The Nissan is OK.

8:00am found me waiting at the door of Nigel’s workshop in downtown Monto. Nigel is the helpful RACQ mechanic who has organised to ship the Nissan part from the Gold Coast.

The freight had not yet arrived so we were unsure if the part had in fact been shipped.
This afforded me an opportunity to talk with Nigel who’s selling up and moving to the Sunshine Coast where he hopes to begin a new business venture importing a snazzy new type of motor bike from Canada.
He, along with everyone else in Monto, is convinced the town is on the verge of a boom with 2 new mines about to open.

Unfortunately the gut feeling we got is quite different.

I hope we’re wrong and the little town really does get it’s hoped for revival.

The package did indeed arrive as hoped for and Nigel promptly removed the old part. On comparing it to the new one it was obvious that it had been almost completely destroyed.

The troublesome part.

The troublesome part.

The red section of the part is how much it was burnt out.

The red section of the part is how much it was burnt out.

It took only 10 minutes to complete the job and we were mobile again.

Kerrie had already packed and stowed the van in anticipation of the part arriving and within about 30 minutes we’d hitched up, refuelled and were on the road again.

Kilometre after kilometre was clocked up with no sign of the warning light problem reoccurring and after about 180 kilometres we both started to relax and enjoy the passing country.

We made the Capricorn highway for the second time except this time we turned left, toward Emerald instead of right towards Rockhampton.

On and on we drove with the Nissan humming with effortless power just as we’ve grown used to.

We eventually came upon the sign pointing to Edungalba.
I just HAD to go down that road, even though it was a corrugated dirt road.

Edungalba - Where Chris worked about 25yrs ago.

Edungalba – Where Chris worked about 25yrs ago.

You see, Edungalba was one of the constructions camps I managed over 25 years ago when working in this area.
We were involved in the electrification of the coal train line from the rich mines around Blackwater to the port of Gladstone.

There was a tunnel at Edungalba that was unable to accommodate the large electric pylons necessary for the electrification of the track.
Our job was to completely remove the entire hill and the tunnel.

It was a highly successful job and a great camp to manage.

There was absolutely nothing at Edungalba then, save an old derelict town hall. There’s even less there now.

We spotted the place where I think the camp was located and the hill that was removed.

All around were huge, beautiful Brahman bulls and it was quite an experience with both the Nissan and the Aussie Wide coping with the rough road perfectly.

Beautiful Braham bulls.

Beautiful Braham bulls.

We didn't seem to bother them.

We didn’t seem to bother them.

Unfortunately we could find no trace of the old town hall.

Getting back onto the Capricorn Highway again we headed for Duaringa where we knew of a 48 hour free camping area.

As we pulled into Duaringa we found 25 caravans and motor homes parked up there.

It is a great spot with showers, toilets and water all surrounding a beautiful tropical style water garden.
We’ve decided to stay 2 days here as we have internet, phone and even all TV channels.
We’ll get some work done before moving on to check out Blackwater, where I also worked managing construction camps for the building of the Curraugh mine.

Free camping at Duaringa. 25 vans scattered around an oasis with a waterfall.

Free camping at Duaringa. 25 vans scattered around an oasis with a waterfall.

The oasis in the middle of the park. They also have a breakfast on Saturday mornings that we have all been invited to.

The oasis in the middle of the park. They also have a breakfast on Saturday mornings that we have all been invited to.

It was delightful sitting watching the sunset in this really nice spot and watching the array of vans. There are 2 more Aussie Wides here as well.

Most comforting of all is knowing that we’ve driven nearly 300km today with no sign of any problems with the car.

There are really nice, friendly people everywhere. One bloke who we were talking to has been to every corner of Australia and his comment was, “What a wonderful way to live, I wouldn’t swap this lifestyle with anyone.”

We’re definitely leaning that way ourselves.

The ongoing Nissan saga.

2:30am this morning saw us on the road to the Nissan dealer at Rockhampton to get the problem of the constantly illuminated dashboard warning light attened to.

