The REAL beginning.

Waking to a hard frost & a frozen solid tent roof tested our fortitude in Mildura last Thursday morning, not helped by the fact that we had camped with the tent on the western side of the Tvan meaning that whilst the morning sun dismissed the white frost on the ground all around us, the tent, & the shadow it cast stayed frozen. Our fingers were numbed by the breaking camp process.

Having left Mildura, stopping only to purchase a couple of locally grown avocados from a roadside stall, we took the Silver City Highway toward Wentworth just over the border in NSW. However prior to reaching Wentworth our GPS suggested another shortcut which would initially take us north on the Arumpo Rd toward Lake Mungo NP, (which we have been to previously) but then westward across Wamberra Station to the Wentworth-Pooncarie Rd.

The weather was fine & unlike a couple of days earlier following the GPS on this occasion was a great decision. Just into New South Wales & we were getting our first taste of our long awaited return to Outback Australia. Red sandy roads, open expanses, big sky & with the exception of the road stretching ahead of us, no sign of man made structures in sight. As though telepathically we both commented virtually simultaneously that now it really did feel like our journey had begun. This was the REAL beginning.

The Outback starts here.

The station road was only about 50kms, taking us to the Wentworth-Pooncarie Rd. Turning north the bitumen road continued though similar country all the way to Pooncarie, but it lacked the romance of the red dirt under our tyres. Plans to pull up for lunch by the river never transpired, we knew the road followed the Darling but we never once saw it until we reached Pooncarie.

Approaching Pooncarie from the south

Pooncarie, once a busy steam paddle port on the Darling taking wool bales south to the cities, is now just a small settlement with a population of just 30 according to ‘Old Trev, a local who came to visit upon evening in his beat up Subaru Brumby ute with his two beautiful dogs, Bob & Lady. Local stations (farms/ranches) add to the population, along with tourists to support the pub, general store, fuel servo & post office. The school no longer operates full time as the number of youngsters in town is too low. Instead all the station kids & those in town are schooled via the School of the Air, but come together in the still functional school building once every few weeks.

The pub in Pooncarie central

Our campsite on the river’s banks, 10 minutes walk out of town was initially going to be a single overnighter on our way north to warmer weather, but as I type this alongside the ancient River Redgums, we are in our 4th day at Pooncarie. I write that with quite a degree of satisfaction. The traveller is by nature driven by curiosity, & this can drive one to always want to move on, to find out what s around the next bend. Old hands advise ’slowing down’ but this can take a lot of practice, more so for those more used to busy lives. We did learn to slow down a bit during our previous travels – lessons learned through leaving places we later wished we’d spent more time in. This time around we hope to slow down much more, so recognising that our Pooncarie camp has a great deal going for it & staying for longer is where that sense of satisfaction comes from. Here is a bush camp with No mozzies, No flies, No ants, No wind, sunny blue skies, but plenty of shade, and a great riverside ambience. Catching fish would be good, but I’m not complaining. Actually I did catch one fish, but I guess someone else’s plastic lure doesn’t count, & it certainly doesn’t provide us with a feed – the only reason I like to fish.

Give me a home among the gum trees

The Darling River

 

We haven’t gone hungry though. In fact we have eaten very well. Our new spun steel camp oven has been pressed into service for the first time & has been a tremendous success! For the non Aussie readers unfamiliar with the humble camp oven, it is essentially a large saucepan with a lipped lid, enabling hot coals from the fire to be placed on top & either around the base or underneath . It’s used to bake, roast & stew.

Camp Oven

Our (well … MrsTea’s) first effort was a lemon teacake birthday cake for my 60th birthday & we were both surprised at just how well it turned out (complete with a ‘bush candle’ for me to blow out!).

Birthday cake with ‘bush candle’.

