GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: Living on the Road :: Chronicles

the GRAYnomad Chronicles

The GRAYnomad chronicles are published bi-occasionally, their target audience is people like me, or at least like I was, that is, baby boomers who are thinking of making a seachange, a treechange — or as I prefer to call it, a freechange — and need some ideas on what's out there and what's involved in this lifestyle.

But even if you've already taken the plunge, maybe you can relate to what we're doing and get a laugh from some of the things that happen around us.

Rob Gray (AKA the GRAYnomad) spent the 80s and most of the 90s as a mild-mannered computer nerd, and in the naughties returned to photography.

In 1997, while on a camping trip to Frazer Island and Carnarvon Gorge, Rob, and his wife Chris, decided that they were sick of computing and that a change was in order. The seeds were sown, and four years later they had grown into a 34-foot motorhome (Wothahellizat Mk1) that Rob and Chris used to hit the road.

Rob was also an itinerant, globe-trotting photographer during the 70s, a career sparked by the purchase of his first camera in Panama in 1972. Over the years he photographed just about everything from cheetahs in Africa, through disaster victims in Australia, to lemon slices in London.

Rob and Chris are now retired and split their time between traveling around Australia looking for images, and setting up a homestead on land in central Queensland. Rob shoots mainly wildlife and landscapes these days, but also likes general pictorial work.

Rob has used all formats of camera over the years, from large format sheet film to digital, but currently works entirely with digital equipment.

"Wothahellizat" is a 48-year-old army truck. Rob and Chris bought the truck in 1997 and spent three years turning it into Australia's largest and weirdest off-road motor home. Then in 2007/8 they rebuild it into a smaller version (Wothahellizat Mk2).

It's from the deck of this vehicle (yes a patio folds out from the back) that most of this diary was written, a 14-tonne editor's desk!

Wothahellizat is fully self contained with enough food and water storage to spend weeks in the bush. It's six-wheel-drive with good clearances, so quite able to handle the rough stuff. However at over 3m high and 8m long there are a lot of places it doesn't fit, so we have two mountain bikes, a trail bike, a Suzuki Jimny 4x4 and a Landcruiser 75-series 4x4 as well.

That said the truck has retired as well these days and is enjoying a well-earned rest in the sun next to our house, with its 10 solar panels augmenting the house's off-grid system. Future trips will be done with the Landcruiser.

02 Jan 23 — 28 Mar 23

I start building the Great Hall of the People. (Slight overlap with issue #98)

24 Nov 22 — 17 Jan 23

I have a new partner.

09 Sep 22 — 16 Nov 22

Life goes on.

09 Aug 22 — 08 Sep 22

Buying a lot of tools, some retail therapy is required to take my mind off things.

18 Jun 22 — 11 Aug 22

Still trying to keep myself busy by building a workshop extension and buying stuff.

13 May 22 — 15 Jun 22

Life goes on, I'm building, cooking, and gardening to keep myself busy.

27 Apr 22 — 10 May 22

My wife of 42 years dies.

18 Feb 22 — 25 Apr 22

Wicking beds, batteries, floods, and the new Zen garden.

02 Jan 22 — 07 Feb 22

A lot of photography, paving, gardening and moving big rocks.

30 Nov 21 — 29 Dec 21

After two years Covid finally has a small effect on me, but mostly I spend a lot of time driving around taking photos.

12 Aug 21 — 21 Nov 21

A lot more solar added, snakes evicted, lantana cleared, and I use the camper for the first time.

22 Mar 21— 03 Aug 21

Growing pumpkins, I score 80 sheets of corro and get back into some electronics and photography, then get a new chainsaw.

04 Jan 21 — 07 Mar 21

I finally start on the Cruiser's camper fitout.

04 Dec 20 — 23 Dec 20

More track making, I start adding more solar panels, and the house nearly gets hit by lightning. Also embedded videos return.

13 Sep 20 — 28 Nov 20

I get back into track making and for a while we think we might have a buyer for the truck. That seems to have fallen through but at least it causes me to tidy the old girl up and fix a few things. Also I make a start on a major upgrade to our solar system.

14 Aug 20 — 06 Sep 20

I spend a lot of time in and on the workshop, plus hone my tree-felling skills.

07 Jul 20 — 13 Aug 20

Making, making, building and more making. I guess that's what I do these days but I know at least one person my age that seems to have given up "doing stuff". I hope I never get to that point.

04 May 20 — 08 Jul 20

Man am I getting stuff tidied up around here, with many projects aimed at getting junk off the floor and out of the yard and onto proper storage shelves. Plus I make a start on an animal-proof enclosure for a future garden.

20 Apr 20 — 03 May 20

Here we are in COVID lockdown. Waddever, all the same to us, I just keep building stuff.

02 Jan 20 — 10 Apr 20

Just working on getting the workshop up to scratch, and generally getting ourselves better prepared for things.

07 Oct 19 — 28 Dec 19

I get a bit more into some photography, make new sideboards for the trailer and add a few external taps around the house.

29 Aug 19 — 06 Oct 19
Working on and in the workshop and I think I can feel a life re-invention coming on. Plus I've given up looking for a job, there's really no point.

