Adventures in the Sherwood: goannas galore!

Friday 11th to Tuesday 15th November, 2022 – Dunsborough Songfest and Contos Campground

We stopped for a while at the Busselton Foreshore for a coffee. We did this last year as well, but the weather was a little cold this time, with a sharp wind. It was the coolest weather we have ever experienced for a Dunsborough Songfest.

Stephen’s choir, The Real Sing, had four appearances at the Dunsborough Songfest, starting with the ‘taster’ concert on Friday night at Our Lady of the Cape Primary School. This gave us a chance to see many of the groups that were to perform throughout the weekend and decide if there were any we really needed to see. When we pulled into the parking area there was another Suncamper Sherwood already there, which we did not see again during the Songfest.

We wore our masks most of the weekend when we were with other people, but not at the social gathering of the choir on Saturday evening. They had ordered Thai takeaway and we were glad to have this option for a meal, but didn’t quite realise how hard it would be to don masks afterwards in a group of people who were not wearing them. We mostly stayed seated on a coach near the open sliding door and hope this was enough.

There was much more singing than conversation happening, with two bases standing over other seated choir members. By Tuesday morning both of the bases, who stand with Stephen for singing, had tested positive for COVID. Stephen was the only one wearing a mask whilst singing for all of the concerts. He wears a black mask for performances and he looks quite trendy. But we hope it’s more than just a good look, that it has actually provided him with protection, despite the waning immunity from our vaccinations.

Singing in the Catholic Church. The man in the mask is Stephen

After their last singing engagement on Sunday afternoon we were free to escape to Contos. But first we went to the Goanna Cafe just out of Dunsborough. We sat on a verandah next to an opening in the blinds. We were delighted that a goanna decided to join us briefly for a snack from the floor. We also had a little chat with Matt whilst waiting for our food.

At the Goanna Cafe
Our spot at Contos Campground

Then we followed Google Maps directions to our campsite. Contos Campground is in the Boranup National Park near Margaret River. Google took us on a back way that included a gravel road on our way to the highway. We stopped in Margaret River for some fruit, etc. All this meant that we arrived at our campsite quite late. The camp host visited us shortly after we arrived to confirm our booking.

A lone folding chair marks our spot whilst we went to the beach

The spot we chose was opposite the rustic toilets that had a little basin with a tap. The camp host said that the water was rain water from the roof of the toilets, probably not drinkable, but suitable for washing our hands and dishes. We then settled in for the evening.

In the morning we drove down to the Conto Springs beach. The road wasn’t ‘4WD only’, but I definitely felt more confident driving along it with our high ground clearance and good tires. We spent most of the day there, taking a little walking trail to the beach and enjoying the fresh air and views.

Stephen took advantage of the very clean drop toilet there, which was a good as the toilets at our campground. Thankyou to the management who make sure these toilets are so clean and fresh.

Toilet at Conto Springs Beach

I encounted a couple of goannas on the way back to the Sherwood for lunch. One stayed perfectly still, pretending to be a branch perhaps. The other flattened itself on the ground for a while before marching off into the bushes.

The goanna branch
If I lay flat she might not notice me.
Waddling off into the bushes

We didn’t wait for sunset as we wanted to drive back in daylight. We left a little camping chair to mark our spot as new people arriving are allowed to choose any free site and we really wanted to stay in the same place.

We drove home on Tuesday, sharing the driving pretty much 50/50. We called in to see Robyne who hasn’t been well for a while and has lost weight. She is a bit torn as to how to feel as it’s good to lose weight, but not good to feel ill for quite a long time. Not COVID.

In the evening we walked around to Eli’s Tent, one of the many local cafes close to us, for a meal, then joined Mackie Street Singers for the second half of the rehearsal.

We noticed on Wednesday how well we felt after the fresh air and exercise. However, the outbreak in the choir has now risen to about eight cases, so we are testing again today before joining Working Voices for a rehearsal. So far, no symptoms.

Travels in the Sherwood: Eclipse April 22nd, 2023

Could our trip to SA be eclipsed by an actual eclipse?

During last week we went to a talk on the September, 1922 eclipse expedition, also in the north of Western Australia. It was very interesting and has left us trying to work out if we can go up to Exmouth for April 22nd and still make it to the G&S Festival in Adelaide in May. We would have three weeks and it is doable, even for us travelling slowly.

The main thing that is off putting about going up to Exmouth for the eclipse is just how crowded it will be. Exmouth gets crowded anyway, but this will be so much worse. National Park camping bookings start on Tuesday at 10.00 a.m. Getting a spot could help us to decide.

