There are times on any journey when things don’t go quite as planned right from the get-go. Sadly, such occasions often portend further complications as the trip unfolds – our return to Brisbane was just such an experience. Or is it the “rule of three’s” – the old adage that misfortune usually comes in threes ? We’d recently had Covid, we had then been forced out of our home by fires – was there one more to come ( hopefully not as dramatic at least )? It seemed there was just a bit more drama in store before we could drive out of Brisbane in our van, picking up where we left off 7 weeks ago, heading to historic Birdsville.
Our plane was late out of Kelowna, which led to a very tight ( potential ) connection out of Vancouver. In fact the flight out of Vancouver was itself 40 mins late. No chance to pick up that time en route to Sydney since the flight was turbulent and the captain changed the route putting us even further behind. Need not have worried as it turned out – the onward flight to Brisbane was canceled anyway and the best alternate flight to our scheduled 10.00 am departure was one at 4pm. Yikes! Exhausted already after 18 hours travel and now another 6 hours sitting around at the airport ? Alas, if only a delayed flight was to be the extent of our struggles.
The Brisbane flight at least took off close to the scheduled time and we Uber’d from Brisbane airport to our van which was in storage nearby. Dark already as we pulled in, our general excitement soon gave way to despair – the van could not be opened. It appeared that, after almost 7 weeks in storage the battery was so flat it could not even generate enough power to open the electric door locks on the van. We used a manual workaround to actually open the doors so at least we could get in, and, if needed, lay down and get some much needed sleep. First thought was to call the RACQ ( the Queensland equivalent of our CAA ) who ( supposedly ) offered a reciprocal jump start service. Not so fast – according the RACQ, such service is only afforded to Australian registered vehicles. Ours is from Canada – no dice, she claimed. We opted to sleep in the van overnight and try for a jump in the am, being simply too exhausted to further argue the point.
Fortunately, first thing in the am we could avail ourselves of the services of nearby auto-electrician, Carl Mackey. Carl’s shop was right across the street and he quickly identified a totally fried battery which was able to be replaced so we were soon on our way. Seems, rather miraculously ( so far anyway ) that anytime we’ve had major auto drama there’s been a guardian angel hovering nearby ( may it be forever thus !! ).
Van now operational, an overnight visit with our niece, Shannon and her family in Wynnum (Brisbane) gave us time to get the rig road-ready and for us to load up on supplies for the long journey west that lay ahead. Not, however, before a short detour north to the Sunshine Coast Camping and RV expo where we both explored the exhibits and made the personal acquaintance of veteran Aussie Overlander, Kym Bolton. Kym owns Australian Expedition Vehicles ( aav4x4.com.au ) and has overlanded much of the globe, most recently returning from 4 months in Japan with his 4×4 Fuso. He was a fount of information on matters relating to upcoming overland trips we hope to complete after Australia – his company makes an awfully impressive overland rig, too !
Beyond our chat with Kym it was interesting to contrast what’s popular in the RV/camping/4×4 space in Australia vs what one sees in the US/Canada where we have attended many such overland-style shows. One striking observation is that the traditional caravan ( “trailer” to North Americans ) still reigns supreme here, albeit very heavily beefed up for SERIOUS outback travel. We continue to be just blown away by how many we see. Vans, built or customized for off-road travel ( such as ours ), seem far less common although they are growing in popularity. Fifth Wheels are all but non- existent here whereas they are a dime a dozen in the US/Canada. A change we have noticed in the last 10 years in Oz is the re-emergence of traditional full-sized US trucks here ( RAMS are everywhere, Silverado’s quite common and Ford F150’s starting to appear). No threat yet, though, to a market still absolutely dominated by Toyota Hilux’s, Landcruisers and Ford Rangers !
Now it was time to turn directly west, with about 1600kms between us and historic Birdsville, our next major destination. Over the next week the route took us from the Sunshine Coast ( Moolooloobah ) out through the Glass House Mountains and over the Great Dividing Range through the Darling Downs, Western Downs and then into what officially becomes the Queensland “Outback”. It was a wonderful drive through typical Queensland towns like Kilcoy, Blackbutt ( both of which have legendary bakeries ), Dalby ( hometown of Margot Robbie – yes, THE Margot Robbie, she of “Barbie” fame ), Roma and Charleville. Many of these places offered scenic diversions and/or historical points of interest, along with excellent municipal “bush” camping options; we must say that Queensland really does this exceptionally well – our personal camping experiences here vindicating everything we’d heard about in advance.
From Charleville ( practically speaking the last town of any size heading west ), the road, while still sealed, narrows considerably, at times being just one lane wide necessitating half the van off the bitumen when passing any oncoming vehicle. There was now a substantial reduction in road traffic and the towns ( settlements ) grew correspondingly smaller. Cooladdi, and Eromanga made for some interesting visits with overnight stops, the Natural History Museum in Eromanga being especially noteworthy. Who’d have known that giant dinosaurs once roamed these parts ?
Next week we continue our journey- destination, Birdsville !