AWOL Around Australia...


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In the morning we headed back out into the high country. Taking what appeared to be a fairly main road to get to McKillops Bridge, one of the heralded attractions of the area.

Did I mention the high country is picturesque?

The road, McKillops Road, was challenging, but not in a good way. To be fair the wise old duck back at Orbost tourist information had warned me about it, say there was a section that will make your passenger nervous with the big drop and don’t meet anyone coming the other way as neither of you will want to back up. Well there is that section, it goes on for about 15km either side of the bridge...

The original bridge was washed away 11 days before it was due to open. This replacement was built five metres higher and has survived since 1935. Could it do with renovating? Yes, it could.

I suffer from vertigo, maybe that's why the road freaked me out so much. Anyway, I got N to drive over the bridge.

Single lane, loose gravel surface, no barrier, totally blind corners and a drop of 20 to 200ft off the edge of the road. I considered taking a 4x4 track south from the bridge, as I could see on the map the road on the other side was just as bad if not worse. Unfortunately that was now a one way track, south to north only, due to a couple of very bad sections in the middle - despite being marked as a medium track on Hema’s highly detailed, but somewhat outdated high country map.

It’s not the road per-se that is the problem. People have obviously been travelling this road for many years. It’s the fact it is two way and the signage is not sufficient ‘tight and twisty turns ahead’ does not convey the gravity (boom!) of the situation. It should say ‘walking pace only or slower round all blind corners’ as there is no way to fit two vehicles past and a collision could easily result in the vehicle on the outside going over the edge.

Video (not mine) here.

Luckily the only other vehicle we passed while moving was an ADV biker, going like us, walking pace. We acknowledged each others caution as we passed. The two other vehicles that passed us, when thank the lord we were pulled over were tourists in road cars, probably doing 15-20km an hour round those blind bends, would have been curtains if 3 ton of Land Cruiser is coming the other way...

As the road eventually opened up, I noticed a warning light on the dashboard of the Land Cruiser. I pulled over, did a few basic checks, nothing smelt too hot or looked obviously wrong. I looked up the warning light in the owners manual ‘take me to Toyota’ is what it basically said. I was wracking my brain trying to think what it was. I had recently switched fuel tanks and though maybe I had some bad fuel. I switched back to the other fuel tank, just as we finished climbing and started to go downhill. The light went away.

We pulled over again and switched the car off for a bit. I had intended to head a little further north and do some more 4x4 tracks, but with a potential vehicle issue that didn’t seem such a good idea. We headed back to the bitumen, as we now drive south to the first town marked as having fuel, the weather changed somewhat.

Having driven over a few ranges by now, it is very noticeable how the weather can vary hugely one side to the other.

I got a full $2 worth of fuel out of the pump before it ran out. Fuel truck was late apparently. We cut our losses and just headed for the nearest place to pitch a tent. We still had 60L in the other tank and I was pretty convinced by now the problem wasn’t fuel.

These government G-Wagens were all over this part of the high country. I haven't seen them anywhere else, apart from the Army. Mercedes obviously made a good sales pitch to the Victorians.

So we ended up staying on a little farm property. They had ducks!

I checked everything I could think of on the Cruiser and everything seemed tickety boo. I though we’d just stick to more main tracks, check out a couple of towns and see how it went.

We try not to waste anything food wise, so I used a chicken carcass and some leftover veggies to make stock that night.


Back roads to the little town of Swifts Creek the next day.

Where we could hear the sounds of the school Christmas production rehearsing and found our first bakery in days (what’s up with the lack of bakeries, Victoria?). After wolfing down some tasty pastry treats, we pushed on to historical gold mining town of Omeo.

Log jail. Still being used in 1981...

The Golden Age Hotel, the fifth version, previous building having been destroyed by bushfires. This one was built in 1940.

The cuckoo clock shop housed another treasure. We talked for maybe forty minutes with it’s 84 year old owner, who was getting to grips with not just having recently sold the building, but also facing up that it was probably time to retire. We talked on a wide range of topics, this was one old dame still sharp as a tack. I’m glad we met her.


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The old gold diggings are worth a wander around.

After Omeo it was back on some back roads and then trails, heading for a bush camp. In the direction we wanted to go and off the beaten track for sure, but not too crazy.

Well, one big hill later and the ‘take me home’ warning light was back, with some erratic idling to go with it.

So for the second day in a row we scrapped our current plan and headed back to the safety of the bitumen. You feel deflated for sure, but that beats being stranded miles from anywhere with no phone reception. Trust me.

Anyway, this Plan B wasn’t so bad.

Just down from the bitumen road.

We saw a good half metre catfish merrily feasting in here in the morning.

Time to go and get this truck sorted out.

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The Festive Season, and a bit of a hiccup...

Victoria, Australia.

