Monday 22nd April 2013: We’re off!!
On Monday morning (22nd April) we headed off (officially!) on our Lap of Australia. We had been staying at Chevron Palms on Chevron Island, Surfers Paradise for the last few weeks while we finalised things with our QLD partners and got a few jobs on the 4WD finished.
We woke up at 4.45am to watch the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas. Both Elly and I love MotoGP, and we regularly enjoy (when near a TV) watching the coverage. Once the racing was over and we had breakfast we finished packing the 4WD and camper trailer. We knew we had packed way too much stuff, but we accepted that for 2 reasons:
We are away for 2 years, and what is contained in our 4WD and trailer is practically everything we own. It is literally our home, and so we afforded ourselves a few luxuries.
If we find we really don’t need something, we can either send it back to family to put it in storage, or sell it on eBay.
Once we left Chevron Island we had to do a bit of running around, including exchanging some new Bosch wiper blades where we had been given the incorrect part, buying a Coleman card table, and picking up our (stolen and recovered iPod) from a family member.
Back on the road again we headed toward Burpengary where I bought some new braided brake hoses from Superior Engineering. The OEM rubber hoses on the Landcruiser were getting quite old and starting to show signs of cracking. We decided it would be safer to replace them, and upgrade them at the same time with braided hoses.
It just so happened that we officially departed on our “Lap of Australia” on Ellys birthday, so we stopped in at The Cheesecake Shop in Caboolture and bought her a slice of baked cheese cake.
Further along the road we dropped in to The Big Pineapple at Buderim. I remember visiting The Pineapple as a young teenager with my grandparents, and was keen to see it again. Unfortunately we arrived in the afternoon at about 4.45, and even though the park hours were until 5pm, it was all closed up. Frankly I was very disappointed with the place. The parking area was covered in graffiti, there were full rubbish bins stinking, and a number of construction barriers around the entrance to the venue. It wasn’t closed for renovations, it was just messy.
Back on the road again, and we headed toward Browns Creek Rest Area, which is a rest area that offers free accommodation for caravans, camper trailers, and tents. By this stage it was around 9pm, and as we pulled into the rest area we found it absolutely chock-a-block with travellers. There was no room for us and our camper trailer, so we looked at the map and saw that there were a few minor gravel roads not too far away. We continued driving and came across the entrance to Mapleton National Park. Just before the entrance, next to the sign there was a small siding, so we pulled in there and setup the tent on the camper trailer.
To cut a long story short, we were interrupted late at night by a car parked outside our tent. It remained there, engine running, for about 20-30 minutes. When I went out to see what was going on the car sped off. The next morning, as we were packing the trailer away, a red Holden Commodore wagon parked directly behind us and the driver remained in the car. I thought they must just be waiting with their kids for the school bus, as I couldn’t see inside the car. Just as we were about to drive off, the driver got out and delivered a torrent of abuse at us for staying in an area we apparently weren’t allowed to stay in. We were disgusted at her pathetic display, but endeavoured to carry on and enjoy the rest of our day.
Tuesday 23rd April 2013: Batman, the bat-eries are dead!
Our main priority for the day was to find a new deep cycle battery. Unfortunately the panel beater had short circuited our dual battery controller when fixing some rust, and it had subsequently destroyed the deep cycle battery in the 4WD. We found Positive Batteries in Gympie and they had just what we needed - an American made Trojan 115Ah battery, which they even fitted for us!
We got some groceries, got some meat at the butcher (vacuum sealed) and then headed toward where we planned to camp for the night. On the map it was called Lake Cooloola, and the NPWS rep on the phone said it was a private campground. However when we got there it was visibly sign posted with “permit required” warnings. Considering our previous nights experience, and not wanting to risk a fine, we called NPWS but couldn’t get through because there was no reception. Thus, we got the sat-phone out and got through. I explained we were on the sat-phone and the lady on the other end made a conscious effort to get the permit sorted as quickly as possible.
It turns out that the campground was called Harrys Hut, and it was within the Cooloola Recreation Area.
Wednesday 24th April 2013: Hi-ho Harrys Hut
We spent the day organising the truck and camper trailer with the groceries and cooking utensils we had recently bought. Elly organised the food and cooking utensils in the trailer, and I organised the containers and loose items in the truck and the front storage box of the trailer.
