Running Repairs

It’s been a while since we have been out and about. After our last big trip to Western Australia we came home and bought a house. After 5 years of renting and with some bad neighbours we decided it was time. So we bought ¾ of an acre which is surrounded by larger acreage, ahh it is bliss. No loud heavy metal band noises coming from the neighbours, no screaming and yelling, no lack of privacy, it is so very peaceful here. The house is over 22 years old with still the originally kitchen so our first priority was putting in a new kitchen, which of course involves a lot more than it sounds especially since we did it all ourselves. But what all this has meant is we have been very busy and not able to get out onto the road, exploring Australia. With the reno all but done we are finally getting to go on a few trips this year and we are hanging out. First one is just before Easter for a 10 day break.

We also have another addition to our family and her name is Jess a Yellow Labrador and she is beautiful, currently 10 mths old. We could not ask for a better natured dog. It has meant we had to do a few alternations to the back of the Ute to fit Jess is. Our only issue with Jess is she gets car sick. So it could be fun.

Fetch

If you recall on our last trip we had a few repairs, we lost a tyre on the Tanami. Chris was able to fix it on our trip but it did leave us with no hand brake and other brake issues so it left us with a few repairs to do. Chris fixed the brakes issues as soon as we got home. We didn’t realise until we got home that somewhere along the way over the very rough roads we did a shock absorber on the trailer, with some upcoming trips, Chris finally got around to fixing it.

Not-Good

The time has come. I’ve known I needed to change the shock absorbers for a while so with a couple of trips coming up, it’s time to get this job out of the way. Why? Firstly, noises, squeaks when driving slowly into a camp site or manoeuvring at home. It could have been other suspension components but there isn’t a lot that can make noise. Secondly, further investigation showed oil leaks from the LHS damper. It’s hard to confirm their failure on the camper as manual pushing down on the body and releasing didn’t show any problem but it is heavy and hard to check like that. The sure way was to remove them.

So I jump underneath in the shed and take the leaky one off. It’s fairly easy and only takes 10 minutes but in my case the shed is so full that I had to crawl through from the draw bar end. With the first one off I could verify the problem, it was soaked in dirt covered oil. The only place this oil could come from was inside the shock. To check it I used a half inch extension bar through one end eye and held that to the ground with my feet. Another extension bar through the other eye then push and pull on the shock. It moved about 20mm either way without resistance before starting its damping action – not good. So I pulled the other one off as they should be changed in pairs. It turns out it wasn’t much better but it didn’t show the oil leak. Another possible sign of wear was that they didn’t extend to their maximum length slowly by themselves. I say possibly because I’m not sure if that is the expected action from these foam core shocks.

Old Shock

The old shock absorber

Now it’s time to get replacements. These original ones are Pedders Trakryder foam cell shocks, part number 9529. Looking them up on-line – $200 each – ouch. I wasn’t too impressed with their short life span either, only about 30 to 35 thousand km, so I thought it might be time to try something different. The question is what something different? You can’t exactly look up Aussie Swag on the shock absorber manufacturer’s website. Looking again at Pedders part number 9529, it lists vehicles such as Chev Silverado, Mitsubishi Canter, Toyota Coaster Bus, Toyota Dyna and Toyota Landcruiser 40 series, all heavy off road or commercial vehicles (sounds about right). I chose to pick one, a Toyota 40 series FJ front and look up its part number. I found a pair of new Gabriel nitrogen gas shocks part number 745431 on eBay for about $90 delivered that sounded OK. They had the same closed and open length (extended length 456mm closed length 307mm) and other specs seemed good. They aren’t foam core but our tow ute uses OME (Old Man Emu) Nitrocharger sports that have done much better than the Pedders’ so that sounded OK at less than a quarter of the price of the originals. OME Nitrocharger sports to fit the 40 series front are about $170 each so I didn’t go that way. My on-line investigations also seemed to suggest that Pedders 4WD shocks are manufactured by Gabriel.

