This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2002 Travels June 2


The day was still sunny, but with a chill wind that made it feel quite cold. This was to the extent that we sat inside the van to eat breakfast – most unusual for us, because we like to sit looking out at whatever view we have.

Drove to the Ranger’s base, to pay for our extra day.

We were greeted by a most unexpected sight – a moving sail in the distance, on the flat, arid, stony country! Closer up, it was a little sail powered go-cart type of thing, being ridden by his wife, with dog racing alongside. It seemed to speed along on the firm, stony, surface, but would not be much good in sand. Out here, I guess, the residents have to find ways to amuse themselves. From the Rangers base, there was not even much in the way of interesting walking – given the nature of the occasional floods of the river, the base was away from any timbered channels.

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Speed machine. The apparent water in distance was a mirage

The Ranger was very friendly, and showed John over his great solar panel set up, with its huge array of panels. $200,000 worth, he told us. The solar set up ran all the house electricals. There was a very large bank of batteries, too. This set up would – eventually – save money on diesel to fuel generators, and get round the hassle of transporting large quantities of same, out here. He said it was all remotely monitored and controlled from Perth!

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Really large solar panel array. Storage batteries under the roof

This park was so off the tourist trail! There were twelve entries, to date, in the Visitors Book, for 2002.

I asked about the ruins we saw on the circuit drive – Ingledoon? He told us that these were originally thought to have been police barracks, but now they were believed to be from the original settler in the area, as they had found some ladies’ artifacts. It seemed someone needed to do more research on the place.

They definitely need a feral car eradication or, at least, reduction, program!

From Ranger headquarters, we drove a short way along the road to Winton, then turned west to go to Janet’s Leap Lookout. This took us onto an escarpment on the other side of the Diamantina Gates from where we had walked yesterday.

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The track to Janet’s Leap

I wondered about the origin of the Janet’s Leap Lookout name and later found that it was a relatively modern one. When Janet Holmes a’Court sold the Diamantina Lakes property some local remarked that she might as well leap off the cliff there as sell it to the National Parks, for all the good it would do. I for one, am very pleased she did sell it this way, and people like us can get to visit the place.

Apart from showing us the river from that angle, it also showed a totally unexpected expanse of dissected hills and valleys to the east – sort of tableland country. It would be spectacular for photography.

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Dissected breakaway country, seen from the Lookout track

To us, that area to the east looked like the opal mining country we’d seen around Quilpie and Winton – guess it is really not that far from Winton. Had we seen that before talking with the Ranger, I’d have asked if there had been historic opal mining over in that part of the Park.

From the Lookout, we could clearly see the Diamantina Gates, and extra waterholes along the river channels.

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Diamantina Gates from Janet’s Leap Lookout

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Channel and waterhole from Lookout

We’d seen photos at the Ranger Base, taken in the floods of January 1999. The waters were all around the low rise that the Ranger’s house is on, and way out across the flat plains. He said that some of the channels had been filled to more than 6 metres deep. Their airstrip would have been well under water. I’d tried to imagine what it must feel like, isolated out here, with even that means of access to the outside world cut off.

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From the Leap Lookout, could see the river channels spreading out over the flat plains


Back to camp, where we packed up as much as we could.

The other couple were back. They’d checked out Gumhole, as a more sheltered alternative camp, but decided they preferred Hunters Gorge.

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From our camp, in the late afternoon, the other end of the waterhole

We had a last, final, sit round our campfire, watching the sunset and then the stars.

There was an owl in the tree over my head. I hadn’t seen it, but earlier the honeyeaters had been making a fuss around the tree, and I’d wondered why. I only saw it after dark, when it suddenly flew off – and frightened me!

Tea was mushroom soup from a tin, corn cobs and left over fish cakes.

After we went in the van, John plugged the laptop into the inverter and had a little computer time.

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2002 Travels April 24


The solar man turned up, as promised, not long after breakfast. He installed the two new panels on the poptop roof, and linked up all the wiring.

He discovered that there was a quite deep hollow on the poptop roof, under one of the panels put in by J. It looked like someone had kneeled or stood on it, carelessly. What was worse was that at the bottom of the indentation was the hole where the lead from the panels goes into the roof. Thus, there was a funnel effect. AND there was no sealing at all around the entry point! No wonder we had a massive leak in the rain.

He put silicone sealing around the lead at the entry point – as should have been done in the first place. He could not do anything, though, about the hollow. We would just have to hope that the silicone sealing is good, and holds.

That work cost us $1700. That is probably all we can do, for now, about the power set up. Will just have to see how it functions, out in the bush.

So we would not now worry about trying to get help from Bushtracker, and thus could make plans to head back out west, when our booked time here was up. We had already extended to Sunday, so John could play bowls on Saturday! That would also see us going through the city areas on a Sunday – always preferable.

