The Geologist AbroadThe Geologist Abroad
On yer bike!
Our Biggest Triumph Road Trip Ever
Still got it: The Herald goes camping again
Dodging the rains
The long way home
Cape York, Cassowaries and Cooktown
Lawn Hill National Park
Northern Queensland - adventures by the dozen!
Great Southern Land (Part 3)
Great Southern Land (Part 2)
Great Southern Land (Part 1)
Sundown NP - the last and most challenging
Lamington National Park - volcanoes and views
The Granites of Girraween
Less is more
The GT6 gets its seats
The Ultimate Bling
How not to fit a GT6 windscreen
On yer bike!
Two big things I did in 2016 were get a job in New South Wales, and buy my first motorbike. The two are related - unlike in Queensland, learner riders in NSW don't need to be supervised.
After Christmas, I decided to head out to the coast (a full day's drive in itself) and catch up with family and a friend who's assembling the parts for my next car restoration.
I camped on the first night in Tenterfield, on the New England Highway. First night in a swag, and I slept like a baby.
After a surprisingly decent sleep in the swag in Tenterfield, I headed east over the Great Dividing Range down the Bruxner Highway to Casino, Lismore, Nimbin (argh, hippies!) and Murwillumbah. The ride down the Bruxner was lovely - it's a good road, with nice sweeping bends and coffee at the bottom. Nimbin, where I stopped for lunch, is in a valley and was stinking hot. It's also Australia's marijuana capital, and I almost had to hold my breath passing a couple of the cafes. The winding road out of Nimbin was fun. I tried keeping up with a couple of big bikes, but was reminded of a puppy trying to run with the big dogs and getting into trouble, so slowed down again.
One of the reasons for the trip to M'bah was to see a man about a Dodge, specifically a 1926 Dodge next in line to be restored. It's being assembled from a mate's huge pile of parts, so we spent a day picking through chassis, engines, gearboxes, axles... Bob will put everything together to make sure it fits, and then I'll bring up a trailer and take it home to clean, paint and assemble. (We went for a test drive in a customer's 1930 straight 8 Dodge, which Bob had been fettling. The disappointed owner had never been able to get it to run properly, despite sending it to the most expensive restorers in Queensland. Once Bob had adjusted the valves clearances, it ran beautifully).
On the fourth day, the CB and I were a tad naughty, and ventured over the state border at Numinbah Gap into Queensland. In theory a NSW learner rider can ride in Queensland without an escort, even though a Queensland learner needs to be supervised. In practice, I wasn't sure a QLD cop would appreciate the interstate licencing subtleties. We only went a few kilometres into enemy territory though, to Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park.
In the afternoon, I shot back over the border into NSW and started the long ride home. I stopped at the Moo Moo cafe, where the local cafe have an enormous replica of Mick Doohan's motorcycle. The Australian tradition of Big Things never ceases to amaze me. Then I found the Pacific Highway, and headed south.
Plan A had been to stay on Highway 1 all the way to Grafton. After a while, though, I was bored and turned off onto the road through Lismore and Casino. On the plus side, I wasn't on a giant concrete highway any more. On the negative side, as soon as I headed inland away from the coast, the temperature soared. I flipped up the visor at Lismore and it was like opening the firebox of a wood stove! I checked the day's weather observations later, and it had been 42C in Lismore and Casino.
The run down to Grafton from Casino was enjoyable though, about an hour of straight-ish road through forests and farmland. I camped in a caravan park in Grafton - although in hindsight it was really too hot and humid for a swag, and a nice cool motel would have been cleverer, even though the park had a pool to cool off in. Live and learn.
The fifth and last day featured the best and hardest riding of the trip, and possibly since I bought the bike.
We headed inland from Grafton, climbing the Great Dividing Range again up the Gwydir Highway. Various roads in Australia have been branded as 'ways'. Thunderbolt's Way, Waterfall Way and so on, maybe to draw in tourists. Well, the section of the Gwydir between Grafton and Glen Innes should have been called the Smokey Way, as the views faded into haze from bushfires.
The road up the range was fan-bleeding-tastic. The road was one curve after another, mostly third and fourth gear with a few hairpins. The temperature dropped deliciously as we climbed, and I had my visor open to suck in the smells of eucalypt, flowers, damp soil and a hint of smoke. I felt like a dog with his head out the car window!
At the top I turned off the highway to the Raspberry Point lookout, and spent about a half hour enjoying the cool air, views and smells.
Raspberry Point's been added to my list of compulsory stops for next time. Afterwards, I made one more stop to check out a waterfall which, sadly, had no water. Timing is everything. The road to the carpark was gravel, which I'm still nervous on, but am getting better.
Then onwards and downhill again, towards Glen Innes. At one point I spied a black cloud and sure enough, the road went right under it. The first minute of rain was refreshing, but after that the refreshment started going down my neck. It was pretty heavy - the rain was bouncing off the road - but then I came out from under it and the road dried immediately. As in, there was a line across the road. Wet one way, dry the other!
I stopped at Glen Innes' standing stones, and had a pub lunch. Afterwards, I stopped just out of town at a lookout and looked back at the Great Dividing Range I'd just ridden over. There was a huge thunderstorm brewing, no doubt fuelled by the humid coastal air rising up the range. Guess I escaped just in time.
The track up to Sutton's Lookout, where I got the thunderstorm photo, was the hardest ride of the trip, and I'm surprised I didn't drop the bloody bike on the way down. It started as broken bitumen (easy), then gravel (nervous but OK...), and then a surface like railway ballast. And once it was like that, there was nowhere to safely turn around. Of course, going uphill wasn't too hard because you control the bike with the throttle. The front end danced around, but the back did as it was told and I got the shot.
Coming down though, I knew to use engine braking and only use the rear brake. Easy said... there was one point where I had to put my right foot out to catch a sudden lurch to the right, and then of course it wasn't on the brake pedal! thankfully we got down intact, but on road tyres, rolling rocks, cross-ruts and a steep gradient, there were a couple of very unpleasant moments. The photo isn't of the toughest section, mostly because my knees were too wobbly to walk back uphill!
Back out on the blessed bitumen (thank you Mr Mac Adam) I rode home via Copeton Dam. The total for the five days was 1422km including a rest day in Murwillumbah, but between the heat and 'technical' sections, I was pooped. But happy.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 02nd January 2017 09:28am gmt
Our Biggest Triumph Road Trip Ever
Every year, I try to do something different for Christmas. that way each Christmas holiday is memorable and they don't all just turn into a big blur. Last year I spent Chrissie with family in New Zealand. In 2015, I was invited to Christmas with a friend in Sydney. Having driven my Triumph to central Queensland and back during the year, it seemed up for a longer drive.
I took three days to drive to Sydney, taking every scenic route along the way.
|Mt Warning, on the Queensland - New South Wales border|
On the first day I turned off the main highway and drove through the Tweed Valley and the My Warning volcanic crater. It was a slow drive, but much more enjoyable than baking on the Freeway. I stopped for the night in Grafton.
