Sherwood Diary: Just over a week to go before heading off to South Australia

Stephen at His Majesty's on the new refurbished balcony

On Thursday we went to His Majesty’s for a performance of ‘Into the Woods’, a musical not to my taste, but it was well done and it was great to have such good singers, for a change. We went to Grilled on the way and had hamburgers and wine beforehand. The theatre is lit up by changing coloured lights, but it looks best, as in the photo, when they revert to white.

We celebrated our 34th (we think) wedding anniversary yesterday by getting some takeaway and watching ‘The Lost King’. It is based on true events, but the dramatisation was excellent. It is the story of how King Richard IIIs remains were found in a carpark in Leisester. The search was lead by a very determined woman named Phillapa Langley, played so wonderfully by Sally Hawkins. Shakespeare wrote his play based on the Tudor history which villified him as a usurper and in the centuries since his death his reputation has been cleared by many historians, but it is still the version Shakespeare wrote that is taught as true.

We recently saw the play at the New Fortune Theatre with Eversley. I found it frustrating, especially as part of the rationale for his villification is that he had a deformity. When they found his skeleton he did indeed have scoliosis of the spine, but equating disability with evil is no longer considered appropriate and of course, it doesn’t actually apply in real life. Josephine Tey wrote a book on this historial theme called ‘The Daughter of Time'(published in1951), which is also a an interesting historical exploration of the king’s life and reputation. In the film a scientist who has done DNA research through the female line states that there is a woman in Canada with a better claim to the English throne than the present incumbent.

We bought ourselves a compressor and tyre deflator in case we need to let down the Sherwood’s tyres when travelling. There is some doubt that we can travel on the Hyden to Norseman road due to the rain in the last few days, which has been much heavier away from Perth. Our plan is to check next Monday (3rd April) just before we are leaving. If the road has become damaged we can travel via Great Eastern Highway instead. The good thing is that it is forecast to be cooler inland than it is here in Perth.

Stephen still has music commitments this week. I just have the Mackie St Singers Tuesday night, fun and not daunting as there are plenty of sopranos. One of Stephen’s commitments is to sing with a small group next Sunday at UWA. One of the historians will take a group on a walk to different places around the university with singers/musicians providing short excepts, and I have opted to be part of this, rather than one of the singers. I went to the first rehearsal, but fudged the high notes as I wasn’t sure I could get there. So, not satisfactory. Eversley will be joining me for the walk around.

On Saturday morning Stephen’s other choir, The Real Sing, will be singing at the Manning Markets as a kind of recruiting drive. I’m going along to that as support and also to check out the markets.

His Majesty’s from the street level

Sherwood Diary: The 4WD training course was a wonderful experience

Oops! Someone got badly bogged, but it wasn’t us.

We were quite stressed about doing this course worrying that we, as drivers, might not be up to it, and the fact that we have a motorhome on the back of our Hilux. Just getting there for 7.00 a.m. was stressful too as the meeting place was in Pindar about an hour’s drive north of us.

Anyway, we still thought we should go, especially as Glyn, our instructor, had seen a photo of our vehicle and had set up the half day of training in a place that was suitable for our vehicle with few low hanging branches on the track. Once there we had a second assessment of our Hilux as being a very capable vehicle, this time for four wheel driving.

The drive there turned out to be quite beautiful, becoming colder and more foggy as we went northwards. We arrived a bit early and had time to have some breakfast, toasties that Stephen had made the night before. I brought a thermos of hot water but didn’t actually use it as I wanted to concentrate. Glyn, our instructor, is ex-military and quite a character. He combined excellent teaching skills with anecdotes and silly Dad jokes and this made it fun, as well as feeling we were in safe hands.

We started out with some explanations of the types of 4WD vehicles and functions. There were three different vehicles with two drivers for each car, and Glyn knew the strengths and weaknesses of each, though he was overwhelmingly positive. He had some diagrams on the back of his vehicle and used a marker to point out the various features.

We would need to turn off a couple of features in our car which were for normal driving only.

The track for our training turned out to be a bit more challenging than he had anticipated, but that didn’t mean we had to go somewhere else, it just allowed for it to be a bit more intense. He was taking the other participants on a more challenging section in the afternoon.

We basically drove on a sandy track for about 3 kms (my estimate) in 4H, then drove back in low range 4WD so that we could feel the difference. We changed drivers half way through each section. There were some little rises and falls that were sandy and difficult to negotiate. Throughout we communicated via radio, again our car is well equipped with a 90 channel UHF radio.