Out extended three nights had cost $18.45 a night.

We might also fit in some “tourist” things, around Brisbane.

Now that we were so far east, I was very tempted to head back west via the Carnarvon Gorge National Park. We had not been there before and it is supposed to be well worth visiting. From what I had been reading, the campground there would still be open, but in the future, National Parks intends to severely limit its opening, or maybe close it altogether. So I thought it would be advisable to go there while we could camp in the Park. That would also try out the power system again!

I was concerned that the two extra panels would make the roof too heavy for me to be able to raise by myself, so tried it out. It certainly was harder, but I still could do it – a form of weight lifting exercise!

I phoned the National Parks booking service and managed to book us into the Carnarvon Gorge camp ground, for five nights – they said we would have a site that allowed for sun on the roof panels, and one that was suitable for a caravan. I was really pleased that we were able to get in!

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2002 Travels April 22


At dawn, heavy rain set in, teeming down, as it does in these parts.

To our horror, water started pouring down through the seam across the van ceiling, just along from our bed. And I mean pouring! It certainly got us out of bed fast. There was much mopping up with towels. We dropped one end of the poptop roof, to try to encourage the water to run over the roof, not soak down into it, wherever it was doing so.

As the van had never leaked before, we could only assume that this was something else associated with J’s work! It was like single-handedly, he’d ruined our van for travel!

The rain eventually ceased and things dried out. The ceiling leak subsided to a few drips, then nothing.

The solar man turned up, as promised, at 11am. His judgement was that we should have had 2 120W panels installed, not the 2 60W panels that J had put in. We arranged that he would come on Wednesday and add 2 80W panels – that would make 4 up on the roof!

He was also not certain that our two batteries hold enough capacity. In any case, he said they were cheap Korean copies of good ones. I was pretty certain that we’d paid J “good one” prices for them, though!

We were, despite ourselves, fairly favourably impressed by this man, and hoped our faith was not misplaced, this time.

We went for a walk around the streets, later in the afternoon, for some exercise.

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2002 Travels April 19


It was mid-morning by the time we got going.

The caravan park lady very nicely lent me a street directory, after I’d gone to the Office to see if there was one I could look at.

We drove to the address I had for my friend, about ten minutes from the park. There were two numbers on the same letterbox, which was a bit confusing. After getting no answer from the place I thought was correct, I put a note under the door, giving our location and phone number.

We then drove to Stafford, to Kyocera solar panels. Very quickly found out that they import the panels, and do not make them, as J said they did! They do not fit or fix solar systems. The owner seemed pretty fed up with J – join the club! We told him what J had promised our system would do, and he just rolled his eyes! His young assistant showed us a calculation which indicated that, if everything was at its optimum, our system might just run the fridge. Only the fridge. In heat, forget it!

So we came away from there convinced we have paid several thousand dollars for a lemon – we had been had by a con man. We were certainly given the impression that this was common in the industry, with a whole lot of self-taught cowboys jumping on the solar power trend.

It was all most depressing. I was reluctant to start sending more good money after bad, though. They did give us the name of a mobile person who the Kyocera people thought was reasonably competent – and honest. Decided we had no option, really, but to get an opinion from him, at least.

The Stafford shopping centre and cinema complex was nearby and John decided that he wanted to go to the pictures. Maybe to forget reality for a little while?

The earliest film that looked tolerable was at 1.10pm, so we browsed the shops for a couple of hours and had donor kebabs for lunch. I put in a finished film for processing.

The film was “Gosford Park” – British, complex, but interesting and entertaining. I enjoyed it. John had gotten confused and thought we were seeing “Kate and Leopold”, so kept waiting for the plot to develop differently!

After the film, I bought some frozen fish for dinner.

I picked up my photos – nothing special, though the few from Leopardwood were alright.

John phoned the mobile solar man and arranged for him to come at 11am on Monday.

Tea was fish and fries.

Afterwards, I read some of a novel I’d borrowed from S, in Canberra. John computed.

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2002 Travels April 13


I got up about 7am. John slept until after 8. I sat outside with my mug of coffee and watched the bird life, of which there was quite a bit about. There were also quite a few flies!

Leopardwood is presumably named for the tree of the same name that is found around these parts, that has a mottled bark pattern.

It was about 10.15 before John was breakfasted and ready to embark on the day.

We went up to Mike’s place. He was busy doing something but, after a short delay, we followed him out to the diggings, not far beyond his house and the camp.

We learned that his pit digging machine had broken down. That meant that we could not do what had been talked of when we met him, last year. That would have involved him digging a pit, us paying $300 and doing the fossicking in the new pit, and then sharing finds with him.

Instead, we could pay $10 a day, and fossick on the surface, or in existing pits. Technically, Mike was not allowed to charge fees for camping on his place, because he does not meet the standards for camping, but he could allow free camping. So the $10 a day for fossicking rights was really a camping fee! Fair enough.

