Sadly we are back in Adelaide, coping with mid-winter temperatures. It's been bucketing rain all day today, and we've had hail and dustings of snow! Most disturbing when we look back at all the lovely warm weather on our 8 weeks away!
We've been home a month now, but I've only just got around to posting up a YouTube video (see below for link) and getting some photos for the blog organised. 8 weeks went soooooo fast. I could easily have kept going for another 8 weeks.
The truck did a spectacular job. Everything worked. Nothing broke or fell off. Never got bogged. It was a really easy way to travel.
Everywhere we stopped however, we did seem to be the centre of attention. Apart from our obvious size, there was a huge fascination with our Air CTI system (Central Tyre Inflation). We did a lot of 'guided tours' around the truck and fielded lots of questions on how it all worked and of course "how much did it cost".
Corrugations were not a problem. A combination of huge tyres and air suspension I suspect. With lowered tyre pressures (down from 65PSI road pressure to 50PSI dirt pressure) it would glide over even the worst corrugations. Having said that, it did NOT like deep washouts. But then again, neither does my Defender or Discovery. 9.5 tonnes is not keen on dropping down into a half metre deep hole as there is a lot of weight being pushed around. We had the contents of the overhead lockers in the cab go flying on a couple of occasions, and I believe that Becky managed to briefly get all 4 wheels in the air at one point!
Once we got north of Coober Pedy, we lived in shorts and bathers. Might as well have been in a different country. We did a slow loop around to Alice Springs via The Rock and then went diagonally across to Broome on the Tanami Track. We picked up two friends from Adelaide in Broome and they came across the Gibb River Road with us, and flew out of Kununurra.
Highlight of the trip was probably Cape Leveque, north of Broome. We stayed at Middle Lagoon, and it was beyond relaxing. Basic facilities but superb outlook from our campsite.
It was only a quick 30 second stroll down to the beach shelter from our camp. Sure was hard to take! Managed to catch a few fish from the beach - there is a bloke who'll take you out on his tinny if you want to get more/bigger fish but on the day we had scheduled for our trip, it got cancelled unfortunately.
We were up there in April, and water crossings were not a problem. Quite a few rivers still with water in them, but nothing more than 400 or 500mm deep. The only muddy roads we struck were in our last few days, on the Oodnadatta Track near Marree. The roads had been closed the week prior from rain and there was still some residual puddles here and there.
In our last couple of weeks travelling (start of June) there was a huge increase in the number of other travellers on the road. All the Grey Nomads from down south were heading north, and they filled up the free camps and caravan parks. It must be hell in the middle of the high season. We were much happier when facilities weren't so crowded.
So overall, the first big trip went very smoothly and I did not want to stop travelling. We were already planning the next truck trip as we arrived home. The best things about it were:
- Freedom to stop just about anywhere. We loved free camping and had many magnificent sites along the way.
- High speed setup/packup. Literally just 5 minutes to level up, get the steps out and pop up the outdoor chairs.
- Comfort over corrugations.
- Not being in a hurry. It was good to stop longer at places we liked, like Longreach Waterhole.
- Travelling on the bitumen at 100Km/h is easy, but we generally travelled at 90Km/h because we weren't in a hurry and the fuel consumption is better. On dirt roads we generally did 80Km/h - that was enough for us.
- Being up high.
- Being able to take a hot shower before you hop into bed, and not having to worry very much about water usage. We got around 10 days between fills.
- Only once did we have an issue with a low overhanging branch on a small track that threatened to wipe off the air-conditioner. I had a small hand saw and just lopped it off. Even the tight access roads on El Questro into Zebedee Springs and so on weren't a problem. I thought that being 3.7 metres high was going to be a real problem, but it wasn't.
- Everyone wanted to check out the truck, so we met heaps of people very easily
- No punctures
The dud bits were:
- Hmmm - really, there weren't any that I can think of. Nothing serious anyway.
- Oh, some idiot went past us at 110Km/h on the William Creek road, and threw up a stone which cracked our front windscreen.
- If I had to complain about anything about life on the road, it would only be about other inconsiderate campers. People who wanted to camp 10 metres away from us when there were acres of free space. There's some weird 'clustering' psychology that I don't get. I want to be as far away from other campers as possible.
- Also, old men who insist on starting their cars half an hour before they pull out, so the engine warms up. What is that about?
- Maybe I could complain a fraction about the cost of diesel, which at 24L/100 made up the highest expense of being on the road, but I spoke to a lot of blokes who are towing a van and getting worse than that. We used 2,650 Litres. The cost was about $500 per week.
We took dozens of photos and a few videos which I've put into a YouTube clip. It was easier than trying to post them on the blog. Click below to watch.