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Tales of the travels, trials and triumphs as we explore Australia in a converted bus

Motorhome Travels - June 2010


At the time of writing, we are almost exactly half way across the Great Central Road. The Aboriginal community of Warburton marks the middle point of the road.

The bus has performed faultlessly so far and we have had no real issues with it (apart from the catch on the back door denying us access to the Moke for a few hours). We did have a minor scare - when I looked under the bus yesterday there was a brown liquid dripping at quite a rate from somewhere up high. Thoughts of cracked water tanks, broken hydraulic lines and even transmission issues flooded to mind. Further investigation showed that the liquid was actually coming from the floorboards - this now became a real puzzle. The riddle was finally solved when Tracey discovered a 1.5 litre bottle of coke that had a pin hole worn in the side of it from all the corrugations. The pinhole was firing a tiny spray of coke that was slowly making its way through the floor.

The desert sun sets on our camp below the breakaway, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The desert sun sets on our camp
below the breakaway, WA

The scenery out here is quite amazing - the vastness of the country only really becomes evident when you climb one of the few vantage points late at night ... there are no artificial lights to be seen anywhere in any direction.

We stopped off at The Tjukayirla Roadhouse for a night to restock. The roadhouse is run by Andrew and Sussan, a really nice couple who have the place running like a well oiled machine. The facilities available (considering its remoteness) are first class. We offered to build a website for the roadhouse and they accepted (see www.tjukayirlaroadhouse.com.au) - that kept us busy for a while, but we still had time to get the Moke out and explore the area.

We have spent the last few days camping at the foot of a wonderful breakaway - it is less than a kilometre from the road - but very quiet with a huge area that 100 people could easily camp on - and not even be able to see each other. We have seen a large herd of camels several times as they silently glide through the scrub. We are told that teams of camel shooters have been employed to reduce the numbers of camels in the Great Victoria Desert by 800,000. That is going to be a LOT of dead camels!

A few days ago I was thinking about the major issue we have with the Moke when we ask it to take us off road. It seriously lacks ground clearance - now we have always accepted that the Moke was not built for off-road travel and so just accepted the ground clearance issue. It suddenly occurred to me that it did not have to be that way (I am a bit slow sometimes). A few adjustments and about 2 hours later the Moke is sitting up off the dirt like an angry crab. I made sure it would still fit into the back of the bus (and it did) then we took it for a test drive over the spinifex. Wow, it was an amazing difference - why did I not do this years ago (see note above about slowness).

The new Hobo-Brake-Adjust-Lock (patent pending) - [Click for a Larger Image]
The new Hobo-Brake-Adjust-Lock
(patent pending)

The bus brakes have started their old "self-un-adjusting" trick again (this always happens on corrugated roads) - it is quite exciting when, after travelling for a couple of hours on a corrugated road, one wants to stop to look at a waterhole or the like. The brake peddle immediately drops to the floor and we go whizzing past the waterhole. I have come up with a cunning new plan to stop this from happening. Newly manufactured adjustment lockers have now been added to the two back brakes. This is the prefect place to test their effectiveness. Time will tell but in the mean time I suggest no jumping out to wave us down on corrugated roads :-)



A weather balloon launch at Giles, WA  - [Click for a Larger Image]
A weather balloon
launch at Giles, WA

What an absolutely stunning piece of country - this is just such a vast and incredibly diverse place. As we drive, the landscape changes about every 10 minutes. As you can probably tell, we are really enjoying this trip across the desert. We stopped off at the Giles weather station and watched the launching of a weather balloon. Later we visited some of Len Beadell's markers (Len is known as the last great Australian explorer, having surveyed and built most of the original outback roads through SA, NT and WA ). Len's markers are aluminium plaques bearing the date, latitude and longitude (calculated from star observations) and the names of the survey party members.

It was very interesting to see that Lens position information from way back in 1956 disagreed with my GPS by only one hundred meters or so. Before leaving Perth we purchased a DVD made about Len Beadell before his death - it has been great to watch it as we travelled some of the roads he made so long ago. The Gunbarrel Highway and Sandy Blight Road are both Lens roads.

We are currently camped at Bungadiddy Rock Hole, this is a great spot to camp with some nice places to climb and look out over the barren nothingness. This morning we got up early and climbed the ridge to watch the sun rise over the plain to the east. It was a stunning view. The year round water here makes it a great place to see lots of different birds and last night we heard both dingos and camels make their presence known.

One of Len Beadell's markers, WA  - [Click for a Larger Image]
One of Len Beadell's markers, WA

Sandy Blight Junction Road as seen from above Bungabiddy Rock Hole - [Click for a Larger Image]
Sandy Blight Junction Road as seen
from above Bungabiddy Rock Hole


The Moke - off the ground! - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Moke - off the ground!

It was not too far from Bungadiddy Rock Hole to the WA/NT border. The state of the road changed almost immediately when we crossed into NT - it seems that in the Northern Territory, graders and/or their drivers are in very short supply. The corrugations were atrocious - and there were large holes in the middle of the road (nicely marked with red triangles). I have to ask, if they send somebody out there to place the red warning triangles - why can't they just fix the road?

