Lots to say, lots of photos to share and we are finally almost there!!!
First up, let's talk about Betsie. There hasn't been a lot so far, but enough to make me vigilant and regular with my checks.
We had a clunk when cornering sharp under brakes around the Daintree area. Rear bolt on front passengers side radius arm need a tweak up. A few other suspension bolts needed a tweak as well during that spanner check.
I noticed a wet mark up the side of the gearbox during routine inspection at the Archer road house. It was in an unusual place, no where near any mating surfaces of casings, and all the oil seals were dry (honest, it's true, this one doesn't leak yet!!!). The next day while battering through endless corrugations it occurred to me that I had noticed the oil was also getting thrown out onto the same area of the floor pan that the grease from the rear UJ on the front D/S gets thrown on. We stopped at the Morton telegraph station for morning tea, there was a tall shady tree and a nice cool breeze. Ideal for getting the work shop out and doing some repairs. Sure enough, the flange on the front output from the transfercase was just a fraction loose. The nylock nut must have been getting tired. Permanent strength thread locker to the rescue. At this point, I might add that I was so grateful for having my specially modified for doing Defender drive shafts 9/16 spanner with me, as naturally it had to be the worst of the four flanges to get at, right above the gear box x.member. Also had quite an audience by the time i was done, Sarah thankfully keep them all entertained while focused on fiddly nuts in awkward places that really test your patience!!!!!!!
The pop top has been outstanding. The rubber seal on the passengers front end started to slip off, easy fix, stripped off the whole seal down the side to take the tension off the corner and refitted the corner. Hasn't moved since. One of the catches seems a bit average, it seems to move rather than pull the roof down tight, so keeping a close eye on that incase it's showing metal fatigue, as all the bolts are tight. Nothing like sitting up the top with the windows open spotting croc's etc with the torch at night, Alex loves it!!
My door developed a rattle making the corrugations sound worse than they were (ok, you could hear my door above all the other shaking, squeaking and rattling going on). A quick adjustment of the striker on the pillar solved that for now.
The next up coming repair is on the snorkel. The corrugations have ripped the mounting screws out of the cast alloy windscreen frame. There's a lot of leverage on them, especially with the pre cleaner, in fact it could really do with some kind of diagonal brace at 90ged to the snorkel. For now, It looks like I can possibly drill right through the windscreen frame, and manage to replace one screw on each bracket with a nut and bolt. The other screw positions are hidden behind formations in the casting. That's tomorrow mornings experiment. The pre cleaner is awesome. Everyday I tip at least a tea spoon of dust out on my morning pre start check over.
The trip so far......... Put very simply, it's a bloody long drive up here from Sydney!!!!
The Bloomfield track was steep and slippery, but a great drive. Looks like it all took a hammering from Cyclone Ita in April. We stayed just out of Wajul Wajul down a sneaky track to a swimming hole. It also looked like it had been wrecked in the cyclone, the rope swing above a large gravel bed was a bit of a give away!! Some odd happenings during the night unfolded at that camp site. A mysterious vehicle stopped out by the end of the track at 1am in the morning and started its engine at half hour intervals for a minute or so, lead to an uneasy nights sleep. By uneasy, I mean I hopped out of bed, got the truck ready to go (we never leave anything outside at night anyway) , put the roof down, got Sarah into bed with Alex, and I sat in the passengers seat with my sleeping bag over me, the doors locked and the keys in the ignition ready to get the hell out of there if required!!!! I suspect they were pinching fuel out of the road work machinery parked just up the road from us, and we really had no reason to worry as they would have had no idea we were there. But if someone had seen us go in there earlier......................
Archer Point was awesome, sunny, breezy, and ya can't swim. Grrrrrrr. Got to play with the solar panels though.
We hit Cooktown just at the right time, there was a fuel truck delivering fuel and there had been no Diesel in town for the last two weeks!! It was there we also realised how much of a good move it was to ditch the gas stove for the liquid fuel stove. It was $47 to fill a companion bottle, with an hours wait. How does that work??
Elim beach was nice enough, but if we had another vehicle with us, we could have driven 15km north up the beach to the river mouth and stayed there!!! At least that's what the two guys I spoke to at the beach access were going to do, on the next low tide. Next time I reckon :)
Lakefield national park was good, so many tracks, I wanted to explore them all to find that hidden gem, but alas time wasn't on our side. Sweet water lake was magic, white Lillie's, birds everywhere, crocs, frogs, green ants, and termite mounds. All we get at home is the constant hum of bloody Wasps!!!!
