Posted by Peter on 22/04/2022

Camping at Nowra Showgrounds

After a few very muddy weeks at Coledale Camping Reserve, the sun came out in time for the Easter weekend and everyone who had a booking at Coledale Camping Reserve decided that they would make use of their booking no matter how wet the sites were. That meant that we had to leave Coledale.

In addition to having to find somewhere to stay, we needed to renew the annual registrations on the Ranger and the caravan. The Ranger was a fairly simple exercise. Due to the upheaval over the past few weeks because of the wet weather, we had forgotten about the caravan registration and the registration had lapsed. We called around and managed to find someone in Nowra who could inspect the caravan at short notice. The registration inspection for the caravan proved to be a very frustrating exercise.

We arrived at the inspection station early in the morning. One of the checks was the operation of the emergency braking system. Because we have a dual axle caravan, it is a legal requirement that the caravan be fitted with an emergency braking system. If the caravan and the Ranger part ways while we are travelling, the emergency braking system must activate automatically and stop the caravan and hold it for at least 15 minutes. The mechanism for doing so is fairly straightforward. There is a unit on the caravan tow-bar that has a cable which is tied to the Ranger. If the Ranger and caravan part ways, the cable attached to the Ranger pulls a pin from the unit on the caravan and the emergency brake is activated.

We, as it turns out rather naively, assumed that this had been tested by the dealer who sold the caravan to us a little more than 3 months ago. The unit on the caravan looked a little rusty but it appeared to be no more than surface rust. The inspector lifted one of the caravan wheels off the ground and pulled the pin from the unit which should have activated the emergency brake. The wheel kept on spinning. That was an immediate fail. There were also a few globes that weren’t working and that too resulted in an immediate fail. Not the kind of news we wanted a few days before a long weekend.

The inspector felt that the emergency brake not working could be a flat battery. The emergency brake has to be powered by a separate battery and if the battery was flat the system would not work. In all the caravans that he had tested there was a small unit in the caravan with a AA or AAA battery and a test switch. We needed to find this unit and check the battery. We went through all the paperwork that had been supplied to us when we bought the caravan and found a manual for an emergency brake but the wiring diagram showed that the emergency brake was powered via the house battery. Perhaps the manual was an old one – the inspector was adamant that there was a separate battery. And so we went about searching for the unit with the battery. We turned the caravan inside out for an entire morning but found nothing. Margaret posted a message on the Roadstar owners Facebook page and all the replies indicated that the unit should be accessible so that the battery could be changed.

In desperation we called the dealer who sold us the caravan. The owner was adamant they had tested the system and that everything was working when they sold us the caravan. The owner couldn’t remember exactly where the unit with the battery was but he did recall the caravan had such a unit and we should again look for it as he was certain it was no more than a flat battery. All of this while we were parked at the old disused Bunnings site in Nowra. We searched again with the same result.

The inspector had given us the names of a few local companies we could take the caravan to if we came unstuck. We called these companies but they could only see in about three weeks. With an unregistered caravan and no-one able to help us, we booked into the Nowra Showgrounds for a few days.

We then called the Roadstar manufacturers who shed some light on the matter. Our caravan was manufactured before the current legislation and at the time of manufacture it was legal for the emergency braking system to be powered by the house battery. So much for the comments by the dealer who sold us the caravan – they clearly had not tested the emergency braking system before selling us the caravan. The manual we had was correct.

In one of the calls with an auto-electrician who could see us in 3 weeks, he commented that if there was power at the unit on the caravan tow-bar, it should be working. That was a light-bulb moment and a check with the mutimeter revealed that there was no power. The inspector who had failed the caravan happened to call on us at Nowra Showgrounds to see how we were getting on and mentioned that if we shorted the system out we should hear the emergency brakes being activated. We pulled the unit apart and shorted it out – sure enough, we could hear the emergency brakes kicking in. The problem was the rusty unit on the caravan tow-bar which we managed to replace for $35.00. After replacing the unit on the tow-bar and a few globes, the inspector passed the caravan and we could register it.

With the Easter weekend approaching and the weather clearing, we decided to stay on at Nowra Showgrounds. There is a small designated area for camping which we expected would be full over the Easter weekend but turned out not to be.

