We’re Just About Ready

19 04 2009

The car is ready.  Spotlights installed and adjusted to actually be somewhat useful. Cargo barrier installed and moved into ‘fully bombed up’ position. Roof racks installed and loaded with probably more weight than recommeded but hey, what are roof racks for? UHF radio fitted and tested on Brisbane VHQ07 – an interesting chanel – listen live at www.vhq07.com if you dare.

Dual battery fitted (don’t ask Dodge about the ‘quick install’ job the salesman suggested as an excuse for the fact that they no longer performed custom installation for such units. 3 days and several ‘choice’ words later, the neighbours had moved out, the galah had learnt to swear and the temporary job was done… It’d get us through our little jaunt, but neither of us are looking forward to the ‘proper install’ job that we’ll need to do when we get home)

Rear springs adjusted. Not replaced, adjusted. Thanks to the blacksmiths at Mayne Springs in Albion, we were saved from purchasing new springs and suspension – they simply reworked the existing springs then added a new leaf to them. Dodge was impressed – his male ego had been suitably enhanced as his chariott now stood like a bucking bronco at the back end. To show his gratitiude, he’s arranged an afternoon of blacksmithing with them in their workshop. The rules are simple – if he brings the beers, he gets to have a go.

The only thing we haven’t upgraded is the nudge bar. The current nudge bar is designed primarily to protect against the most ferocious of all urban 4WD predators: the shopping trolley. In other words, it’s not really designed for repelling a kangaroo at high velocity unless you hit it directly in the centre of the vehicle.

Due to budget contraints, our OH&S strategy is to line any potential road kill up with the centre of the car. Fingers crossed that we won’t have to.

Departure day: O Dark Hundred tomorrow morning.

Women Can’t Read Road Maps

18 04 2009

Or can they? Two days before departure and Dodge & Tan finally made the time to double check that the GPS still worked (nothing like leaving it to the last minute!). Dodge, not trusting Tan’s non-Scout and non-Army background, also decided that it might be a good idea to check Tan’s navigational skills so that he could commence preparations to find a new travelling companion to sit in the navigator’s seat should Tan’s skills not be up to par.

Dodge rattled off one GPS reading after another as Tan used the 1:1 250 000 series of maps to pin point the corresponding landmarks. Not willing to relinquish her seat in the car, Tan performance was exceptional (being the perfectionist that she is, nothing under 100% was acceptable). At first, Tan found it fun, but after something like 4000 activities, the novelty began to wear off…

Eventually, Dodge decided that Tan could (a) could pinpoint a GPS reading on a map, and (b) could determine a GPS reading from a map. Whether this was because he was thoroughly satisfied with Tan’s abilities, or whether he just decided that she had the skills required in order to stop the dagger-like stare that Tan kept throwing in his direction, she will never know.

Dodge then turned to the 1:250 000 series of maps to check Tan’s ability to read grid references. Once again, Dodge asked Tan to calculate the grid references for around 5 million different landmarks, which she performed with 100% accuracy despite the frequent eye-rolling and deep sighs that now accompanied the harrowing dagger-like stares she continued to throw in Dodge’s direction.

Once again satisfied at Tan’s performance (Tan was now sure that he was only ceasing his never-ending tirade of questions not because she had proved to be reliable in navigation, but more to preserve the peace – sitting side-by-side for the 4500+ km journey across the state would otherwise not be a very enjoyable experience), Dodge then asked “Do you know how to plot a course using a compass from a grid reference?”

“Yes.” Tania curtly responded, hoping that her short response would signify that this conversation should not continue past this point.

“How?” Dodge tested, not picking up on the subtle vocal tones of Tan’s response.

“Simple. I give the map and the compass to you” she stated. Tan didn’t see the relevance of the question at all considering that we didn’t own a compass from which to take a reading and therefore the whole conversation was rather redundant.

Apparently this answer was not sufficient enough for Dodge as he launched himself into a rather long explanation of how to do it. Tan tuned out and diverted her attention towards the length of her toe nails. Dodge finished up and asked Tan to prove that she’d understood his explanation by getting her to paraphrase the process back to him. Dodge seemed a little disappointed when Tan said she hadn’t listened, so she sat there patiently as Dodge once again went through the process step by step.

Dodge, again, asked Tan to paraphrase. This time, Tan was ready and repeated his instructions back to him, exactly word for word.

“Well, there’s actually 3 norths. There’s true north, grid north and magnetic north. Now, we don’t give a sh1t about true north – it’s not important, so forget about it. So that leaves us with grid north and magnetic north.

“Now, the map will tell you the variation between grid north and magnetic north. So here, it says 6.6o. You see it also says that the variation changes by 0.1o in 10 years, so that’s negligible and we can forget about it.”

