DAY 1 – MON 18 SEP
50 Knots to Windward
Well as always I was late getting away! I had planned an early morning departure, but I had to go via work in the morning, and then a last minute trip to the pharmacy, shops, supermarket, etc! I thought that I might delay my departure for the next day, in the end however I decided to leave at lunchtime and head for Dubbo, NSW ~ 420 km / 5 ¼ hours.
The roads are pretty much what I expected – single lane each way, infrequent or no overtaking lanes, and no verges or areas to stop except for designated rest areas or towns. Having said this, the scenery is pleasant and I sat on a constant 100 km/hr.
Stopped for a coffee at Boowora, about 120km out of Canberra and checked the wheel nuts (new rims before leaving Canberra). Some were not as tight as I would have thought. Out with the torque/tension wrench and retorqued them (142 Nm/100 ft/lbs).
Arrived without issue at the Dubbo City Caravan Park. First time I have stayed at one of these! Staff were helpful – jumping onto an electric golf buggy and leading me to my Deluxe Drive through powered caravan site – for the grand total of $44. I don’t know what it is with the locals – they seem to get a great amount of joy in sending their children over to ask if I am called “Noah”. A few of them were a bit non plussed when I told them that they would all drown in the coming flood but I would survive 🙂
Was low on fuel when I pulled into Dubbo so disconnected the boat and went to fill up. I am not sure how I planned it – but the tank only holds 74 litres!
Caravan park staff recommended the local Thai restaurant. I’m not in the habit of photographing my food, but didn’t think the Admiral would believe me if I said I hadn’t gone to McDonalds, and that I ate greens (stir fried duck and coconut rice)
Back to caravan park and hoping for a good night sleep. Aim for tomorrow is to get to Wandoan, QLD – about 800km / 9 ½ hours. Off to bed.
Post script – note to self, in future check out how close the caravan park is to the main freight rail line and level crossing 😦
DAY 2 – TUE 19 SEP
Western Plains to Western Downs
Loooong day today. Left Dubbo at 7.30 am and arrived at Wandoan, Queensland at 5.30pm. Interesting drive through the Western Plains region of NSW, and then north through a series of towns that I had heard of but never passed through – Gilgandra, Coonabarabran, Narrabri, Moree, Goondiwindi, Billa Billa, Moonie, Condamine, Miles and then to Wandoan. Stopped for fuel and ended up staying at a modern motel on the outskirts of town that caters to the mining, cattle and power industry.
The road quality today was crap. No other way to say it. I don’t mind the single lane each way, but the 230 km from Goondiwindi to Miles has no overtaking lanes, no rest areas, and is corrugated, cracked road surface and very undulating. It was bad enough in the car with modern suspension and ride handling – very hard on the boat trailer. The warning signs to stop regularly and check your load/caravan were well deserved! The road is subject to periodic flooding which has taken its toll. I ended up travelling for large periods at about 80km/hr to suit the road conditions. And then of course there were the Oversize Load trucks carting mining plant or agriculture equipment.
Don’t get me wrong – these truck drivers were the most professional, courteous users of the road. The photo below shows the rear escort vehicle trying to prevent overtaking from behind as there was just not enough room to pass safety – although I did watch a 4WD try, and end up on the gravel verge on the right hand side, before he just managed to control his vehicle and then just slip past.
When I planned this route I logged onto the roads authority for both NSW and QLD to see where the major road works were. There was only one area of road work on the inland route hence my belief that this would be a quick route! I think this has just confirmed for me that the area is in need of chronic investment. I did however find the road work site!
Wandoan – population 600 is an interesting town – soldier settled in the 1950s, then stagnate until the 2000s when it grew in response to the mining boom. There has been recent approval given for Glencore’s Wandoan Coal Mine project. This project will see 40,000 hectares of open cut thermal coal mining – 5 km west of the town. The motel is full of mining and energy workers. Interesting discussions with locals – arguing that the state government was prioritising a flailing coal industry over communities and putting local agriculture at risk. The other environmental issue that seems to be attracting attention, judging by the numerous signs on private property up the highway, were real local concerns about coal seam gas extraction and its impact on agriculture and the water table.
