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Archives for October 2010

Heading South

In Katherine, van seems to be going ok, its done well over a 1000 k now. Gota passenger, a German called Stephan. We camped overnight last night in Kakadu.  Photos are up of Lichfield the day before, no really they are. I forgot to actually copy the files the first time.

Seen birds wallabys, ("What Skippy? there's 2 guy's in a Tarago who've broken down in the outback?") despite their suicidal tendencies I don't think I've hit any sun bathing lizards.

Tomorrow the Katherine George, then maybe south towards Alice. I favour a over night at


Position: 14° 27.7' S, 132° 16' E | Posted: Sun 31st October 2010

End of an Era?

I'm sitting here, in JJ's Garage in Darwin Australia feeling nostalgic. For many years I've been involved with the free WiFi in Brighton, an experiment in community networking. Its glory years are behind it, I'll admit. And it may very well stop altogether.


I am justifiably proud of what we achieved, and of my own contributions to the project.

Brighton is one of the best places to find free WiFi I've ever been to, at one stage and a long time ago to boot, we provided free WiFi over a stretch of beach about a mile long as well as 6 pubs and 2 hotels. At approximately the same time another company called Loose Connection were using a free to users model in other pubs and bars around town. Between the 2 of us I firmly believe we put Brighton on the road to where it is today. You can walk into a pub or café in Brighton and expect there to be free WiFi. Nowhere else I've ever been is free WiFi so common.

Tom at Pyramid Stage

I remember with fondness the great Glastonbury festival of I think 2005, was it really 5 years ago?. We took WiFi kit and wirelessed up large sections of the festival - with limited success, we didn't build the large are network we wanted. None the less when the rain, inevitably, came down, out went all the power, taking out swathes of the infrastructure. PierToPier's long distance links loved it with the interference from the the myriad of other systems off line our long distance links popped up nocely. Thanks to Richards car battery start pack and my £30 inverter. The Glastonbury web tent ran on our WiFi and laptops throughout the rainstorm. The BBC cancelled the "Weather from Glastonbury" ironically because of the weather. My tent flooded and I had to get up to get my laptop out of the water. That morning the news had pictures of wet muddy and bedraggled people, got those photo's out. While the BBC and ITV cancelled their coverage.

Muddy Linux is Born

The following day, BT, famous DJ (Brian Townsend), flew in from the US to do a set. British Airways, fairly predictably, lost his luggage. Me Ben and Chris, with the help of John Scott's frankly lethal bicycle set about popping laptops on all our hotspots and downloading random songs from his server in the US and burning them to disk. We got enough material together for a set and I remember rushing on to the stage with seconds to go with another CD of tracks.

A blog post by a fan that I have now lost (sorry) claimed it was the "Best Set Ever", little did he know it was chosen by me Chris and Ben, who'd never heard of him, by songs we liked the names of but had never heard.

 The following year we went to the Glade Festival. Got right royally screwed there. We should have been paid. However we learned the lessons from Glastonbury and had way more powerful antennas and I'd learnt and customized pebble linux,  naming it "muddy" for obvious reasons. It performed brilliantly. Before the event I streamed to footy over a mile from behind a hill. It was Fabulous.

On my return from Glade, Muddy went in to all the boxes on the seafront and Granville Hotel and Audio. The fishing museum kept running on it despite the rust for an astonishing period. The SC hut node's flash card survived the glade festival, and being washed in my trousers, and was still working up until a week ago.

 I made pebble into muddy, added support for usb webcams, compiled the Kernel and added scripts to do dynamic routing with Quagga, OSPF and WDS. It didn't exactly work well or simply, but it did work. And still does. To the end of they're days the Granville, the beach and Audio were all still running it. And my hacked up version of OpenWRT in the pubs worked well to. 100 days of uptime was normal, unless someone inthe sailing club ignored the DO NOT TURN OFF sign...

Photo's of The Glade, and Glastonbruy are available.

To my great friends from the PierToPier group its been great I'll see you all when I get back! PierToPier will live on, as it has been. The WiFi signal "" has been broadcasting around the harbours and anchorages of the South Pacific. Sharing navigational data and photos to the Blue Water Rally. PierToPier has reached Tahiti, and Fiji and Vanuatu!

