Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Very Very Short Breakaway

 Just one week before heading away, our 2015 VX 200 series Landcruiser decided that it didn't want to play the game.

Firstly the water pump was weeping, and secondly and more importantly we have three warning lights displayed on the dash. The 4lo light is continually flashing, and the engine warning and the slip indicator lights are hard on.

A call to Toyota who is a little over 10 km away said that it could be possible for me to drive it there, but there could be a chance that the engine could go into limp mode. So our roadside assistance through Ken Tame paid for a flatbed truck.

Long story short is that there is a problem with the EGR valves, and they need to be replaced. Parts alone are over $2000,00 and $500 for labour. 

I couldn't believe our good fortune when Toyota advised that they would pay for the parts. Our warranty period expired two and a half years ago, and during this time we have travelled  87,600 kilometres. We picked up our Landcruiser just one day before taking off, and Toyota assured us that the problem was now fixed.

With COVID-19 still creating problems around the country and many states with closed orders, our break will be limited to just New South Wales. 

Having a fully self-contained van that is only limited by the amount of water we can carry, then this holiday will be like all previous ones where we spend only three nights in caravan parks. Hopefully, this also lessens the chance of coming into contact with anyone who may have the virus.

Our trip away coincides with NSW school holidays, but by leaving the coast and heading into parts of Outback NSW, we hope the crowds will be less than if we remained along the coastal strip.

Regular readers of our blog will know that on our first days' drive from home we prefer a short trip just to get us back into the swing of things. This holiday will be no different from the others with our first nights stop at one of our favourite locations just 152 km from home.

Cangai is just over 60 km west of Grafton and east of the Gwydir Highway. The site is located in a valley and beside the Mann River. The following photo was taken last year. 


Understandably its the start of school holidays but we couldn't believe just how many groups of campers were already set up any way we were only here for the evening and heading off in the morning.

An early exit the next morning just after 7:30 am had us heading further west before climbing the Gibraltar Range towards Glen Innes.

We cruised up the range with our auto transmission temperature never exceeding seventy degrees until just three-quarters of the way to the top the same three lights that were supposedly fixed by Coffs Toyota reappeared on the dash. And to make matters worse, the engine went into limp mode. 
On came the hazard lights while we inched forward at only a few kilometres an hour before finding a spot where only half the van remained over our lane before I turned off the ignition.  I cleared a P1251 and C1201 code using our Scangauge before restarting the engine. During this time we were passed by many caravans and cars, and even though the warning lights remained, we were now thankfully out of limp mode.

A decision was made to continue onto Inverell and see the Toyota dealership on Monday morning. The engine went into limp mode on two more occasions before arriving in Inverell, but thankfully on both these occasions, we were on overpassing lanes. We checked into the Inverell Caravan Park as it was the closest to the town centre.

Unfortunately, the 
discussions with the service people at the Toyota dealership didn't fill me with much confidence, so I arranged to have the cruiser dropped at Grafton Toyota and the van towed home. Ros and I rode home in the truck.

Of course, nothing is ever easy, and we had to remove the Hitch -Ezy from the van and replace it with a ball mount so that the van could attach to the trucks tilt tray.

The Landcruiser remained with Grafton Toyota for two and a half days, but they were unable to see any problems or codes even though they drove the vehicle numerous times recording data on each drive. All there data is showing that the car is operating normally. The 97 km return journey was unevental with the Landcruiser running correctly as it always had done in the past.

Monday, August 10, 2020

New Drone Controller

I've finally bitten the bullet and upgraded the standard controller that came with my DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone, with DJI's Smart Controller that was first released back in 2019.

It's certainly a game-changer for me and allows me to fly my drone without using my smartphone, as shown in the picture below.

The advantages absolutely outweigh the disadvantages of this new controller. 

The smart controller's ultra-bright 1080p screen is twice the brightness of standard smartphones, and now there is no need to have a hood to protect the screen from the sun's rays. 

Its a much more pleasant experience flying the drone and this controller has a more ergonomic feel than the original. There will be no more fumbling while I remove the protective case from my iPhone before attaching it to the cable and control arms of the original controller. There was also the risk of dropping the phone while attaching it, which of course has happened on more than one occasion.

There are just two buttons to press, and you're ready to fly. So take off is much quicker than with the original controller.

Another advantage is not having to place your phone into airplane mode before takeoff. Calls and messages received whilst flying are distracting and can lead to disaster.

One more important feature is the 2.5 hours of battery life with this controller that allows you to fly four to five flights before a recharge. The original controller's short battery life was a significant problem and so too was the drain on the smartphone's battery.  

The ability to use this controller from -20 to plus 40 degrees Celcius is another advantage.

The MicroSD card slot on the top of the controller allows you to expand the storage capacity of the controller and I've inserted a 128 Gb card to help with backups and transfers of videos and photos.

Two other worthy features include Go Share, which allows you to easily share your photos and videos to your mobile device and SkyTalk that will enable you to live-stream your drones camera view live to Facebook and Instagram. However, at this stage, I'm not sure I will ever use SkyTalk. 

