15/05/18 After seven months at home, we’re back on the road to complete last year’s cut-short trip, going north from Brisbane to Cape York, across to Normanton in the Gulf, and a zig-zag route back down through Central Queensland. The country should be pretty green after all the rain up that way. No more cyclones and floodwaters, right? Touch wood.
The Things-To-Do-At-Home List was all ticked off – medical checks, dental checks, vehicle checks, home renovations, lots of other things – and Di and I were itching to go. We could just about smell it in the air – that whiff of dust and diesel and eyeglass cleaner (in-joke) that smells like travel. Both the Landy and Kruiser were serviced and champing at the bit, up against the rails, rearing to go. Perspectives change when you’re home too long – one fly in the house and it’s a rush for the insect spray; one fly in camp and it’s a good day.
It should be less expensive now we’re gone. My chronic OPD (Overlanding Preparedness Disorder) had been in remission. But with the long spell at home since last September, it’s quite understandable that I had a few relapses. So, in accordance with the principle that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I picked up some more Drifta canvas bags to hold the ground mat and other stuff, and a nice protective bag for the small butane stove and another one for the 2-burner gas stove. I have a thing for canvas bags – and a dislike of loose gear rattling around and rubbing. And a nice little Uniflame bread toaster too that I’m keen to try out.
The roof rack awning on the Landy had come out second best in an altercation with a campsite tree on our WA trip, and while it was still pretty secure, it was askew and from the rear looked about ready to fall off. So the cactus L-brackets got binned for a couple of solid Front Runner awning brackets – surprisingly inexpensive bits of quality gear. The awning now sits a little higher than before, and tucked in closer to the Front Runner roof rack. Besides looking better, it should also be harder for trees to argue with…ripper!
How good is internet shopping! I was like a web warrior with a black belt in “google fu”. A few keyboard clicks and a courier van arrived at the door with a pair of canvas sleeves from Stone Stomper to cover the canvas flaps on the back of the Landy. So when she’s not towing, the Stone Stomper flaps can be rolled up nicely in the sleeves and she no longer looks like she’s wearing a tutu.
I’d been combing the web for ways to use the space in the Landy when we travel, and came across some gear based on the molle (pronounced like Molly as in Meldrum) military system. Magically, the stuff soon appeared via courier at the door. Landy has now gone tactical, sporting a seat-back molle panel to which are attached five pouches and a rip away Velcro IFAC (individual first aid kit) set up for snake-bite. The pouches hold small stuff previously stowed away under seats and in other hard to get at places, now all at hand and more organised. When we’re not travelling, the panel can be quickly unclipped and removed, complete with pouches. And besides working well, it looks Seriously Cool and battle-ready. And that’s important. Di’s new role will be manning the 0.50 calibre.
Our Hema navigation maps – digital ones, not paper (we have paper ones too just in case the tablet dies, like one did once…got to have redundancy, right?) – are on a tablet that sits above the centre console in the Landy, held in place by gravity. This setup has worked well most of the time, but I’ve learned that gravity becomes impaired on corrugated roads, when the tablet bounces around and Di has to hold it in her lap to stop it from taking flight. So another OPD episode had me buying some RAM mounts to secure the tablet. It’s great stuff, solid and well made, and pretty versatile in how it can be used. Better yet, it wasn’t too expensive. Now when we travel, the tablet is attached by a short clamp arm to a 1” ball mounted on the dash and when we’re at home, I can swap the tablet for a Garmin satnav…easy-peasy.
A little while ago, I called in to see Wayne at Wayne Lloyds Tyre and Mechanicals, my local go-to guy for anything to do with rubber hitting the road. I wanted to arrange for the fitting of replacement pressure sensors to the tyres on the van. The current sensors were installed back in 2014, but their non-replaceable batteries had begun to fail last year, resulting in some very random readings. So replacements were called for. While we chatted, Wayne asked how the tyres had been performing that he’d fitted to the Landy in 2013. Three of the six Goodyear Wrangler AT tyres had failed at various times in our travels due to separation of the bead from the side wall. When I replaced each one, I’d stayed with the same brand (but by then a later design) because I was happy with their road noise and off-road performance and didn’t really want to have a mix of different tyres on the vehicle.
Wayne got on the phone to the Goodyear rep and it turned out that the earlier Wrangler ATs had a fault that was subsequently rectified in the later design. Goodyear offered to replace at no charge the three remaining old-design tyres still on the car. The upshot is that the Landy now has all six wheels shod with good quality all-terrain rubber. These tyres aren’t cheap so I was dead set stoked with the good deal that came out of just a casual conversation. Two big thumbs up for the excellent service from both my local tyre guy and Goodyear. Good things come from good relationships with good people. Karma…what goes around comes around.
We’ve outlaid heaps throughout our travels to keep the Landy and Kruiser in good, safe condition but, in one of those lightbulb moments that happen, it occurred to me I’d overlooked a crucial bit of equipment – the hitch pin that has the critical job of keeping the van attached to the car. It’s a small piece of metal with a big, big job. The pin I use is a locking anti-rattle hitch pin that I got from BTA Towing Equipment in late 2014. Giving it the once-over, something looked not quite right. The pin has a locking piece at one end, which was still attached but somewhere along the way in our travels the lock barrel had fallen out of it. While the pin still worked, it was no longer theft- or tamper-proof. So I contacted BTA on the off-chance I could purchase just the missing bit, and was very surprised by their offer to replace the whole thing free of charge. The replacement pin arrived within days. It’s great when a company stands behind its product and customers like that, especially after three years.
I also had a local canvas supplier make up a wall panel for the Kruiser’s driver’s-side awning to keep the sun off the wall where the fridge and freezer are located, and a canvas weather cover for the drawbar.
Anyway, that’s enough about the trip preparation stuff. We’re now actually on the trip.
Maryborough – Doon Villa Campground (Qld)
First stop was Maryborough to check in on my uncle who had the medical problems last year that resulted in us terminating our trip. All was well and the following day we travelled further north to Moore Park Beach, 20 minutes from Bundaberg, where we’ve camped for three days with Charles and Joy, friends from Perth who we met on our WA trip in 2016. They are halfway through the Big Lap and we’ve timed things so they join up with us for the Queensland leg.
A yummy Mother’s Day lunch was spent with my brother Steve and his wife Bron and their family at the Spotted Dog Tavern in Bundy. Their pizzas are highly recommended. Back at Moore Park Beach, after a sustained onslaught of pestering and coercion, I rather reluctantly agreed to join Di for a dip in the ocean. From the beach, it looked very scenic and pleasant. However, my reluctance was justified – it was bloody cold in the water and even colder out. The man bits protested and got busy retracting themselves into my stomach cavity. A lovely hot shower at the top of the beach managed to thaw out the iclicles, though. We liked Moore Park Beach and reckon it’d be a good spot to camp for a week or two. Have to keep that in mind for next year.
“Stress is caused by not camping enough.”