Spotto’s Electrical System

The Electrical Layout

The following describes Spotto’s electrical system as far as I know.  I’m sure there are aspects of the system that I missed or don’t know about so please cut me some slack.  Thanks.

Spotto has two 12 volt batteries.  The first is a regular car-starting lead acid battery that lives under the driver seat.  This battery is sealed so I don’t need to add water – thank goodness.  The second battery (house battery) is an AGM Deep Cycle battery.  It’s also sealed and is an Exide MSDC24 92Ah 20hr.  The starter battery – does just that – it starts Spotto.  The house battery powers all the lights, the inverter, the USB port, the water pump and the refrigerator.  There are two banks of three switches,  there is a volt meter to check battery level, a USB port and an outlet powered by the inverter.  The inverter is a 300 watt pure sign wave inverter that lives behind the head of the driver seat.

Electrical Diagram
This sheet was left by the original (French) electrical system designer.

 

The Switches

The first bank of three switches (left side) control the following from top switch going down:

  • 1. Dome light close to cab
  • 2. Dome light above bed
  • 3. Refrigerator.

The second bank of three switches (right side) control the following from top switch going down:

  • 1. Inverter
  • 2. USB Outlet
  • 3. Not used – until now!

I converted one of the unused switches so that I could cut power to the refrigerator at night right before we go to bed.  Previously I had to get up, open the slider and go out to the back of the van, open the rear door and push the off button on the fridge itself.  The fridge isn’t accessible from the inside of the van.  A real hassle when you are about to fall asleep.  We have to turn the fridge off at night because unfortunately the house battery does not produce enough Amp Hours (without being charged) to keep the fridge running that long.

Switches and Outlet
The Power Bank

The Charging System

As normal, the van’s starter battery is charged by the alternator.  The house battery is connected to the starter battery via a Dual Battery Isolator.  It is also charged when the van runs – same as the starter battery.  I also purchased a portable 120 watt solar charger that I hook up when it’s sunny and we are not moving.  I connect it directly to the house battery so only that battery gets charged.  The portable unit comes with a built in PWM solar charge controller as opposed to an MPPT controller.  A PWM controller is usually better for small systems.  Finally, we have a voltmeter with a toggle switch to check the current voltage of each battery.

Voltmeter with Toggle
The Volt Meter

 

House Battery with Isolator 2
The House battery and The Isolator

In this photo: the house battery and, in the back, the Isolator. This battery lives on the floor below our cabinets directly behind the drivers seat. Notice our spare 25 liter water tank to the right.

Spotto Charging
Spot Charging Her House Battery

No Worries,

David

George, Coober Pety, and Marla

 

I don’t want you to get the impression that we are just blowing through the bank account and spending those hard earned Amazon and KOA wages with reckless abandon. Yes, we bought the van, but that will prove out to be less expensive than if we had rented one, or a rental car and lodging. Yes, we are taking a road trip that is over two weeks long, and driving thousands of kilometers. (What? You don’t follow the metric system? 1 kilometer = 0.62 mile. Or 1 mile = 1.6 km) But we are saving money by using an app called Wiki Camps that helps direct us to free or inexpensive parking sites along the way.

This frugality is measured by a couple of indulgences, too. But because we don’t generally eat out (who can find vegan, no oil meals in the Australian Outback?), fuel and groceries are our greatest expenses. We will see how many nights we can stay in free sites vs paid. That is part of the fun.

The town of Kingston SE in South Australia sponsors a free campground right across from the town jetty. We stayed here and walked about 8 km/5 miles down the walk/bike path along the water’s edge, and around the town.

20160323_163913
Spotto Blending In
20160323_194213
The Kingston SE Jetty

In the morning, David went for a run while I walked through the little downtown area. I know you will find this hard to believe, but of the 4 coffee bars/cafes that I found, only one was open before 8:00 a.m. What a sleepy little town! But honestly, it was probably for the best. I mean, check out the presentation of this “mini” donut and coffee:

20160324_080149
Not My Order, Scout’s Honor! But I had to take a picture!

Looking through this selection, I took away a Hot Cross Bun:

20160324_075915

And as we rolled out of town, I grabbed a picture of another slice of Australia – the Giant Lobster. I wonder if the Bar Harbor KOA would like one of these?

20160324_095647
Must give the kids nightmares!

