Trip to the Tip (no, not the rubbish dump)

The Tip

Well I guess any blog about Cape York would not be complete without a story about our trip to the Northernmost Point of the Australian Continent.

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We set out from Loyalty beach and took the back road (dirt tracks) up through small creek crossings and the beautiful Lockerbie Scrub to the Croc Tent. The Croc Tent is a unique souvenir shop situated at the junction of the Punsand Bay and Cape York roads. It sells absolutely everything you could possibly want as a souvenir of your trip to the top. We stopped in to pick up some t-shirts, stubby coolers and other assorted paraphernalia to prove we had been there.

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Now Linda, who is a shopaholic, had a field day in there, we had been without any shops or stores for about a week now, so she was intent on getting her fix! When we had finally managed to drag her away we continued on the Pajinka road on the way to the Tip. Pajinka, is the Aboriginal name for the land at The Tip, the lands traditional owners are the people of Injinoo.

On the road in we saw the ruins of the old Pajinka Wilderness Lodge. This was originally opened as a five star resort for pilots in 1986 (called the Cape York wilderness Lodge) and had several owners throughout the years. It was sold to the Injinoo Aboriginal Cooperation in 1992 and renamed the Pajinka Wilderness Lodge. It closed in 2002 never to be opened again and now is a curiosity of derelict infrastructure in the middle of nowhere, rapidly being overtaken by tropical rainforest.

We arrived at the car park for the short walk to the tip. It was then that we found out we had a short walk over the headland to get to the tip itself. Now it is worth mentioning that we got there quite early. We did not really want to spend time queuing to get our photo taken so we thought we would try and beat the hoards and coach loads by arriving early.

As we started the small climb over the headland. The view from the peak was amazing, looking out over the pristine waters of the Arafura sea to the York and Eborac Islands.

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At the top of the climb, before you start the descent to the tip, there is a monument that makes you realise just how far away you are from the rest of Australia.

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On this disc are the distances for places around the world and it makes you stop and think that at this moment you are closer to Papa New Guinea (Daru, 190km and Port Moresby, 320km) than Cairns (770km) or Brisbane (2120km). Just wow!

It was about this time that we realised one member of our party (Linda) was carrying her very large handbag with her. Hmm, bit of a strange item to lug all the way to the tip (unless of course it is filled with beer). This was the stage that we found out something very unique about Linda. We always knew she liked to wear branded clothes and put great store in the finer things in life (well why wouldn’t you). We were unsure however when she would be wearing her diamonds and pearls on a trip to the Cape. You see the reason she had brought her handbag with her on the trek was because it contained (yes you have guessed it) her jewelry. Instead of leaving these items at home in her safe in her alarmed house she had felt safer bringing her expensive jewelry with her! Unfortunately for Linda we did have a good giggle about this for the next two weeks (and longer).

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Once down the other side we did the obligatory photos and beer at the tip. We were very lucky to have the area to ourselves for quite a while so many happy snaps were taken whilst sipping beer and marveling at the sights.

If you like what you have read check out some of my other stories of our Pozzie adventures

Cape York – Sights, Fish and Fun

Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch

Henrietta Creek Camping Adventure

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Cape York – Sights, Fish and Fun

We traveled on a three week adventure from Townsville to the tip of Australia and back with two other couples, the Drabbles and the Greens. We set off very early one  Saturday morning in convoy, all very excited. We reached the breakfast stop (in Cardwell) and all popped into the servo for hot bacon and egg sangas, well all except one team member, Linda Green, who was fast asleep in the car (maybe the excitement was too much for her).

So, now I take writers licence and skip to the bit where we have finally reached the top of Australia and roll into Seisia. I will fill you all in on the bits in between (like the old telegraph track etc.) but that will be a different blog (too much to cover in one). We had decided that we would spend the first few days at Loyalty Beach camp ground, so we could use it as a base to explore the top. So we rolled in, found our spots and pitched our tents. This was a lovely ground with adequate facilities, good sized pitches and a view to die for.

Loyalty Beach

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Sunset at Loyalty Beach Camp Ground

The campground covers about 13 acres of beachfront prime site. It also has an abundance of wildlife in and around the campground including palm cockatoos, green tree frogs, dingoes, kangaroos, green tree snakes, pythons, wild horses, crocodiles and the beautiful Ulysses Butterfly. We saw quite a few wild horses, that would come into the campground of an evening and search for food in the bins and peoples tents etc. We had a couple of restless nights where we were awoken by horses rummaging around bins and walking through people campsites looking for food.