Driving at about 70kph, just as the vehicle handbook advises under the circumstances, we passed through the towns of Thangool, Biloela and Dululu in the darkness.

Just as the first rays of light heralded the coming new day ANOTHER warning light illuminated the dashboard.

Pulling over to consult the handbook we discovered that whilst the FIRST light indicated the need to drive at under 70kph this SECOND light required us to drive at 110 kph with high acceleration to increase the load so a “burnout” of the catalectic converter could take place!

You had to laugh at the absurdity of the predicament.

So off we went at 100kph heading for Rockhampton again.

We pulled into Rocky at about 6:00am and stopped at Macca’s for a coffee after which we got back into the car to find the second warning light was now off.

The Burnout must have been successful!

One wonders if we unknowingly started any other roadside fires with this “Burnout” (see yesterday’s post).

We were the first in to the Nissan service department as it opened and after a lengthy explanation to the service reps we were told they would look at it today since that we were travelling and had left our van 250km away at Monto.

They gave us a ride to the local shopping mall where we would need to wait till they attended to the car.

Of all places to wait – a ruddy SHOPPING MALL!

And it could be ALL DAY!

I was over the place after the first walkthrough, which happened even before any shops were open.

We decided to wile away a couple of hours at the movies and Kerrie chose what I thought was a particularly abysmal movie, made even more unbearable by some snotty nose brat behind me constantly kicking the seat.

SHE of course was delighted by the pathetic acting, with delighted laughing intermingled with howling her eyes out.

(From Kerrie)

The movie was “Red Dog” and I enjoyed it. He was just in a “Grumpy old man” mood, tired and at a shopping centre. There was no where he would be happy.

(Chris)

I don’t know what I felt most – a longing for the end of the movie or the dread of going back to the Shopping Centre.

When the movie finally ended and we emerged into the light and with Kerrie still sniffling back tears we headed for the food court to get some lunch.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of the food available which was on a par or better than any we had experienced in Melbourne, the supposed “Food Capital of Aus”.

Just as we finished lunch Nissan phoned to say they had fixed the car and the jovial old Gent who had dropped us off picked us up from the shopping centre and drove us back to the dealer.

I nearly passed out as the Service Rep, after proudly stating they had fixed the problem, handed us a bill for $570!

Sadly lamenting the departure of $570 and yet pleased to have the problem solved we head out of Rocky back towards Monto and our home.

As we hit Biloela we decided to do a drive around and grab a coffee for the rest of the 80km trip.

The only place we could find was in a small Shopping mall and we ordered a flat white coffee and a cold drink for Kerrie.

Just as we were moving off a lady came chasing us and, much perturbed, she asked if we had ordered a flat white coffee.

Yes, we had and here it was and see ya later!

“Please come back to the shop and sort it out”, she says, “they said you have the coffee that was made for me!”

Ok, so back we go back to where at least 4 people were in a heated discussion about who made what coffee and who ended up with it.

There were at least 6 staff in this coffee bar, (Kerrie and I have run far busier places by ourselves), and NO other customers except us and the poor woman who just wanted to get the coffee she’d paid for.

“Look, we bought and paid for this, that girl there served us”, I stated pointing to a young lass who’s mind was obviously on things with a much higher priority that anything to do with work, “that’s it goodbye!”

Five minutes later Biloela was in the rear view mirror.

We took in the magnificent farms on the journey towards Monto from Biloela. Wide, sprawling acres of grain fields produced a kaleidoscope of natural colours and created a marvellous visual background to the trip.

Barley Field (we think) with lucuren in the middle.

Barley Field (we think) with lucuren in the middle.

 

As we neared the spot where we had started the grass fires the previous day we both were startled by the sudden appearance of the SAME DAMN WARNING LIGHT ON DASHBOARD!

Now, 230 km from the Nissan dealer in Rockhampton the same light was again shining!

Oh the surge of emotion.

If there had been a Nissan dealer close by he would have been the proud owner of a Nissan Navara anal insertion.

