Checking in with Chris 


After days of fine clear outback weather we finally rolled into Sydney in wet conditions. An adventure that has racked up 4500 Kms of all sorts of travel .I dropped Paul off at Sydney airport , he flies home tomorrow. Paul managed to keep Henrietta and myself in good order – very knowledgable resource. 

Caught up with Chris and spent a great evening out with him . We went out to dinner at a Bavarian place in an old church. How those old pioneering god fearing forefathers must be rolling their eyes at the great unwashed , buxom barwenches and bar beer swilling crowd that  worship there nowadays .

Crispy pork belly – lovely . He has adapted to ” city life ” in a way that I was never able too and seems happy with his spot in the galaxy. Less of a dreamer than his old man – I can’t detect any passion for kicking loose and finding an adventure . He’s ” well settled”  I guess a fair comment .

I remember when Chris was about 13 – I took him out beekeeping with me and said ,

” Chris – this could all be yours one day ” — the business that is . Ever the diplomat he replied.

” I’m thinking about it Dad ” 

Yeah right ! 

Checked out his fancy unit , nice spot but have to say some parts reminded me of an archeological midden. He is enjoying his new life and the varied challenges of his position. He’s looking well.

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Crossing the Simpson Desert — Alice springs to Birdsville 

StatsTotal trip Alice Springs to Birdsville 970 Kms 

Vehicle – Henrietta Hilux queen of the desert 

Simpson desert part ( Mt Dare to Birdsville via Rig Road , Knolls track , 40 km of French line , and QAA LINE — 550 Kms ) 

Total trip 4.5 days 

Fuel carried — 180 liters

Fuel used 106 liters 
In Simpson 5.18 km per liter or about 19 liters per 100 Kms 
Water – some with dirty Alice Springs sludge and some with alcohol 

90 liters – lost about half the main tank ( about 40 liters ) with a leak 

15 liters beer

2 liters wine 
Other safety kit

Sat phone 

Winching gear including sand anchor

Beadbreaker for tyre repairs 
Equipment carried included  


Near St Teresa – an Aboriginal town 

Departed early from Alice bound for Mt Dare , a remote staging point on the western entry to the Simpson desert . Very picturesque scenery in the drive in via St Teresa settlement with stunning mountain ranges on both sides. Very happy to have added this section in as our first leg as we approached the Simpson Desert starting point 



Mt Dare sits inside a national park , and serves a useful function as a last stop point before venturing into the desert. They sell the last fuel and food you will see for 3 -4 days. They specialize in recovery work for the unfortunate ones who have breakdowns that require retrieval. The Parks authorities require the removal of vehicles at owners costs and the bill for getting rescued will add into the thousands . The recovery vehicles are special 4×4 army type trucks that they charge out at $400 per hour plus drivers labor and given the long hours of torturous driving time to come to find you the bill will be simply colossal . Then you have the cost of fixing your 4×4 !   

Had a great meal at Mt Dare and a few too many beers which the overly eager staff were pushing our way , a slightly amusing sales strategy to get the most profit possible from the ” Simpson Pilgrims ”

Got chatting to an Aussy couple , Margaret and Bill. We were discussing driving and in particular ” Sharing driving ” Paul and I have a sensible hour on hour off regime which keeps us both engaged so to speak . 

Margaret said , 

” well I like 4×4 driving but I have to do it by myself ” 

Bill looked plaintively towards us and said , ” I can’t be a passenger as I can’t do anything with my hands ”

I was just going to say in my best Australian , ” fair suck of the sav — cobber — that sounds pretty lame ” when Paul whispered that the body language was getting tense . Bill stood up bidding us goodnight and Margeret followed in tow.   
   We set off for Dalhousie Spring ( about 70 km of Rocky road ) which is the real start of the actual desert trip . The spring itself was pretty nice – stripped off for a dip in the deep spring -( Paul was a little bit of a prude here 😉)  water probably about 35 c – very nice way to start the trip proper . The springs are uprising waters from the ” great artesian basin ” – a massive underground water reserve . 

