On the Expedition Trail Again
Let's back track a bit to when we left the Sunny Coast again...
It's crazy to think that less than two months ago we were still in the Sunshine Coast. Our expedition team was changing with the addition of our friend Felix, and the changes that we had to undergo on our rig to accommodate our larger crew. It was exciting, stressful and intense all in one as we had to essentially refit our truck and reorganize all our equipment and gear within a week. The addition of a 4x4 trailer proved to be a very wise choice, as we could spread out and empty the truck of non-essentials. The trailer was outfitted with a second fridge, solar panel and a hardshell Kings rooftop tent. With a deadline set only a week after Felix arrived down under we rushed through our unending list of maintenance and mods, all while Anna and I tried to balance work on top of it.
Among many of the new modifications we did, we finally took care of the cracked and sunbaked bonnet. Removing the bonnet altogether to save the work of taping it off, we cleaned it down and gave ti a light sand. A couple cans of Fiddly Bits spray paint later we had a nice black finish to our otherwise flaky bonnet, almost as good looking as a professional job.
We also installed the snorkel ourselves. Let me just tell you, what should have been a easy install ended up taking the good majority of a day to do. Thanks to Outback Equipment of Brisbane, we were able to source a reasonably priced snorkel (or raised air intake) that seemed pretty straightforward to install.
It's always scary holding up a power tool to the body work of your car, but luckily the kit came with a guide on where to drill, and where the massive intake hole would go.
The small holes were the easy part, the large intake...well that was a different story. After almost burning out a power drill and dulling a hole saw blade we had to make a trip to the local Bunnings to get some better tools, plus a sausage sizzle in order to keep our strength up! We finally got that bugger cut out after about two trips to Bunnings, a lot of cursing, and slightly deafened ears from a variety of high powered saws.
Can you tell how overjoyed I was? Little did we know this would be the easy part, as there are lots of little fiddly bits hidden inside the body work that had to be removed and eventually reattached.
Once the job was done though Matilda looked a dream! Easy as a Vegemite sandwich that takes six hours to make! Raised air intake sorted, we hoped to reduce how much dust would be sucked into the air filter, and try to maintain some of our performance while towing a trailer.
Among other projects we also had to fully reconfigure out roof rack set up. We swapped which side the awning was on, as well as which direction the roof top tent opened up to. We configured it so both rooftop tents would open to the same direction, and so both awnings would open in the same direction to try and maximize usable space at camp. We also moved the propane bottle onto the tongue of the trailer so we don't have to take it on and off the roof every night. By the way, notice how nice that freshly painted bonnet looks now?
We also had some maintenance items that we couldn't do ourselves. We had a full service done on the engine, including a swap of oil and filters. We also had a leaking axle seal on the front that needed replacing. Thanks to the awesome services of Overland 4WD in Maroochydore, we had the seal replaced for a very reasonable price. Plus we had a great chat with the owner about our expedition and any advice he could give us.
After that week, I can now say that I would not want to install a snorkel again myself. Will I actually listen to that advice? Probably not, but I'm just glad I didn't learn to do it on our Jeep we had back in the states. The trailer had an 80 litre water tank with an electric water pump, standalone dual battery, as well as it's own solar charging system and chest height kitchen counter and designated kitchen compartment. Having the extra room we were able to shift all our cooking and food to the trailer, freeing up space in the truck for just clothes, one fridge and camera gear. There's no better feeling than taking a once stuffed car and making it just a bit tidier with more room to breath and spread out in. With everything now having a designated place, our expedition set up felt twofold more legit and professional plus would prove to make camp life immensely easier.
We carried an exhaustive list of equipment and supplies, all hopefully accounting for any situation we should run into on the trail. Among our recovery equipment we carried:
- 4 Maxtrax
- 2 Full Size Spare Tires
- 3 Snatch Straps
- Extra D-Rings
- Air Compressor
- Tire Deflator
- Tire Plug Kit
Along with the two full size spares, our trailer ran the exact same size tires as Matilda, so should we encounter major issues or puncture more than two tires, we could cannibalize tires off the trailer to at least evacuate ourselves and get to a servo or place we could purchase replacements.
For our safety and emergency equipment we carried:
- 2 Garmin InReach Messengers (second as a fail safe redundancy)
- Fully Stocked Trauma Kit
- Survival Rations
- 120 Liters of Water
- Survival Blankets
- Hema Maps Australia Atlas
- Signal Flares
- Survival Handguide
- Full Automotive Toolset
- Spare Belt, Radiator Hose, Air Filter, Coolant and Oil I know I'm probably forgetting quite a few things, but you get the idea. We were prepared, perhaps over prepared, but prepared nonetheless. The wise words of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen kept repeating in my head: "Adventure is just bad planning." At least a bad adventure is just bad planning. We were set for an epic adventure that would see us through the rest of Australia.