We had planned to go back to Bendeela Recreation Area on Monday 18 April but decided to first have a look at both the road to Kangaroo Valley and Bendeela Recreation Area to see what shape they were in after all the rain. It was just as well we did. The road from Nowra to Kangaroo Valley has been badly affected and there is one-way traffic with a guide car. Not the kind of road you want to take a caravan on. Bendeela had fared even worse – large parts of the reserve had been destroyed by the water. It is estimated that the road from Nowra to Kangaroo Valley could take two years to repair. We decided to extend our stay at Nowra Showgrounds. Whilst the Showgrounds are pleasant, we do feel that the rate of $32.00 per night (for two adults) is expensive.

Posted by Peter on 07/04/2022

Coledale Camping Reserve

No sooner had we arrived at Coledale Camping Reserve than the heavens opened again and the Reserve was again flooded. The sites are now very muddy and we have been asked to keep our cars off the sites to protect them.

The bank behind our caravan simply could not cope with the volume of water.

When the weather finally settled and the sun came out, the Reserve returned to its former glory.

There is a 50 metre rock pool a short distance from the Reserve which is great for training in.

We made a short video on our stay at Coledale Camping Reserve and you can view that here.

Posted by Peter on 24/03/2022

We’re over this weather

The weather just keeps getting worse. As I write this on Thursday 3 March 2022, there are 500 000 people in NSW under an evacuation notice of some kind. Some are just warnings but others are orders. We awoke this morning to news that a few caravan parks very close to us – about 2km – are under evacuation warnings. We are on a small strip of land between the ocean and the Illawarra Lake but are not under an evacuation warning yet. Many of the areas that are currently flooded were also flooded in 2021.

We managed to secure a booking for an additional night and will need to leave Windang Beach Tourist Park on Friday morning. We have no idea where we will be going if we are forced to leave. We may simply park in the car-park on the beach and wait it out.

On Thursday we where told that Windang Beach Tourist Park was fully booked for the weekend but when we checked with them on Friday they had had a spate of cancellations and we booked in for a further two nights thinking we would leave on Sunday morning.

The weather forecast just kept getting worse. The forecast for Sunday was for heavy rain and they were expecting an east coast low to form off the east coast of Australia. East coast lows have the potential to be serious weather events and we decided to book in for an additional two nights. Sure enough, the heavy rain arrived on Sunday at midday. The rain and wind were relentless and they are only expecting things to settle down on Wednesday.

We contacted Coledale Camping Reserve on Friday morning to see if they were accepting arrivals. They are not. They have cancelled all reservations for at least another week. Bendeela Recreation Area initially advised that they would re-open on Monday 7 March 2022 but that has now been moved to Monday 28 March 2022. All of the roads to Kangaroo Valley have been damaged and it is at this stage unclear when they will start repairs. Things are going from bad to worse.

On Monday morning things had deteriorated even more. The weather forecast was for heavy rain for Monday and Tuesday and there were flood warnings everywhere. We decided to extend our booking at Windang Beach Tourist Park for a further few days. There is no point in leaving the park right now. Watching the devastation caused by the flooding on TV is heartbreaking.

We managed to stay at Windang Beach Tourist Park until Thursday 10 March but had to leave as they were fully booked for the weekend. Finding somewhere to stay over the weekend proved a real challenge. The weather had improved and everyone who had a booking for the weekend was desperate to get out and camp for the weekend. It meant we had to free camp for 3 nights.

We managed to get into Corrimal Beach Tourist Park on Monday 14 March. It was really messy. The ground is water-logged and we had to use the 4 wheel drive in the Ranger to get the caravan into place.

Coledale Camping Reserve were still not accepting arrivals. They did try and put a caravan onto one of the sites but the site got wrecked in the process. We managed to stay in Corrimal Beach Tourist Park until Wednesday 23 March. We called in at Coledale Camping Reserve and they kindly offered us one of the powered sites. Most of the campground in still closed as the sites are water-logged. We managed to get the caravan into the site but it was really messy and we again had to use 4 wheel drive. Rather than wreck the site by moving the caravan around too much, we decided that it would have to sit off-centre. Not a great look, but we will blame the weather!