A bit of a detour, but we checked out the town of Lakes Entrance the next morning. The town is just another seaside fishing/tourist town, mind you the view of the inlet lakes on the drive in is pretty good.

I was keen to get a handle on this warning light issue. I bought a cheap scan tool but it didn’t work with my Toyota. A bit more googling and it seemed taking it to a main dealer might be the only option. Thursday, the week before Christmas...

The first dealer was booked out, but luckily there are more Toyota dealers than any other in ToyotalandAustralia, so we just tried our luck in the next town.

"I’ll get one of the boys to look after lunch, can you come back in half an hour?" of course we could. Ash (are all the good ones called that?) said we had a coolant temp sensor fault logged, no biggie, probably just the age of the vehicle. He spent about half an hour on our car while we waited in the lounge and could drink all the coffee and cans of soft drink we wanted. So they slugged us a massive $19.80. Total. The dealer I buy my parts from in Adelaide charges $147 an hour. Faith in humanity restored. Thank you Sale Toyota, Victoria.

I had a chuckle when the lady writing out the invoice is asking for a few details “do you have, an, errrm, postal address...?” we must look like bonifide travellers now I guess!

Starving by now, we grab some burgers and fries as a treat, and generally feel good about how we were treated and the fact Bertha will live to fight another day. We drive back down to the coast to grab a beachside campsite for the night.

Set up and having some early refreshments, a young lady comes over to ask if we can help rescue their car that is bogged in the sand.

MaxTraxs are my first go to recovery device, as they are the safest. However with the Caddy being so low it was difficult to get them properly under the wheels. Also the girl driving was spinning the wheels so hard I was worried about her melting all the studs off the tracks...

So... Old mate snatch strap to the rescue. With nowhere to attach a shackle to the Caddy I asked the driver if she had the screw in towing eye? Much rummaging inside later she proudly produced it "I'm really pleased I could find that!" she said "Me too!" I agreed.

Decent enough hole.

With the VW Caddy is out of its sandpit, and as they are thanking me I explain that only an hour or so ago some people were good to us, so it must be the day for it! Pay it forwards. The four backpackers invite us over to their camp later to sample their homemade spirits! Thinking that they were probably just being polite, and they wouldn't really want to hang around with a couple of old farts like us - we don’t - and then we don’t get any choice when they bowl over to our camp a few hours later to pour us some drinks to thank us anyway. All good, we shared some drinks and tales with them. After all, we are just like them - fifteen to twenty years later, which seems to work for everyone. Although I pass up on the joint I get offered multiple times "nah mate, those days are behind me" "but I can’t smoke anymore..." says the very stoned Estonian chap "sorry man, I can’t help you out, give it to someone else" pretty funny.


Next day we are up and out early. We have some kms to do today. We want to get close to Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula. Where N has important wool business the next day (she had crocheted me a great winter jumper at the start of this trip. Which I had posted home as the weather started to warm up, normally the Australian summer, so consistently and reliable hot. As I sit writing this, freezing and looking out on a rainy coast it is a decision I have regretted more times than I can remember, and not one she fails to remind me of...). We pegged the tent at a little spot at Lang Lang, on the coast but a coastal inlet so should be a bit more sheltered than normal coastal campsites.

We hung around Lang Lang for a few days. We were both a bit travel fatigued and were looking forward to the Airbnb cottage we had coming up for four nights over Christmas. I would have liked to get the Cruiser fixed but trying to do anything in the run up to Christmas just wasn’t happening. Sometimes there is no point trying to swim against the current.

Lang Lang wasn’t the greatest coastal campsite we had ever found, but we were in one of the most densely populated parts of the country, so it was peaceful enough and had its moments.

With the yarn stocks replenished, we made our way up to the Dandenong Ranges. Looking forward to having an oven to cook with we did a big food shop, so we could cook up a delicious roast lunch for Christmas.

We got to our cottage, met the hosts and settled in. TV, wifi, a bath. It had it all. Except an oven that didn’t work... Even after I had plugged it in. This was not just our first Airbnb, but we were the hosts first guests too. We called them and explained the problem and all the food we had brought to cook in said oven.

It should be noted that this was Christmas Eve afternoon, we knew options would be limited. The hosts offered to buy an electric bbq with a lid, we said this would do. They lived about an hour away, but delivered it to us later that afternoon. Bunnings to the rescue hey.

Having been a landlord myself I appreciated they did what they could in the circumstances. We got to have roast beef and more importantly N got her cauliflower cheese!

Pink G&T and view from the back of the cottage.

I spring cleaned the Land Cruiser.

Books, remember those? I’ve read these four so far this trip. This would probably take me about two years to read this many books.