With our truck and trailer laden for adventure, we said goodbye once again to our family friends in the Sunshine Coast. We had a rough return date set, but even though the road ahead was an exciting prospect, we looked forward to being back in this spot having accomplished our expedition in a few months time. We were all abuzz with excitement mixed with perhaps a dash of apprehension as to what lay ahead of us.
We plotted our first campsite into our map and fired up Matildas trusty 3.0 turbo diesel. Gripping the pavement and sagging a bit lower than usual, we lumbered down the street and turned out onto the main road. This was the first time we had driven with the trailer and truck fully loaded and boy could you feel it. A bit slower at the get up, and a bit more tippy at the turns we cruised down the highway feeling out our new driving situation and listening keenly for any unwanted knocks, thuds or wobbles. While heavy and boxy the trailer was barely noticeable once we were underway. Sure we had to be a bit more mindful while switching lanes but overall our expedition setup rode like a dream. Amped up we blasted tunes and sang our heads off to pass the time to our first campsite.
I can't rave enough about how amazing of a platform WikiCamps is. I know I've gone on tangents before about them, but their list of campsites never fails to bring us to the most unique and epic (and lets not forget free). The folks who work tirelessly at creating an amazingly user friendly platform that's easy to navigate deserve a huge thank you from our expedition. It seems they thought of everything, from having user reviews and photos, to being able to have all data cached offline so everything is accessible even when your phone service is not. Come to think of it, I may as well write a review of the app at this point!
Anyway, back to the journey. After heading south of Brisbane, we turned off the highway and began to make our way inland into the heart of Queensland. Soon the palm trees and large suburbs dissolved into small quaint towns surrounded by rolling grassy hills and speckled with tall gum trees. Even on the road there never ceases to be a shortage of unique Aussie characters, one of which we were briefly acquainted with. While stopped for road work, the lady driving ahead of us got out of her car, proceeded to attempt to rescue a butterfly which she had hit with her car, and then signaling to us by holding her nose she also informed us of her dislike for large diesel automobiles. To each their own I suppose!
Narrowly avoiding any other interaction, the light finally turned green and our big, stinky diesel was once again trekking towards our campsite. We entered a range of uniquely shaped mountains and soon turned off the paved road onto our favorite: dirt. The gravel rumbled underneath our tires and a cloud of white-gray dust was tossed up into the air behind us. We were flanked by cattle land on either side, and we raced along the barbed wire bordered road, spotting cows and keeping our eyes peeled for kangaroo.
As the afternoon waned our destination quickly approached us. Our camp for the night was Tooloom Falls. We pulled into camp and were quickly astonished at the epic-ness of our first camp spot. We circled the camp and nestled into a spot directly overlooking the roaring waterfall. We were so close to the falls that you could feel the water cooled air rushing up and over the cliff into our campsite. Even though there were other campers, we were fully immersed in the sounds of rushing water and the clean crisp smell of the river. Directly across the stream smoke from a controlled bush fire curled into the air, providing an aromatic smokey compliment to the brisk outdoor smell of the stream. Not able to contain our excitement cameras were grabbed and we rushed to snap photos and fly the drone as the golden hour crested over the tree line.
We wouldn't be able to call ourselves true explorers if we didn't pose in true expedition fashion! It was incredible that or camp was literally meters away from this amazing waterfall.
Can you spot Matilda? She's the rig rocking the awning and trailer in the center bottom. It's too bad that causeway is closed now, I can only imagine how much fun that would've been to ford back in the day when it was still intact.
The controlled burns helped to complete the mood with the smell of fresh campfire, even though we weren't allowed to have fires.
They really don't call it the golden hour for nothing. The warm evening light is amazing for vehicle photography, of which we've been given ample time to practice. Always have your camera handy though as the light is there and gone quickly!
Of course I had to get in on the explorer pose action as well. Embracing my inner Aussie I think the hat really compliments the entire vehicle and outfit.
Look at how organized we are! It's a very stark contrast to what we had been used to, and there is something to be said about having everything easy to access and grab! While it may not look like much, it made camp life feel luxurious in comparison to other set ups we've had. One night in and we were sold on the trailer. Even though it may be more limiting with where you can drive, the creature comforts it provides makes it all worth it.
This hidden gem was the perfect start to our expedition. Cracking a couple of cold ones, we quickly realized the night would also be a cold one. Our first cold one in a long while, which if I'm being frank was jarring to the system. Bundled up tightly in our fleeces and stocking caps, we chatted about tomorrows plans and about the days events and our lucky find of a campsite. Being weary from driving all day it was an early evening to bed. We fell asleep quickly as the sound of rushing water sang a relaxing lullaby throughout the night to us. After a couple months of sleeping in a normal bed it felt like we had returned home to our rooftop tent where we were once again surrounded by the Australian bush.