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After settling in with a few cold beers we began to plan our next couple of days. Obviously we wanted to drive to the tip, we also wanted to do a bit of  fishing and just generally unwind and chill out after a hectic few days getting here. Admin needed to be done (such as washing and general camp cleaning) and we all needed to recharge and Linda needed to catch up on her sleep.

The beach went for miles and miles and Mike and I took off to explore. After walking a long way down the beach we eventually came across what I liked to call “my new reef boat”! Upon closer inspection we did decide that it probably needed a little bit of work so I decided to stick with the tinny.

The Greens also went exploring from the campground and, true to form, found a pub just down the beach. This was lovely place to spend the afternoon (and the Greens spent many afternoons there). One evening we decided to all go down as they had traditional dancers from Thursday Island putting on an amazing performance, showcasing their traditional dancing and costumes.

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The stage was set for the performers with an amazing sunset in the background. The dancers ranged in ages from very young kids of four or five to older teenagers and they were amazing. They were all in traditional costume and performed several different dances with spears and headdresses. At the end of the evening they invited the audience to come and join in with one of their dances. Well, when they invited the audience to join in guess who got up and into the spirit of the evening? No, not me! Drabs of course. He could not help himself and I must admit he did bring a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the proceedings.

Fishing (of course, you surely knew there would be fishing!)

My fishing husband (Drabs) had brought his roof top tinny along on the trip so he very kindly offered to take me out for a mornings fish in the beautiful waters just off Seisia. We got up early and trundled down to the boat ramp. I was very excited to get my fishing fishing trip in the far north of Queensland and was looking forward to bringing home dinner.

The waters around Seisia are full of small reefs and islands which hold hundreds of fish of all different species. The weather wasn’t too great (little windy for the small boat), but we battled on and had a beautiful morning out on the water. We also landed a few fish, but nothing of note and definitely nothing that would feed the six of us for dinner!

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Happy Girl

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Cute coral

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It’s a cuda

As a side note I guess I should be totally transparent with my readers and let you know that if I had to survive on the fish I caught I would be a size zero and very hungry. I start every fishing trip with a pure excitable optimism, which, if truth be told, is only occasionally warranted. But, in saying that, I am forever the optimist and some times I do bring home dinner (like the beautiful Barra I caught in the Jardine).

We went for a fish off the famous Seisia Jetty a couple of times (while the Greens went to the pub). This place was amazing, you can look over the edge and see the fish all swimming around in schools, absolutely amazing. Of course that does not mean that you can catch them even when you dangling an enticing lure in front of their noses.

Some great catches have been had from the jetty, including huge mackerel, giant trevally and others, but we had to just satisfy ourselves with some small, but cute ones.

 

Sight Seeing

Just in case fishing is not your thing, there are plenty of other things to do whilst staying at Loyalty beach. One day we decided to explore the famous Five Beaches loop track which starts at Somerset ruins and goes through to Vallack Point on the eastern side of Cape York. The track does go further than Vallack and actually encompasses about seven or eight beaches before it rejoins Somerset Road, but we just stuck to the five. The track itself takes you across rugged headland with coffee rock and down onto beaches with beautiful white sand and pristine waters.

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Start of the Five Beaches Loop Track

The track conditions change depending on the weather and wet seasons, but we did not find any of the area too rough and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. The coastline is spectacular and rugged. Beautiful stretches of sandy beaches with hardly another soul in sight.

 

On our way back we decided to explore the World War II wrecks that are scattered around the area. The area is full of history. In Bamaga there is a monument that commemorates the local Torres Strait Islanders (TSI) who enlisted in the Northern Peninsula Area Light Infantry. By 1944, almost every able-bodied TSI man had joined up, ready to repulse the Japanese from the Cape should they invade.

 

The area is dotted with wrecks of planes and abandoned radar installations and buildings. Seeing how many plane wrecks there were around the area surrounded by tropical jungle was a surreal experience. It was very thought provoking end to another wonderful day in Cape York.

If you want to read more about our trip to Cape York, including the beautiful Jardine River and our mechanical failures along the way, check out my other blogs

From the Banks of the Jardine

Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch

On the Hunt for Sooty Grunter

Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp is just outside of Charters Towers in North Queensland. The Drabbles and ourselves decided we needed to go for a weekend of camping and fishing so we packed up the tent, camper trailer and fishing rods and off we went.

