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Troopy Update : Saggy Springs & Other Things

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Yo, Dave here.

 

It’s been ages since the last Troopy update, but you know what they say, “No news is good news” … right?

 

A new spring in her step!

Ever since we bought the Troopy, her rear springs have been saggy and she’s been dragging her arse all around Australia.  I decided it was time to get her some fresh legs before we left Cairns, so I did the rounds and got some quotes.

 

Most places wanted almost $2000 to replace the springs and associated parts and they all said the shock absorbers would definitely need to be replaced too – for and an additional fee of about $1000 plus labour, of course.

 

I ended up going with Spring and Blacksmithing who quoted parts and installation for $1400.  A friend had recommended them, but I also really liked the guys there. The owner Stan is honest and funny – he’s a tell-it-like-it-is kinda guy.  When I asked about the shockers, he said “we’ll see how they look after we do the springs. But if they’re not leaking or stuffed, we don’t need to touch them”.

 

Seeing as the original quote was $1400, I was expecting to pay at least $1500, but the final price for the springs, shackles, bushes and u-bolts came to just over $1300.  And the shockers were fine!

 

With her new legs, the Troopy was instantly about 8cms taller than before.  It feels so much higher and the arse is certainly not dragging anymore!

 

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A little TLC…

Apart from spending a fair bit of money on new springs, there were a few cosmetic and basic maintenance issues that needed to be addressed.   We finally ordered a Troopcarriers Of Australia sticker for our windscreen, proudly displaying our Troopy legend status.  I also spent a day on the roof of the Troopy repainting the Our Naked Australia sign and deflector hood.   I had some paint left over, so I touched up the bull bar and the rear bumpers too.

 

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The windows were starting to get really stiff, so I sprayed the channels and mechanisms with silicone spray, and I had to replace the rocker cover gasket.  The Troopy was due for an oil and filter change too, so I went down to my favourite op shop to look for a cheap plastic tub that could catch 10 litres of used oil.  I couldn’t believe my luck when I actually found a proper oil drain pan for just two bucks!  With the oil, filter and gasket changed, I quickly replaced the heater hoses that were only just holding on.

 

On my travels around Cairns, I also found a Doug’s Tub.  If you own a Land Cruiser, you need to go buy one of these for your glove box right now.

 

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Leave a light on for me!

When we were in Caboolture, someone pointed out that our number plate light wasn’t working.  I had a look at it that afternoon, and found the wires had all come off inside the rear door.  Rejoining wires is usually a piss easy job, but because the break was inside the door, it was fiddly.  Anyway, I got them reattached, re-taped, and better than before.

 

Troopcarriers of Australia Winter Ramble

Imagine a place where there’s Troopcarriers as far as the eye can see… Such a place really exists.  At least for one weekend a year.  The 2015 ToA Winter Ramble was held at Coorongooba campground within the Capertee Valley in Wollemi National Park, NSW.  We got to meet so many legends who were friends we’d never met.  Stories were told, beer was swilled, and promises of future catch ups were sworn.  We had a great weekend, and can’t wait to do it again.  Troopy love!

 

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Melbourne here we come!

As we make our way back home, the Troopy is holding up nicely.  Apart from a leaking clutch slave cylinder, we haven’t had any other major issues.  Once we’re in Melbourne, I’ll have plenty of time to deal with all the little things.

 

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2015 Troopcarriers of Australia Winter Ramble

Cape York

 

We’re so proud that we decided to buy a Toyota Troopcarrier for our trip around Australia.  It’s taken us to some really amazing places around the country and it still amazes us with some of the things it’s capable of.  Anybody who’s ever owned a Troopy will understand this appreciation.  This Troopy love.

 

The Troopcarriers of Australia (ToA) facebook page is full of Troopy legends – some have just bought their first Troopy while others have been driving them for over 30 years.  Some are fully qualified diesel mechanics and others can barely use a spanner.

 

Each year, the administrators of the page organise a social get-together in winter, and 2015 Winter Ramble was held at Coorongooba within the Capertee Valley in Wollemi National Park, NSW.  Covering around 487,500 hectares, Wollemi National Park is the second largest conservation area in NSW and is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.  Within the park is the largest remaining wilderness area in NSW and includes rugged terrain, rainforests, swamps and amazing cliffs.

 

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When we arrived at the campsite, there were Troopcarriers everywhere – it was overwhelming!  The weekend attracted over 150 people in over 70 Troopies.  The campsite was surrounded by huge sandstone escarpments.  We reckon the cliffs are better than the Blue Mountains.  As the site was so large, people with kids, party animals, and everyone in between could be accommodated comfortably.

 

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After finding a nice spot to set up, we started walking around the area to meet people and check out all the Troopies.  Quite a few people knew us because of Our Naked Australia or from the ToA facebook page.  It was great to meet so many people who were friends we’d never met.

 

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The event was really well organised, with raffles, event stickers and a huge campfire for everyone.  We all got to vote for the award winning Troopies in various categories like: favourite, best modification, furthest travelled, and more.  As the night progressed, beer cans piled higher and fires grew bigger as the smell of dinner cooking filled the air.  Great music was played all night and there were even fireworks!

 

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The morning after was a big difficult for some (Dave, haha!), but we all said goodbye to our new mates with promises made to catch up again soon.  We drove out of the valley smiling to ourselves and reflecting on how the love of the Troopcarrier had brought together so many different people.

 

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Cape York

Experience : Cape York – Part 2

For Experience : Cape York – Part 1 – click here!

 

Bamaga Tavern

 

Day 5

Bamaga

We completed the rest of the 5 Beaches Track and made our way back to Bamaga.  When we took the Troopy out of 4WD, Dave noticed that one of the front spring mounts had snapped. Afraid that the other mount would snap too, we crawled to Bamaga and went straight to the wreckers.  A new mount was an easy $10 and Dave installed it in about 30 minutes.  We then met an inquisitive local named Mark, who worked in one of the aboriginal communities and was interested in hearing about Our Naked Australia.

 

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It was about lunchtime so we lingered around the Bamaga Tavern for a drink and a meal at the northernmost pub in Australia.

 

Seisia

To be honest, there isn’t much to see other than the wharf and jetty.  Fishermen of various ages were trying their luck with the massive schools of fish hanging about below the surface of the water.  One man was even spear fishing.

 

Cape York

 

DC3 Plane Crash Site

On the 5th of May 1945, a DC-3 VH-CXD aircraft that was operated by the RAAF, was flying from Brisbane to Port Moresby to deliver meat to troops.  It needed to refuel in Bamaga but due to foggy conditions, it clipped some trees and crashed about 3km short of its target.  All on board perished.

 

Cape York

 

If you have a chance to swing past and see this crash site, then definitely do.

 

Muttee Head

This was a great place to camp.  It’s right next to the beach, the camping permit is included with the ferry pass, and the sweet scent of fig trees perfumed the breeze.  It looked like someone thought it was a great place to live because there was a campsite with a makeshift sink and little garden.  Perhaps a recent bushfire had chased the beachside hermit away.

 

Cape York

 

Day 6

In the morning, we headed straight to the Jardine Ferry, but the ferryman hadn’t turned up yet.  It was still early so we hung around for 45 minutes with a bunch of other people waiting for the ferry to open.  The guy eventually turned up at 8:15am and got to work straight away.

 

Old Telegraph Track

Today we would complete the northern portion of the OTT, but because the road was closed from the Jardine River, we had to travel a few clicks before finding the side track in.  We checked out Eliot Falls, Twin Falls and Fruit Bat Falls, did a nerve-wrecking water crossing, and headed back to the southern portion of the OTT.  The Jardine Ferry ticket included camping at Bertie Creek so that’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

Day 7

After a quick wash in Bertie Creek, we decided to continue down the OTT instead of taking the Gunshot Bypass back to the main road. We usually avoid back tracking but we liked the OTT so much the first time, we were happy to do it again.

 

After a brief stop at Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to pump up the tyres and stock up on some more water, we went to Moreton Telegraph Station to book our campsite for that night in Iron Range National Park.  The lady at the station was really helpful and told us that Telstra customers can get a few bars of reception at Chilli Beach – if we wanted, we could book our site once we checked out the campgrounds.

 

Frenchmans Track

We took Frenchmans Track into Iron Range National Park, and found the track to be thoroughly unpleasant.  It alternated between unavoidable corrugations, soft sand and the occasional creek crossings.

 

 

There are two rivers that intersect with Frenchmans – Wenlock Crossing is fairly easy to navigate through but watch out for Pascoe Crossing.  It’s steep and rocky and you’ll definitely need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to get through.  Unfortunately, the Troopy got hung up on a rock and while trying to get free, the brake booster blew.  Highly inconvenient – Dave had only one shot at guiding the Troopy down the steep rocky path into the river and he did a bloody good job.

