Saturday, 30 January 2016

On the Fritz, at the Fitz

Jan 20th - 26th

So 2016 comes around and I find the chance to score 10 nights away, 9 of them in the Ulti at Fitzgerald River National Park. The weeks prior, we have been sweating our boxes off. Come departure day and some narky weather is predicted for the Great Southern, just where I am headed. Typical, its going to be just like Stokes.

I hit the road late Wednesday for Nannup to pick up the little one to join me on the latest adventure.

The weather is kind and I have an uneventful stay. Thursday morning and we depart for Fitz. All is well. A refuel in Bridgetown is alarming though, I've chewed through 17L/100Km. Making our way to Kojonup, we turn south on the highway for a short bit, to turn off towards Tambellup. Along here we see the dark clouds forming and moving in. Crossing the Pallinup River and all hell breaks loose:

Gnowangerup rain

Arriving in Gnowangerup, we find the main street going under water. We stop at a roadhouse for lunch. The whole time here, it doesn't stop raining. An hour later and we hit the road again.

About 5km's from town there is quite a pool of water over the road. Its not too deep, nor flowing, so we proceed through the flood:

Only to be greeted with a show stopper at Jackitup Creek, a further 5km's down the road:

Jackitup Creek

The current here too fast to navigate, I need to track back and take a 50Km detour. We heard the following morning, a triple road train was washed off this same stretch of road a few hours later. I have ripped some pictures off the net to show why it was a wise choice to turn around:

And the aftermath when the water had receded:

Unfortunately, this detour cost me about 50Km's and a lot of time. I took the gravel Hydenup Rd. It too was a challenge, very slippery and lots of puddles to traverse:

Hydenup Rd detour 

But we eventually got back on track. Where the original road met Chester Pass Rd, some vehicles in both directions had stopped. I assumed the ones that had been down it, turned back and were advising the others they could not proceed.

Another 50Km's down the road, once the other side of Ongerup, more low lying country and water to cross. But not for long. We were greeted by 2 vehicles in our direction stopped at another water crossing. Police and numerous other vehicles on the other side of the water. The water here was pumping, just like at my detour prior.

I couldn't communicate with plod on the other side, so I walked across. The strength of the flow too much for me to risk taking a vehicle through. By the time I had walked back, nearly an hour had passed. The other two vehicles decided to detour and I said I would follow them. This detour would be much larger, at least 150Km's worth, some of it dirt, with creek crossings and no guarantee of being able to get through. The road here a bit tight, I swung to the left a bit too far. The left hand front disappeared in the mud and I was up to my sidestep. With the incline, reduced traction and ulti on the back, I couldn't go backwards, Dropping into low, I tried to power forward, but all I managed to do was push myself further into the mire. Yep, I was stuck. As luck would have it, I raised the tray back patrol on the uhf, pictured above, and he came and towed me back. It didn't take a lot of effort, but at least I was out.

It was at this stage I considered with the time being 1530, and another 200Km's on top of the 150Km detour, it was time to call it quits. Fitz wasn't going to happen today. My best option was the Ongerup van park for the night. I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of setting up in the rain, but packing up in the morning would be worse. I arrived at the office to make enquiries. A woman met me at the door.

I found out in those discussions, the office was actually a house for campers to use. They were camped in a troopy, using the facilities, and were not the park manager as I had assumed. So I went inside for a look. A kitchen, a lounge with TV, beds, toilets and showers. It was bliss. I could also pay $40 for the night and have us both sleep in a bed, avoiding the $15 per night van fee and a wet set up/pack down. It was a no brainer. We had found home for the night. I scrambled inside the ulti to the fridge, and pulled contents to make dinner in the house. Winner. Maybe my luck was changing. Although the title of this entry should give you an indication of things to come.

The following morning, main roads was still saying the road was cut. As the crossing was only 5km from town, I decided to have a look myself. The water height at 200mm was still the same, but the flow had dropped to nothing, so I went through:

Ongerup Crossing 

Easy peezy. From that point on, we had no challenges all the way to Hopetoun. Eric, a fellow paj forumite had been down here the week prior. He told me I had to have the fish chowder at the cafe. Problem being, I found 2 cafe's. Anyway, I worked out which one it must be and asked about it. I was the second person that day to ask, but they didn't have any. It was one of those every now and then specials the cafe's make up. I chose the burger instead.

I don't have my gps log with me as I write this entry so times and dates could be questionable, dependant upon the grey matter. The puter is in Albany. You will hear about that later. Suffice to say, we pulled into camp early afternoon, where I assessed the situation of what site to choose. Obviously whoever designed the site doesn't have a van. Long narrow strips run parallel to the road with very limited manoeuvring room for the vehicle. It also wasn't ideal for the ulti if I planned to set up my full canvas, which I had planned to do so. But somehow, I manage to squeeze in and find just enough room for the canvas. I needed another foot over, to put some side loading on the outbound front canvas pole, but I made do with what I had.