Since we have baked spuds, roasted pumpkin & carrots & also baked some savoury rice balls. There is no doubting that the camp oven will be getting very regular use. And whilst thinking of my birthday, thank you again to all the folk who, through the the internet, sent me birthday wishes. They were most appreciated. And there is another great thing about this camp spot – it has a great internet signal, with the phone tower in the middle of town!

It looked like a real fish, albeit a small one, but alas t’was only a rubber fish. 🙂
5+

First day out & a fortuitous mistake.

Leaving home all went to plan & we were on the road by mid morning, driving along occasionally exchanging grins with each other. “This is real, we’re really doing it”. Even the on/off drizzling rain didn’t dampen our enthusiasm any more than it did for all the young lambs with their mothers we passed. They jumped & pranced around. Our jumping & prancing was inside.

We thought around 300kms would make for a good first day, a compromise between rushing northward to the hoped for warmth & the desire to travel to previously ‘untravelled’ territory to feel we had begun our adventure.  Our route was up through north central Victoria, toward Mildura & the NSW border, with an overnighter at one of a couple of free camps. One at Woomelang, or another a little further north at Lake Walpeup, depending on how we felt. Our hope was to arrive mid to late afternoon.

We were well into the Wimmera, (Victoria’s grain belt, characterised by flat open paddocks which stretch to the horizon, big clouds & occasional grain silos, huge man made  edifices on the once mallee covered land). Our GPS navigator suggested we take a short cut just south of Birchip.  Bless ‘her’. We stopped briefly at the beginning of the dirt road. What can possibly go wrong? The road looked as smooth as a baby’s bum & besides we are in a very capable 4wd. 800 metres later, just over the brow of a hill & hidden from sight we were bogged. Yep first day & bogged in Birchip! I turned to MrsTea & said “We’re not going anywhere” & to her credit she remained calm.

What I had failed to consider was that the road comprised of red clay & this combined with the fact that the rain had just become a lot heavier had conspired to turn the baby’s bottom into a slippery morass. From the moment our wheels started spinning & the whole shebang was sliding sideways into the gutter we had no hope. 4wd & a diff lock were no match for wet red clay. The ‘grass’ sides only hid softer clay scraped to the side by a grader.

Trying to walk on the stuff was like walking on ice.

We retreated out of the wind & the icy rain back into the cab, trying not to cover everything in sticky red mud & the realisation that we would be there overnight & possibly longer hit us. The prospect was not an appealing one. Having decided that using the Tvan would make too much mess it seemed sleeping sitting up in the cab & hoping for sun the following day to dry the track out enough to let us escape was the best option

An hour later, about 3pm, the sun shone through the clouds & I thought another attempt at extrication worth an attempt. MrsTea was less sure, but agreed “we could only make things worse”!  With all the tyres deflated to 22psi I selected high second gear & blow me we started moving forward. With gritted teeth we swung off the narrow track & slowly bumped & bounced our way through some scrub to complete a 180 degree turn, back onto the track & then managed to slowly,  ….. very slowly ……..slide our way back to the bitumen. Almost 3 hours after leaving the bitumen we were back on solid ground having learned just how little it can take to stop a 4wd in it’s tracks!

In the freezing wind & rain (again) we had to pump the tyres back up. It was here we discovered we had another problem. For some unknown reason the big meaty compressor was struggling big time. We did eventually manage to get all tyres up to pressure but it took over an hour, & it was obvious there was a problem with the compressor.

We made it to Woomelang in the dark, by 6:30. Had a bite to eat & an early night, leaving early this morning to drive to Mildura where we sought assistance. The local ARB (4wd accessory store & workshop) assured me that I would not find anyone in Mildura who would either have parts nor the ability to repair our compressor & tried as best they could to sell me one of theirs. At $600 + fitting this was not a cheap option, but I was also not willing to risk travelling on without a means of inflating tyres.