We set off for Dalhousie Spring ( about 70 km of Rocky road ) which is the real start of the actual desert trip . The spring itself was pretty nice – stripped off for a dip in the deep spring – water probably about 35 c – very nice way to start the trip proper  The Simpson desert was called the ” Great Ribbed Desert ” prior to getting its washing machine tag because of its link to that Mr Simpson of washing machine fame . From the air it look like giant ribs laid out nth south that stretch for over 300 Kms . The ribs are all ridge sand dunes , thus to cross the Simpson one must pass over about 1000 dunes . They are approx 30 meters in height but vary. There is normally a flat area between each ridge , some have salt lakes in them. 


The trip over had us camping for three nights. We saw the odd groups ( 3 or 4 vehicle convoys ) but few and far between . We took the less travelled route , via the Rig Road and back up the Knolls track . Lots of interesting varied scenery , plenty of dingo present and we often saw fresh camel tracks. Lizards galore and some bird life. The desert had winter rains this year so we had plenty of wild flower to see too.
Has been an educative trip for me -( thanks Paul for guidance and tips )  testing just where Henrietta is capable of going in sand country. With lower tyre pressures I have been amazed at just how doable this sand country can be . 


This is Pauls monster swag –what city folk did to the useful simple compact swag of yesteryear . Now it is 10 times the packed size of a tent ! For a man who snores ( very loudly ! ) it is perhaps a good option. His smart lady would need a swag of her own – some distance apart maybe 😉 



Poeppels Corner — this marks the intersect between SA , NT and Queensland . Celebratory beer 


Our trips end . Pic of Paul ontop little Red – the easier option than Big Red – from there it was an easy 30 km to the famous outback settlement of Birdsville . Food , fuel , bakery and the famous pub. May be a big night 😊

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The  “washing machine” desert 


Have spent the last two days prepping Henrietta for our big adventure over the Simpson desert. 

Why the washing machine desert ? – well turns out that the Simpson desert was named rather late in the history of European exploration of Australia – late as the 1920’s – and named after Mr Simpson of washing machine fame who footed the bill for an aerial survey over this area as it was being explored.


My partner in this adventure , swagman Paul Sutton , has just finished off securing his last , most important piece of kit . He has this most impressive swag , a sort of tent swag. Paul manufactured some neat hardware to secure the jerry cans to the roof rack for the extra 40 liters of fuel we estimate we will require . He is a consummate engineer held in high repute by those lucky enough to know him and Henrietta has been given a comprehensive survey by Paul to ensure she it fit for the demands ahead. We have a bunch of extra spares , a neat sarca ground anchor for winching ourselves out of the shit and some important kit that allows us to repair tyres in the outback ( a beadbreaker) 



Paul and Greg 

Greg has family connections to Paul ( Lynn’s younger brother )  . Greg trains pilots , among other things , and very kindly took Paul and me out for a great flight in and around Adelaide , Fleurieu Peninsula , Victor Harbour and the mouth of the Murray River. A spectacular flight in fine weather with some turbulence . Tight banking turns to get a close up look at some sights made for a memorable trip 😉 ( pics above of banking turn with a look at the Mouth of the Murray River.)  Our flight took all of 90 minutes so it was certainly a great treat and very generous of Greg.

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Visiting Chris — the hard way — crossing the Simpson desert 

My son Chris emigrated to Australia in February 2015 . Big word ” emigrated ” a scary thing to do when you are only 21 . He made the call that the big Australian economy would likely provide him with much more opportunity than staying on in his country of birth. Courtesy of his mother , he now enjoys duel nationality and the important privileges that citizenship in Australia guarantees. He has made a great adjustment , recently getting a good promotion within the company , a more challenging and interesting job now and he seems to be relishing the challenge of making a name for himself. 

