Viewing entries in
planning

Local info rules, OK?

Comment

Local info rules, OK?

From the Daintree and Cape Tribulation we drive up the iconic Bloomfield Track to Cooktown, to then head directly north and the isolated Cape Melville on our roundabout route to Cape York - until today that is. But as always, we've wondered about the condition of the roads, and it's not until Cooktown where we finally get the low-down... the good oil... the truth about the actual situation on the ground up there at Melville.

Jane works at the Tourist Information Centre and cafe, just by the Botanical Gardens, and is eager to help with a wealth of advice after having been in The Gulf regional health field for many years.

She scratches her head, tilting her head to one side. Jane seems to recall a possible problem with our plan. "Well it's like this", Jane says. "You just can't beat local info... and I do remember... something." She screws up her eyes in deep thought, deferring to a tall visitor in khaki sitting on the veranda.

"Yeah", the man says, tweaking the wide, warped brim of a lopsided Akubra that's seen more than its share of Gulf weather, "it's been pretty damn wet up there for this time of year, even Park rangers haven't been in yet." He shakes his hatted head. "In fact there's someone stuck out there right now." He nods knowingly, seems to be talking more to himself now. "Had to get a chopper to lift those blokes out. Mmmm... up here for a boys' weekend." His smile is a thin smile. "A pretty expensive exercise that, 'specially since they should never have been up there in the first place."

We thank him and Jane for the info, and order Jane's zucchini chocolate cake and 2-flat whites, our maps, booklets and pamphlets in piles on the table.

It's true we have our GPS, hard-copy maps, phones, internet and  iPad. But we definitely get the picture. Up here, we are learning that things can get sticky at the drop of a grotty Gulf hat... and it's local knowledge that wins every time.

Comment

Twenty thousand K and counting

2 Comments

Twenty thousand K and counting

We arrive in Townsville on May 30, surprised at how quiet the city centre is... and although there are ATMs about, there seems to be a lack of actual banks. We are told the banks have moved out to the suburbs, but we wonder if the city will follow the new Australian norm these days, with an increase in apartments breathing life back to city CBDs.

Anyway, that's another stage of the journey done and dusted - Byron Bay to Townsville. And it's a bit of a fluke that the completion of this second leg coincides with the truck's trip meter ticking over the 20,000km mark.

So now... our chance to reminisce on some journey discoveries, previously unknown and in order of appearance...

The Stanthorpe Granite Belt Queensland Wineries are a pleasant surprise, us previously not knowing much about them - cool climate at 900m elevation, and some unusual grape types to boot... and a STONE PYRAMID FOLLY AT NEARBY BALLANDEAN.

BINNA BURRA sunsets and fairytale forests at the top of the world.

MORETON ISLAND - long sweeping beaches, white sand, wild inland tracks and Castaways Cafe... with chocolate brownies second to none.

TOOWOOMBA perched on a high escarpment, the second biggest inland city after Canberra - great food and positive vibe, a privately-funded international airport... and some of the best street art we've seen.

Spectacular World Heritage CARNARVON GORGE, with ancient chasms, rockface galleries, ridges and river crossings. And our Sandstone Ridge campsite with a spectacular view.

World Heritage LADY ELLIOT ISLAND sunsets, turtles and giant manta rays.

The small TOWN OF 1770 with beautiful beaches, rocky outcrops and the site of Captain James Cook's first landing in Queensland... and arriving in time for the annual re-enactment festival.

The 'TURKEY CREEK MASSACRE' (or 'How we survived the big bog') - where we take the 4WD 'scenic route' from Agnes Water to Turkey Creek, helping out a fellow traveller along the way.

THE CAPRICORN CAVES - a dry limestone labyrinth, privately owned but a National treasure. 

Our lucky first sighting of platypus in the wild, at EUNGELLA. 

CAPE HILLSBOROUGH wallabies on the beach. Quite a sight, with the added bonus of a serene sunrise.

Beautiful BOWEN, with scenic stacks of boulders, a twist of history, quaint coves and sweeping bays.