In the afternoon we went for a short walk along the Wilderness Trail, but it was a bit too wet, so we turned around and came back.
When we got back we got the small fishing rods out and had a bit of a fish on the Noosa River. The camp ground has a number of camp sites that are designed for people in boats or canoes to paddle up the river with their camping gear. We stood on one of the small jetties that are used for those boats and did some lure fishing. Unfortunately the river has a lot of weed where we were fishing and we lost one lure in the weed.
After some fishing I did a bit of work on the 4WD, including getting some video footage of a few things. Keep an eye out for a future post (with video) showing how to install your True Blue Outdoors Wheelie Bag.
This is a closer look at the signwriting design that we came up with for our Lap of Australia Landcruiser. It is a map of Australia, with each of our major partners inhabiting one of the Australian states or Territories. We also have some partners on the front guards and front doors. What do you think of the Australian map design?
I also took the opportunity to upgrade the wiper blades on the Landcruiser, as the old ones were getting a bit soft, and we have a lot of travelling ahead of us! These are Bosch blades, and they come as a full assembly as opposed to just replacement rubber wipers. They look great, and having now travelled through some pretty heavy rain, I can say that they also work exceptionally well. They’re pretty expensive at $40 per side, but so far they are worth it. We got these from Autobarn, and I have to say that I’m really impressed with how the Autobarn stores have progressed over the years. They used to be small ratty things with small ranges, but now they’re awesome places to shop for automotive gear.
As the sun started to go down at the end of the day, I did a bit of work in preparation for mounting the Narva HID Extreme spotlights to the front. The spotlights are quite large, and don’t fit the standard ARB headlight holes on the ARB winch bar, so I had to drill some custom mounts through the main bar. These headlights use a 3 bolt mounting system, and they aren’t going anywhere! They’re solid as a rock. At this stage I haven’t got them wired up electrically, but that will be done very soon.
This is how we had our camp site setup at Harrys Hut campground, Cooloola Recreation Area, QLD.
Thursday 25th April 2013: Freshwater Camp Ground
We packed up camp from Harrys Hut and left for Freshwater Camp ground, north east on the beach on the way to Rainbow Beach. The drive took approximately 4hrs and was mostly fire trail (2nd and 3rd high range) with some more difficult low range sections including some sink holes (water about 50cm deep), some muddy ruts, and as we got closer to camp lots of sandy single tracks in low range.
The camp ground is quite well appointed, with plumbed toilets and hot water showers for $1 for 5 minutes. I wasn’t expecting the camp ground to be so close to the beach, but we are only an easy 800m walk to Teewah Beach.
Our camp site is nice and level, but it was still a pleasant surprise that after only 3 times setting up the camper trailer that we managed to setup very quickly tonight, having the tent and awning setup and dinner cooked and eaten in a matter of minutes. Despite the photos below being taken at night, we made sure that we got to Freshwater nice and early, and we had camp setup well before dark fell! The beach is an 800m walk from the camp ground, so Elly and I wandered down there at night. This is Elly standing at the water looking out at a full moon.
Think this photo below was taken in the middle of the day? Take a closer look… this was taken at 9.14pm at night! See the stars? I have always wanted to take more night photos, and our trip around Australia is going to give me plenty of opportunity to do that. It is such a pleasure to be away from the city - out here the stars in the night sky are amazing!
Friday 26th April 2013: Sand-lubbers
We woke up at 7.30am today. We’re trying to wake up earlier each day, and we were happy to be up at 7.30.
I took all of the plastic boxes out of the Landcruiser to save some weight, as we were going to drive on the beach today and we wanted to get the Landcruiser as light as possible for our first sand / beach outing. With everything I took out, the suspension only came up 5mm, but it would have been an easy 80kg that I removed. Most of the weight is books, which we will remove as we read them along the way.
I dropped the tyre pressures to 18psi front and 20psi rear. With the rear weight bias, the rear tyres were more bagged than the front, even with an extra 2psi in them.
Our hesitation regarding weight and tyre pressures was due to the fact that this would be our first time driving on soft sand, or a beach for that matter! We drove out of the camp site and down past the day access area. I put the Landcruiser into low range, 3rd gear, and we drove down the access ramp to the beach, across the soft sand straight onto the harder sand near the water. Easy! There was no wheel spinning at all.