 

The great views that followed the Pascoe Crossing were besmirched by the brake booster busting.  And to make matters worse, our water goon bag had bounced around in the back and tore on a bracket holding the curtains in place.  We dealt with the goon, ate a banana to cheer us up, and made an effort to appreciate our surroundings before continuing on.

 

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Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park

Once off the Frenchmans Track, we followed the tarmac road through the ranges to suddenly be surrounded by rainforest.  We even saw a cassowary hurry off into the bushes!  The road alternated between paved and gravel road, and the rain made it easy for Dave to see pot holes.  The smell of the forest was wonderful, and we were amazed at how thick the foliage was.

 

There are two camping areas in Iron Range.  The rainforest campsites are nice and shaded right amongst the rainforest, but Cooks Hut is the only site that forbids generators.  It’s a large communal clearing with picnic benches and toilets.  Chilli Beach is the other camping area.  While reception is available on the beach, you can actually pick up a signal from the highroad on the way in.  This is where we made our first Queensland campsite booking.  The guy on the other end was really friendly, but we still have to wonder whether this micromanagement of parkland campsites is really the way to go.

 

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Chilli Beach

The sun had set by the time we got to our designated camping spot.  Dave was so frazzled from the day that when he opened the back of the Troopy to find that the goon water had leaked all over the bed, he refused to have anything to do with it and sat down to relax.

 

Juz sorted out the wet sheets and cooked a quick dinner of chicken and broccoli on rice cakes.  We both felt a lot better after a meal so we went to the adjacent campsite and met our neighbours.  Palm Cove locals, Symon & Robyne were holidaying with their kids and while we were on our way south, they were heading to the Tip.  We shared tips, exchanged details, and agreed that it would be good to meet up for a drink once we got to Palm Cove.

 

Cape York

 

Day 8

Juz crawled out of the Troopy in time to catch the sunrise on Chilli Beach.  After 4 days of overcast skies, the sun was finally out.  Eventually Dave woke up too and we went for a walk along the beach, picking up shells, spotting beached jellyfish and terrorising coconuts that were still hanging from the tree.   We also did the short forest walk behind the campgrounds and spotted lizards and butterflies amongst the undergrowth.

 

Cape York

 

Portland Roads

A short drive from Chilli Beach is Portland Roads, a cute little seaside spot with a few holiday houses and the Out of the Blue Café.  If you’re in the vicinity, stop by and get some seafood and chips – amazing!  We were also lucky enough to walk away with a big soursop fruit from the garden, compliments of the chef.

 

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Lockart River

If you need fuel, go to the local aboriginal community of Lockhart River.  It’s only $1.89 for diesel but remember – no photos while in the community. There isn’t much to photograph there anyway.

 

On the way out of Iron Range, we noticed rising smoke in the distance.  A bushfire was slowly burning through the dry scrub, and Juz told Dave to drive faster because the heat was too intense.

 

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Archer River Roadhouse

This was the last stop before the Quarantine checkpoint so we ate the entire soursop fruit for an afternoon snack.  Turns out, the quarantine checkpoint was closed anyway, but no matter – the fruit was delicious.  It was green and prickly on the outside with white flesh full of big black seeds like watermelon but five times bigger.  The flesh is stringy like pineapple or mango, and the flavour is slightly tart/sour.

 

Back in Coen

We got back to Coen just before dinnertime and had two long-awaited drinks at the SExchange.  We spend the night at the Bend again, and it was wonderful to have a wash in the fresh, croc-free water.

 

Day 9

We had another morning wash in the river before heading out to Lakefield National Park.  It was going to be a short day of driving because of the shot brake booster and poor quality fuel, so after swinging past Lotusbird Lodge, gazing at the flowers at Red Lily Lagoon and spying a kookaburra at White Lily Lagoon, we got to Kalpowar Crossing and relaxed.

 

 

Because of the croc-infested river, we had a cold shower in the toilet block and spent the rest of the afternoon reading.  Once the sun went down, we noticed that the ground was moving and found tiny little frogs everywhere… as well as big ugly cane toads.

 

Day 10

Because we didn’t have a boat for fishing on the river, there was nothing else to do at Kalpowar so we set off early for Cooktown.  This would be the final destination of our Cape York adventure, and what was supposed to be a two day stop ended up stretching to 10 days because of an unexpected Helpx invitation.

 

Overall, we enjoyed our time at Cape York.  The two biggest highlights were definitely being at the northern most point of mainland Australia and four-wheel driving along the Old Telegraph Track.

 

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Cape York

Troopy Goes Bump in the Night

Cape York

 

Yo – Dave here.

 

After enjoying the sunset at the most northerly point of mainland Australia, we went to check out a deserted resort a couple hundred metres back from the Tip car park.  The resort was abandoned back in 2000 and had some potential for free camping.

 

We followed a track into the resort and found ourselves confronted by a creepy, overgrown building and a rusty, smashed up caravan.  Needless to say it was a little creepy, especially at dusk, so I slowly backed the Troopy out the way we came in.

 

The BUMP

All of a sudden, we felt a little nudge, and saw nothing but a tree in the way.  After I let out a few profanities, we headed back to the Tip carpark to find a less deadly place to spend the night.  Once positioned, we promptly inspected the Troopy’s rear end.  Juz reckoned the tree hit up high but all was fine.  We figured the Troopy and the tree walked away unscathed until we tried to open the back door.  It wouldn’t open, and thus we found where we had hit the tree – the left hand rear bumper was bent in and arched upward, so we couldn’t open the door.  Bugger.

 

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Friendly neighbours to the rescue

Levering the bumper back into shape was the primary plan but all of the necessary tools were in the back of the Troopy, behind a door we couldn’t open.  Fortunately for us, a couple of guys we’d met earlier were camped next to us and we borrowed a piece of pipe from them.  Despite having the pipe, I couldn’t get any leverage where I needed it, so the bumper was going to have to come off completely.  This job required the socket set, which was neatly packed away in the back of the Troopy behind a door we couldn’t open.  Bugger.

 

Once again, our new mates Tim and Tony came to the rescue with their socket sets, and some beer to ease the pain.  We promised that we’d return the favour with some Mt Uncle rum that was tucked away behind the jammed door.

 

 

With their tools, I was able to take all the nuts off except one, which was only accessible if the tail light came out first.  I cursed, we all had a laugh, and then I sucked it up and started taking the tail light off.  After lying in the dirt under the Troopy’s rear end for over an hour, the damaged bumper was off and we could finally open the door.  I grabbed the bottle of rum and some cups and we had a couple of celebratory drinks with Tim and Tony.  Woot!

 

Finishing the job

At first light the next morning, I got to work bending the bracket back to where it was meant to be.  Next came the hard bit – bending the actual bumper back into a shape that wouldn’t interfere with the opening of the rear door.  After trying to smash it with a hammer and wishing I had a vice, I had a brainwave and used our high-lift jack and the weight of the Troopy to bend it.  Within 20 minutes, the bumper was straight enough to bolt back on and still allow the door to open.

 

Cape York

 

While the tail light was out of the bumper, I figured this would be the best time to fix the wiring issue that had started not long after we left Alice Springs – the brake light was flashing instead of the left indicator.  Once I got that sorted, the Troopy was back to its old self, but with a new battle scar.

 

On our way back to Bamaga, we returned to the spooky abandoned resort to have a look around.

 

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Cape York

4WDing : The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York QLD

Cape York

 

The Old Telegraph Track is one of the highlights of Cape York and is a great track for 4WD enthusiasts.  It’s what’s left of the original telegraph track that was used in the 1880s to connect Cairns with Thursday Island.  The method of communication was Morse code back then, and the last message was sent in 1962 before the system was replaced by microwave repeater towers.

 

The track is fairly narrow, with plenty of turnouts for oncoming vehicles and you can still see old telegraph poles along the track.  The surface varies from dirt and sand to rocky slopes, mud and washouts and there are a number of great creek crossings.  If there is a crossing or section of eroded track that looks a little intimidating, there is usually a chicken track that bypasses it.

 

We were able to drive the telegraph track without using our winch, as it was fairly dry, but we did have to let the air out of our tyres for a few spots – so you will need an air pressure gauge and a compressor.  Having a mate there in another vehicle is also reassuring.  Depending on the time of the year, you could probably get away with not having a snorkel, but keep in mind that the water rises during the wet season.  There is also a deep crossing just north of Fruit Bat Falls that you will definitely need a snorkel for.