His new job meant he made a big move out to Parramatta and took a tenancy on a brand new apartment , his first sole tenancy .
I chatted with him recently , he called me on my birthday and told me that he was going to take me out to dinner when I next visit. Can’t let that generous offer expire so my next adventure is now planned and a ticket booked . 

 This picture was way back on 2 nd feb 2015 when I saw Chris off from Auckland international airport , Australia bound. I had a beer with him and then he was off thru the ” passengers only ” portal to another world , another life , a new beginning. I will always remember his words to me . At about the point I took this photo , he pulled out his wallet from his back pocket and opened and removed his last NZ notes — 30 or 40 bucks .

” here Dad , take this — I won’t be needing it any more ” 

There was a certain finality to his tone , it was like he was telling me that this was a serious move and he certainly didn’t intend to return any time soon enough to need nz money . 

So a great excuse for another adventure then ( as if I’ve ever needed excuses !) 


I fly to Adelaide on 10th August to awaken Henrietta who has been slumbering in Hahndorf ( Adelaide hills ) at our friends place. The plan is to prep her for a big drive over the Simpson desert — visit my boy the hard way 
Henrietta is already well equipped for this mission , a ton of camping gear , some good recovery equipment in the event of mishap and even a great winch and a new acquisition of a beadbreaker kit for tyre replacement should we damage a tyre. I am a little light on ” 4×4 desert experience” but am fortunate to have my Kerikeri friend Paul Sutton joining me. Paul is an engineer par excellance and will be able to sort out mechanical issues and he also has lots of extreme 4×4 experience . 

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Barb — 30 years on — and all done after 72 days in Japan

Met this cute girl 30 years ago – we were both lining up for a youth hostel in the city of San Francisco. We only had about 24 hours together in San Fran before we headed off in different directions but arranged to meet again in Canada and then in New York City. From there we both had round the world tickets for London – so caught a flight together . I happened to have a round the world ticket for business class , and so keen was I that I downgraded to fly economy with her. We still joke about this , even 3o  years on.

So here we are 3o years on with a similar dilemma . After 72 days in Japan ( including a little 600 km ‘s in Korea ) we Are lining up again in Narita , Japan homeward bound. As luck would have it my air New Zealand ticket has been upgraded to business – so called loyalty ” recognition” upgrade. 

What to do — hmmmmmm ?

I want Barb to take the upgrade – but we are going to have to board then switch as the Japanese checkin did not make this an easy option – we need to sort it out with the kiwi crew onboard.

Postscript — Barb went business class 😊

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Shirakawa – traditional old houses ( Gassho – zukuri ) 

Camped by a lovely Onsen close to this great traditional village where they still have some great older styled thatched roofed homes. We had a soba noddle breakfast in one of these old homes. 

We beat the tourists by getting an early jump on them , helped by the fact that dawn comes at 5 am , much to Barbs horror 😉 No escape if you are sleeping in the campervan .

This pic is from Takayama , outside the very old ( 1600’s ) building complex of the Jinka — a government administration centre for this region .a rare relic from this time , now a protected historic site . Lots of Chinese tourists. 

Matsumoto Castle 

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Trains of Japan 

Japan has a facinating history of railways and in 2016 they opened this brand new museum in Kyoto with a truly impressive array of trains , interactive displays and many well preserved examples of their steam engines. The fact that they still retain arguably the best and most efficient railway system in the world it is perhaps not surprising that they have the resources for this type of preservation of important history .

Only problem is that mostly it caters for the Japanese , so hard to make full use of many features .

This is the first Shinkansen train , from the early 1960’s – could go 200 kms per hour. Clever folk — Japanese 

Barb and I missed our first Shinkansen to Hiroshima by seconds , but we need not have sweated it – the next 16 car Shinkansen for Hiroshima was only about 10 minutes wait . Incredible that in the peak times it runs up to 13 trains per hour ( each way ) 

Has a fully operational turntable and a 20 engine storage , maintainance building , each bay has a beautiful steam engine . A Mecca for railway enthusiasts for sure 

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