2 Jan 2001
Well here we go, our first real trip. We
have some relatives over from England (Anna & Mike, Chris' sister
and brother-in-law) for a while so we decided to combine the first
shakedown trip with showing "the poms" a bit more of Aus.
I worked frantically to get the rig in order for
the trip as many temporary things had to be constructed, ie. a rear
door and a futon bed to make the rig a four berth.
Eventually, at about 5pm we set off. I drove 'till
2am next morning finally crashing (oops, bad choice of words) in
Robertson, at the top of the notorious Macquarie pass.
3 Jan 2001
Macquarie pass, the very name will
send a shiver down a motorhomers spine. Apart from the fact that
it's extremely steep there's a switchback that I've never heard
of anyone getting around in one go.
We edge down the pass in second with the exhaust
brake on. Chris is following in the Suzi with her hazard lights
on and I pull over every now and again to let the traffic pass.
I hit the switchback and found myself without time to get a good
line on the corner. I had to reverse four times to get around, thank
god we don't have a trailer.
Half an hour later, just as I was congratulating
myself on doing the pass without using my brakes, there's a small
noise and I find myself freewheeling towards a rock face.
This is why you have exhaust brakes, if you use
your normal brakes constantly they can overheat (hydraulic brakes
that is) and fade so when the time comes that you really need them,
they don't work.
Fortunately, as I said, I hadn't been using my
brakes so I stopped easily. We thought of all sorts of worst case
scenarios, including a broken clutch, but I got Chris to look under
the truck while I let the clutch out. The tailshaft from the gearbox
turned so it must be something in the transfer case.
I tried six-wheel-drive and the truck moved so
I figured something was broken in the transfer case, at least we
could drive on the front axle.
For the rest of the trip we drove in six-wheel-drive
thinking we were running on the front axle. I was burnt out on working
and could not face crawling under the truck to work on the transfer
case, I just wanted to relax, do absolutely nothing, and leave the
worry until I got home. As it happens, when I finally looked into
the problem I discovered that the transfer case had simply jumped
I've had this happen to me before so should have
twigged but I guess I was expecting problems on this first trip
and so immediately assumed the worst.
Looking back it's interesting to think that we
did several hundred k's on bitumen roads in six-wheel-drive with
no apparent wind up of the axles.
5 Jan 2001
We'd heard that Honeymoon Bay was
a nice spot so I booked in a week or so ago. It's a ballot system
over the Xmas holidays but I guess there was a cancellation because
we got straight into what must have been the best spot in the park.
I had told the ranger how big the truck was when
I booked but I guess some people have to see it. When we arrived
at the ranger station they nearly had a heart attack. Eventually
they escorted us to the camping area and we fitted in with room
Fig 1. The truck and Suzuki at
We spent several days here, it's a magic spot
(on the Beecroft peninsular, near Nowra). Our only problem being
that it was a nice shady spot, and we rely on solar for power. After
about three days of shade, overcast weather and two fridges constantly
being opened, we relented and drove into town to buy a generator.
We had always planned to get a small Honda as
a backup for just such occasions but didn't really want to spend
the money on this trip. Not to worry, we've got it now.
8 Jan 2001
After Honeymoon Bay we drove to Kiama, a
quaint little fishing town on the coast below Wollongong. For the
first time in years I got to spend some time early in the mornings
just ambling around with a camera. Below are some of the results,
nothing special but OK for holiday snaps.
Fig 2. Some scenics of the Kiama
We didn't realize when we set up camp that the
road in front of the truck was actually the return road from the
main local tourist attraction, the Blowhole. At times we caused
traffic chaos as people spotted the truck and screeched to a halt
causing those following to give them a blast or swerve around.
Here's some shots of the truck with everything
open in the Kiama caravan park.
Fig 3. The truck set up in the
is such a great spot. You can see the view from the lounge room in the
photo below. The jetties are directly in front of the park and the town's
main street only about five minutes walk away.
Fig 4. The view from the lounge
the day we checked out we had to wait a few hours to put Anna &
Mike on the train so I moved the truck onto the breakwater.
Fig 5. The truck rests amongst
12 Jan 2001
After leaving Kiama we drove north to Wollongong
then up Mt Ousley to the Hume highway. We then left the highway
and detoured to Bundanoon as I remembered that the Morton National
Park there was a nice place.
On entering the park we drove straight
past the information board and down the dirt track. We came to a
fork in the road with a sign indicating that there was a picnic
area 850m down the left-hand fork.
Reasoning that a picnic area would
probably be nice and open I followed that route.
The track got narrower and more overgrown.
We seemed to have driven for ever when we reached a sharp left-hand
corner with a lookout and a 1000ft drop on the right. I managed
to heave the truck around the corner and considered stopping but
the adjacent car park was barely large enough for the following
Suzuki, let alone the truck.
Another sign said that the picnic
area was now 1.6k away ???
The track got even narrower and even
After much getting out to check tree
height, and scraping sounds from the roof, we finally reached the
picnic area...RIGHT AT THE PARK ENTRANCE. We had driven straight
past it over an hour ago.
I got onto the roof to survey any
damage. We had picked up some largish tree boughs, and sustained
some collateral damage, but all-in-all we came out of it quite well.
Fig 6. Debris on the roof after
a narrow fire trail.
Fig 7. Close up of the damage.
These roof panels are actually
the tropical roof and walkway, they are designed to be sacrificial
and in no way affect the waterproofness of the real roof underneath.
We had lunch then headed for Canberra.
Overall we were very happy with
the performance of the truck, both on the road and as a home,
especially as there were four of us living in it on this trip
and there will usually be only two.