When deciding to purchase another
vehicle, ie. the Landcruiser, I admit I was of two minds.
In many respects it would be great to have a car, but we've
done just fine so far with only a motorbike.
And then there's the extra maintenance,
what if the car is unreliable?
Well during the course of this
chronicle the car has indeed been quite unreliable. Fortunately
I've been able to deal with all but one of the problems, and
the other was cheap to have fixed.
But the more things you have, the
more things can give you grief.
Time will tell if it was a good
idea, meanwhile I'm glad I don't have to ride 30k to work
on a rough dirt road carrying a week's supplies, laptop computer,
and camera equipment, on my motorbike.
I've been noticing an increase in acronyms lately, and it
leads me to ask "What is becoming of the English language?"
In fact I believe it is such a
problem that I've formed an action group to help stamp out
I originally named the group the
Society to Help Eradicate the Ridiculous Proliferation of
Acronyms, but that was too much of a mouthful, so now I just
refer to it as SHERPA.
If you want to help this worthy cause please get in touch.
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Mon 4 Apr 2005
At around 1PM we say goodbye to my dad and drive into town. Chris
heads off to do some shopping, while I go to the post office to
mail some photos. I have two sets of photos to mail, one to the
sleepy outback town of Camooweal, the other to New York. It's hard
to imagine two more different towns, in the western world at least.
I leave town and arrive at Gin Gin after an hour's
drive. This rest area was closed for a while last year which was
a shame because it's a really nice spot.
It re-opened though, apparently because of pressure
from local retailers. I heard that the town's hardware shop was
loosing $3000 a month because travelers couldn't stay in the rest
area. And I bet that the caravan park didn't see $1 of that, if
we can't stay for free, we'll just move on, and buy what we need
Chris arrives soon after me, and we settle into
our comfy chairs with drink in hand and the rumble of heavy vehicles
in the background.
Chris says, "It's good to be home",
"Yeah, wherever it is" I reply.
Tue 5 Apr
We pull over for lunch. After we've eaten someone parks behind us
and approaches. It's the owner of "Our Magic Man", a 4x4
MAN motorhome we first encountered at the Griffith rally a few years
He paid about $520,000 for the truck, and has
had all sorts of problems with it. We've been inside the vehicle,
it is lovely, but soooo expensive, and in most ways not as good
The only real advantage they have is the new truck,
although that's obviously no insurance against trouble. He's had
the suspension replaced twice.
He's nearly 70 now and has dropped anchor nearby
on a block of land. "I wish I'd started life on the road a
lot earlier" he says.
Moving along we camp at a spot we know just outside
Wed 6 Apr
We make an early start and are doing well until the Cruiser breaks
down. Chris has just passed me when the engine dies. Assuming she
has run out of gas she immediately swaps to petrol, but no luck,
and she grinds to a halt at the side of the road.
We investigate and determine that there is no
spark coming from the coil. Fortunately we have a spare. I install
it but still no spark.
On looking deeper I find a broken wire, the one
that carries the point's signal back to the coil. Great, I've found
I fix the wire, but still no spark.
After a couple of hours I decide to go into the
nearest town, Duaringa, (which by good luck was only 4k away) and
The mechanic's name is Shorty, and he's currently
out on a job, however his wife loans me some spare parts and I return.
We swap HT (high tension) leads and generally
go over everything again, but still no spark. This is really starting
to piss me off.
The only thing left to replace is the points,
however I don't have a spare set, and anyway, when I open and close
them with a screwdriver we get a spark, surely it's not the points.
At about 2PM Shorty arrives. "These are great
old things" he says, "Can't kill 'em with a stick"..."But
there are two things that will stop them, points and condensers".
He installs a new set of points and bingo; Houston,
we have ignition.
We move into town, it's too late to continue now,
and anyway we've been told that it's OK to camp in the local park.
There's even hot showers.
Thu 7 Apr
Today was quite uneventful, just the way I like it. We reach Emerald
late in the morning, buy a couple of CD walkman gadgets so we can
both listen to music while driving, then turn north and head up
the Gregory Development road.
Fri 8 Apr
We have a late and long lunch in the truckstop at Charters Towers
("The Towers" as it's known), then leave town, continuing
north, looking for a campsite just up the road.
After about 40k Chris decides that we have somehow
missed the campsite, so we pull into a nice flat area near a creek.
Camping just north of Charters Towers, rain clouds are brewing
Sat 9 Apr
It rained heavily last night and the ground is a bit slippery this
morning. I head off first, but I only get a few hundred yards when
Chris calls me on the UHF. The Cruiser won't start.
We get the vehicle going, then continue driving north west up the
Gregory Development road.
The road is not a great stretch of tarmac at the
best of times, but for a section of about 100k it dips into the
Etheridge shire and becomes abominable.