We drove along the beach north toward Double Island Point. When we got there it was packed with 4WD’s and didn’t look like offering much, so we turned around and came back south down the beach until we found a spot that was remote enough for our liking.
Elly made some tuna and cheese on rice cakes for lunch while I setup the Pell beach rod. I rigged it with a Squidgy to begin with, but I had no idea whether we had picked a good spot for the fish, or even if it was a good time of day for that matter. Still, after lunch I had a great time fishing, even though I didn’t get one single bite. While I was fishing Elly had a swim in a pool area that had formed with the outgoing tide. The water was fantastically warm once you were in.
After fishing for a few hours we packed up and headed south, past the Freshwater camp access ramp and down to Teewah Beach Camping Area. The beach camping area was packed, and it looked like party central with pirate flags, 4WD club banners, motocross team banners, and generally lots and lots of people!
The water was a magnificent turquoise colour and beautifully warm, the sun was shining most of the day, and even though the fish weren’t biting, it was a fantastic day. Our first day out on the beach certainly didn’t disappoint!
Tomorrow we pack up camp and leave Freshwater camp ground for Rainbow Beach. We noticed an access road northward along the beach that pointed to Rainbow Beach, so we might go that way tomorrow, as we don’t like going down the same road we came in on.
Saturday 27th April 2013: Tequila, Cherries & Rainbows
Yesterday we got talking to a few people within the camp ground. It continues to amaze me how many people are showing interest in our adventure. We had a pretty good casual conversation, and then got invited to bring our camp chairs up later on for some drinks. To cut a long story short, we had an amazing night with Ian, Warren, and Michelle. The three are seasoned travellers, having navigated pretty much the whole of Australia over the last umpteen years. They had plenty of advice to impart, and even more laughs to inspire. It turns out that Ian and Michelle were famous in the area - they were on the information board for the Cherry Venture Shipwreck having been photographed there in 1984!! The picture below shows Ian and Michelle in front of the ship wreck almost 30 years ago! Amazing! It was a pleasure and an honour to have met these 3 wonderful people - Ian, Michelle, Warren: if you read this article, send us an email so we can arrange to catch up in Cape York! We’ll bring our tall glasses and a new bottle of tequila!
We packed up camp this morning and aimed to leave about 11.30 so that we would get to Wide Bay in time for low tide, as we had been told that it was only passable at low tide due to washed up trees and also rocks near Rainbow Beach. We got away on time and headed north along Teewah Beach to the Leisha (?) track. However it didn’t take us anywhere near as long as we estimated to get to Wide Bay, so we had to wait an hour or so for low tide.
We put the awning on the 4WD up, set the chairs up in the shade, and sat down with a bowl of cornflakes each. Wide Bay was a stunningly beautiful location, and there were heaps of 4WD’s parked there with jetskis, kayaks, and people fishing. The area was very busy due to Anzac Day, as people had taken an extra day off work to have a long weekend.
When low tide arrived we headed off. The drift wood was the first obstacle, only 100m from where we had been waiting. It was easy enough to navigate, even with the trailer, although I did have to take 2 goes at getting the trailer around a particularly tight corner of trees. The passenger side mirror housing has a new scratch in it courtesy of the wide line I had to take.
As we exited the fallen trees we had to run about 2m into the surf to navigate the last tree and rocks. We waited for the water to run back out and cruised through in 3rd gear low range, slowly slightly as we came back up out of the water to crawl over a submerged fallen tree.
Coming soon: Video of traversing the drift wood.
From then it was smooth running all the way up to Rainbow Beach. The rocks past the Coloured Sands were nowhere near as difficult as had been described - we didn’t even have to slow down, as the tide was low enough that we could run straight past them on the hard packed sand.
Once we drove up off the sand into Rainbow Beach we headed toward the Rainbow Waters Holiday Park to stay the night. We needed to stay in a caravan park to charge the trailer battery from their powered site, and to fill the water tank with town water drinking water.
We drove in to Rainbow Beach to pick up the permit from the Tourist Centre. We bought a Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island sticker to put on our bonnet.
We had fish and chips for lunch and then did some groceries at the IGA. While packing the groceries into the car, a couple (Brian and Linda) came over to enquire about our trip, and express their enthusiasm for what we are doing. It continues to amaze me how positive people are toward our trip.
Next on our Lap of Australia…
We head to Fraser Island!!