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It was very dry and dusty when we arrived, but we were assured there was water in the river and creek systems around the area, so we were happy enough.  Once our camp was set up, we got the fire going and started our own dinner prep. After dinner, with a few beers round the camp fire we planned the following day’s exploration and fishing.

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We were after some sooty grunter in the surrounding creeks and rivers and Drabs was the authority on where, how and with what to catch them. So, we woke early in the morning, and after a bit of brekky we found out that Di did not sleep very well last night. It seemed that the peacocks and snoring generally kept her awake. Well we could not do anything about the peacocks but we move dour tent away from their camper trailer to try and eliminate the snoring noises (just anote to say it was not me snoring by the way).

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Once we had cleaned up our camp and loaded our respective vehicles with fishing paraphenalia and lunch, we set off to find some not so dry creek beds down which we could drive in search of the elusive sooty.

Now there is always a lot of banter between Drabs and Mike, Patrol vs Prado, whose 4wd is better, who knows more about off road driving, who is the true blue “Aussiest”! This makes for some light entertainment for Di and I listening to them and their growing list of over exaggerated claims. Mike and I were relatively new to the whole 4×4 driving thing and I always deferred to Drabs on the fishing front (after all he has been doing it most of his life and I have only been fishing for about 10 years).

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Following the Drabbles we pulled off the highway onto a dry creek bed and promptly came to a halt. Drabs had got his Patrol stuck in the soft sand and we hadn’t even gone 200 yards! Well we laughed and laughed, cracking some jokes about Patrol’s vs Prado’s (like you do), as he pulled his Maxtraxs out and let his tyres down. We also reduced our tyre pressure and set off down the creek bed in search of the elusive sooty.

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We fished a few of the deeper areas of the creek and Drabs caught a couple of good sooty (I got nothing, but it was not for lack of trying). The area had narrow bands of water running over rocks with low hanging trees and good shaded areas where the sooty hang out. Perfect fishing country. After a big wet out here the creeks and rivers are in full flood, water rushing over the rocks, uprooting trees and flooding up to the banks. Unfortunatley the area had been in drought for quite a while and the creek beds were mainly sand with the creek running shallow and narrow in many places.

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Now Drabs is a diehard fisherman and he decided the other bank was the place to be so off he went, walking and swimming across the creek with rod held high out of the water. This was bit too hardcore for me, even though we were in fresh water I was still concerned about crocodiles and other nasties lurking unseen. He got to the other side with only a few little mishaps such as falling down a couple of big holes and almost losing his hat in the water, but his rod was kept dry and above his head at all times (told you he was diehard).

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As we sat on the bank relaxing and keeping an eye on him over the other side (to make sure he did not disappear down a hole or become croc bait) we heard a big whoop and he was on. He got a couple of nice sooty for his troubles. I looked on, enviously, but still not game enough to venture over. I was a bit chicken I suppose but even though I love fishing there are just some lengths I would not go to get the elusive sooty.

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After a spot of lunch, we ventured further down the creek bed and reached an area where we needed to cross the creek. Like a true blue Aussie Drabs took one for the team and went first. It took him a few attempts to get across, going backward and forward, trying not to get bogged in the middle. It was not deep but the sand was very soft (apparently, although the Prado made it in one go!). Maybe the Patrol did not like getting its feet wet!

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So off we set again and to find another likely fishing spot. As we were driving I looked out of my window to see the Patrol struggling to get up a very, very, very, small bump of sand. I pointed this out to Mike and we had a bit of a giggle. Reaching for the radio I asked if the Patrol would like a little push from our Prado to assist with the massive obstacle it was facing. For some reason Drabs did not find that too funny, although I am sure I could hear Di laughing in the background! After a few attempts the Patrol managed to climb Everest and we got back on the route down to the creek.

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Drabs caught several sooty grunters that day and I even bagged myself a little on. Unfortunately, I cannot find the picture of it, but I did catch one (honestly!). But truth be told it was a lovely couple of days spent in good company and exploring different scenery and having a few laughs along the way.

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Check out Bivouac Junction Holiday Camp and the surrounding creeks for your own sooty adventure.

https://www.facebook.com/bivouacjunction/

From the Banks of the Jardine

The Jardine river in the far north of Queensland is a huge body of water that starts in the mountains of the Great Dividing Range and meets the sea near Mutee Heads.