The next day, I continued south on the back roads, and rejoined the main highway at Coff's Harbour. The road south of Grafton passed through small towns, following the river and railway line south. I stopped for night 2 at Port Macquarie.
|A slightly disturbing dog statue at Glenreagh, on the road between Grafton and Coffs Harbour.|
|Out to the coast again|
|Tacking Point Lighthouse|
|Pelicans at North Haven|
On the final day of the drive to Sydney, I diverted through the Hunter Valley and the Wollombi Forest. The drive through Maitland was tedious, with heavy traffic, roundabouts everywhere, and hot! After the hard part, though, we were rewarded with a drive through the forest and a tiny town called Wollombi. Driving through the hot forest with the windows down meant that I could smell the cinnamon smell of hot eucalypts. It was about 39C by Wollombi, so I had to stop for an ice cream, and tried a few Hunter Valley wines as well.
|Getting an ice cream in Wollombi, in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney|
|A shed older than my car!|
Instead of crossing the Hawkesbury River on the Sydney to Newcastle Freeway (an easy drive, but boring), we crossed the river at Wiseman's Ferry. Parts of the Wiseman's Road were built by convicts in 1831, and prior to SH1, the ferry was the main way of reaching Sydney. So it seemed appropriate to bring my car over the old-fashioned way.
|Crossing the Hawkesbury River the old fashioned way.|
And so to Christmas, with the attendant presents, food, drink, a swim in the local pool, coffee and Star Wars. 'Twas a good one.
After Christmas I didn't want to head straight for home, and so once the food coma had worn off, we headed further south. First we visited Canberra, a city always in the news as it's Australia's capital, but not on the Aussie tourist's radar. I toured the art gallery, Parliament House, NASA's Tidbinbilla ground station and the Telstra Tower with its viewing decks.
|Approaching Parliament House, Canberra|
|One of NASA's big dishes at Tidbinbilla|
After Canberra, we headed back out to the coast (along with the rest of Canberra - there was a traffic jam when we reached the coast at Bateman's Bay!) and drove south through the seaside towns and bays of southern New South Wales. The coastal roads here led from one small settlement to the next, and the scenery was some of the nicest of the whole trip.
Eventually the road led into a vast forest southwest of the NSW town of Eden. Halfway through the forest, we crossed the border into the state of Victoria. That section of road was, frankly, boring. It was hot, and despite a lot of steep climbs, there weren't any lookouts to admire the surrounding hillscapes. We stopped for the last night of 2015 in Orbost, and unlike the NSW coastal towns, Orbost was quiet and peaceful. I slept through the start of 2016 - been there, done that.
|New Year's Eve camping at Orbost, eastern Victoria|
|A seal playing beside the wharf at Marlo, eastern Victoria|
After Orbost, I visited a friend in the nearby coastal town of Marlo, and then continued west. Eastern Gippsland didn't impress - it was all straight, flat and hot roads with no views of the coast. Southern and Western Gippsland, however, were much prettier, with windy roads and small towns. We took a diversion to Wilson's Promontory, the southern most point of the Australian continent.
|Welshpool Jetty, southern Gippsland, Victoria. Ferries still leave from here to Flinders Island and Tasmania.|
|At Wilson's Promontory, the southernmost part of continental Australia|
I don't camp at 'The Prom', as it was packed to bursting with campers from Melbourne. Instead, I pitched my tent 70km north in Foster. The next morning I drove north-west to Melbourne, and visited a friend who is similarly afflicted with Triumph-itis. We spent the rest of the day working on his GT6, and I got a few ideas for mine. In the evening we went to a 20/20 cricket game at the MCG - the ultimate Melbourne thing to do.
|In Melbourne I stayed with Craig, another Triumph nut. And like last time I was in Melbourne, his GT6 was in pieces.|
After Melbourne, it was all north once again. I spent two nights in the mountain resort of Bright, enjoying the local brewery quite a bit. After a two-day break, Gerald the Herald and I headed north through the mountains, taking every minor road we could find to avoid the Hume Highway. It was a good day's driving! We stopped at Yass, a typical inland NSW town.
|The back roads between Bright and Yass|
The next day, I decided to take a recently sealed tourist road north from Goulburn north. This road climbed up the Great Dividing Range and skirts Sydney to the west of the Blue Mountains. It eventually led to Oberon and Bathurst.
Bathurst is the home of Australia's greatest motor race, an annual 1000km event held on normally open roads. We did four laps of the circuit, sticking tho the rigidly-enforced 60km/h limit. Mind you, the change in elevation is enough to pop your ears, and parts were second-gear steep.
|Bathurst race circuit.|
It was another three days driving from Bathurst to get home.
The next day, the Herald had the first of only two mechanical problems in the whole 3100 mile / 4980km journey. The exhaust fell apart in the Bylong Valley near Muswellbrook, and was fixed by John Daniel of Muswellbrook Tyrepower. A big plug for them - John even offered me a new for the night and showed me his large car collection.
|The exhaust headers, repaired in Muswellbrook|
The next day, we continued north. At Tamworth, I visited a motorcycle museum, filled with tasty two-wheeled treats. One day....
|The Tamworth Powerhouse Museum's motorbike collection.|
I stopped that night at a tiny place called Nymboida. It was a warm, dry and moonless night, so I was able to dispense with the tent's outer layer, enjoy the starry sky, and listen to the stream ten metres from my tent. Possibly the best night of the whole trip!
The other mechanical problem Gerald had was at Byron Bay, only 170km from home. I found that the an air hose's clamp had worn through the radiator's bottom tank. We made it home to Brisbane by not tightening the radiator cap so that the cooling system wasn't pressurised, and stopping every 10 or 15 minutes to top up the coolant.
And so, after fourteen driving days and nearly 5000km, we made it home. That was my biggest ever road trip, and probably the Herald's as well.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 10th January 2016 4:07pm gmt
Still got it: The Herald goes camping again
2014's been an interesting year, so far. The geology company I worked for went into receivership, and so my company 4WD went back. No 4WD meant no great camping expeditions into the unknown. Fortunately I've managed to keep working, which means I've still had enough outdoors time to keep sane, but eventually I decided it was time to spend a break out of town, walking and exploring the countryside. I used to take the old Herald camping, so I figured, why not again? There are some great spots within a day's drive of Brisbane, even at Herald speeds.
We headed south, and spent a couple of nights near Murwillumbah, in northern New South Wales, so I could climb Mt Warning. The peak is in the centre of the enormous volcanic crater that forms the Tweed Valley, and was named by Captain Cook. Shortly after seeing it, he found some reefs nearby. He named a nearby a peninsula Point Danger, just to make it obvious!
Gerald the Herald, camping near Mt Warning
Flashback - camping alongside the Buller River in New Zealand, c.2005
The view south from Mt Warning. Byron Bay is out of shot to the left, and was mostly hidden in the smoke haze.
The view north and east from Mt Warning. The Numinbah Gap is in the centre, and Murwillumbah and the Tweed Valley are visible to the right.
After climbing Mt Warning, we headed north into Queensland along a brilliant road through the Numinbah Gap. It winds up and over a pass, and seemed perfect for the Triumph. After that, we headed up to the camping ground at O'Reilly's in Lamington National Park. The climb up from Canungrah to O'Reilly's is an old logging road, very narrow and steep, and was mostly a second gear affair. The next day I took the Saturday minibus to Binna Burra, and walked the 21km track back to O'Reilly's.