The new Telstra antenna allowed us to enter into communication with the service department at Nissan in Rocky who promised to “Look into it and get back to me”.

They never did, prompting me to make an irate call when we finally arrived back in Monto.

After them patiently listening to my tirade about them costing me $750.00 including the bill, the fuel cost and the painful movie, and still having same problem they referred me to the local RACQ mechanic who, if he owned a “Scan Tool”, would be able to find the problem.

Rushing off I got to the local mechanic just as he was closing shop at 5:15pm and he said he had the tool and he would do it at 8:00am in the morning.

So, another night at the Monto Caravan Park.

*********************************************************************

Turning up at 8:00am today, the most helpful RACQ mechanic does the scan and, after an hour on the phone to Nissan in Rockhampton they determine that the problem is a faulty air flow analyser.

The trouble is now that there is no replacement part in Rocky, Bundaberg, Harvey Bay or Brisbane.

The closest part is on the Gold Coast!

Between them all they are shipping the part out today and are hopeful it will be in Monto by the morning, when the RACQ mechanic will insert it and we will be on the way.

Of course it may not arrive till Saturday, but the kindly mechanic has promised to work Saturday if necessary to make the repair even though he doesn’t normally work Saturdays.

Oh, and we are advised not to use the car!

So here we are in Monto still!

After telling the story to lady in the local shop she gathers herself from trying not to laugh and states, “If I had your sort of
luck, I’d never have left Brisbane”.

Ahhh,  I thought,  but Lady you also would have missed out on the rich blessings we have been rewarded with , which I’m certain we’ll appreciate again when this saga is behind us.

A problem with the Nissan

If anything odd or strange is going to happen to anyone it will be to the Jones Boy

Waking before the sunrise and watching the early morning mist hanging over the lake was like watching a live masterpiece of landscape artistry.

Mist rising over the still water of the Weir.

Mist rising over the still water of the Weir.

As the first rays of the sun touched the water the trees around the lake were perfectly mirrored in the reflections on the still water.

A couple of Kookaburras broke the morning silence and it was as if their laughing was the permission needed for a myriad of other birdlife to wake and begin a symphony of delicate sounds.

Camping at Claude Warton Weir

Camping at Claude Warton Weir

The mist began to dissipate from over the water’s surface as the sun began to rise and we sat in silence with a morning coffee taking in the beauty of the surrounds.

Water flowing at Claude Wharton Weir

Water flowing at Claude Wharton Weir

After a walk down a bush track to the weir wall we packed up and rather reluctantly moved on headed for Monto.

We decided to make for an area about 20km past Monto were we could free camp and then go into the Cania Gorge tomorrow.

The drive was quite steep but the Nissan was handling it all very well and using less revs than normal with the new fuel chip.

We reached Monto and had a quick look through the little town after heading out to the free camping spot.

Kerrie was driving and on a steep, narrow road she suddenly screamed, “We’re on fire”!

Sure enough a large white cloud of smoke was all that I could see when I looked out the back.

We pulled over on the precarious narrow roadside and pulling up behind us was a procession of 3 caravans all with hazard lights on and excited inhabitants rushing toward us.

The first bloke told us they were following right behind when flames stared shooting out from under the car and the van.

I crawled under the Nissan to find the joint where the new exhaust from the chip conversion joined the catalectic converter was glowing red hot and some material around the joint was burning.

Just then the inhabitants of one of the other vans excitedly informed us that the flames had started and ruddy grass fire ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ROAD!

I got Kerrie to grab the fire extinguisher and rush down to the bush fire while I tried to get the fire out from the car.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted another Gray Nomad doing a mad dance over the grassfire with only his thongs on trying to stamp it out.

Between Kerrie and the other aging assistants the grass fire was subdued as was the fire under the car.

The totally uneducated verdict from the onlooking Nomads was, “You’ve blown the Turbo Charger Mate”.

After checking all was OK the other Nomads proceeded on their merry way leaving us on the thin road elbow pondering what to do.

