Map of Trip-2006.
Map of Trip-2008.
Map of Trip-2009.
Map of Trip-2010.
1926 - 5th January 2009
2009 started on a very sad note for us. As mentioned last month my
stepfather Stuart (Pop) had not been well and unfortunately passed away
on the 5th January.
Stuart and mum have been married for 28 years so Stuart was a big part
of both Chris's and my life, and of course our boys, Alex and Harry.
boys loved their Pop and have many special memories of times spent with
him. He will be sadly missed but his love for life will always be
remembered. At his request he did not have a formal funeral but instead
a 'Family Only' tree planting where his ashes were placed and then a
service on the street in front of their house overlooking the
beautiful 'Buderim Creek'. Nearly 100 people turned up for the service
for what was a
lovely celebration of his life, followed by food and drinks. Mum
coordinated the day with Stuart's son Andrew, my brother Shane, my
Jessie and mum and Stuart's neighbour, Tom talking about Stuart's life
telling some stories, mostly funny. It was a fairly happy event (as
happy as they can be) and I honestly think Stuart would have been very
happy with the day.
Stuart was always a great stepfather, friend, mentor and Pop - as well
as a true gentleman. His
smiling face and his love of life and adventure will always be a part
In fact he was one of the driving forces for us doing our 14
trip around Australia, which then turned into our current 3 year trip.
"Do it now while you are young and healthy" was the advice given, and
for us, what great advice. I think one of his greatest attributes was
his genuine interest in what other people were doing. I think this is
something that unfortunately is very sadly lacking in the world that we
currently live. Everybody is so busy, wrapped up in their own little
worlds, buzzing around like a swarm of worker bees, with that genuine
interest in others almost gone.
'Thanks for the memories, you will always be remembered'.
Welcome to another year. We are continuing our travels and hope you
continue to enjoy our web page. If you have any suggestions or simply
want a bit of information please drop us an email at
Before I tell you about January, let's first start with our plans for
2009. For those who are regular readers you would be aware that
planning on going back to Ayers Rock (Yulara) for maybe up to 5 months.
Well, a few weeks ago we received a call that we could only be
offered a 6 week contract, as the Clinic was now up for tender, and
there might not be a Govt. run Clinic after that time. While the boys
were initially disappointed they soon moved on (good resilience
training). Chris and myself were actually happy as it meant we could go
back to Plan A, which was to head to WA, and spend time in the
Then last week we received yet another call that we now had NO position
at all at Ayers Rock, but was offered another position elsewhere. Now
this did not overly impress us, and it would seem that a
'contract is actually not a contract' until you are actually there and
have started work. The lady that I always deal with in Alice has just
back from her holidays, when all these decisions were made, so
thankfully things will return to normal, with some good old fashioned
So now our plan is to head to Bundy after Burrum Heads, transfer all
our gear to the camper trailer, head south (as the northern route is
flooded and closed at present) via Broken Hill and Port Augusta, up to
Ayers Rock to collect our gear and then up to Elliott (our new
position). Now while that
might sound a long way around, it is actually a little shorter than
going via Mt Isa and across to Yulara. Now we know very little about
Elliott except it is a highway community about 700 kms north of Alice
Springs, between Tenant Creek and Katherine. We will go there for 4-6
weeks (maybe longer if we like it), then head south, dump the camper in
Alice and spend a number of weeks doing the 'Old Ghan, the Simpson
the Birdsville Tracks', doing a side trip to Lake Eyre, which, fingers
crossed, may have water in it by then and to all the 'Corners'. Then
back to Alice to grab the camper, back out through Yulara and Docker
River and across to the WA coast. Our only time line is that we need to
be in Broome at the end of June to meet up with the Joiners who are
flying over and hiring a 4x4 and a camper trailer and then spending
maybe a month travelling with them through the Kimberley's. It all
sounds a bit tough doesn't it??? After they leave we will hang
the Kimberley's and pick up a bit of work for a month or two before
heading back into the NT.
So that's the plan at present. It could change slightly, but that is
fundamentally it. It will involve a fair few kms, but with fuel prices
down the timing is perfect.