2 Comments

Another island home

Comment

Another island home

The island is an odd shape - wide at the northern end, thinning down south - but at about 35km long it's the 3rd biggest sand island in the world. We've been lucky to have previously spent time on Fraser Island - the 1st largest - but are always on the lookout for something different.

The first we heard of Moreton  Island was some weeks back in NSW, where we were approached by the owners of a camper trailer close by - John and Karen. They asked about our go-anywhere truck.

John is a butcher by trade. They've left their "now older kids at home to fend for themselves" and look for work here and there. Karen smiled. "Yeah, the money comes in handy, but life's not all about the money, is it?". There was butchering work to be had, and even an offer to manage a hotel for a couple of weeks... but I digress.

John had the words 'Moreton Island - escape the fake' emblazoned across the chest of his black tee shirt. "It's like Fraser," he said, "but quieter."

So here we are, after waking at 3:45am to catch the only ferry with any space - the 5am from Brisbane.

On the ferry we lower our front tyre pressures to 15psi, the back to 20... gulp hot coffee upstairs and ponder the thought of our first 'serious' sand driving since Namibia over 2yrs ago.

Comment

Lost on Root Hog Road

Comment

Lost on Root Hog Road

Well... maybe we're not lost... not technically anyway. We are in New South Wales. We know it's a mere 20km from the old ghost town of Ophir to Hill End - as the crow flies - Ophir once a thriving frontier town and the site of Australia's first 'payable' gold strike. We leave at noon, after a 2hr bush hike among the long-abandoned diggings and shafts.

In the beginning we take the tamely-named Freemantle Rd. It's dirt, but in good enough nick. And the hard copy map shows a continuing track... the trouble being we are now facing a 'No through road' sign, and our iPad shows the road stopping at Macquarie river. 

Eventually we come to a fork in the road, and stop.  One leg heads in the general direction of the river.

We check our ipad again, and the truck GPS - the GPS with a river crossing.

But yes, this fork does 'head' for the river. But what happens when we get there remains a mystery.

A ute comes from the opposite direction - a wet stock dog in the back.

I wind down the window once the dust settles, the cheery driver "born and bred in these parts".

Will we be able to get across the river? The local scratches his chin and looks over our truck. His dog barks and wags his tail.

"Yeah... dog's been for a swim just now, and you'll make it in that. Track's a bit rough, rocky in bits... and the farmer doesn't like shooters, so sometimes shuts the gate."

A trip we expected to take maybe an hour, takes more like 3-1/2

Hindsight is a great thing, but there's definitely something ominous about a fork in the road, when the way forward is a crooked post with a sign that says 'Root Hog Road.'

Comment

Stopping by`The World's Festival'

Comment

Stopping by`The World's Festival'

It is true we're on our way to Sydney... and Byron Bay beyond. But sometimes the stars are aligned, there's an opportunity and a choice to be made. 

As it happens, we are in the city of Adelaide, some Toyota tweaks planned for the truck... the last day of Womad 2017 - 'The World's Festival' - a festival we have wanted to see for many years.

There's been some rain, but the morning is mercifully dry, scattered clouds that billow, the temperature 27degC, the festival set in magnificent rolling gardens of giant Moreton Bay figs, Norfolk pines, wide oaks and ancient gums, an evening chorus of bat squeaks overhead.

The street food is Yemeni, Greek, Japanese and Spanish,  and everything in between. The smells are of free-trade coffee, and organic donuts coated with sugar - from Byron Bay of all places.

Korean drummers and big band Columbian salsa vie with rap and techno dance.

The crowds are couples, performers, families with lots of babies and toddlers... and singles, wandering grey nomads, teens in Thai-dye tees, young hippies in torn denim, old hippies with pony tails, greying manes and bald but hatted pates.

A Jamaican dude wears a Japanese Kimono, aviator sunnies and dreadlocks down to his waist.

In the cool of late evening patrons wander, in awe of a French concoction of burning urns and pots that hang from trees, the smell of burning paraffin, rusted frames of steel, giant ferris wheels that turn and burn, buckets attached, tipping flames into chutes.