Posted by Peter on 02/03/2022

A Significant Weather Event

Between the weather and the caravan batteries, things have been a little unsettled. The batteries should have been a fairly simple matter – take out the old battery and install the two new batteries in parallel. It always sounds easy in my head. We installed the 2 new batteries and while watching TV about 2 days later, we suddenly lost all power to the caravan. Why do these things always happen at night? It made no sense and we called a good friend, Terry, who is an electronic specialist, for some advice. Terry came around and helped us make sense of the wiring. Nothing was marked and the previous owner had installed some new wiring which took some time to trace.

We managed to trace most of the wiring and it appeared that the problem was simply a dirty battery connection. We cleaned the connection and all seemed to be well. Until we lost all power to the caravan again a few days later. Could it be the new batteries? All the measurements with the multi-meter indicated the batteries were fine. So we disconnected the new batteries and connected the old battery. There were 4 leads coming off the battery and because nothing was marked, trying to find out what they were for proved a challenge. The thick black and red cables were clearly the main power supply to the caravan. We traced another set to the inverter but that left 2 unknown.

It was also not clear how the battery charger and solar panel were charging the battery. It appeared that the battery charger and solar panel had been installed when the caravan was built and that these were both charging the battery through the wiring installed when the caravan was built. The two unknown leads would therefore have to be for something that was installed after the caravan was built and rather than wire these items into the caravan wiring, they simply powered them directly off the battery. When the power was working everything in the caravan seemed to be working. We finally traced one set of wires to the fan that had been installed behind the fridge. When the fridge side of the caravan is in direct sunlight the outside of the fridge gets very hot and they install small 12 volt fans to help with the cooling. We replaced the fan and solved one of the problems.

Things seemed to settle down and we again connected the two new batteries. With the electrics in the caravan being unstable, we did not want to venture too far but we also wanted to be off the grid to test all the systems and so we decided to head off back to Bendeela Recreation Area. We like Bendeela and if everything heads south we are not too far away from help. The plan was to spend a week at Bendeela and then head off to Coledale Camping Reserve for a week or two. The Coledale Surf Life Saving Club have a small campground right on Coledale beach and we feel like we need a few weeks at the beach before summer comes to an end. We arrived at Bendeela on Monday 21 February and planned to move to Coledale on Sunday 27 February.

No sooner had we arrived at Bendeela than a nasty weather system moved over the east coast of Australia. We called Coledale on Wednesday to confirm our booking only to be told that they were not accepting any arrivals. They had been lashed with rain and the campsites were waterlogged. They suggested we call again on Friday. In the interim we again lost all power to the caravan – and again at night! After digging around some more we discovered that the solar panel controller was making a funny noise. We took a video of the controller and called in at a caravan repairer in Nowra. He initially thought the controller might be faulty and suggested we run a few more tests.

After running a few more tests and driving the hour back to see him, he thought that our problem was the power supply. If the batteries were fine (we are fairly confident they are), he thought that the remaining set of wires connected directly to the battery (which we had disconnected) were for the solar panel and the controller was making the funny noise due to low voltage but that our problem was either a blown fuse or a faulty switch controlling the power to the caravan. That would tend to indicate that the solar panel and controller were installed after the caravan had been manufactured. We can now account for all the wires coming directly off the battery. We are not convinced that having 4 direct leads off the battery is ideal and will have someone have a look at it when things settle down.

The switch or fuse could be anywhere and he suggested we dig in every nook and cranny to see if we could find a switch or a fuse. And so we did. We searched everywhere and checked everything. There was a switch at the bottom of the seats that we could not account for and as we turned this switch all the power suddenly came back on. It could well be that we moved this switch as we moved in and out of the seating area and this was the problem.

We reconnected the wires to the battery and the funny noise from the controller stopped. It has now been a few days and we have had no further trouble with the power. The switch is clearly a main switch of some kind and will need to be examined in greater detail when we are back on the grid.

As agreed we called Coledale on Friday and they are still not accepting arrivals and suggested we call back on Sunday. It is not looking promising, the rain is relentless and the ground waterlogged. Fortunately we are in a dry spot in Bendeela and we will wait it out.

