Alex had about 7 weeks leave coming up and we looked forward to our escape from the cold. We planned our trip, as much as we ever do, ie we knew we were headed north to Oodnadatta, Chambers Pillar, Alice Springs, Kakadu etc and we anticipated a lot of fun in our new camper. When the camper was taking longer to be delivered than we’d anticipated we decided to go to Melbourne to pick it up. We drove over on Thursday, June 17th and stayed overnight in fascinating Dandenong.
We picked up the camper and headed back home on Friday about midday. The weather was awful with relentless lashing rain making driving on the freeways doubly stressful. By the time we reached a rest stop at Colac it was about 3:30 so we decided we’d stay there and set up the camper for the first time without the added pressure of approaching darkness.
The Jeep had other ideas. After driving a couple of hundred yards it wouldn’t change gear. We managed to limp into a side street and park safely. We rang the RAA but it was dark before the Tow Truck came, eventually the car was taken to the Caravan Park but the new camper was left behind. Thankfully, with the help of the managers that was brought to the Caravan Park too. We were too stressed to set up the camper, instead we spent 4 nights in a cabin.
If you’re going to have a breakdown and be stuck in a place for days Colac isn’t a bad place to be. We were able to walk into town from the Lakeside Caravan Park. There are lots of really interesting old buildings, antique shops, eateries, sometimes a football game and a Sunday Market. The Botanic Gardens are just across the road from the Caravan Park and although the water isn’t near the shore the walks beside Lake Colac are enjoyable and there are seats where you can sit and muse.
On Tuesday morning our camper-rescuer (Dave) drove us to North Shore Station, Geelong where we caught the train to Adelaide. Helpful people like that are an absolute delight to meet.
A transporter brought the Jeep and camper-trailer back to Adelaide. ($600 excess for the camper) Almost $8000 later we have the rebuilt gearbox in the 6 year old Jeep. It’s an automatic and apparently we should have been locking it into 4th gear rather than having it in Drive when we were towing. We wish we’d been given that advice before so we didn’t find out the hard way! Both of us are used to driving manual vehicles and never knowingly stress the engine or gearbox so it was very disappointing to have the gearbox fail. We have to do 1000kms without any towing then take the car back for a service.
About a week after we got the Jeep back our 2012 VW Polo broke down and had to be transported to a repairer. The fuel injectors had failed. Search the Internet and you’ll find plenty of information about that issue!
When we were in Melbourne we discovered that the camper-trailer needs to go in for a service after 1000 kms so we plan to do some short little trips when the weather improves.
So what’s the point of even writing this post? Firstly, it just might help someone avoid the destruction of their gearbox.
Secondly, travelling isn’t always trouble free and to not write about those things is to only tell part of a story. Maybe it will even make the reader feel good knowing it didn’t happen to them!
We didn’t have the holiday we anticipated but things could have been much worse. We could have been stranded at Chambers Pillar, 1400 kms away with no mobile coverage and thousands of flies! The weather this year has been out of whack with colder than average temperatures up north and unseasonal rains. Not what we were looking for. The weather has been unpleasantly cold and wet at home but at least we have all our comforts here.