So now for January. We left Pincushion after our 3 weeks and as always
it was sad to leave. Next year we are going to have an extra week
(therefore making 4) before the school holidays start so we can do all
our running around then, leaving the next 3 weeks for the 'doing sod
all'. We then headed to Elliott Heads Caravan Park for a week. During
most of that time I worked at the Elliott Heads house giving the yard
the once a year make over. It all went well and ended up looking really
good. The Joiners were camping as well and left mid week, then the
Priestley's arrived and stayed for the remainder of the week, which was
lots of fun. We then packed up again and headed for Burrum Heads for
what turned out to be nearly 2 weeks. Traditionally we have had the one
week there on the waterfront, and as luck would have it the following
week was not booked, so we snapped it up. It worked out very well as we
were able to leave the van set up while we went to the Sunshine Coast
for a few nights at Mum's for Stuart's service. Then we shot down to
Chris's mother for the night before heading back to Burrum.
While we were in Brisbane I managed to score a visit into the new
North-South Bypass Tunnel. My brother Shane is in charge of
stopping any water
from leaking into the tunnel and was able to get me in for a look.
After a great induction by Tim, Shane showed me around for a few hours.
The size of this thing is amazing and being able to see it during its
unreal. We walked from the opening near the Royal Brisbane Hospital
about 3.5 kms up to the tunnel face where the TBM (tunnel boring
machine- See picture below) was doing its stuff. You cannot actually
see the cutters
spinning as it is all behind a huge mechanical wall which is both dust
and water proof. The photo below with the large hydraulic rams is
the back of the cutter. Its rams push against the concrete pieces it
just laid that forces the cutter into the rock face.
I will explain the tunnel in a very simple way as was explained to
me (see diagram below). The TBM cuts a round hole and then lays huge
curved concrete pieces into place (see picture of curved concrete on
trailer), that all lock into each other,
forming a complete circle that is the tunnel. This creates a self
supporting tube. Then they pump 'Pea
Gravel', which is simply gravel the size of peas in behind the concrete
pieces, then they pump in grout, which is basically wet cement without
Wherever water leaks in Shane and his crew pump into the wall under
pressure a product that is a flexible polyurethane, sealing the leak.
The big circular tunnel is divided into 3 sections. The bottom
of the tunnel has a culvert running lengthways which has all the
services and also acts as a drain. On either side of the culvert it is
backfilled with gravel, compacted and the concrete poured over the top
which will become the base of the road. The top 1/3 of the tunnel then
has a concrete floor poured that becomes a huge ventilation shaft. All
the way along the tunnel built into this false floor are huge exhaust
fans that suck out fumes or smoke in the event of a fire.
There are two tunnels side by side (one heading south, the other north)
that have connecting shafts every
hundred metres or so. These are there so if there is a fire or accident
in one of the tunnels, people can escape through the other tunnel.
Shane is one of the few people on site who has unlimited access to all
parts of the tunnel, which was
very lucky for me as I saw the whole thing.
In the world of tunnels this is going to be one of the biggest when
completed. It runs under the RNA Showgrounds, under the Brisbane River
and pops up at Kangaroo Point. By tunnel standards it is also fairly
with them pumping out only 1.7 million litres of mainly salt water a
day. There has been a few scary leaks but has generally gone well.
Another interesting tit bit is that every tunnel in the world,
including this one has constructed into it a statue of
Saint Barbara who is there to protect the tunnel and those inside it
(see picture above). Next time you drive into a tunnel, see if you can
spot her. The tunnel itself is 4.8 kms long, is 12 metres high and has
an average of 6-40 metres of rock above it. It will have an expected
life span of 100 years and is costing approx 3 billion dollars. There
are 2 TBM's and each costs 50 million dollars. The TBM itself is 260
long and travels along what looks like a large railway track. At the
completion of the tunnels they will be cut up and removed. It was an
amazing experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity. A really big
thank you to my brother; finally he has become useful.