 

From Bramwell Junction Northward to the Bypass Road

At Bramwell Junction, we got some info about the upcoming river crossings, let our tyres down and began our adventure on the Old Telegraph Track.

 

Palm Creek

The first crossing was the worst. There is a very steep, narrow entry full of mud and water, and after watching a few people go through, we decided to take the so called ‘chicken track’.  Even though we knew the Troopy could handle it, we didn’t want to risk damage to our home, especially since we’re travelling on our own.

 

The chicken track was nearly as steep and narrow, but definitely less muddy.

 

Cape York

 

Dulhunty River

The next major crossing was through the beautiful clear waters of the Dulcunty, er… Dulhunty River.  A sturdy, rock bed made it easy to drive across, but not before we waded around in the water a bit.  This river is free of crocs, which makes it a great place to camp for a few days (permit required).

 

It was around this time that we met Anthony, a guy who was out 4WDing with his mate and mate’s dad.  Their convoy had gotten separated, so for the next few crossings, we sussed them out together.

 

Cape York

 

Bertie Creek

Another crossing similar to Dulhunty River but there was more manoeuvring to be done to get to the crossing. The deep pot holes are easy to navigate around and the water is fairly shallow and croc-free – another great camping spot (permit is included in Jardine River Ferry cost).

 

Cape York

 

Gunshot Bypass

We had heard rumours about Gunshot Creek – the near vertical crossing that appeared on Youtube a few times.  If the rumours were true, then the Troopy wouldn’t make it so we took the sandy bypass road and swung past the Ranger Station, which was actually closed.

 

Cockatoo Creek

This is a creek crossing with the threat of crocodiles so keep your eyes peeled.  The entry is a little steep, the river has a deep section and there are a few pot holes to get around but the Troopy managed just fine.

 

This was the last major creek crossing before the Cape York Developmental Road.  We headed straight for the Jardine River Ferry and made it to the Tip by sunset, with the intention of doing the rest of the Old Telegraph Track on the way down.

 

From Sam’s Creek Crossing Southward to Fruit Bat Falls

After exploring the tip, we crossed the Jardine River and got back onto the Overland Telegraph Track at Sam’s Creek Crossing.  It wasn’t long before a convoy was coming in the opposite direction and while making room for them to pass, we got the Troopy’s bulbar stuck on a tree.  All the blokes got out to help bounce the Troopy free – it was all quite funny really.

 

Cape York

 

Canal Creek

Once we arrived at the Canal Creek Crossing, Juz felt that it was time for her to get behind the wheel.  The crossing has plenty of obstacles such as slippery mud, pot holes and rocky surfaces and was a great opportunity for Juz to practice her 4WDing skills.

 

Cape York

 

Eliot Falls & Twin Falls

These are popular spots because of the swimming.  There is a small pool at the bottom of Twin Falls, and you can wade in the water at the top of Eliot Falls.  A refreshing stop for anyone who needs to wash off some stink.

 

 

Eliot Creek

On our way down to Fruit Bat Falls, we were confronted with a large body of muddy water over the road spanning about 30 meters.  We weren’t quite sure what we were up against until a convoy appeared on the other side.  After a brief pause, they started to come through and we got a good idea just how deep the water was.

 

After seeing at least four cars go through unscathed, it was our turn.  Juz got behind the wheel and with white knuckles, she led the Troopy into the water.   Keeping up with the bow wave and maintaining revs in low range 2nd gear, the Troopy powered on as the water came up over the bonnet.  Despite being a very intimidating crossing, the ground was firm and it was a piece of cake.

 

Fruit Bat Falls

Another popular spot that accommodates for tour groups, Fruit Bat Falls is a low, wide waterfall with a large pool of clear water for swimming.

 

Cape York

 

Once we got back onto the Cape York Developmental Road, we made the decision to camp at Bertie Creek, because our ferry pass acted as a permit for that spot.  While we usually avoid back tracking, we liked the Overland Telegraph Track so much, we were happy to do it again.

 

The most difficult part was getting back through the Palm Creek crossing.  After a few goes, Dave reversed back down the bottom to let the tires down a bit more.  The Troopy roared as one wheel lifted up into the air and sand sprayed from the other three.  Up, up, up and out!  Go Troopy!

 

Cape York

 

Cape York

Troopy Update : Boots, Brakes & Various Outakes

Old Ghan Trail

 

Yo – Dave here.

 

After our radiator dramas and a weeklong visit to Country Diesel Maintenance in Alice Springs, the Troopy was running great.  But what fun would it be if nothing ever went wrong? 

 

By the time we rolled into Cairns, we’d done some great four-wheel driving up at Cape York, but it didn’t go without any hitches.  One of the front spring mounts snapped and the brake booster shat itself just before we got to Iron Range National Park.  Also, at some point we started leaking fuel and the Troopy kept stalling and was hard to start.

 

On the other hand, our new tyres copped a beating on the dirt roads of the outback and are going great.  The new mozzie screens on all the windows have been perfect on the hot nights – with more windows open we get better airflow through the Troopy.  The roof-top wind deflector that I installed in Alice Springs is working a treat and looks fantastic.

 

Cape York

 

Snazzy new boots

TroopyBefore leaving Alice Springs, we got the Troopy a brand new set of boots.  The all-terrain tyres we bought 50,000km ago turned out to be rubbish and I was keen to upgrade to a mud-terrain tyre, so after a great chat with the staff at the tyre store, I ended up going with a set of Maxxis Bighorns 764.  We paid $350 per tyre and that included fitting, balancing and a wheel-alignment.

 

We’ve done over 2,000km on them so far – about 50% on bitumen, 50% on dirt/sand/rock.  Compared to our old set of tyres, they’re definitely more aggressive, a little louder and make the Troopy about 5cm taller, which is noticeable when we climb into the back at night.  Driving along corrugated dirt road is definitely more comfortable and the steering even feels a bit lighter.  The extra traction on sand is really obvious and I’ve found I don’t have to let the tyre pressure down as much as I would have with the old tyres.  Considering the amount of driving on rocky roads we’ve done, the tyres have held up well – no punctures or major damage – and the amount of wear is acceptable.

 

Over all, I’m really happy with the Maxxis.  The price fit our budget and the performance has been great.  Also, by the look of them after 2,000km, I reckon they’ll get us all the way back to Melbourne no worries.

 

Cape York

 

Custom-built checker-plate roof-top wind deflector

While we were in Alice, we did a HelpX job for two guys who run a steel yard called DnA Steel Direct, so I had access to steel as well as all the necessary equipment to fabricate a customised wind deflector for the top of the Troopy.

 

With a rough sketch on a notepad, I found a piece of checkerplate that was big enough and thick enough for what I needed.  I used the industrial steel bending machine to bend the sheet, then I cut the taper with a grinder.  I made templates for the two side pieces, cut them and bent them.  Then one of the guys quickly welded the sides on, as well as the hinges and latches before I bolted the whole thing on and gave it a lick of black paint.  The final touch was some small chains to limit how far the deflector opens.  I reckon it came up a treat.  A huge thanks goes out to DnA Steel Direct for letting me use their machinery.

 

Cape York

 

You break it, you fix it!

If you’re a four-wheel driving fan, go to Cape York and do the Old Telegraph Track.  Juz and I loved it and even though I broke the Troopy a bit – check out that story here.

 

The next day, after doing the Five Beaches Track along the eastern coast of the Tip, I noticed that one of the Troopy’s front spring mounts was broken in half.  We carefully limped the next 20km to Bamaga and went straight to the wreckers.  Lucky for us, they had what I needed and I had it changed over in less than half an hour.

 

 

Stuck between a rock and broken brakes

As we were making our way along Frenchmans Track towards Iron Range National Park, we got hung up on a rock on the descent into a creek crossing.  While Juz stuck her foot on the brake pedal, I got out to have a look.  All of a sudden, there was a psssshh sound as the brake pedal pushed up.  I initially thought a hose had come off, but I couldn’t see any leaks or abnormalities.  We managed to get the Troopy off the rock and through the creek, but the brake pedal was really stiff and stopping in any hurry wasn’t an option.

 

Cape York

 

When we got to Cooktown, I did some research and diagnosed a busted brake booster, but the nearest replacement was in Cairns.  So, our plan to take the CREB track from Wujal Wujal was changed to a gingerly drive down the Bloomfield track instead.  There were a few steep downhill sections that were a little hairy because of our reduced braking ability, but otherwise it was quite a nice drive.

