GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: Untitled


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 into neutral.

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 to spare.

Fig 1. The truck and Suzuki at Honeymoon Bay.

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 jetty.

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 caravan park.

This 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 room.

On 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 lesser vehicles.

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 more overgrown.

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.