It didn’t take long for the vehicle ahead of us to get bogged. Glyn actually made it worse by instructing the driver to do the things we shouldn’t do, which made it dig in deeper. So, we had a bit of recovery training as well, which wasn’t part of the original plan, but very interesting for us, especially as it wasn’t our vehicle that got bogged. The same vehicle got bogged on the way back, but the driver knew not to let it get in too deep and was able to quickly recover.

Another part of the training that we found very useful was learning how to turn around on the track. Bascially we drove forwards and to the left of the track, then reversed back as far as we could, then made the turn in one go. It doesn’t chew up the track either. We had a bit of firmer track for the turn, it would clearly be more tricky on a really narrow track and if you didn’t have relatively firm ground.

I think everyone, including us, was amazed at just how capable our Hilux is, despite having a habitation hub on the back. They found it quite scary to watch as we bobbled through the sandy tracks. It’s clear that we aren’t really aware of just how exteme the bobbling is because the car itself is much lower and that is where most of the weight is as well. We were concentrating so much on just driving through the sand, especially the second part where he encouraged us to divert from his vehicle tracks and make our own pathways. Although that was helpful in terms of avoiding some bushes on the track it of course increased the bumpiness of the ride.

We have watched videos of Sherwoods on dirt tracks and do know what it looks like. We were relieved that the vehicle does not actually feel as unstable as it looks.

We had instruction and demonstrations on how to let the air out of the tyres. When the vehicle ahead of us got bogged, Glyn actually took our tyre pressure down from 19psi to 14psi, just to make sure we could get through. And on our return, before going onto the highway he showed us how to use an air compressor to get the pressure up again. We now know the type of tyre deflator and air compressor to buy and can get them at a discounted price from BCF. The tyres looked awful once we were back on hard ground, but didn’t take long to reinflate.

We now feel much more prepared for our trip. Although we may not remember everything we also have our 4WD bible by Vic Widman and Glyn also said we have all we need to understand our vehicles in our normal vehicle handbooks. I read the handbook when we first got the Sherwood, but that was a long time ago.

Although we didn’t drive on a beach we now feel confident that we can get on and off a beach. One of the problems is that the tyres heat up and the PSI goes up, so that people often have difficulty with getting off a beach where they had no problems getting on. If you check your tyre pressure again you can see if you need to reduce the pressure.

Unfortunately we can’t recommend Western Wilderness 4WD courses due to the fact that Glyn and his wife are winding up the business to take early retirement. He is in the process of doing the last few courses. Otherwise, we definitely would recommend them.

Use a long handled spade and dig out some of the sand in front of where you need to work to allow you to get in underneath. Telescoping ones are available. Here one of the participants is using a mallet to get the max track partly under the rear wheel.

Note: old people, Stephen, myself and the father were exempted from having to help Glyn get this vehicle out. His view is that our age will automatically make people want to help us when we are out on the road. However, I think it’s normal for people to stop and help out other travellers. The cameraderie of the road.

We had brought some food for lunch with us, and once everyone else had headed of we drove to nearest beach. It turned out to be difficult to find an actual view of the ocean and we settled on being on the Minarie marina. We were able to have a rest after lunch, then commenced the long drive home.

I’ve included a couple of video clips in this post, but for some reason they are not showing up.


Sherwood diary: good news from Newtown Toyota

This is our first service since we bought the Sherwood and the good news is that not only is the Hilux in excellent condition it still has warranty for major items due to Australian consumer protection laws. It was suggested that we not upgrade the head unit to one with Apple CarPlay as it could be used as an excuse to say that we had modified the vehicle and it might have caused problems from modifying the wiring.

Sounds like good advice so my little phone mount will have to do the trick. We do have Bluetooth linking to get verbal navigation but I like to see the route ahead.

We have confidence that our vehicle is in good working order for travel.


Sherwood Diary: testing our fixed electrical setup

On the 15th February we dropped off the Sherwood with Ken Peachey for a long list of tasks. Repair the step, which kept sticking. New touch lights for dinette. Installation of Sirocco fan. Reconnect second battery and inverter. Check water leak in cabinet.

It took a few days, but they managed to cover it all. We had to have a new inverter as the old one had failed. It’s probably due to the fault that the whole system shut down when we were in Port Hedland last year.

To test out the system we decided to have a couple of nights in the Sherwood using the inverter and our electrical applicances. Our first night was at Pinaroo Point on Friday night (3rd March). We left at about 6.00 p.m., hoping to avoid the traffic, but it was still fairly busy on the road. Our first meal was a leftover curry with rice and I used our rice cooker only, using the gas stove to heat up the meal. As it was late and we were hungry I didn’t want to wait to use electricity (we usually use one applicance at a time).