 

Cape Trib

 

The Troopy takes a leak

Somewhere up in Cape York the Troopy decided to start leaking fuel.  While we were in Cooktown, I traced the leak back to a tiny hole in the primary fuel filter casing.  Unfortunately, I’d have to wait until Cairns to get a new one.

 

In the meantime, our timing belt light had been on for about 3,000km so I finally got around to changing it.  If you’ve ever changed a timing belt then you’ll know that the fiddliest bit is getting the tensioning spring back on.  After wrestling with that for a while, I got it back on and shouldn’t have to worry about the timing belt for another 100,000km.

 

Cairns – Let’s get wrecked!

Once we got to Cairns, I spent the first available Saturday doing the rounds at the wreckers.  I needed a few things, but my main priorities were finding a brake booster and a fuel filter.  After visiting two wreckers, I picked up a fuel filter for $50, a battery tray and bump stop for $50 and a brake booster for just $80 – SCORE!

 

Changing the brake booster was a piece of cake and took all of about half an hour.  The battery tray was also easy but the battery bracket was a bit more fiddly because of a broken bolt head.  In the end I just drilled a new hole for it and everything was sorted.

 

After buying a complete primary fuel filter from the wreckers, I picked up a new cartridge for the secondary fuel filter.  I took the old parts out and they were filthy and full of sludge.  I blew out the fuel lines (mmm… delicious diesel!) and cleaned up the bits that were going back in.  After installing the new filters, the Troopy instantly began running smoother and starting more easily.

 

Go Troopy!!

 

Cape York

 

Troopy bits

Cooling Down in Alice Springs

Heating Up in Hermannsburg – Part 2

 

We arrived back in Alice Springs after our amazing visit to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and I got to work as soon as possible.  The first few days were spent fiddling with the Troopy to try and figure out why the engine was overheating.

 

I flushed the cooling system and changed the bottom radiator hose before getting some advice from a local mechanic, who suggested lubing up the fan clutch.  After doing that, I took the Troopy for a short test drive and it seemed successful, but the best way to check was to go on a long distance drive.

 

The next day, we drove the Troopy down to Rainbow Valley, about 100km south of Alice Springs.  Unfortunately, once we were over 80kmph, the temp gauge moved towards the red.  Back to the drawing board…

 

Rainbow Valley

 

The next day, I called the mechanic and booked the Troopy in so that they could have a look.  I dropped the Troopy off the following week, and got a phone call later that day from the mechanic, asking if I had time to come by the workshop.  The Troopy was up on the hoist and the mechanic said that they hadn’t even taken it for a test drive because they didn’t want to risk driving it anywhere – the front wheel bearings were gone.

 

He went through a list of things that needed to be repaired urgently, before we had another long chat about the why cooling system might be playing up.  He explained that the air in Alice Springs is really dry and therefore isn’t as effective at cooling the radiator, and he also recommended getting rid of the fly-screen mesh from the grill, as it can severely restrict air flow at 80-110kp/h.

 

Looking at the list of required repairs, there was no way I could do all that myself so I booked the Troopy in for a proper session.  Unfortunately, they were so busy, the next available time was the week after, so I took the Troopy home, went through the list, and did what I could myself.  I replaced the leaky brake proportioning valve, ripped off the fly-screen from the grill and picked up a few less urgent bits and pieces to swap later.  A week later, I took the Troopy back to the mechanic so they could do the rest. For the next week, we were lucky enough to borrow a shitty Ford Falcon with a cracked windscreen, no windows and ripped up interior to get around town.

 

The main repairs the mechanics did for us were:

  • Swivel hubs and bearings
  • Three brake discs
  • Handbrake shoes
  • Uni joints
  • Rear pinion seal
  • Steering – drag link ends and tie rod ends

 

Troopy bits

 

A week later, and over $4000 out of pocket, we were reunited with a new and improved Troopy, minus all the squeaks, grinds and clunks.  The Troopy was feeling strong and we were filled with excitement when we finally left Alice Springs to continue our journey south.  These days, the Troopy still heats up a little sometimes, but it’s only when it’s worked hard for a while.

 

Birdsville

 

 

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

Heating Up in Hermannsburg

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

After visiting Palm Valley, our plan to was to head to Kings Canyon to meet up with some mates who were up from Melbourne and Sydney.  We stopped into Hermannsburg to suss out the road beyond Finke Gorge National Park and we were advised to take the other way around to Kings Canyon.  About 30km out of Hermannsburg, our temperature gauge was showing heat.

 

We stopped on the side of the road and Dave stuck his head under the Troopy.  The radiator had a massive crack in the seam on the bottom.

 

At about 1:30pm, Dave applied a quick-drying putty but it did not hold.  At 2:40pm he tried some epoxy and left it for an hour.  We got impatient and filled up the radiator but the epoxy hadn’t set yet and it didn’t hold.

 

People stopped to offer help, tools or to pass on messages.  Luckily, a car from Hermannsburg, with a local elder in the passenger seat passed us and we were able to get permission to stay on the roadside over night.  He said yes, and even suggested we make a fire to keep warm.

 

We decided to try the epoxy again but stay on the roadside overnight to allow it to dry.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

In the morning, we held our breath as we filled the radiator with water.  Despite a constant drip, we packed up and hoped for the best as we fanged it back to Hermannsburg.  We got about 23km before the temperature gauge was in the red again.  We had a look and the water was spurting from the crack like a super soaker!  Dave let it cool before refilling the radiator and we continued to Hermannsburg where we refilled our containers with enough water to get back to Alice Springs 120km away.  Juz also made some phone calls to wreckers in Alice for radiator prices.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

We estimated that with about 1 hour of travel time and 1 hour of stopping to refill the radiator, we’d get back into Alice at around midday.  On the second stop to water the Troopy, Dave had the idea to include some anti leak stuff.  As we drove, we passed the 20km mark, 30km mark, and we started to question the temperature gauge, which was not rising.  We had to stop to investigate and found that we weren’t losing water.  The anti leak stuff miraculously plugged the hole and we ended up getting to Alice Springs at 10:44am.

 

There was a mad rush to get everything sorted.  We stopped at Repco first to spend $500 on a new radiator, coolant and a few other bits before revisiting our Helpx host to install the new radiator.  We had it all sorted by 1pm and after showers, grocery shopping and a petrol stop, we were on our way down the Stuart Highway by 3pm to meet our friends at Yulara that evening.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

As we were travelling, Dave saw water on the windscreen and dismissed it as rain, but after the temperature gauge slithered into the red, he checked under the bonnet and a hose had slipped off the shiny new radiator pipe.  After refilling the radiator (again!), we continued on before another shocking spray of water over the windscreen.  We had to stop and find another clamp for the hose.

 

Thankfully, a car stopped and its passengers offered to help.  Dave didn’t have a clamp that would fit around the hose so while Juz chatted to the lady and her baby Flynn, Dave and Mohawk man (these are the names we gave them as formal introductions were omitted) prepared a clamp.

 

Despite all this fuss, as we continued down the Stuart Highway, the Troopy was still overheating.  We stopped at a rest area north of Stuart Well and asked the fellow travellers for some advice.  They all said the same thing – “your thermostat is buggered”.

 

Thanks to 4x4World.com.au, we had a spare, but with sun going down fast, we decided to stay the night and change the part in the morning.  This didn’t irk us at all as we got to have a lovely evening by the fire with fellow travellers Jules, Loretta, Chris and Brian.  Our mates will still be at Yulara the next day.

 

Dave had his head deep under the bonnet by sunrise.  We thought it’d be a quick job but the thermostat happens to be behind the lower hose, not the upper hose as initially suspected.  Because of this, the alternator had to be moved out of the way before the thermostat could be changed.

 

Heating up in Hermannsburg

 

It was all done by just before 11am and as we rampaged towards Yulara, we were completely baffled.  During our periodical, paranoid glances at the temperature gauge, we found that it would rise when travelling uphill or at high speeds, but it would cool down at lower speeds and when we were moving downhill…

 

After visiting Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon, we decided to head back to Alice to get the Troopy issues sorted before we went any further into the desert.

 

Hermannsburg

This aboriginal community was originally established by Lutheran missionaries from the Hermannsburg mission in Germany in 1877. Twenty years later, the missionaries left but the settlement was maintained by local workers.  In 1894, a pastor came to the settlement and learnt the local Arrernte language, and translated the bible for them.  The mission was eventually handed over to the traditional owners in 1982, and the Hermannsburg Historic Precinct was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2006.

 

Hermannsburg

 

Within the Historic Precinct is the Kata Anga Tearooms.  They do a lovely apple strudel served with cream, as well as scones and damper.  While the amount of damper provided was inadequate, the strudel was fabulous.