Continuing on the free camping tour, we next stopped at Spud’s Roadhouse outside of Pimba, SA. This is technically a rest area sponsored by 4 local towns, but Spud’s is there to sell Gatorades for $5 AUD, juice popsicles for $2.50 AUD, and other good stuff at crazy prices. We popped in for $15 worth of silly, and caught up on the local news while we avoided the flies outside. These flies would be our constant companions for days, but we did not know it at the time. They apparently are on the tour of South Australia, too!

20160324_194335
Toasties and Coffee in the Roadhouse for Brekkie!

As we continued on towards Alice Springs, we stopped to get diesel in Coober Pety, the opal mining capital of Australia. While I was paying the tab (Did I mention that you pump first, then pay? They even have signs that ask you not to move your car before paying. Remember when we weren’t in such a hurry?) David was approached by George Baker, a local Aborigine miner. George wanted to know all about David and his van, and then asked David if he had any money. George received a $5 AUD bill, and David asked if he could take George’s picture. George instructed David to take a picture with him, then one with the van. He was difficult to understand, but David took the pictures as instructed.  When I came out and climbed into the driver’s seat, George asked me for $10 for his children. I used to get very scared and completely stressed out when strangers approached me, but time on the road has made me realize that we are all in this together, part of the human race. I did not give him more money, but I did shake his hand, chatted with him as best as I could understand, and we were on our way.

Here is George Baker and Spotto:

20160325_07

Our night’s stop was at a Caravan Park in the town of Marla. For $20 AUD, we had a safe place to pull out the solar panels, get showers, and cook up some dinner. It was a nice place to take a break, until the police helicopter started buzzing around, and two police cars parked near the little motel onsite. It turned out that we were smack in the middle of a search for a missing healthcare worker, whose stolen bush ambulance was stopped in Coober Pety that morning, and had been tracked in the area where we were staying. But that activity was soon replaced by the 8 fishermen, two boats, and various camping cots that were being assembled near us. We moved, and had a solid night’s sleep.

20160325_016
Catching Some Rays
20160325_185813
Mmmm, Dinner

In the morning, we walked past the live news crew who decided to set up their remote in front of the restroom building. Hope they got my good side!

Another day of driving paid off with our arrival (finally!) in Alice Springs. The story of our visit to the geographic center of Australia will have to wait until our next post.

G’day from Down Under,

Nancy

A Sinkhole and a Blue Lake

 

Making the trek to Alice Springs more about the journey than a sprint, we set out on a leisurely pace, and decided to stop when we saw something that might be of interest.

As we passed through the town of Mount Gambier, a Point of Interest sign directed us to the “Umpherston Sinkhole”. Who could pass up a sinkhole?

Now, as we will see, this is no ordinary sinkhole. A beautiful park surrounds this geographic anomaly, and, as this is my first physical sinkhole visit, I suspect this one is very unique.

The Welcome Sign
The Welcome Sign

For those of you reading this on something smaller than a 52 inch screen, the sign reads:

“Welcome to Umpherston Sinkhole

This park is the remnant of a late 19th century garden of which the sinkhole was the focal point. The garden was developed by James Umpherston on part of his property known as The Caves

The park has been developed by the City of Mount Gambier in accordance with Umpherston’s original intention to establish the sinkhole for the enjoyment of visitors and the townspeople of Mount Gambier.”

We read the sign, went past the limestone statue,

Photographic Evidence That I Read The Sign
Photographic Evidence That I Read The Sign

And what a sight!

20160323_011

20160323_03

20160323_04

20160323_05

20160323_06

This is huge! And what a great way to develop something that could be ugly and unsafe into a beautiful, useful place.

From inside:

20160323_09

There was a lovely platform and seating area, too, as well as a bbq/picnic area. I thought it would be a popular place for a wedding. David thought it was completely inappropriate for that kind of ceremony. “It started in a sinkhole, can’t get much lower…” Maybe I should set up a poll. Discuss.

Driving a few kilometers down the road, we are pointed to Blue Lake. Now, back in 1992, David and I had the pleasure of bicycling around Crater Lake as part of our Cycle Oregon route, and so we have seen the biggest, baddest blue lake there is. So, we were game to see the Aussie version. Up the observation tower we climbed:

The Struggle Is Real
The Struggle Is Real

To see:

20160323_016

Maybe it was the cloudy, sprinkly day, but this little guy was blue, but not very photogenic.