(Dodge seemed to be impressed with Tan’s ability to repeat all instructions, step by step and word for word, completely missing the hint of sarcasm hidden in Tan’s precise explanations)

“So now you know the variance, all you need to remember is GrandMa Sux and Machine Gun Ammo (which Tan thought sounded pretty reasonable if you didn’t like your Grandma, otherwise it was a bit dramatic). If you’re transferring a reading from grid to magnetic north, you subtract the variance (GMS). If you go transfer the reading from magnetic to grid north, you need to add the variance (MGA).

“Once you know where north is, you can begin to plot your course from the map to your compass. Align the bevel on the compass along the map grid and blah, blah blah.”

Dodge was not impressed. Tan suggested that if he was really worried about getting lost and felt that a GPS and sat phone weren’t enough to alert rescuers to our position, maybe he should hire an EPIRB rather than rely on Tan’s ability to prepare a course of travel using a non-existent compass.

Almost ready…

16 04 2009

Departure date: Monday 20 April 2009

Yep – in just 4 days. And we’ve finally agreed on a route – we’ve reversed our previous decision and are now back to going forwards. First destination – Augathella,  followed by Longreach, Bladensburg National Park, Lark Quarry Conservation Park, Diamantina National Park and then on to Birdsville.

Once in Birdsville, we’ll assess the flood and road conditions and then develop a route to get home – hopefully via QAA Line to Poeppel Corner, K1 Line to Warburton Track and then join the Birdsville Track for a return back to Birdsville. Then home via Cordillo Downs and Haddon Corner. That’s the plan and we’re keeping the fingers crossed in the faint hope we’ll be able to complete this circuit, but should the ‘fingers crossed’ manoeuvre not work, we have two other options up our sleeves…

Meanwhile, Dodge has got the vehicle ready – new spotlights, 2-way radio, roof rack, cargo barrier, dual battery, rear suspension and the good old service. Tan has never been so excited to get a vehicle service in all her life – in her experience, vehicle services are always expensive as regardless of how well the vehicle has been maintained, there is always an expensive part to be repaired or replaced. But after forking out $4500+ for the fitting of new accessories, the $259 service cost was quite a welcome surprise!

Tan has braved Woolworths and has started to stockpile the food – only a few more items to be added and it’s all done! So far, we’ll be surviving on two-minute noodles, instant pasta, tinned tuna, smoked oysters in BBQ sauce, rice crackers, rice & corn bread and BBQ Shapes. Hopefully she’ll add some fresh fruit and vegies and meat to the stockpile when Dodge decides what kind of roast he wants to cook in the camp oven.

13 Days and Counting

7 04 2009

Departure date: 13 days and counting.

You’d think we’d have an itinerary by now. But nope. Tan had an itinerary all worked out, but Dodge suggested it’d be better if we went the other way. And as much as Tan didn’t want to admit it, he was right and presented an extremely logical argument.

Tan went back to the drawing board to work out the itinerary in reverse direction. All worked well until Day 2 when she couldn’t find an appropriate camp spot for the night to make Haddon Corner fit. A simple solution – add in the Cordillo Downs route!

Up side – 1. Camp sites plentiful. 2. No major change in the number of kilometres this diversion would add (a welcome fact considering other diversions that have been suggested along the way). 3. The opportunity to see the world’s largest shearing shed!

Down side – with the exception that we would now bypass the wonderful town of Betoota (population 1*), there are no forseeable down sides.

Sounds like a plan! All was coming together. Progress through to Birdsville, out to Poeppel Corner, spend a few nights completing a circuit around the Simpson Desert, join the Birdsville Track about 200km south of Birdsville and continue our journey into the north-west of the state.

Fastforward to this morning and a quick check of the desert roads… Simpson Desert National Park closed until late April. Warburton Track closed until further notice. Bugger. All because of a cyclone in the Gulf of Carpenteria and subsequent flooding of Normanton. We’re really looking forward waking up tomorrow morning to find that the 4WD has miraculously converted itself overnight into an amphibious all-terrain vehicle…

There’s always hope. In the mean-time, let’s reverse the direction of travel back to the forwards option and watch this space.

*Reference: “Discovery Guide to Outback Queensland” published by Queensland Museum Publishing, 2003. Please note that in 2003, the sole soul residing in Betoota was 88 and would now be 94, so we are aware that this figure may or may not be accurate.

Tan Loses… (and departure is finalised)

16 03 2009

Departure date has been set for late April 2009 ,so keep your fingers crossed for fine weather between now and early May – otherwise you will find an extremely grumpy Tan and a depressed Dodge as their holiday plans are once again delayed due to flooding (unless in the unlikely event that their loaded up 4WD will transform into an amphibious craft and will happily float its way around Western Queensland).