A chap at Enzed (hoses & hydraulics) put me on to Tbas, a company specialising in compressors. It was music to my ears when I explained we had a Boss PX07 compressor & he knew exactly what I was talking about. He suggested we go & find a caravan park & then return without The Tvan & he’d ‘have a look’. An hour later I’d left MrsTea in the Tvan & was back at Tbas. In the meantime the chap had ordered a rebuild kit, “just in case we needed it”, & whilst talking with the Boss supplier had ascertained that the symptoms I’d described sounded like a faulty check valve (1 way valve). He waved me into their yard & met me there with a replacement check valve he had taken off a full kit he had on the shelf & said “lets try the easy things first”. The old check valve when removed was full of gunk & in a sorry state, looking like it could very easily be seized.

It was, & the replacement restored the compressor to full health. I left the shop with a newly fitted check valve, a spare check valve (not the right one but will suffice if needed) & a bill for $61.00. He didn’t even charge me anything for his time. Fantastic service & a big relief.

Sometimes crap happens. On this occasion it was fortuitous. The compressor’s performance was failing rapidly, & I very much doubt it would have re-inflated the tyres a second time. So much better to have discovered this now than in a remote & potentially dangerous situation later.

I believe that the problem was caused by ‘lack of use’. The compressor is 5 years old, but has previously only inflated half a dozen tyres. It will now be given a regular work out, including blowing out any moisture build up in the air tank.

Those with good memories who read our ‘Big Trip’ blog may remember that in the first few days of our around Oz trip in the old bus that I bogged it on wet red clay just outside Dubbo! I reckon ‘Bogged in Birchip’ has a better sound to it & at least this time we did’t need assistance to get out!

 

It really doesn’t look that bad eh?
Boiling the billy whilst hoping the little bit of sun might dry things out enough to get us out
8+

Packing

Limited space, weight restrictions, climatic conditions ranging from freezing to mid summer temperatures, a desire to restock as infrequently as possible (to get a better idea of what we can manage next year in the Western deserts), & the first time we have packed the Tvan & Patrol for longer than a week away have all added up to a packing task which has been huge …………. & in which a great deal of cooperation & compromise between us has been needed.

That we have completed this task without a single cross word to each other is testament to the shared dream we each want the other to experience.

It’s all packed now bar the last minute items like fresh fruit & vegies & computer. Although we have had the Tvan for 2 or 3 years now, & the Patrol for longer, this is the first time we have fully utilised the storage space in the Tvan & packed for longer than a week away.
With everything laid out on the shed floor it looked like total chaos & we feared we would never fit it all in & fully expected we would have discard quite a lot. I guess the fact that this did not transpire reflects our past experience & the camping list book maintained by MrsTea.

We also wanted , as much as possible to ensure the easiest access possible to everything, nothing worse than always having to move ‘stuff’ to get to other ‘stuff’

The result of our several days effort proved rather better than expected, with most things easily accessible AND with quite a lot of unused space ‘left over’ in the Patrol. We found it hard to believe & kept wondering what we could have forgotten! Being able to redistribute the gear which we usually squeeze into the Patrol between the Patrol & Tvan has made a big difference. Buying 3 extra plastic boxes to go under the Tvan bed made the biggest difference.

Here’s the list of what we packed, together with 270 litres of water distributed between car & van – (we left the Patrol’s 30 litre under tray tank empty & also decided not to carry the Oztent, or the Tvan’s main awning & ensuite shower tent on this forthcoming Queensland jaunt.

The structure of the list, made as we packed, reflects the process we followed. 🙂

TVAN SPARES LIST
Two sets bearings with seals & grease & split pin + drift
two dust caps & small tube silicon – better seal & holds them on better
Two shocks
Shock rubbers
Main fuse – 30 amp Maxi fuse x3

Patrol Spares & tools list. (All in under tray compartment unless noted otherwise)