Position: 12° 27.6' S, 130° 50.8' E | Posted: Fri 22nd October 2010

Check List

  • Gerry can of water - Check
  • Oil Change - Check
  • Stove - Check
  • Bed - Check
  • Curtains - bit thin
  • Fan - Check
  • Eski - Check
  • Beer - Check
  • Gas (as in GAS) - Check
  • Food - No
  • Map - No
  • Spare Oil - No
  • Fuel Gerry Can - No (300km between fuel stops)
  • Crockery - No
  • Tools - Can I fix any thing serious? Probably not. Should I get some?
  • Storage - Check
  • Passengers - Hmmm wondering about that. "Wanted pretty girl with good mechanical skills, must have own tools".
  • Deet - Check
  • Ipod FM transmitter - Check
  • 12 volt Power to gadgets - Check
  • Fuel 1/2 Tank = 180km ish. Gauge seems to work.
  • Cutlery - Check
  • Inverter - No (12volted my stuff before I left.)
  • Jump Leads - Check
  • Known Problems with Van - Fixed.
  • Warning lights on dash - None - down from several (and they work) 
  • Break down cover - Not sure (need to sort this)
  • can do attitude - Check
  • Ice - no
  • Bedding - Check
  • Machete - Check (Galapagos, sharpened or JJ's Grinder)

Its 1600km's to Alice, I've driven 180 so far. Its hot and I've just discovered a drip in wet weather just above the accelerator.

Position: 12° 27.6' S, 130° 50.8' E | Posted: Thu 21st October 2010

Name the Van*

Me van is coming on, now has bed, storage, eski (or esky**). Stove, knife and fork -forgot about plates and pots. A 20 water gerry can.

Read Sorted for Soted

Aussie beds come in 2 sizes, single and long single. Got a long second hand one for $50. Not bad.

Here's the effect. Off to make curtains now, grey to match the paint job. Obviously.

IMPORTANT (you can tell its in CAPITALS). What do I call it? Its got a tinny, little pink haired $2 (Fijian) doll on the dash, its a Toyota Tarago (know everywhere out side Oz a Previa). Names in the comments field below, or on facebook, twitter, graphitied  on the rear wind screen etc.

bed (1).JPG
Side View

bed (2).JPG
Rear View

 * Original Title "@&*%$@" the Tarago caused a database error.....
 ** Esky = cool box in 'strine not sure of spelling though.

Position: 12° 27.6' S, 130° 50.8' E | Posted: Tue 19th October 2010

Ready to Roll?

I have a Van, and when nobody was looking, reconfigured JJ's Car Hire's firewall to allow ssh out so I can update my blog (James If your reading this - don't worry I put it back.

Me Van, couldn't get any bikini clad Models
so used the Fai Tira boys instead

I'm in the YHA in Darwin, for a couple more nights. I am the proud owner of a Toyota Tarago Van. The Tarago id a Previa in the rest of the world. The old ones were vans made into (in mines case) people cariers. The later version were people carriers from scratch.

Mine had its own ants nest and everything. Its regod (tax/third party). Has NT plates. Which is cool. Its only just run in at 20 years old and 390000 kms.

 Well its running. syncro on second isn't brilliant. other than that its ok.

I'm working on it in JJ's in Darwin. Which is run by 2 brothers in law, James who does the car hire, and the mechanic John. They're both fabulous people. They're workshop outbuildings and car park are full of backpackers, living in van's offices cupboards with a tent in them you name it.

Fixing the Jacobs Brake

Today I've built a bed base and fixed the broken water level sensor in the engine. Its now connecting and telling me there's no water in it. It didn't tell me that when it was broken. Slight snag. There is water in it.

I've been hanging out with the fabulous people here. Martin and Chris, bought a job lot of prawn vans. They converted both to backpacker vans and sold one on. They're rolling south tomorrow.

I've been trying to pay my way here. John is off on a major road trip to NSW on Tuesday in 2 road train tractors he's been doing up. I did the headlights in and the Jacobs brake in one. And mouthed the CB for them. The irony is they fixed my brakes.....

 He's taking Scotty, a Scottish mechanic with him, in the other tractor with a total of 3 trailers, Scotty's licence wasn't translatable into a full road train licence. His bed on the trip is a metal coffin they found out the back. Normally he lives in a shipping crate at the back of the workshop, John wanted to wake him up and was throwing bits of metal at it when I came out the loo. Nearly took my head off.

 More later, probably in the form of a Photo Gallery.

