North Simpson – Hay river 4×4 trip 

We arrived in Adelaide early April to our friends the Kennedy’s who look after Henrietta in our absence. We spent a couple of days prepping her for another foray into the interior , the Red centre of Australia. Had her on the hoist checking over the new suspension parts — a ” spanner check ” before we hit the dunes – sand that is.
. Spent a few nights camped at Melrose ( Flinders Range ) with a great walk and some cycling on e- bikes . A novelty for us.

flocks of these incredibly rowdy teenagers ” Correllas ” would swoop in and make this almost deafening din round dawn and dusk . Thankfully they would all depart again after a few minutes to annoy some other spot.

Henrietta was loaded with enough fresh fruit and veg to start up an outback organic food shop , and as usual the standard of cuisine was excellent . This high standard , we maintained even thru the outback , Barb is a great chef. At times we had to resist peer pressure to join the group at some of the roadhouse eateries , but outback pub grub seemed particularly ordinary compared to what Barb creates 😘

We joined a taggalong trip organised by John Cantrell .The group , a convoy of 11 4×4 ‘s and our mission was to cross the Simpson desert via the Hay river . This section of the route was  4 days of travel , the crux section, as you are right out there on your own and help is not readily available . You need to have the ability to sort out all mechanical issues . Our group was lucky , no disasters. The definition of ” a disaster ” in this context is having to use the sat phone to call in the cavalery for a desert recovery . It remains illegal to abandon a vehicle in the desert so a recovery involves a special 4×4 truck coming out . This may take some days and the cost can run from $5000 to $30,000 depending on where you are when you make the final emergency call.  Our group was lucky – Henrietta came thru unscathed .  A ford ranger had a front shock problem that required an improvised temp. Repair , a couple of roof racks detached requiring Jerry repairs but nothing that stopped us for long.

John Cantrell runs a great trip , a capable resourceful old dude who has probably faced just about every mechanical issue that could happen , and he is well versed in the solutions. He had a lot of repeat clients , which says a lot about his style of management. The responsibility that the ” good shepherd ” has for his motley little flock may at time weigh heavy on him , but by day’s end when he radios the convoy that he has found a campsite he would fairly quickly unwind into his favourite tipple of a glass or 2 of Chardonnay. Ever heard that joke ” what’s the difference between an Australian wedding and an Australian funeral ??

Well — at the funeral there is one less drunk ! 

Only kidding John Cantrell , 

Trip leader ,  Recontour , the guy who will get you thru the desert 

I have put together a 6 minute vid about the trip here under. Pic above is George and Loretta. George set the speed record on big RED – clip in vid

Posted in travel blog | 2 Comments

Mt Ruapehu Expedition 

March 2017

Ohakune to Whakapapa counterclockwise walk around Mount Ruapehu 
Stats. 44 kms over 4 days walking taking approx 17 hours


Posted in travel blog | 2 Comments

Aratiatia Rapids on the Waikato River – life in the simple lane

We have parked up on a pleasant spot , little bit out of the way perhaps , at an Equestrain Centre , plenty of room and we have it all to ourselves – good shower and ablutions block and all for $5 per person per day. Really very close to the Waikato River and all the tourist attractions suited for the mass market type tourist — ride the jet boat , Bunga jump off a great height — that type of thing. We have been making our own fun and today was no exception — we set off at about 10 am after I had finished my drone photo shoot of the rapid section and headed into Taupo on a series of MTB tracks. 

Blackberries are running wild hereabouts and are ripe and ready for the picking. We had a little expedition to get some for ourselves. Just so sweet and I couldn’t help reflect on the life in the slow lane . My only “worry” for the day was how many blackberries I really wanted.

Had a good ride , a lovely lunch in the ” Bike Cafe ” in Taupo that gives 10 % off the bill ” IF YOU ARRIVE BY CYCLE ”

How cool is that ! 

Vid from bike ride

Vid from Drone on Aratiatia Rapids

Posted in travel blog | 2 Comments

Barb’s birthday celebrated at Taupo — kinloch and WHAKAIPO bay 

Been on the road now for 2 weeks and we are now slowing down into some time around Lake Taupo and the central Plateau area. Had two nights in Kinloch parked up at the marina. The nice cafe style restaurant , ” The Tipsy ” was the spot for Barb’s night out . We did open a lovely bottle of champagne and shared it with some ” new friends ” we happened to meet on our MTb ride. Amazing how many ” new friends” one makes when adventuring. Great chance of finding like minded individuals out there doing it too.