Yes, we could have focussed on the Troopy truck repairs and headed off again, but sometimes travelling means stopping, pausing to take a breath.

Comment

Food for thought, and time to go

Comment

Food for thought, and time to go

Today has to be the day. Already late, and still the real packing to do... clothes for all seasons except snow, chairs and a small table, some fishing and BBQ gear.

And then there's the food, and sort-of food - a fridge full of long life orange, a smidge of milk, meat, some fruit and veg, beer, wine, eggs, cheese and chocolate.

The drawers are packed with pasta, with cans of fish, curries, corn and beans. There's containers of fruit, of mushrooms and muesli.

So, we really are finally off, although already 7pm, fish and chips on the run, and with one false start - to pick up our forgotten jackets as it happens. Yes, we do have a list, but sometimes you can get a little tired an emotional... and sometimes - after talking about it for so long - it really is just finally time to go.

Comment

Pieces and bits, tools and tips

Comment

Pieces and bits, tools and tips

Tomorrow looks like departure day, a day later than first planned but nevermind.

We have our recovery gear, 2-jacks not one, and a good compressor.., Max Traxx, jacking plate, and all that's needed to get us out if stuck. But what about tools? Well, I'm no mechanic... but it would be crazy not to give the subject some thought. And I'm thinking a good start would be the Toyota Manual, a metric socket/spanner set, (I'm told there are no imperial bolts on the LandCruiser), some pliers and multi grips, screw drivers, Allen keys and shifters. And what about some fix-all duct tape, some cable ties and a small roll of fencing wire... some Araldite, oh... and a hammer.

And there's that age old chestnut - with lots of tips about - spare parts versus space. I know that some carry extra coolant and engine oil, wheel bearings, a soldering iron, spare radiator hoses and fan belts - even spare fuel and water? Well, we already have 2-90L diesel and a 70L water tank, so that's good. And a fire extinguisher.

But I'm thinking this truck is pretty much new... and I'm hoping in good nick - low kms and having done not much work. Anyway, where the hell would more stuff actually go? Mmmm... but I suppose some spare fuses are a good idea.There is the obligatory jacking plate, tyre tools and 2-spare wheels. We have heavy-duty jumper leads, recovery shackles and straps, an axe and long-handled shovel, with a wheelbag for wood and bits and pieces hanging off the back. Mmmm... space really is tight in this truck of ours.

Comment

A truck called `home'

Comment

A truck called `home'

We've finally received the news, the Troopy conversion ready, all done and waiting to be picked-up. .. a welcome Christmas present.

Our morning flight leaves Melbourne, and with minimal carry-on luggage we land at Sydney late morning. At the airport we're met and chauffeured to Trakka headquarters at Mt Kuring-gai, just north of the city.

With the official handover, there are a few last-minute tweaks, with Trakka Troopies not so common these days, but the truck is ready to go... with everything including a kitchen sink of sorts.

From Sydney we head out on our newly-kitted-out maiden voyage, heading south around Sydney, via the Illawarra coast and Royal NP, the second oldest `National Park' in the world. Through Waterfall and Otford, Stanwell Park and Coalcliff we follow the toe of towering escarpment cliffs.

Now we wind our way along a sweeping, giant's causeway propped on high concrete pylons. This is SEA CLIFF BRIDGE, a balanced cantilever marvel completed in 2005, the Pacific swell 40m below, home to passing ships and the occasional whale.

At  94km we pull into COLEDALE raising the new tilt roof with our inbuilt bed,... but with only airport carry-on, we've no cooking gear, proper supplies for our first night, or even a chair to sit back and take in the ocean view. Mmmm... but there is a wine shop handy and somewhere to buy breakfast muesli, yoghurt and a drop of juice for the morning.

