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.

Travelling Oz…making progress

After spending two nights on powered sites we couldn’t get a spot at Minilya, so used the free camping area across the road. It’s a bit of a madhouse due to not having the roadhouse option and everyone else free camping as well, nevertheless we had a good night.

Our camping at Nanutarra on Tuesday night went well as we were able to order a takeaway meal of Thai curry and rice, with a side of vegetables, very tasty and just the right size meal to share. We felt it was a definite step up from the meal in Karratha.

Last night I cooked eggs and veggies, just a small meal that suited us as well. But we plan to go to the IGA in Carnarvon as we are out of so many things. We can get water there as well, important as I don’t think we can drive as far as the next roadhouse after losing time shopping and getting water in Carnarvon.

Some good news though. Our dead battery that we left in Port Hedland has sprung into life again after they put it on a different charger. How to get it to Perth? Well, the manager makes fairly frequent trips to Perth and will bring it to us on his next trip. They were able to contact us because I left a positive review on Facebook as well as on Google.

So, we are ready to head off for Carnarvon. We are still trying to progress the repair of our fuel line and have been advised that we shouldn’t book the licence pre inspection until it is fixed as it could result in the car failing to pass. Fingers crossed that Toyota can get the part in time for our booking on Wednesday 14th. Stephen has made a lot of phone calls yesterday and today to get to this point.

Travelling Oz…What happend in Port Hedland

We hadn’t planned to stay in Port Hedland, but with heavy rain it seemed a good idea to stay. We had done a few chores, running too and fro in the rain, and then having to dry out our jackets. At the shopping centre, once we had done our shopping and had lunch, I did some washing at the laundromat before we drove over to the free camping ‘compound’ as Stephen calls it, we are in a fenced area. We had a choice of places to camp and chose a spot next to an enormous 5th wheeler.

By evening the rain had eased and we took a walk to the beach and water tower. We then had a good night’s sleep.

We are still waking up at 6.00 a.m. and I find I often wake up just before the alarm, which shows my body clock is working well. As I was boiling the kettle for our cup of tea our whole electricity system went suddenly dead. Just like that, no power at all, including 12v. We decided to press on and switched on the gas and had kettle washes (no water pump or ability to use our gas heater). There are a couple of lamps in the van (no 12v, no lights of course) and we felt we could probably cope until we got home by always staying in caravan parks. Until we tried to put the step in and realised that it wouldn’t work without 12v and we didn’t know how to manually override the system.

Rescue came in the form of a man from the RAC. He couldn’t work out what the fault was, but our solar system appears to be part of it as the fuse kept tripping out. So, as a last resort to get us moving he took the steps off. He recommended an auto electrician in the town and with our steps inside the house we headed off to a caravan park for the night. The steps sat under the van overnight.

In the morning, rising early, we contact the auto electrian soon after it was open and managed to wring from Christie, the co-ordinator, a promise to have a look and see what she could do. She said she had no spare man power, but we were so grateful that we could get it looked at that we trusted her to find some sort of solution. Turns out, she really knows her stuff. The batteries normally shut themselves down before getting damaged by being totally drained. One battery was still dead after she tried to wake it up, the other is viable. She shifted it over, connected all of our 12v stuff to it, so that we have a normal 12v service for all of the applicances, lighting, etc. We won’t be able to use the inverter, but as that may have been part of the problem we are happy, so happy, that everything else works.

I asked if she knew someone who could reinstall our step. Even if we couldn’t use it we wanted to carry it outside rather than inside. She must have made a call because low and behold a knight in shining armour with a white van came along and reinstalled the step. He also plugged it into the 12v system, so we have a working step again. Our house is fairly high and the little plastic step we were using, both for getting onto the bed, and then getting into the van, was pretty inadequate, though better than nothing.

He wouldn’t allow us to pay and when Stephen went to pay for Christie’s work the bill was only $57.00. Hedland Auto Electrics gets good reviews on Google for helping out travellers, so we’ve added ours as well. We were both very stressed whilst we were having the problem, but tried to remain outwardly calm and supportive of each other. Once we were on our way our stress levels really did go down.

We hadn’t planned to stay in Karratha, but it was a good distance for us to travel after leaving the auto electricians and getting fuel, and a new wrench, in case we need to manually put up the steps in the future. Our knight (or is he Christie’s knight) showed us how to do it, which is different to the manual. Did I say that in the morning we actually found the manual for the steps.