The two walks were a real contrast. Mt Warning is a three hour climb. It wasn't hard with a day pack, and some people even run up. Bastards. I just chugged steadily, and got a kick out of the last section, a chain up a rock face to the top. Down was even better! And looking south towards Mt Warning two days later from the Border Track was very satisfying - as Hillary said, I'd knocked the bugger off. My calves had seized up the next day though, and I hobbled the first few hundred metres of the Border Track.
The Border Track is really just a long walk through the forest, with great views from lookouts cut into the forest. It's pretty easy - it climbs and drops a few hundred metres, but that's over 21km so hardly counts. It was pretty windy on the ridgelines even in the forest, and I actually had trouble keeping warm in shady areas. That's not usual for Australia.
Something I finally figured out - O'Reilly's is about 6km north of the crater rim, and yet it has a great view of volcanic hills receding into the distance, with Mt Warning in the middle. So everyone says. Thing is, the resort is in the wrong place to see into the crater, and the peak is a different shape. The answer, of course, is that the view is west towards the Great Dividing Range rather than south into New South Wales, and the peak isn't Mt Warning, but another volcanic peak called Mt Lindesay. The fact that Mt Warning looked so different from O'Reilly's and from the Border had been bugging me for a couple of years!
Spot the difference: Mt Warning from the northern rim of the crater
Mt Lindesay from O'Reilly's. Both volcanic, but not the same mountain!
Gerald heading home
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 04th August 2014 10:39am gmt
In March I spent a couple of weeks back in New Zealand, catching up with friends and family, and going tramping (hiking) in the Victoria Range above Reefton. As well as camping equipment, wet weather gear and food, I hauled my camera up the hill. And it was worth it.
The track climbed 1100m in 9km. It follows an old mining trail to the Kirwan's Reward gold mine which operated at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The miners used horse and cart to haul their supplies up the hill. We found the remains of a few carts alongside the track, and chunks of quartz from the remains of the mineralised formation the miners were chasing. There's not much left, and what there is is hidden in steep, thick, remote rainforest. It's amazing that Kirwan found it at all.
The lower portion of the track winds through red beech forest. The air smelled of honey dew, and we were followed by bush robins and fantails. We even saw a weka when we stopped for a rest.
Higher up, the forest is dominated by silver beech. It's lower, darker and claustrophobic. Luckily we could see flashes of scenery through gaps in the trees.
A welcome sight - Kirwan's Hut
Sunset after a long day's walk
The next day we checked out the remains of Kirwan's Reward mine, and climbed to the ridgeline to enjoy views from the Southern Alps to the Paparoa Ranges.
Our last night was capped off with a gorgeous sunset. The next day we descended to the valleys and returned to the world.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 30th March 2014 11:42am gmt
Dodging the rains
It's getting into the rainy season now, but work's continued right up until Christmas. Here are a few shots from the last couple of months.
Cambridge Homestead, c. 1865
Emus hanging out in Longreach
Qantas Museum, Longreach
Home is where you pitch it
Circle the wagons, a storm's coming!
Not a bad place to spend an hour...
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 25th December 2013 06:56am gmt
The long way home
Once we'd finished drilling, I had to drive the core samples back to Brisbane. Oh, and did I mention that I'd bought a 1927 Dodge vintage car up there? I had to get that home somehow, too! Of course, I didn't come home via the most direct route.
South of our field area was the town of Winton. For a geologist, Winton's famous for two things, the Australian Age of Dinosaurs centre (http://australianageofdinosaurs.com), and Lark Quarry (http://www.dinosaurtrackways.com.au). At the Age of Dinosaurs Centre, palaeontologists patiently extract dinosaurs from locally sourced boulders. I'd found some marine reptile fossils while drilling, so showed them to the resident palaeontologist for identification (probably a plesiosaur). Visitors can take a course on fossil recognition and extraction, and are then able to work in the extraction room for a few days.
Lark Quarry, about 70km south of Winton, has probably the world's best collection of dinosaur footprints. In one beautifully-preserved slab, you can see how chicken-sized dinosaurs were chased across mud flats by a much larger dinosaur. Having been so recently stalked by a cassowary, I think I know how they felt!
The countryside surrounding Lark Quarry is colourful but very, very remote. Old time opal miners discovered the footprints, and originally though they had been made by birds.
Followed by BIG feet...
The preserved quarry is now kept dry and cool inside a large shed. The visitor's centre is fantastic, and with coffee would be perfect!
From Lark Quarry, I kept driving south, stopping for the night to camp on the bank of the Barcoo River. The road was entirely dirt, linking farms on the edge of the Tanami Desert. At one point I stopped to climb this ridge and look back. Just as well that I did, as I found that one of the Hilux's rear tyres was half flat (the bottom half). With 13 boxes of core, half a vintage car and 400-odd km of dirt roads, that was hardly surprising.
Unnamed ridge, somewhere between Winton and Quilpie, and the highest spot for ages!
Did I mention that I bought a vintage car while we were drilling? This should keep me busy for a while...
When I stopped in Quilpie, I was approached by a guy wondering what sort of car I had strapped to the back of my Hilux, as he collects Model T Fords. Lots of them... Iron really doesn't rust out west, it just turns brown!
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 28th September 2013 12:15am gmt
Cape York, Cassowaries and Cooktown
Ok, during my first break I'd headed north to Cobbold Gorge and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The second was north-west to Lawn Hill, near the Northern Territory border. It was a while since I'd seen the sea, so for the third trip, I decided to head up Cape York before turning east towards Cooktown. Steeped in history, Cooktown's a place I'd always wanted to check out.
Windfarm at Windy Hill, near Ravenshoe
A cassowary stalking tourists (me!) at Mt Hypipamee National Park. A cassowary is essentially a Velociraptor with feathers and a bad temper.
For future reference, this is much, much too close!
Balloons over the Barron River, Mareeba.
I drove as far north as the township of Laura, and Lakefields NP, before turning east. A few hours later, I popped out on the coast at Elim Beach, famous for its coloured sand hills.
Elim Beach. This was as far north as I've been up Cape York.
Cooktown's only an hour south of Elim Beach. It's a pretty and surprisingly well-developed wee town, and I stayed there two nights. If you go there, the restaurant on the pier has blue cheese icecream. Sounds weird, tastes wonderful.
The lighthouse on lookout hill. Captain Cook was stranded here in 1770 after damaging the Endeavour on the Great Barrier Reef. While the ship was being repaired, he would climb the hill to watch the weather and work out a route through the reef.
Sunset from Lookout Hill
Cooktown after dark
I took the coastal Bloomfield Track south from Cooktown. This is supposed to be for 4WDs only, but in the dry season a 2WD car would be able to get through, I think.
The Daintree forest
One of the beaches along the Bloomfield Track
I camped the next night at Wonga Beach, before continuing south down the coast.
At Port Douglas I stopped for a coffee and to visit the wildlife sanctuary. I'd seen enough 'roos, wallabies, crocodiles and cassowaries in the wild, but some of the birds and lizards were charming.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 28th September 2013 11:38am gmt
Lawn Hill National Park
My second camping trip in northern Queensland was to Lawn Hill National Park. Lawn Hill is essentially a gorge cut through Precambrian sandstone by a spring-fed river. You can walk along the cliff tops, or kayak up the gorge. I absolutely loved it!
