Off to Western Australia we go!
“Doing a lap” stands high on the bucket list of many people who live in Australia. As the First Nations people would call it “going walkabout”, is now established as a great Australian tradition. Hearing of a good friends wedding in Perth, Western Australia, prompted us to think about doing just this. Our Mazda camper of the last 15 years has become problematical since Jacqui’s spinal operation, besides which, using it for a trip in the southern Australian winter is foolhardy to say the least for two Queenslanders with decidedly thin blood.
So, exit Cubby and enter Wini, our imaginatively named Winnebago which has lots of comfortable attributes, in particular, heating. When choosing our new travelling home, we emphasise the comfort of the living accomodation and therefore have to accept whatever make of vehicle is underneath it. Many are based around Mercedes Sprinters or VW Crafters or other european makes so we are quite pleased that this particular Winnebago is based on a Ford Transit; surely a vehicle which any respecting mechanic around Australia would know how to fix should that be needed.
So, as always before a trip such as this I make sure that everything is working as it should and put Wini in for a thorough service before we leave. Mmmmm … A call from the mechanic tells me that they are having issues with the starter motor and that the clutch and gearbox need some reconditioning. Luckily, this all happens at the mechanics (good place to break down, don’t you think) and several thousand dollars later we have a reconditioned gearbox, new clutch and starter motor. Perhaps not the start we had been hoping for on a vehicle with only 130k kms on the clock. Oh well!
At least we can now feel confident that we are good to go.
Girraween National Park
And so it is that on our first day of this proposed three month walkabout we find ourselves on the road and heading towards one of our favourite stops; the Girraween National Park. We have camped here several times when travelling south or west. It is on the Granite Belt just south of Stanthorp near the northern border of NSW. Arriving at the national part we find that only one part of the campground is open and some facilities have been closed through lack of rain! This is usually one of the wettest areas in this part of the world … climate change is taking it’s toll.
We stay in the National Park for two nights and get an idea of what is to come … it is COLD … not far above freezing overnight. Our diesel heater comes into play and keeps us cosy warm.
New England Highway and out into the NSW Outback.
Across the border into NSW and our first stop is in Glen Innes, a town founded by Scottish settlers who probably enjoyed the cool highland climate. Typical of this area, it boasts wide streets and colonial style buildings and a nasty cold wind driving us into the warmth of a coffee shop.
We travel south through Glen Coe, Ben Lomond, and Llangothlin to Armadale, home to the University of NSW. (yes … we are still in Australia). Now on through Tamworth, famous for it’s country music festival and towards Gunnedah, stopping for the night to park outside the very lonely Somerton Hotel.
We are getting into serious travel mode when trouble rears it’s ugly head and the engine warning light starts flashing followed by a drop into the self explanatory “limp mode”. I discover that if I turn off the engine and re-start it, the light clears and we continue. We really are in the backblocks of NSW and we still have over 1000 km to go to Adelaide.
On through Coonabrarbran and Gilgandra and then a mechanic in Nyngan who tells me I have fuel pump problems but he can’t do anything. Better go on to Broken hill, another 600km at 80km per hour, across the NSW Outback with nothing but dead kangaroos for company. Who said anyone could fix a Ford Transit!
Broken hill arrives and the main Ford dealer says “might have time to look in a week or so” but try so and so down the road. Four mechanics later we decide to make a break for it … after all Adelaide is only another 500km ahead, should be ok, shouldn’t it?
We stop for the night at Yunta … really in the middle of nowhere and the next morning Wini refuses to start. The outside is covered in ice so maybe it’s just cold. Several hours later it is time to call the RACQ for help. After most of the day has passed that help arrives in the shape of Marty and his tow truck and amid his general good cheer we manage to get Wini started.
We decide to continue while the engine is going, and as darkness descends, life gets even more exciting. My technique of turning the engine off and then restarting by dropping the clutch gains an added thrill. When I turn the engine off the headlights also go off and blackness descends, just to add some extra spice to the journey. But we make it!
And so to Van Works in Dry Creek, Adelaide where Leigh first replaces the fuel pressure regulator only to find the injectors and fuel pump also need replacing … so it seems we bought a low milage Ford Transit with problems.
We have now been here for over a week and hope that we can collect a newly invigorated Wini tomorrow. With fingers and toes firmly crossed we then have to travel for the next 2,700 km to Perth across one of the most remote areas of Australia. What fun we are having!
May you all be well and happy