Christie also advised us to stay in a caravan park so that the battery would get a really good charge overnight. We have our DC to DC charging working whilst we drive and that normally maintains the batteries. As our battery bank is now halved it may make it even easier for the DC to DC charger to keep it full. Of course, one 120ahr lithium battery is equivelent to two 100AGM batteries, so we actually still have plenty of power. However, having two batteries works best as that way if one fails it can be disconnected so that you are using the one that is still viable.

We are staying at a former workers camp, now caravan park, in Karratha which still has the dining room attached. For $30 a head you can enjoy a full three course buffet meal, but we opted for one $20 takeaway meal to share, which still defeated us in the end, we couldn’t eat it all. Plus it was heavy, stodgy food, more suited to workers than pensioners.

This morning I took advantage of the free washing machines to wash our towells, etc. plus a little addition clothing in another machine. There is only one dryer, but as I started early I was able to get it into the dryer. After about an hour and twenty the stuff was still damp and we’ve hung it out to do a bit more drying before we leave here.

Our next stop is Nanutarra, we are not sure if we need to plug into shore power again tonight, but we may miss out on a powered site anyway, so will just take our chances. It’s a nice place to stay near the river as you can take a walk on the bridge.

Travelling Oz…the last few days

After saying in the last post that we wouldn’t stay at Fitzroy Crossing, we changed our minds and stayed at the Fitzroy River Lodge. It was still hot and we wanted air conditioning. We spent the afternoon resting in the cool of our van, then walked over to the bar for a pizza and beer, enjoyed on the verandah. In the morning we used our discount voucher from the lodge to have the gas bottle filled and some shopping at the IGA. Although we found Halls Creek felt a bit dodgy, with signs up regarding keeping valuables close, we didn’t feel any of that at Fitzroy Crossing. The staff at the Lodge were particularly welcoming.

Our next night was at the Willarie Bridge Roadhouse, again enjoying a powered site so we could have airconditioning. In the evening we walked out along the bridge to see if we could see any crocodiles. At least, that was my idea, Stephen was birdwatching of course.

At this point we passed the turnoff to Derby, which means we are now back in familiar territory from our travells last year. We are trying to move a little faster and did over 300 kms per day for a couple of days.

We had overnights at the Stanley River Rest Area and then the De Grey River Rest Area. It’s still rather uncomfortable in the late afternoon and last night at De Grey it was very humid and every bug in the area had found it’s way into our van, or that is what it felt like. We have experienced our first rain in weeks by coming into Port Hedland today, that was why it was so humid last night. The rain was heavy until about 2.00 p.m., but is supposed to lift tomorrow.

After getting water, visiting the dump point and doing some shopping we’ve decided to stay in the ‘compound’ as Stephen calls it, an area in the town where RVs can stay for free. As we were staying I put a load of washing through at the laundromat at the shopping center, using the dryer as well, and then we’ve come to the RV area for the night.

I had an afternoon sleep when we arrived here, something I haven’t done in ages. Stephen said he feels a bit like we are travelling forever and just can’t get home. We are making progress, but slowly even driving for longer days. And today was only a short drive to the town, about 80 kms.

Last night, I got a bit frantic about the bugs and sprayed with insect spray a few times. As we were settling down to sleep the gas detector alarm kept going off. We had closed the door and put the fan on the table to blow straight up to the bed and the insect spray was triggering the alarm. It took us a little while to work this out. We didn’t have a gas alarm in the Adria, but did have one in the Winnie, and I remembered the same thing happening. Jason of Ken Peachy confirmed that the detector can react to any noxious emission. Our door is a typical caravan door with two layers. The screen door is the real security door, with an overlay. So, we are safe to sleep with only the screen door, but I had been worried about the forecast rain and wanted it shut. Once we opened the door, which is near the alarm all was well.

We hope to keep up the pace of 300+kms per day for most of the days until we get home. I’ve booked our van in to have the fuel line looked at at New Town Toyota in Welshpool on the 14th September. In addition, we need to have our vehicle inspected and weighed before the licence can be renewed with WA plates and the deadline is the 19th September. We really do need to get back to have this done.

I’m not feeling too sad as we near the end of our trip. In early October we will be going to Dwellingup for the Nanga Music Camp, then in November we have the Dunsborough Songfest followed by the Folk in the Forrest Music camp back in Dwellingup the next weekend. And we will likely go to Cosy Corner near Albany in January. So, lots of little trips in the near future. It will be lovely to be able to get the Sherwood clean and get rid of our ‘too much stuff’ to make our trips a bit easier.