We decided to turn back and slowly make our way the 22km to Monto since Biloela was still 80km hence and over many hills.

No loss of power, no increase in engine temperature, no more smoke.

We arrived back at Monto and parked the van in the local Caravan Park, unhitched and took the car to the local mechanic who was totally perplexed. We got the feeling that “these newfangled diesel autos” were a bit beyond him although with three of them in attendance they were adamant it was not the turbo.

They did not refused to touch the car since they new nothing about the chip and although they were very nice and courteous the verdict was, “Jeez mate don’t know what you’re gonna do”.

We rang the bloke who installed the chip and he was adamant it was only a “burn off from the catalectic converter and we should not worry about carrying on. He will ring us tomorrow to see how we are going.

Based on the advice of this 4WD sage we decided to head out to Cania Gorge without the van since we had paid for the night anyway.

The Gorge was a lovely site with the setting sun over the water and highlighting the craggy sheer cliffs.

Cania Gorge

Cania Gorge

We headed back toward Monto when suddenly a malfunction light started shining on the dash.

The handbook’s instructions for this light are find a Nissan Dealer, don’t tow, don’t drive over 70kmh and avoid hills.

Oh great! The nearest Nissan dealer is in either Rockhampton or Bundaberg.

Bunagerg is closer but we would need to take the Kalpowar road which is unsealed, steep and unsuitable for vans.

We decide to leave the van in the Caravan Park at Monto and leave at 3:00am in the morning to be at the Nissan Dealers in Rockhampton by opening time at 7:15am.

Now all we need to do is nurse the Nissan to Rocky!

We’ll give you the next instalment tomorrow.

A problem with the Aussie Wide.

Before today we had only encountered 1 problem with the new Aussie Wide van.

While staying at Wurtulla in the midst of a night time rain storm we were horrified to enter the van witness water dripping in from two places over the bed.

David helped me get a tarp over the roof and we slept in David and Lacey’s house for the night.

In the morning we phoned Mark at Aussie Wide and found he could not do enough for us.

Within an hour he had organised for repairs to be carried out on the Sunshine Coast and we were back in the van the next day. We’ve not had a water problem since – that is until this morning.

After watching the antics of the local birdlife over breakfast we noticed water on the van floor.

Cheeky and almost tame

At first I thought it was condensation from the skylight even though we’d never had that happen before.

Kerrie discovered the water coming from under the café seat and an investigation revealed a brass elbow joint connecting the hot water hose to the hot tank had sheered in half.

Hot water system elbow sheered in half

How this one in a million occurrence could happen we don’t know.
Probably it was wrenched too tight on installation – who knows?

Mark at Aussie Wide was away for the day and we dealt with the foreman who told us the great news that it was a specialised fitting and would take a couple of days to send to us.

Charming!

We found we could get one of these special fittings in Harvey Bay so we decided to pack up and head there.

We had to go back through Gayndah so I decided to stop at the town plumber to see if he could suggest anything.

He was so helpful and he silver soldered the fitting for us and refused to accept any payment at all.

We decided to head back to the Claude Wharton weir to fix the repaired elbow and stay another night there.

With the hot water fixed and a beaut new spot looking down the Burnett River we relaxed for the afternoon and watched the glorious sunset.

Sunset On The Weir

We met some people also watching the sunset and these people, after enquiring about our Aussie Wide, turned out to be only the second couple we have met who owned an Aussie Wide van.

They ended up selling theirs for more than they paid for it so they could downsize to a 22 footer. They bought a new Supreme and they said they are nowhere as happy with it as their Aussie Wide.

They said they always feel a soft spot for their old van whenever they see another Aussie Wide.

So here we are settling down to another night free camping on the Burnett River feeling at peace with the world.

The Claude Wharton Weir

We’re currently staying on the banks of a delightful lake called The Claude Wharton Weir on the Burnett River about 3 kilometres north of the town of Gayndah. It is silent, peaceful and quite hot.

Looking at the water from the van

Looking at the water from the van

We are trying the crayfish trap to see if we can do better than we normally do.