Dinner that night a fairly easy affair, shepherds pie. Who says I cant cook :)

Friday morning and we had to drive out to Barren's lookout to get some phone coverage. The other half was coming from Perth and with the road cut drama's, I wanted to give some last minute advice.

Royal Hakea's, endemic to the park are everywhere. A not so photographic quality one as shown below:

My biggest concern was that all the vehicle tracks in the park were closed. This will severely limit the treks I had planned to take. I am of the belief these are closed at the slightest hint of moisture to help prevent the spread of dieback. I hope that we get some dry weather and they open some of these tracks before I leave:

So back to camp and I find an unmarked walk track that will allow us to get the yaks into the water. I take the little one's down. I will bring mine later. She had a play on the inlet for a bit:

Estimating the other half to make Hopetoun around 1700, we left camp about 1500 to do some sight seeing and to bag our first cache for the trip at Cave Point. The view of East Mt Barren spectacular from here (and surprisingly on a flat ocean with no white caps). East Mt Barren is on the agenda to be climbed. There is a cache at the top.

On the way back to the car park, an airliner headed for Perth leaves a striking contrail:

From there we check out West Beach.:

Walking back to the car, and some of the vegetation is in flower. Bee's busy doing what they do:

Also a couple of interesting bugs I found needed photographing for my bug lady friend, and fellow Ultimate owner, Lilly. Sorry Lilly, my macro skills need some work:

I then shoot out to Barren's lookout to catch up on all things online. Once forum duties and social networking was done, we headed into Hopetoun for an ice cream and then to play in the park until Mum arrived. Snake warning and all!

A replica heritage siding/station taking pride of place in the park:

Mum arrives right on cue at 1700, and we head back to camp. The night a quiet affair. We have a few drinks with a fellow camping family from QLD. One night away from a full moon and a cloudless sky. I saw the most amazing sight I don't think I have ever seen before. The reasonably regular aircraft flying to Perth, leaving massive contrails. Once the aircraft had disappeared, these contrails just hung in the air. The full moon lighting them up. It was an incredible sight. I will have to take some photo's of them tomorrow night.

Saturday and I take Eric's advice to head down to Hamersley beach. He tells me it is the prettiest drive he has ever undertaken, but the sand scares him. Its also about the only track open in the Park, so if I am go to somewhere today, I guess this is it. And as would be about right, just as I start to deflate tyres and take a pic, a car comes the other way:

The track here to the dunes is heavily vegetated. If one was to strike an oncoming vehicle, im oost places it would be a right pain with limited room to manoeuvre off track to let the opposing vehicle through. I did meet another, but as luck would have it, he had a clearing and I could pass. I reckon in places like these, which happens far too often, an assigned UHF channel would sort this issue out most times. Anyway.......

We passed through the vegetated canopy and it lived up to all the expectations Eric had told me about:

It was then time to open the fun bag, The Hamersley Dunes:

Hamersley dunes

Tracks going everywhere, but it was pretty easy to navigate. I followed the left hand side of the main tracks, and nearly come a gutzer on the crest of one when the dune just disappeared below me. Lucky I had enough time to apply some pedal to the floor to wash of some speed. Onto the beach and we headed for the Western end and out onto the sandbar that separates the inlet from the ocean. The sandbar is huge, its hard to imagine it ever being open to the sea:

We spent some considerable time on the beach. It was pretty spectacular, and today so was the weather:

We spent quite a while wandering among the rocks and I wasted quite a lot of camera battery power here:

Some pink shells on the sand was interesting:

Unfortunately, we were doing it pretty rough for lunch. Spam, tomato and cheese sandwiches:

But what a location:

What I found a bit odd, was the lack of sea bird life I had seen in the previous few days. They did exist, but were few and far between:

 And probably just as well I only took the one selfie the whole trip:

In typical West coast fashion, the wind had picked up quite a bit now, so we departed. I took the other half down to Cave Point and made contact with Eric. He was in Bremer Bay, and I said we would probably meet him there in the morning.

