Over the summer, Truck had a huge service and repair of clutch, gearbox etc – over $6000 worth! This was done at a Landrover dealer we had changed to last year, after issues in 2003 with the previous one.
Van had the under chassis painted and a service – over $1000 worth, at Trakmaster.
These costs would have been needed had we just been going travelling, anyway, rather than going off to work. A degree of age was catching up with our rig. Truck had now travelled 220,000kms – some of them pretty tough ones.
We had a new solar management system installed by a specialist in alternative power systems. He turned out to be a former staff member of the Outdoor Education company my school had used, and I knew him from then. He found that the van batteries were defunct – probably due to mismanagement back from 2002 by the incompetent who installed the system back then. Our new power man recommended Full River AGM batteries, which we were able to source at mates rates through an electrician friend.
The new solar management system gave us much more information about what was happening with the solar system and batteries. It was easiest to install it next to the old one, so we had new and defunct side by side.
We noted, with some amazement after reading a recent article in a caravan magazine, that it appeared the incompetent solar power man was back in business, under a new company name! More trusting innocents to be sucked in!
John arranged for A to see the alternative power person, to discuss possible options for powering Pungalina, such as a system operated by the force of running water in the creeks.
A few weeks after the Truck works were completed, its electricals died. New batteries were needed. The old ones were bone dry. Checking these had been overlooked by Landrover dealers in successive servicings, it seemed. It was no consolation to be told the latest mistake was that of a second year apprentice…”But we’ve sacked him now”. Clearly, oversight was lacking. We decided to put AGM batteries in Truck, too.
We were disconcerted to find, when gearing up for the trip, that the CB and HF radios no longer worked. Clearly, something the Landrover service centre had done, had disabled them. So it was back across the suburbs to the dealer, to get that rectified. Apparently, “someone” had overlooked reconnecting that part of the electricals. That was kind of the last straw for us – seriously considering just finding a non affiliated competent general mechanic!
We had arranged new housesitters through an online site. This Tasmanian couple had a daughter with young family living locally, and they wanted an extended sit, to be near her while she had a new baby.
Friend M, who had spent some time travelling with us in the Pilbara, last year, had finally decided to retire from teaching and embark on travel. We spent time helping her firm up her plans, culminating in the sale of her home and her purchase of an ex-Telstra Toyota Troopy, and gear for travel and camping with that.
We spent some time preparing for this year’s adventure.
John made the folding tables, bought lights and other potentially useful stuff. He packed some of his own gear that might be needed. He bought packets of vegetable seeds for the garden he was to get going properly.
I sewed some chef’s style aprons, figuring that there were unlikely to be any already there, and thinking I should look the part. Used plain coloured heavy cotton – in safari camp colours of black and light brown. John asked for a couple to be made for him, in case he was doing something like open fire barbequing. I made him two, from a heavy striped cotton. They looked different!
I did a lot of recipe research and roughed out potential menus for camp groups, allowing for possible supply issues. It was a good thing that I had some experience of remote life! I bought things like food handling gloves, enough pannacotta moulds to cater for twelve people – and packed quite a bit of my own cooking gear to take, beyond that which usually travelled in the van.
Close to departure time, my laptop computer (which had been a hand-me-down from John) stopped working properly. I took it to our computer man for possible repairs. If it could be fixed, he would send it up to us. That was quite a blow because it potentially limited my ability to do things like word process letters to family and friends, store photos from the digital camera that I had decided to rely totally on, this year.
John did some preparatory work to set up as observers for Birds Australia. We had decided that Pungalina offered potentially rewarding bird surveying, being so remote and little populated. It would be an extra interest for us.
I phoned our Griffith friends and arranged to visit them on our way north.
At the last minute, A dropped in some signs he’d had made for each of the camp tents – they were to have local plant names, like Bauhinia. They were wood and very nicely done. John would have to put them in place. A also bought some sets of binoculars, for the use of guests, and a heap of Pungalina pamphlets he’d had printed. We were to put these into caravan parks and information centres, as convenient, as we travelled north.
John fuelled up Truck, and filled the jerry can – $1.10cpl.
There was not much room left in or on Truck – or in the van!