24 May 19 — 24 Aug 19
The house is finished (again), well at least it's at lockup stage. I also briefly return to the working world.

13 Jan 19 — 12 May 19
The house is finished, at last.

22 Sep 18 — 31 Dec 18
More building but at least the house is almost finished.

30 Sep 17— 18 Aug 18
STILL building the house, yes I know, but we keep thinking of other things to add. The workshop is coming along well also.

19 Jun 17— 20 Sep 17
Still building the house, well I pretty much though I'd finished but have decided to extend a bit and add more roof, what can I say, that's what I do.

28 Dec 15 — 13 Jun 17
Still building the house, although that's pretty much finished and I am spending a lot of time on the workshop now. Plus we are getting rignt into clearing the scrub from our land.

07 Dec 14 — 07 Dec 15
Building the shipping container house.

21 Nov 13 — 17 Nov 14
Not a lot happening until recently, but things are on the move, not literally as we aren't going anywhere for some time, but we are starting to get things done around the place, like starting to build a house from shipping containers

24 Dec 12 — 13 Nov 13
We leave the block for a while to look after some friend's property while they are away. While there we spend much more than we should on new toys. Then back to the block where we sit and basically do nothing except spend more money :(

04 Jul 12 — 23 Dec 12
We are now parked on our land and it's good to be back, but we sure have our work cut out for us as the grass and lantana (a really obnoxious weed) has gone berserk in our absence.

14 Dec 11 — 03 Jul 12
Finally back east, plenty of places to go, things to see and and people to do...or was it the other way around? We finally get back to our land in central QLD.

28 Sep 11 — 13 Dec 11
We head back down through the goldfields and across the Nullarbor.

28 Jun 11 — 27 Sep 11
Some lazy time on the Pilbara coast, well near the Pilbara coast at least.

31 May 11 — 13 Jun 11
Two weeks with some photo mates, much of which is spent walking in the Karijini NP. Then we're done with the central Pilbara for the time being so it's back over towards the coast.

28 Dec 10— 30 May 11
Heading up the Great Northern Highway to the Pilbara. Then we spend a month in and near the fantastic Karijini National Park.

03 Oct 10 — 27 Dec10
Moving pretty fast (for us) we get all the way down the coast and into Perth.

23 Aug 10 — 02 Oct 10
We finally get back into WA and start moving down the coast.

01 Jul 10 — 22 Aug 10
More birds but just for a change this time we're sitting next to a river, well you do have to have a little variety in life eh?

08 Jun 10 — 30 Jun 10
More birds and more billabongs as we head west towards Western Australia.

22 Apr 10 — 07 Jun 10
Still heading north but we spend more time sitting by a couple of billabongs at Winton and Camooweal.

17 Mar 10 — 21 Apr 10
We drive north, spending several weeks just hanging around rivers and dodging floods.

31 Jan 10 — 16 Mar 10
Camping at Blowering Reservoir then with friends at Tocumwal on the Murray.

11 Nov 09 — 31 Jan 10
We hang out in one of the nicest spots around, the Yaouk (pron. yi-ack) valley.

14 Oct 09 — 09 Nov 09
A ten-day walk in the Budawang wilderness, followed by spending some time in our old home town, Canberra.

04 Sep 09 — 13 Oct 09
We finally hit the road and drive south to Canberra, visiting many friends along the way until we reach a spot just outside the Budawang Ranges where we prepare for the walk. I also finally get back into some real photography.

08 May 09 — 03 Sep 09
Still on our land in the bush near Gin Gin and have many friends drop in to stay. We start converting the Jimny for camping and generally getting ready to hit the road for real.

11 Feb 09 — 17 Apr 09
We spend time relaxing on our land in the bush near Gin Gin.

08 Nov 08 — 29 Jan 2009
Finally back on the road. After a brief visit to Brisbane we head back north for some R&R on our land.

Apr 07 7 Nov 08
Chronicles suspended for 18 months while I build Wothahellizat Mk2
Wothahellizat Mk2 construction diaries

And if you haven't been there before here's the story about building Wothahellizat Mk1
Wothahellizat Mk1 construction diaries

28 Aug 06 31 Mar 07
We swap our phone to NextG and decide to build a new motorhome.

28 Jul 06 11 Aug 06
We continue sauntering in the general direction of home, but it's too cold so we make a run for the coast and finally get home after three months Living in the Cruiser.

23 Jul 06 27 Jul 06
Seventh and final part of our 4x4 trip in which we cross the Simpson Desert.

11 Jul 06 22 Jul 06
Sixth part of our 4x4 trip. Featuring the Gunbarrel Highway and crossing through the centre back into Northern Territory and up to Chambers Pillar.

22 Jun 06 10 Jul 06
Fifth part of our 4x4 trip. The Pilbara including the fantastic Karijini national park.

13 Jun 06 21 Jun 06
Fourth part of our 4x4 trip, where we continue along the Gibb River road and explore the many gorges this part of the Kimberley has on offer.

03 Jun 06 12 Jun 06
Third part of our 4x4 trip, Mitchell Falls and Port Warrender, one of the remotest parts of the Kimberley.

