2013 Trip Preparations for WA and NT

Sunday, Apr 07, 2013 at 05:56

Member-Heather MG NSW

One sleep to go….
I am getting very excited and impatient to once again be living in the caravan. This year, tomorrow (Monday 8th) we depart for a week in Mallacoota where we are meeting our travelling companions, John’s sister and her husband. From there, we will head for South Australia by a route yet to be decided however with fishing on the agenda we are favouring roads along the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers. From there we will go across the Nullarbor and into the South West Corner of WA, up the Coast and eventually into the Northern Territory. We have planned to be home sometime in September. Most of the jobs have been ticked off and there is now only last minute packing of food and personal items to go and good friends and family to farewell.
Trip Preparations began months ago, well before we took delivery of our new 20 ft. Caravan on 19th December last year. We ordered back in late August it with solar and two batteries, air conditioner, awning, TV/DVD and radio, a larger 2 door 3Way fridge (184 litres) and other small items such as extra 12v points to enable us to travel in comfort when not powered by 240v. It helps to have owned three previous RV’s before this so we knew pretty much what our needs were as far as comfort and power.
I started ordering books and maps about the Nullarbor, the Pilbara and the Kimberley from the ExplorOz shop as it is my job to plan the trip and since they arrived, have spent many enjoyable hours reading and plotting places to visit and stay.
When the phone contract finished, I decided to get a smart phone so we can access emails, internet while travelling, and will hopefully be able to upload photos to my blogs…the latter yet to be tested!
January, being the peak season on the NSW South Coast where we live and way too hot and busy to travel, was a good opportunity to have a couple of extra items added by our auto electrician/RV man and to have a think about what else we needed. I bought a 12v three speed fan, a Caframo sirocco, which we had wired in and situated so it fans us while in the bed, and we had a LPG gas monitor wired to the 12v system. (We use a butane powered portable gas heater in the winter so for us this was an important safety precaution). We had an awning travel support bracket fitted as we noticed the 16ft awning had a slight dip in the centre.
In the Pajero we had a Breakaway breaksafe dash monitor installed which has recently become the law in NSW when towing a van over 2 tonne. Although the cost was not big, we think it should have been provided by our RV manufacturer as they built it for us knowing we reside in NSW.
To the van I added a clock /weather station as well as various hooks, and a dispenser for body wash and shampoo in the shower; small practical items which make such a difference.
I also ordered a sign for the rear of the van with the name on it (‘Glyde Inn’) as well as a ‘Channel 40’ and a ‘Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle’ Sign.
These were purchased from the online ‘Caravanners Forum’ of which I am a member and which is a valuable place to find out all kinds of useful and sometimes not so useful information. I suggest you join it and also ExplorOz if you are an internet user.

For our 41st wedding anniversary in late January I purchased a very romantic gift from the ExplorOz shop, a garbage bag, which fits over the rear spare wheel of the van. It will also be used to carry sullage hose or wet canoe shoes or other smelly items if necessary!

We took measurements and ordered a Stone Stomper stone guard, which I had heard great reports about, to protect both the front of the van and the rear of the Pajero from stone damage on the dirt roads which we love to take. Christian, the owner of the business, provided prompt, excellent service and I recommend him and his product highly. We had to have a modification done to the Pajero’s exhaust pipe to fit it, and extra $50 cost. The fitting of the stone stomper was simple and it is very lightweight. Removing it is also a quick and simple process.