The ride was spectacular and challenging for us both. I took at tumble on the way back down with a bit of bark off , but nothing too serious. Need to slow down .​

( more on Barbs birthday here.


Close to Taupo city we have stopped for a few nights at this great free camp site . Lots of room and not so busy.this is a short vid taken on Sunday morning at WHAKAIPO 

Posted in travel blog | Leave a comment

Training Day One – Barbs up for all this , 2000kms or more —  paddling , cycling and or walking !! 

We are on the road again , traveling with seas Kayaks , MTB’s and tramping / camping gear of all kinds. Big plans and the realization that training will be required .

Barb has ticked the box for the following challenges on a big OE trip from July onwards.

Anticipated highlights 

  • Paddle 658  Kms in Germany’s River Elbe participating in the “Elbefahrt
  • Cycle tour about 1000kms in Germany along the Danube river and other routes to be determined 
  • Cycle the 4 Rivers cycle route between the cities of Seoul and Bussan 640 Kms 
  • Walk maybe – up to 400 km on the island of Jeju ( walk called the Jeju Olle ) Training day One was a lovely paddle up the Puhoi river from our campsite at Wenderholm campgrounds. Paddled up on the rising tide and had a nice brunch at the historic Bohemium Pub. Not a long paddle but enough training for day 1 .Barb picked up some 1 dollar books at the Puhoi library , good as the tv is playing up.
  • With term one about to start , and Barb having turned down a bunch of teaching opportunities in favour of our training camps , we both chuckled at this sign outside the old trading post shop. 
  • NO regrets 
Posted in travel blog | 5 Comments

The Last Truck 

Nine years ago I purchased this 70 series flat deck Landcruiser , a V8 diesel. I got her with the clear intention that this was to be my ” last truck ” She was brand spanking new and I cycled back roads about 100 Kms sth to Whangarei on by bike to take delivery from the Toyota franchise  . A truck strong enough to last this man the balance of his life. I promised myself that I would make it a ” keeper ” , like my ( expensive at the time) titanium Eddy Merckx road bike. When I bought the bike I told Barb it is a bike that , “it would last a lifetime”. She still teases me about that as other bikes did follow , but in my defense I still have used that bike and still ride her occasionally , ( adelaide to Alice springs only a few years ago ) 
The truck though is going strong , she has run up 115,000km so just “run in “. I expect she will be good for at least 500,000kms so my expectations that she will stay with me till the end. 

Ever read any of the short stories of O Henry? As a young man I remember reading his 1907 story called ,” The last Leaf ” 

I was impressed by the narrative way back then , and somehow the theme of the ” last truck ” and the “last leaf” are strangely similar. 

For me the truck is an important symbol of the balance of my own life , and looking after her , ensuring she keeps on going has assumed an additional significance.

She absorbed all of yesterday with some TLC – repainted bull bar and galv deck rails , underbody rust prevention, and a good cut and polish. 

She is a dream tow for the 5th wheel , and many more adventures to come. Of course there is also HENRIETTA , if I need an extension.

If you have come this far perhaps you might read his story below 

The Last Leaf.    O Henry ( written 1907 ) 

In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called “places.” These “places” make strange angles and curves. One Street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!

     So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth Avenue, and became a “colony.”

     At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. “Johnsy” was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d’hôte of an Eighth Street “Delmonico’s,” and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

     That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”

     Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.

     One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, grey eyebrow.

     “She has one chance in – let us say, ten,” he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. ” And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-u on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopoeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she’s not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?”

     “She – she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day.” said Sue.

     “Paint? – bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking twice – a man for instance?”

     “A man?” said Sue, with a jew’s-harp twang in her voice. “Is a man worth – but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind.”

     “Well, it is the weakness, then,” said the doctor. “I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten.”

     After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy’s room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.

     Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.

     She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.

     As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle of the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.

     Johnsy’s eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting – counting backward.

     “Twelve,” she said, and little later “eleven”; and then “ten,” and “nine”; and then “eight” and “seven”, almost together.

     Sue look solicitously out of the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.

     “What is it, dear?” asked Sue.

     “Six,” said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. “They’re falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it’s easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now.”

     “Five what, dear? Tell your Sudie.”

     “Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?”