20160323_020

And with that, we hit the road again, excited to see what next random stop we will make.

G’day mate,

Nancy

Spotto’s Water System

Spotto has a simple fresh water system built into her kitchen.  It consists on a 40 liter container with a bottom brass fitting and a clear plastic hose connector to a small 12 volt electric pump.  The pump pulls the water from the tank and pushes it through the faucet.   The drain water is collected in a removable aluminum bowl set into the kitchen countertop.  There is no drain.  Drainage is performed by manually “picking up the aluminum bowl and tossing the water”.  Like I said – it’s all very simple.  The hardest part is refilling the 40 liter container which lives under the bed.  I fill it with another 40 liter container that I keep next to the house battery compartment or from a couple 10 liter bottles we use for drinking water.  I use a funnel to pour from one container to the other.

The only problem we have is that the pump loses its prime.  There is an air leak that I can’t find so I solved the problem another way.  I added another clear plastic tube to the top (fill point) of the 40 liter container.  To re-prime, all you need do is blow into the tube.  This adds pressure into the tank and forces some water into the line between the tank and the pump.  This clear plastic pipe is easily accessible under the bed just behind the kitchen counter.

Spotto Sink
Sink and Faucet. The switch next to the faucet activates the water pump. The faucet is adjustable and swivels.
Water Pump
Sink and Faucet. The switch next to the faucet activates the water pump. The faucet is adjustable and swivels.
40 Liter Tank
Sink and Faucet. The switch next to the faucet activates the water pump. The faucet is adjustable and swivels.

No Worries,

David

Spotto’s Kitchen

Spotto has a built in kitchen in the back.  Most of it is only accessible via the rear hatch door.  From the inside we can get to the counter top but that’s about it.  The kitchen has a sink with an electric water pump that pulls water from a 40 liter tank that lives under the bed (see post on Spotto’s Water System).  There is a 14 liter Waeco Thermo Coolpro Cooler that works on 12 or 24 volt DC.  The kitchen itself slides out about two feet from the back of the van.  Two small wooden pegs hold the kitchen in place.  When the pegs are removed the whole thing slides out on two roller tracks.  Also, the Cooler/Fridge slides out on it’s own tracks.  There is ample storage for dishes, utensils, spices and such.  We have a portable propane single burner cook top.  The propane canisters used by the cooktop are easily purchased in most grocery stores.  The canisters are not cheap but they are simple to use and very convenient.

The van also came with another one burner propane stove that sits upon a 1lb propane tank.  We’ve never used it but it’s a good back up.  The counter top space it quite large and has worked great for us.  It’s really nice that the tail gate door opens upward and protects you from rain while working in the kitchen.  The only issue we’ve really had has been the wind blowing out the cook top flame.  We’ve learned to point Spotto into the wind when we know we will need to cook.  This way the cooktop doesn’t get wind whipped and go out.

 

Kitchen 1
Kitchen when retracted.
Kitchen 3
Kitchen when retracted.
Kitchen 2
Kitchen when retracted.
Kitchen 4
Kitchen when retracted.

No Worries,

David

Spotto

We purchased a 2004 KIA Pregio Campervan on April 7, 2016 in Melbourne, Victoria.  The previous owners named it “Chookie”.  We changed her name to “Spotto” after the game (you can Google it).  Since Spotto is brilliant yellow,  she appeared to be quite clean.  It was a deception.  As the song goes, “we were blinded by the light”.  After we took ownership and were able to look at her closely, we realized that she was very, very dirty.  So, it was off to the car wash for three hours of scrubbing.  We were even warned by the car wash owner that we were not supposed to hand wash our vehicle.  Alas – she took pity on us and let us continue to hand wash when she saw all the dirt we were scrubbing away.  Or, was she just happy that we kept putting dollars in the machine to power wash the van 7 times between hand scrubbing?  Whatever the case we “gott’er done”.  Next, we hit the vacuum station and sucked out a few kilos of dust and stuff.  Spotto was beginning to look a bit better.

We got her home and I began to apply “Nu Finish” liquid car polish.  If you apply it carefully it will clean and polish all at once.  It’s not really a wax but it works like wax.  I’ve been using it for several years and really like the results.  Spotto was looking great now.  Any water that touches her paint just beads right up.