Geology: Science before safety
These ripples are about 1.5 billion years old!
Rows of termite mounds
The cliffs of Lawn Hill Station.
I camped at Adel's Grove, about 8km from Lawn Hill NP. The camping area is under huge, shady trees, and it has a restaurant, bar and kayak hire so that you can paddle up the river. It has a general store and fuel bowser, and they run tours through the Park and to nearby, privately owned scenic spots. In contrast, the National Park campground was open, sunny and dusty. My recommendation is definitely to stay down the road.
About 50km south of Lawn Hill is the world-famous Riversleigh fossil deposit. It contains fossils of many of Australia's land-based animals, and charts the evolution of Australia's famous marsupials and megafauna.
For the geologists: above the Precambrian sandstone is a Cambrian limestone. Rainwater seeps through the limestone and becomes saturated with carbonate. The various spring-fed rivers (Lawn Hill Stream included) are carbonate-saturated. At various times through the Tertiary, the climate has been wet enough to produce small lakes across the plains. In warm weather these would partially evaporate,and the water would become super-saturated. Animals trapped in mud along the banks, or walking onto rafts of crystallised carbonate would get trapped and preserved in the redeposited limestones. The region's now dotted with hard, elevated limestone outcrops, each one a window onto a specific period.
Riversleigh locality 'D', the only portion of the fossil reserve open to the public. Leave your geo-pick in the car!
The Cambrian limestone, with silica nodules.
Closeup of the silica nodules. These have nothing to do with the fossil story, they just look cool!
A turtle in the redeposited, Tertiary limestone.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 28th September 2013 11:09am gmt
Northern Queensland - adventures by the dozen!
Studying geology at Uni, we assumed that our careers would be like one long field trip, maybe with slightly less alcohol consumption so as to survive past thirty. The reality is that most of us end up working in a mine, making sure that the always-hungry processing plant has a steady diet of coal or metal ore. But sometimes we get lucky, and get to go exploring for new deposits. I just spent three months in northern Queensland, and had the sort of adventures geologists dream of.
Because our field area was a couple of hours from the nearest town, we stayed on a cattle station. That meant we had to be self sufficient, and we learned a lot about farming in what is, for nine months of the year, a semi-arid grassland. It's a hard land to make a living off.
Sunrise on the plateau
All quiet except for the Kookaburras
Sundown from our camp
A farm cat hunting for mice
A helicopter and a swag. All a bloke needs in the Bush.
Because our field area was so remote, the drill crews flew straight to site.
An abandoned Diamond T truck. The front half, anyway!
Queensland's a huge state. When I was working in Moranbah, I visited a lot of the National Parks and towns in the centre of the state. We were based a lot further north this time, so I decided to spend my week-long breaks seeing the north of the state.
Trip 1: Cobbold Gorge, Karumba, Blackbraes NP
Copperfield Gorge, Einasleigh
Termite mounds, Forsayth
Cobbold Gorge - cut through Cretaceous sandstone
The Gulf of Carpentaria
Gulflander - a tourist train running between Normanton and Croydon
Moonrise over Blackbraes NP
Mist from the lake at Blackbraes.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 28th September 2013 10:34am gmt
My company car was recently changed from a Toyota Kluger (fast but essentially a sealed road-only SUV) for a Hilux. My boss apologised for the downgrade but I didn't mind - all those bits on the geological maps marked '4WD only' were suddenly open and accessible. Of course, a fully-kitted mine-spec vehicle does get a few raised eyebrows in National Parks...
National Park #1 was Girraween again. There are several walking tracks through the centre of the park best accessed with a 4WD, which I hadn't been able to get into in September. I did a walk which crosses the state border into Bald Rock NP in NSW, and climbed the Rock. It's like the Girraween granites, but somehow the water runoff had made the faces stripy. Very pretty, and not much of a climb.
The start of the climb
The stunted forest at the top of Bald Rock
That night back in Girraween it rained, giving me an excellent chance to see where my tent was leaking! On Tuesday the rain was heavier. I did one short walk up Billy Goat Hill, but the blowing mist obscured a lot of the view, so I drove half an hour south to Boonoo Boonoo NP. This park's right on the Great Dividing Range and features a spectacular waterfall. Spectacularly wet, that is - it was absolutely pouring. As I wandered through the wet rainforest, I met another of Australia's famous creatures, the leach. No photos sorry, I was screaming and flailing at it in a manly and dignified way. Pity I missed the other one.
Billy Goat Hill, Girraween NP
When it rains, the granite tops are studded with small pools.
Boonoo Boonoo Falls
The next day the rain had cleared, so I packed up and headed a couple of hours west, into Sundown NP. I camped at the southern end of the park a few months ago, but that was just a taster. The rest is accessed by a long 4WD-only road - it took nearly 3 hours to drive 22km to Burrows Waterhole.
Most of Sundown is composed of metamorphosed (baked) sediments, under which a granite body was forced up about 240 million years ago. The hot fluids from the granite deposited metal-rich minerals in the overlying rocks, and these were mined intermittently last century. The remains of the old mines are visible on the drive in. Another legacy is that the waste rock is slowly leaching metals into the nearby streams - some have dangerously high levels of arsenic.
I camped at Burrows Waterhole, which is now officially my favourite camp ground ever! It's large, grassy and quiet - I was the only one there - and the waterhole has platypus and shags swimming in it. It also had me swimming in it, which scared off the wildlife!
The company car at Burrows Waterhole
Sunset. The sounds of birds, insects and wind. No cars, radios or other voices.
My camera got wet at Boonoo Boonoo, and took a bit of fiddling to get it working again. This is me trying to figure it out (the solution was to leave it in the sun for a few hours).
On Thursday I walked down the River Severn to an outcrop called the Rat's Castle. It's the top of an intrusive dyke, and gave great views over two watersheds. I walked back to camp down Sundown Creek, and spent an enjoyable afternoon with my feet in the waterhole, sipping red wine while fish nibbled my toes. Did I mention.. best camp ground ever?
Rat's Castle outcrop
View from the Castle over the River Severn
Red Rock Gorge - the only place where the sediments have been eroded away, exposing the underlying granites
Sign at Red Rock Gorge
Nope, I don't think the Hilux was a downgrade!
A couple of notes. Firstly, the access road was very rough - don't even think about it in a normal car. Secondly, I was walking about by myself in a fairly remote area with no phone reception. You need to be prepared for that sort of adventure - a map, GPS and good sense of direction are essential. If you break a leg, you'll still have to walk/crawl out, or be prepared for a very long wait!
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 23rd February 2013 4:50pm gmt
Great Southern Land (Part 3)
After a few very hot days in the Warrumbungles, I felt like finding somewhere cooler to pitch my tent. Mt Kaputar, only a few hours north, fitted the bill. The mountain's about 1500m high and has a campground at 1400m. Because of the elevation, the days were no more than mid-twenties - wonderful after the high thirties days in Dubbo and the Warrumbungles. The campground was surrounded by Snow and Mountain Gums, with plenty of walking tracks, curious kangaroos and very few other campers. It was the perfect place to chill out while the rest of Australia got on with its Christmas shopping.