So after returning to Burrum for a couple of extra nights it was back
Bundaberg to pack the camper and get ready to head west. Once again we
stayed at the Joiners and again they were away so we made ourselves at
home. We are very lucky to have such good friends who allow us to stay
as regularly as we do. We seemed to have a hundred jobs to do prior to
our departure including getting the car serviced, picking up the camper
that had some modifications done as well as shopping and packing all
the gear into the camper. And just to add yet another dimension it
absolutely poured with rain almost all day every day while trying to
pack, which did test the resilience somewhat. Then to add to the
experience one of our $350-00 Gel batteries decided to chuck in the
towel after just 12 months. Not happy about that let me tell you. It
looks like they will replace it under warranty but of course they had
none in stock so will try and arrange for it to be sent maybe to Alice
Springs and will pick it up on the way through.
Finally a few days late we did head off with our destination
being Inverell where we ended up spending 5 nights staying on the
Murray's cattle property. We love visiting here for many reasons, the
main one being that these guys are such great friends. On our way we
passed through Dalby (Chris and I lived there for 7 years before kids)
and took the kids around to show them our old house that we had
renovated. I knocked on the door and asked if I could take some photos
and the owners invited us in for a look. It was great to see it again
and other than a new room that had been added out the back, it looked
exactly the same, right down to the curtain rods. Considering it was 20
years since we left, nothing had changed. Dalby itself has changed
dramatically and is now a very trendy, well serviced town.
So we arrived in Inverell late in the arvo after a 750km trip. Our
first day had us out of bed early getting 50 cattle ready to
transport to Lex and Mandy's other property which is 70 kms away.
Because of the huge expense of owning your own semi-trailer, these guys
use a stock transport company to transport their stock. Alex scored a
ride in the semi for the 70 km trip which he thought was
pretty cool. Chris, Harry and Lex followed in the smaller truck with
the calves and I followed in their ute. When we arrived we had to
brand, ear tag, ear punch and castrate the cattle. We had a real
production line happening with Alex and the boys getting the cattle
into the race, Lex castrating with me tagging and punching the ears,
Harry loading the tagging machine and Chris writing on the ear tags. I
also did a bit of the branding. It was a heap of fun. After Lex did the
first castration, he called out to Alex 'Catch!' and threw him a
testicle. You should have seen the look on Alex's face when he realised
what he had just caught. It was priceless.
We then spent the next day making some improvements to the new solar
panel/ boat loader on top of the camper that we had built just before
leaving Bundy. Just after Christmas I was sitting having an early
morning cuppa at Elliott Heads pondering how we were going to fit
everything in for this year's adventure, when I started to think that I
could free up a shelf in the back of the car by mounting our portable
solar panel somewhere. From those thoughts we now have a frame over the
top of the camper that hinges up, holding 2 x 120 watt solar panels
with a bit of room at the back to store the camping table, gas bottle
barby and a few other bits and pieces. Basically I am happy with the
end result so we can now top up the batteries while driving and we can
swing the panels up aided by gas struts to make power while set up.
The next few days we did a bit of shopping and quad bike riding,
the girls 'did lunch' and Lex
and I spent another day at their other property doing some plumbing and
earthworks for his new water trough system. He has done an amazing
job. There is a huge water tank being put on the top of the highest
hill which will gravity feed all the water troughs. The tank is filled
submersible bore pump that is powered by about 14 solar tracking solar
panels. He has laid over 7 kms of pipes and is putting in half a dozen
troughs. It has been a huge job and he is nearly at the end. On our
last morning before heading off I discovered that now the second
battery in the car had died, and this one was only 11 months old. We
were not having a good run with batteries. Another trip into town and a
new one installed. Please no more battery problems at least this year!!
So ahead of us now was the long drive to Yulara to collect our gear and
then up to Elliott. We had a week to do the trip this time so it was
more leisurely. More about that next month.
Stay tuned and take care.
While in Inverell I had to go
an Auto Electrician to get some wire to connect the solar panels. The
owner was a friend of Lex and Mandy's. I introduced myself and said I
was a friend of the Murray's. He responded with the question "Are you
the always travelers?" I thought for a second and said "Yes, that
probably is us".
The 'Always Travelers'. We quite like that title.