The bus took quite a pounding between the border and the Olga's and by the time we got onto the sealed road we had almost no brakes at all. This was not the old "self un-adjusting" issue, we had large quantities of air in the hydraulic brake lines. We still don't know how this air is getting in (it only does it when we are on corrugated roads) - investigations continue. (I'd love to hear any suggestions).

The walk around the Olga's is quite stunning and well worth the effort. Sadly, high cloud, grey skies and low light made photographs a little difficult. Uluru loomed like a giant space ship as we drove closer to Yulara. Even having been here before, we were still impressed into silence approaching the rock.

No Photoshop work involved - Salt Lake on Curtin Springs Station, NT - [Click for a Larger Image]
No Photoshop work involved - Salt
Lake on Curtin Springs Station, NT

Yulara is a place that seems to have been conceived to relieve tourists of money. It would be a great place for people with a drinking problem ... at $34 for a six pack of mid-strength beer, few people could afford to feed the habit for too long.

Curtin Springs station is just a few kilometres from Yulara and consists of over one million acres of not much (except their own large lump of rock called Mt Connor). The owners are attempting to cash in on the passing tourist dollar and are doing a good job by offering free camping just off the highway. We decided to take the Mt Connor station tour while staying there. The concept of the tour was very good ... a bit of unique scenery, some insight into the workings of a huge fairly remote cattle station and some wildlife. Sadly the implementation of the tour was not up to expectations (poor choice of vehicle and the inability to hear the guide for example) and as a result we were left quite disappointed.

Finke Racer speeds to the finish line, NT - [Click for a Larger Image]
Finke Racer speeds to the finish
line, NT

Alice Springs was in the grip of "Finke Race Fever" when we arrived, so we followed the dust plume to the start/finish line. We watched as the brave drivers and riders arrived back from their race through the desert at break-neck speed.

We have spoken to a few people about the Tanami Track and the reports have been very conflicting. We do need an accurate understanding of the state of the track before we decide whether to attempt it or not. The plan at this stage is to follow the West McDonnell ranges west of Alice Springs then turn north until reaching the Tanami - then flag down vehicles travelling east and ask them what the track was like. If we decide that it is too rough for Hobohome - we will probably go north and back into WA via the top road (the long way around).


We are still in Alice Springs! We did not plan to be here for quite this long - but there were some extenuating circumstances...

We started to notice how cold it was getting when we left Docker River. The days are ok, but the nights are freezing! Some nights have seen the temperatures fall below minus 2 degrees. So, after lots of reading, deliberation and research, we decided to install a diesel fuelled heater. We settled on the 4kw Dometic unit and purchased it from CFR in Sydney (I had a bad feeling about these guys about 1 minute after providing my credit card details over the phone - I should trust my feelings more!). Despite assurances of rapid shipping, it was sent from Brisbane by slow camel train (TNT) and took a week to arrive. We had already downloaded the installation instructions and had a good part of the install complete before the unit even arrived.

The Dometic D4 diesel heater - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Dometic D4 diesel heater

The bus being all 24volt - of course I ordered the 24v version of the heater ... well that is not what arrived. According to CFR (#@$!) Dometic do not produce the 4kw model in 24v - despite being assured by CFR at the time of ordering that they had them in stock. So rather than phone to tell me that, they just shipped the 12 volt model - brilliant!. Fortunately, the heater has very low power requirements and so, while not ideal, it will run from a 24v to 12v DC converter.

While the buying/delivery experience was appalling, the heater unit its self is a marvellous piece of German engineering. Not much bigger than a shoe box, it is brilliantly designed and very straight forward to install. I am currently sitting and looking at an outside/insidethermometer that is reading 5.4deg and 20.1deg respectively.

While under the bus organising the pre-install of the heater, I noticed a tiny bit of moisture on the radiator. Further investigation revealed a small loss of cooling fluid from near the top of the radiator. Out with the radiator! Fortunately the problem turned out to be just a small crack in the soldered joint between the top tank and the core. A few minutes with some solder, flux and a gas torch and it is a good as new. Two hours to get it out, 5 minutes to fix it, 5 minutes to test it, 2 hours to put it back in!

Today we are planning on visiting the Desert Wildlife Park - we have heard good reports so feel that we should go and have a look (I will post some photos and a report in the next few days). There are also a number of permanent solar energy exhibitions around Alice that I would like to take a look at before we leave (which should be tomorrow sometime).


We have finally made it outa "The Alice" (not that it is not a nice place to visit). We did make it to the desert park before leaving and I must say, it was worth the time and cost to see. The birds of prey show was the standout attraction and to be honest, if it were not for that, it would have been a bit hum drum.

The lack of a wedge-tailed eagle was a bit of a disappointment but the owls and falcons were great to see and photograph in action. The audio tour (a small MP3 player that provided commentary at selected points along the way) was very good and provided great insight and interesting information about both the culture and landscape.

As promised, here are some photos from the desert park (well at least the bird show part anyway)...

Barn Owl - [Click for a Larger Image]
Barn Owl

Brown Falcon - [Click for a Larger Image]
Brown Falcon

Brown Falcon in flight - [Click for a Larger Image]
Brown Falcon in flight

Brown Falcon puts the brakes on - [Click for a Larger Image]
Brown Falcon puts the brakes on

Thorny Devil - [Click for a Larger Image]
Thorny Devil

Brown Owl - [Click for a Larger Image]
Brown Owl

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