23 May 06 02 Jun 06
Second part of our 4x4 trip, featuring the Bungle Bungles and into the Kimberley.

03 May 06 22 May 06
First part of our three-month 4x4 trip in to some very remote places.

31 Jan 06 02 May 06
Preparing the Cruiser for our Kimberley trip. Visiting friends in the Brisbane area. In front of the TV cameras again.

19 Dec 05 30 Jan 06
We just sit on the block at Gin Gin, smelling the roses and enjoying not having to do anything.

28 Oct 05 18 Dec 05
We are dragged, kicking and screaming, back into the world of bureaucracy, forms, and red tape.

20 Oct 05 27 Oct 05
My Dad dies.

20 Apr 05 17 Oct 05
We work at the gold mine, I also get another job installing a huge irrigation system.

04 Apr 05 15 Apr 05
In which we drive north, heading to our job on the Tyrconnell gold mine.

06 Dec 04 04 Apr 05
We stay in Bundaberg for a while then spend three months with friends on the Gold Coast. We buy a 4x4 and do a lot of work on it. The truck gets new shoes.

20 Aug 04 13 Oct 04
The third diary covering our time in the West MacDonnell ranges, then over into Queensland.
10 Aug 04 20 Aug 04
The second diary covering our time in the West MacDonnell ranges, near Alice Springs.
15 Jul 04 09 Aug 04
The first diary covering our time in the West MacDonnell ranges, near Alice Springs.

08 Jul 04 14 Jul 04
Watarrka (or Kings Canyon as it's better known) is also a great place. You could spend some time here, which of course is what we did.

13 Jun 04 07 Jul 04
Uluru and Kata Tjuta, Australia's outback heart is a fantastic place to visit.

24 May 94 12 Jun 04
It's raining and all dirt roads are closed, so we make our way up the Stuart Hwy to the Northern Territory.

28 Apr 04 23 May 04
Back on the mainland. We spend some time, and not a little money, in Melbourne, then make our way to the Flinders ranges.

14 Mar 04 27 Apr 04
The north east of of Tassie is called the "break o day" region. It's an area of remote beaches and forests, we stick to the beaches, then return to the mainland.

15 Feb 04 13 Mar 04
We head up into the mountains, but it's too cold for our thin blood, so we return to Friendly Beaches and the east coast.

03 Jan 04 14 Feb 04
We leave Hobart and spend time in the midlands and the west coast.

15 Nov 03 31 Dec 03
We spend a lot of time in Hobart while I work on the Tarkine photos. Then it's up to Freycinet, and down to the Tasman Peninsula.

25 Oct 03 09 Nov 03
Two weeks in the Tarkine Wilderness.
27 Sep 03 24 Oct 03
We finally catch the ferry to Tasmania.
30 Aug 03 24 Sep 03
Down the crowded east coast we drive. Most of our time is spent visiting friends, and freezing our tails off.
14 May 03 26 Aug 03
Quick drive back to Bundaberg to stay with my Dad. We stay in Queensland working on the truck and hiding from the cold.
17 Apr 03 13 May 03
Esperance, Cape le Grand, then across the Nullarbor to the Eyre Peninsular.
15 Feb 03 16 Apr 03
We camp in the tall timber territory around Pemberton, then, for a change, in an abandoned industrial area of Albany.
01 Feb 03 14 Feb 03
The south west of WA, surely one of the great areas of Australia.
13 Dec 02 31 Jan 03
We stay in Fremantle/Perth.
28 Oct 02 11 Dec 02
The Blowholes at Carnarvon, fixing the truck at Geraldton. We reach Perth.
23 Sep 02 27 Oct 02
WA north coast, Broome, Pt Hedland, Exmouth, Ningaloo.
09 Sep 02 22 Sep 02
Bungle Bungles (Purnululu NP), Broome.
24 Aug 02 09 Sep 02
Leave Darwin, Keep River NP, Kununurra, Wyndham.
24 Jun 02 23 Aug 02
Darwin, Litchfield National Park.
03 Jun 02 21 Jun 02
Longreach, Kynuna, Mt Isa, Camooweal, Mataranka.
05 May 02 02 Jun 02
Emerald, Sapphire, Rubyvale, Alpha, Barcaldine, CMCA rally.
14 Apr 02 04 May 02
Cania and Carnarvon Gorges, Biloela, gearbox brakes, Baralaba.
11 Mar 02 03 Apr 02
Leave Caboulture, Cooroy, Noosa NP, Tin Can Bay, Bundaberg, Mt Walsh NP.
06 Nov 01 10 Mar 02
Bundaberg, fixing truck in Caboulture.
25 Oct 01 04 Nov 01
Brisbane, boating on Morton Bay.

10 Sep 01 24 Oct 01
CMCA Canberra rally, we leave the workshop and finally hit the road, along the Murray, up through central NSW.

25 Jun 01

Interior nearly done. Meet Caravan & Motorhome Mag at Lake George.

10 Jun 01
Short trial runs. Nearly ready to go.

Jul 97 Apr 01

This blog really started with the documentation of the Wothahellizat Mk1 construction.

Wothahellizat Mk1 construction diaries