I was really disappointed by there being no proper dig, but John seemed to take it in his stride, which quite surprised me.

After a rather cursory sweep around the diggings, and a brief explanation of what we could do, Mike left us to it.

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The Leopardwood diggings

John did some surface scratching around, then we both gouged about in a cut, in the walls at its base. It was hard to tell if we were really doing it right, but we both found some opal “shows”. Nothing really jumped out at us as being worth cutting, though.

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John gives an idea of the scale of the cut where we worked

We had no idea whether the cut we’d chosen to work in had been left after one of Mike’s $300 deals, when the people had moved on, or if it was one that Mike had abandoned as being no good. In other words, whether we were wasting our time!

It got very hot down in the cut, and by 1pm I was feeling a bit ill, after working in the heat and the full sun. The kneeling/crouching was also very hard on the knees.

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Looking the part?

We went back to camp for a late lunch.

Then, I sat outside, in what shade I could find, sewing – amid what felt like millions of flies. John had a sleep, inside the fly-proof van.

In the late afternoon, we walked up to Mike’s place, about 300 metres from our camp. We had intended to go for a walk in the bush, the other way, but got waylaid by Hannibal, who was a bit aggressive, so we went where Mike might distract him.

Mike said he was not feeling well – he certainly did not look good.

Back at camp, I went for a shower in the rather ad hoc set up. The daddy long legs spiders inhabiting the dim area were a bit close for comfort. A frog under my foot startled me when it jumped away. Just too many critters! Because the water comes from the bore in a black plastic pipe, it was rather too hot to begin with. It was not a long shower.

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Willy willy near camp

Unbelievably, our power set up was causing concern. The fridge seemed to be running rather too frequently – was it the heat or was it malfunctioning? The battery power reading was dropping steadily under 12.

John fiddled about with running Truck and checking connections, and seemed to get some power going into the system. But as soon as Truck was disconnected, the power readout dropped fast, again. This was NOT the remote area, self sufficient system J had promised us. It actually seemed worse than when we were at Opalton, back in 2000, and we had only one panel and battery, then.

We had only been here 24 hours, and there had been steady sunshine. Not good at all.

It had been a hot and sweaty day. We seemed to attract millions of flies.

Tea was scotch fillet and mushrooms.

After tea, John briefly turned on his laptop and plugged it into the inverter, despite the low power reading, but he soon turned it off again.

It was a hot night.

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2002 Travels March


We wanted to do a short trip away, to test out the new systems away from 240v power. John especially wanted to test out his new bread maker.

We drove to the Tidal River campground, at Wilsons Promontory. This was a favourite area of ours, from our school holiday tenting days, so it was a slightly nostalgic visit.

We paid $18 a night, for an unpowered site, and decided they must still be on summer rates!

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Site at Tidal River – two solar panels on the roof, now

Tidal River was a bit cool, with overcast grey skies. Despite reduced solar input, the power supply seemed to last the time.

The bread maker did work, and duly produced an edible loaf. One part of the process did seem to work more slowly than it had at home, on the 240v power there.

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First bread maker loaf of bread made in van

We walked on the beach at Tidal River, wandered about the very extensive campground, noting changes since our last visit, several years earlier, but did little else.

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2002 Travels

Earlier in the year……

We had realized, back on our extended trip, that we did not really have enough solar power capacity to run the fridge and lights for an extended period.

When we had the van built, in 1997, and even now, solar power installations in caravans and motorhomes were a novelty, very new on the scene, and there were few people who seemed to know much about the field.

Now, John had become fixated upon being able to run a breadmaking machine, when we were not on external, 240v power. My research had suggested that these draw too much power to be feasible for operating via an inverter, but…..

John contacted J – the “expert” in 12v solar systems for caravans – who had installed our initial solar panel. He, of course, agreed with John that it could be done!

So, early in the year, after being serviced at Trakmaster, J collected the van and took it off to his factory in Alphington, to have another solar panel fitted on the roof (as J advised), a second battery and an inverter installed, and associated other bits and pieces fitted.

Truck also got some attention, with new batteries being put into that. This was done by J at the Trakmaster factory.

The work on the van was only supposed to take a couple of weeks to be done – in amongst other jobs – but we became increasingly uneasy when we had heard nothing, after some 5 weeks. On the phone, John was assured that the van was almost ready! It took a few more weeks, and another couple of phone calls, but eventually J arranged to deliver the van back to us.

He duly arrived – in teeming rain – with the door to the battery compartment swinging open and the van door likewise – only held from totally swinging open by the hook. I also noticed that the poptop holders were not fastened down, but fortunately the weight of it had kept it down! I was quite horrified by this slackness.

