map in such a manner as to appear as though there's a nice big
In fact the ring road is the same old crappy road
that's been there for 50 years, it's just got a new name.
Why didn't they follow the Parisian's example,
the Peripheral really is a motorway that circles the city, and makes
it easy to get from one side to the other.
Anyway it's not too bad, unless you break down,
as has an elderly lady we encounter at about the half way mark.
The road has high walls on both sides, there is nowhere for her
As the traffic banks up and squeezes into the
two remaining lanes, the poor old dear simply stands there, hands
under her chin as if in prayer, and waits for help (which hopefully
is on its way). My first though is to stop and, if not actually
get the car going, at least give her someone to talk to. But to
stop the truck at that point will only make matters worse.
I hope things turn out all right for her.
Forty-five kilometres, and an hour and a half
after leaving one freeway, we're free again and on another, heading
All in all it went well, with me concentrating
on the driving and Chris navigating, we had no hassles or arguments,
not even a raised voice.
Within a few minutes we see a truck broken down
on the freeway shoulder. As we pass Chris says that he looks like
he needs help.
I stop and walk back. The truckie and I meet half
way, "Need a hand?" I ask. "I could do with a block
of wood for the jack", he says, "but it's all right, the
tyre people are on their way...so, you're on your way back to Canberra
eh?, still got the Perkins in that?".
Bloody hell, is there anyone in Australia that
doesn't know about Wothahellizat?
We finally pull into a rest area at 5:40, that's
over twelve hours driving with only two short stops, and including
a stretch through the city traffic.
I'm pooped, it's definitely beer o'clock.
Wed 24 Sep
Once again we're up in the wee hours, 4AM this time, and once again
we have nothing to do, so Chris finds something.
She notices that there's about 5 amps being drawn
from the batteries. We normally have a 2-amp draw for the fridge,
but what's causing the other 3 amps?
I start disconnecting everything, one at a time,
to isolate the cause. Eventually I decide that it's a problem in
the right battery bank, when isolated it's voltage drops to 22.5.
I lift the floor to investigate and find that
one of the battery terminals is touching the metal hold-down. Ooops.
Problem fixed, and, inadvertently I fix another
For about three days the rear-vision camera has
been flickering, to the point where it's unusable. I've prodded
and poked, even swapped monitors, but could not determine the fault.
Yet, as we leave the rest area I notice that the
image is stable on the monitor. I can think of no direct connection,
because the monitors run from a different power source, but the
touching battery terminal must have cause a disturbance in "the
force" that affected the monitor.
And, in another aside, as I said I swapped the
rear vision monitor with the one we use for security inside the
house. They are the same, with one small exception, the rear view
monitor has it's image reversed so it looks as you would expect
in a rear vision mirror.
The security monitor's image is not flipped, and
now I see cars approach from behind then appear to overtake me on
the wrong side. It's very unnerving, and the reason a rear vision
system should have a reversed image.
At around 2PM we go to pull into one of our favourite
spots on the banks of Lake Burliegh Griffin, Canberra's focal point,
only to find that it's been bollarded off. Another good camp site
succumbs to the ubiquitous bollard. We move to another site on the
other side of the lake, so far this spot has escaped the bureaucrats
bollard, but it can only be a matter of time.
The weather is just terrible, a howling gale that
makes it very unpleasant outside, and difficult to ride the motorbike.
We haven't seen weather like this since...hmmm,
since last time we were in Canberra.
I must say we're starting to look back on our
time in the north and north-west with longing eyes.
The east coast, with it's hoards of people, it's
frantic traffic, it's bad roads, and it's bollards, is, for our
money, just not the place to be.
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