Spotto Clean
Spotto in St. Albans

To finish up with the exterior I still had some fine tuning to do.  I purchased a small can for high gloss black paint and painted the rear bumper bar.  It was crusty and rusted even if I can’t figure out what it’s purpose is.  The high gloss paint worked wonders.  I also did some touch up on the front bumper where some wires rubbed the black paint off.  Finally I scraped off the company logo sticker on the “Roo” Bar.  I hate stickers.

Next, it was on to the interior.  The inside really was filthy.  Again, a cursory look and you would think it just fine.  A closer look turns up dust, grime, stains and muck.  The worst was the driver’s seatbelt.  It was supposed to be silver but it was brown.  It also weighed about 2 kilos  – seatbelts don’t weigh anything, what’s up with that?  My first inclination was to order a new one.  When I checked the cost I changed my mind and decided to tackle cleaning it some how.  I tried several cleaners and nothing worked.  I went to an auto parts store and bought a cleaner they said cleans everything (like Totally Awesome).  It was called “Disol”.  It didn’t work.  I was about to give up when Nancy said, “try a degreaser”.  So we bought some degreaser at the local home store and Nancy went to work on that belt.  It’s now just about the cleanest thing in the van!

I started with the front driver door and just soaked everything in the cab with cleaner and scrubbed and scrubbed.  Most of the grime came out.  The seats were a mess so we decided just to buy some cheap “one size fits all” seat covers.  Unfortunately the passenger seat is a dual person bench so only the seat back portion of the cover fit.  I cut it away and then cut the bottom cover so it would at least cover the passenger’s butt.

Spotto Backside
Spotto in Alice Springs, NT

There are some switches on the dashboard and some lights I’m not sure what the heck they are for.  I couldn’t find any explanation online, nor could I find an owner’s manual.  One dial I figured out increases/decreases the engine idle speed (handy).  There are all kinds of symbols that light up when I start the van.  Oh, about starting the van – before I can start it I need to press the “Immobilizer” button on the fob (this is a thing that all cars registered in the state of Western Australia need to have).  I then have about five seconds to turn the key just far enough until the dash lights come on.  Then I have to wait (sometimes up to five seconds) for this one particular light to go off.  Then I can turn the key to start the van.  The previous owner explained to me that since it was a diesel it had “glow plugs” instead of spark plugs.  Before you turned the key in the ignition the “glow plugs” had to warm up.  Well, okay.  I just know that if I wait too long, then I have to start the whole stupid process over by pressing the button on the “immobilizer”.  Yes, this is all really odd but then heck, they drive on the freaking left side of the road here so why the heck can’t they have an “immobilizer” and a car you can’t just turn the key to start.  The emblem of the light that I need to wait for kind of looks like a rams head with the curled horns.  What this has to do with “glow plugs” I’ll never know.

There is one more switch I can’t wait to use.  If you noticed in the pictures the van has this huge aluminum pipe thing going on in the front of the van.  That’s what’s called the “Roo” bar.  No one has told me exactly why it’s called a “Roo” bar but I suspect it’s for when those fuzzy guys bounce out to try and meet Spotto while she’s going 100 kph down the highway.  It will keep the windshield and Spotto’s occupants clean.  Anyway, attached to the “Roo” bar is this big, hunking spotlight.  Again, although I see them on lots of vans I really don’t know it’s purpose unless it’s used to really piss-off some oncoming driver by flicking it on just as they get to you.  Or maybe it’s the ultimate revenge for the driver coming at you with their high beams on.  “Here you go buddy – you think your high beams are bad take a look at this!”