Mt Kaputar is, or was, a shield volcano similar to the Warrumbungles. The various bluffs and outcrops are mainly basalt, with plugs forming massive, cliff-edges plateaus that stick out of the forest.
Sunset from the summit of Mt Kaputar
One thing I quickly found is that early summer is thunderstorm season in NSW and Queensland. Many thunderheads seemed to go around Mt Kaputar rather than over it, and as I walked along various tracks, the forests and bluffs echoed to the sound of thunder away over the plains. The summit did get smited on two days though, and my tent proved to only be 90% waterproof.
Hmmm, those clouds look a bit dark. I wonder what's coming?
Surely that storm's going to pass us by?
But not that one. Damn.
After the storms had cleared, the sunset showed up the silhouette of the Warrumbungles, 160km to the south. It's said that you can see 7% of NSW from Mt Kaputar.
There was a surprising amount of wildlife up the mountain. I saw my first fox in the wild, the kangaroos always showed up at mealtimes, and as for goats... I counted 18 in one herd.
At the northern end of Mt Kaputar National Park is Sawn Rocks. They're a single thick lava flow that has cooled slowly. When rock cools it shrinks and cracks, and the cracks run perpendicular to the surface. In most cases the result is like Sawn Rocks, with columnar jointing. The same thing is famously seen in the Giant's Causeway in Ireland.
After a few days walking through forests, standing on cliff edges and watching the wildlife, it was time to head home. I had to stop at one more geological attraction though - Rocky Creek Glacial Area, near Bingara. The glacier's long-gone now - it was gone before dinosaurs evolved. But the rocks remain - conglomerates of granite cobbles picked up by a glacier, as well as interbeds of fine siltstone. The cobbles were deposited in summer, when the glacier moved rapidly, while the fine sediments were from rock flour, deposited in winter when the glacier had ground to a halt. I counted about seven different source rocks that have contributed to the conglomerate. It was, in every sense, cool.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 29th December 2012 09:30am gmt
Great Southern Land (Part 2)
The first National Park I wanted to check out was Warrumbungle National Park, near the New South Wales town of Coonabarabran. And right on the park border is the Siding Spring Observatory. As a life-long geek, I had to check it out. One telescope at Siding Spring, the Anglo-Australian Telescope, has a viewing gallery where you can see a state-of-the-art instrument that's discovered planets, observed far-off galaxies and watched the birth and death of stars. Siding Spring also has a great information centre and gift shop, and while I tried to keep my hands in my pockets, I ended up buying a telescope! The next few nights were spent spying the moon, Jupiter and its moons, various stars and nebulae - outback Australia has wonderfully dark skies, as spectacular as the countryside itself.
And so to Warrumbungle National Park. The Warrumbungles, as they're commonly referred to, are a range of eroded volcanic deposits. When most people think of volcanoes, they think of Mt Fuji-like towering peaks. Australia's volcanoes, on the other hand, tend to be formed by basaltic hot spots in the crust. Instead of tall, conical shapes, basaltic volcanoes form broad 'shield' shapes.
Many of the Warrumbungle walks are up and along a range known as the Grand High Tops. It's a cool name, and the views lived up to the billing. During the climb up, the first rocks seen in the creek beds and track cutting are the sandstones that existed before the volcanoes sprouted from the plains. The overlying volcanic rocks include solid and bubbly basalt, often exposed in cliffs. Tuff layers, from deposited, solidifed ash, show up as softer layers in the cliffs. Tuff sometimes has cliffs eroded into it by wind and water.
Volcanic breccias are common. They're caused when debris flows down the sides of the volcanoes pick up rocks and boulders, and redeposit them further down the mountain. It's a violent process, and the rock fragments end up in an unsorted mess.
The dykes and plugs are made of a rock called Trachyte. It's chemically the same as the basalt, but it cooled and solidified within the mountain instead of being erupted. Because it cooled more slowly the crystals are larger, and the rock is harder.
From the top, you can see how the Warrumbungles rise from the flat plains of central NSW. To the north, west and south, it's flat as far as the eye can see.
The most distinctive peak in the Grand High Tops is 'The Breadknife'. It is the coolest dyke I've ever seen.
On the last day, I trudged up is Mt Exmouth. At 1200m it's the highest point in the National Park, and the 360 degree views made the climb very worthwhile.
The view from Mt Exmouth, looking east towards the Grand High Tops.
A panorama from Mt Exmouth.
The Arch, near Mt Exmouth.
I'd like to go back to the Warrumbungles, but may choose a time when the weather's cooled off a bit. Each day was fine and sunny, with temperatures of 35 - 38C. Each day I drank as much water as possible before setting out, and carried two litres with me. And each day, I drank it all and was looking forward to an iceblock at the Visitor's Centre when I got back!
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 28th December 2012 11:49am gmt
Great Southern Land (Part 1)
The geology business is a funny one. One minute the industry can't get enough geologists to help them explore for coal, gas and minerals. And then commodity prices drop and the first thing to be shelved is exploration. The result is a lot of unemployed geologists, quickly. I still have a job, but the company I work for hires out geologists. Right now the demand has dried up, so my boss sent us off on unpaid leave for a few months. I got to keep my company car though, so hatched a plan - go camping!
First stop was Sydney to drop off some mining gear to a colleague. That done, I spent the next two weeks meandering northwards through rural New South Wales. I mainly camped in National Parks. As always, if a spot looks interesting or unusual on a geological map, it's usually pretty spectacular in real life.
The road west from Sydney weaves through the Blue Mountains. Two things to note: they aren't mountains but gorges. And they aren't blue, exactly, it's an effect of haze and distance. Other than that, it's a perfect name.
I may have gotten a bit close to the edge here...
Next stop was the town of Bathurst. Most of the year it's a quiet rural town, but every October, a 1000km race is run on the nearby Mount Panorama circuit. You can drive around it at 60km/h (and yes, the speed limit is policed!). Driving around gives a good idea of the steepness of the climb up and down the mountain. It certainly isn't your average flat race track. One day I will be back in my Triumph Herald or GT6.
There's also a great museum near the start-finish line, which has a pretty good cross-section of cars which have raced at Mt Panorama, as well as other famous race cars. The only Triumphs were motorbikes, all impressively restored and waiting to roar off into the sunset.
Not sure our fleet-manager should see this one...
West of Bathurst, I found a place called Wellington Caves. Being a geologist, anything with the word 'cave' is irresistible. So I pitched my tent at the caves' campground, and next morning took tours of all three caves. The rock's a Devonian limestone or marble (marble is just baked limestone) with some impressive fossils and formations. It was also a nice cool 18C, instead of the high thirties outside.
One cave was mined for phosphate during WW1. The phosphate was from bat droppings and coated the cave floor and walls. How much phosphate was produced isn't known, and it was suggested that the mine was a good way for a few chaps do do their bit for the war effort without having to go France for target practice. Who knows if that's true?
The best formation in Cathedral Cave, naturally called 'The Organ'.
