Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tweaks

By Jen.

During every long journey for us, we hit two points:

  1. Scenic Overload – the point where we have seen so many beautiful sights that it has to be pretty special to impress us.
  2. Need to Change the Van – the point when the van, despite all its wonderful aspects starts to wear on us because it needs some modifications (Us being mostly Jen).

After about a month of traveling in Tassie, we hit both of those points nearly simultaneously. At that point, it became how quickly can we knock of the items on our list so we can get back to Melbourne to fix the van. Don’t get me wrong. We always enjoy seeing beautiful sights, but at some point, instead of becoming a highlight of a trip, it is more just an item to check off a list. AND, to take a picture of so that you can reminisce of all the wonderful places you have been when you have to work to earn money again. We also love the van. It fits us so much better than Chuck did. However, since it is the first time anyone has ever accomplished this particular configuration (as in, we made our own designs), there were still some tweaks to work out. However, those tweaks were wearing on us while we were getting to a stop where we could fix them.

So, after Tassie, we spent a week holed up in a suburb of Melbourne, making those tweaks. When you see what we did, you will think that they were rather minor items and what was our problem, but taken all together in the small space of the van, it makes a big difference. Here is what we accomplished:

  1. Squeaks
    1. High-pitched, squealing brakes
    2. Seats squeaking
    3. Rear-door squeaks
    4. It didn’t take long after we started traveling again that our squeak mitigation didn’t work and had to see what we could do again.
  2. Ant Invasion – While Jonathan was working on the brakes, he discovered the nest of the ants that we had just started seeing the day we got off the ferry. Apparently we picked up a whole colony of stowaways while we were on the Overland Track. They decided to make the sill (basically a long channel that is built into the underbody of the van) on both sides of the van their home. There were thousands of them! We ended up using a pressure washer to evacuate them and spraying insecticide just to be sure. DSCN1597
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  3. Storage Organization - We had several undefined storage areas, so to avoid the clutter and having to pull everything out to get to the item we needed, we added some storage pockets
    1. Storage Pockets
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      Sewn on this classic machine (I don’t even know if I have it threaded correctly):
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    2. Bench Seat Lid Protection – To keep things in the upper storage area from falling into the lower storage area.
    3. Containers
      1. Before
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      2. After:
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      3. In the sink:IMG_20170329_124354
      4. In the fridge:
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    4. Vertical-Cabinet-Shelf Retention Lip – The vertical cabinet storage was overall working really well, but the containers kept sliding inboard and getting their feet stuck over the edge of the shelf, making one of the doors difficult to open. To prevent that, we added a lip to each shelf.
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    5. Storage Bungees
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    6. Purse-Bin Division
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  4. Maintenance
    1. Oil Change – Rather than doing an oil change on the road at 10,000 miles, we did one at 8500 miles at a friend’s garage.
    2. Brakes – Jonathan replaced the rear pads and checked the wear on all components.
  5. Repairs
    1. Awning – The awning kept making weird noises and really did not like to be extended. Jonathan pulled apart the drive unit and found that the gear-reduction unit was seized. Simple enough fix using some grease and a hammer.
    2. EGT gauge – In Tassie, we bounced enough that some solder points came loose on our EGT gauge, so Jonathan had to fix that.
    3. Inverter Fan – Wasn’t working properly (didn’t turn on at the right temp), so it got adjusted.
    4. Water Pump -  Cut-out and bypass pressure were off, so it cycled rapidly sometimes.  Fixed with a 5/64” allen wrench.
  6. Non-Slip Liner – In Tassie, Jonathan kept recommending we get a high-nap rug to better catch the debris from our feet. The original rug that I had kept showing the dirt and debris and I guess he didn’t like how often we had to clean it. So, instead, we picked up some astroturf. It worked great, except that it did not have a non-slip backing. We rectified that this time as well.

While we were there, some generous friends gave to us some of the produce from their extensive gardens. We have been trying to figure out ways to eat them. Let’s just say that I am becoming an expert at stovetop apple crisp and have learned how to cook quince.

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Visitors

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tasmania by the Numbers

The day after our long Overland-Track hike, we went up to Devonport to resupply and do some laundry. Our goal was also to be close to the city so we could catch the ferry as soon as a slot opened up. We expected to have to wait up to a week for a slot to open up; but as it happened, a spot opened up that day, so we washed the van and loaded it on the ferry for an overnight trip (by the way, the recliners aren’t very comfy).