New Shock

The Gabriels turned up quickly they were new so in good condition in their original boxes. A side by side comparison showed the lengths to be correct. The similarities (other than colour) were remarkable. Looks like the same factory. Even the stamped symbols are the same. Compare the “TOP” symbol in the photos for example.

Side by Side

Side by side comparison

I did re-use the Pedders’ stone covers. When I took them off the old shocks, there was lots of red dirt compacted around the shaft, along with oil on one of them. I see they are more for avoiding stone damage than for keeping dust out. The old ones were in good condition after a wash with CT18 and leaf blower dry (sounds like they had a day at the spa). I added a couple of heavy cable ties to the bottom of the stone covers to try to stop them creeping down and separating at the top as the old ones had.

Dirt from Stone Cover

New Shocks Ready

Ready to install

I thought re-fitting them would be simple but getting the new bushes inside the eyes on the camper wasn’t simple. I had to fight them on using a couple of screwdrivers as levers being careful not to damage the rubber bushes. Fitted the bolt and nuts (new nylock should be used) without over-tightening so as not to squeeze the mounting lugs on the chassis together at all. The bottom mount was probably harder because the shock had to be compressed to get it into place. This isn’t as easy when you’re on your back on a trolley that wants to roll around. Same issue with getting the bush to fit but less ability to wiggle the shock now. Anyway, they are now on and ready for a test tow next weekend.

All Done

In thinking about the life span of the old shocks, I may have been a bit tough. While they may have only made 30 to 35 thousand km, it was across some of the toughest roads in the country. This included the Birdsville Track, Oodnadatta Track, Dalhousie Springs, Finke Road (including the desert race track), the  South and North Telegraph Track, Weipa Road, Peninsular Development Road, Virillia Beach, Old Coach Road, Lakefield National Park, Bloomfield Track, Gulf through Hells Gate (twice), Plenty Highway, Tanami Track, Gibb River Road, Mitchell Falls Road and much more. Should they have lasted longer? I don’t know but I’m trying something cheaper now. If we get a quarter of the life out of the Gabriel’s then we are still ahead. The OME’s on the ute have done all of that and a lot more and still seem to be in perfect condition.

Rocky River

This year we broke our rule about not going away at Easter as we find most places to be pretty busy and packed. But with the week before Easter off it made it a 10 day break so we decided we would chance it. We were also staying put, no touring this time.

Camping spot

Our destination was Lederville Rocky River Retreat which is 26km from Drake NSW. Drake is situation on the Bruxner HWY between Tenterfield and Casino in NSW. Tenterfield is 44km East of Drake. Our turnoff was just outside of Drake along Long Gully Road. It’s 26km to Lederville Rocky River Retreat from the turnoff, the first 8km is sealed the rest is a dirt/gravel road which is pretty windy, has some wash outs and creek crossings, it’s slow going but a nice drive. In dry weather a standard car can access the property.

Ed and Zoe are the owners of Lederville Rocky River Retreat and they generously allow people to camp in an area that is approximately 2km stretch along the river. The fee is a carton of Corona Extra Beer regardless of how long you are staying, Yep, pretty incredible. We have friends that were staying for a month and it was still carton of Corona Extra Beer. For groups I think they charged $5 per person per night. No need to stop at the farmhouse, Ed and Zoe will come down and see you sometime. Ed also provides free firewood; there are no facilities so you have to have your own toilet. Lederville Rocky River Retreat can also be found in Wiki Camps.

Firewood

There is plenty of room to spread out with several access points to the river. We were told this was the lowest the river had been in several years. You do share the camping area with some of Ed’s and Zoe’s friendly horses who like to come and say hello and at times, try and nibble on tents, hats, clothes, solar panels, chairs etc., inquisitive bunch. At times they were too friendly and we had to gently shoo them off. As well as running horses and cattle they also grow organic garlic.