But tonight it's back to the truck for our celebratory sparkling shiraz in plastic cups, sweet chilli corn chips, cheese and spiced nuts - all to the pounding of surf and the screeching of Coledale cockatoos tussling for sunset roosts, their feathers white beacons a dazzle in the shadows of impossibly high Norfolk Pines - all this under a glorious Coledale sunset behind that magical Illawarra escarpment.

Later, these same seaside skies are loaded with stars, the surf a rhythmic whoosh and thump. Night birds wheel in the dark, others whistle from roosts unknown.

In the top of the truck the bed is cosy and warm, the canvas sides breathing in a salt-laden breeze. Dreams drift, to far-off secret coastal coves - between nagging questions of what to pack and the limited available space in this truck of ours. What we will need does seems like an awful lot right now. Will we have enough DRAWERS, NOOKS and CRANNIES for storage? There is the necessary safety gear to fit in too; some tools and spares, the food, the clothes... the list goes on, and on...

Oh well... maybe we could tow a small trailer if needed? Well no... not really. That's never been part of the 'grand' plan... so... we'll see how this latest challenge goes... like packing a boat the size of a sardine can for an extended ocean going voyage, or a magician pulling a reluctant rabbit from a hat.

Comment

Under the weather - Planning

Comment

Under the weather - Planning

Just wondering... how much time we need to complete this little roadtrip trek of ours... the million dollar question... the elephant in the room... 

The pre-trip work has mostly been done over the last 12-months or so. Let's call it 'PLANNING' - the PC screen crowded with a multi-coloured, seasonal weather map, and  Hema digital map awash with tagged wishlists of places we 'just might' want to visit; a commingling of the odd and the isolated, the mysterious, abstract, the scenic and beautiful. Let's call them 'known unknowns'. And yeah, there are quite a lot. But these days there is heaps of info out there too, like AUSTRALIANEXPLORER.com and BEADELLTOURS.com.au.

And there are a truck load of wild and woolly tracks - the Canning Stock Route, the Deserts Simpson, Stony and Sturt, the Gary and Gunbarrel Highways, the Gibb River Road, the Tanami, Strzelecki and Old Telegraph Tracks - anywhere our truck will go.

And then there's the weather wildcard! It's a big country, with the full gamut of weather... Tropical and wet, hot and dry - through to VERY hot and dry - with freezing winters down south.

I do a quick calculation and come up with a roadtrip of... mmmm... 2-YEARS! (All pending the generosity of seasonal and unseasonal weather gods resulting in possible unplanned flights home to Melbourne from time to time.)

And, here's another thought - do we have everything accounted for? Well... there is the early July BIRDSVILLE BIG RED BASH, and the Easter BYRON BAY BLUESFEST... and the WA whalesharks and wildflowers among other things.

... To say nothing of the 'unknown-unknowns' along the way. Like... let's say we meet 'Jack' on some far-off wayward track. He sits propped at the bar of an Outback pub, staring into his ice-cold beer, the checkered shirt smelling of cigarettes, a battered pair of cowboy boots faded and scuffed. He says we 'must see' this or that, "just a day or 2 out of our way".

I stare at the PC screen, my cluttered maps of Oz - then look across at Sue. Will we have the time?

There really is an irresistible attraction in heading off with lots to see, while blessed with an indefinite vaguery of a timeframe.

Comment

How do we get anywhere?

Comment

How do we get anywhere?

Will a modest amount of good luck and basic black magic be enough to find our way? Mmmm... maybe not.

I'm at my desk PC starting to plot 'must sees' with the help of newly purchased Hema digital maps and OziExplorer software. And it's obvious this trip won't be as simple as a circle; more like `Oz-all-over'.

I scratch my whiskered chin and shuffle Harry the cat to one side, giving me a better command of the keyboard. Mmmm... we've certainly got a truck that will do the job - the Toyota Troopy of course - but with so many places to go, how the Hell do we actually find our way? I suppose now's the time to start thinking seriously about getting a GPS fitted... yeah... time to move with the times.

Now for an admission here - I'm no IT geek when it comes to the ways of a fast-moving modern world, and in fact it's a miracle I didn't disappear with the dinosaurs. I suppose I've gathered a few bits of info over the years - obtuse snippets, shreds and bibelots, mostly about this and that, while being a master of naught.

