Following the Big Wet - 2011 Trip – Part 1: Preparation

Thursday, Sep 29, 2011 at 16:25


Dorothea McKellar summed it up perfectly:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

We had seen some of the sweeping plains and ragged ranges. We had endured the drought, and experienced a small part of the flooding rains. Now it was time to go and see for ourselves where all that water had gone, and the effect that it had had on the wide brown land.

Also it was a Canberra winter, and the best place in a Canberra winter is a long way north!

So we planned a trip to take us through some of western NSW and Queensland where the water had worked its magic. We wanted particularly to go into the Macquarie Marshes and the Gundabooka National Park in NSW, and the Currawinya and Diamantina Lakes NPs in Qld. The route that we set was just a guide. Where possible we would take roads and tracks that we had not previously travelled including some of the Darling River run and the Birdsville Track including of course the ferry. Along the way we would also revisit some favourite spots, in particular the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. In the north of Queensland we would have a closer look around the Mt. Isa area where there are old mines and abandoned townships, before following the Savannah Way around the Gulf. After that we would decide which way we would come home.

We thought all of that might take about 3 months, from early July to the end of September. Beyond that we set no timetable, preferring to let the country, the weather and our inclinations determine the pace of travel. With plenty of battery capacity and solar panels we were probably better equipped for bush camping than we had ever been. Apart from washing clothes occasionally we would not need to use caravan parks very much.

Preparing for a big trip takes time and effort and this time around was no exception. Troopy had the usual pre-trip check, aerials were fitted and radios checked. The computer in Troopy that runs OziExplorer was surely past its use-by date so we decided to replace it before it died in some inconvenient place. After much consideration and searching we acquired a HP notepad with a 10”x8” screen, set it up and remodelled the dash to fit it in. For the record it worked without a hitch, though the screen is not as bright as we would like. John also got new “house” batteries for both the trailer and Troopy, plus solar controllers and a DC-DC charger, then undertook major rewiring to ensure that we would have ample 12V power.

We had replaced the roof of our tent that goes on the back of Troopy as the old one was not working too well in wet conditions. The replacement fabric was stiff and bulky and we were not really happy with the result, so at the last minute we pulled out the old heavy duty sewing machine that we use for these projects and installed a new roof, made of softer canvas and with more slope to let water run off. The tent frame had to be modified to suit the higher profile and a tiny stepladder acquired to assist when erecting the tent. This became one of those projects where every change led to another, or so it seemed.

We also read a forum thread detailing how to make a solid fuel heater from an aluminium colander. Anticipating cold weather, it seemed a good idea to have a go at a similar project. A trip to the recycling centre produced a suitable stainless steel object that with a bit of experimentation was converted into a fairly functional and compact heater.

While all this was happening Val using the old (and much used) packing spreadsheet, gathered up a small mountain of gear and stowed it away in all the nooks and crannies that Troopy and the trailer offer.

Then there was the house to be made respectable for our house-sitters, plus lots of instructions to be put on paper for looking after everything – house, gardens, cattle and most importantly Lucy our loveable Border Collie. This will be our first trip since Lucy came to live with us. She will be staying at home, and we know that we will miss her, so there were lots of instructions and a freezer full of food. She will be well fed and looked after!

Finally everything was ready – and then the weather gods stepped in. Our departure day was preceded by overnight rain, and the heavily overcast sky and rising wind suggested that there was more unpleasant weather to come. Indeed, the forecast for the next 3 days was for rain, cold, and strong winds. Should we delay our departure? But our house-sitters had moved in, so setting out seemed the only reasonable thing to do. So after some delay and a misty farewell to Lucy, we set off about lunchtime, heading for our first overnight stop at the Weddin Mountains National Park.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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