It is the largest perennial river in Queensland. For those of you who are a bit shy to look that up, it means it has continuous flow in parts of its river bed all year round. The catchment takes up the whole of the Jardine River National Park, about 3,282 square kilometres of mostly uninhabited country. So, needless to say, this river is huge!

It is also beautiful, remote, pristine and peaceful and has become my favourite place in Cape York.

Banks of the Jardine

We had travelled to the Cape with two other couples and spent some time up at Loyalty Beach near Bamaga. We then decided, on our way down, we would camp at the mouth of the Jardine to spend a few days off the grid, fishing and relaxing. Off we set, in convoy, heading towards Mutee Heads and then down the dirt tracks to some camping areas on the banks of the Jardine. Now one set of friends were towing a camper trailer (you may be familiar with them from my other blogs, yes it was the Drabbles). That camper trailer had issues! One set of bearings was almost shot, and the brakes were welded on. So, we took the Prado off down the tracks to ensure that the slopes and conditions were ok for the Drabbles to follow.

As we came around a corner we encountered some very deep and soft sand and oops, just like that, were stuck. So out we get, removing the max tracks and started digging. We radioed back up to the convoy to let them know not to take the right fork and set about extracting ourselves from the very, very, very soft sand. Now it was little eerie in that we had no response on the radio, we were surrounded by bush in the middle of nowhere and we were struggling to get ourselves out of the sand. In the distance we could hear a strange noise, a mixture of whining and grinding, getting louder and louder. My imagination was running away with me and I decided that we were going to be captured and sacrificed to some remote god in a spectacular fashion. The noise grew louder and as I looked over onto the other track (the one we should have taken) I saw the culprit! Here came the BT-50 freewheeling down the slope whining and grinding its way through the right-hand track sans camper trailer, (without getting stuck), to then end up in front of us, closely followed by the Greens in their Patrol and camper trailer. When they had had finished taking the good old Michael out of us and managed to stop laughing long enough, they hooked up the snatch strap our little Prado and dragged us out of the sand. Off we went again.

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(no pictures as the camera lady was a bit stressed, hot and bothered!)

We got to the banks of the Jardine and sussed out the camping areas. Mike and I decided that we would go scouting up to the mouth to see whether there were better campsites up there. Yet another mistake, second time in the same day we got stuck in very soft sand. Again, we had to get the Patrol to come and snatch us out. How very embarrassing! So, considering our failure, we decided to camp at our first stop, we just could not take any more humiliation.

(still no pictures of this as I was getting a bit cranky! Can’t think why)

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We made it back to the camp area only to find out that Di had photographed a map telling us there were bad sand bogs where we had just been. Thanks for the heads-up Di!!!!!! (With friends like that……. Need I say more!)

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The area was beautiful, we were camped in the next area along from the other two couples. Not that we are anti-social at all but there were some snoring issues coming from the Green’s camper trailer and I do not play nicely if I don’t get enough sleep! So, we set up our tent and then helped the others set up a communal area to cook and eat in front of a beautiful campfire overlooking the Jardine.

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We shared cooking duties for the next few days and I must admit the cooking, company, wine and views were amazing.

So, we got back to camp with tall tales of the huge ones that got away, over a few beers and a fantastic beef stew and dumplings. Wow another beautiful day in the far north of Queensland.

We stayed at this camp for 5 days in total, mainly because we were waiting for the bearings to be delivered to Bamaga for the Drabbles camper trailer, but also because it was amazing. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was great, the fishing was fantastic, and the company was awesome. But, as with all good things it had to come to an end and we had to head back to civilisation! (picture sad face emoji).

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So, on the morning of the 5th day we woke up and started packing up ready for the trip back to Bamaga. That is when I heard Di yelling, “Oi come and look at this!” we dutifully headed onto the beach in front of their camp and promptly freaked out to see the croc tracks leading up from the Jardine to just below their camp. The crocodile had obviously found something nice to eat just under the sand and then promptly wandered off back to the water again. In the immortal words of Steve Irwin “Crikey he was a big un!”

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Maybe it was a good idea to boot scoot out of there! So long Jardine and thanks for all the Barra!

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“Go to the Beach”, they said – “It Will be Fun”, they said.

Fraser Island.