 

Hermannsburg

 

Hermannsburg provides an oasis of reception for Telstra customers, as well as two general stores and a petrol station.  It is also the home of artist Albert Namatjira, who was born at the mission in 1902.  He saw much of Central Australia working as a camel driver and reflected his love of the land in art.

 

Hermannsburg

 

After two Victorian artists held an art exhibition at the mission in 1934, he became interested in western style painting and was taught how to paint with watercolours by Rex Battarbee.  By 1938, he held his first exhibition in Melbourne, followed by sell out Sydney and Adelaide exhibitions.  From then on, his artwork continued to sell quickly, earning him the Queen’s Coronation Medal in 1953.

 

Albert Namatjira

 

 

Roper Bar

Troopy Report : Crack, Back & On Track

Roper Bar

 

Yo – Dave here.

 

It’s been a while since the last update and the Troopy’s a little bit worse for wear.  After almost a year in Darwin, we had to spend some time and money fixing, changing and modifying bits and pieces.  When we rolled in to Darwin, we had a cracked windscreen and a stuffed battery and by the time we left Darwin, we had another stuffed battery and the humidity had brought out every single patch of rust.

 

Crack

While we were in the Kimberley, a flying stone from a passing truck put a chip in our windscreen.  By the time we got to Kununurra, the chip had already become a crack but we decided to wait until Darwin before getting it replaced because it would be cheaper.  That said, I reckon $450 isn’t that cheap…

 

Troopy crack

 

Before we left Darwin, a rattle was coming from the front end of the Troopy.  Turns out a join was split in our exhaust pipe, and while I tried using some exhaust putty to fix it, the split was under the wheel arch on the inner side and I couldn’t get to it. Luckily, the people we were staying with in Alice Springs run a steel yard and have a welder.  I drove the Troopy to the yard one Saturday and together with one of the guys and a six pack of beer, we worked on the Troopy.  We removed the section of the exhaust and were really surprised at how big the hole was!  We filled it up and put the section back in.  Good as new!

 

 

 

That wasn’t the only welding that needed to be done.  The right hand rear door on Troopys notoriously crack at the bottom of the window pillar and ours is no exception.  The left hand rear door also needed some welding – a spot weld on the hinge had come apart and our jerry can bracket had split the panel it was bolted to.  After reinforcing the back panel with a sheet of steel and welding the hinge, the door was good as new.

 

Back

We’d seen quite a few decked out Troopys with a drop down table on the right hand rear door, and I’d been waiting for a chance to knock one up for our Troopy.  While I had access to a drill and a circular saw through Juz’s boss at the party hire place in Darwin, I scored a piece of plywood and picked up a couple of hinges.  I cut the wood to size, drilled some holes, and connected some rope from the door to the table.  I finished it off with a lick of varnish and Juz loves it.

 

 

 

With all the hot nights and mozzies up north, having only two windows with flyscreens on them wasn’t enough.  We wanted to be able to sleep with the back doors open too for maximum airflow.  We picked up a couple of magnetic flyscreens that are normally used on house doors and I set to work.  I cut them to length, added some extra magnets, then attached them to the inside of the door frame.  I used the left over pieces on the sliding windows in the back and also replaced the original flyscreens I’d installed.  The extra airflow will get tested once we’re back in the tropics.

 

Troopy flyscreen

 

Battery Pack

While we were in Darwin, we didn’t need our Engel fridge in the Troopy so we used it in the house.  Unfortunately, because the fridge wasn’t in the Troopy and we weren’t sleeping in the Troopy, our auxiliary battery died without us knowing.  I picked up a new one in Katherine and all was fine again.

 

A few weeks later, we were on our way to Alice Springs and I noticed again that the fridge wasn’t clicking on when the Troopy wasn’t running.  The new auxiliary battery was flat!

 

After some research and voltage testing, I guessed that the battery isolator wasn’t working, and this was confirmed by an auto-electrician.  However, before replacing the new battery, I decided to replace the terminals – they were pretty corroded and perhaps this was the problem.  The next day the battery was fully charged.  I’m glad I didn’t fork out the big bucks for a new isolator based on the words of that auto-elec…

 

On track

We were only going to stop in at Lorella Springs Wilderness Park for five days, but we ended up there for almost two weeks!  Set on 1 million acres, they’ve got about 1000 kms of 4WD tracks throughout the park.  Check out our article about Lorella Springs here –  Lorella Springs Wilderness Park – Part 1

 

While at Lorella Springs, we started hearing a grinding noise coming from the back right tyre.  I pulled the wheel off and found the brake pad so worn that the metal had cut a nasty groove into the brake disc.  We couldn’t do anything about it until we got to Tennant Creek, where I picked up some new brake pads and disc and replaced them in a back streets while Juz hung out in the library.

 

Troopy break disc

 

While we put off getting new tyres for as long as we could, a chronic puncture at Lorella Springs meant that we needed to start shopping for a new set of wheels.  Alice Springs would be the best place to do it, and it would also be our last chance before hitting the east coast.  I checked out what was available in our price range and ended up settling on Maxxis Bighorns.  We’ll see how they go and I’ll give them a review in the next Troopy update.

 

Lorella Springs

 

The screw we pulled out at Mitchell Falls

Troopy Report : 3rd Edition

Yo – Dave here.  Here comes the third Troopy update for your reading pleasure.  Ready… Set… Go!

 

This update has a couple of “house-keeping” type things in it.  They seem like common sense to us now, but getting the tilt right for sleeping and mozzie control are games we get to play nearly every day.  We’ve shuffled some stuff around inside the Troopy and even tried out our big awning for the first time.  I sorted out some wiring, mucked around with the brakes a bit and Juz got to have her first go at plugging a tyre.

 

I’m inclined to have a sleep…

Whenever we pull up for the night, if we’re going to sleep in the Troopy we need to consider a few things.

 

Tilt is a major factor.  Will Juz be rolling toward my side all night or will I squish her against the window?  The second factor is the incline – will the Troopy be nose down and cause the blood to pool into our heads, or will the Troopy be so inclined that we’re practically sleeping standing up.

 

We have to check out the terrain just like a golfer would look at the green before putting towards the hole – Juz is much better at this than me.  Our preference for tilt is within 10 degrees of level; our preference for incline is between level and nose up to 20 degrees.

 

Bloody Mozzies!

After the “mozzie massacre” at Point Quandong, mosquito control within the Troopy has become an important addition to the evening ritual.

 

 

Mozzie coils are an absolute must, so Juz lights a small portion of coil for the front cabin with all the doors shut except the back door.  Ideally, any mosquitoes loitering in the front will be encouraged to fly out via the back.  We then set up another coil at the back doors to create an invisible, citronella-scented wall that is impermeable to blood-sucking mozzies.  It seems to work, at least until one of us climbs out of the Troopy in the middle of the night for a wee…

 

Cover up that Box!

Since we left Melbourne, the vinyl cover on our top box has been ripped to shreds from the force of the wind as we hoon down the highway.  With the corners torn open, the flapping is not only noisy but it catches the wind more and we end up using more fuel.

 

I’d tried fixing it a few different ways – sticking it back together with duct tape, sewing it together, patching the corners with an old plastic tarp.  The duct tape repair was fast and lasted a good couple of weeks.  The plastic tarp patches took hours and hours to do, and they lasted a couple of months until they perished.  Fed up with the structural integrity of my repairs being compromised, I asked Juz to get up on the roof and give it a go.

 

We picked up some block-out curtain fabric from an Op Shop in Carnarvon and Juz climbed up on the roof and got to work on the worst of the two corners.  She started with a long piece of fabric that covered the whole corner and about 10cm either side, then another smaller piece of fabric that would act as a reinforcer, holding not only the blackout fabric but the vinyl as well.  After two weeks, it was still together, so I jumped up on the roof and did the other corner.

 

Reorganisation Station!

We had a whole day of no driving while we were camped at Burnett River Gorge for two nights.  Instead of lazing about drinking cocktails and massaging each other, we did some serious reorganising of Troopy storage.

 

The first victim of reorganisation was the pantry drawer.  Now that the fire ban had been lifted and we had more opportunities to cook on a camp fire, Juz wanted better access to the billies, pots and pans.  Tinned beans and vegetables were moved backwards while the cooking utensils moved forwards, and instead of storing things on top of the spice box, the spice box now sits on a platform of more tinned goods.  Also, the colander was moved to the black box, which immediately created a tonne more space, and other various space wasters were discarded.

 

Double Choc Damper

 

Once Juz was satisfied with the increase in storage space and food preparation surfaces, I dealt with the side compartments.  I moved the unnecessary bits and pieces from the rear compartments to the front compartments.  The compressor, socket set and fold-up shovel are now all more accessible and there’s even some left over empty space.