It was a comfortable night. The shorter days mean that even on hot days we usually get some relief in the evenings. Having our Sirocco fan on helped as well. We were using it as a portable 12v fan and it certainly makes it easier to have it fixed in place. One less item to store as well.

In the morning Stephen felt we should rise early, just in case there was any question about us sleeping there, I think. There were fewer vans than the last time, but one family had two cars, two trailers, and had set up a swag tent, very blatantly camping and the police car which came in the evening just cruised by. I expect they are biding their time as the building next to the carpark is to be a pub/cafe/restaurant. Once that is up and running I’m not sure we will be able to camp there. Partly due to noise and partly due to the lack of space as I think the car park may be overwhelmed. Not good news for local families and other people wanting to use the beach.

The day was fairly cool and after our swim and breakfast we took a walk along as far as the dog beach. It was very busy and had a coffee van as well as the dog washing crew hard at work. There is also an area for horses and we found a vantage point to watch children riding bareback, with the horses being lead around, sometimes into the waves.

For our second night we were staying in the car park outside of Eversley’s apartment. She ferried us and another friend to a local Thai Restaurant in the Karrinyup Shopping Centre. Part of the new development is a large area with outdoor/indoor cafes and restaurants. It’s very attractive. The food was very good and served quickly, a surprise as it was quite busy.

Afterwards Eversley drove the friend home and I went with her for company on the way back. In the Sherwood Stephen had relaxed and put the water heater on so it was ready for me to shower on return.

We slept well and were ready by 7.30 a.m. for the next activity of the weekend, going on a group bird count around the lake. I caved earlier than the others, my excuse being that we had forgotten to put the fridge on before leaving. We had taken the Sherwood to the nearby carpark where the group had gathered. As well as putting the inverter on and connecting the fridge to 230v I made a coffee using the pod machine and milk frother. I often run the milk frother at the same time as the coffee machine. Our new inverter is only 2000w and it tripped with the fridge on as well. However, it was easy to reset it.

The solar works much harder to produce power when we are staying in the Sherwood. In this way it is able to keep the batteries well charged despite the drain of using 230v applicances. It was good to see that it handles the fridge as we want to be able to power it through the inverter when we stop during the day when travelling, rather than have to bother with getting out to switch on the gas, and remember to switch it off again more critically. On a very cloudy day we might use gas, but if we are going to keep driving the DCtoDC charger will ensure that the batteries are full again by the time we are ready to set up for the night.

After the walking part of the bird count we sat around and found out that ‘bird count’ is simply checking off all of the different birds that people had seen, not actually counting how many. People had bought morning tea with them, I made Stephen a cup of coffee and offered ginger nuts.

On return home we mostly unpacked the Sherwood before having lunch and a rest. The rest was necessary because we were going to a concert at Point Walter in the evening. It was free, the music was on the theme of Songs of Freedom and the artists from the Pilbara put on a wonderful show, including video backgrounds to the stage which really added to the atmosphere. There were food trucks, including one offering Kangaroo meat dishes, that was the least patronised. I had to wait about 40 minutes for our food, but it was worth it. We also had our own drinks and snacks.

All in all, a busy and very enjoyable weekend. Matt came to tea last night and spent time with Stephen working in the garden until tea was ready. Usually he comes inside to help with cooking. He hasn’t been eating well, so I made him up a bowl of food the same size as Stephen’s and he surprised us by eating all of it, refusing nice cakes for desert, and having a full cup of coffee afterwards. He seemed quite relaxed even though he was in a manual wheelchair. His electric chair is being repaired and manual chair is on loan. They transfer his specialised seat, but it doesn’t have the same belt or side panel on it. Fortunately, when he is relaxed, he doesn’t push himself sideways in the chair, just because he can!

I wrote this entry a few days ago, but waited as I wanted to carefully add some photos. However, that hasn’t happened, so I’ve just quickly uploaded a few to give the flavour of the weekend.


Sherwood Diary: Overnight at the beach

diffused light
no swimmers, but there were people fishing further along
building site to the side of the carpark
before other vans came in
romantic dinner for two

Last Friday I suggested to Stephen that we have an overnight at Pinaroo Point on Saturday. Much to my surprise he agreed right away. Usually it takes a bit more time and persuasion because of the effort involved. We had half unpacked the Sherwood in preparation for going in on Wednesday and getting ready really did involve more effort than usual.