All in all a good day – and despite the road conditions I am glad I came this way – something different and I will now have a comparison for when I come home via the Pacific Highway!.
820 km / 10 hours travelled today, bringing the total distance so far to 1440 km – which has broken the back of the trip. I will not do this distance again – its too far to head to Airlie Beach in one hit (860 km) and I don’t want to drive near dusk – way too many ‘roos. Aiming for Mackay where I will overnight and then get to Airlie on Thursday morning.
DAY 3 – WED 20 SEP
At 0340 I was woken up by the sound of the workers in the adjacent rooms getting ready to depart – 19 vehicles drove out at 0430. I tried to get to sleep again, failed, so had continental breakfast in my room, and then headed out. Had a 20 minute conversation with the owner of the hotel (Bushlander Motel) and then was on the road by 0620. It was a great place to stay – well managed, clean, excellent food and they cleared the car park for me prior to arrival so that I could park the boat off the road!
Once I had left the motel I pulled over and did a thorough 30 minute check of the trailer (brakes, tie downs, wheel nuts, axle bolts, hitch, safety chains, tyre pressure, etc) as I was worried about damage from the day prior. Everything looked alright however I kept coming back to the load levellers at the tow hitch – still couldn’t work out I was worried about?
50km up the road I was pulled over by the Police who were clearing all traffic heading north to allow for another, very wide load, to head south. I have not idea what it was, except that it was pink and very wide!
Just outside of Theodore, QLD – about 100 km, there was a loud bang and the car/trailer dynamics changed. The weight distribution hitch had come loose on both sides – the hangers / suspension brackets which bolt onto the trailer frame had deformed and slipped off – and were no longer supporting the chain that holds up the load levelling bars. Bugger.
Checked everything out and headed off again. The car was noticeably bum down and bonnet up. When I had mobile coverage I rang Hayman Reese customer support – I was expecting to be brushed off but they rang ahead to their distributers in Rockhampton, Mackay and Airlie Beach to see if any of them had the replacement brackets. Unfortunately non did – and ARB, who had many complete kits – were not prepared to seperate the items even though Hayman Reese would ship replacement stock the same day. They then rang back to let me know all of this and then discussed the tow ball weight. We came to the decision that I would be OK to continue (I’d already done another 100km waiting for them to ring back) reckoned that I would be ok to continue however they cautioned about reduced braking capacity and steering response. The road was better than yesterday so plodded along at about 95km/hr.
Was very happy to join up with the Bruce Highway – wider, better surfaced, flatter, and interesting scenery. The traffic was greater however it was all moving along at 100 – 110 km/hr with several hundred metres between vehicles.
What did surprise me was the number of garages/fuel stations that were closed. I was very glad that I had 40 litres of spare diesel having passed three fuel stops in a row that were no longer operating. Speaking to some locals they said that two of these had 30 foot shipping containers modified as 24 hour diesel fuel pumps/storage. I noticed them but thought they were containers waiting to be transhipped not portable fuel!
Very excited to finally see the coast appear on the GPS! You can tell I was bored by this stage!
Finally got into Airlie Beach (Abell Point Marina) spot on 5 pm after 10 ½ hours and 860 km of driving. I quickly signed in and took a berth for two nights. Having been a 3 Red Bull day I then spent the next three hours rigging, launching and prepping the boat for sailing. I should have taken a photo of the inside – it looked like a bomb had hit it – every item was on the floor having been bounced off shelves, sponsons and racks.
DAY 4 – THU 21 SEP
I slept the sleep of the dead and only woke up when a large ferry sounded it horn to indicate that it was going astern. Today has been all about getting ready for the trip. Sails on, battery’s charged, block ice and groceries purchased. I dropped the trailer off this morning to Whitsunday’s Caravan and Camping who will store it and the car for $35 a week in a locked compound with a live in car taker – a much better option in my view than putting them into a caravan park with some interesting and curious people.
This guy does both sales and repairs – I spoke about the best route to travel . For his business he said the way I came. When he tows his caravan south he uses the Bruce Highway. . .
The highlight of the day was putting together the Zodiac (cursed thing), getting outboard fuel, and decluttering the boat. Tomorrow will head off to Hamilton Island to meet up with the Admiral and Cabin Boy.