Saturday 31st October 2009, Warren.
We have now moved to a small town of Warren (see map) north west of Dubbo, a small detour off the Newell highway to the west at Gilgandra. The reason for coming here was just for the sake of going somewhere different, and not wanting to stop at Dubbo, we have heard too many negative stories about Dubbo lately. We unfortunately didn’t get to do what we wanted to do at Narrabri, like going for a few bush walks in the Mt Kaputar National park, because we had too much rain and it wouldn’t have been much fun in the wet, but we did have a relaxing time while there. Once again we stayed there for a week and the time just flew so quickly. Warren: From what we have seen so far seems to be quite a nice enough little town, looks like it was quite prosperous in its time, and we could have enjoyed some time here, but we can only afford a couple of days at this time. We have had a couple of bad experiences though with the caravan park, but nothing drastic. It is quite a nice park with large lush grass sites, good clean amenities, friendly management and close to town. The thing that I overlooked though was that she parked us under a big gum tree, the thing I normally request not to do, and it turns out the gum tree is a roosting place for all the local bird life, and all we could hear during the night was all the droppings landing on the roof. There obviously doesn’t seem to be any water restrictions here, but regardless the van will be getting a wash every morning to get rid of the mess on the roof. This being one of the few sites in the park with a large tree above I am quite surprised that management would use this site as the main one, meaning when we arrived we were the only tourist van on situ, and surely management must know about the bird droppings problem. I haven’t said anything to them about it yet but I most certainly intend to. As I said apart from this problem the park is quite a nice one, and cheap enough. One other thing to look forward to is a park Bar-B-Que this evening, something we haven’t experienced in a caravan park for quite some time, and it will be nice to have a get-together with others, although in this case most of them will be permanents, so Linda is at the moment in town getting some meat for the evening, as all we have to do is provide our own meat.
Tuesday 27th October 2009, Narrabri.
Oh the fickle weather of inland NSW: When we arrived on Friday the temperatures reached the high 30’s and has been there since, well until yesterday when we had a thunder storm, rain, temps in the high 10’s and the heater on in the caravan. It is forecast for showers nearly all week so I guess if it does we will just have to extend our stay, the awning must be dry when we put it away because from here on for a while we will likely only be staying for a couple of days so it won’t be coming out for a while. We haven’t had weather like this for such a long time so we will have to take the good with the bad, but it is a little hard finding things to do if it is raining and confined to the caravan. We did have a look around yesterday at a camp site 20K west of here, Yarrie Lake, on the basis we might stay there on our way through in future, but the main reasons for the camp sit being there Is at present non-existent, no water in the lake, so hence no bird life, but it will be worth checking when back in the area.
Saturday 24th October 2009, Narrabri.
We are now back into somewhat of civilisation at Narrabri, (see map) and it has become apparent how we have become spoiled over the past few years. It must have been a different time of the year that we were out that way, April-May, or it is just unbelievably hot for this time of year. We have been putting up with temperatures in the high 30’s over the past week or so, and the air-con has been getting a fair bit of work. We didn’t have air-con on past trips to the outback areas and do not have a recollection of needing it, then all past trips have been in early months of the year. One other thing is the water: for the past couple of weeks we have been using bore water, even for drinking, it has been good compared to some outback areas, but it is very welcome to be back into an area with non bore water. We have noticed the taste difference, and it is much different to shower in. One other major thing that has happened over the past couple of days is the decision I earlier made to give up smoking when I could not buy any more. I did run out of tobacco mid week this week at Lightning Ridge and it really had an adverse effect on me this time. It must be the difference in circumstances this time, being in excessive heat conditions and having to pack up and move in the heat. Last year in WA I went for two months without a smoke, but we were settled in Carnarvon in much more acceptable heat, and It didn’t frustrate me as much as it did this time. I have been absolutely ropable over the past few days so when we arrived yesterday I sent Linda down town to buy me a pack, and she happily obliged. The pack she got was different than I normally use, and was extremely old and dry, but a bit of potato peal in it overnight and it now has recovered a bit of moisture and is more tolerable. The local tobacconist is going to order me some good stuff so I will just have to make a decision about giving it up again some time in the future. More on Lightning Ridge: We did the other couple of ‘Car Door Tours’ one of which included a tour down and old mine, so we did enjoy our time at Lightning Ridge, apart from the heat and water, and we probably will return there some day. The hammer drill I purchased there for a pilot hole for tent pegs has once again come in handy. Here at Narrabri I also had trouble getting pegs in, so the drill did make it a lot easier. Park management insists that all that is under the grass is dirt, but I assure you that whatever is under the grass is a lot harder that dirt, and seemed to be a consistent couple of inches thick about 2-3 inches down. We are now looking forward to a week here to revisit some areas, and hopefully visit some we haven’t been to.
