Welcome to David and Janet Ribbans blog

We live in Adelaide, South Australia and enjoy travel in the Australian outback in our Oka 4WD motorhome, hence the blog title.

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Wednesday, 29 December 2010

2010 in Review, Month by Month, Minute by Minute

The End of the Noughties and the Start of the Teenies.
2010 was a much better year than 2009 even though I did go through the agony of attaining APA (aged pension age). And unlike 2009, we had none of the health and technical problems which kept us frustratingly at home for the whole year, waiting for the various wounds to our bodies and credit cards to heal.

And maybe two thousand and eleventeen will be even better.

Read on for all last years details...

January, medical tests
In January I had a follow up biopsy on my prostate, and all was well fortunately, it's still stable and under control. We did have to postpone our Australia Day BBQ because I was a bit apprehensive about the outcome and we never did get around to organising a get-together. Maybe 2011 will be the year.

February, a literary phase
During February, we wrote up our 1974/5 travels in Afghanistan and submitted 2 articles for publication in the CMCA's Wanderer magazine. The on-line versions can be read here and here, and our full blog with all the gory (and I mean gory) details can be seen here. It only took 36 years to get around to it but I saw no point in peaking too soon.

Also in February we were awoken one night by scratching at the window. We though it was the bloody cat, but it wasn't, it was a bloody  echidna (I get a bit cranky in the middle of the night) waddling along the front of our house. I took a few photos which it didn't seem to mind and it wandered off to dig up someone else's garden.

It was high summer by now and to provide a bit of shading and screening, I built a sun shelter for the pool at the end of the deck. I thought it turned out quite well but I asked J what we could add to give it a bit more character. She said "What about a bus timetable?"

...after. Bus timetable? Bah Humbug, I wanted some murals!
March was for computing

In March we saw Avatar in 3D. We'd been urged by the kids to see it and I have to say, as a Harry Potter hater, I actually thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mark and Mollie had a superb 3 week holiday in Bali and Thailand, including riding on elephants, playing with oran-utans, stroking snakes, eating insects, cuddling tigers etc, all the normal run-of-the-mill things you do on vacation.

A well fed tiger, hopefully
While this was all happening, we bought a new laptop computer, an Apple MacBook, because we needed one and not just because Dick Smith had a 10% off everything sale. We did need a smaller, more modern computer anyway to take on our travels for navigation, communications and storage of photos etc. It fitted in the glovebox of our Oka just fine, and during our subsequent trip it was on continuously for 3 months and never missed a beat, over thousands of rough km up to the tip of Cape York, across the Gulf of Carpentaria and back.

April, the Wedding and a Birthday
In April, we flew to Brisbane (take a deep breath) for the wedding of Janet's cousin's daughter Michelle, to Paul, who is the brother of her twin sister Paulette's husband, Trevor. It's a complex family tree, but at least they now all have the same name, Smith (with 2 "F"s, according to Trevor). And even more scary is that we are all now related.

The Bride arrived in tears...
...but cheered up immeasurably once she'd captured him
It was a stinking hot day and the wedding was held in their garden but it all went very well. We decorated the entire garden, put up shade tarps and strategically placed 9 pedestal fans, plus dozens of extension cables, to cool the guests.

The party in full swing
We celebrated the event in the usual merry way and discovered that you can actually dance the YMCA song to almost any tune. Not being able to spell also helps apparently.

"Y", C", "backwards C"...
"A", "Y", "Y", "Y", "A". .. "M"s are obviously too difficult
Family photo with 3 generations. George and Ethel made it to the wedding
but sadly George passed away a few months later
At the end of April, Scott celebrated his 30th birthday with a dinner at the Caledonian Hotel in North Adelaide. It was good for us to catch up with all his old mates again.

Scott's 30th birthday bash

May, vehicle preparations

During May I fitted airbag suspension to the rear of the Oka. Why did I do this? Well even the strong new springs tend to sag under 6 tonnes of Oka when overloaded for our outback treks and this can (and has) lead to structural failures, which we can't risk on remote outback tracks. Airbags take half of the load off the springs and make the ride a whole lot smoother over the shattering corrugations we frequently encounter.

Fitting airbags took a lot of cutting, welding and grinding of 5mm sheet steel, and a lot of precision fiddling to make the mounting brackets and fitting of air controls so we can inflate and deflate them from inside the cabin. That allows us to independently raise and lower the rear suspension height on each side, depending on load and track variations, and also allows us to level the vehicle at night so my wine doesn't slide off the table.

Airbag installed
June, we reached the Tip of Cape York

In early June we set out on a trip up to the tip of Cape York. Our route took us up to Broken Hill, then left and north through Tibooburra and outback Queensland to Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands, just inland from Cairns and up a bit.

Our 2010 track
The GPS Track for our Cape York/Kunnunurra trip
Mareeba was a rest and repair stop before heading 800 km up though the central rain forest tracks of Cape York to stand at the northernmost point of the continent. It's 4,400 km from Adelaide in almost a straight line north and took 4 weeks.

At the top of Australia
Standing at the Tip.
Later I stood behind the sign so technically I was further north than north
The east coast of the Cape is warm, wet and very windy but the western side is hot, calm with beautiful beaches. Of course swimming is out due to crocodiles but we did take a day trip to Thursday Island only 140 km south of PNG. The people of the Cape were very friendly Torres Strait islanders, without the hang-ups of mainland Aboriginals, and we enjoyed the small towns and communities on the Cape, places we had never heard of like Bamaga, Seisia, Injinoo, New Mapoon and Umagico.

