… and then suddenly…

So Brandon was driving along the other day coming back from helping a mate, as you do. When suddenly he hears a metallic clunking noise coming from the engine and the oil pressure gauge flat-lined. He and the car limped home that day but there was a look of dread and fear on Brandon’s face when he talked to me about the various things that could be causing the problem. We booked the Cruiser in to visit our trusty mechanic, Cameron, and crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. I was determined to believe that it was fixable – after all, Brandon was able to drive the car to the mechanic, so how bad can it be? Surely you can’t be driving along one minute and the next minute your engine is close to blowing up?

Turns out, yes. Yes, that can happen.

After an anxious wait, Cameron delivered the worst news possible today. When Brandon described the news on Facebook, his comment was “[The] bottom end [of the engine is] about to get blown out the side of the block”. I don’t speak Engine language so I can’t really interpret that for you but from what I have been able to piece together, there’s some important stuff in the lower sections of Brandon’s engine, possibly the words ‘big end’ and ‘crank’ may have been thrown around, but I could just be pulling those terms out my butt… anyway, lots of important parts that do important things now aren’t working and if we keep driving the car the engine will most likely fly out of the car, and Brandon will be left resembling Fred Flintstone (or perhaps he’s more Barney Rubble?).

This. Cannot. Be. Happening. As Charlotte said on the way home today, “Today is a very bad day. I wish it was a dream”. [She was talking about not being allowed to play in the playground at after school care for a suitable length of time, but I think the same really applies to our situation, don’t you?]

Of all the crappy, #firstworldproblem things to have happen to us, just after we spent so much time and money fixing up this car (note the royal use of the word ‘we’ here)… devastated is an understatement.

So, where does this leave us?

Well, you can’t keep a good Cruiser down, that’s for sure. Can’t keep a good Hazelwood down either. The Hazelwood problem-solving team whipped themselves into action and Brandon spent a good part of today on the phones and online looking for a replacement engine and doing homework about costs for replacement versus buying a new (second hand) car etc. Meanwhile, I jumped in the car and went and met with our faithful loan officer who helped us come up with a plan to pay for whatever outcome we decided on. This was no longer a matter of ‘do we cancel’ – this was beyond that. This was now ‘we need to get Brandon’s car on the road again’, regardless of whether we go on the trip or not. It is just adding insult to injury that we have a brand new camper in our garage that we can’t actually tow anywhere at the moment. While I love my Rav, she’s not up to that task and never will be.

End result? I’ll let Brandon tell you…

We have certainly had more than one person say to us today “Thank god you weren’t in the middle of your trip when this happened” (very true) and then there’s been the odd “Will you cancel the trip?” At this point, the trip is still on. We are waiting for the bank to give us the go-ahead and obviously that really dictates everything at this point. But assuming they do say yes, we are beginning to see the silver lining. The engine we are hoping to put in the car is better and more fuel efficient. So while we certainly didn’t want this to happen, there will be savings to be made when we’re actually out on the road. Yes, we will have more debt than we wanted but we have already identified where we can trim some fat and I think, fingers crossed, we’ll get through OK. Well, obviously we will – we have so much to be thankful and grateful for. But in the short term, we have to be a little more unsettled than we might like.

Stay tuned for updates when we get them…



Decisions, decisions…

This past weekend, Brandon and I sat down and started to do some route planning. We don’t have a lot of time for this trip and we want to make sure we don’t end up driving through the night just to make a certain destination by a certain time. We will also have to book our Spirit of Tasmania crossing early so we needed to get an idea of where we’ll be along the way.

We sat down with the hard copy HEMA maps, the e-version of the same maps, Wikicamps, Google and a number of other resources. It was a slow and arduous process and unfortunately, the end result is that I’m more depressed than excited 😦

Australia is a big country, did you know? Wikipedia suggests Highway 1, which circumnavigates mainland Australia, is 14,500km long. Add another 2000 for circumnavigating Tasmania in full, plus another 3500 for the interesting detours or bypasses we may need to do. We have 4 months, say 120 days, which is an average of about 170km per day. Doesn’t seem like much, eh? But don’t forget to take into account the fact that in some places, like Cape York, it might take us 5 hours to travel 50km. The first month of our trip is just going to be spent getting from Brisbane to The Tip of Cape York and part way back down again. And at the end of Every Single Day we have a camp to set up.

So on the first pass of our plan, to get through everything we want to do we will need to spend only 1 night in most places, travel for 6-7 hours each day and have little opportunity for adventure or spontaneous sidetracks. Our trip will be mostly about driving, not about seeing. Really? Is that how we want to spend our precious long service leave? We soon realised a trip like that would end up causing more stress than it relieved and I’d be glad to be home! Scratch that. Take 2. We are going to need to cut some stuff out.

Pretty much the only thing I really wanted to do with this trip was see Uluru. But that was posing a problem for us. It’s location smack bang in the centre of the country meant it was going to be a bit of a detour to get to, taking up precious time in a limited budget of days. Finally I realised I had to give up my dream of seeing Uluru on this trip and instead we’ll make a run out there another time during school holidays. Similarly, Brandon really wanted to do the Gibb River Road across the top of the Kimberley in WA. This iconic 600-odd kilometre stretch of 4WD track is a must-do for most ‘big lappers’ but the unpredictable road conditions and necessary slowed pace add days on to our time budget that we simply can’t spare. So out that goes as well. The new plan is more forgiving and allows for timeouts and spontaneous side trips. It’s still not ideal, as it’s really very difficult to see everything in four months but it is better than the rushed first attempt.
The (rough) plan so far is:

  • Leave home on 19 July, heading north. Stop in Cairns for a few days to see family and friends.
  • Take a month to ‘do’ the Cape, arriving in Normanton in the Gulf around 17 August.
  • At this point we head west and make our way to Katherine Gorge.
  • From there we go to Lake Argyle, The Bungle Bungles and Wolfe Creek crater (no, I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I plan to see it. Ever. Period. End of story.)
  • Now we head to coastal WA, visiting friends in Port Hedland and seeing Monkey Mia
  • We continue south, by now it’s mid-September, and we’re heading for Albany and the Stirling Ranges to see the spring wildflowers.
  • We begin to head east across the Nullarbor, making our way through SA and western Victoria, ready to board the Spirit of Tasmania on 21 September.
  • We start our Tassie trek in the north-west, visiting Queenstown, Strahan, and the Franklin River region.
  • (At this point we might head south to Hobart and the south west – not sure yet!)
  • Next it’s over to the east coast to meet up with friends for a communal camp at the Bay of Fires before heading to Devonport and boarding the Spirit again on 7 October.
  • By now our trip will be coming to an end as we make our way north, stopping at the Dubbo Zoo and The Dish (now that’s a movie I HAVE seen and would gladly see again.)
  • Finally, we crawl back home around 19 October, ready to go back to work on 23 October!

Phew – I’m tired just thinking about it!

But here is my question to you… what places would be on your Must Do list if you were planning your own big lap? What spots or places of interest should we make sure to see? It’s possible they are already on our list but we’re keen to hear from others so we don’t miss something impressive 🙂

Ok – back to the planning… *sigh*