The majority of this road is single lane, interspersed
with dual-lane sections every 10-15 kilometres. It's rough, but
not that bad. However as soon as you hit the Etheridge shire it
deteriorates into a goat track with no wide sections.
Fortunately the road veers back to the east, leaves
the Etheridge shire, and becomes quite good.
Sun 10 Apr
The road is terrible again, still we're quite happy to potter along,
any road is OK at the right speed.
We drop into the rest area at the Forty Mile Scrub
National Park, it's very pleasant, and there's a nice walk through
the rain forest.
Later we stop for morning tea. A local truckie
pulls over and eyes off the Cruiser. "I got wuna these"
he says, "tryin' to figure out how to put air condishnun on
Having eaten a snack and discussed air conditioning
we go to move off. I say "go to" because the Cruiser won't
I check all the wiring, most of which I'm on very
familiar terms with by now, but no luck. We have ignition, but not
even a click from the solenoid.
I hot-wire the starter but still no go. Looks
like a buggered starter motor. I pull it out, clean it up, and touch
it to the battery. The pinion flies out but the motor doesn't spin.
It looks like we need a new starter motor, and we're miles from
As luck would have it I just happen to have a
another starter motor in the spare parts bin.
After much ado, involving the modification of
a spanner to fit into the space between the new (larger) starter
motor and the engine block, we have it in place and the vehicle
Fixing the Cruiser in the rain. I've partially opened the deck
roof to provide some shelter.
Time for lunch.
After eating again, we head off along the terrible
one-lane road (did I mention that the road was bad?). After the
small town of Mt Garnet the road improves, and before long becomes
a wide highway.
At around 4PM we pull into a great rest area (Archer
Creek) for a cuppa. It's so nice though that we decide to stay the
A great spot near a babbling brook.
Mon 11 Apr
For the past few days we've been driving through flat, dry, savannah
country. Today, over the distance we drive in about an hour (which
is not very far), the country changed from dry savannah to green
rolling hills and rainforests.
With the mist writhing through the hills, and
the constant drizzle, it's like being in New Zealand or Tasmania.
The road has improved and is now quite good, but
the terrain is very hilly and progress is slow.
TIP: Don't even consider leaving home with an
old truck or bus before you install an exhaust brake. The feeling
of security you get from not having to use your brakes on steep
hills is worth every penny.
At around lunch time we pull into a rest area
just outside Atherton. It's still raining and we want to go into
town and explore. This would have been a no go if we still only
had the motor bike for transport, but of course it's not a problem
with the Cruiser.
About the first shop we encounter is a Telstra
shop. Now for some time we've been thinking of moving our phone
to the new CDMA 1x system which gives high speed access, 88kbps
or faster. This is roughly six times the speed we currently get
with the mobile phone, and fast enough to update the website and
send or receive emails with attachments.
While we're at it we want to be able to use a
large 7db gain broomstick aerial to increase the phone's range.
The trouble has been finding a Telstra shop that
could supply all the pieces needed.
We make it very clear that we want a data cable
and a broomstick aerial, pointing out that the only reason we haven't
made the switch already is that we can't find a shop that can supply
ALL the bits in one go.
Several times we state that we need everything
in one deal, phone, aerial, and data cable.
Yes yes, no problems, they assure us. Good, then
we'll do the deal.
After about 40 minutes going over all the options
he pulls out the forms to be filled in. "And I suppose you'll
want to buy a data cable at some time in the future" he says.
AAAAAGH! They don't have a bloody data cable.
For a while it looks like the move to CDMA 1x
is off again, but then we find a cable in another shop.
After some mucking around we finally leave the
shop with our new phone, new aerial, and new data cable.
I'm happy to report that it works beautifully,
I can now transfer data via my mobile phone at speeds faster than
Tue 12 Apr
It's still raining, but despite that, we really like the town of
Atherton and the surrounding area.
We move the truck out to Rocky Creek where camping
is allowed, about 8k north of Atherton. It's a very pleasant area
and the location of a field hospital during WW2. There's nothing
much left of the wartime facilities, but the area is set aside as
a memorial to those who passed through during the conflict.
The plaques remembering the various units that passed through
this area during the 2nd World War. This one is for the 2nd
12th, my dad's unit
At the previous campsite there were hundreds of
huge golden orb spiders in residence, their webs spanning the space
between most of the trees. As we left I directed Chris so she wouldn't
drive through any webs.
However on our arrival at Rocky Creek I notice
a large specimen clinging to the Cruiser. I place her (the big ones
are all female) on a nearby bush.
These female golden orb spiders are huge 30-40mm in body length,
the male is tiny, just a few millimetres.