For me, there is really only one disadvantage, and that's the price. It's $1,099, but in my case, I think it is money well spent.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

ABCO Caravan Services Coffs Harbour

After our recent trip away our Bushtracker was booked into ABCO here in Coffs Harbour for some much needed TLC. They are the only approved agent in the country for Bushtracker vans. They always have a least one new Bushtracker on their premises along with a number of second-hand vans to purchase at any given time.

We are planning a week away in early October, so there was no real hurry to have the van back so we left it with Darren and Kathleen for several weeks. During this period, they will perform a service, along with a few additions. The service includes replacing the wheel bearings, wheel alignment and balance, and tyre rotation.

Our bearings are checked every 10,000 km without fail.  We have been doing that for many years even when we towed camper trailers, and touch wood, we have never experienced any problems. 
Together with a trip, we completed earlier this year and our recent trip away where we covered 5,500 km with 1400 km of that over some badly corrugated dirt roads, it was definitely time for this service.

I normally change the sacrificial anode in our Suburban hot water system. But of late we have experienced lighting issues so the guys at ABCO will change this while servicing the system.  

Our current windup Cruisemaster VC stand is being replaced with a new 12-volt jack.

The Bulldog powered jack rated at 3500 lbs, is now standard equipment on all Bushtrackers, and these have found to be very reliable. The jack comes supplied with a handle that can be used in case of power loss. Hopefully, we will probably never require this especially with our current 300Ah lithium batteries and 600 amp hours of solar panels on our roof. 

Our local canvas shop has made up the clear cover so it can be used without removal and Ros has made a canvas waterproof jacket that fits over this to further protect it from moisture and UV rays.

Another addition was the installation of tyre carriers that incorporate a fold-down ramp for ease of removing and replacing tyres. So thankfully, in the case of a tyre blowout or puncture, there will be no more lifting heavy tyres weighing in excess of 35 kg.

Having read recent threads on other sites regarding issues with gas leaks we have fitted a 12-volt gas leak detector. This device will ensure that the alarm sounds off in the likelihood that we have a gas line fracturing or a leak. Its all about peace of mind ensuring there will be no damage to our van or more importantly ourselves.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Heading for home

After two relaxing days camped on the banks of Lake Houdraman just outside Quilpie, we continued east along the Diamantina Development Road. It's so sad to see the devastation caused by this prolonged drought. 
Unfortunately everywhere we have travelled on this holiday the conditions have all been the same. Dry and dusty paddocks, trees dying and sheep and cattle either being hand-fed or trying to rely on what small amount of feed there is on the ground.

A brief stop just over 200 km later in Charleville before continuing a further 100 km to spend the evening camped in the small town of Morven.

The recreation ground here provides camping with toilets showers and some powered sites. We have camped here for many years either coming or going from Outback Queensland.
Fees are $10 for power and $5 without. Threads on Wikicamps are advising that people are stopping and not paying and even stealing the toilet paper. Unfortunately, we are hearing stories like this regularly. I'm not sure why but it could have something to do with a large number of people now traveling who seem to think that the world owes them everything.

We chose to leave a $10 donation to help with the upkeep of this wonderful facility, even though we didn't use any that were on offer.

Today's drive of just 93 km is the sort of day we really look forward too.  We are just outside the small town of Mitchell and camped beside the weir. This spot has been one of our favourites since our first visit in 2009. 

However, we have never seen the area so busy with over fifty vans parked up each evening. Luckily the camping area is large so at least you don't feel cramped in like being in a caravan park. 

Even though its a small town it has some great facilities. There are natural hot springs to soak away those weary muscles, an amazing bakery, a great butcher and a clothing shop that Ros always spends money in on our visits.

Our two days injected just over $600 into the economy of the town with the purchase of fuel, meat, groceries, trips to the bakery and of course the lovely clothes Ros can buy that she is unable to purchase at home.

On our first evening the heavens opened up and we also experienced pea size hail. Once the hail started we both had a sense of deja vu after experiencing large hail in 2013 that required our first Bushtracker to undergo a full re-skin.

The road that links Mitchell with St George is only a minor road but of course the most direct route. It's narrow in parts but is all bitumen and a distance of 208 km. We didn't stop in St George but continued another 44 km south to spend the evening camped adjacent to the Nindigully Pub.  

We arrived just around lunchtime so we decided we would have our main meal for lunch at the pub along with several cleansing ales. Ros chose and open grilled sandwich and I enjoyed my chicken vegetable wrap.

Here again, we have never seen so many vans parked up for the evening. There was a band playing while we enjoyed our lunch and they were on again in the evening and it looked like the pub was doing a roaring trade. 

Our dinner that night was an assortment of lovely cheeses salami and crackers.

Another shortish drive today of just over 200 km. We continued along the Carnarvon Highway towards Moree. I must say the government certainly isn't spending any fuel tax on local roads out here. It was a shocker and they even displayed signs in many places indicating that the road was rough and it certainly was.

We passed through Moree and joined the Gwydir Highway for 23 km before turning onto Gum Flat Road that runs for 3 km towards Gum Flat Reserve beside the Gwydir River.