After the cave tours it was early afternoon, so I set off for the town of Dubbo. The town's most famous attraction is the Western Plains Zoo, which is a part of Sydney's Taronga Zoo. A zoo visit takes most of a day, so the next day was spent watching animals. Elephants, bison, giraffes, hippos, tigers, lions, all sorts of Australian animals (most of which I've met in the wild), lemurs. I hired a bike and cycled around - a brilliant, green plan that seemed a little less clever as the temperature neared 40C! Most of the African animals were happy to be out in the summer sun, but some were happier spending their time snoozing under trees. They were obviously the smarter ones. Of course animals can't stop for an iceblock, but I certainly could. Phew!
The end of a memorable, fun day was marked with a beautiful sunset. Australia does sunsets well.
The next day I headed north-ish again. Here's a taste of the next stop:
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 27th December 2012 2:35pm gmt
Until now, my overseas holidays have been to 'comfortable' countries. Australia, England and Scotland, Germany, and the Cook Islands. Places where people speak English (or Scottish) and life is predictable and well organised. Last week, I travelled to the Philippines to attend my brother's wedding to a Filipino lady. The trip was definitely out of my 'comfort zone', and all the more enjoyable for that.
Butterflies at Changi Airport
The trip from Australia took nearly three days. I stayed overnight in Singapore Airport's Ambassador Hotel - which I can recommend - and another in Manila - which I can't - before flying south to Tacloban, on the island of Leyte. Tacloban's a nice town, much smaller than Manila but still with the mad traffic that characterises the Philippines.
Sunset at Raphael's Farm
The wedding was held at a function centre called Raphael's Farm, just north of Tacloban. The day after, we headed over the San Juanico Bridge to a resort on Samar.
The resort was surrounded by small basalt islands, and had black basalt beach sand. Beautiful!
The day after I flew out, Typhoon Bopha hit Mindanao and killed over 300 people. While Tacloban had a lot of middle class homes, the town and surrounding countryside were also dotted with small clusters of houses, called Barangays. Built on any available flat land from river mudflats to the sides of the road, many of the homes are built of bamboo, thatch and recycled corrugated iron. Small wonder that in a Typhoon, they get swept away. It's only because the authorities moved thousands of people to higher ground that more weren't killed.
Roadside houses and food stalls.
But, my lasting memories of the Philippines will be of amazingly friendly and cheerful people, copious yummy seafood, and a beautiful warm, green, vibrant country. Mabuhay!
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 06th December 2012 11:44am gmt
Sundown NP - the last and most challenging
The last stop on my Spring camping trip was Sundown National Park. Sundown is west of the Granite Belt, and is more suited to hard-core campers and walkers than Lamington or Girraween. Most of the 'tracks' are really just suggested routes along valleys and ridgelines, many with walking times listed in days rather than hours. The camp ground facilities are more basic, too - the 'shower' was a bucket with holes in the bottom!
Sundown's geology consists of sedimentary units with granites intruding from beneath. Typically when this happens, fluids from the hot granites deposit mineral ores in the surrounding rocks, and Sundown is no exception. Before being gazetted, ore bodies were mined for arsenic, tin, copper, molybdenum and tungsten. The mining wasn't always done cleanly, and some streams still have dangerously high arsenic contents.
Here's a quote from Sydney BJ Skertchly, the first government geologist to visit the area, in 1897. It comes from the Geological Society of Queensland's 'Rocks and Landscapes of the National Parks of SE QLD":
"So interesting, and I believe important, is this district that I would fain have seen more of it: but I had only brought two days' rations, and we had horrible weather, fog and rain, and though we stayed a day after we had eaten our last bit of food, and the river wouldn't give up its fish, we were obliged to return to Ballendean, as the rain showed no sign of abating. My horse drowned himself in a waterhole, one of our men had to be sent back ill, and altogether it was geology under difficulties, yet I never enjoyed myself more. I shall long remember our last night. Four of us had dined on less than half-a-loaf of bread, and we sat round the camp fire sipping second-hand tea, while a stockman recited Gordon's poems as a substitute for supper."
When I arrived, the Park had just received 68mm of rain overnight, and Skertchly's descriptions of the weather seemed very accurate. It was cool, overcast, wet and windy, and reminded me of camping trips back in New Zealand. The weather soon cleared though, and the next couple of days were warm enough to make the various waterholes seem tempting, leeches or no.
I'll have to go back to Sundown with a proper 4WD one day, as the northern campground, which acts as a gateway to many of the most interesting areas, isn't accessible by car.
A Bottlebrush. These plants are popular in Australian gardens.
Some sort of orange tree fungus.
Permanent Waterhole. It has Platypuseses!
A Monitor lizard. I didn't get his name.
Queens Mary Falls, on the road back to Brisbane.
The way home. Looking north towards Wilson's Peak from a cafe above Condamine Gorge.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 27th October 2012 08:32am gmt
Lamington National Park - volcanoes and views
After wandering around Girraween NP and looking at granite, I headed back north towards Brisbane and a National Park closer to home. Lamington NP is on the north-facing outer slopes of an extinct volcano. Like Girraween, its elevation means that it's cooler than on the plains. However Lamington is near the coast and so gets a lot more rain. Instead of dry eucalypt forest, Lamington is covered by dense, damp rainforest and beech forest.
Because it's only a couple of hours drive from Brisbane, the park is popular and the camp ground was full. Fortunately there's also an old and very posh lodge (O'Reilly's Retreat) which had a room. And a restaurant and bar and spectacular views. Nice!
There are dozens of walks in Lamington. I did two 'day' walks in one day, covering at least 25km. Why? So I could see more waterfalls and lookouts!
Looking south into the old caldera from Wanungara Lookout. Old lava flows can be seen in the cliffs.
Echo Point Lookout is further west on the crater rim. Mt Warning, marking the approximate centre of the old Tweed Volcano, is on the right.
A friendly Lorikeet at O'Reilly's.
One of the many falls on tracks from O'Reilly's to the crater rim.
Sunset from O'Reilly's Retreat. Spring and early Summer are the driest times of the year in Australia and are when most bushfires happen. The smoke reduced visibility a bit, but made for some nice sunsets!
I stopped at Undercliffe Falls on the drive from Girraween to Lamington. The falls are hardly marked on maps, the signpost is tiny and there's only a very rough track down from the carpark. But after all that it was worth it - the falls are beautiful.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 21st October 2012 08:00am gmt
The Granites of Girraween
"As hard as granite." It's a saying so common it's almost a cliche. Granite's a hard rock, made of large, interlocking crystals. Granite bodies form when hot material from deep in the Earth's interior melts the underside of the crust. The semi-liquid mass of minerals rises into the overlying crust and cools slowly, over millions of years. When erosion wipes away the weaker host rock, the granite is left. Granite can form mountain ranges.
But over time, even granite is worn by water and ice. The minerals decompose, and with little cement between the crystals, the rock flakes away.
The southeasternmost portion of Queensland is called, with typical Australian directness, the Granite Belt. The granite was formed in the Triassic, and was first uncovered in the Jurassic. It's been slowly rising and being eroded ever since, and so the landscape we see today is in truth an ancient one. However, despite the long period of erosion, the rolling landscape is still about a kilometre above sea level. As a result the climate is typically hot in summer and cold in winter. The native vegetation is adapted to the conditions, and European settlers quickly saw the potential of the area for fruit and wine production. The Granite Belt's valleys are famous for their vineyards and orchards, but granite forms poor soils, and so large swathes of hillside are entirely bare, like ribs poking through the skin. I've just spent a few days walking around Girraween National Park, admiring the geology, the landscapes and, not least, some of the local Shiraz.