Wed 13 Apr
Chris is reading the paper and notices an ad for workers on a three-month
irrigation project. I ring the business and get the receptionist.
"Just send in your resume" she said. Well I haven't applied
for a job in over 20 years; I don't have a resume, and I tell her
so. This turns out to be a good move, because then she doesn't know
what to do, and puts me through to the boss.
"Oh I don't care about resumes"
he says, "what can you do?". I tell him, and we go through
the usual banter about the job. When he asks me what I'm doing now
I reply that I'm semi-retired, but looking for some part-time work
to help make ends meet. He seemed happy, and that was that.
After I hang up though I think about the "semi-retired"
comment, hmmm, he probably thinks I'm a seventy-year-old with a
walking stick. Maybe that wasn't the best way to promote myself.
He did however suggest that I drop in, "so he can fill me in
more about the job" he said, but I think he really wanted to
check me out. I decide that dropping in would be a good idea.
We drive up to Mareeba, and I drop in.
The boss, Craig is his name, and I seem to get
on well. He has a pile of applications and, from the middle of them,
he pulls out a sheet of notes made during our previous conversation.
"Oh yeah, worked on a golf coarse...can drive a truck...been
a plumber's mate" etc etc.
"The job should start in 2-3 weeks"
he says as he places a tick on the bottom of the sheet, "I'll
put you down as a definite".
We shake hands and I leave, only then wondering
what exactly "definite" meant; I'm definitely interested;
I've definitely got the job; he'll definitely keep me in mind; there's
definitely no way he's employing me.
I don't want to ring back and ask, so I guess
I'll just wait a week or so and see if I get a call.
One thing I found interesting, and in fact it
confirms what I've heard on many an occasion, is that he wasn't
interested in placing the position with any employment agencies.
It seems that the people they send him are only interested in getting
their form signed to say that they've been for an interview, and
therefore still qualify for the dole. They don't want work, and
are just wasting everyone's time. Also, those who do wind up actually
getting a job disappear after a few days. This business, like all
others I suppose, needs reliable people who will work as required
to get the job done.
While in Mareeba we decide to have a look around.
What a difference between this town and Atherton, just 30-odd kilometres
away. Admittedly we've only been here 20 minutes, but it just doesn't
have the appeal of Atherton.
Of course the temporary police surveillance camera
set up outside the pub, and the fighting aboriginals in the main
street, may have coloured our perception a tad.
Thu 14 Apr
Yesterday we dropped our laptop into the HP service centre to have
the soundboard replaced, a simple procedure that should have seen
us with a fully functional laptop a few hours later.
Today they're still working on it, so I ring again for a progress
"We've had to order another part"
they say. Oh all right I think, maybe they need an extra wire or
something. No such luck, it seems that the computer will not start
at all, and they've had to order a new motherboard. How on earth
can that happen? The laptop went into hospital with a sore throat,
and came out in a coffin. Now I'm really pissed off, of course the
part won't be shipped until tomorrow and therefore won't get here
until Monday, by which time we'll be north of Dimbulah, 120k away.
I ring HP and lodge a complaint; in the past
three weeks we've had a dicky DVD drive, crashed hard disk, two
faulty motherboards, a faulty soundboard, and a dead battery. With
a bit of luck they'll decide to cut their losses and give us a new
At least this time I didn't lose much work, and
we now have our old laptop set up to use as a backup. The Toshiba
doesn't have the grunt to allow me to work normally, but at least
I can function to some degree. We also have the desktop set up as
a backup, so, between the two we should be able to perform most
Tomorrow we'll drive up to Dimbulah and from
there to the Tyrconnell Gold mine, meanwhile a little battery maintenance
is in order.
I access the batteries through the kitchen floor, very useful
today because I can service them without going out in the rain
Fri 15 Apr
The drive from Atherton to Dimbulah via Mareeba is quite pleasant,
being through cane fields and orchards. Soon after Dimbulah the
road turns to dirt and it's very corrugated. It takes us about two
hours to travel the last 30k.
At about 6PM we arrive at the mine. The driveway
looks very steep so we park near the entrance and drive up in the
The old mine office and single mens quarters are now Kate and
Andy and Cate (the owners) come out to meet us.
They seem nice, and invite us for dinner, but first we'll check
out our camp site.
The track down to the campground is steep, winding,
and washed out from the last wet season. There's also some low overhanging
trees. All in all we decide that it's too difficult to get down
to the campground, and anyway there's a perfectly good spot near
the entrance. It is near the road, but then there isn't much traffic
out here, and there's a large concrete pad to park on.
Andy and Cate object, not really understanding
that we are quite comfortable just about anywhere. The only problem
will be the lack of water, there's no way to fill up our tanks with
the truck out on the roadside, and we'll be here for five or six
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