January 2009

  • Cover Page
  • Map of Trip-2006.
  • Map of Trip-2008.
  • Map of Trip-2009.
  • Map of Trip-2010.

  • Stuart and the boys Stuart and the boys

                                         Stuart Brown (Pop)

                            31st March 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. The 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 niece Jessie and mum and Stuart's neighbour, Tom talking about Stuart's life and 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 of us. In fact  he was one of the driving forces for us doing our 14 month 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'.

    Let's Continue

    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 parfitt(@)followourtrip.com

    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 we were 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 Kimberleys.

    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 come back from her holidays, when all these decisions were made, so thankfully things will return to normal, with some good old fashioned values.

    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 Desert and 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 around 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 see Chris's mother for the night before heading back to Burrum.

    The Guardian Saint

    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 construction was 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 has 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 the gravel. 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 1/3 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.

    Map of Brisbane Tunnel The tunnel boring machine

    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.

    The 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 dry 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 metres 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.

    Me Culvert Tunnel Rams at cutting face Tunnel Tunnel Tunnel tunnel

    So after returning to Burrum for a couple of extra nights it was back to 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.

    Cattle Work Cattle Work Cattle Work Cattle Work Cattle Work Cattle Work

    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 by a 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!!

    Cattle Work Cattle Work Cattle Work Cattle Work

    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 much more leisurely. More about that next month.

    Stay tuned and take care.

    While in Inverell I had to go to 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.