Preparing for the Big Trip

This part of the website gives a quick rundown of our preparations for our big trip to explore the lifestyle.

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Way back in mid 2005 we started toying with the idea of buying a caravan to go touring our great country with. At the time we had just purchased a second hand 4WD, a 1985 Holden Jackaroo, which I had converted to run on dual fuel, (petrol and LPG). The Jackaroo had a 2.3 litre 4 cylinder engine which seemed to have plenty of pull. About October 2005 we started looking seriously for a van, and at that time discovered the towing limitations of the Jackaroo, that being a maximum towball weight of 100kg. Our mistake at this point of time was limiting the type of van we could buy instead of changing the tow vehicle. In November we purchased our very first van, a 1993 Coromal Popette 370, 12 foot rear door van, with single beds. Boxing Day 2005 saw us away on our first weekend trip shakedown cruise and we loved it.

Whilst the Jackaroo towed the van OK, I realised that it struggled at times and started using oil, and some research revealed that this could be a problem on long trips.

Driving home from the shops one day I saw a GQ Nissan Patrol advertised by the side of the road several doors down from our place, so I stopped to have a look. Test drive organised and later that day the owner of the Patrol came and looked at the Jackaroo, as he was looking for a more knockaround 4WD for his property. 3 days later he took the Jackaroo as a trade in, at a price which covered my original purchase price plus what it cost me for the LPG conversion, and I came home with the Patrol, a 91 3 litre petrol model. Darryl the previous owner was a motor mechanic by trade but had been off work with a damaged back, so had spent the last 6 months tinkering the the car. It had a 2" lift with upgraded suspension, mag wheels, tinted windows all round, towbar, ERP rust prevention, 2.5" exhaust. John Howard announced a $2000 rebate for LPG conversion so that was added to the car.

Several trips away with the new setup revealed to us that there were shortcomings with our van if we were to contemplate a big trip, namely no boot, lack of internal storage and the single beds. Yeah, we still like a cuddle at night. We started looking to upgrade and in September 2007 traded the Coromal on a 2003 Avan Robina, 16'6" poptop van. This one came with air conditioning, double bed, club lounge, roll our awning with annexe walls and a lot more storage, including the front boot. Our first trip away with this van was to Bateau Bay in NSW in early November 2007. The van was great, although we broke the legtreads on the rumble strips in the caravan park as the van was a bit low.

The 3 litre petrol engine in the Patrol towed OK but struggled on hills and was thirsty, especially on gas. SWMBO didn't like driving the Patrol especially with the van on as having to watch the rev counter and change gears accordingly as well as be concious of everything else whilst towing stressed her out.

I considered upgrading the engine in the Patrol, or fitting a turbo from a VL Commodore to give it more power, but in the end decided that a later model vehicle, preferable an automatic would be the way to go, leading the way to the purchase of our current tug, the 99 Ford Explorer XLT 4.0 litre V6. Luxury, comfort, power and still a real 4WD. We wanted a 4WD so that we could go to out of the way places when touring around.

And so in May 2008, we headed off in the Explorer with the Avan in tow, making our way up through Queensland, and then to the N.T. and finally back down the middle to Adelaide. Whilst away we made a shortlist of what we would like in our next van, and while in Adelaide we traded the Avan on a Coromal Capri 600 full van, with ensuite.

 

Before our next big trip in 2010, I put the Explorer in for a service to in January to get ready for our departure to W.A. in February. I knew that there were few things wrong with the car when I put it in, but I didn't expect the list of needed repairs, totalling about $6000, that needed doing, and that was without overhauling the engine timing chains etc.

We made the decision to trade the Explorer on another tow vehicle, and I determined that the new car had to be a Nissan Patrol or a Land Cruiser, strong tugs and plenty of parts available. So in early February we purchased a 1999 Nissan Patrol, G.U. diesel, paid more than we wanted to but we were happy with the vehicle.

Moving House.

We planned on being away for over 3 months, so what to do with the cats and house? Conferences with our daughter and her partner saw the possible solution of finding somewhere that had dual living/residences and so a search of the internet rentals went on over several months until we came across a property at Cedar Creek (Gold Coast) which suited our needs.

After returning from our trip we returned to the Cedar Creek house where we remained until December 2009, when we moved into the Caravan full time at the Brisbane Holiday Village at Eight Mile Plains, in preparation for our next trip away. The furniture went into storage, as we couldn't see the value in renting a house (at high rent) which was going to be empty for a couple of months.

And so the adventure continues.

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