The next problem is logistical. There are only two water drinking taps available on the peninsula for campers and the dump points don’t have water available for rinsing. They could get pretty putrid. Basically, could we carry enough water, including drinking water, to sustain us for a few days. We would need to be totally self suffcient for everything.

There is likely to be a lot of traffic congestion and getting a camping spot in the direct line where we will see the eclipse from our campsite would be ideal. Afterwards we, and probably thousands of others, would be wanting to get off the peninsula at the same time.

Would it be worth it for what might be for us a once in a lifetime experience? There is another eclipse five years later but we might not be fit enough to travel to view it.

We’ve had a quote for a new storage box for the rear of the camper. It will cost $1,000, with delivery in 12-14 weeks. That will be in plenty of time for our winter trip. In the meantime we will store stuff inside, though it means moving things outside or into the vehicle cab so that we can use our living area.

Our garden in October, 2022

Adventures in the Sherwood: winter plans for 2023

Our present trip plans include the Dunsborough Songfest Weekend, the Little Folk in the Forest Weekend and mooching around Albany in January, but we were finding it difficult to work out what we wanted to do for next year’s winter trip. We even felt a bit depressed and discouraged after our first couple of discussions about it. But today, with the release of the G&S Festival programme, we have been able to decide on a plan.

We will leave in mid April or earlier to travel to South Australia to do some exploring in the Flinders Ranges and go up to the Dig Tree, which is about 50 kms from Innamincka and 1000kms from Adelaide. It’s actually just over the border in Queensland, but easily accessible this way.

The G&S festival begins on the 10th May, finishing on the 21st May. It involves some cheap/free activities as well as three opera productions. We will register to be part of the Big Sing on the final night of the festival.

We will have to book our tickets, register for free events, and even book a caravan park for the G&S Festival, so this does involve a fair bit of money, but worth it for the opportunity to do something we haven’t done before. We both like Adelaide and we have friends there so it should make a good change to the first part of our trip of mostly off grid camping. I may even visit my favourite shoe shop!

After a few weeks in Perth to catch up with Matt we will go up to Karijini with the aim of roaming around in the Park, which we didn’t do last year when we were in the area due to not wanting to tackle so much gravel road driving. We will also do some other things, depending on the time we have left.

Whilst we are home in June we can join Eversley on a trip to Rottnest for a few days in the same cottage as this year, which is beautifully located near the centre, but within walking distance of a sunset lookout.

Stephen will have a chance to audition for the next G&S production and our travels north will be constrained in terms of getting back in time for the reheasals. He thinks he will likely get chosen for the chorus, which is less demanding than having a principal part, but just as much fun in terms of being involved. Of course, there might be a suitable principal part.

The beauty of this plan is that we will not be away for quite so long and if anything breaks on the first trip (which is almost inevitable) we will be able to have it fixed before the second. Importantly, it also means we get to spend time with Matt in the middle of our travels.

Adventures in the Sherwood

Nanga Music Festival

We enjoyed going on a really short trip, so much less packing and planning! On arrival in Dwellingup we went to the Lane Pool Reserve, which is over the river from the Nanga Bush Camp. It was mainly to kill time until we could line up, but we were able to see the little waterfall. It makes a lot of noise, but isn’t much of a fall. On Saturday we walked there from the other side and realised that we had not been there in all the years we’ve been going to the music camp.

Lane Pool Reserve

At Nanga we parked amongst other small vans and right next to a truck camper, so we felt were were exactly where we needed to be. A little levelling up and it was comfortable.

We look smaller than the other camper mainly because we backed into our spot and he drove straight in.

This year Fred Smith was there, doing a couple of concerts and managing the Sunday night concert. It’s always good on Sunday nights, but this was the best so far.

This group is actually the committee. Each year, instead of formal proceedings they get onstage dressing in some sort of costume and sing something silly, led by Tim Fisher on guitar.

We had all of our meals in the van, not wanting to have meals with lots of other people in the big dining hall. This was partly to be COVID safe, but also the meals are generally not good enough for the money. Eversley joined us for the evening meals and we also met with her on Monday morning at the Blue Wren Cafe for a final coffee/meal together.

Evening at City Beach

Our next test of the Sherwood as our adventure van was having an evening meal at City Beach to watch the sunset. I made a list of food to take, then canned it and we bought food at the little cafe next to the large parking area. We had a spot at the back near the road, but still had a lovely view over the ocean for sunset. After a walk and getting our meal we sat down just in time. We love having the three large viewing windows for our living room.

Dirty windows and it wasn’t a really spectacular sunset. But it was a bit windy and chilly so it was lovely to be indoors looking out. The couple of white spots on the lower part of the window happened when the men removed the aluminium box. Because of the glue it was very hard to remove and they had to sort of bounce it off. The windows could do with replacing, but maybe after we’ve had more adventures and scratched them up more.