In the past John had devised various home-made solutions however none were particularly effective and the previous van suffered a lot of small marks and chips as a result.
In February we took a two week ‘shake down’ trip to the North Coast of NSW to test the workings of the 12v and 240v systems, and the gas appliances, and to catch up with the Coffs Harbour family. Any faults were noted for repairs under warranty. We discovered that both the hot water pipes underneath the sinks (in bathroom and kitchen) had not been done up tightly enough and leaked into the cupboards. While easily fixed by John, they were annoying and should have been checked before the van left the factory. Likewise the digital control panel only measured the water in one tank and there was a significant leak from both tanks around the breathers so that they did not stay full. As we often rely on using tank water this was important and we have since and both repaired. The front window leaked quite badly when we drove into very heavy rain so we have had repairs done. Since then we had to have the front window back to the RV man for more work, as we were lucky (or unlucky) to have to drive into rain on the trip in March but at this point haven’t really tested it again to know whether it is fixed . Apparently this is a common problem so we will keep a watch on it. Thankfully the company is very good when it comes to honouring warranty and there is a large network of repairers across the country if we need to access them.
On our return the van’s first service, including axles, was done.
I ordered an annual WA Vehicle Pass for entry to National Parks and at $50(concession) it is great value. Then I got online and booked two roomy sites in one of the campgrounds in Cape Range National Park near Exmouth for four nights in late June. Last time we were in WA four years ago this facility was not available and we were unable to get a place so I didn’t want to miss out. It is the only place where we have booked so far as we usually prefer to just take our chance or phone ahead a few days before we plan to get there.
In March we had a 5 night trip to Yackandandah to the Annual Folk Festival and spent one night unpowered en-route. We took a partial dirt road option from the Princes Highway near Wandandian across to Main Road 92 (Turpentine Road) and then to Braidwood, and gave the Stone Stomper its first test. The road was dusty and in places rocky and bumpy and we were very impressed with the way it performed. The vehicles were both much less dusty than would normally happen and there did not seem to be any stones deflected off the van.
The following morning before we left Burrinjuck Dam campgroundwe discovered a rear passenger side van tyre flat and had to have it repaired in Holbrook on our way to Yackandandah. It was a bit of an inconvenience however at least we now know that the jack provided does the job.
There have been a series of packing and repacking exercises to find out which is the best place to store items. Anyone who has owned a van will know that this seems to be a necessary task after changing RVs as cupboard and drawer spaces differ so much. I have had a lot of fun experimenting and am always on the lookout for smaller and more lightweight options for products. My philosophy is that if something is only used very occasionally or if it does not have multiple uses, it is best left at home. (That rule however does not apply to the Nespresso Coffee maker even though it can’t be used when unpowered unless we light up the genie)
Recently I purchased an Aeropress coffee maker which is a lightweight, small alternative to the stove top one I used to carry and use when we are unpowered. It is quick and makes less mess, and able to be used with a thermos of hot water for lunch stops without having to put the gas on. I am still experimenting with it to get a good crema, but the coffee it makes is very pure and free from any residue.
I also bought a small portable Canon printer which weighs around 2 kg and is powered by a rechargeable battery, and as well a bar scanner. I own a DSLR camera and enjoy taking photos and often use them to make pastel drawings from, also cards, and I sometimes find there is an occasional use to print off a document along the road when we are away for longer trips. So for me, it is very convenient to have the means to do it. It does not take up as much space as all the fishing and boating gear, or the beer and doesn’t weigh much either!
The 12v point under the dinette table is used to power the laptop and I have small 150 watt inverter to charge batteries which don’t have a USB connection on the power cord, such as the electric toothbrush. As the TV and radio both work on 12v there is not much we lack.
Because my 24 month contract with a USB broadband mobile device with Bigpond finished this month, for the past close to a month I have been trying to upgrade and activate a 4G wifi device from which we can connect wirelessly up to 5 different things simultaneously. The first one they sent to me was faulty and only two days ago with the services of a local computer person I was finally successful with the replacement device. Hooray!!
Was it worth it? I hope so as not only is it more costly per month for the same amount of data as I was getting on the last plan (there is no discount for having multiple services on a single bill any more with a new contract), it has eaten up great chunks of my time during the last week and for some days I seemed to be going around in circles and was highly stressed! I gave my honest and frank opinion of the experience when answering each survey but I doubt whether it will make any difference as there is no competition. Away from the towns and cities it is the only company which provides a signal.
Anyway the new service is very fast here at home where there is full signal strength and it will be interesting to see how well it works while on the road. It will also be useful to connect both laptops at once, as well as the phone and our two kindles when necessary, which is why I decided to do it. The battery can be recharged from a USB point or from 240v.
Today the boat will be loaded onto the Pajero and boating and fishing and all the other gear packed. With the rear door unable to be opened while the van is hitched up, we have to ensure that it is carefully thought out if we are staying overnight somewhere. Tomorrow it won’t matter as we are staying in Mallacoota for at least a week to fish, catch up with friends, and enjoy the beautiful small coastal Victorian town.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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