I made a big bowl of salad and we bought the ready cooked roast chicken. We packed fruit and breakfast things and our swimming gear.

As we usually do, we left it until late afternoon on Saturday to drive to Pinaroo Point. Arriving after most people had gone means we had more choice of where to park. The parking area has been upgraded and the configuration changed, meaning our usual parking next to a paved walking area wasn’t available. We decided to park along the back fence, with our living area looking over the little bushland, rather than trying to have it facing the sea. There is only a glimpse from the car park anyway and that maximised our privacy.

There is some building works going on next to the carpark and it isn’t clear what is happening there. But, changes are afoot and we don’t know what it will be like when it’s finished.

The first thing Stephen always does when we arrive is check to see if there are any ‘no camping’ signs. All was good, so we set up and relaxed for awhile before our evening walk. In fact, I felt a great wave of relaxation as we settled in, not due to alcohol as we didn’t bring any with us, just being in the Sherwood at the beach for a relaxing evening.

It was very windy on the beach so we walked northwards with the sand being blown to our backs. Then went along the path for the return journey. There was no cloud and there seems to be a lot of smoke in the air at the moment, which dimmed and diffused the light. Rather odd and not particularly interesting. But the wind was slackening off, which we appreciated.

I had bought some electronic candles on Amazon and used them to light our evening meal. We still had some daylight as well. We listened to a podcast interview and read our books before going to bed.

I imagined that it would be very busy and noisy in the morning. I also thought the sun would wake us up early. However, the carpark didn’t begin to fill up until about 9.30 a.m. when we went for our dip. There was a tent on the beach and going on the number of blue and white cabanas I theorised that they were renting them out to beachgoers. However, I didn’t check and it might be that blue and white cabanas are the only ones sold in K-Mart and other places. Nice that they all matched.

We had shade on the Sherwood until about 10.00 a.m. from the bush behind us. This is still a popular place for people to stay overnight and I think there were about 11 small vans and rooftop tents as neighbours. Many arrived after sunset. They clustered along the back fence in a line with us. We had a bit of overhang area for the rear of the Sherwood which meant that we definitely qualified as small/short.

We dropped off the Sherwood at Ken Peachey Caravans on Wednesday morning. Jason had our long list of tasks and it turned out it was so long that he forgot the first one which is putting the new storage box on the rear! He was a bit surprised, but then able to find it. They will need it for a little while as their electricans are very busy, and I said we don’t actually need it back until the 12th March, when the Hilux is booked in for a service.

We will need to do an overnight ‘shakedown’ in the Sherwood before we leave for South Australia and it could be that we will have another overnight at the beach this summer or in early autumn. I want to check that everything is working, especially our electrics. It’s quite a complex system.


Sherwood diary: preparing for our winter travels

Cottesloe evening. We went there for a picnic evening tea after a hot day. It was definitely much cooler than at home and we didn't feel like going for a swim.

Major preparations:

Repairs and updates on the Sherwood hab with Ken Peachey Caravan Repairs: I’ve sent them a long list of tasks including putting our new storage box on the back and reconnecting our second leisure battery and inverter.

Service of the Toyota Hilux at New Town Toyota: The vehicle has done less than 40,000kms, but as it is now about 5 years old we’ve opted for the 40,000 service as we want to make sure it is in top condition for the trip. We will also ask about updating the display to have one that includes Apple Carplay and incorporating a reversing camera with guidelines. We could also do to get a new rear view camera and display as the present one is almost useless.

4WD course with Western Wilderness: this half day course should give us confidence that we can drive in sandy conditions and safely deflate and reinflate the tyres. There will be only be four vehicles and we can hopefully have a course that suits our needs.

We will be pretty busy in the next few weeks with musical and social events, as well as preparing for this trip.

The Plan

We will cross the Nullabour to Port Augusta, then head up to Innamincka, then out to the Burke and Wills Expedition Dig Tree. More about the expedition when we get there.

On the way, we will drive the gravel road from Hyden to Norseman, something we could not do with any other vehicle/caravan/motorhome combination we have had. It is only 300 kms of gravel, and should be in good condition as it is a mining road, but we will be prepared for it to be difficult in some parts. Plus we may want to go off the main road for overnight camping and sight seeing.

After the Dig Tree we will head south to explore the Flinders Ranges, then southwards again to Adelaide to enjoy a Gilbert and Sullivan Festival. We have already booked into several events.