Spanner & socket set
Ratchet spanners
Shifters – small medium & large
C spanner for DO35 hitch
Clamp meter
2 x files (1 round, 1 half round)
Oil filter wrench
Filter strap for fuel filter
Spare keys
Belt tensioner ……. don’t have
Ground pepper  – for coolant leaks
Socket sets 1/4 & 1/2 inch
hammers (Nylon faced + geologists)
small cold chisel
centre punch
Screw drivers
Allen Keys
Hack saw + 2 blades
Multi Meter
WD40
cable ties
knife & spare blades
set of step drills – in blue box 2
set of small drill bits – in blue box 2
Fuses
Fuse ammeter (battery in blue box 2)
Spare fan belts – in Gas cabinet
Spare Radiator hoses – on top of batteries in canopy
Spare fuel hose
Spare heater hose
hose clamps
Electrical cable & connectors
Electrical tape
Test lead
Leak tape
Hose repair tape
Duct tape
Fencing wire
wire brush
Tyre plug kit
steel putty
Engine oil + 2 filters
Fuel filter – 1 x main
Fuel filter – 2 x CAV
Spare fuel filter glass bowl
Brake fluid – in Blue Box 2
Brake bleeder
Small Tarp – in gas cabinet
Mesh radiator screen suitable for spinifex …. don’t have
Front hub adjustment tool.
Pliers – needle nose, conventional, pipe wrench
Vice grips – large & medium
Grease
Small grease gun
Hand cleaner
Rubber gloves
set of wheel nuts
set of wheel studs – don’t have.
Wheel brace – under small fridge
Spare shocks ? Not this trip
Blue thread lock.
Artery forceps.
circlip pliers
Spare tyre valves
Blow gun – under compressor tank
Funnel – on top of compressor.
Assorted glues & goos.
cordless drill driver & bits – in blue box 2
Vehicle workshop manual on iPad

Recovery Gear
3 x bow shackles – in under tray gas cabinet
1 x Soft Shackle – gas cabinet
1 x bow shackle hitch receiver – gas cabinet
2 x snatch blocks – gas cabinet
1 x 30m Dyneema rope extension -next to compressor in canopy
1 x 8000kg snatch strap – next to compressor
1 x 12000kg snatch strap – next to compressor
1 x tree protector strap – next to compressor
1 x equaliser strap – next to compressor
Leather gloves – cab door pocket(both sides)
Winch rope blanket – behind seats
Tyre Deflator – behind seats
Tyre Inflator – next to compressor
Air Hose – next to compressor
1 x pair Max trax – top shelf inside canopy
Exhaust Jack – at front of canopy, on top of battery compartment
Vehicle Jack – in cab
hydraulic Jack – in Tvan side
Timber jack plate – underneath driver seat
Shovel – rear of canopy (extension handle in under tray compartment).
winch controller – in cab
Chain saw – next to compressor

Cab
Waterproofs – in passenger seat rear pocket
winch tube handle – in door
Tyre repair kit – under drivers seat
Ropes x 1 – behind small fridge
Tow Hitch lock – in pocket back of passenger seat
2 stroke oil & measuring bottle – behind drivers seat
Map book in pocket behind drivers seat
Hema gps navigator + iPad with Hema 4wd maps & wikicamps app + phone with Topo maps & Wikicamps app.
2 x hand held UHF radios –
Satphone
Epirb
2 x pairs sunnies
2 x Camelback hydration packs + emergency grab bag

Fishing gear
3 rods/reels (surf reel behind small fridge & 3 piece rod in storage tube. Medium & light rods carried ready to use on canopy top shelf.
Tackle box
Bait box
Filleting knife
1 x rod holder
I x bait net
1 x keep net

Water
Wooden ‘spanner’ – blue box 1
Single filter for filling tank – blue box 1
Chlorine – blue box 1
Micropur powder – blue box 1
2 x spare sediment filters – – blue box 1
1 x spare carbon silver filter for Patrol – blue box 1
1x spare carbon silver filter for Tvan – blue box 1
3 x hoses – on Tvan drawbar
Assorted hose fittings – blue box 1
Assorted water pipe fittings – next to pump
Spare pump (can also be used for filling) – alongside water tank
Short hot water hose – rear of canopy