Fraser is a beautifully unique island off the south-east coast of Queensland. It is the world’s largest sand island, stretching over 120km, with rainforest growing out of the sand. The island is World Heritage listed and is a camping and 4 wheel driving mecca for many Australians and international tourists.

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Fraser Island

So, for our first real adventure since moving to Townsville my husband and I decided to venture forth and make the trip. We had booked just over two weeks off and travelled down from Townsville stopping at the beautiful Smalleys beach, in the beautiful Cape Hillsborough National Park, on the way.

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Smalleys Beach

We had booked in at the Waddy Point beachfront camping area to the north for 7 days and as we made our way over on the ferry we were very excited.

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Waiting for the Ferry

We had been told by many of our friends that Fraser can be a bit difficult to drive on with lots of soft sand, soft coffee rock, dingoes and plenty of traffic (especially during school holidays). We were also told to ensure we check the tides as getting up Seventy-Five Mile beach could be a bit tricky if you got your timings wrong.

Being excited (and a little bit naive) we trundled off the ferry at Wanggoolba Creek along with a few other tourists and hit our first sand trap about 10 minutes later. To be fair it wasn’t completely our fault. We were following a car full of Japanese tourists who decided to stop in the middle of the track for a photo opportunity! So, we pulled up and immediately sank in the sand! We did realise, after being dragged out by some very accommodating people, that our tyre pressures were not low enough, first schoolboy error! We had them somewhere around 25psi and were told they should be somewhere around 16, oops! Lesson learnt, and we were off again, travelling through the sandy roads to get onto Seventy-Five Mile Beach.

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Maheno shipwreck on Seventy-Five Mile Beach

Now driving Seventy-Five Mile beach is a bit of an experience! Not only do you have to dodge other cars, the sea, tour buses and people but airplanes too! Tourist flights land on every shifting airstrips on the beach and it can be quite unnerving to see an airplane coming in to land in front of you!

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Airstrip

On our way up to our campsite we came across another couple who were stuck half way up Indian Heads. They were towing a camper trailer and drove a Patrol (yep Toyota’s are forever pulling Patrol’s out of trouble). We stopped to assist (with our limited Pozzie knowledge) and got them out and on their way up. It just so happened that they ended up camping next door to us and thus a friendship was born.

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Fun in the Sand

With our new-found friends we explored the northern end of Fraser, enjoying the sun, sea and sand. We also explored a few tins of xxxx and the odd wine bottle, (well it would be rude not to!). We thought it would be a good idea to travel over to the other side of the island and visit Wathumba Creek.

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Beautiful Wathumba

Wathumba Creek is a beautiful place, just picture perfect with white sands and turquoise water, good fishing and abundant marine life. We spent the best part of the day exploring this area and swimming in the beautiful pristine waters. On our way back, our new-found friends told us of another beach which was, if possible, even more beautiful than Wathumba.

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More Wathumba

They pulled over and directed us to the track that led to this said beach in Platypus Bay. They told us that there was a small water crossing with a log in it then we would see the entrance to the beach. They told us we would need to gun it over the rise as the sand was soft, but it was ok there was plenty of room on the other side to slow down and get onto the beach. They would wait for us in the pub and we could catch them up there.

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The Pub

So, like good Pozzies off we trundled, got through the water crossing (no drama really) and over the sand track. We did as instructed and gunned it over the rise and then ……. thump! Straight onto the beach in soft sand with the sea directly in front of us! Bringing to mind the saying “Go to the Beach”, they said – “It Will be Fun”, they said!!! Yeah right!

We were well and truly stuck! Right up to the axle! With water in front of us and soft sand behind. After a while of trying to drive the car out (backwards and forwards) and trying to hail our new-found friends on the UHF (who were probably having too much fun in the pub), we clambered out and started to dig. And dig. And dig. And dig! This car was well and truly bogged!!!!!

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Stuck

All the while we were keeping an eye on the tide, pretty sure it was coming in!

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Keep Smiling

So, we dug and dug and moved the car about 25 metres!!! We were both absolutely exhausted, but knew we had to try and get out of there, so we dug some more. As a side note I must admit my husband and I worked as a team that afternoon, no arguing, no blame game just one focussed goal of getting out and getting on track (very unusual I know but we obviously function better together under stress!).