Friendly-Horses Horses

Camping Areas Camping spot 2

Our friends had arrived earlier than us and had grabbed a spot with a great view of the river and easy access. There are several really great camping areas it’s hard to pick a favourite.

Our-area

Our-camping-spot

Camping-by-the-river

The first few days were peaceful and restful which suited us just fine as we really just needed to chill out, relax and read a few books. It’s unusual for us to stay in one spot for so long but we have been very busy we really just needed that break.

There are also goannas around. We had several in our area and one kept trying to get the rubbish from our friends family’s camp.

Goannna

Up to and including Easter more people started to arrive, we had heard they had 300 people there the year before. We were a little worried but the area is so big it easily handles the numbers. We were fortunate there were 150-200 people this Easter. Things were a little noisier but we have had worst and no one was camped really close.

Boys-Camping-group

Harveys-Group

During the day it was pretty warm so we were thankful for the river, taking many a dip and going Kayaking up the river. We did also have a bit of rain.

Chilling-out

This was our first major trip with our dog Jess (10 ½ month old Labrador), she isn’t real keen on the car yet, but we did manage to get there and back without any major issues. It was the first time Jess had come across a large body of water and of course being a Labrador she loved the water. She had no issues of putting her whole head under the water if she saw something in there she wanted like a stick. She happily sat in the front of the Kayak watching the world; fish, birds, rocks etc. pass by.

Jess-on-the-riverDucking-Jess Me-and-my-reflection Water-dog-JessThere were several large groups, one has been going there for over 30 years and they have even made their own seat. This particular area is reserved for them at Easter and Christmas.

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Another group had a couple of Aussie Swags one of the owners we had just met on the Aussie Swag Facebook group so it was nice to meet in person.

AS-Group

Highly recommend this area, be mindful it is a working property. Trail bikes and the like are not recommended. Ed doesn’t take too kindly to people riding fast around the horses.

The river is great with many interesting rocky areas with little spas and pools to sit in.

River River-2

Natural-Spa

River-3

Kayaking-up-the-river

We left Easter Sunday to avoid the Easter rush back home and had a pretty good run. All in all we had a great time, we would certainly go there again but not over Easter. Think we will be sticking to our rule of not going camping at Easter.

Go West young man, Go West

That is the plan this trip, to head west of home for a few weeks, just following our nose, stopping at whatever takes our fancy. But our distance west won’t be any further than St George, QLD, due to time and a dog that is still not keen on car travel. Since we have travelled a lot further west on previous trips, St George doesn’t seem that far west these days. Once upon a time it seemed like a long way away.

Hooked-up

We headed off Friday after Chris finished work heading for Cooyar staying at our usual stop when heading this way Swinging Bridge. We stopped at Kilcoy for tea and to give Jess a break. Due to some very expensive motion sickness tablets she hasn’t been sick but was still anxious in the car.  She travelled better after Kilcoy and even settled down for a sleep.

Cooyar-Swinging-Bridge

There are quite a lot of vans here this time, the busiest we had seen it but still plenty of room to spread out. There are several new power boxes at $5 per night payable at the local pub.

Swinging-Bridge-3

Swinging-Bridge Swinging-Bridge-1

The old toilets have been removed with a new rural fire brigade building taking is place. Toilets can now be found at a new park across from the pub.

Cooyar-Hotel Cooyar-Loos Cooyar-Park Cooyar-swings

We are staying here a couple of nights, chilling out enjoying the peaceful surrounds, bird life and lovely deep blue sky.

Chilling-at-Swinging-Bridge

St George, Qld

Usually when we stay at Swinging Bridge it’s a one night stop and a quick early get away in the morning. This time it was nice to have a leisurely breakfast, let the canvas dry, go for a walk all before packing up. We had morning tea under the shade of the trees enjoying the tranquil setting before heading off.

We stopped at Moonie for lunch near the info and craft centre with the local post office next door. This is across the road from a big servo/ local hotel with descent fuel prices. There is heaps of parking for large rigs and trucks. In 1961 Moonie was the site of Australia’s first commercial oil field and still operates. It is also the home to monthly yabbie races.

