We did a trip to Lightning Ridge in NSW around the end of summer and this was another interesting one. A lot has happened since that trip, some of it inspired by it and I will tell that story on this page as soon as I get the time.

OK, here’s the story, fitted the new auxillary radiator (custom made) to VP before this trip back in March but Davies Craig did not deliver my 16″ thermatics in time so grabbed a couple off Ebay and attached directly to the face of the radiator with the ties provided, make a shroud with the DC ones when we get back, worked fine, headed up the Toowoomba range, 1 in 10 grade, bugger me that’s steep, up against the governor in 2 nd gear, temp climbed about 15 degrees from the 80 we normally run at, till we hit the top of the range, then dropped back down in about 200 metres so all good.

Stayed at an MSO (members stop over) at Kingsthorpe near Toowoomba that night, lovely people some nice wine and conversation. Went to load up the Suzy in the morning and managed to burn out the motor for the rear door of the trailer, too heavy to lift by myself, so jump in the car and head back home where I had a spare motor. Came back and fitted it up but was too late to head out so stayed another night.

Next morning we headed out through Dalby to St George which is a cotton town not far from the NSW border, decided to stay in a caravan park as the nearest free camp was out beside the river and from the look of it the locals did a lot of their drinking and sexing out there. When we pulled in to pay the owner informed us it was 43 deg C ! Once we pulled into the site I hit the buttons to put air on the system that operates the bin door locks and promptly blew a hose that had been carelessly run close to the alternator which of course was quite hot, as was the whole engine bay. Looked all around St George and finally found a guy that stocked a bit of nylon air line and joiners, so that repair was done and dusted.

Next morning we headed over the border to Lightning Ridge and this was an uneventful run, apart from dodging a few emus and roos that were all over the place, looking in pretty poor condition. The roads are ok but you need to be careful of the dips they put in at strategic places for water crossings, the road trains hit them and come down creating a low spot, up again, another low spot and so on with diminishing depth the further you get from the crossing. I found that the best way to handle them was to cross to the other side of the road if nothing was around, made for a much smoother exit. It is no fun to be in a 17 tonne vehicle with 4 tonnes of trailer on the back being tossed around like a cork. Indeed, when we got back home we could see cracks starting in the welds holding the coupling mount plate to the drawbar. Scary stuff.

Pulled into a pretty good caravan park at LR and as I went in to pay I noticed coolant dripping from the rear. Paid and got onto our site as soon as possible, next morning pulled the aux radiator and found that the plastic cage, in the heat, had “relaxed” a little and allowed the boss of the fan to just touch the fins, putting a slight hole in several of them. In between various trips to the opal attractions around town I managed to find the local radiator repairer who used a special epoxy to repair the holes so we were good to go again. Spent about 5 nights in LR, it is an interesting place, surrounded by holes in the ground and mullock heaps. Some crazy weird people live there too.

Headed back to StGeorge, didn’t go to Nindigully Pub this trip as I wanted to get home and do a proper repair. As we pulled into StGeorge we decided to fuel up so pulled into the main servo and did that, went in and paid, jumped into the drivers set, turned the key, nothing. This was the main truck filling area so were a few angry looks from truckies who had to drag the fuel hose to the other side of their rig. Found that if I jiggled the key in a certain way it would at least attempt to start by trying to turn but not enough to start, so I put my hand up under the dash and the back of the ignition switch fell off into my hand ! Ripped the wires off it and put together, started straight away ! By now was late afternoon so back to the caravan park, head for home in the morning.

Took a short cut near where we stayed the first couple of nights intending to head down the Hampton/Esk road. This is part gravel and we must have got a rock in one of the trailer tyres, but had no idea till someone stopped us at an intersection, no way to change it there so headed out slowly till we got to Carbala where we could get half off the road and change it. This while I was carrying a Davies Craig Tyre Monitoring system in VP, but had not fitted it (have now, works great)

Thought maybe stay at the free Hampton RV camp, but missed the turning for that so headed down towards Esk. Not far out of Hampton is an overnight camp that has fantastic views over the whole valley so we pulled off there for a while and considered staying. While the view is great the ground is not very level so while we were deciding we watched a huge storm moving down the valley, an awesome sight, got a little bit of the edge of it, no big deal. Decided to head for home only a couple of hours away so started down the 6 Km of steep winding road. As soon as we committed the bloody storm veered sideways and was right on top of us. Hard to see it was raining so hard, there were large stones over the road, they were being washed off the cliffs beside us and coming down so fast they were bouncing over the retaining walls put there to catch them, had a chance to pull over during a lull and let a few cars behind us go, then back into it. Once we got near the bottom there was a different hazard, there were a lot of trees across the road, mostly small stuff so not too much drama. Then a car caught up with us, and I tried to shake him and gave him the blinker to pass but he just wouldn’t do it, he was sitting right on the trailer door. Out of nowhere, just coming out of a corner there was a much bigger tree across the road, brake a bit then go for it, better to hit it under power. VP crossed it, don’t know if we moved it or not, there were a few thumps, but the car lights behind us went all over the place.

Rain slackened off a bit so we continued into Esk where there was a heap of water in the main street so pulled up for a rest. This bloody idiot who had been following us got out of his car in the pouring rain and thumped on the side of VP demanding the know why I hadn’t told him about the tree !!!!! WTF !!!! So we started up and drove the rest of the way home, came out of the storm eventually and when we got home, it was “storm, what storm ?”

There endeth another trip from hell, was enjoyable apart from the mishaps, next on to Cairns soon then across to WA

UPDATE: We have added another Kilowatt of solar to the trailer, this makes 3 Kw on VP and now have the ability to run all the thermatics and the front aircon from solar alone while still charging the Lithiums and making hot water.