 

Is it Awning Already?

About 1km from the turnoff to the Bungle Bungles is a free campground called Spring Creek and we camped there for two nights.  After we found a nice spot and positioned the Troopy with just the right amount of tilt and incline, we thought it would be good to get the awning out.  However, the Troopy was parked with the passenger side facing camp, which meant that we would have to use our MAX COVERAGE AWNING!

 

Unlike the awning on the driver side, our Max Coverage Awning rolls out over the side of the Troopy, then folds out twice to provide coverage all the way around the back of the Troopy too!  As we folded this awning out to use it for the first time, we realised it was installed upside down.  After taking it off and getting it back on the right way up, we got the poles out and realised that we needed guy-ropes and pegs too.  It started looking like too much effort for one afternoon of shade so we folded it back up, and made note that we needed some pegs and guy-ropes readily available if we plan to use the Max Coverage Awning.

 

We picked up some extra tent pegs in Kununurra, which – along with our ropes – have filled a bit of the left over empty space from the reorganisation we did a week or so earlier.

 

Screw You, Punctures!

A few people had warned us about the treacherousness of the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley.  We were told that it’s covered in sharp rocks and you’re guaranteed to get at least one puncture.  To minimise the chance of getting punctures, dropped our tyre pressure to around 25psi as soon as we got off the bitumen.

 

On the way to Mitchell Falls, a screw managed to make its way into our back left tyre.  We found it when we rolled in to camp and spent the rest of the afternoon working on it.  Getting the tyre off was the major hassle because the mechanic in Perth had put the wheel nuts on way too tight.  I flexed my fully sick biceps (hehehe!) and finally got the nuts loose.  We put a fresh tyre on, I plugged the puncture with the tyre repair kit and we finished setting up camp.

 

 

We got another puncture a couple of days later while driving along the eastern end of the Gibb River Road.  We found it when we stopped for breakfast.  Fffffsssshhhhhhhh…… fuck!  Another bloody screw!  After I replaced the newly punctured tyre with the one I’d repaired at Mitchell River, I started packing up.  Meanwhile, I handed Juz the tyre repair kit we got from Bush Junkie, and she had her first puncture sorted in minutes.

 

All in all, the Gibb River Road was nowhere near as bad as what people told us.  Sure, we got two punctures, but they were from screws not from the actual road conditions.  The last 100km or so before the bitumen at the eastern end was the worst of it, but even that was manageable.

 

Hit the Brakes!

I had to rewire the Troopy’s right-hand brake light back in Melbourne before we left.  No major drama, even though it looked like someone else had done some rewiring too.  Just outside of Kununurra, we realised that none of our left-hand rear lights were working.  It meant I got to lie down on the dusty, rocky ground and muck about with it.

 

As much as I enjoy playing with the Troopy and learning how to fix bits and pieces, laying on my back in the dirt on a hot day isn’t ideal.  Either the left side had previously been repaired too or colour-coding of wiring was an optional extra back in 1993!  Anyway, I got it all sorted soon enough, but it would’ve been quicker with a 12v soldering iron.  Mental note: get a 12v soldering iron!

 

While we were driving through the Kimberley, the Troopy’s brakes started getting a bit spongy.  Nothing too serious – pump, pump, pump the pedal and it pulled up just fine.  When we got to Wyndham, I made a brake-bleeding kit out of an empty plastic bottle and a bit of physio hose and prepared to bleed brakes for the first time.  I got Juz to be my beautiful assistant and had it sorted in no time.

 

The brakes were better for a little while, but they started getting really bad within a day or two.  And the Troopy decided started pulling to the left under brakes too.  We were heading south to the Bungle Bungles then back north up to Kununurra.  It’s only 600kms – she’ll be right.  Right?  WRONG!

 

Dave with Will

Troopy Report : Bungle Bungled Troopy Saga

We’d had some issues with our brakes for a while, but they were starting to get really spongy as we were driving through the Kimberley.  Then, on our way to the Bungle Bungles, an NQR noise started coming from the front wheel.  Dave got out and had a look but it just looked like the tyre needed to be adjusted.  It wasn’t until he got the tyre off that he could see that the brake disc was all wonky.

 

It was early in the morning and people were heading into the Bungle Bungles.  A few cars stopped to ask if they could help but once they established that they couldn’t they moved on.  Then, some familiar faces turned up!  Paddy and his crew, who we met at Adcock Gorge, stopped and advised us that our wheel bearings were buggered.  He happened to have a spare set, lent us some tools and provided instructions on how to replace them before wishing us luck.

 

 

As we were replacing the bearings, another guy showed up.  He was a mechanic and noticed that our stub axel had split. He dished out the bad news that we’re definitely not going anywhere until we got it replaced.  The lock nuts were also stuffed…

 

We sat around for a bit after that, wondering what to do, until Juz suggested that Dave set forth to find the part while she held the fort.  Just as Dave agreed, a DEC vehicle turned up and that’s when we met Greg.  He offered to take Dave out to the highway and we accepted.  As Juz made Dave a substantial snack of rice, chicken and soy sauce, we agreed to send word whenever we could, and at 10am Dave set off with some cash and 2 litres of water.

 

Dave’s Story

I jumped in the car with Greg and as we made our way along the corrugated dirt road towards the highway, we chatted about travelling, camping and cool places to check out around Australia.

 

About 10kms before we hit the highway, Greg said, “Hmmm, my steering just got really heavy”.

 

We jumped out and found power-steering fluid dripping everywhere.  We couldn’t find the source of the leak, so Greg said we may as well just keep moving and the new car warranty could deal with it when he got to Kununurra.  I figured that I must be some kind of jinx, and hoped that any other cars I hitched a ride in didn’t break too!

 

We stopped in at the caravan park just before the highway to get some information.  I called the Turkey Creek Roadhouse and they said my best bet would be to find the mechanic called “Chook” in Warmun.  Greg offered to take me there and as we were pulling out of the caravan park, I saw some people letting their tyres down in preparation for the road into Purnululu NP.  I asked them if they could tell the girl in the broken down Troopy that I was heading to Warmun to find Chook.

 

Once we got to the Turkey Creek Roadhouse, I asked the staff where I could find Chook.  A helpful lady from the Warmun aboriginal community pointed me in the right direction and Greg gave me a lift down the road to Warmun.  For the first time in my life, I was inside a closed aboriginal community – it was definitely a strange feeling and I wasn’t sure if my being there was going to upset people or, even worse, make them angry.  I walked into the shop and saw a fairly even mix of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal folks, which made me feel like I stood out a little less.  I asked where I could find Chook.  The lady behind the counter motioned toward the ute coming towards the shop and said, “That’s Chook coming now”.

 

I made eye contact with the driver, who took one look at me then growled, “I DON’T ‘AVE ANY!!”

 

It’s fair to say that I all but shit myself.

 

Chook stepped out of his ute and I sized up the man who would probably determine whether we get the Troopy going or not.  Well over six feet tall and well built, he wore a bandanna, dark sunnies, long white Santa Claus beard, and had four mean-looking dogs at his heels.  Before addressing me, he took a few moments to remind his dogs to behave, or risk the chance of a flogging.  The mean-looking dogs all but shit themselves.

 

It’s fair to say that I all but shit myself again.

 

When he asked me what I needed, I managed to squeak out the words “Stub axle”.  He growled something along the lines of “I ‘spose you need someone to come out and fit it too?”.

 

I quickly assured him that all I needed was the part and that I didn’t want to take up too much of time.  “Hmmm, stub axle? I might ‘ave one. Meet me at the roadhouse in an hour.”

 
His emphasis on the word ‘might’ suggested he did have one, providing I was willing to part with the necessary funds.  This was about to get expensive.

On the walk back to the roadhouse, I finally breathed out and started to relax a bit.  In less than an hour, Chook rocked up and presented the stub axle complete with lock nuts.  I asked him how much it was worth and I prepared to shit myself.

 
“$100” he says.

 

As a wave of relief flowed over me. “Geez, that’s alright!”

 

“Oh, in that case, maybe it’s $150…”

 

I laughed nervously and quickly handed him $100 cash.

 

He asked me if I knew how to install the stub axle and repack wheel bearings.  I told him I’d never done it before, but I had the service manual to follow.  He spent the next 20 minutes explaining everything I needed to know.  We ended up chatting about university, apprenticeships, food, his kids, life in the sticks and more.  Chook is by far the most interesting character I’ve met so far while we’ve been on the road.