Moonie-Crossroads Yabbie-Races

The road to St George is very bumpy. Last time we were in St George we were passing through and it was a few months after the 2012 floods. The temporary levy bank was still in town. The area had 3 floods in a row 2010, 2011 and 2012 all record breaking with 2012 being the worst.  It would have been a difficult and terrifyingly time for the locals and for people’s houses that were flooded.

3-Floods

We have stopped for a few nights below the weir on the Balonne River at St George. Not a bad spot, river is muddy and is a little stagnant but still has plenty of bird life. We found it very peaceful and stayed here 3 nights.

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Balonne-River-at-St-George-3

It is opposite houses though and the track is a little rough to get in but it is on the flood plain of the river. Sandy is spots, rocky in others and rutted in other parts where people have driven in the wet. In Wiki Camps it has some very mixed reviews.

Balonne-River-camping-Access Balonne-River-camping-Access-2

Some of the trees had some interesting roots, some of which were very high and Chris was able to stand under them.

Roots

Jess loved the water but not so good for people swimming, very brown and every arvo a slim drifted in only to clear the next day.

Jess-St-George Shake-it-out

There are 3 caravan parks within the St George Town area and one a little further out. From what we could see they all seem to have plenty of people staying. The town is busy with travellers coming and going. We spent the cost of several nights accommodation on various businesses around town. So by providing a camping area for free the town certainly didn’t miss out.

Origins-of-St-George

We found the town to be very friendly and well maintained. Riverside parkland has a great walkway that runs along the river to at least the town area. Plenty of tables and chairs, benches, bins, water taps and shade with some play equipment for the kids. Drinking water to fill up water tanks is available at the information centre; you just have to see them inside for a handle for the tap. They have completed stage 1 of a permanent solution to flood proof the town.

Stage-1 Levy

We had a fire several nights and had fun taking pictures at night of one of the trees near our campsite, experimenting lighting the tree up with torch light, then later when the moon came up and lit the area. First pic was lit by torch light, second was by moon light it just about turned day into night.

Torch-light-tree Moon-Light

Q – Balonne River at St George

Balonne River at St George – OR, M, W, F, D, ND. Camping is below the weir at St George, just over the Bridge. Access can be a little rough in places. Several areas to camp near the river or further up. Short pleasant walk into town. Drinking water to fill up water tanks is available at the information centre; you just have to see them inside for a handle for the tap. There is also a dump point into town ask at the info centre. We found St George to be a friendly town. Rating – 4.

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Nindigully Pub

45 km South East of St George is Nindigully Pub or “The Gully” as it’s locally known and easier to say, is pretty much these days 4 houses and a pub on a riverbank. The pub is perched on the banks of the Moonie River, established in 1864 it is the longest continually licensed pub in Queensland.

Nindigully-PubNindigully-Pub-Balonne-Shire

Apparently the meals are big here, we will see at tea time. They are famous for their burger “Road Train” a whopping 5kg burger big enough to feed 10 people.

Free camping is available just below the pub along the banks of the river. Plenty of trees but very dusty. There is a 500m historic river walkway called the “Gully Walk” along the banks with heaps of tables and chairs, fireplaces and bins. Toilets and showers are available for free behind the pub. Campers, vans and day trippers kept rolling in all day.

Nindigully-Pub-camping

Nindigully-WalkNindigully-pathNindigully-Pub-River-areaThe showers were pretty good. The light switch is up very high above the door which I, Kate could only just reach and I’m not short.

Nindigully-Pub-Exposed-Tools

Nindigully-Pub-Showers

The walls of the pub are dawned with lots of memorabilia, hats, photos and the like. There is a well set up dining room and an outside beer garden with table and chairs and play equipment and even a cubbie for the kids. There is also a phone box and a post box and even a dump point.