The rock in question - granite. This granite is composed mainly of quartz, pink and white feldspar, and black biotite.
Spring means wildflowers, and Girraween means 'place of flowers'. They're not big and bold, but the pink, white, purple and yellow flowering shrubs added touches of colour to the Australian bush. And the sound of bees!
The first big balancing rock had me grabbing for my camera before it fell over. By the time I'd seen a few hundred more, they didn't seem so remarkable. The boulders have been left as the surrounding granite flaked away along planes of weakness. Eventually they do roll downhill, but it's a rare event.
The Pyramid is one of the most fun climbs in Girraween National Park. It's not high, but the final stretch is steeeeeep.
The view from the base of the exposed rock face.
About halfway up, looking east. And no, the camera is not on its side!
A dyke crosses the face of the Pyramid, a good place to stop and catch your breath.
And when you get to the top, you can see the Second Pyramid. It's not climbable without rock-climbing experience.
Balancing Rock, on the peak of the Pyramid.
And more boulders, seemingly perched ready to roll off the Pyramid into the valley. Not today, though.
A Cunningham's Skink, enjoying the view, or the sun. He didn't say.
The next walk was to a formation called the Sphinx. I thought it looked like a koala, but Koala Rock doesn't have the same ring.
Someone's made a pretty decent sleeping platform at the base of the Sphinx. No idea how old it is - could be last week, or hundreds of years ago.
You think of underground streams being cut through limestone, but here, a stream has managed to undercut a granite bluff. You can hear the water but only see glimpses through the cracks.
Another dyke, this one above the Underground Stream.
The longest walk I did was up Mt Norman, down the far side and along a firebreak to Underground Stream. This is the northern face of Mt Norman, showing how the topsoil has been washed from the smooth face of the rock.
There's a good little campground tucked into the boulders beside the peak of Mt Norman. Here's the chimney.
And this is the southern face of Mt Norman. It's quite a walk to see this, but that meant I had it all to myself. I did the main walks in Girraween, and plan to go back and explore more of the park.
Just for fun, a 360 view from the Pyramid.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 06th October 2012 10:23pm gmt
Less is more
US-market 'Federal' spec GT6s were a bit different from the versions sold in their homeland. Oh, Triumph nailed the steering wheel on the other side, but there were extra features such as running lights, a seatbelt reminder light and a buzzer that sounded if the door was opened while the key was still in the ignition. For 1972, that was fully loaded!
Triumph were also selling cars in a market with tighter legislation governing emissions, and so the Federal GT6s' engines were in a lower state of tune. Low compression engines and a different camshaft meant that they were about 20hp down on GT6s sold elsewhere. So, I decided that my GT6 would get a bit of a kick on the pants performance-wise, and swapped the 2L crank for a 2.5L version. Because the stroke is increased, the engine is tuned for torque rather than revs. To stop it being a lazy slug, I've added a few goodies to retain the sporty feel.
The bottom end's away getting balanced, and includes a lightweight Bastück steel flywheel. It should be back in a few days. More exciting, a set of 60-overbore forged pistons arrived this week, so I can move forward and get the block bored. I ordered them a couple of years ago, as soon as I stripped the engine, but production delays mean that they've arrived just when I need them. Below are a few photos, with a Nüral 40-thou cast piston for comparison. The stock cast pistons are nice, but the forged ones look, and feel, even better.
Nüral 40 thou piston, including gudgeon piston and rings - 415g
Forged 60 thou piston with gudgeon piston but without rings
The crowns of both pistons
Side view. Note that the cast piston has large slots in the sides, while the forged piston only has small drillings behind the oil ring groove.
The undersides. There's a lot more material in the cast piston - it's quite chunky by comparison.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 29th September 2012 5:08pm gmt
The GT6 gets its seats
When my GT6 arrived, its interior had been eaten away by the California sun. No carpet or door trims, and the seats were cracked, and disintegrating. They were disgusting, and probably the first parts removed and stripped for restoration. Their frames were cleaned and repainted, and new foams were sourced from Newton Commercial. The original covers were kept as patterns for the new covers. Little else of the interior could be saved.
Every cloud has a silver lining, though. The derelict interior gave me an opportunity to change its colour. GT6s had black, Matador Red, Midnight Blue or New Tan interiors. My red Herald has a black interior, and the Herald coupe will get trimmed in red, so I decided on New Tan to give the GT a light and warm feel. And today, three years after they were removed, the seats came home and were refitted. It was almost as big a milestone as the completion of the bodywork.
The seats were recovered in New Tan leather by Ron Jackson, a Brisbane-based upholsterer. Ron's an old-school craftsman with thirty years of tricks to make old upholstery not only as good as new, but often better. Seats, carpet and door trims were usually mass-produced by the factory or an outside contractor. Restored trim, though, is essentially hand-made, and can incorporate tweaks such as different density foams, extra padding to improve shape and location, and subtly different coloured piping.
I'd visited Ron last week to check on progress, and he was near enough to finishing them that I knew I should get the seat runners bolted in asap. And then the big day came, the phone call to come and pick them up.
Seat runners in place (and a lot of junk!)
Ron the craftsman!
The seats in place. I'll take a better photo when I can wheel the car out into the sun - the camera flash doesn't do them justice. And the verdict - very comfortable. At 6ft I wouldn't want to be any taller, as my head isn't far from the headlining, but they're very comfortable and supportive, and should make long trips back-ache free. Now it just needs a motor...
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 02nd September 2012 7:23pm gmt
Took my camera to Sydney last weekend. Cold, windy weather made the innumerable cafes even more enticing than usual, but I managed to get a few fun shots.
The QVB (Queen Victoria Building), arguably Sydney's oldest, poshest and most glamorous shopping arcade. A temple to good taste.
Recognise this famous landmark?
Yep, it's the Giant Coathanger!
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 15th August 2012 3:52pm gmt
The Ultimate Bling
Once upon a time, when men were men, cars had real bumpers. None of your pedestrian-friendly, impact absorbing deformable eco-plastic. Nope. They had proper steel bumpers at each end, adorned with lashings of chrome and style. Modern cars, with their wee brushed aluminium highlights and big shiny alloys have less bling than a proper set of chrome bumpers.
The GT6's bumpers had been 'bumped' quite a lot by the time I got her. I know she'd been around the block a few times, but the bumpers looked like she'd run into it as well! But now the bumpers have been straightened, polished and rechromed, and mounted back on the car, and they look as good as new. The plater I used is old school and does the full copper-nickel-chrome process. I painted their insides as well, so they should last well. And while the repairs and chrome weren't cheap, check out the cost of plastic modern bumper panels :-)
Now that's bling!
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 04th August 2012 3:25pm gmt
Australia's divided into states, each with its own capital city. I've been to some of them, but a glaring gap, and one I was keen to fill, was Melbourne. It's an old city, founded in the earliest days of British colonisation. These days it competes with Sydney to be the funkiest, most cosmopolitan in Australia. (Sorry Brisbane, you're not there yet).