We had previously heard, at great length, about J’s woes because his wife had gone off with his best friend and how he wasn’t coping well with this. Looked to me like the not coping might have extended to his business as well.

We went into the van to get a demonstration of how the new system worked. It didn’t! No 12v power at all. J protested that it had all been working alright at the factory – it had been tested. He wanted to immediately take the van back to his factory. No way was I letting him have it again.

After some messing around, he thought that the batteries had not been charged, and that leaving the van plugged in to 240v power overnight, would see everything working tomorrow. So much for his “factory testing”.

All up, we were to fork out some $3,700 for the work on the van and Truck.

John went out and bought a Panasonic bread maker, that was supposed to have the lowest current draw of those on the market.

I’d turned my attention to finding a house sitter to live in, look after the cats, mow the lawns, forward our mail. I was not really sure how to go about finding someone reliable, then happened to see an ad in the Age newspaper, put in by a lady looking to house sit. A phone call gave me the information that L was in her 30’s, had given up a career in finance to go to Uni, where she was studying Fine Arts, and that she hoped to continue on and complete a Masters degree. Obviously, she needed to conserve funds, hence the house sitting.

We arranged that she would come and meet in person, and also inspect the place. We liked her, she liked the set up – and the cats. John and I had already decided that we would make the three back bedrooms and bathroom available for a sitter – to enable them to settle in well for the five or six months that we envisaged being away.

All settled – L would move in just before we planned to leave, and receive all her final instructions then.

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2000 Travels May 28


It was a lovely day with a clear blue sky.

We noodled for a while in the morning – on the same heaps behind the camp area. There was an extensive area of these to choose from.

M brought round a bottle of washing up detergent that L sent us from the store – I’d mentioned yesterday that I’d forgotten to buy some in Winton and had asked if there was any at the Outpost. I was just about out of same.

L came round later and I paid him $2 for the detergent and $22 for 11 nights of camping here. We had already decided we really wanted to linger out here, but that this was the longest period we could manage before moving on.

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Opalton personalities

This would be a good period for the budget! Though the fruit and veg shop up at Winton had been costly – almost $50.

John drove out again to put in the yabby nets – he also had a loan of one from S, of the overseas camping couple.

Later in the afternoon we both drove back to the Sandy Creek waterhole to retrieve the nets, one had about 17 in! John was SO surprised. He let out some little ones, risking his fingers to do so.

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John yabbying – and risking his fingers

Back at camp – by which time it was dark – we cooked and peeled the catch. Hard work!

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The yabby catch

So, it was a late tea, but they were nice with seafood sauce. There were enough bits of claw meat left for a small “cocktail” with tomorrow’s tea.

It was an extremely cold night – due to the clear skies. We sat by the fire after tea, all rugged up, even with our wool beanies.

John had been checking the solar power monitoring meters through the day. He wasn’t sure that the Hydra-lec one was working and found one part inside it melted/burnt. He thinks that someone must have rewired it in Melbourne – probably J – the man who installed the solar panel.

This was not good. Because the solar status panel was not working properly, we could not tell what was happening with our power inputs and storage. It was a worry.

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1999 Travels May 10


John wanted a rest day, today, since we have been active every day since getting here.

It was another beautiful blue sky day. Yesterday, U had commented on the unusual clarity of the air and the views – so it is not always like that, here.

I did the washing.

Basically we just lazed around for much of the day. Read some accumulated newspapers and some travel guides. I did some knitting.

I walked to the office and paid for another week’s accommodation here. There is still so much that we want to do.

After lunch, we went for a bike ride, as far as the old hut and the Cazneaux Tree. We detoured to the solar farm lookout. The solar farm consists of rows of solar panels generating electricity that can be used at Wilpena, which is not on the main power grid, and has relied on its own diesel generators. The SA Govt had the solar farm installed, to demonstrate what can be done with this technology. It only started operating a few months ago. The rows of panels are in a slight valley, so they are not really noticeable unless one goes to the lookout. The experimental work that is being done on a solar power supply, here, is impressive. The way of the future?

Our 15.5km bike ride was very enjoyable – such a great setting for cycling.

The camp area was nice and peaceful in the morning, but by mid afternoon it was filled with vans.

John went to the public phone at the office (no mobile reception here) to make some calls. He contacted our sharebroker to check on some share prices. Phoned Hayman Reece to ask about the advisability of taking off the weight distribution bars on rough roads – we should! He also phoned and booked us to do the SkyTrek tomorrow.

A park worker, whom John had encountered somewhere about the place, came by after work to talk to John about web sites and his plans to set up a business offering abseiling and climbing, here. He did not seem to have much idea, though, about things like liability insurance, so I think he has a lot of learning to do yet.

Tea was late – due to our visitor. Pumpkin soup, Hawaiian tofu stir fry and rice – was ok.

We are having a good run of early nights – must be the unpolluted air here.