We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the cottage. First stop on leaving was to pick up a new coolant temp sensor from the nearest Toyota dealer. I had called ahead the previous day and to my surprise they had one in stock, probably means it’s generic to a few models. The warning light was on solidly by now, and starting from dead cold in the morning was not a happy affair and needed about a minute of rough idling before you could use the throttle.

We started to push north east, heading back towards the high country. We stopped the small town of Alexandra, and once I’d given it a few hours to cool down I changed the sensor.

The warning light was still on, but that didn’t surprise me. Leaving the battery disconnected overnight should fix that.


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Well, it didn’t. Also the starting was still rough. Hmmm, maybe it needs to go back to Toyota to get the fault code cleared. We drove on, and up into the high country. We knew it would be busier now, but we underestimated just how busy. Literally everywhere we went was packed out. If the Cruiser had been 100% I would have just tried some harder trails to see if we could get away from the crowds. With hindsight I don’t think it would have made any difference, modified 4x4’s are not exactly uncommon in Australia.

Camping hell.

In the end we just went back to the drawing board. We were over the busyness we had encountered pretty much everywhere in Victoria, so we just decided to head for the Outback. It would mean a couple of days of solid driving, but we felt immediately better having made the decision.

A nice $5 campsite that night, just north of Benalla in north east Victoria. Gave us not only a good conversation with an old boy travelling on his own - most of the ‘Grey Nomads’ that I talk to and actually get on with, is because we share a similar mindset in terms of travelling and exploration. Unfortunately this is generally the exception, and many either have no concept of travelling like this, or more likely, just want to tell you how you should be doing it... Anyway, this guy just came over to chat about the OzTent as he’d only recently changed to a small caravan after using his for years. So we talked for sometime, like us he didn’t really have any fixed destinations and was happy to wander far from the maddening crowd.

Much sniffing to done whenever we arrive at a new place.

We also noticed a silo art tour.

We always like to check these out, so that would give us a nice little diversion before hitting the bitumen properly tomorrow.


The silo's were cool. However this mural hiding away inside a little country church was the highlight for me.

Unassuming from the outside.

We pounded bitumen.

Camped on the banks of the Murray that night. Now we were in the riverland it was just a busy as the high country, but we managed to find a spot to ourselves down one of the many bush tracks along the river.

That afternoon we had literally rain, sunshine, thunderclouds and strong winds all at the same time.

Four seasons in one day.


Come the morning Naomi was not in a good way. She had been having intermittently dizzy spells since before we left on this trip, but they had been worse of late, and this morning was the worst yet. I got her to sit in the car while I packed up. We had been going to the local Toyota dealer with the Cruiser this morning. However concerned about this health issue, especially as we were heading to more remote country, I suggested maybe we should head home for a while. At that point we were only about six hours away, the closest we had been or would be for a while. Plus the fact it meant I could sort out what was wrong with the Cruiser, and also a fierce hot spell of weather was due over the next several days.

So, an easy decision in the end. We pounded bitumen, and we were home in time for me to catch up with The Captain for a New Years Eve beer.


I took the Land Cruiser to my local Toyota dealer. They couldn’t clear the fault code and said the ECU was reading minusforty degrees - indicating either an open circuit in the wiring, or a fault with the ECU.

I tested part of the circuit and couldn’t get continuity. Hmmm... It’s hard to test it accurately on your own, so once The Captain was available we tested the circuit properly and sure enough it was open from the sensor, the rest of the circuit checked out. So I started stripping the sheathing back and sure enough the wire was broken at the connector. Impossible to see in position, but a relief to positively find an issue. We went and clipped a few spare connectors off Toyotas at the local wreckers, soldered on the best one and put everything back together. Truck started up great and the fault light was out. Awesome. There are a couple of less pressing jobs that I may as well do before we strike out again.

The broken wire (right) was dull, indicating it had been broken for sometime.

While I had some time on my hands I made these maps. The first one is our significant trips up to getting the Land Cruiser. Blue and white line is our original Ford Falcon wagon. Green and white is our beloved Range Rover LSE. The red line is the one and only trip we did with our Mitsubishi Pajero, where we got stuck in the sand for four hours, bah bow.

The second map is the significant trips we've done with the Big Blue Bertha. The blue dots denoting location highlights.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully we'll get everything sorted and back on the road soon.



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An enforced break.

Adelaide, South Australia.

So we've just spent exactly a month at home. Whilst we waited on various specialist medical appointments to find out what was wrong the the co-pilot. Anyway, all seems to be sorted now, she responded well to the medication that was prescribed.

We always intended to be come home for a bit, I had kind of planned for it to be in February, normally the hottest month. However, obviously events overtook us, and as it happens it might be fortuitous timing. As during that time we have had some record breaking hot weather, not really much fun camping when it's 45 degrees plus... What weather will February bring? Well, we'll just have to wait and see. (In fact now I come to think of it we originally planned to be in Tasmania for January, and they've had shocking bushfires. So maybe this was the right month to be home after all...)