Spotto in Marla
Spotto in Marla, SA

Now that the inside and outside was relatively clean, we switched our focus to the mechanical aspects and to the interior living quarters.  The first thing I did was to check all the fluid levels.  Then I checked those filters that I could – air filter and cabin filter.  The air filter was dirty so I replaced it.  The cabin filter had completely disintegrated. Finding a replacement was a challenge and even after contacting the KIA dealer I was out of luck.  It was time to think outside the box.  I still had the plastic frame of the filter which  was grid like .  I just didn’t have the filter material which used to be between the grids.  It was off to the hardware store.  We found a “Bunnings” which is the Australian version of “Home Depot”.  I tried to think of what I could use as filter material.  Something that was thin enough that I could cut to the right size.  The first thing I thought of was furnace filter material.  I went right up to an older gentleman worker and asked where the furnace filters were.  I instantly knew something was wrong when his eyes bugged out and he took a step backwards and reiterated my words, “furnace filters”?  He then asked, “what are you doing with a furnace”?  I asked “what do you mean”?  He said, “furnaces are only used to cremate people”.  “Was I going to cremate someone”?  I said, “no I wasn’t cremating anyone – I just want to know where the furnace filters are”.  I asked him, “don’t people have furnaces in their houses for heating”?.  “Furnaces are only at Crematories” he said.  I could tell this conversation wasn’t going well.  I then explained what I was looking for and he said, “there is nothing like that in this store”.  Ok, this is a store the size of Home Depot with all of it’s thousands of products.  There has to be something I can use for a filter material.  I obviously freaked out this gentleman and he just wanted me gone.  So – I moved on and finally settled for some synthetic steal wool that was thin enough to cut and stiff enough to stay upright in the filter opening.  As I learned later – this did not work very well.  I will have to come up with another solution.

Spotto with a View
Spotto in Yambuk, VIC

I called the KIA dealer to make an appointment for oil, oil filter and fuel filter change.  I also wanted a general check over of everything.  They quoted me a ridiculous price of $440.00.  Wow, I knew some things were expensive in AU but that was too much.  I didn’t make the appointment.  I stopped in a local Kmart auto service center where they mostly do new tires but also general auto servicing.  I realized Spotto didn’t need to have her fuel filter changed – just oil and oil filter and the general going over.  They quoted me $160 AUD.  That was more reasonable.  I had the work done and they said everything checked out except she needed a couple taillight bulbs and new windshield wiper blades.  I said, “go for it”.  The total bill was $206 AUD and she was basically good to go.  There was one final mechanical thing I wanted to check before we headed to the interior bush – that was the air conditioning.  I made an appointment with a radiator place that the mechanic at Kmart recommended.

The next morning at the radiator shop they took a look at the A/C.  They said it was bad.  To get it to work they would need to replace the A/C radiator (fins were all bent), the compressor and possibly the A/C control panel.  The guy said it would probably cost more than the van was worth.  He suggested one of those 12 volt fans for the cab.  I asked him how much I owed him for spending the hour and a half and he said, “just take it and have a great holiday”.  I thanked him profusely.

Finally we did a bit of shopping and picked up an emergency porta-potty (it looks a little like this “Luggable Loo” ) and a few odds and ends for the kitchen.  “Spotto” was now ready to “road trip”.

Spotto Outback
Spotto in Kings Canyon, NT

 

And that is the clean scoop on Spotto!

No Worries,

David

 

The Great Ocean Road and Onward

There are some iconic Australian road trips calling out to us, and we have a break for Easter where Hannah does not have any matches.  Spotto is loaded and ready to hit the road, and so are we!

Having left Wilson’s Prom and reconnected with Hannah, we caught her evening match, complemented her on her efforts, and bid her adieu.  Our first stop was a rest area outside of Geelong, which was a great little find.  There were many campers parked there when we arrived around midnight. We basically brushed our teeth and rolled into bed.

In the morning, we were greeted with a lovely sunrise:

Gorgeous Wakeup
Gorgeous Wakeup

The parking spot:

The Free Camping Site
The Free Camping Site

And it was fun to note the name of the caravan in front of us, which reminded us of our HitchHiker left behind in storage:

Aussie HitchHika
Aussie HitchHika

After some breakfast and tidying up in the spotless BP station restroom (with a free shower!), we headed towards the Great Ocean Road.

Our “Australia’s Best Trips” guide tells us that we could take 5-7 days following one of the most beautiful coastal road journeys on earth, following the western Victorian coast and passing famous surfing beaches and iconic landforms.  In true Keane/Roudebush fashion, we will cover it in a day.

The drive was truly lovely, and it reminded us of a drive down the California coast.  There were some towns that I really wanted to stop in and visit the shops, grab a flat white, and just chill.  Luckily, we have time to revisit this area, as it is only about 1.5 hrs from Melbourne, and we would love to bring Hannah along for a day trip.

We admired the views of the majestic ocean:

The Great Ocean View
The Great Ocean View

and did see a large area that was hit by a brushfire on Christmas Day.

There was a turnout where there were many people stopped, and it was not listed as a point of interest. A quick peek out my window, and I directed David to find a parking spot.  I then sent him out to take pictures.  You will see why:

A Wondrous Sight
A Wondrous Sight
Size Perspective
Size Perspective
Fun!
Fun!
Impressive
Impressive

Right up David’s alley! When I asked him if he added to them, he said no – he will make one in a less conspicuous place.