We were desperate and ready to give up and walk, we had both been digging, hauling and generally trying to retrieve the car for over two hours in the hot sun. Enough was enough! I was that hot and tired I thought I was hallucinating as I saw people coming over the sand dune! I have never been so happy to see complete strangers in my life! So, after some hysterical relief and hugs for the rescuers the guys tried to haul our Prado out of the sand dune backwards. It took several attempts and two other cars, but we got there eventually.

There are no photos of this great rescue, due to the fact that I was just so bloody knackered and stressed I did not have presence of mind to take any! But I will say we are eternally grateful to the guys and gals that got us out of that mess, they were awesome!

We headed back to camp (not the pub, we were too dirty, sweaty and knackered). As we pulled up to our camp our new-found friends came out to greet us, with a beer, dinner and platitudes of “we were just thinking about coming to look for you”, “oh my what happened”, “are you ok, we have made you dinner”, “here have a stiff drink everything will be alright”!!!!!! We had a much-needed hot shower and ate dinner, drank lot’s, laughed about our adventure, (sometimes hysterically!) and slept like little babies.

We really enjoyed our time on Fraser and enjoyed the company of the people we met there, so much so we took my parents the year after (without any mishaps). It really is a beautiful place and one I would encourage everyone to see at least once in their lifetime. We will be going back again sometime soon, hopefully armed with a little bit more experience!

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Fraser Island

That’s not a 4wd – This is a 4wd

The Prado

When we moved to Townsville, my husband bought a second-hand Prado. We needed it to tow the boat (as my little RAV was having a hard time), and we wanted something we could do more adventurous trips in.

The Prado was already set up with a long-range fuel tank, so we did not need to worry about that, but it did need some other extras. My husband went all out getting the mods done to make it capable of going off road. That included a 2-inch lift with old man emu suspension, snorkel, bull bar, winch, roof rack, side awning, drop slide fridge, road shower, a set of Drifta drawers for the back and the list went on and on. The car morphed from a comfortable dirt road only 4wd into something that could cope with a bit of rougher track and we could happily take camping on our adventures.

Our first real trip was to Fraser Island. It coped well and we did not really have any problems with it. The set up was fantastic and the convenience of having everything out of the back of the car was great. A whole new experience for us Pozzie adventurers! The Drifta drawers were amazing, I could keep all my food and cooking stuff in them and they gave easy access without having to dig through plastic storage boxes. The fridge was also amazing and was just at the right height for me with the drop slide.

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Yes we do eat a lot!

The Prado performed well on the sand, once we had mastered the tyre pressures and because it was relatively light had no problems getting places. We did have a couple of hiccups that I will elaborate on in a future blog, so you will have to wait.


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Camping Set Up

After taking the parents to Fraser (our second time) we decided we were ready for a bigger trip, so we started planning our trip to the Cape. We ensured that the Prado had its full check over and added a cargo barrier (just in case we had a mishap), breathers and a bra to cope with water crossings and the all-important UHF radio and spare before we set off. We also made sure we took a Drabble with us in case of mechanical emergencies, (see Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch). The trip up was good. The Prado did the hard yards, rescuing the BT-50 numerous times on the Tele Track and we thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck, getting out and generally running amok. The Prado did everything we asked of it, but we wanted more.

Campfire discussions were had with the other two couples we made the trip with. We began discussing and weighing up the pros and cons of a new 4wd vehicle, 79 series Landcruiser or 200 series Cruiser or another type altogether. Many a robust discussion was held around the campfire fueled by XXXX Gold tinnies and our own biases. Do we get a 200 series (for comfort) and chop it, or do we get a 79 series for practicality? Do the 200 series have too many electrical gadgets to go wrong? Are the 79 series cruisers too utility like (and uncomfortable)? These were answers we needed so we decided we would do our research once back home.

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Well anyway it seems like the Prado got a whiff of us wanting to trade her in. She must have overheard our campfire talk and got a bit upset, so she thought “I will show them!” On the way to Chilli Beach her alternator packed in (I think she did it on purpose!). Well that put us in a bit of a situation. After many discussions of what to do – put the generator on the roof (yes that was a real suggestion!), use solar panels, strip the car down etc. my husband strapped the solar panels to the roof, duck taped the wires down the side of the car and onto the battery and off we set for Cooktown. Luckily it was near the end of our holiday, so we drove from Chilli Beach to Cooktown without aircon (hot and sticky), windows open, red dust covering everything and not stopping (even for a call of nature). Luckily for my husband I sang all the way so he had music!!!!!