Monday 19th October 2009, Lightning Ridge.
We had a look around the area today on what was a novel way of having local tourist drives. There are four drive yourself tours around the town and surrounding areas called self drive Door tours, each having a different colour. Each scenic point on the tours is sign posted with an old car door, painted the appropriate colour with a number for identification. Like I said: quite a novel idea, and gives a use for all those old car doors. We only did two tours today and will do the others tomorrow, but these two have already given us a very good idea of what has happened in the way of mining over the years, and more to the point what is still happening. Quite a lot of miners still live in small shanties on their mine site, and after reading a sign explaining how much money has come out of the ground around here Linda wonders why they still live this way. It was my guess that the big mining companies are the ones that have made the money, and those small miners are the ones still battling.
Saturday 17th October 2009, Lightning Ridge.
A bit on Lightning Ridge: We were told that it was a lot like Coober Pedy, but we don’t have that impression at all, it is a bit more like Andamooka, a small town near Roby Downs south of Coober Pedy. In Coober Pedy a lot of the houses are actually built under ground, but here that is not the case, well as far as we can see so far, probably because of the different soil, here it is more gravel. We will be having a few self drive tours around the area over the next few days so we may find out otherwise but I doubt it. All settled in here now, it did take us a while as the ground is all gravel with large stone within, and it made it impossible to drive pegs into. I adopted the idea I have had for a while now, but as the situation doesn’t arise very often I have left it until now. I went out and bought an impact drill and a masonry bit to drill holes into the gravel so the pegs will drive in a lot easier, we have had to do this in the past but Adrian was with us and he had a drill for the job. I may have upset Linda though, as she said she was thinking of buying me one of these drills for Xmas, now I guess she will have to think of something else, I do have some ideas for her. Seeing I now have the drill, and it was so windy yesterday, I decided to fully install the annexe for the first time since the Sunshine Coast and it does now feel a lot more like home.
Friday 16th October 2009, Lightning Ridge.
We made our second attempt to get to Lightning Ridge today with a lot more success (See map). It was a trip with a difference: With the problems of the first attempt it couldn’t be helped that it was in our mind that something else could go wrong, I was feeling all sorts of things happening with funny little movements, but I guess after all it was just the wind being side on for most of the trip. We left St George a day early because we got sick of the wind, and guess what? It is just as bad if not worse here. We decided that because of the wind we would have to fully install the annexe, walls and all, but this is another one of those places that one needs a hammer drill to drill holes in the gravel to put the tent pegs into because it is all but impossible to drive pegs directly into it. I am half tempted to go to the local hardware shop and buy one, but can hardly justify it. We are going to be here for a week so more on the town and area later.
Wednesday 14th October 2009, St George.
All repairs to the caravan have now been done with the following being replaced: Complete brake unit both sides, new drum on the offending side, new wheel bearings both sides, new wheel nuts and two new tyres. This was a rather expensive breakdown repair, but at least now we know everything is new and can head off, hopefully, feeling a lot more confident. I was surprised with the condition of the brake unit that came off the good side as it looked as though it had not much wear at all, considering the unit had done in excess of 100,000 Kilometres. I am considering keeping that unit for spares, but this goes against my ideas of carrying spares as where does one draw a line at what to carry, but it is too good to throw out. The weather here is rather windy at the moment and has been rather dusty over the past couple of days, so this combined with us having nothing to do has really made us want to just pack up and move on now that we can, but we are paid up until Saturday. We can’t do any more today, as far as getting ready for a move, so I guess we will pack up tomorrow and probably make a move on Friday. This will be a day early but we did get a day free so it doesn’t matter that much.
Monday 12th October 2009, St George.