We took the 12 kilometer side trip to the Cape Otway lighthouse. This is the second most southerly point of mainland Australia. The oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia, it was built in 1848. It seemed like a good spot to stop and stretch our legs, too!

Cape Otway Lighthouse
Cape Otway Lighthouse

The road was a narrow, forest road, reminiscent of a drive in Redwoods National park, with eucalyptus and gum trees replacing the sequoias.  Cars were parked in some random places, and we realized the people were looking into the trees to see:

Do You Have The Eye?
Do You Have The Eye?

What? You don’t see it?

Let’s go a little closer:

Our First Koala!
Our First Koala!

We could have spent hours watching this animal sitting in a tree.  Instead, David spent 15 minutes chatting up a British couple in a rental Class C about their 3 month trip around Australia.  He got some good pointers on places to explore, too!

Heading back onto the Great Ocean Road, the next point of interest was the Twelve Apostles.

As our book tells us, there are seven stacks; there never were 12; they used to be called “Sow and Piglets” but some brilliant marketing mind changed the name and now people pay $145 for a 15 minute helicopter ride to see them.  We were good to spot one from an observation spot:

20160322_031

Tour buses had deposited their hundreds of passengers at the real lookout point, as well as at the points for the Island Archway and the Loch Ard Gorge.  We puttered along to our campsite destination, in hopes to get there before dark.

Spotto Sighting
Spotto Sighting

Yambuk Lake Caravan Park has, for $20 AUD, unpowered sites right along the lake, and only 500 meters from the ocean.  Parked as level as possible on a hill, we set up and David cooked up some dinner:

Mmmm Good!
Mmmm Good!

We watched the pelicans along the lake, and had a lovely dinner and sleep.  Hot showers and a walk to the beach await us in the morning.

G’day from Down Under,

Nancy

Destination: Wilson’s Promontory

Wilson’s Promontory is a national park in the Gippsland region of Victoria, Australia, located approximately 157 kilometers southeast of Melbourne, and is one of Victoria’s most-loved places.

At the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, it offers spectacular scenery of huge granite mountains, open forest, rainforest, sweeping beaches and coastlines. With hikes from under an hour to over three days, visitors can camp, caravan or stay in huts, cabins, wilderness retreats or lodges at Tidal River where there is a general store.

The day we drove to Wilson’s Prom, or The Prom, it was raining and the wind was howling, so bad that we just wanted to get there and huddle and wait until the next day to explore the park.  However, when we arrived at our planned campground (Shallow Cove Camp Ground), we were turned away. Not only did they not have power (not a concern for us, since we have nothing to plug in) but they also had trees down and felt that we would not be safe there during the storm.

We then went to the next campground up the road, Shallow Cove Caravan Park, where we were turned away for a second time, for all of the same reasons.  This sent us up the road to Yanakie Caravan Park, where the office was unmanned, as the manager was off buying lanterns for the cabins, since power was out there as well.  There were a couple of young backpackers, a French couple in a rental van, and Spotto, all hoping to get inside the gate and have a place to ride out the storm.  We figured out how to get the safety gate up, and found a lovely site to stay the night.  Dinner was really gourmet, as you can see:

20160318_191450
Even in Australia, David finds his McDougall’s
20160319_03.JPG
A Room With A View

In the morning, we took advantage of the kitchen that was available.  This is common in “caravan” parks: stove top, refrigerators, microwave, electric kettle, sink and hot water – all open and available for camper use for no additional charge.  They even rent kitchen sets for $5 in the office, if one comes unprepared.  Take a look – I know some RV’ers who make do with less than this:

20160319_08.JPG

We settled up with the manager for $28 AUD, and headed into The Prom.  Our day consisted of hikes to Tidal River Visitor Center, Tidal Overlook, Pillar Point, Squeaky Beach, and then back to the Visitor Center.  It was a tad over 9 miles of hiking, and we had some beautiful views:

20160319_012
Cricket On The Beach

 

 

I Spy A Wallaby
I Spy A Wallaby
Emu, Is That You?
Emu, Is That You?
Beautiful Squeaky Beach
Beautiful Squeaky Beach

The Tidal River Visitor Center has a campground, and the showers there are free.   They were quite welcome after that day of hiking, and we cleanup up and then returned to Shallow Cove Campground to take advantage of the $15 AUD camping spot.  This was not as glamorous as our first night’s accommodations, but did have a lovely beach that which we had all to ourselves for a sunset dinner of dal that David whipped up.

