Travelling Australia
Trip Summary - 2003 (Oct-Nov)
2003-03 route map
This trip was initiated when my sister-in-law asked my wife to accompany her during a move from Melbourne to Tamborine in south-east Queensland, south of Brisbane. We had been thinking about going to Melbourne to visit relatives and friends so this seemed like a good time to try out the Newell Highway between Brisbane and Melbourne. My wife caught the train to Melbourne to help her sister with final packing-up then accompanied her on the drive to Tamborine. I towed the A'van from Sydney to Tamborine via the New England Highway and we drove to Melbourne.

I left Sydney on 20 November 2003, arrived at Tamborine on 23 November 2003 and we left there on 25 November. We arrived back in Sydney on 17 December after being away for 27 nights. The first stage of the journey took me up the Putty Road/New England Highway to Tamborine. Then we drove west to Goondawindi then down the Newell Highway into Victoria; we drove around Melbourne (via Seymour, Yea and the Maroondah Highway) to Springvale. After several days at Springvale we drove back to Sydney around the coast initially then went up onto the Southern Tableland to pass through Cooma and Goulburn.

Total caravan distance was 3,960 kilometres. The car was driven 4,805 kilometres (including caravan towed distance). Speed of about 90 kph was usually selected; this was quite slow on the Newell Highway (we were usually the slowest vehicle on the road) but meant that fuel consumption remained reasonable. The Newell Highway runs along the western slope of the Great Dividing Range at about 200-250 metres above sea level. For most of the way through New South Wales the highway passes through wheat country and it was harvest time. The Pilliga Scrub between Narrabri and Coonabarabran covers an area of soil too infertile for agriculture.

Lunch at a roadside stop in the Pilliga Scrub between Narrabri and Coonabarabran. (95 km from Coonabarabran)
26 November 2003. NSW. 30° 29' 46"S, 149&deg 38' 08"E
Average fuel consumption for the entire 4,805 kilometres, towing and not towing, was 14.6 litres per hundred kilometres (6.8 kilometres per litre).

The Hayman-Reese weight distribution hitch installed after the Queensland trip continued to prove very effective in levelling the van and car. The car radio in the van worked well and the radio aerial on the rear bumper was proven to work. We bought a replacement television aerial at a caravan accessory place in Dandenong and this, when used in conjunction with a book describing the location of television transmitters in Australia, seems to have eliminated the hassle we had been having with television reception.

After Seymour (on 2 December) the car suffered from periods of uneven running and low power. These spells were somehow associated with refuelling and usually cleared up within about 30 kilometres of fuelling. On the last day of the journey (17 December) the erratic running continued at a low level for the whole trip from Goulburn to Penrith. When the car went in for a routine service the spark plugs were found to be fouled and the fuel filter needed replacing. This was said to be due to dirty petrol; engine performance could be degraded within 5 kilometres of the dirty petrol being put in the tank.

Weather was generally good with little rain. Many days were sunny and hot. I experienced 40 degrees at Singleton on the first day when the performance of the van refrigerator in the high external temperature was cause for concern. The absorption type of refrigerator fitted is know to not work very well in high temperature and various shades and additional fans are recommended for frequent tropical use.

Despite the good weather there were few caravanners on the road and in caravan parks. We had assumed that many retired people, like us, would be on the road in Southern Australia at this time of year when the weather in tropical Australia is too unpleasant. According to many caravan park managers the "oldies" go straight home from the tropics in September/October and don't hit the road again until February.

The annex on the A'van was not used at all. We are getting used to living in the van and using the space outside the door whenever possible so that the effort required to erect the awning is rarely worthwhile. Various changes made to the van after the two previous trips have worked extremely well and we did not have a list of major changes to be made. Apart from a few carry boxes, especially for the television, there are only a few jobs to be done (a decent size step for the door, a higher levelling block and organised mounting for the television aerial. I will investigate alternative arrangements for mains water with lower risk of damage if a hose under pressure bursts inside the van.

    Supports under the caravan A-frame. The bolted-on jockey-wheel has been moved off to one side to make space for the weight distribution hitch. A wheel cradle under the jockey wheel stops the van moving sideways unexpectedly. The stand under the A-frame opposite the jockey wheel provides very firm support for the front end of the caravan and reduces reliance on the jockey wheel. Both supports under the front end give more flexibility in setting up the van.
16 November 2003. Goulburn, NSW.