The next 3-days I'm lost in a techno haze of Hema Navigators, MotionX, Apple, Bing and Google, iPads, Parrot and Pioneer. But of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg... maybe I need to get out more!

At this stage I'm thinking a single built-in unit with music, reversing camera, Bluetooth and internet. But one thing for sure: the answer really is out there, somewhere. And I soon discover it's definitely not one size fits all... probably a case of horses for courses I reckon. (Thanks to my fellow forum travelers on 4x4EARTH.com for their valued input.)

And the winner is (for the very non-geek me)  - a simple dash inbuilt Alpine INE-W960A with reversing camera, for on-road mainly, some off-road; along with an internet-capable iPad loaded with the Hema 4WD Maps App. Oh... and my trusty notebook/laptop. So... I'll be able to import my initial planning hard work from trusty PC to my notebook - including any Oziexplorer/Hema must-see places and tracks. And THAT will ensure we never get lost. 

Well OK, not so sure about that last bit. Just maybe a dash of luck and magic would not go astray... and I think we'll pack some hard-copy Hema maps. Let's just call that insurance.

Comment

Biting the bullet - finally

Comment

Biting the bullet - finally

Let's just call this `day one'. Although it's not REALLY day one.

After 2yrs in Africa and Asia, this is the first time we don't have an ongoing air ticket... anywhere!!!

So, what to do? Well yeah, we have certainly pondered what comes after`WORLD', and now - golly, is that the time? - we've been `home' in `The World's most Livable City' since April... that's here in Melbourne btw.

Was it Chaucer that said "Time and tide wait for no man"?  Itchy feet? Mmmm, well maybe just a little. And the thought of jumping in a vehicle and heading off for some previously unthought of place for an indeterminate time does seem somehow alluring.

Do we need a plan? Well, we'll head off clockwise, summering down south. Oh...and try and pick up as many middle bits as possible too. Yeah, OK, so there's a little work to do... 

Will it be one year or two? Now... that is the question. We'll see.

It is true....thinking about this decision is not exactly new. We've pondered proposals on floating pontoon bars by Lagos Lagoon, among the patrons of Paris pancake parlors, in the teppanyaki kitchens of Tokyo, and by Berlin beer-halls. We've chatted in the subways of Seoul and New York City.

Australia outside Melbourne? Well yeah, there certainly is one. Mmmm... just a minute though, haven't we already seen most of The Lucky Country? 

Well, we have been to Darwin, Cairns and the Flinders Ranges. We've been lucky to have traversed The Nullarbor more than once and sailed the edge of the great Kimberley wilderness. We've driven the length of Fraser Island and suitably chilled-out in Byron Bay. We've even tackled the wilds of the Canberra capital.

But no, we haven't exactly seen`most of the place'. And there's always `Outback' of course - a notion more difficult to define.

So, time marches on - with the big departure date set for first thing March 2017. Plenty of time? No, not really...there's planning and equipment to sort. And yes, a `suitable' vehicle for our adventures - something robust, and `go-anywhere'.

Well, today there's some news. This is the day!

After browsing for some time we've found our truck - our future home - and the winner is... a white2014 Toyota Landcruiser GXL Troopcarrier.

OK, so that's a start... along with Navigation software and a 4WD Raster Map collection. 

Oh, have I forgotten something? We need a blog?... another blog? (Yes, I know, I'm already involved in 2, one being iancochrane.com.au - a collection of short stories on people and places - and the other being TravelnRavel - a wandering bird's-eye overview of most things even vaguely related to travel.)

Well... we really do need a blog for our roadtrip around Australia. But what will we call this new blog? Now... that can't be too difficult.

So, here we are, at the beginning of yet another work in motion. But, it is early days... and there will be tweaks as we go.

WHAT'S NEXT? - a few local Victorian roadtrips and getting to know the truck we've just bought. And more thinking about what we need and where we go from here.

 

 

Comment