     “Oh, I never heard of such nonsense,” complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. “What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don’t be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were – let’s see exactly what he said – he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that’s almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self.”

     “You needn’t get any more wine,” said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. “There goes another. No, I don’t want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I’ll go, too.”

     “Johnsy, dear,” said Sue, bending over her, “will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by to-morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down.”

     “Couldn’t you draw in the other room?” asked Johnsy, coldly.

     “I’d rather be here by you,” said Sue. “Beside, I don’t want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves.”

     “Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as fallen statue, “because I want to see the last one fall. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves.”

     “Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I’ll not be gone a minute. Don’t try to move ’til I come back.”

     Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo’s Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along with the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress’s robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.

     Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy’s fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away, when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.

     Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.

     “Vass!” he cried. “Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der brain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy.”

     “She is very ill and weak,” said Sue, “and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn’t. But I think you are a horrid old – old flibbertigibbet.”

     “You are just like a woman!” yelled Behrman. “Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes.”

     Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.

     When Sue awoke from an hour’s sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.

     “Pull it up; I want to see,” she ordered, in a whisper.

     Wearily Sue obeyed.

     But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last one on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from the branch some twenty feet above the ground.

     “It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time.”

     “Dear, dear!” said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, “think of me, if you won’t think of yourself. What would I do?”

     But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.

     The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.

     When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.

     The ivy leaf was still there.

     Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.

     “I’ve been a bad girl, Sudie,” said Johnsy. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring a me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and – no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook.”

     And hour later she said:

     “Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples.”

     The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.

     “Even chances,” said the doctor, taking Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “With good nursing you’ll win.” And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is – some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable.”
     The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s out of danger. You won. Nutrition and care now – that’s all.”

     And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woollen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.

     “I have something to tell you, white mouse,” she said. “Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn’t imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colours mixed on it, and – look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman’s masterpiece – he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”.

Posted in travel blog | 3 Comments

Back in Adelaide after 5600km round trip , some rambling thoughts on fuel economy , TLC and “fourplay”


Let’s start with TLC – finished the trip today and have given Henrietta a great wash down and general tidy thruout .

She has performed well , no problems except the leak with the fresh water tank , repaired in Sydney . 

Fuel economy was a bit of a head scratch . As Paul and I drove north towards Alice it became apparent that fuel economy was very average — as bad as 18.1 L to 100 Kms. In the Simpson itself we got 19.3 L per 100. Improved with less pace between Birdsville and Sydney by easing up on speed a little — achieved 15.5 L to 100 Kms. I decided to do better on the way back to Adelaide . Set the cruise to 90 Kms per hour true and achieved 12.47 L per 100 km over 1500 Kms including about 250 Kms of dirt roads in Mungo National Park. 

Now to put this in perspective it means if you elect to travel at 90 Kms rather than 105-110 Kms per hour you can afford to buy a large box of beer every 600 Kms with money saved , or all your food for that day . An interesting fact is that vehicles achieve that sweet spot of economy at about 55 mph ( about 85 Kms)  A fully loaded 4×4 with luggage on top has a lot of additional windage that sucks fuel at the top end. After my recent cycling experience in Japan where 80 Kms is the max speeded allowed I think they have it spot on. Probably saves the economy billions in saved foreign exchange ! Saving fuel otherwise wasted. Why have our countries not taken this approach ? The economic case would be strong , and less people would die on the roads in high speed crash incidences. 


Does Henrietta need fourplay ? 

To be honest I hadn’t given much thought to Henrietta’s needs as they relate to her rear end and undercarriage , but Paul Sutton gave me the verdict and recommendation when he gave her a complete mech survey prior to committing to the Simpson desert

” she’s down on the arse Son , rear springs flat as a pancake ,practically inverted ” said Paul .

The reality is that the regular factory Toyota suspension is not up to the job of off-roading in the great Aussy outback particularly after she is fully loaded with all the xtra that Barb enjoys 😉

” one day the rear springs will fail – NOT – If — but when ” Paul’s dire prognosis .

She’s in need of an upgrade and in Australia the market place is full of all sorts of fruit to achieve the objective of the ultimate off road ride. 

Have put her in the hands of Adelaide suspension specialists ” Foreplay ” for some TLC and makeover.  
Fourplay did the work today – all looks great – ready for another adventure with Barb . Will park her up again until next we meet – probably December 


Posted in travel blog | 1 Comment