Then, it will be back across the Nullabour to arrive home in early June. Eversley has booked ‘our’ cottage at Rottnest for a few days in mid June.

In the second part of the year we will have shorter trips, fitting in some of our at home interests. I’m working on a holiday to Kalbarri for Matt in July after the school holidays.


Home Again

This is Stephen’s stuff that he keeps with him in the dinette of the Sherwood.

We came through Roleystone on our way home yesterday. We had tried to phone first to let Marie and Geoff know we would drop in, but didn’t have a good enough phone signal. When we got there they were out. We went to the nearby cafe for a coffee instead and Glenn arrived and gave us hugs of welcome. Then as we were pulling out of the cafe driveway Marie and Geoff drove past and waved. So two close encounters!

We arrived home at about 3.00 pm, avoiding the worst of the traffic. It was very hot and after a bit of sorting we sat inside and rested to wait for the evening. I reversed up the driveway to give us better access to the door of the van and we put the awning out to give a bit of cover. We ran both the house air conditioning and the van, assuming that our solar would pick up most of the cost.

We will make the most of our two months at home to get things done. The Sherwood is booked into Ken Peachey for all sorts of things, I’ve sent Jason a long list. And we will get the Hilux serviced as well.


Leaving Albany

Mineral Springs, Gnowangerup

The above photos are from our evening walk on Tuesday. I’ve taken quite a few photos on my phone on our travelling day yesterday, but unfortunately my phone is back at the van and we are in the Katanning Dome, feeling satisfied after sharing a cooked breakfast.

We had a late checkout booked yesterday morning. It was fortunate that it was cloudy and a bit chilly in the wind, which made it easier to say goodbye to Albany and start our journey home. When we were young we drove from Albany to Perth in a day. Later on it went to one overnight on the journey. Now, we take three days. two overnights. Will there come a time when it takes a week!

We drove up past the Porongorups and through the Stirlings on Chester Pass Road, stopping on the way to take in the views from a rest area. We had lunch at the entrance to the Bluff Knoll road. We had hoped the cafe would be open, but it still meant that we had a lovely spot to have lunch and a short rest.

We stopped at Gnowangerup for a cup of tea and found a good spot with mineral springs. The original swimming pool for the town was fed by the springs until the 60s when they realised it was likely toxic. The town now has a conventional swimming pool, but one of the springs is quite fast flowing (a litre a minute) and leads to a small creek and large wetlands.

We pushed on to Katanning with the thought of a nice breakfast in the morning, but it might have been a mistake. We were parking up and I though Stephen was getting into the van to use our level, and started fiddling with the level on my phone. I happened to look up and noticed Stephen standing still and getting further away. I had used the handbreak, but was still in reverse, having not put the car in park, and it was rolling back. If I hadn’t looked up we would have hit the poles at the side of the parking area. Obviously I wasn’t operating all that well due to tiredness. Anyway, nothing bad happened, but it was a warning.

Today it’s onwards and upwards, with an overnight at Pingelly. Possibly in a caravan park as we might be getting into the heat. Katanning was quite cold overnight, and it was a good opportunity to run the diesel heater for a little while. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s suggested that it be operated about once a month. Albany was going to be windy for a few days and that was part of the incentive to leave, but Katanning is windy too.

Later on Thursday: we really enjoyed our breakfast at the Dome and did a little shopping on the way back to the van. Then set off. We took a break at a little Cultural Walk, we’ve been passing it so often and always wondered what it was about. The walk can be quite long, taking in several small salt lakes, but there are a number of parking areas to choose from and you could take a shorter walk.

Then on to Wagin where we went to a cafe for refreshments. Back at the Sherwood we noticed people admiring our setup and got into conversation with them. For the first time in ages we found ourselves talking with someone who was trying to avoid getting COVID, due to a chronic illness that he felt would make him very vulnerable. Nice people, they appeared to be on the road permanently, with a 4WD vehicle and largish caravan.

Our next stop was at Highbury where we had a second breakfast of fruit, yogurt and cereal at about 2.30 p.m. I felt very sleepy so had a long nap. By the time we were heading off again it was after 5.00. The Pingelly Caravan Park is council run and the phone number is at a shop, so no answer when we rang.

To avoid any problems we decided to take an earlier option and check out the Laze Away Holiday Farm in Poppanyining. It isn’t fancy, but we are in a nice area with trees and there are walks around the farm. This place is for sale, I think the owners are getting older and want to retire. It would be nicer in winter we think. But, we like that it’s not busy, with just a few guests and possibly some more permanent residents in various camp/caravan setups to the rear.