Unfortunately, Dodge’s holiday plans need to fit in with his fellow staff members. This has meant that we have had to shorten our itinerary by a week by cutting out Cameron Corner and the detour home via Broken Hill. Dodge is a little disappointed that he won’t be able to complete the corner trifecta (Poepell, Haddon and Cameron Corner posts) while Tan is grumpy that she lost, once again. Tan hates to lose. Just ask her brother.

Closer and closer… (and Tania wins!)

9 03 2009

Yay! Flood waters are receeding and the roads are drying out! Departure date has been narrowed down to late April-Early May… As long as there are no more cyclones or tropical lows in the Gulf, we shall be on our way!

Despite being somewhat inconvenienced by the fact that most of the places we will be travelling through have either been underwater or otherwise  significantly threatened by swollen rivers, we have not been idle…

We have continued to examine our itinerary and have chosen to omit side trips to Cairns and Lawn Hill National Park (thank goodness!). Instead, we have added in a little excursion to Haddon Corner (only a touch over 100kms return, so definitely within the confines).

Dodge wants to make it a Corner Country experience and add in Cameron Corner while we’re at it – we’d therefore see all three Queensland state corner pegs in one go. Only thing is that Cameron Corner is a little further off our track – only a mere 913km diversion in a southerly direction through Innamincka and Tibooburra plus the trip home from Broken Hill.

In other words, Tan gets to go to Broken Hill just like she originally wanted…

Oh, and we’ve now got an Engel fridge/freezer… Tan didin’t remember seeing it on the shopping list, but Dodge reckons he got it for a bargain (and keeps reminding Tan not to forget the added value of the bonus pack!).  Being a more practical person, Tan just keeps thinking of the $1070 he could’ve saved by borrowing Tan’s parents’ one (not to mention how nice $1070 would’ve been for a new camera lens).  Now we just need to install the dual battery system in the car so we can use it…

Departure Date?

16 02 2009

When are we departing on this continually expanding journey? The short answer is we dunno. Which is good, considering that we haven’t decided whether we are travelling 4338 kms, 6213 kms, 7786 kms or somewhere in between (or not at all).

The long answer – when it stops raining in the Gulf of Carpenteria and when the Leichardt, Thompson, Diamantina and Georgina Rivers, Eyre Creek and all associated tributaries stop flooding.

It could be a while, but we’re hoping for April sometime.

Expert Consultation

12 02 2009

Like the draft of any great idea, feedback and consultation with an expert is considered essential for the idea to gain shape. Tan therefore approached a leading figure within the travel industry for comment. This person is involved with product/tour development with a large Australian holiday wholesaler (not her sister-in-law) and could potentially provide vital information that could be the catalyst to making this the best Outback Queensland trip ever! (ok, maybe a bit melodramatic, but apart from loathing red dirt, heat and small outback pubs, she is the Queen of Rural Queensland!) This person has expressed a desire to remain nameless, so we shall call her ‘Princess’ because she is one.

Princess was extremely helpful. Not. She suggested that because we were already ‘in the area’,  we may as well add Lawn Hill National Park to the intinerary while we’re there.

Great. That’s only an additional 1573 km.

Trip distance is now 7786 kms plus sightseeing. Excellent. Tan is now ‘borrowing’ a risk management plan for deep vein thrombosis from QANTAS…

First Revision

9 02 2009

Once again we found ourselves on the back deck, watching the sun go down with a cool (alcoholic) beverage in hand, discussing our plan. Dodge liked the plan thus far – Tan was relieved. Then he dropped the bombshell.

“How far is it from Birdsville to Cairns?” He asked.

(At this point, Tan is looking at him with incredulous disbelief, checks how many beverages he has had and ensures that he knows exactly where Birdsville is on the map. She assumes (maybe falsely) that he knows where Cairns is only because he used to live there.)

Dodge, not happy with Tan’s succinct answer of “too far,” sets her to work.

The answer? Only an extra 1875 kms for the return journey from Birdsville to Brisbane via Cairns, equating to a total round trip of 6213 kms plus sightseeing (at which point, Tan’s eyes start watering at the prospect of developing deep vein thrombosis from sitting in the car for that long).

Yay. Let’s hope that plan gets shelved.

The Itinerary – First Draft

8 02 2009

Not happy at having lost the choice of destination, Tan took over the planning of ‘the trip’ (or what she affectionately called ‘MessyChambo’s Great Outback Adventure – Part 1’).

The result – 14 days and 4338 kms through outback Queensland, part bitumen and part dirt (then we’re both happy) that encompassed Longreach, Winton, Boulia and Birdsville. And of course the intenrary was specifically tailored for Tan’s ultimate photographic experience (she who plans, wins!)