Our next test will be when Stephen participates in a concert with Adrea Bocelli at a winery. There is a dress rehearsal in the morning and then the concert in the evening and we will take the Sherwood and have meals, rests, etc. Then he will have me to drive home after the concert. We don’t yet know if I can go and listen to the dress rehearsal, but I may be able to hear the concert from the parking area. Basically, we want to be able to do all of the things we did with our previous van, then more.

Bodyroll

I now have a name for the sort of rolling motion of the Sherwood. And it’s not just because of having a high hab on GVM suspension, apparently the Toyota Hilux is notorious for having bodyroll and there are firms offering stabilizer bars online. We wouldn’t be able to have this on our setup as it might interfere with the suspension which is there to take all of the extra weight. However, it’s reassuring to know that it isn’t just because of the hab.

We’ve been doing research and the Sherwood is quite a capable 4WD vehicle if driven by someone experienced. We have watched a video of it being driven across Australia taking the gravel road 4WD routes. Although we have a high wheel base the rear axle isn’t that high. We would have to ‘ride the ridges’ if going down a track with a high middle section between the wheels.

To gain experience we will build on our experience of some rough tracks and corrugated gravel roads in our other vans to gradually increase our skills. However, that does not mean we will tackle anything too rough. I am still amused that we thought we were doing off roading when we went along the track to the Corella Dam camping area in Queensland, then found there were many small vans, long motorhomes, as well as huge off road caravans there. Obviously the track was not that bad!

Travels in the Sherwood: planning our next trip

We feel that we have settled back into ‘normal life’, going to choirs, having Matt to tea, getting administrative work done. I’ve been working on cleaning up the rear of the Sherwood, but still have a way to go. I’ve tried all sorts of different cleaners, they all work a bit, but it’s still hard work and will be done in stages. We don’t have a plan for actually getting a new storage box on the back, but we don’t need it yet.

We went back to the inspection centre the day after the box was removed and passed. However we had to wait for our certificate due to the non standard fuel tank. At least he was able to tell us the size of our fuel tank, 120 to 130 litres and that it was to give the Hilux greater range. The certificate arrived by email late in the afternoon and we made a mad dash down to the Department of Transport office in Cannington.

Stephen hadn’t worked out that we would pick up our new licence plates right away and it fell to me to get our old plates off. Didn’t help that one required a Philips head screwdriver, which I had with us, and the other needed an allen key. I thought they were only used when assembling IKEA furniture! Anyway a nearby AutoBahn service centre came to the rescue and removed it for me. We got a set of Allen keys from the AutoBahn store, also near the DoT office and were able to get both new plates on.

The next item was to get our solar working. We booked in at a local auto electrician and found out another wiring error. The DCtoDC charger was wired using too light a cable and was actually dangerous. The rewiring means that now we will get the full charge from our DCtoDC charger whilst driving, plus it was relocated to a cooler spot in the engine bay.

The solar just needed a wire resetting on the solar controller, but we also decided on having new solar panels as we have lots of space on the roof. We now have 440w of solar, two 120w panels and a 200w panel. We are still waiting on the return of our second battery from Port Hedland. The inverter doesn’t work, we thought it might, so I don’t know if it’s because it’s damaged or because it isn’t wired in. We’ve decided to wait until we have our full battery power before getting it checked.

And the last thing is that today we have had new All Terrain tyres fitted. The other tyres were the original ones on the Sherwood and somewhat worn due to not being inflated enough at the rear. We’ve gone for much better tyres that will allow us to feel safer going off bitumen.

We’ve pretty much completely unpacked the Sherwood and I’m now working on gradually putting things back for our next trip. We are going to the Nanga Music Camp in Dwellingup this weekend. We usually pack quite lightly for a short trip, but still need a lot of the same things, whether for a short trip or a long one. Still, it’s much easier as we tend to know exactly what we will need, e.g. 6 wheatbix, our various types of tea bags, coffee, etc. Plus we don’t need much in the way of clothes, though it looks like the nights will be pretty cold.

We feel a bit bad about going away so soon after arriving home, but we will have Matt to tea on the Monday night after the weekend as I didn’t want him to have to wait until the following week. Us as well, we are really appreciating being able to have him home with us instead of just on Facetime. There are a couple more weekends away before Christmas and we might have to miss one week next month.

Homebase: getting stuff done

Yesterday we had our new fuel infill hose fitted at Newtown Toyota. We had friendly, professional service and they only charged $110, half what I was quoted. After worrying since Mt Isa that the patched line would start leaking again it felt wonderful.