 

It was well after 1pm now and I had to find a ride for the 75km trip back to the Troopy.  More importantly, I had to eat something.  I grabbed a steak sanga with bacon, egg and cheese from the roadhouse.  The steak was freshly cooked to juicy perfection, the bread was soft and gummy and bacon always makes everything even better.  Even Juz wouldn’t have had time to take a photo of it because I inhaled it in about two minutes!

 

Next, I needed to work on the issue of how to get back to Juz and the Troopy.  If I didn’t find a ride, where was I going to sleep?  All I had was a water bottle and a stub axle – neither of which are particularly good blankets.  And would Juz be ok by herself in the middle of nowhere?

 

I figured my best bet for a ride would be travellers in a campervan.  I didn’t have to wait long.

 

“Excuse me, my car’s broken down.  If you’re going south, would you be able to give me a ride?”

 

My new best mate, Boris from France said, “Of course! This is no worries!”

 

After being introduced to Constance (Boris’s girlfriend from Germany), I jumped in the back of their van and we set off.  We chatted and shared travel stories all the way down the highway, and once we got to the turn off for the Bungle Bungles, I told them they could just leave me there and I would find another ride for the rest of the way.

 

“But we are going to the Bungle Bungles…”  RIDE SORTED!!

 

We were about to continue our journey when a 4WD pulled up behind us.  The people jumped out and came up to us smiling and waving.  Turns out it was a German couple that we’d met near Wyndham a few days earlier.

 

“Dave!  We just passed you guys on the highway and when saw your beard, we knew it was you!  We’ve just come out of the Bungle Bungles and we saw Juz and the Troopy.  We were coming to pick you up from Warmun!”

 

I thanked them for being offering to travel 150km out of their way to collect me but told them that Boris and Constance were going to take me the rest of the way.

 

We started the slow, bumpy, noisy drive along the dirt road towards Juz and the Troopy.  We were about 15 minutes away when a tattooed bloke with a long, grey goatee in a Hilux coming the other way got us to pull over.

 

“Are you Dave?” said Will (my other new best mate), “I’ve just seen Juz.  Your stub axle’s definitely stuffed.  Did you manage to get one?”

 

I told him I did and he asked if I wanted a hand fitting it.  I said I’d love a hand if he wasn’t doing anything.  He turned around and followed us back.  We got back to Juz and the Troopy a bit after 3pm.  When I jumped out of the van, Juz’s face lit up and she came running over to smother me with hugs and kisses.

 

Juz’s Story

Nowhere near as action packed as Dave’s day…

 

I had maintained my cool during the breakdown – from when we heard the noise to when the mechanic guy said that we were stuffed.  I even kept my cool while telling Dave to leave me to get the part, and that I may have to camp out there, in the middle of nowhere, on my own.  The only time I lost my cool was when Dave kissed me goodbye, got into Greg’s car and disappeared in a cloud of dust over the hill.

 

Once he was gone, it sunk in – I may be by myself for a while.  I shifted into stealth mode and started preparing for the day.  I put the windscreen sun visor up, covered the windows to keep the Troopy cool, and put the tool box and gear under the shade of the Troopy.  I then positioned weapons around the Troopy – just in case – a metal pole here, a Bowie knife there, my Leatherman pocketknife close by (as always).  When I was satisfied, I created a small patch of shade with my sarong over the back doors and sat down to read.

 

There was no opportunity to get lonely because the traffic to and from the Bungle Bungles was frequent.  Many people smiled, waved and drove by without stopping, but most would stop, either out of curiosity or concern.  There was only one couple that stopped and said, “Your friend told us to tell you that he was heading to Warmun”.  If someone gave me a good vibe, I would stand up and talk to them, ask them which direction they were heading and if they would pass a message on for me to a hairy, bearded Italian guy in a shirt and leather hat in Warmun; mainly that I’m ok and I haven’t been torn apart by a swarm of bees… yet.

 

Boredom was a little harder to keep away.  After reading for an hour or two, I started to get hungry.  I made myself some cheese and salmon on rice cakes and chased it with a pear.  Satisfied, I sat down again with the guitar and smashed out two songs in as many hours.  One is called Find A Way and it’s about hoping that Dave comes back safely with the part so we can get the Troopy fixed.  The other is called Plight, and it’s a conversational song with a series of verses made up of all the things I repeated to all the people who stopped to ask if I was alright.

 

Later in the day, a German couple that we met a few nights earlier passed by and after I told them what was happening, they offered to go to Warmun, find Dave and bring him back.  I was so grateful; it had been a few hours since Dave had left and I was worried about spending the night alone.  Not long afterwards, a tattooed bloke with a long, grey goatee pulled up in his 4WD ute to find out what was going on.  My initial apprehension was based purely on looks, but all he wanted to do was suss out the damage and make sure Dave was getting the right part.  After a brief chat, I found out he was from the same neck of the woods as Dave and I – the northern suburbs of Melbourne! So I gave Will a description of Dave and he went off to find him.

 

At about 3pm, Paddy and his crew had returned from the Bungle Bungles and I was still on my own.  Paddy started preparing the hub by fitting a new seal while the girls gave me some glossy trash mags to keep me entertained until Dave got back.  It wasn’t long before a blue van rocked up with two backpackers and Dave, followed by Will in the 4WD ute.  It was happy faces all round, and I don’t think I’ve been happier to see Dave.

 

Break down party!

 

Reunited…

It must have looked like a roadside party.  Surrounding the Troopy was Paddy’s lot with their two 4WDs, the European couple in their van and Will in his Hilux .  After a few minutes of celebration, Paddy told Dave and Will what he’d done with the seal and bearings and wished us luck before setting off for camp with his crew.  Juz and the Europeans looked on as Dave and Will worked double time to get the stub axle fitted and just before sunset, they too wished us luck and headed for camp in the Bungle Bungles.

 

Boris and Constance look on

 

There was barely any light left by the time the job was done.  The three of us worked together to make sure all the parts were put back in the right order, and found out that there was another piece of the puzzle that was stuffed – a bit from inside the free-wheeling hub – but we could go on without it until we got to a mechanic in Kununurra.

 

We got it all sorted just after the sun disappeared over the horizon and darkness set in.  We thanked Will profusely as he got cleaned up then headed off to his camp.  Dave and Juz packed up all the tools, got cleaned up, climbed in to the back of the Troopy and passed out by 7pm.

 

Dave with Will

 

Thank You

To all the people who stopped to see if we were alright, and offer help, a ride, advice, food, water, tools and parts – thank you so much for your time and concern.  It’s you folks that make up the heart and soul of the bush – the true, naked Australia.

 

Dampier Peninsula

Troopy Report : Issues, Repairs & Extra Bits

Yo – Dave here!

 

Welcome to the second Troopy update.  Were now six months in to our trip and we’ve gotten to know our vehicle even more.  We’ve done plenty of 4WDing, added a few more bits of kit, and had to deal with some frustrating mechanical issues.

 

Steep Point - to the BLOWHOLES! 

 

4WDING AT STEEP POINT & FRANÇOIS PÉRON

I was absolutely gagging to do some 4WDing by the time we got to Shark Bay, and I wasn’t disappointed.  François Peron was a 4WD dream, with a mixture of flat claypans (birridas) and soft sand.  It was great fun and the rewarding views and marine life put this place very high on our list of recommendations.  Most of the tracks at Steep Point were very corrugated, which was annoying, but the sandy sections of track were really enjoyable.  In a couple of parts, the steep sand dunes forced us into low-range, but the Troopy powered through with minimal effort.  Along the western edge of Steep point, the tracks are covered with very sharp rocks, so take it easy.

 

As we do every time we’re going to be driving along a rough road for a while, we let our tyres down.  This serves two purposes, it makes the track less bumpy and it helps protect against punctures.  When we got back to the bitumen, we pumped our tyres back up with our nifty little compressor that we got from BushJunkie.com.au.

 

 

Exhausting the Tanks

Whenever we fill up the tanks, we always use the rear tank first.  The main reason being a precautionary measure – if the wiring to the fuel tank selector solenoid fails or gets ripped out, the solenoid automatically defaults to the front tank.  The secondary reason is that there’s no low fuel warning light on the rear tank, so it’s guesswork figuring out when it’s empty.  The front tank is kind enough to let us know when it’s running low by displaying a light on the dash.

 

To make estimating the remaining fuel even more fun, fuel sometimes drains between tanks when the Troopy is parked on an angle.  Occasionally the rear tank runs out before making the switch to the front tank and the Troopy stalls.  This is a bit of a pain because I have to pull over, open the bonnet and pump the fuel primer to push fuel back into the lines.