Sunset over "Treasure Island"
Sunset over the Coral Sea from Seisia
Best Fish and Chips ever, Spangled Emperor at Portlands Roads
July, "cruising" Highway One
After stopping off in Weipa for restocking of supplies, we headed back down the Cape to Mareeba for some more repair work before heading west though Nevil Shute's "Town Like Alice" country, Normanton, Croydon and Burketown as we crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria on Highway One, but not like the one we have down here. Although it's the same road, their Highway One is a rough, dusty gravel track bisected by numerous creek crossings and other spectacular water features.
Highway 1, NT style
Road junction in the middle of a creek crossing on Highway One
Leichhardt Falls

Leichhardt Falls, near Burketown

August, meeting up with Charles and Fred

It's a long trip to Katherine from Cape York (0ver 2500 km) but we had a reason to go that way. Charles and Fred were heading out from the UK to pick up their caravan in Katherine and continue their grand tour of Western Australia and we wanted to cross paths with them. Well, we met up with them and helped drink some wine and then get their caravan back on the road.
Us at Lake Argyle, Kununurra
The Team at Lake Argyle, blahdy blahdy times bigger than Sydney Harbour
We then travelled with them west as far as Kununurra before we had to part company and return to Adelaide while they continued their trip across to Broome and down the west coast to Perth before also heading back to Adelaide for another meeting. But without any help from us they managed to shred 2 tyres doing so.

September, the long trek south
Our trek took us 14,000 km over 3 1/2 months and, while we had a few problems as usual, this time mostly electrical, it was a very enjoyable trip. We only got bogged twice and the Oka, with its new airbags, performed very well. You can read all the details on our blog entries here (there are 7 sections). We are already planning our next trek across some more Len Beadell tracks in Western Australia. Actually I just wrote some up and published notes about Len Beadell and his tracks here.
Sturt Desert Peas
Sturt Desert Peas near Gendambo
On the last leg of our journey south I past another milestone, I reached Aged Pension Age. We celebrated in Tennant Creek and after numerous visits to Centrelink offices all over the country I now get both an Australian and a UK pension. I even discovered that Ferranti, who I worked for in the UK and left in 1974, had a pension scheme, and although the company went bust in 1978, the funds had been invested with Prudential and I am now entitled to a pension from them too, small, but better than a smack in the head.

October, the wilderness tamed
Janet's birthday passed quietly in October due mostly to the frenzy of gardening needed to clear the forest of 2 m high weeds and fallen trees that had cause most features of the garden (walls, steps, sheds etc) to completely disappear.

Welcoming Garden
Where's the garden?
Back grass after first cut
2 weeks later, ah, there it is
The Commonwealth Games were now fast approaching and as is usual at these times, we bought a new TV. The last time we bought one was for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The new TV has a 42 inch screen and fits neatly into our corner cabinet (a primary criterium) but I had to build some new loudspeaker boxes because, while the new TV has a superb high definition LED/LCD screen, it is so thin that it has no room for decent speakers and it sounds like a 1960's transistor radio.

One of the few mechanical problems we had with the Oka on our Cape York trip was a leaking power steering box. We kept the leak under control using a modified wine cask bladder (which we had to empty first) and when we got home I bought a seal repair kit and we replaced the leaking seal. Not an easy task but successful.

Also in October we received an invite to our niece's wedding (Jules to Matt) next Feb, on a beach north of Wellington in New Zealand. Our passports had expired so we had to apply for new ones (which are not cheap, they obviously don't want people leaving the country, at least not with any money) and book tickets for the trip. We'll be away for 3 weeks so we can catch up with Myra, Clive and Melissa as well, and do a bit of a tour of the north island while we are there.

November, Scott moves to Melbourne
Scott has moved to Melbourne. He and Tash had been planning this for some time. Tash was finding it difficult establishing a good career in Adelaide (she has a degree in marketing and is doing a Masters in Business Management or something) and Scott was looking for a broader opportunities in the hospitality industry. So they rented out their house in Windsor Gardens and are renting a town house in Footscray, only 15 minutes from the Melbourne CBD, but with a small garden for their little dog, Harvey.

Cute little Harvey. He's a bit bigger now.
Our task, of course, was to fix up his house and garden and render it suitable for renting. That meant repairing windows, doors and fly screens and shifting a mountain of mulch to around the back yard. It was a stressful time for everyone, especially when we recalled that we also left home at around the same age and shot off around the world. Now we know what it felt like for our parents. However, after a shaky start they have both found good jobs (with Pacific Brands and the Crown Casino respectively) and seem happy with the move.

December, Christmas preparations
Christmas shopping was impeded this year by receipt of a Parking Infringement Notice at Tea Tree Plaza. You would surely expect them to be attracting people in to their shops in these times of financial stress, not peeing them off, but apparently not. Our infringement was for overstaying the 5 hour limit but we would have had to been up way before dawn for that to be true, which is not like us at all. We were actually only there for an hour and a half so we are now in dispute with the council over this imposition, and in the true spirit of Australian judicial fairness, we now have to prove our innocence through phone calls, emails and statutory declarations. I'm considering a class action to recover punitive damages for mental stress, not to mention the $22 penalty.

Apart from that we had a pretty quiet Christmas and we'll see you all in the first year of the second decade of the the third millennium.

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