Position: 12° 27.6' S, 130° 50.8' E | Posted: Sun 17th October 2010

I R Still alive

Sort of living in a cross between a garage and backpackers (day) and YHA (night). Using the garage's WiFi, which blocks everything. bar the web so can't upload to blog

JJ's car hire, consists of James who runs the car hire, and backpackers camper hire and John who runs the garage. Plus various backpackers who are doing one of the following. Living in a Car and working here. Living in a Van here. Living in a shipping crate and working here. Living in a tent and doing up a van here. or just hanging around here.

There may be some other permutations of the above. That I've missed. Nobody, here, me nor anyone in the YHA wants to drive this bloomin campervan to Cairns for monday. 3000km in a few days.....

They kindly fixed my brakes. I reckon I've got carte blanche to fix up mine now. Not much of a mechanic. But have wired a Jacob's Brake on 1970 road train. Fixed up 2 CB's on 40 odd year old road trains. Cut out and attached the headlights to said road train. And finally fixed the number plates on said Road Train.

Hang on, they fixed my breaks I fixed there's....

Rally left yesterday. Am drinking beer and on the net in the Garage, well down the side at the backpackers kitchen area.

Position: 12° 26.9' S, 130° 51' E | Posted: Thu 14th October 2010

Boiling the Mariana

This marina's small and locked in. And boy is it hot up here. Keith the Lockmaster and man about the dock says the water temp has now hit 30° the sun is beating down on it and many of the influx of rally boats here are running their a con 24/7. As previously mentioned the air cons will mostly be water cooled. We're gonna boil this marina soon.

This is the only place you can catch your fish precooked. Except possibly at the new Iranian Nuclear Plant

When Waling in the Bush,
Be Drop Bear Wise.
"Look Up and Live"

On a lighter note, as twits and farcbookers may have noticed there is a meeting is occurring on Saturday to found the Drop Bear Preservation Society. The aims of the society are.

  1. To conduct research into the existence of Drop Bears.
  2. Lobby Governments to Protect them [if they exist]
  3. Promote Public Awareness
  4. Sort fact from Fiction about these unique animals
  5. To elevate the status of Drop Bears to Australian Icons.

The Meeting, is a Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Assoc on Saturday, a club known for its, errrr, drinking I think. That's certainly what I've always done there.

I may have to go even if its just as token pom to be wound up.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Position: 12° 26.9' S, 130° 51' E | Posted: Wed 6th October 2010

All I want is a van with a view

In Darwin and Damn its hot, particularly if your waiting for a bus that doesn't come. After the lass next to me asks what happened to it. Hmmm asks me this begs the Question A: do I look like an expert on NT (Northern Territories, also know as "Not today" sometimes extended to "Not tomorrow either") since I'm certain I don't look like that she must have liked the look of me.


I didn't know anything about the Buses, so I went and asked the bus driver who was parked up opposite, mopping his bus out. He recognised me as he was the driver who'd taken me into town. He said no there was no bus at 12:50 till next week - new services and that. Then looked through his folder, trying to work out what I was talking about.

After a certain amount of finger moistening, page turning watch checking and finger poking he said "Shit that's me, I forgot".

He stuffed his mop behind the seat. looked nervous and said "how many of you are there?" What? do I have "Conductor" tattooed on my forehead? I pointed at the bench full of people, he hops into the seat and swings over to the stop and off we go back the the marina.

Damn I'm good organising public transport, not a problem.

Man Without a Van.

I want a Late 90's Mitsubishi express or similar. Basically Cow and Chicken 2.0, diesel would be good. But beggars can't be choosers. LPG/Petrol better but I'll live with petrol. Prefer not the 2.5l that C and C had - drinks too much gas. Its not going to be cheap. I just phone the nicest looking one 260,000km $3.5K - gone. No answer for the 3k 95 van with 350,000 on the clock. Many are in the 1980's and more than $4k ausie. I'm going bald, and you want 4k for something built when I was seven?

Locked in Marina

Low Mileage

Doesn't happen, there's a road sign just south of here with "Melbourne 3200km".

Hot Stuff 

Still Island Kea is cool, the aircon's on. After more than 24 hours on its managed to drag the saloon down to a mere 25°. Yesterday it only got it down to 28°. Luxury. Marina's nice. Spent most of yesterday in the Dina Beach CYA, an old favourite spot of mine. Ornen was hauled up in the now closed boatyard next door. Spent a lot of quality time in there.