We camped here last year on our way to the Big Red Bash. This area was in a drought then but the current conditions are much worse than what we experienced last year. The river levels are much lower and the surface is mainly covered in algae and what little green grass there was is now all dead and dusty. 

There was no one else here when we arrived but another couple turned up on our second day to camp several hundred metres away. We cooked over the fire on both evenings and stayed outside until the fire died down before heading inside to escape the cold.

A longer drive today that took us through Warialda, Inverell and Glen Innes. From here we passed down through Gibraltar Range National Park to spend our last evening away at Cangai beside the Mann River. Its another favourite of ours and when we arrived we were surprised to only find three other groups here.

Some statistics from our six-week trip away included traveling 6,009 kilometres at an average of 21.25 L/100 km. The cost of fuel amounted to $1,738.83 and our accommodation costs for this period was $147.00. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Quilpie via Adavale

After our short visit to Blackall, we were now on our way towards Quilpie. This road passes through Adavale 220 km south of Blackall.

Its one of those roads I've always wanted to take and had planned to do so last year, but due to reasons beyond our control we were unable to do so.

The Adavale road conditions posted at Blackall for 'caution', had us wondering if there may have been damaged from the recent rains so we were unsure of what we may find.

The first 15 km are bitumen with the remainder of the road dirt. Our progress was halted about 5 km outside Blackall with cattle being fed whilst walking along the sides of the road.

We were accompanied by Glenda and Steve in their Bushtracker. Once we reached the dirt we could see that the graders had been working on the road and we did, in fact, come across the grader a further 20 km down the road.

The road conditions continued to be better than we had expected and we sat comfortably on 70 km/h for the first 120 km.  

One or two of the creeks we passed by still held water from the recent rains and this spot would have made a lovely campsite.

The road conditions changed just over 100 km north of Adavale and started to turn stony, as we passed through a series of hills.

The remainder of the trip into Adavale consisted of a hard-baked clay-like surface that was quite rough in places. It was also a welcome sight to see wildflowers on the sides of the road from the recent rains.

Our plan was to spend the evening camped in Adavale after lunch at the pub which consisted of a cold beer and a steak sandwich. 

The publican suggested we camp along Blackwater Creek but neither of the areas we looked at was very appealing, so we continued on for another 100 km to camp just outside Quilpie.

We have camped at Lake Houdraman before but in those days camping was free and there were no facilities. Now it's known as 'The Lake' and its $ 15 per night whether you use your own facilities or theirs. There are also six powered sites near the office.

We chose to camp right on the lake edge and just use our own facilities like we always do.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Heading east towards Yaraka

Just like we have in the past we again took the Hammond Downs Road 25 km south of Windorah. It saves a considerable amount of distance rather than taking the Jundah to Quilpie Road.

This road runs roughly parallel to Cooper Creek and its many channels and can only be driven providing there has been no rain. Its a lovely drive through station properties and ends at the property know as Retreat. The road north of this station also gives access to Welford National Park where we have previously stayed. From here to Yaraka the road is a mixture of bitumen and dirt sections.

We continued along the Yaraka Road to spend the next two evenings camped behind the Yaraka Pub. This is our fourth visit here and we have timed our visit to coincide with pizza night which is held on Friday evenings.




Camping fees are $3 per night which includes all amenities but of course, we have all our own so we park away from those who require power and water.

Sunrises here are always very special and this morning did not disappoint.

Mount Slowcombe rises 350 metres above the surrounding plains not far from Yaraka. It gives panoramic views of the Yangyang Ranges and the small settlement of Yaraka far below.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

After the Bash

We left our departure from 'Big Red', until just after 9 am on Friday the 19th of July, long after the vast majority of people had already left. Then it was an easy drive into Birdsville.

Just like last year, we stayed on the town common, for another three days while catching up on washing and cleaning.
But more importantly, it meant the vast majority of vehicles had already left, allowing us the freedom to just take our time without being overtaken and showered with stones with people in a hurry to get home.

Another lovely meal at the Birdsville Hotel with Glenda and Steve on one of our nights.

This year we headed east 168 km towards Betoota. 

Our plan was to spend two days camped by the waterhole down from the pub but sadly we were surprised to see that there was far less water than there was last year.

The hotel was built during the 1800s and is the only building here. It closed down many years ago but has recently been given an upgrade and even though that has now finished and the liquor license is in place, there are still building regulations holding up it being used as a hotel.

The vast majority of this road is dirt with the occasional section of bitumen thrown into the mix. There were no surprises with the condition of the road considering the amount of traffic that has driven over it in the past few weeks. To say it was rough and corrugated would be an understatement, but thankfully our greatly reduced tyre pressures and speed were kind enough on us, our 4wd, and our van to cope with these conditions. Most of the 168 km distance to Betoota was spent driving in the bulldust on the outside of the road markers.

After just one night we headed further east towards Windorah. We were surprised by how good the remaining 102 km of dirt were compared to yesterday's conditions.

The lady at the fuel outlet in Windorah mentioned that over the Bash period she had pumped 70,000 litres of diesel.