Places we have been in Tasmania. Sadly, most of the west coast was left off since we had poor cell reception there.


Here are some interesting statistics from our journey on Australia’s island state.
  • Time
    • Day entered: 29-Jan-2017
    • Day left: 14-Mar-2017
    • Total # of days: 45
      • Nights slept in van: 35
      • Nights slept in tent: 9
      • Nights slept in hotel/etc.: 1 night spent in the Bass Strait on the ferry on the way back to mainland Australia
  • Distance
    • Driven: ~3,913 km (~2,446 miles)
    • Hiked: 187.8 km (117.4 miles)
      • Ben Lomond Summit - 2.8 km (1.75 miles) [1 day] 
      • Cataract Gorge - 3.2 km (2 miles) [1 day]
      • Mt. William Summit - 4 km (2.5 miles) [1 day]
      • Douglas-Apsley Gorge – 8 km (5 miles) [1 day]
      • St. Patrick’s Head – 5 km (3.1 miles) [1 day]
      • Freycinet - Cooks Beach – 24 km (15 miles) [2 days] 
      • Freycinet - Wineglass Bay – 10 km (6.25 miles) [2 days]
      • Cape Pillar Circuit – 40 km (25 miles) [3 days]
      • Bruny - Fluted Cape - 4.5 km (2.8 miles) [1 day]
      • South Cape Bay - 17.4 km (10.9 miles) [1 day]
      • Overland Track - 68.9 km (43 miles) [6 days]
    • Fuel fill-ups: 5
    • Total fuel: 455.29 liters (120.3 gallons)
  • Money
    • Total spent: $3340 USD ($4360 AUD) 
      • Consists of the costs of traveling full time in Tasmania, including ferries
      • Does not include gear or van accessories
    • Average cost per day: $74.22 USD ($96.89 AUD)
    • Average cost of diesel: $1.369 AUD per liter ($3.990 USD per gallon)
  • National Parks visited: 9
    • Ben Lomond
    • Mt William
    • Freycinet 
    • Douglas-Apsley
    • Tasman
    • South Bruny
    • Southwest
    • St. Clair
    • Cradle Mountain

Interesting observations about Tasmania:
  1. At stores, they do not “give” you plastic bags. You either buy plastic bags from them, or you bring your own.
  2. The people who reside in Tasmania are called Taswegians. (How bizarre is that?) Apparently they didn’t want to be confused with the adjective (Tasman) or the island’s namesake.
  3. In total, the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Services manages over 42% (2.9 million hectares) of the land area of the state.
  4. The roads in the state are mostly rather “topsy-turvy.” Besides meandering through the country-side in anything but a straight line, the roads are not level and send taller vehicles pitching and yawing like on the ocean. Additionally, they often don’t have lines, and almost always don’t have shoulders. As a plus, unless it is a gravel road, you don’t have to worry about potholes too often.
  5. Their roads are easily classified by using the alphabet plus a road number. For example, A3 is primary highway, while C843 is a tertiary road. Most often, the higher up the alphabet, the better the road.
  6. Originally a penal colony, it is home to the second oldest settlement in Australia.
  7. First explored by the French and Dutch, many of the islands features were named by them (Freycinet for example).
  8. Taswegians avoid driving what many of us consider short distances.  I guess when the longest drive one can take is 4 hours or so, a 20-minute morning commute seems ridiculous?
  9. While we were there, RVing and camping was very popular. There were but 2 locations where we were able to camp out of sight of others and feel deserted enough to take outdoor showers. Most free camps (and pay camps) were filled with other travelers and locals. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Overland Track

