GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #035



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 acronyms.

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 elsewhere.

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 2005

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 ago.

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 as Wothahellizat.

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 Rockhampton.

Wed 6 Apr 2005

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 the problem.

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 get help.

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 2005

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 2005

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 2005

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 2005

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 it".

Having eaten a snack and discussed air conditioning we go to move off. I say "go to" because the Cruiser won't start, again.

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 anywhere.

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 starts.

 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 night.

 A great spot near a babbling brook.

Mon 11 Apr 2005

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 a landline.

Tue 12 Apr 2005

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 2005

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 2005

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 report.

"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 machine.

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 functions.

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 2005

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 Cruiser.

 The old mine office and single mens quarters are now Kate and Andy's home

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 months.


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