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A bit of history about the place, in its heyday Nindigully was home to a school, hall, accommodation house, post office, telephone exchange, mechanics, a vegetable garden on the banks of the Moonie River, a store and the pub which served as the Cobb and Co changeover station.

Nindigully-Walk-1

The pub has had many names over its 150+ year history. The first and current name was Nindigully Hotel, but it has also been known as The Grand Hotel, Travellers Rest Hotel, Sportsmans Arms Hotel and Sternes Hotel. Info as found in the St George and Surrounds Travels Guide. The movie Paperback Hero was filmed here.

Nindigully-Pub-Paperback-Hero

Our camp spot in the dust.

Nindigully-Pub-our-camp-area

Well the meal had a little bit to be desired. Large yes, in fact we shared a meal. They had unfortunately run out of spuds, so no chips which many including us were disappointed with but these things happen. So we had veggies that were very holy as they had the hell boiled out of them. We had barra, steak was on special and looked good and many said it tasted good. Truckies use the place as a stopover for the night, grab a meal, a beer and have free showers. There were 5 roads trains pulled in up near the pub.

It was a very interesting place to visit, it was really really dusty, mostly due to the many many campers that stop here.

Nindigully-Pub-dusty

Q – Nindigully Pub

Nindigully Pub – OR, M, W, F, D, ND, S, T, B, BR, DP. 45 km South East of St George is Nindigully Pub or “The Gully” as it’s locally known. This is a large area next to the Moonie River, sites next to the river go quick but they are the dustiest ones. Towards the back isn’t as dusty. Lots of trees, free toilets and showers up behind the pub and toilets and a dump point at the back of the camping area. Fireplaces, table and chairs next to the river, there is also a paved pathway called “Gully Walk” that follows the river with information signs along the way.

Meals can be purchased up at the pub, they are very large meals. There is also a phone box and mail box near the pub. The walls of the pub are dawned with lots of memorabilia, hats, photos and the like. There is a well set up dining room and an outside beer garden with table and chairs and play equipment and even a cubbie for the kids.

The pub and camping area really provide everything a camper would need. More information can be found in our post about the area. The only downside is it is very dusty, due to that we found it hard to rate and most likely people wouldn’t agree with us so we will let you make up your own mind.

Nindigully-Pub Nindigully-Pub-River-area Nindigully-path

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Lees Reserve

Sorry for the delay to our followers in getting this post up. Well we have got ourselves a beaut spot right on the river, but more on that later. There was a mass evacuation in the morning at the pub with everyone pulling out early. We were on the road just after 8am heading towards Goondiwindi. We picked up a few supplies at Coles and had morning tea at the park chatting to a few other travelers. Goondiwindi is a reasonable size town with plenty of shops.

Our aim was to pull into one of the free camping areas along the Dumesque River not far out of Goondiwindi, there are at least 4. We were aiming for Lees Reserve, third one along, the camping areas are sign posted on the main road, there is also a blue skip bin up near the main road. It’s a short drive down a dirt road to a rickety old gate, which must be kept closed due to cattle, which do leave their little deposits everywhere. Turns out the cattle aren’t always there.

At the end of the dirt road it opens up to a large flat area on top of the bank of the river, this is where caravans seem to go, there is also another big open area to the left. Down a steep little hill leads to the river and some areas to camp under the trees. Area is sandy and rocky. That’s where we decided to setup camp.

And what a beaut spot where only hard floor campers could get in. Tucked up on some rocks where no one can camp too close with a large rock area as our veranda leading down to the river with a few Cascades and home to an Egret and Heron.

Our view.

Just off to our left leads to a sandy beach like area at the river. Great for getting the kayak in.

It would be difficult to get any caravans down here so they all stayed up the top and we had the whole area to ourselves for the night. We just get them coming down for day visits ☺.