Blue Box 2
AAA batteries
AA batteries
Button batteries for Tyre Pressure sensors
4 x 18v lithium batteries ,charger & impact drill driver
3 x spare chainsaw chains
Chain & bar oil – 1 litre
Brake fluid
——–

aluminium stool – rear of canopy
Black step stool – rear of canopy
2 x poles for Patrol awning
Awning – top shelf in canopy
Foam ground mat squares – top shelf in canopy
2 x chairs – top shelf in canopy

Clothing
All in Tvan in 2 x ‘netting tubes’ along side of bed (can be hung vertically in tent) except for 2 outdoor coats.
Walking boots x 2 – in yellow box under bed
Sandals x 2 – under passenger seat
Crocs x 1 – in Tvan
Thongs x 1 in Tvan

Tvan drawbar
‘Telecom’ cord – on top of spare Tvan wheel
3 x diesel jerries
Timber blocks
2 x gas bottles
2 x levelling ramps
1 x choofer
Spare wheel

Portapotti toilet – in Tvan + Napisan & toilet roll

Tvan Side storage
Rear right:
1 x 20 l water jerry
1 x Hydraulic jack
6 x deck legs
6 x plywood pieces (for under deck legs on soft ground)
Legs etc for choofer

Rear Left:
1 x 20l water jerry

Front right cabinet:
5 awning poles
1 x Sail awning
1 x rear fly mesh for Tvan
1 x large Wok
Box containing assorted Tvan spares & the useful bits &
pieces
1 x hydraulic jack handle2 x pool noodles
10 x tent pegs
10 x guy ropes
1 xHammer (geologist’s pick)
1 x folding table
1 x longer radio antenna

Front Left:
Slide out kitchen
Utensils & assorted knives & cutlery
Tea towels
——–

2 spare shock absorbers – one either side of bed

‘Lunchbox’ – in canopy kitchen
2 x plates
2 x cups
2 x glasses
Thermos flask
1 x lighter
1 x billy
Sandwich box
sharp knife, teaspoon.

2 fridge/freezers
2 boxes under Tvan bed for non perishables
1 box under Tvan bed for fresh fruit, veggies & eggs.
Regular use items on kitchen shelves in canopy.

1 x Cpap machine in Tvan

Gas cooking & kitchen equipment – in box in canopy
Camp fire cooking gear ( frypan, camp oven & baking trays, ) fly spray and clothes washing liquid – in box under Tvan bed. Will also hold some fresh veggies & fruit

Wash bags/personal hygiene x 2 – at side of bed in Tvan
Towels – 2 x small hand towels
– 2 x large microfibre towels

1 set spare sheets & pillowcases – with clothing in Tvan

2 x fire extinguishers – 1 in Tvan, 1 in Patrol
1 x fire blanket in Tvan kitchen

Black Box (Patrol) No.1
Medications & lotions etc
First Aid Kit.
Sewing kit
Hair dye.
Mozzie spray
Cpap spares

Black Box (Patrol) No.2
Kitchen equipment & coffee making apparatus.

Black Box (Patrol) No. 3
Some fishing gear – half empty

Black Box (Patrol) No.4
2 warm coats – half empty

Black Box(Patrol) No.5
Empty

Black Box (Patrol) No.6
Empty

240v 15amp extension cable with Amp-Fibian for 10amp supplies – yellow box under Tvan bed

Computers
1 x laptop + charger – carry under doona on bed
1 x iPad & charger in second glovebox
1 x HDD – Backup for laptop – in box under tvan bed
1 x HDD – movies – in box under tvan bed
1 x iPod + charger cable – in second glovebox
2 x iPod shuffles with earphones & charger cable
1 x cable to connect iPod to Radio (car & Tvan). Next to radio in Tvan

Cameras
1 x Canon camera + accessories in bag – behind drivers seat
1 x Sony camera – in second glove box
Sony battery charger & cables – in box under Tvan bed

Spare toilet rolls -in bag on top of compressor

Booklets/instructions/manuals – in small fridge side pocket.