Heading north from Lakefield national park, I almost turned round and went back!!!!! I new as soon as we hit the Peninsula Developement road it was going to get bad. I thought it was pretty bad out to Archer Point and Elim beach, but this was another level again. I had the fronts down at 25psi, and the rears at 35psi so they looked like they were bagging about the same, but I just couldn't do it. There was no where that was smooth enough for you to get through that 40 to 60km/h zone to get up on top of them and do 80km/ h. Then if you did manage to get to that speed, sure enough there would be a dip in the road, a pot hole, a soft patch, a corner, another car coming in the other direction doing 120km/h with a monster cloud of dust billowing out from behind its enormous caravan swallowing up any visibility and peppering you gravel as it went by, or, the corrugations just got MASSIVE, and you just had to slow down.
As it turned out, once we turned off the at the junction of Weipa and the cape, the road improved and you could do 80km/h with the corrugations nothing more than a slight hum. Untill you hit a pot hole, a dip, a soft patch, a corner, or passed another vehicle going like a bat outa hell creating a dust storm worthy of any central Australian Desert!!!
While I was making repairs to the drive flange at the Morton Telegraph station, a couple of guys approached us to make sure all was ok. We bumped into these same two vehicles at Palm creek at the start of the OTT. One was in a brand new Patrol, which had 4000ks on the clock when he left ACT, and the other was in Disco 1, a nice truck with a sensible set up. He drove down through the easy track, and winched him self up the far bank. The Patrol driver had a sneaky track he had been told about, that brought us onto the OTT just up the road, so we opted to tag along with him.
If it hadn't been for meeting these guys, I would have given the OTT a miss. The main track was fine, quite washed out and I was glad to have the locker and loads of suspension travel, but there was plenty of traction. The easy crossings were deep and technical, and people just seemed to crash through them oblivious to the damage to their vehicle they may have just inflicted. Cockatoo creek was the most technical, we had four people standing in the creek marking the route, and the water was over knee deep in some places. After we were all through, someone in a prado with a trailer just hit it straight across the middle. Didn't even get out to look. I don't think they will be driving that home, rainbow colored water............. One un named ford saw us with a tide mark half way up the doors and water lapping at the top of the bonnet. It's always that catch 22, to go back the way you have come could well be worse than the obstacle immediately in front...
Gun shot, well, you gotta be really keen to use your winch, have a super long winch extention, be prepared to burry the front of your truck in the mud while you set you winch up, scrape your rear end all the way down the rock face, the cross the creek, and do three different winches to get up the other side. Waste of time when your thousands of ks from home, and thousands of dollars poorer if you need to get your truck recovered out of there to the nearest work shop!!! There is a perfectly good bypass........... Man or mouse???? In this case, pass me the cheese :)
We parted ways with those two guys at Elliot falls, as they were going to head out Vrilya, and we wanted to keep going north, and look at heading to Vrilya on the way back. As we had stayed at a few camp sites, and stopped at a few road houses, I had a chance to talk to a few people who where on their way back from the cape. Easy to spot the red dusty vehicles from the clean ones still heading up! From talking to them I had started to form a picture about the dreaded Nolan's brook crossing. It was deep. It was worse than ever. Two well kitted out defenders on their way back had gone as far, and decided that it was just to risky, well over bonnet height. Camped at Canal creek last night, another guy in a monster 80 series on 35's with way to much money spent on suspension said that 30 dead vehicles have been salvaged from there in the last two weeks, and there lots more in town suffering consequences of having been stuck in the deep water.
Needless to say, we branched off the OTT just before Mistake Creek and headed on north to catch the ferry over the Jardine river. Whilst waiting for the ferry, a guy came over for a chat. Another Defender driver. His was parked in the camp site beside the waiting area. Dead. Another victim of Nolan's brook. I got quite curious when he said the sump was all twisted and there was an enormous split up the side of the block. I just had to go and see!!!! This Defender 110 was a monster. 33x12.5's, reckoned he had 10k of suspension under it, it was HUGE. Long story short, got stuck with the bonnet submerged, water got in around the air box lid and hydrauliced whilst waiting for the tow out to happen. I got a good pic of the split block on the proper camera so you will have to wait for that until I get it off. It was a 200tdi. We will definitely go and see Nolan's and the old Jardine crossing on the way back down, but I'm not putting Betsie anywhere near it!!!!!
For now we are enjoying the peace and tranquility of Crocs infested Wroonga Point. School holidays finished last week, so we have it all to our selves. Walk to the tip tomorrow, and no I haven't forgotten our precious cargo Rex..............
Peter & Sarah Hal