De Grey Rest Area. This is a large rest area that is up from the river and has gravel as a relief from the red dust.

Travelling Oz…Wyndham to Bungle Bungle Caravan Park and Mary Pool

The Sherwood in her natural habitat

I’ve written this blog over two days and edited it to remove confusing tenses. However, some may have been overlooked.

We’ve decided to keep our usual getting up time at dawn, which is now 6.00 a.m. This means that we do need to get to bed a little earlier than usual, taking into account the time change. That meant we were on our way out of the Wyndham Caravan Park by 9.00ish, but not before going to the big boab in the park to have our photos taken. Thank you Chris. He knew how to use the various cameras on my iphone 12 to get different perspectives.

I like this one best as I look tall and slim.

This one is a better view of this mighty boab

Then it was up to the 5 rivers lookout. On the way we found out that our stuff on the loft bed does not fall off when we are going up steep slopes. I used the power button to get us up to the top and drove in 2nd gear on the way down. And it was well worth it, even though the smoke haze was very evident from the top. I was dying for a cup of coffee and the fact that a tour group was there having their coffees made it worse, so used one of the coffee bags for a quick cuppa. We stayed long enough to encounter a second tour group as well.

Jetty at Wyndham

Have I mentioned that older women love our camper. They are often the buyers and I expect more younger women would have them if they could afford it. For some reason the combination of the Toyota Hilux vehicle and short caravan really appeals to us. We can enjoy a sense of adventure whilst having all home comforts. So I wasn’t surprised when one of the women from the tour group came over and expressed her admiration. She told me she actually has a motorhome, but this would be her preference. Stephen said there is an 18 month wait for new ones and she shook her head, too long to wait. She would like a used one. Even though the prices are inflated.

Five Rivers lookout.

After that we headed back to town to visit the big crocodile and take photos. There was an indigenous artist working nearby, and he showed us one of his paintings, which he said is based on the traditional rock art in the area. His father wrote a book about it that is available in libraries. I couldn’t resist the painting and Stephen used cash to pay for it. The artist, Claude, has signed the back and printed his name so that we can look up the book.

Claude, his painting, his friend Mark, and me.
Stephen and the croc.

Then we were on our way. Throughout the drive we found the landscape incredibly beautiful. To some extent I think the smoke haze even enhanced it and made the mountain ranges on the sun side look more menacing. The pastel colours were lovely. We keep wishing we didn’t have to drive away from a view, but then there would be another view coming up.

there was lots more burning off on the way. Mostly we just saw blackened trees and grass, but sometimes there were actual fires going.
It wasn’t until later in the day that we stopped for this photo. We have some video, yet to be processed.

There were no tours available to the Bungle Bungles yesterday, but it was really too hot for it anyway. We watched the news and weather last night and found out exactly why we are noticing the heat, we are having a heatwave. Today, Tuesday, the maximum will be 37 degrees.

We’ve decided to camp next at Mary Pool halfway between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing as both towns have bad reputations with the Wikicamps crowd. There are theives frequenting the Halls Creek Caravan Park at night and it’s a ‘thing’ to throw rocks at cars in Fitzroy Crossing, so even passing through there is apparently risky. This is according to the commentary on Wikicamps. We have had to do without airconditioning, but our fan does help and we are still having cooling down happening overnight so that we can sleep fairly comfortably. I’ve been checking the weather to see when we can expect cooler days and we have at least 1,000 kms to go.

I did a load of washing before leaving yesterday morning and we put it out to do some preliminary drying on the line. We thought we would have to use our clothes airer once we got to our next camp to finish off. This was yesterday and in 45 minutes on the line the washing was mostly dry, just some thick socks were slightly damp.

It was a pretty full house here at Mary Pool last night. It’s good to see so many people not being wimps about the heat and still wanting to stay in bush locations. We didn’t hear any generators running.

At Mary Pool

Artemis had to cancel it’s first flight to the moon, sadly.

And our gas bottle ran out last night so Stephen had to get out and change bottles. We mostly cook using electricity for cooking, my mini electric frying pan is ideal for evening meals. So, it’s just the fridge and water heater that consume gas. And we are sometimes at caravan parks and use the water heater and fridge on electricity. It doesn’t feel like we get many nights using gas before a bottle runs out, but Stephen is keeping a log of the trip and can give us a better idea of how long each bottle lasts. We expected the gas to run out quickly in the Adria when we used gas for room heating, but maybe the fridge is just as power hungry.