Phew! 5 days to go

Ps. feel free to let us know if you think we’ve forgotten anything! ha ha.

6+

Counting Down

The countdown started 7 years ago & became a way of life, we were single-mindedly working toward our goal of taking up the gypsy life. All our major decisions have taken us down this path, a path that occasionally we have wondered if it were the ‘right’ one or not, but mostly we have pressed on with conviction. But even now we find ourselves metaphorically pinching ourselves wondering, having almost reached our goal, whether it’s real.

It is.

MrsTea is now retired, all the pieces are in place, we have achieved what we set out to achieve………. all we have to do now is to adapt & learn how to enjoy the freedom we have created for ourselves. The unknown is what is there to be discovered, exciting & a little daunting at the same time. We are both already familiar with the ever changing ‘on the road lifestyle’ which offers freedom & interest, but it is these very unknowns which can also beckon seeds of self doubt. Not the how will we survive type doubts, more will we get fed up with it all after a year or two & if so what will we do then. All we can do is do our best to ‘be in the moment’, to live for each day. The ‘juicy stuff’ is what most folk think of when considering travel, & it’s out there to be enjoyed, but I also think that travel can be a form of meditation, a means to appreciate the minutiae. Slowing down enough to facilitate this will take practice, & doing so is a goal.

At this point in time I find myself wondering if I will find enough to write about regularly in this blog, a question I am as yet unable to answer either for myself or for you the reader. I am confident however that if we can travel through country slowly enough to see it differently to most, that this in itself will reveal interest missed by most.

We are now getting to the pointy end of our preparations – gathering the last of what we need ready to commence the packing & re-packing process, necessary but it would be so nice to just wave a magic wand & make it happen. 10 days until we leave.

16+

The trip mentality.

We dream of deserts, beaches, & forests to immerse ourselves in, places to be at one with country, places to relax & to understand, to potter & to relax, to push ourselves & to achieve. 

That’s all very well, but as is the norm (for us at least) the closer we get to leaving,  the bigger the ‘to do list’ becomes. It seems like for every item we cross off the list two more get added. Anxiety builds, but is tempered by past experience. We know that a week or two into the trip we’ll smile together, understanding that we really hadn’t needed to worry. But we still do anyway. Each in our own way. But we still support each other through it.

It’s different this time, actually it’s different every time, but this time we are not embarking on a trip. A trip has a beginning & it has an end. Half way through a trip you are always on the ‘home run’ which has an  effect upon your perception of all you see & do. This time ‘trip’ has been substituted for ‘lifestyle’. It will of course have a beginning,  a middle , & an end  but the significant difference is that we wont know when the middle is, only when it was, once we finally identify the end. It’s an essential element to our dream.

8+

Another Blog

As I sit here typing this first post on a new blog I find myself wondering how it (the blog) will pan out. Just getting to this point, where I have a blog into which I can post has been quite a learning process. I am still feeling somewhat overwhelmed but hope that this will ease as I become more familiar with the way it all works. This ‘self hosted’ WordPress software is quite different to that which I used in the past to create my old web site & blogs & I am no ‘computer wiz’! 

cuppa500.com  

The Big Trip Blog

Cuppa’s Catharsis Continued

Cuppa’s Catharsis

The old web site building software (iWeb) has not been supported for a number of years, & was pretty clunky to say the least. This new software (WordPress)  is giving my grey matter a fair workout (probably not such a bad thing)  – not only is the software & process new, it s also now over 7 years since I last ‘blogged’.  Consequently the old website whilst containing stuff of interest (judging by the continuing but now depleted stream of ‘hits’ it continues to receive) now has a number of broken/out of date links in it. It is what it is, too hard to to go back & change it now.

Fingers crossed, this blog will continue for at least as long as we travel.

 

18+