The river at present has plenty of water to keep it flowing. Cod and yellow-belly can be found in the river but it’s a bit fished out at the moment. We are expecting a bit of a crowd here over the long weekend so we may not have this area to ourselves for too long but we will enjoy it while we can.

Surprising it wasn’t too busy over the long weekend, people came and went. We had this area to ourselves for 3 nights nearly. We enjoyed relaxing in the hammock and paddling up the river.

On the third night in the wee hours of 3.30am someone towing a noisy trailer pulled in near us. By 6am his mate arrived with music. We lost count how many beers they consumed during the day, the plus for us they were out to it by 3.00pm.

We took a few stars shots at night. We haven’t done this before so it was all a bit of experimenting and a bit if fun.

There are some mice here, we found a dead one in the sink water bucket and heard them on the outside of the canvas at night. So keeping everything locked up.

Of course Jess enjoyed, swimming in the river and collecting sticks that were nearly as big as her.

We stayed here for 4 nights, little did we know a better place was up the road.

Q – Lees Reserve

Lees Reserve, F, OR, B, W, M, D,ND, BR –  There are several free camping areas along the Dumesque River not far out of Goondiwindi. Lees Reserve, is the third one along, the camping areas are sign posted on the main road, there is also a blue skip bin up near the main road. It’s a short drive down a dirt road to a rickety old gate, which must be kept close due to cattle, which do leave their little deposits everywhere. Turns out the cattle aren’t always there.

At the end of the dirt road it opens up to a large flat area on top of the bank of the river, there is also another big open area to the left. Down a steep little hill leads to the river and some areas to camp under the trees. Area is sandy and rocky. You can also find some other little pockets to camp around the place. You can just get mobile reception. Rating – 5

Bengalla Reserve

We are so are so lucky in Australia to have some great free camping areas. I know many councils are closing them down but good on the Goondiwindi council for allowing free camping along the river. Support the town and do you shopping there if staying at any of these areas.

We think we like Bengalla Reserve even more. It’s a huge area, even if there was lots of campers you would will still be well spread out. There is another blue skip bin up near the main road and the place is well sign posted.

There are several roads with the main one running along the top of the bank following the river. As you enter the reserve you can turn left or right, we went left and followed it right to the end of the reserve and it goes along way, we haven’t gone right yet. There are 3 others campers that we know of, a van not too far from us but in our spot he can’t see us and we can’t see him without walking away from camp.

We have again snagged ourselves a great spot down near the river about 5m from the waters edge, talk about river frontage and water views. Tucked up in a corner hidden from the road with a bank behind us, there is a little bit of grass here. We have not setup the annex this trip so far but with some possible rain on the way we decided to put it up and put down the floor mat.

We also have the Ute awning up and used one of the side annex walls to reach across the gap from the camper to the Ute annex. Gives us a large under cover area to walk between both vehicles ☺ works quite well.

Last night and in the late arvo we had quite a lot of rain and used buckets and any other containers we could find to collect the rain water running off the canvas. We filled the 25 Lt shower drum and 5 other containers about 80lts all up. Chris made the point how come when we are camped next to a flowing river with plenty of clean running water to fill the shower drum we get rain but it never happens when you are camped in a gravel pit etc and could do with the water. Chris kept a close eye on the river making sure if was not rising during the night since we were camped so close.

Next day was very foggy and remained overcast for most of the day. We only saw the sun for a few hrs late arvo. Next morning was also foggy and everything was dripping wet with a heavy due. But it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. We went for a paddle up the river, very shallow in places.

We also went for a walk. It’s a big area with plenty of flat areas overlooking the river to camp.

More mice last night heard one scratching the outside of the canvas and we found a dead one in the kitchen waste bucket again. It was a pretty chilly night. We spent several hours having fun taking star shots. We have a big open sky above us, which our lenses aren’t wide enough to capture all the amazing site our eyes can see.

It will be sad to leave this area, we have very much enjoyed our time here, it has been so peaceful and relaxing. Jess will be sad to leave as well, she loves the water and her sticks.