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Trip Summary, 2004 (Feb-Mar)
2004-01 route map
We had planned to spend from February to early April in Tasmania but medical problems a week before we were due to leave led to the trip being postponed indefinitely until we were sure the problem had been resolved. Once we were sure the episode had ended we decided to go along the New South Wales North Coast to see what was there.

We left Sydney on 24 February 2004 arriving back on 25 March 2004 after being away for 30 nights and travelling for 31 days. We had gone up the Pacific Highway to near Ballina (stopping at Hawks Nest, South West Rocks, Coffs Harbour and Yamba) then turned inland to Warwick to avoid severe weather warnings with very strong winds and heavy rains forecast for coastal New South Wales. From Warwick we drove to Tamborine to visit my sister-in-law then drove south along the Pacific Highway in stages (stopping at Tweed Heads, Ballina, Urunga and Forster). From Newcastle we returned to Sydney via the Putty Road to escape the traffic on the F3/M2/M4 but that took so long that we will not do that again.

Total caravan distance was 2,333 kilometres. The car was driven 3,516 kilometers (including caravan towed distance). The roads were rarely suitable for cruise control which was not much used. Most of the time a speed of 90 kph was used but there were several roads (notable going from the Northern Rivers to Warwick on the Darling Downs, and the Putty Road from the Hunter Valley to Windsor) where 90 kph was far too fast.

Weather was extremely variable. High humidity for more than a week along the North Coast was unpleasant and we encountered a lot of rain. A Bureau of Meteorology severe weather warning for coastal New South Wales because of a tropical storm off Queensland prompted us to go inland; this is the first time that we have changed our route for weather. Very heavy rain while we were at Urunga prompted us to stay there longer than we had planned. This rain was bought on by a south-easterly airstream coming off the sea from between a tropical cyclone off the southern Queensland coast (not the cyclone mentioned above) and a large high pressure system over southern New South Wales. When we lived at Nowra we had often experienced days of heavy rain from this pattern.

From the weather point of view this was not the best time to be touring the North Coast. But one compensation was the large number of flowers in bloom; many trees, shrubs and vines were covered with numerous large, brightly coloured flowers. And there seemed to be butterflies everywhere. According to some radio programs this was one of the better years for butterflies making their regular migrations.

A'van set up with awning
Caravan with awning at Yamba Waters Caravan Park, Yamba. The television aerial is mounted on the A-frame.
3 March 2004. NSW.
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There were not many travellers on the road and most caravan parks did not bother to take bookings. One manager told me that "the oldies from down south" will come out after Easter and head north for the better weather in Queensland. We did notice a few more caravans heading north along the Pacific Highway towards the end of March - as we were heading back to Sydney.

Average fuel consumption for the entire 3,516 kilometres, towing and not towing, was 13.9 litres per hundred kilometres (7.2 kilometres per litre). This agrees with consumption on earlier trips after allowing for the distance driven by the car without caravan on this trip.

Since the previous trip I had installed a new fresh water entry point with a hose internally directly to a new tap mounted on the sink. The tap and new water entry point for the water hose worked exceptionally well giving a good flow of cold water with no concerns about leakages in hidden parts of the van. The water filter also worked extremely well on the water input. We had filtered water at all stops; the filter selected was for taste and assummed that water was biologically safe. All connections in new tap and filter were tight and not a drop of water was seen to escape; this was particularly pleasing given the difficulty I had experienced in connecting the filter hoses. The television aerial worked well; having a book listing television transmitters in Australia allows us to choose to point the aerial at a transmitter serving a single town or towards a much higher power regional area transmitter (a compass is kept in the television aerial box so the aerial can be aligned correctly). But there can still be problems with polarity of the television signal.

A new entry step with door mat nailed on it was effective. The large levelling block I made before this trip was essential at Tamborine where we had to park across a slope and I used the big block (and ramp) under one wheel to level the wheels across the axle. The trailer supports bought in Dandenong during last trip continue to prove invaluable when manipulating the front end of the caravan; using the stands means that the jockey wheel can be wound up to be aligned or to be adjusted.

The car continued to run roughly after refuelling until I realised that rough running only happened after the tank was filled completely by trickling petrol in after the automatic cut-out has operated. When I stopped filling when the automatic cut-out operated the problem disappears. It has been suggested that a blocked breather hole in the petrol tank allows back-pressure to build up as the fuel pump draws petrol into the engine. Not filling up to the last drop prevents the rough running but the 8 to 10 litres that can be trickled into the tank is another 50 to 70 kilometres on that tankful so there will be occasions when "rough-running" may be justified to get the extra distance from a tankful.

Early in March, during the daily electrical check we make when the van is connected in the morning, we noticed that the caravan left turn-indicator light was intermittent then stopped working altogether. At various stops I worked on the problem - first changing the bulb then tracking down the fault using a test probe. Eventually the fault was isolated to the trailer plug; after I opened the relevant pin so it engaged with the sides of the car socket the problem was fixed.

We had bought only the awning and the ends, not the full annex. If we stop for three or more nights the awning is worth putting up; and sometimes for two nights. It does provide shade and shelter from the rain. This was a trial and I doubt if we will take the full annex on future trips.

On completion of this trip we did not have any major improvements to make to the van. I will be putting a canvas cover over the refrigerator to shade the vents when the sun is on that side and some sort of awning is needed across the windows outside the kitchen sink area to shade the inside from bright sun.

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