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

Motorhome Travels - April 2011


The DiveYak (back in 2006), WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The DiveYak (back in 2006), WA

We left Cliff Head a few days ago and slowly (as always) made our way to Perth. The reason for this visit to the big city was Tracey's three-monthly appointment with the endocrinologist (part of the post pituitary tumor treatment). The results were all good and the endo has given us a pass for six whole months. He said "You kids go off and enjoy yourselves and I will see you in six months time ". Great - no hospitals, waiting rooms, doctors or specialists for six whole months!

A few years ago we purchased an inflatable boat called a "Diveyak". This is designed to take two people and all their scuba gear out to a dive site. It has had a bit of use - but not really as much as we intended. The main issue with it is that it is difficult to paddle and almost impossible to paddle against a wind. This makes us very cautious about when we use it (it would not be good to return from a dive to find that the wind has got up and we have a two km paddle into strong wind). We have been talking about what sort of boat we could carry to replace the diveyak (in fact we have been talking about this for about two years). We decided to look at "proper" inflatable boats with outboard motors. Lack of space in the bus was a major hurdle. Reasonable sized inflatable boats need reasonable sized outboards and both need to be stored somewhere. We would also prefer a solid hull boat (ie a tinny).

We have also been discussing all the places we would explore if we had a reasonable four wheel drive vehicle. Don't get me wrong, we love the Moke - it is a great little vehicle and is heaps of fun to drive - it is just not good off the road.

So ... to cut a long story short, an opportunity presented it's self that seemed to be custom made...

The Moke refuses to go quietly, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Moke refuses to go
quietly, WA

So - after much research and many hours of deliberation, we have purchased the Vitara from Tui and Jude, and bought from Lee and Howard the boat (a 3.75m tinny) and outboard, a foldup tralier, an A-frame, and a boat rack to fit (hopefully) onto the roof of the Vitara. This will allow us to flat tow (A-frame) the Vitara behind the bus with the boat on the roof.

So what about the poor wee Moke? Have no fear, the Moke will not be retired, dismantled or abused in any way. It will just have a holiday in storage. This will give us the option to once again take the Moke with us when we do not need a boat and 4WD.

Now I know that cars (even Mokes) do not have feelings, but it did look just a little bit sad when we were putting it in the back of the bus with the Vitara standing by. I am sure it was just a coincidence - but as we were securing the Moke in the back of the bus, one of the tie-down points broke as the Moke seemed to be refusing to be shut away!

The Vitara is now in the workshop getting the a-frame brackets fitted (very expensive) and we are trying to find somebody who does not want to be paid in kilos of gold to fit a solid tow bar to the bus. As the roof-rack is in Coolgardie (near Kalgoorlie) and the A-frame is in Badgingarra (200km north of Perth), we have quite a few kilometers to travel to get the whole thing together.

While this new traveling configuration is a major change for us and towing is something we have avoided with a passion thus far, it will open up parts of the country that we could never have explored and photographed before. Having a reasonable boat will give us access to dive and fish some of the off-shore reefs without having to worry about accidently visiting Madagascar if a wind gets up.


Here are a few photos of the latest acquisitions. The hitch for the A-frame was fitted by Tow Bar World in Perth who did an absolutely awful job of it and charged a fortune ($1350) (I ended up spending a couple of hours fixing their mistakes). The first price we were estimated for fitting the tow bar to the bus was a jaw-dropping $7000! I decided to do some drawings myself and get an engineer to look at these and ok them. A fabricator then built and fitted the tow bar receiver for $200. By the time we added the tongue and ball, and did some cosmetic repairs on the old bumper bar, the entire job cost $350. The structural part of the tow bar is actually behind the bumper bar. The tongue and ball are removable for the times when every last millimeter of ground clearance is needed (creek crossings etc).

We are now just waiting on delivery of a package from the east coast before heading  to Badgingarra and Kalgoorlie to get the A-frame, boat, outboard, trailer and roof rack. 

The Vitara in Freemantle, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Vitara in Freemantle, WA

A closeup of the A-Frame brackets on the Vitara, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
A closeup of the A-Frame brackets on
the Vitara, WA

The new tow bar on the back of the bus, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The new tow bar on the back of the
bus, WA


Things do not normally change quickly for us (with the possible exception of the view outside the windows), but there has been some very big changes this month. Imagine Hobohome without the Moke!

The Moke gets stored in our storage container, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
The Moke gets stored in our storage
container, WA

To fit the Moke into our storage container, we had to remove almost everything and repack it. To prepare for the possibility that the container may be shipped elsewhere, we have to make sure that the contents (including the Moke) can not move under even the most severe circumstances (hence the large blue tie-downs you can see in the photo).

This repacking/securing process took us a day to complete and then organizing the back of the bus to hold all of the new camping and boating gear took another day.