By the time we got back to camp, the fantastic, cloudless weather had departed. It provided an amazing sunset, that I happened to miss the best part of by minutes with the camera. Unfortunately, it also stopped me from grabbing a picture of those amazing contrails, and after dinner it rained for a few hours:

Sunday morning and after breakfast I decided to hit Bremer, meet Eric for the first time and introduce him to the art of geocaching. He had accidentally found one when he travelled the coast last week, and immediately thought of me. Yep, he too has been bored crap less by all my travel posts. He tells me I was his inspiration for his 25 night trip under canvas. He is too polite :)

So I hit the road with the 600Km round trip in front of me, hoping, after yesterdays performance, the monkey was finally off my back. Once in Bremer, I made contact with Eric and he informed me he was at Tooreburrup Hill. I told him to stay put, we would meet him there. Never having been to Bremer before, I took a wrong turn and ended up at an amazing looking museum. Something to check out next time. Correcting my error, I finally got to meet Eric and his family, and he the same. Just as we were departing, I had to call him back. In my excitement, I forgot about the cache here. So we all got out and Eric's little boy was the first to find the hide. At this stage, I think they were hooked. From there Eric took us to a nice little beach where we had lunch under a pergola. What a bummer I never got a shot of this. I think Eric has been reading my blogs too long - he pulled a can of Emu Bitter for me to go with lunch :)

Eric then led us to a very pretty, protected swimming beach: Little Boat Harbour. And a lovely little spot it was too. My little un and Eric's wife had a swim, whilst I took Eric to another cache, just up the road:

But time had beaten us. It was now 4pm and with a 3 hour drive back to camp, I had to part ways and head home. I left quite a few caches behind, but the taste I got of Bremer, means I have to go back for an extended stay sometime.

By about 6pm, approaching Ravensthorpe. I made the decision to refuel and have dinner here rather than back at camp, due to the time factor. Slowing down to the 50Km/h limit and coasting down the hill, I backed of the throttle and the monkey turned into a gorilla. The car stalled. I managed to roll it around a corner and could not get it to start again. F@(k.

Confirming my timing chain was still in place, it sounded like no fuel to me.With a diesel, there is really only two things: fuel or air. The prime on the filter was hard and I had fuel at the bleed. So fuel to the pump wasn't the issue. Popping the air filter box open, I could only come to one conclusion: fuel injection pump. Double F@(k.

Time to check this RAC ultimate roadside assist. I rang them and they said they would get back to me. In the mean time, I sent the mrs and tin lid off for dinner. A caravanner, in the park opposite came over and offered what assistance he could provide.

Well it took an hour for RAC to get back to me, but as expected, now about 1900, they couldn't get anyone out to me before the morning. Not that surprising really. At the roadhouse where the Alli and the tin lid were, they managed to secure a lift from an employee back to the camper. RAC offered to provide emergency accommodation, but with the others taken care off (how lucky was I that the other half's car was back at the camper), and with a vehicle full of expensive stuff, I wasn't prepared to leave it unsecured. So I declined the accommodation for the lack of security and uncomfort of the front seat of a Pajero.

What a night that was.....No security issues and I woke on Monday up like the hunchback of Notre Dame in the morning. The only saving grace was that I had a cup and cask of red woobler in the back.

Waiting for the mechanic in the morning, the van owner (Matt) came over and offered me a brew. I have not forgotten your hospitality. I will post this to your FB timeline and just want to thank you immensity. About 0800, the mechanic (Col) arrived. I told him what happened, my diagnostics and my thoughts, He concurred. He towed me back to his workshop. Unfortunately his scan tool wouldn't connect to the mits generic odb protocol of my model. So he arranged for a more expensive unit to try. In the meantime, I wondered if my chip had failed. They are out of business now, so I don't have a helpline to call. Chip unplugged and still no go.

The super duper scan tool showed an error code 48. Reading the workshop manual this indicated a fuel pump failure. Cracking an injector, and cranking, no fossil fuel comes out, so its looking pretty likely.

More calls to RAC and the vehicle has been arranged to be towed to Albany Mits for confirmation on Tuesday. I still have a camper stuck at Fitz though. As the camper wasn't attached to the the car at the time, RAC dont want to know about it (even considering I saved them a packet on accommodation). But good old Col to the rescue again. He said he would retrieve my camper and allow me to store it in his yard till I could get back to pick it up. Col is one of those old school country folk that go out of their way to help. The sort of folk, this country would be a lot poorer without.

By this time, the other half had arrived in her car. We make a dash back to the camper to pack up. I reckon in 2 hours we were done. Not a bad effort considering nothing was prepped before hand and I had all canvas up. Col arrived about 1430 and we all make the trip back to ravvy:

Col then arranged for his truck and car trailer to arrive for the trip to Albany on Tuesday morning. We got the vehicle on the trailer, but loaning out a trailer and finding it without a plug any more didn't help matters. Let me say, Col wasn't too happy and I cant blame him either. Lots of shagging around on Cols part and the trailer was in business. I felt out of place, cause I could see all the shagging around Col was going through and I Couldn't help. Then Col dropped the bombshell. He invited us around to his place for dinner.