 

Fuel Filter Issue

We’ve noticed that whenever we do some really bumpy 4WDing, the Troopy gets a bit temperamental afterwards – it starts getting really jerky and losing power at around 1200 – 1500rpm.  It happened when we were on our way to Coolgardie after the bumpy road near Cave Hill and it happened again on our way back to the main road from Steep Point.

 

When it happened in Coolgardie, we were a bit worried because we weren’t sure why it was happening.  I checked the fuel lines for kinks and other damage and couldn’t see anything unusual.  The interesting thing was that the next day, the problem disappeared. When it happened again after Steep Point, everything started falling into place in my head – the bumpy roads churn up the sediment from the bottom of the fuel tank which blocks up the fuel line.  Formula time!!!

 

Driving speed (D) x bumpiness of road (B) = amount of fuel tank sediment raised (S).  When S reaches critical mass (X), the sediment blocks up the fuel line.

 

When it happened at Steep Point, it was really sucky.  We had to struggle for about 100km of rollercoaster road and it ended up taking twice as long to get back to the main road.  We spent the night at Gladstone Scenic Lookout watching a storm hit Shark Bay.  The following morning, the Troopy was its old self again, roaring along the highway towards Carnarvon.

 

Minor Repairs

When I was checking fluids in the Troopy before we left Broome, I noticed that the mount for the radiator overflow bottle had broken and the bottle was only hanging on by the bolt through the plastic.  With a few cable ties, the problem was solved.  Always carry cable ties; they’ll fix at least half of your issues when you’re on the road!

 

Cable ties are really handy!

 

On our way back from Cape Peron in Francois Peron National Park, we heard a metallic rattle from the front passenger wheel.  I stuck my head in there and noticed that one of the rubber spacers at the top of the shocker was completely chewed up.

 

 

Lucky for us, there was a wrecker in Denham with, literally, a bucket load of random rubbers.  He handed me the bucket and said “see what you can find”.  I went through the whole bucket and found two that were close enough.  I gave the guy his bucket back and he was nice enough to let me have the rubbers for nothing.  Seeing as it was only the top rubber that was busted, I had the new one on in about ten minutes.  I’m really glad I didn’t have to pull the shocker out to get to it because that would’ve sucked massive balls.

 

Chewed up rubber spacer!

 

Extra Bits

We’re now the proud owners of a “Life straw”, thanks to our good friends at Bushjunkie.com.au.  This thing purifies unsafe, undrinkable water into perfectly safe, drinkable water.  It’ll purify up to 1000 litres of water and kills 99.9999999% of waterborne bacteria and parasites.  Stay tuned for our review once we give it a go!

 

Our mates at TRED sent us a bag for our recovery tracks, so now, instead of the fluoro green tracks on the front of the roof racks, we have a sexy black bag with the TRED logo emblazoned in red.

 

 

We also have an extra jerry can now.  While in Geraldton, Jeremy and I were taking rubbish to the tip and there was a recycling centre there as well.  It turns out that the recycling centre is also a huge second hand joint, so I suggested we have a look.  I could’ve spent all day there, but a few hours were enough to find some goodies.  I picked up a jerry can and a brand new box of trivia cards for $10.  This means we can now carry an extra 20 litres of fuel, which gives us around an extra 150km.

 

 

Man talk!

Troopy Report : Updates, Upgrades, Up Sandhills

Hi everyone – Dave here.

 

We left Melbourne almost three months ago and since then, we’ve learnt a lot about our mobile home.  We’ve had mechanical issues, punctured tyres, spring cleans, new additions, and practical renovations.  We’ve even tested it’s abilities at Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park.

 

Mechanical Issues

Our first hiccup was a tinny rattle coming from the under the bonnet.  We were initially told that it was the water pump, and after spending most of Christmas Day changing the part with a spare we got from 4x4world.com.au, we were later advised that it was the alternator.

 

Changing the water pump on Christmas Day

 

The timing was a bit inconvenient – most wreckers were closed for the holiday period, and New Years was just around the corner.  We picked up a second hand alternator from a wrecker and installed it. Unfortunately, one of the bolt holes was really worn and I couldn’t get any tension on the belts. So I got another one from the wreckers and put that in.

 

The weird thing was that it still didn’t seem to be charging enough. We decided to get an auto electrician to have a look but we had to wait until about a week into 2013 before one was open. He had a look and promptly told me the alternator was dead. He sold me a brand new one and I installed it before I drove away. Unfortunately, the dying alternator took one of our batteries to the grave with it, so we had to replace that too. We returned the second dodgy alternator to the wreckers (with a full refund) and the Troopy is now running smoothly again.

 

Punctured Tyres

On our way to Arkaroola, we copped two punctures.  One on the dirt road between Flinders Ranges National Park and Balcanoona, and the other was while we were driving to our campsite in the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.  We decided that we didn’t want to camp there so we drove back to Balcanoona and realised that we had another puncture.

 

Our first puncture...

 

On both occasions, we worked as a team to change the tyre and managed to have the job done in under 30 minutes.  This included taking the high-lift jack off the roof from under the TREDs, digging out the cross brace from its storage place and removing the spare tyre from either the back door or roof racks.

 

Unfortunately, after the two punctures, we had no spare tyres left so we decided to turn back rather than take on the rougher terrain of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.

 

Once we got to Parachilna Gorge, I pulled out the tyre repair kit that we got from BushJunkie.com.au and worked on fixing the puncture.  One tyre worked perfectly, but the other was beyond repair.

 

 

4WDing

We took the Troopy 4WDing (fully loaded) around the tracks at Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park and learnt a few more things about our truck:

  • It’s rear clearance could be a little higher because there was plenty of bum scrape on the 150 Bumps track.
  • The degree of sideways tilt was underestimated – it has room to tilt a little more than expected.
  • When 4WDing, all books must be removed from the overhead parcel shelf prior to commencement.
  • Juz can drive the Troopy over a sandhill!  She got in heaps of 4WDing experience at Loveday and loved every minute of it.

 

 

 

 

Beach 4WDING

While travelling with our new friends Tom and Bella, we decided to drive along the beach from Parry Beach to Green’s Pool. The sand was initially nice and firm but then it got real soft real quick! Tom and Bella were leading the way and soon their Hilux was stuck past its axles. While they did some digging, I wound out our winch (thanks BushJunkie.com.au!) for its maiden use and hooked it up. We pulled the Hilux back on to firmer sand and they took a different line that was a bit easier. We started following them but managed to get the Troopy stuck too! Meanwhile, Tom and Bella got stuck again about 100m ahead!

 

STUCK!

 

We all let our tyres down nice and low and started digging. Juz drove the Troopy out (with ease!) and got close enough to the Hilux to reach them with the winch cable. The Hilux was on a fair bit of an angle and the tide was starting to get pretty close, but we got it out without too much trouble.

 

At this point, we decided it was probably best to turn back. We made our way back to the bitumen to respool the winch and pump up our tyres. Our compressor from BushJunkie.com.au was super-fast – it filled all four of our tyres in the time it took Tom to pump up one of his tyres!

 

 

Getting stuck in the sand was a great learning experience.  We got to use the winch for the first time and truly appreciate the power of our compressor.

 

 

New Additions

We have a new piece of equipment onboard – courtesy of Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park and TRED 4×4!  A set of TRED (Total Recovery & Extraction Device) 1100s.  Looking forward to our next precarious mud puddle.

 

In the meantime, I’ve found the perfect place to store the TRED1100s.  They’re mounted on an angle in front of our roof rack box.  Not only are they safely and securely stored, they’re also acting as a wind deflector.  We felt a significant decrease in the amount of drag straight away. We’re very happy about that because less drag = less fuel 🙂

 

Troopy on the beach!

 

We picked up a couple of cheap push-bikes while in Port Elliot – a little blue mountain bike and a Harley-esque black low rider with flame decals. When we were leaving the Port Elliot Beach House YHA, we decided to donate the low rider to the hostel instead of lugging it along with us. Ben at YHA was absolutely wrapped!  We still have our little blue bike strapped on the roof and it comes in quite handy sometimes riding to and from toilet blocks while camping.

 

Sweet ride...

 

 

Renovations

We’re getting really fast at setting up and packing up camp and the inside of the truck’s neatness is surprisingly maintainable. We have makeshift hooks to keep bags from rolling about in the Troopy and ocky straps to keep everything secure and out of the way!

 

Our pocketed curtains are working perfectly (thanks again mum!) and the additional storage space they provide is being well utilised with shoes, plastic bags and bedside table accessories. Our improvised magnetic fly-screens on the side windows are working so well that I might have to copyright my design!

 



GO TROOPY!