Despite keeping up with the maintenance of the Land Cruiser whilst on the road I took advantage of the time here to do as much preventative maintenance as possible:

Transfer case fluid change.

After 'only' 40k km, the oil is basically clear when new. I've noticed Penrite oils come out really black after the first few changes, I'm presuming this is a good thing!

Auto gearbox fluid drain and refill - this only changes about 1/3 of the fluid, as opposed to a full flush. We did a full flush a while ago and the fluid was still nice and pink. I think I'll just do one of these drain/refill changes in line with engine oil changes till we come back.

Power steering fluid change.

Exhaust leak - a witness mark on the manifold exhaust shield led me to this substantial crack around the flanges of one of the downpipes. So The Captain welded it back up for me.

Another victim of the Red Centre roads was this inner guard shield, the alternator sits on the other side so I was keen to get something in there (a new one is ex-Japan and at least a month away).

Not pretty, but should work ok.

New auxiliary drive belts - this model Toyota runs two single belts for the main drive belt, why? Because Land Cruiser. Check the idler pulley for wear. Old belts go into the spares box.

I also took the time to research and invest in a sat phone. As we are now heading west and then north, this will just give us another avenue for communication if required. Whereas before we just had the PLB.

A new set of KO2's. The previous ones are only about half worn, which is when they start to suffer off road in terms of traction and puncture resistance. Still fine as road tyres, on the other set of wheels.

We also gave the OzTent a bit of maintenance. Both awning corners were looking a bit average. So one got resown and the other reinforced and a new eyelet put in.

So we did a quick 'shakedown' trip to Yorke Peninsula for a couple of nights. Yorke's is not the greatest destination for 4x4 touring, more of a 'tinny' destination. However it served the purpose of checking all was well with the truck and our gear.

Still, it has its moments.

So we're ready to hit the road again. Intending to head west, first we have to drive to Brisbane to pick up a new (old) dog. So we'll just meander back from there. Cheers.


I really need to get over there. I’ve been looking at truck and motorcycle rentals for a long time trying to decide which way I’d rather spend a couple month short exploring.


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I really need to get over there. I’ve been looking at truck and motorcycle rentals for a long time trying to decide which way I’d rather spend a couple month short exploring.
Yeah, I would say you need a couple of months at least really. You can come for a couple of weeks, but in my mind it's not really worth the expense and hassle of getting over here. In a couple of months you could do Adelaide to Darwin through the Red Centre, the Kimberley, the west coast and then back across the Bight, then Eyre Peninsula. That is basically the trip we did when we first came here.


And we will be covering a lot of that route in the next instalment of this journey, just with added remote 4x4 stuff.

Anyway, if you want any more info or whatever just sing out.

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Stopped long enough with good internet to get a couple of journals up. A bit rushed, but keen to try and stay relatively up to date.




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East. Then West.

South Australia. New South Wales. Queensland.

So, as I said we were due to head west from our home town of Adelaide. However, ever since our first dog Alby passed away we (Naomi) had been on the lookout for another pal for our remaining dog, Rollo. Now Rollo is 1.8kg/4lbs and thirteen years old, so we were keen to get a dog of similar size and age. We only look at rescue dogs, so finding a good match wasn’t easy.

We were contacted by a lady in Brisbane, Queensland, who had a suitable dog. This lady knew us and knew our situation, as she was the one who brought us Alby in the first place. So in a nice circular narrative, our new dog came through the same charity and even from the same pound as Alby did (I was in the Australian Army for a few years, and was posted to Brisbane for most of that time).

So that meant the small matter of driving half way across the country. As it worked out we were a little pushed for time, so we drove the 2000km in two days. No speeding, but only stopping for very short periods. The Cruiser allowing us to take more direct dirt roads than sticking to the highway, and just minimal bush camps - 15 mins set ups and pack downs, tops.

Lots of this.

Anyway, that type travel is not much fun, but it gets the job done.

Meet Roxy!

So new pup (10 year old) picked up, we could turn the truck back west, and take a less direct route at a more sedate pace.

We had been camping at the village of Marburg just outside of Brisbane, from here we took a mixture of backroads and easy dirt tracks, heading roughly south west. We drove up over the Main Range National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforest that we had first encountered in Border National Park, back last year in northern New South Wales.

Here are some shots from the mornings drive.

Strange rock formation.

Queensland humour.

A nice little diversion and got us more back in the touring frame of mind. However, we did still have to start recouping some of that 2000km we had borrowed getting over here - our eventual destination being Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Where I had done the planning for the first part, of the third part, of this AWOL trip.
So, we pounded some bitumen too.

Camped on the banks of the Dumaresq River, just outside of Goondiwindi. We had camped here before, again late last year.
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