What a great night, and let me say, us city folk don't know what a country feed is. Col seemed rather partial to the Jim Beam Maple I brought as an offering. I dont know how I can thank both Col and Gretta for a fantastic evening. We ended up leaving about midnight for the ulti, set up in Col's workshop yard.

Tuesday morning, the Australia Day holiday, and Col arrived. I had tried to remove all I could from the paj to load into the Lancer. Matt once said my paj is like a tardis. He cant believe how much crap I pack in there. Well let me just say, the lancer, with quite a large boot, the lancer could only consume about half the contents of the Paj. I bid farewell to the Paj as it left for Albany, whilst we tried to pack the lancer.

I am a bit worried in the fact that when I packed the ulti, I found an infestation of ants. I tried to kill what I could, but I know there is more in there. I had no choice but to shut her up. I just hope they don't eat much until I can get back. The fridge from the paj was transferred to the lancer, but it only has an anderson plug connection and I didn't have an adaptor with me. So I moved the ulti fridge contents to the 25L waeco. On departing town, I loaded up what little free space there was with ice.

Surprisingly, some 7 hours later, when we arrived home, the ice was still solid. Food saved :)

Wednesday at home I made some enquiries re a fuel pump before mits Albany had a chance to look at my vehicle, which they said would be Tuesday next week.....No stock in Aus or Japan, and at least a 12 week wait. $4500 bucks, thanks for coming. Freo injection have a refurbed one on the shelf, but if the cost of new v's refurbed is the same, I would prefer new. Can I afford to wait 12 weeks for a delivery of a pump though?

So on Thursday, I made enquiries at the local dealer on a new NX Paj. They had 2 povo packs left from 12 they got in December, 1 x demo, 1 x new. I had been thinking for about a year or so on an upgrade, but the old bus had been my most reliable vehicle to date and I was reluctant to part with cash, considering I had at least 15K to spend to get it up to spec. I left the dealership with my wants and told them to sharpen their pencil a bit more.

Late Thursday I get a call, and it really is an offer I cant refuse. I ask for a few more bits and pieces, I go in and the deal is done.

Next week I expect to be the proud owner of a demo NX with 4000Km's on the dial. That should allow me at least to pick up the camper from Ravvy, and swing by Albany to finish emptying the NP.

So what does that mean for the future.....Well I guess 2016 will be a bit light on for camping as I now have a truckload of work to do to get the new one up to scratch. I lost at least 5 nights under canvas from this fiasco, not to mention the stress and inconvenience of it all. And I have had to move from a manual to an auto, the first auto I've ever owned. I guess I will sell the old reliable NP when I get it sorted. Its going to be an interesting year, that's for sure.

 Let the mods begin:

EDIT: May 2016

7 weeks later, a $5500 repair bill and a 14 hour day to retrieve the Paj I can post this edit.
Seeing I am re-acquainted with the PC in the car, I can download my GPS log and add some stats.

Trip Stats:

5 Nights
1490 Km travelled. This is to fuel pump failure point in Ravensthorpe. It does not include the trips to and from Ravvy to Fitz, nor the trip home in the other half's car.

? L fuel used - due to fuel pump failure and not having the vehicle for 7 weeks. I didn't keep the records that long. Anyway, it pales into insignificance once the repair bill is taken into account.

cost of fuel - again an unknown

camp fees, approximately $120

Sorry, that's the best I can do re stats this time. The failure sure screwed up more than one thing.


  1. Hi Shane,
    Not the best holiday to have. I had the fuel pump die in my Rodeo just before Christmas, but at least it happened about a km from home. 4 days later and $4500 poorer it was back on the road. I think I got off a bit lighter then you. Hope your back under canvas soon. Cheers Steve

  2. A good read Shane. Sounds like you needed a support recovery vehicle and a couple of mates with vehicles with you (a bit like I'm used to in a former life). Certainly starts me itching to to get back into the bush again. Ciao. Rick

  3. Yet another great trip, this one sounds like it had it's testing moments. lol Well done on the recent purchase, look forward to watching the new jigger evolve with mods.

    1. Thanks Dno. Keep in contact mate, with the suspected death of Camping Aus, It would be great to keep in contact. I must click on that swag email I got.

  4. How long have you been running the Coopers? I only got approx 50,000/2 years out of mine. Had to flick them in favour of BF's.
    Hope the new rig is as faithful as the old NP. Do they still have the DPF in them.

    1. Hi jason. Sorry for the long time for the reply. The St Maxx have 70K on them now. The new rig should be as faithful - I hope. I do note though, that you can see how they make the vehicle for the price - by reducing the sturdiness of some components. Time will tell I guess. No DPF's in these :) I wouldn't have gone that route if they did.