We are trying the crayfish trap to see if we can do better than we normally do.

We even have internet connection but still cannot get the satellite TV working. We’re seriously thinking of ditching it into the storage shed when we get back to the Sunshine Coast. There are two other caravans here at present and both of them obviously enjoy the peace and quiet as much as we do since we’ve hardly seen or heard anything from them. We are surrounded by beautiful large orange groves of which there are many in the area.

Surrounded by orchards watered from the Burnett River.

Surrounded by orchards watered from the Burnett River.

The weir itself is bordered by trees and bush, and the wind in the trees and the birds provide the only sounds. As the sun sets and the breeze fades to nothing, perfect reflections have formed on the lake surface mirroring the surrounding bush and orange groves.

This is a great camping spot near Gayndah.

This is a great camping spot near Gayndah.

We started the day at Fat Hen Creek where we had breakfast amongst the bush. After exploring a delightful fish filled Billabong only a few metres from where we were parked we spent a couple of hours completing a job for a client before heading north. The country is so different from what we were used to in Victoria and Tasmania but it is still beautiful. Large areas have recently been burnt off and new green grass is exploding into life everywhere. Beautifully maintained cattle stations are the main feature between Fat Hen Creek and Gayndah. It seems that free camping spots are everywhere and we may be able to stay away from van parks almost completely. This spot even has water so we can have hot showers without using the tanks. We are getting about 2 hours work from each laptop using just the laptop batteries and then we switch to the inverter. I think another 4 hours work per day will be possible before letting the solar panels recharge but then the laptop batteries would be recharged again by this time giving a further 2 hours work. All in all we will have enough power to live well and comfortably and complete our work. We love the van and quite possibly it is our Ultimate home. As Kerrie cooks dinner the lights cast a friendly, homely glow on the interior and the night sounds of the bush outside create an atmosphere of perfect peace and contentment.

The first day back on the road

CHRIS’S VERSION

After a wonderful 7 weeks spent at David and Lacey’s in Wurtulla on the Sunshine Coast we are now back on the road heading to Central Queensland.

We’ve both left Wurtulla with the sure and certain knowledge that it is home. It’s where we’ll eventually and finally hang up the spurs and settle down.

It wasn’t easy leaving.

Roxy, David and Lacey’s dog didn’t make it easier.

We are not dog people but this amazing animal has truly stolen our hearts.
She looked so forlorn and depressed as we went through the process of packing up the van and refused to leave her favourite place on the swing seat choosing instead to curl up without so much as a wagging tail.
This is totally out of character for her and we can only assume she knew we were leaving and not just for an hour or two.

David and Lacey have been absolutely wonderful, as usual, during our stay and it’s been so nice to have long talks and enjoy meals together as well as spending many unforgettable hours on the boat.

During the 7 weeks at Wurtulla we’ve made some very big leaps with the business, deciding once and for all to convert all our programs to online applications and make them available as SaaS (Software as a Service) applications.
This is a big move for us as it means steep learning curves into unfamiliar technology, but it’s also very exciting and opens up many new possibilities.
It’s perfectly in tune with our life philosophy of always pushing the boundaries and never stopping learning and experiencing new and unknown universes.

We‘ve also completed a lot of work on the Nissan.

We’ve added the AMMS fuel chip and exhaust system.

This is a move aimed at reducing fuel costs through advanced performance.
We’ll know in a couple of days when we refuel. Kerrie’s diligent recording of all our fuel expenses will soon show if we’ve made the right move.

We also fitted air shocks which have eliminated a slight sagging in the back as the weight of the van is taken up on the towbar.

A complete redesign of the packing of the back of the ute and a further culling out of items that we don’t need have seen us travelling even lighter than before.

It’s not far off a year now that we’ve been living exclusively in the caravan and nothing has changed our delight in living this way.
Life seems so much more simple, easy to manage and enjoyable without our huge “Thing Collection”.
The caravan is so comfortable to live in and maintain and the freedom of being able to choose where to stay next and move there quickly with a minimum of fuss and expense is a remarkable experience.
How did we ever get so attached to a mountain of “Things” that now have very little significance to daily living?