To jump on a plane and zoom off to another city, you need an excuse. Mine was Cat Stevens' musical 'Moonshadow'. Cat (aka Yusuf Islam) doesn't perform in it but he wrote the story, and the music spans his career. I don't remember hearing his music when I was growing up, but every tune was familiar and many are on my iPod. The show was brilliant, and the songs could have been written for their scenes. I loved it.
Another reason was to meet fellow GT6 owner Craig Trimble, who helps run the Sideways Forum. Craig's had his Damson Mk3 for over fifteen years, and it's slowly being modified to suit his idea of the perfect Triumph. We spend all Saturday in the garage talking Triumphs, BBQing sausages and gradually putting parts into his car. The plan was to get it running in and blast back into town in time for for Moonshadow. We (mostly Craig) modified his transmission cover and refitted it, bolted in the seats, filled the coolant system, modified the heater tap, bolted up the exhaust and relocated the battery to the behind the passenger's seat. This was done by a little after 7pm - the concert started at 8 - so all that remained was to drop the old girl onto her wheels, fire her up and scream into town.
Triumphs being Triumphs though, she refused to start. A few coughs, plenty of spark and fuel, but no fire. We gave up when the cranking speed started dropping, and I was treated to a just-in-time run into town in a Supercharged Monaro. Thanks Craig, I sat down just as the curtains rose!
The third part of the mystery weekend was catching up with a fellow refugee from Mackay, who lives in Melbourne. We were trapped in Mackay airport by bad weather for two days with nothing but complementary food and wine to sustain us, and she kindly offered to show me some of the sights, sounds and tastes that Melbourne is famous for. A brilliant day of restaurant, bar and cafe-hopping meant that I got very little sleep that night.
Pellegrinis, one of Melbourne's oldest cafes. Great coffee, served with full cream attitude!
Melbourne from the 88th floor of the Eureka tower
And so the verdict? When my GT6 is finished, a perfect test drive would be a run down the East Coast, through Sydney, Melbourne and along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. But Melbourne turned out to be more fun than I'd thought possible - I'll be back much sooner than that :-)
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 30th July 2012 8:03pm gmt
'It never rains but it pours.' 'Like WW1 but with more mud'. 'You weren't there man, you don't know.' All these phrases were muttered last week. I was sent to relieve for another geologist at Newlands Coal Mine. Because they were short-staffed I was asked to stay on a couple of extra days. That may have turned out to be a good thing, as I got to work with a mine senior geo from head office and learnt a few new tricks. But it rained, and that was a game-changer. Drilling operations in the middle of nowhere stop work when it rains, as they can't move trucks and there's a likelihood that even 4WDs will get stuck. Not at mine sites though - the philosophy is that there is no piece of stuck equipment that can't be moved with a big enough dozer. So out into the mud we went. It wasn't cold but it was still a wet, slippery, sticky day.
A small part of Newlands on a fine day. For scale, those roads are about 15m wide. The whole complex is about 30km end to end, Anywhere else, it's be considered three separate mines. And those 5-trailer trucks are BIG.
Our drill site. Did I mention the mud?
The same rain and low cloud then meant that flights couldn't land at Mackay airport for the next two days. Some airports have radar beacons, but not Mackay. At one point we heard a plane try to land, but he chickened out. Still, I got to spend time in the departure lounge drinking coffee and chatting. By the end we'd made some new friends ;-) The poor people getting thrown around above us had it much harder.
When I finally made it home my latest Triumph part had arrived - a W58 gearbox bought off eBay. I have a kit to fit it to a TR6 motor, which is the same as a GT6's except for a different back plate. The kit includes a custom bellhousing, clutch components and gear lever adapter. I still need to find a W58 gear lever though, as my box came without one. The box will get stripped and checked before going in the car.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 15th July 2012 10:25am gmt
Old cars only make sense on an emotional level - certainly not practical and rarely financial. We love them when we're building or driving them, and feel betrayed when they let us down. My Herald has given me twenty years of pretty reliable service and I love it for that. But right now I can't help scowling at it. It's sick, I've tried to cure it and it hasn't worked. Bastard!
When I moved back to Brisbane from Moranbah it was running perfectly. We enjoyed a two-day drive through half of Queensland, camping along the way. But once back in Brisbane it hasn't been so happy.
- First the diff seal failed, the oil escaped and the diff was damaged.
- The diff was replaced with a new alloy case and new gears which were lapped to ensure they ran quietly. Of course I also repainted and rebushed the rear suspension - can't go putting dirty bits in my Precious!
- Then the clutch slave cylinder failed, in traffic and a huge cloud of smoke and humiliation. New cylinders are cheap, and I also rekitted the master cylinder and changed the clutch to silicone fluid. Was the wee darling appeased? Like hell!
- While its Carcoon is getting fixed it has to sit on the drive in all weathers. The cat thinks the sunroof is a perfect hammock, and now the sunroof is stretched and letting in water. Removing the floor drain plugs has helped slightly but I am looking into the water-proofing properties of cats.
- Now the car has developed some sort of 'dragging' problem. It feels as though the brakes are half on, but I'm at a loss to explain how. I've replaced the master cylinder - no change. I disabled the servo by disconnecting the vacuum hose - no change. It had better not be a half-seized diff.
It doesn't help that it's hard to work on the car on my drive because of the slope.. But at the moment I have had a gutsful of its poor reliability and expensive taste in parts. It's just begging to be sent to Greg Tunstall's School for Recalcitrant Triumphs.
Meanwhile the GT6 is slowly taking shape. The headlining is in, I've established that the upholsterer with the seats is still alive and the wiring is getting sorted. One of my children is therefore making me happy.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://email@example.com 01st July 2012 08:41am gmt
How not to fit a GT6 windscreen
After ages trying to find a replacement windscreen for the GT6, a fellow triumpher in Melbourne put me onto a company that manufactures screens locally. And they had Spitfire 1500 / GT6 Mk3 windscreens - score! I picked one up on Saturday morning, looking forward to having it fitted by lunchtime. Ummm, wrong.
I winched the GT out into the sun - my garage and drive are on quite a slope, the wheel chocks are not for show. It's much easier to work on the car with room to open the doors properly.
Step one was fitting the seal to the glass. this took a couple of attempts to get the tension the same right round - the seals are made on the small side to make sure they hold the glass firmly, but the result is that it's like wrestling a huge black rubber band. One fingernail later, it was on.
The next step was fitting the assembly to the car, and I just couldn't get it to fit. After half an hour I gave up - maybe I surrendered too soon, but I'd rather not break the glass by doing it wrong. Brisbane has mobile windscreen specialists, and I'm happy to pay them to fit the little bastard.
For light relief I tidied the garage. You can see the winch at the back. This is actually the 'after' picture, it was a proper mess before.
And then I stitched up a pair of seams in the headlining that had come unravelled. Sewing's not my forte, but it should hold. Fitting the interior has been one of the most enjoyable parts of the build so far. the car has gone from a bare shell to a warm, snug place you'd be happy to spend a day in. Amazing what a bit of carpet and headlining will do!
And then time for a beer. No photo of that, but it was brown, good and well-deserved.
posted by Nick Moorehttp://firstname.lastname@example.org 09th June 2012 7:09pm gmt
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