Our licence inspection today didn’t go so well. The silver box on the back makes the overhang too long. It didn’t pass. However, he did say that if we could get it taken off, it would pass and he would see us again tomorrow morning without extra charge. we panicked a bit, wondering if we could get it done in time.

So, after lunch we looked for a local company and just happened on a 4WD service centre in Welshpool. They offered to take a look and after some hard work managed to get it off. They cleaned up quite a lot and made sure all the bolts and holes were waterproof. What made it so difficult to remove was that it was glued as well as bolted in place and they had to use heat to soften the glue.

Once we have cleaned up the back I think I prefer not having the box on the back. We may install brackets to hold some outdoor things, but will definitely not carry anything heavy.

Travelling Oz…Wannamal Rest Area to Home Base

We had a good sleep at Three Springs, but still found we were a bit tired the next day. As it was over 300 kms to home we decided to spend one more night on the road at the Wannamal Rest Area. Of course, it is the right time of year to go there as there were lots of wild flowers in the bush surrounding the car park. We appreciate that there are flushing toilets as well. It wasn’t busy overnight, with only five RV’s and we were well spaced out.

It was sunny and clear on the drive home. We stopped in at Bindoon Bakehous for a morning tea of custard donut and hot drinks, plus one of their loaves, then were quickly on the Tonkin Highway section which took us most of the way home.

Stephen guides me in, as he did with the Adria campervan. I feel I have a bit more control with the Sherwood, it’s easier to drive at the very slow speed needed to make a safe landing.

Our neighbour had a package of our mail, a new remote for the airconditioning for the Sherwood, plus a fuel input hose which arrived Friday, the day after we ordered it. The firm is in Welshpool, I didn’t realise this at first, and uses a delivery service that has three deliveries per day, so it was bound to get here before us. As Suncamper says this is the right part we assume it will fit and have let Newtown Toyota know. We are continuing to get up early so it shouldn’t be a problem to get the Sherwood to them by 8.00 a.m. tomorrow.

Travelling Oz…Galena Bridge Rest Area to Three Springs Free Caravan Park

Lunch at the Grenough Museum Cafe yesterday

On Friday we drove to Galena Bridge which is on the Murchison River near Kalbarri. On the way we went to a lookout which gave us views across to the ocean. I have photos, but will need to process them for a later blog. I find the iPhone is good for documenting our travels and mostly use it, but some views demand a camera.

It was very busy on the Southside of the rest area, but we hunted for a spot on the river and were able to squeeze our van between two caravans without blocking them from getting out. The river is particularly full at the moment. We love that we can stay overnight for free in such a lovely location even though there were so many other vans. I’m not sure why it’s still so busy now that people can travel overseas.

As we got further south the road became increasingly busy. We stayed on it long enough to enjoy lunch at the Grenough Cafe, but at Dongara we’d had enough. Even though it is about 70kms further back to Perth we decided to take the Midlands Way. People were passing cars in pairs, not giving an inch, and it felt so dangerous.

Which is why we’ve ended up in Three Springs instead of Western Flora.

It is called a caravan park but is just an area near the oval and swimming pool where people can stay, sort of higgledy piggledy around the place. We managed to find a spot that is fairly level. There is one shower and some toilets available.

Travelling Oz…at Wooramel Roadhouse

We think we can make it home by Sunday night. We will have one night of free camping at Galena Bridge rest area just outside Kalbarri National Park, one night at Western Flora Caravan Park, then zoom home from there. At least, that’s our plan.

Our little Sherwood looks very clean in the photos, though up close she is a bit dirty. I keep emphasising her smallness because we are hoping she can fit into our car bay, despite not having the sloping roof of our van. She is short enough, and the bed section does not extend as far as the nose of the Hilux, so that can fit under the overhand of the house. The car bay is wider than when we had the Winnie due to taking out a driveway light and being granted a few extra inches when they rebuilt our side wall. But if it fits it will be tight.

I’ve only elevated this matter to the top of my Worry List recently. During much of the trip Matthew getting sick with us a long way away was top of the list. Do you find you do this as well, reorder your priorities on the list? The Worry List is good for giving me something to do when I can’t sleep.😀

Newtown Toyota could not get hold of a new fuel infill hose, so they are trying to find one through salvage yards. Suncamper got back to us with a link to a boating site with a fuel infill hose that they are confident will fit and we’ve put that on order with express shipping. Will it arrive by Wednesday? Will Toyota come up with one as well in time? It’s very exciting for us as we wonder if we will be able to have our licence inspection in time to renew our licence by the 19th when the present one expires. Or will we have to apply for a 30 day extension.