During the last 6 weeks I also had a number of Sunspots removed including a surgical removal of another one from my ear.

All in all it was a time of reorganising, catching up with precious family and friends and rethinking some things in preparation for the next part of our journey wandering Australia.

So here we are free camping the first night away.

There is nothing much here at Fat Hen Creek, just silence, apart from the odd car passing along the highway and the night sounds of the surrounding bush.
There is however a great attraction for us at this unremarkable creek side site.
It is the freedom, the freedom of choice.
It is a freedom to just live for a day or two without the hefty costs of caravan parks, away from the traffic, the shopping centres and the barrage of advertising that insults the intellect.
It is to just enjoy a quiet peaceful place without the constant intrusion of the regulations and ordinances that are relentlessly ripping away at the free choice we enjoy so much.

Yes, yes I know, we are still subject to those regulations and ordnances, even here, but life seems more basic; don’t litter the place up and do the right thing by others.

We fear that a time will come when our political masters, who truly believe they know better than us what’s good for us, will demand an end to free camping.
Will we see a time when we must be tracked in these places (for our own good of course)?
Will we be required to log in on some digital monitor so our masters know where we are?
Already the highway is littered with signs stating “Vehicle Monitoring Cameras Ahead”.
Make no mistake the freedom we love and take for granted is being quietly eroded and most of us don’t even realise it.
Tell us “it’s for your safety and your own good” and we will accept any erosion of freedom at all.

Sometimes I long to yell out, “DON’T DO ANYTHING ELSE TO PROTECT ME PLEASE. IWILL LOOK AFTER ME AND MINE.”

KERRIE’S VERSION

Well we’re on the road again.

After spending a wonderful 8 weeks in Brisbane, 7 of those at David & Lacey’s, it was time to hit the road again.

It was wonderful to catch up with family & friends, accountant, dermatologist etc.

We were going to leave Tuesday but decided to get the Fuel Chip & exhaust modification fitted to the Nissan to improve economy. Barry had suggested it, and both David & Chris have it fitted to their car’s and love it.

Withhighway driving to ACU everyday we used to get approx 620km to the tank. That is average 9.8lt to the 100km. Then with the “Old girl” travelling we were getting appro 440km or 6.9lt to the 100km. With the new van it dropped to approx 330km or 5.2lt to the 100km. So any improvement will be a great saving.

This morning was like a scene from the movie “The Castle”.

Move the Toyota to get to the boat, move the boat so we can put in the Nissan to move the van. Then swap cars again to the Toyota to put back the boat and then put away the Toyota.

Chris also had to fill in the hole that Roxy had dug under the van.

She built her den under the van.

She built her den under the van.

She would sleep there every night and when she heard us awake would come and greet us very enthusiastically. We had gone out and bought turf for the large hole so at least when we left it didn’t look like the moon surface.

We are going to miss the chats with Lacey every night over dinner and David when he was home.

Roxy will also be missed by both of us. That dog has a personality that sucks you in. She knew something was up when we were packing this morning and ended up on the swing seat sulking, not even a tail wag.

She never left our side when we were there. If we were in the van she was either under it or outside the door. If we moved into the house she sat on the swing seat so she could keep an eye on us in the kitchen. She love the beach walks as much as we did and if we did go out without her, the greeting we received when we got home was amazing.

We finally got away after lunch after having a chat with Frank & Gloria from across the road but as we aren’t in any hurry it didn’t matter.

Our first stop was at a rest area 6km East of Kilkivan.

Honestly for the first hour you think you should be doing something? It’s sooo easy. Turn on the gas, change the fridge to gas ( switch a button and press start) turn the pump switch on then the hot water. Done.

Set up in less than 10min. Fridge on, hot water and a drink in the hand.

Set up in less than 10min. Fridge on, hot water and a drink in the hand.

The only thing is there is no internet reception here, oh well upload tomorrow when we go through a town.