This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2006 Travels December 7

THURSDAY 7 DECEMBER   LEONORA TO BALLADONIA ROADHOUSE   610kms

We slept slightly later than yesterday, but it was still a pretty early departure, by our usual standards.

Again, the day got hot, quickly.

North of Kalgoorlie, John became sleepy and decided to have a short nap – fittingly – at a rest area.

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I had a very welcome walk around while he snoozed. My legs were beginning to feel somewhat uncomfortable from long days of just sitting in the heat and confines of Truck.

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Spacious rest area north of Kalgoorlie

We were compelled to have a longer break at Kalgoorlie. John had been concerned that the spare tyre on Truck was very worn. It had come off the back of the van, earlier on. The van sported an an almost new one. We hadn’t really had an option to replace the spare until now – he hadn’t thought to do it in the very busy period of our last few days at RV1. This was the chance to do so, before tackling the long stretches of the Nullarbor crossing.

Unhitched the van in a safe looking side street, took Truck to get a new tyre fitted, rotating the new tyre with an older one that now became the spare. That cost $299. Back to the van and hitched up again.

I visited the Information Centre to pick up material about the Nullarbor, just so I had up to date information. All my detailed maps and books about it were, of course, snug at home. I had not anticipated needing my WA material  when we left, nine months ago, for NW Qld!

John bought a pie for lunch. I bought a bread roll and ate that plain.

Refuelled Truck on the way out of town. $1.28cpl.

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Bush – Kalgoorlie area

South to Norseman, where the fuel was topped up again – $1.32cpl. Then we pointed our noses eastwards. Home – that-a-way.

Coming south from Kalgoorlie, could see a lot of bushfire smoke to the east, and heard reports of fires on the radio, with some suggestions that roads could be closed if they got much worse. We hoped not. By doing the long days, and not spending time visiting places, we had ensured some wiggle room on the trip, but really did not want to be stranded in these parts by fires.

As we started across the Nullarbor route, could see smoke plumes in the distance and continued to do so for the rest of the day.

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Distant bushfire smoke

It was exceedingly hot and the travel uncomfortable and tiring. This was really not the recommended time to be driving this road. Last time we’d gone west to east this way was at a similar time of the year, in 2000 – and had also not been what we’d planned to be doing at that time. But it had not been as hot, that year.

By the time we reached Balladonia Roadhouse, we’d had enough for the day. Actually, I’d happily have stopped at Norseman! It was getting late enough in the day for it to be time to be off the road.

Refuelled Truck – $1.68cpl. Ouch!

Got a powered site – $21-90 – in the caravan park off to one side of the roadhouse. We were able to find a site with some shade from trees, which was a bonus. Not too bad, out here.

The welcome shower was coin operated – an inducement not to linger, for sure. But understandable in a place where water was such a scarce commodity. Only one coin could be inserted at a time. When that expired, after a couple of minutes, one had to get out to put in another coin, if more time was needed – and of course the coin machine was outside the cubicle. Easier to give up and dry off.

Another early night.

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2000 Travels November 27

MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER     KALGOORLIE

It cooled down somewhat, during the night.

After breakfast, John set to work again on the van brakes, with me as “gofer”. He replaced the electrical plug on Truck, having found much mud and gunk in the plug, and a broken wire on “Aux” which he decided was the brake wire.

However, the brakes still did not work.

I wondered whether an incident back at Dongara, just before all the problems started, might account for all this. When we were setting up there, while everything between the Truck and van was still connected, John plugged the 240V power into the van. Normally, we would have disconnected the electrics between Truck and van before doing this. I wondered whether it had somehow affected the controller unit?

In the end, John called the RACV and they in turn organized for the WA RAC to come out to us. The man could not do much on site, but said we were to take the van into their repair place tomorrow morning.

So we may not get all that far tomorrow, depending on when (if) the work is completed.

I felt that I had done very little, in over a week in Perth and Kalgoorlie, except hang about while John fiddled with all this stuff. It had been boring and, in a sense, a waste of precious time.

I suggested that John ring Trakmaster and get the number of his auto electrician, who we know knows about electric brakes, then phone him and try to talk through diagnosis and repair on the phone. I was thinking it really needed a caravan specialist, not these provincial generalist mechanics. John was not keen on this idea, though.

He did, after checking our Truck manual, phone the Landrover dealer in Port Lincoln, in SA, and booked Truck in for a service. We have decided to go stay at nearby Coffin Bay. By then, Truck will be a little overdue for its 120,000km service. It would be too much of a stretch to wait till we got home.

We drove to the centre of town and walked around a little, admiring the grand old buildings we could see. Kalgoorlie really does have some wonderful architecture dating from its boom gold rush days, from the 1890’s. It was rich in gold, and that shows in the buildings.

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One of Kalgoorlie’s grand old buildings

We drove to the Super Pit, where gold is still mined. Apart from alluvial surface finds, the earlier mining here was via shafts. Now, the Super Pit is a huge open cut mine. We watched operations for a while. The Pit is on the edge of the town, but there are places where it has consumed former streets. Its size is hard to conceive of!

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The Super Pit

That was the extent of our tourist activity here!

Tea was gazpacho, steak, mushrooms, broccoli. followed by fruit.


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2000 Travels November 26

SUNDAY 26 NOVEMBER   WOODMAN POINT TO KALGOORLIE   676kms

We got away smoothly, before 9am.

It did not take long for John to realize that the van brakes were STILL not working!

When he and the mobile van mechanic “fixed” them last week, they worked connected to the man’s machine/controller. At the time, John did not think it necessary to test them out with rig connected to Truck. Now he was cross that he didn’t.

I suggested we stay in Perth, where all the big suppliers of parts, and repairers are. Or even get back to the man who was supposed to have fixed them. But he was determined to press on. So we negotiated the way with no braking on the van.

It was a long trip to Kalgoorlie, in more ways than one!

The outside temperature got steadily hotter as we went east. The Truck temperature gauge went up a bit too.

The day was enlivened by a phone call from G, the former colleague/friend who had touched base with us briefly in Devonport in April. So I caught up with his news.

We refuelled at Sawyers Valley – $1.02cpl, then topped up with twenty litres at Merredin where it was $1.08cpl.

Near Merredin, we suddenly developed a loud clunking noise from the wheel area. We pulled over, had a look and could not see anything amiss. Then drove on, slowly, trying to work out which wheel it was coming from. At this stage we were both thinking that this was all getting rather monotonous.

Realized it was coming from the van. When John investigated closely, he found the sheel nuts on one wheel were really loose – all bar one, which was sort of holding that wheel on! He then realized that, in his rushed repairs of a few days ago, he must have forgotten to tighten the wheel nuts properly. That was so nearly a disaster! He tightened them all up and we were right after that.

At Kalgoorlie, we went into the Prospector Caravan Park, for $18 a night.

We were told there was a severe storm warning for this area, so we took a site in the open – no shade trees this time, despite the heat!

The skies went a bit dark and cloudy, but no storm eventuated here. We heard later that it had hit Esperance, with 100kmh winds and much destruction. Missing that was at least one bit of luck for the day, for us. I guess finding the loose wheel nuts before the wheel actually came off, was another!

We also found out that today was Kalgoorlie’s hottest November day on record, at 43 degrees. No wonder we sweltered! When I showered, used the cold tap only – and it was warm. So was the water from our van tanks.

Tea was gazpacho, cold lamb, asparagus, fruit.

We worked out that it was going to cost us about $700 for fuel to go home. Normally we would not be doing such big distances in such a short time.

It was a warm night, but we managed to sleep.

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