We plan to spend the next few months in NSW. There is a family wedding at the end of May and we are reluctant to move out of NSW in case Covid-19 flares up again and they close borders and we cannot get back for the wedding. We took the opportunity to have a look at a few possible campsites. We first looked at Moss Vale Showgrounds but were unimpressed. We also took a drive to Cambells Rest Campground in Morton National Park. There are a few unpowered sites but, with the exception of 1 site, they all looked to be too small for our caravan. We called in at Nowra Showgrounds and liked the look of the place but not the price – at $31 per night it is over-priced for what it is.

While having dinner one evening we accidentally bumped the switch at the bottom of the seating and all the electrics to the caravan started playing up. We again fiddled with the switch and managed to get everything working. I think we have identified the problem. The switch appears to be faulty and the slightest movement interrupts the power supply to the caravan. We will replace the switch when next we are hooked up to power and water.

The weather front over the east coast of Australia is moving south slowly and so far the flooding is in Queensland and northern NSW. The low pressure system causing the front is expected to move out to sea in a few days. We had planned to ride this weather event out in Bendeela. But it was not to be.

Early in the morning on Tuesday 1 March we noticed a few of the NSW Water staff at Bendeela and somehow suspected that we were about to be evicted. The weather event over the Australian east coast is far worse than anticipated and it is now expected to be a 1 in 1 000 year event. There is widespread flooding in Queensland and the system is moving south slowly. Sure enough, about an hour later there was a knock at the caravan door and we were given an hour to pack up and leave. Fortunately it was only raining lightly and it was a mad scramble to pack everything up and get out of Bendeela. That was the easy part.

We had planned to spend another week at Bendeela and then move slowly to Coledale and it was now another mad scramble to find somewhere to stay and ride out the weather event. It got worse. We thought we would head south to Nowra and then figure out where to from there. We where told that there had been some rockfalls on the B73 from Kangaroo Valley to Nowra and that the road was closed. That left only the B73 to Moss Vale. We decided to head off to Moss Vale to see if we could camp at the Moss Vale Showground. Not ideal – but any port in a storm.

It was an interesting drive from Bendeela to Moss Vale. The road has multiple hairpin bends and switchbacks and it rained constantly making the drive a difficult one. The weather forecast was getting worse by the hour and we needed to get off the road. Moss Vale Showgrounds proved to be of no use; no-one answered the phone and there was no-one at the Showgrounds to talk to.

That left only Wollongong. We called Windang Beach Tourist Park and they could accommodate us for 2 nights. It did however mean a fairly long drive in lousy weather crossing Macquarie Pass. The Pass too has multiple hairpin bends and switchbacks and there is a small section where two cars can barely pass each other. It was a long slow drive to Windang and by the time we arrived it was pouring with rain and we had to set up in the rain.

The weather event is moving slower than expected and it rained lightly on Tuesday night. We are however expecting heavy rain all day on Wednesday. It is now mid-morning on Wednesday and the heavy rain has arrived. The next 24 hours could be difficult.

Posted by Peter on 01/03/2022

A Lamborghini and a Pie Shop

Bendeela Recreation Area is close to Kangaroo Valley and surrounded by Morton and Budderoo National Parks.

It is also only a fairly short drive to Berry, a quaint little town geared for tourists. We paid Berry a visit as it is one of those ‘must do’s’ when in the area and we also wanted to look at Berry Showgrounds, they have camping facilities with power and water at reasonable rates. We are self contained and set up to live off the grid but we will occasionally make use of the reasonable campgrounds to do laundry and catch up on maintenance. We liked the look of Berry Campgrounds and will use the Showgrounds.

The Kangaroo Valley area is well known for its Pie shops and there is even a ‘Pie Trail’. The most famous of these is Robertson Pie Shop and we added a visit to this Pie shop to our ‘must see’ list. We where not disappointed and judging by the number of other visitors, we where not the only ones. A Lamborghini outside a Pie shop is an unusual sight. Either they can’t afford fine dining due to the car loan repayments or the pies are really good. We hope for their sake, it is the latter.