No - not making the bus amphibious, testing the outboard, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
No - not making the bus amphibious,
testing the outboard, WA

The boat came with a fold-up trailer, this will allow us to tow the boat to the water with the Vitara. Of course, the boat needs an outboard and this has to be stored (correctly and securely) in the back of the bus (I have modified the winch that was used to pull the Moke into the bus to now lift the outboard onto its storage bracket). To make full use of our new 4WD, we need the ability to camp out for a night or two - this requires some camping gear and this too needs to be stored in the back of the bus.

Before long the space in the back of the bus that used to house the Moke was looking quite full! We need to cut down on the "stuff" that we carry around!

The A-frame was fitted to the Vitara (fitted perfectly) and we were ready to tow for the very first time. We planned to take some back roads to Coolgardie and this of course means some dirt roads. Tracey constructed a quick cover to protect the front of the Vitara from stones thrown up by the bus - we will devise a permanent solution to this when we have a little more time.

Just while I am taking about the A-frame, I should explain my comment about the "awful job" the company did fitting the brackets to the Vitara. They elected to run the brake cable from the A-frame through the middle of the Vitara's steering gear on its way to the brake peddle - this caused big problems when the steering wheel was turned and, if left like this, would have very quickly broken the cable. To correct the issue, we simply re-routed the cable away from moving parts and re-attached it. Sure - not a huge deal, but it would have been had I not discovered the issue and corrected it.

The bus towed the Vitara perfectly and we barely knew it was attached. The trip out to Coolgardie was quick (very quick by our standards) and uneventful. The bus and "toad" arrived safely (if a little dirty) in Coolgardie in time for us to share a few drinks with the brother-in-law to celebrate his birthday. We will be in Coolgardie for about a week while we fit the roof rack to the Vitara to allow us to carry the boat.

Tires -
Our two front tires (Chinese made  "Double Coin" brand) are quite badly in need of replacement. They have been on the bus for 27,000 km - this is not really very good for a set of tires that cost over $600 each, they have worn quite unevenly with a marked scallop pattern on the inside of both tires. We have in the past had mixed results from tires other than Bridgestone's and I can't quite remember why we decided to use another brand this time. Before simply replacing the tires, I decided to seek advise from a tire expert and I was very pleased to find one at Bridgestone Select in Kewdale. He took a good look at the tires, the vehicle and the wear pattern and spent quite a lot of time explaining our issue. We have always tried to use the exact same tire on all 6 wheels - this makes rotation simple and provides a number of useful options when stuck in the middle of nowhere with two destroyed tires. Our tire expert agreed that this was a good plan - but went on to explain that to put a tire not designed for the front (these are called "Steerers") is to condemn them to a shorter life. He explained the effects of tire compounds and composition, tread pattern and the stresses involved in turning the steering tires. He also explained the importance of regular tire rotation.

To cut a long story short, he made it clear that our choice of tire for the front of the bus was quite wrong (nothing to do with the brand or country of origin). He went on to recommend a suitable tire - and we will follow his advise when we buy the new tires (very soon). It is so refreshing to find an expert who is prepared to spend time explaining these sorts of things.



We are currently in Coolgardie and after a few minor dramas the boat rack is now firmly attached to the roof of the Vitara. It does look a little strange as the vehicle is quite narrow at the roof and the boat rack is quite wide. From my research however, it does seem to be within the legal limits as it does not protrude more than 150mm from the widest part of the vehicle (excluding the mirrors). I was not happy with the fixing and flex in the roof using only the Rhino-Rack parts and have added four additional fixing points to both take the weight of the boat and stop a strong wind from tearing the boat, rack and roof from the Vitara.

We have two new front tires - we decided to buy cheap Chinese ones. It was a tuff decision but at a little under half the price we felt it was a better option ... only time will tell.

The amazing folded boat - [Click for a Larger Image]
The amazing folded boat

The plan is to leave here tomorrow and make our way back to Badgingarra to pick up the boat. It is only at this point will the new ensemble be complete and we can rest knowing that it all works. I still have a few worries about the boat loader - I fear that the height of the Vitara (or lack of height in this case) may cause issues with the point of balance as the boat is being loaded onto the roof. We will just have to deal with that if it becomes an issue.

I will post photos of the entire setup once it is all together - but in the meantime here is a very interesting photo sent to me by Alex. This has to be one of the most innovative things I have ever seen. It is a classic example of "need driving invention". The owner of a motorhome wanted to tow both his 4wd AND his boat. The only way that this could be done was to cut the boat and fold it in half when it was on the trailer (the trailer also carries the front wheels of the 4wd).

The amazing folded boat - [Click for a Larger Image]
The amazing folded boat

In the first photo you can see the ramps for the loading the vehicle onto the trailer, under the front of the boat (click on a photo to see an enlargement). In the second photo you can see the hinges in the hull(s) that allow the entire boat to fold in half for storage. This is a very clever idea.

It occurred to me that we could have used this technique to put the boat into the area where the Moke used to be housed instead of on the roof of the Vitara.


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