Sunset Dinner
Sunset Dinner

Wildlife sightings for the day included a wallaby so close we could touch him, a dead wombat on the side of the road, and two emu grazing in a field.  Bonus points for anyone who remembers a U.S. children’s show with an emu.

Day two of hiking took us to a large mangrove forest at Miller’s Landing and another hike straight up to the summit of Mt Bishop.  The view was spectacular, and we could see where we had hiked the day before.  In all, it was another 9+ mile day, and another trip to the free showers at the Visitor Center.

Heading To The Mangroves
Heading To The Mangroves
Mangroves
Mangroves
Trail to the Top of Mt Bishop
Trail to the Top of Mt Bishop
View From The Top
View From The Top

Instead of returning to a caravan park or a campground, we decided to head to a free campsite (call it a rest area, really) which put us about 1.5 hrs away from Hannah.  This is on Sunday night, and we promised to take her to an 11:30 a.m. appointment, as well as spend time with her just hanging out before her 8:30 p.m. soccer match.

The stay in the rest area was easy, we made it to Hannah and chauffeured her around for the day, and attended her match with really no issues to speak of.  It was a long day, but the weather was fair for the first day of Fall. The match was a nail biter, and she had a brilliant assist.  The play-by-play commentators spoke highly of her efforts, and she now has an Easter break from matches which will give us the opportunity to go on an extended road trip.

And that trip has already started…

G’day from Down Under,

Nancy

And The Winner Is…

 

Spotto!

The above picture was sent to Hannah via Snapchat by one of her teammates who had “spotted” the van in the parking lot just after we purchased it.  Thanks, Amy!

David has a little story to tell that he will add as another post, but we decided to go with the bright, happy yellow van that was owned by Alex and Sarah, a French couple who spent 7 months touring Australia.  We have named the van “Spotto” because of a game played here (maybe elsewhere), much like Slug Bug, where one calls out “Spotto” when they spot a yellow vehicle.  Of course, there are rules: can’t be a taxi or a work vehicle, you must be in a vehicle when you call it – you get the idea.  We basically see people pointing and smiling at us all day – in a good way. It is not because we keep using the windshield wipers as turn indicators or leave the blinkers on too long.

The process of purchasing a vehicle got a tad complicated.  A wire transfer from the US to the seller’s Aussie bank account, completing title and registration paperwork, getting auto insurance, and then actually cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning.  It took us a good week to get to the point where we felt comfortable taking it out for a tour.

David washed and waxed the outside, and took it to a mechanic to have some things checked out.  We probably should have done this before we bought it, since this is how we found out the air conditioner really didn’t work, and the cost to fix it will likely exceed the value of the van.  The interior was mine to clean.  It is understandable that the cover of the futon would need a solid bleaching, and we were lucky that our rental accommodations had a wash machine at our disposal.  It took a few wash cycles, but finally, I had the cover looking and smelling fresh.  A comforter and a set of pillows went straight to the rubbish bin, and we weeded through some of the kitchen supplies too.

20160308_132944
Happy Man and Happy Van

I failed miserably when it came to cleaning the curtains.  I put them through a nice, hot wash.  And they melted together is a big, sticky pile.  As I tried to peel them apart, the plastic backing, which was not apparent when I put them in the wash, tore away from the material and caused huge holes in the backing.  I will absolutely need to replace these now.  Here is what they look like until then.  This view is from the inside:

20160322_071025.jpg
The blackout lining separated from the curtain – and is sticky!

Life just isn’t right for us unless we have solar power, so David found a solar panel dealer and we picked up some portable panels – enough to charge the second battery that will keep the cooler cold and our laptops charging.

20160322_036.JPG
Sunning Himself and Getting Charged Up

I originally felt that I had rented the Airbnb studio for one week too many, and was really itching to get exploring, but in the end, it was good to have the home base while we worked to have the van road worthy.  It will now be our home away from RV home until June 1.

David took advantage of the unlimited internet access to plan our first couple of destinations and parking places.

And Away We Go.JPG
And Away We Go!

G’Day from Down Under,

Nancy