It seems that I have an apology of sorts to make to RACQ after a comment I made yesterday. It seems that they do in fact cover caravan towing in that situation, so I have no idea why the rep I was talking to told me otherwise, maybe it has something to do with being covered by a different state. I will be making a report to RACQ about the incident. The mechanic has been to survey the damage and the result seems to be a complete replacement of the braking system on both sides, no point in just doing one side, and a new brake drum on the offending side. It also seems that now I don’t have two tyres of the same brand I may have to purchase two new tyres as well, all existing ones are 5 years old and almost used up their time life-wise anyway.
Sunday 11th October 2009, St George.
I have had a good night’s sleep now and can possibly reflect on what happened yesterday in a fresh frame of mind. One thing that was proved yesterday was that truck drivers, again even though they hate caravans, are human and can be very helpful even to us caravanners. This has always been one reason I have always had a CB radio, and have found in the past that if one communicates with the truckies when holding them up they can be very patient knowing we are thinking of them. We are very appreciative of the help the truckie gave us yesterday in using his phone, it must have cost a fair bit, and he refused any payment. Now what we have to do is hopefully find out what actually caused the problem. I have two thoughts: a/ A wheel bearing gave way, it has been a fair while since they have been done, apart from when I had them checked in Perth last year and the report was that they were ok. It was at this time that I decided to return to Narrandera to have them done again as they must have used a good grease for them to last this long, and it was the intention to do that on our way south this trip. If it was a wheel bearing, I guess I left it a little too long, but as I have been checking bearing temps at a regular interval on all our trips recently with no indication of any problem, I suspect that this was not the actual problem. B/ A retainer spring on the brake has come adrift as it did once in the past. I suspect this would be the case as the brake shoe would then rub on the drum causing excessive heat and if it then created the heat that obviously did develop in the drum, this would have caused all the other things that occurred. This includes melting the tyre, and causing the grass fire when we stopped, in reflection I think we were lucky we had fire extinguishers as we could have lost the van if they were not extinguished. Without having the wheel apart yet it is obvious that the bearings have disintegrated, as has the brakes, and it may be very difficult to ascertain what actually caused the problem. We will find out tomorrow when the mechanic comes to survey the damage and make a list of parts required. I did find out one interesting factor with the RAC during this incident. When I rang the 13 number I actually got connected to RACQ, as we are in Queensland, and they indicated that they do not cover the towing of caravans. I strongly indicated to them that we are covered by Tasmania (RACT) and they do cover caravans. He then rang Tassie and they confirmed that this was the case and then everything we needed to get us back to St George was done and handled adequately by the RAC, so thanks to them for all the assistance. I even got a call from Tassie later in the day yesterday to see if all went well and to explain other things that we would be entitled to claim if the situation arises. I am now very grateful that we have had RAC coverage for the duration of our travels.
Saturday 10th October 2009, St George.
Yes I know I said we were going to Lightning ridge today, but we got about 40K down the road and had to call a tow truck to take the van back to where we left from. While getting along very nicely, tail wind and all, I glanced down at the trailer brake controller and it was flashing an error message, not remembering what it was now, and not knowing what it meant at the time, I mentioned to Linda that we may have a problem with our brakes, then the car began to get a little sluggish so I looked in the rear view mirror to see a great cloud of smoke billowing from one of the caravan wheels, then the tyre blew out but as I was slowing down for a stop. We walked back to the van to see what the damage was to find a grass fire had broken our below the offending wheel, and it was quite obvious that the whole wheel was absolutely red hot. We struggled to find one of our fire extinguishers to douse the fire before we lost the entire van. What actually caused the problem is at this stage unknown, but I suspect either the brakes somehow come on slightly, we did once before drop off a retainer spring on the brakes causing something similar, or a wheel bearing failure, but I can’t see how a wheel bearing would cause such a dramatic failure as that which occurred. The next problem was that we were out of mobile coverage area, so the trusty CB radio was put to use and I got on air and asked if anybody close by might have a phone to make a call for us. A semi driver responded saying he was not far down the road so he would stop when he reached us, and a couple of minutes later he arrived. He had a car kit fitted to his rig which gave him coverage and he indicated that I could make my call to RAC from his phone. It goes to show that truck drivers, even though they hate caravans, will stop to assist when one is in trouble. The call was made and arrangements were made for a tow truck from St George to come and collect us and take us back to where we came from, so here we are set up again, in the same place as we were yesterday to wait for repairs to be done so we can continue on our merry way. I have no doubt more on the story will follow later as after the quite hectic day we have had I am quite ‘Buggered’ at the moment and work are not coming easy.