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Definitely a technical modification

Research, Research and More Research

So back home (with the alternator fixed) it was time for some of the famous Holmes research. My husband and I did our homework, spoke to heaps of people, took a few test drives and went to see our local (friendly) engineer (Mick at AEV) about the pros and cons of modifications to both the 200 series and the 79. It was decided that the 79 series Cruisers were the better option for our requirements (and minimal mechanical knowledge), spares would also be easy to come by as they are the most used vehicle in outback Australia. We also agreed that the 200 series Cruisers were too computer reliant which would not be a good thing if we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a failure.

So, after taking the 79 series for a test drive, we agreed this was the way to go, but only if we could change the manual gearbox out for an auto (getting on in life and like the easier option). Our local dealer was a little vague about when they were getting a graphite one in stock and could not tell us until we had paid for it, so we ended up getting one from John Coles at Atherton. Service was amazing, and we got a discount! We made the trip up to Atherton and picked up our stubby little dual cab.

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What a cutie! (and the car, heehee!)

The Cruiser (aka my husband’s truck)

Now the real fun began. We wanted the chassis extended so we went back to see Mick at AEV in Townsville and had long chats with him over the best set up for the new vehicle. He did try to convince us to go to a six-wheel option (with a fully working 3rd axle) but we decided that was probably a bit overkill for us. He informed us we could get the chassis extended by 300mm and change out the manual gearbox for an auto. So, we dropped the vehicle into him and he started work on it. While in the shop we got him to put a 3-inch lift on, JMACX coil conversion (which rectified the rear tracking alignment), a brake booster, GVM upgrade and all our accessories including; snorkel (standard Toyota one is rubbish apparently), bull bar, winch, batteries, long range fuel tank, steel rims and new tyres and the list went on and on! (again!).

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JMACX Coil Conversion

Although extremely happy with the service it is slightly disconcerting to see your brand new hardly been used vehicle chopped in two before they reattach with the extension!

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Just to give a big plug here, the service and quality of work we have received from Michael and the team at Australian Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has been outstanding. Nothing has been too much bother for them and they are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and good at dealing with clueless Pozzies.

Then it was time to work out the canopy. The guys at Allytech built this for us and arranged to have the Redarc Battery Management and inverter installed. Of course, it had to have a rack for the tinnie (with and ATV winch because I am getting on a bit and like the easy life!), lithium battery, a potable water tank and the tray for when we did not want the canopy on.

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Canopy by AllyTech Townsville

Then we ordered the drawers from Drifta and when they arrived my husband and I had to install them. That was fun! Just getting the canopy off the back was an art in itself, on our sloping block we had to find genius ways of stopping it from falling over! Drawers installed, along with a 90ltr fridge slide and generator slide, we soon realised that the pull-out table was a bit too high for me to do anything on! So, I had to source some steps otherwise I would not be able to see what I was cooking.

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Hmmm cooking could be difficult

After buying solar panels, hot water system, gas bottle holder, and umpteen bits and pieces we finally had a car (took about 6 months from purchase). Must say though the husband is very happy and informs me that it will only need a few extra bits before our big Kimberley trip next year!

You know what they say; “Happy husband (and truck), happy life!”

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The Love of My Husbands Life!

Jump, Snatch, Blow and Winch

What are friends for? We traveled the Cape last year and, because we were relatively inexperienced with hard 4wd tracks, we went with friends, the Drabbles. Friends who had done the Cape before, friends who were dinky di true Aussie blue, friends who knew how to get themselves out of sticky situations. We were told “always take a Drabble” and you would never be stuck.

Sounds like a plan yes?

There is  a rivalry between us over the capabilities of our cars, friendly rivalry but a rivalry nonetheless. We, being ex poms, cop some flack over “having all the gear and no idea” in our little Prado. Well thank goodness for our little Prado we say.

On the track we had to save the Drabbles bacon not once but 4 times! Hurrah for all the gear (we did have SOME idea).

Prado had to jump start the BT50 on the morning of our first bush camp on the OTT

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Prado had to snatch BT50 out of the Jardine

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Prado had to blow BT50 on the PDR (Mr Drabble getting told off by Mrs Drabble)

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And Prado had to winch BT50 on Gunshot

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The Prado definately got a work out on this trip (so much so she blew her alternator but that is a story for another time)

Fun was had by all! Next time we will give the “Drabble” a service before we take it as we don’t think the “Drabble” was working very well on this trip!