By Jen.
After visiting Lake St Clair National Park, I was inspired to go on the Overland Track. It had been on Jonathan’s list for a while, but he hadn’t been keen on spending the money required for the hike. With the distances we had recently walked, I figured I would be able to do it, even if I was in a bit of pain, so after some preparations, we booked the March 8th start date. Transportation to or from our vehicle was proving difficult to figure out, though. Apparently most people fly in and thus need transportation to/from Hobart or Launceston or Devonport, etc. The only shuttle or bus that got back to us quoted us $400 (as much as the cost of the hike). We could take the TassieLink public bus route, but it required us to overnight at Queenstown or Hobart, and would still cost as much as $130-$170 per person, not including the overnight accommodations. So, we looked at renting a car. This would be much cheaper for us, at $170 for 8 days, not including fuel or insurance. We planned on that until our friends that we met down here doing similar travels as us offered to give us a ride back to our vehicle and we could do the same for them. So, we took them up on the offer.
We went to Cradle Mountain the day before so we could get our passes and maps, etc. While we were waiting for 3pm (the earliest we could pick up our passes), we decided to do a few walks while we were there. We started at the Overland Track start point, then took the Lake Lilla Track to the Wombat Pool track, turning back at the rest area to head to the Dove Lake car park. It gave us a good warm up and a good idea of what to expect the next day. We gathered the information, found a nearby camping spot, and got a good night’s rest.
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Someone had consistently removed the “l” from all the Wombat-Pool signs.
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After finishing our final packing preparations, we were off to ride the shuttle to the start of the track. We didn’t get to the start point until 11 am, but we figured it was going to be alright, since they said the first day only took 4-6 hours to complete. The first day was a busy day, with many day hikers on the trails as well. But, once we got past Cradle Mountain, the tourists dwindled and the views got better.
Not sure what all to tell you about the Overland Track. It was gorgeous, like most of Tasmania, so most of the rest of the post will consist of pictures. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Did I enjoy every minute of it? Absolutely not. Backpacking is an interesting pastime. It is like your full-time job (most days we left camp at 9:30am and arrived at the next hut at 4pm) is walking. With a heavy pack (we estimated 30 lbs or 14 kg). It is all you do all day long. Your payment is beautiful views. The result is often blisters and sore muscles, though. Obviously I like it, and keep doing it, but it is definitely not a walk in the clouds. It might be considered a bed of roses. Beautiful, but soft any poky and scratchy all at the same time.  As another positive, no leeches or ticks! And, on the last day, we actually beat the estimated time by 30 minutes! It said 3-4 hours, and we did it in 2.5 hours! But, to be fair, we were really hoofing it. We wanted to be there for the first ferry ride of the day and we walked as fast as we could. Plus, our bags were much lighter by the end, having consumed most of our food. I considered ourselves officially initiated as bushwalkers. Not only did we complete the entire hike, we also did many of the optional side trips, including Lake Will, Mt Pelion East, and Fergusson Falls. Totalling 68.9 kms (42.8 miles) in 6 days.
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Mile Zero.
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This currawong was eyeing my lunch.
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Dusk at Lake Windermere.
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A mouse ate 3 of our granola bars while we climbed Mt Pelion East! Notice its scat and the hole it crawled out from on the ground.
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Fergusson Falls.
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DSCN1596We made it!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tasmania’s West


Departing the South Cape, we began our drive towards the most well known of Tasmania’s parks, St Clair, and Cradle Mountain. Despite the close proximity (they are the same park) these two locations are over 200km apart by road (taking over 2.5 hours).  The only other path between them is the Overland track. 

Upon vising St Clair, we noticed an opening in the Overland Track booking about a week ahead.  After some discussion, we decided to book in for the hike.  With the remaining time left in the day we went for a kayak in the beautiful lake St Clair. It was too late in the day to see any Platypus (they are best seen at dawn/dusk). 
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Given that we would be  hiking the overland track, and thus seeing the park later on, we started driving northwest.  After some reading, we decided to drive the western explorer road. This road links Stanley and Strahan.  It is mostly dirt, and runs through towering rainforest and plains and crosses the Huon river. 
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On the way we explored the  Henty Dunes which tower over 30 meters tall.
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This little guy hitched a ride on the ferry “Fatman” across the river.
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While driving this road we tool the opportunity to drive as far west as possible. 
The monument here says:

“THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity.

To be washed by the Ocean of time.

It has shape, form, and substance.

It is me.

One day I will be no more.

But my pebble will remain here.

On the shore of eternity.

Mute witness from the aeons.

That today I came and stood

At the edge of the world.

- Brian Inder –“

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After finishing the explorer road, we visited Stanley (the nugget) and Railton.
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One of the resident pademelons.
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We also visited Sheffield. This town is unique, as it has a mural festival every year.  A mural is chosen from the contestants, and its added to the growing collection in the town.

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