Not My style - or price range


Position: 12° 26.9' S, 130° 51' E | Posted: Sun 3rd October 2010

Van Diemen's Land

This is the end of this part of my trip, I'm leaving Island Kea and the Blue Water Rally here.

I've got a long stay visa for Australia, and I'm intending to fulfil and 11 year old dream, whilst here on Örnen in 1999 we hired a car and drove south from Darwin to the Lichfiled National Park the scenery was weird but amazing. The road signs read things like 3000km to Melbourne. The heat the dust. The road train overtaking (yikes Scoob). The lines of giant tombstone like cathedral termites. I didn't want to drive back to Darwin I wanted to carry on. Some times you've got to follow the road.

I didn't I was seriously thinking of leaving Örnen here 11 years ago, I'd have been eligible at 24 to stay for a year and work here. Thorjorn talked me into staying on board, and made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I went home from Thailand. I like Australia, a lot, had I got off here who knows which way my life would have gone, but it might well have been very radically differnet, maybe I'd have never come home? Its the only time that trip I thought of getting off, I don't for a second regret carrying on on Örnen, but this time its time to make the other choise.

Well I'm torn between looking forward to Australia, and wishing I was going on. I'm going to miss Steve and Katrin and the rest of the rallyists. Mei and Matt's wedding in Penang has made me want to go back to Asia. I still do, but for me the road lies south, into the interior of Australia. Probably in a banger, even a 20 year old van with millions of miles on the clock and (hopfully) on its second engine, appears expensive. We shall see what I can get. But its not gonna be pretty, or I suspect reliable.

Its gonna be fun! I've not owned a car for 12 years. I'm looking forward to it. Real men drive bangers. Yes I know I've been horrid about cars, that's england, where they're only good for towing a sailing dinghy most of the time. Here its differnet.

Position: 12° 28.3' S, 130° 50.9' E | Posted: Sat 2nd October 2010

Holding Pattern

Krsshhhhhh. This is Tipperary Waters traffic control, Krssshhhh.

Darwin, wierd place, its still quite a long way (groan) to Tipperary Waters Marina.

Approaching Darwin

Blue Striped Muscles live in the water pipes of boats, the salt water pipes. The fisherfolk of Darwin don't want them. Due to blind luck, more than planning we turned up just in time for the Muscle clearing dive boat to give the boat an enema. Then we have to wait 14 hours before we're allowed into the Marina. With the fridge, heads, generator, aircon and engine off.

Non sailors should be aware that marine engines, gensets etc are cooled by sea water, and especially on larger boats so are refrigeration systems. The heads, that's nauty speak for bog, on most boats is a bowl with a double action pump. One side of the pump pumps the sea water in to flush the toilet and the other side pumps the shit out.

It was all very efficient, a diver with a greasy spoon ketchup bottle, complete with star shaped squirter, who it turned out under all the diving clobber to be female, though it was difficult to tell, squirted the ketchup equivalent into our bottom.

There, again more by luck than anything else, were 10 BWR boats here for the muscles yesterday. Now Darwin is V titdal, upto 8 meters, in extreme cases. Tiparrary Waters is up by my old haunt of Dina Beach CYC. Up a muddy creek full of logs with teeth. It appears from the chart to be almost exactly where the Ornen was hauled out 11 years ago. No marina back then. Because of the mud we can't get in at low water, and we have to lock in. So with 10 boats to go through we have orders to leave every 15 minutes and call "Keith" when we get to the Main wharf so we don't have a hoard of yachts stuck in the mud outside Dina Beach CYC.

Its like air traffic control out there. I mean us raylists are a pretty radio happy bunch at the best of times, with everyone liking to be in charge its like Gatwick air traffic control out there.

 To give a better idea of what I mean about stuck in the mud, DIna Beach CYC is a Yacht Club. It by Sam's account grew organically. From a mangrove swamp. Sam's boat is called Ramprasad, its named after a lanteen open decked Indian fishing boat he owned in the early 80's in which he arrived in Darwin. It was still remembered by the folk at Dina Beach CYC here when I came 11 years ago. By that time the boat was either rotting in the mangroves, or in a museum. Nobody seemed sure. The Mangrove swamp full of yachtists had grown a boat yard, a bar and a hut selling cheap Thai food. Looking forward to seeing if its evolved further. Not too far i hope. Its budget beer and magroves were part of its charm.

Position: 12° 28.3' S, 130° 50.9' E | Posted: Sat 2nd October 2010

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