The Exploding Clutch

We completed our travel Australia house sitting assignment in Toowoomba on a Thursday morning, a month before Christmas. David and Nancy returned before lunch and were happy to find that after two weeks the dogs still remembered them.

We drove down the range to the family home in Ipswich and for the next week set about some good old fashioned home maintenance. In the afternoon, Brisbane’s worst hail storm in 30 years dropped by for a visit. Fortunately for us, it skittled along the eastern side of Ipswich so we got to see the show from the back steps, without having to pay the admission. Not so lucky for 70,000 others though and there was a lot of damage and some injuries.

The next week was devoted to some home repairs, the most difficult of which was the restoration of a couple of 40 year old concrete house stumps.

stump

Ballina

Hopefully the new clutch kit, organized the week before our trip by son Justin, will be waiting when we get to Ballina. We had a little delay on our departure waiting for a delivery of tent poles we ordered on the internet, but we managed to haul the trailer out of the yard and were on the road quite late in the afternoon. Heading along the Pacific Highway an hour later, it was obvious the clutch was not going to last much longer. By the time we were bypassing the Gold Coast, it was possible to increase the engine revs and have absolutely no impact on the speed. Still we lived in hope we would make it.

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No Brakes – No Problem

I doubt that most house sitters travelling Australia have an aversion to highways and freeways, but we were happy to plot a course north that kept us on the Great Dividing Range for as long as possible.

We could of course, stay on the Range for the entire 1,000 kilometres, all the way to Toowoomba (itself on the GDRange about a hundred ks west of Brisbane) but I was keen to stop off in Ballina to catch up with family and to take advantage of some free time to do some badly needed maintenance on the camper.Paul Carol Julie 65

We fueled up before leaving Crookwell so our next stop was in Oberon a few hours later, then Muswellbrook, not far short of Scone which was our target for the first long day.

Driving along any section of the world’s third longest mountain range (on land anyway) stretching the full length of Australia, is a very pleasant exercise. The Great Dividing Range begins off shore in the Torres Strait, just off the tip of Queensland and finishes in Victoria.GDR It’s between 150 and 300 kilometres wide and 3,500 kilometres long but in height probably only averaging 500-750 metres, although Mt Kosciuszko gets up to 2228 metres a fairly modest mountain in international terms.

Everest for example is 4 times higher, but then it has India pushing from behind making it taller all the time. Kosi on the other hand has had a couple of hundred million years of erosion to wear it down so it’s probably not a fair comparison.

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Country Mud Crab. What?

Few house sitters would have cause to ponder farm fence maintenance, unless like us, they’ve branched out into farm-sitting or they are absolutely crazy. Or both.

Aside from cattle and sheep, the most common rural fence problem comes from kangaroos but hidden away in all that, is the inexorable march of Mother Nature out to reclaim her own. Yes, I’m talking about trees. When we’re thinking ‘farm,’ getting plenty of practice with the chainsaw is guaranteed. Aside from doing the little things, like avoiding direct contact with the sharp, moving chain and dropping branches onto your head, to do the job properly, there is a lot of walking involved. After lopping overhanging branches, one must then pile up the debris for later burning or as they do in most cases, leave it to return to the soil. Cutting back the branches is not difficult if you keep your wits about you, but dragging the branches to a central spot is not the best fun you’ll have today.

Near the end of our stay I was especially conscious of the risks attached to being in the paddock with a chain saw but still managed to clear a kilometre or so of fence line, mainly in the area closest to the homestead, making piles of branches as I went. Actually it went without incident if we skip that part about the log that jumped onto my toes when I wasn’t looking and reminded me that I was supposed to be wearing steel caps not sneakers.

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