We’ve made it to Port Douglas and the first (easy) leg of our 10,000km trip from Melbourne to Cape York and return.
3,000km of easy travelling, with our Nissan Navara ST-X V6 comfortably towing our Topaz Series II consistently and easily at speeds between 95 and 110km indicated.
It took us around three and a half days to get here, travelling 8am-6pm, with the Nissan returning an overall fuel consumption of 16.9 litres/100km at an average speed of 78 km/h, which is as much a tribute to the slippery shape of the Topaz Series II as it is the Nissan’s ability to iron out the hills with its 550Nm of lugging power from its 3.0 litre diesel.
I can say unequivocally that the Topaz tows better than any other caravan I have ever hauled. Being much the same width as the Navara, it tracks superbly and we’ve not had the slightest wiggle even at speeds of up to 125km/h down a few hills. The best thing I can say is that I often forgot it was there and on the surly road from Cairns to Port Douglas you could easily keep up with the cars and were never embarrassed by other traffic.
We stayed hitched overnight on the way up, as after carefully matching hitches the Topaz is perfectly level when it and the Navara are laden.
It’s surprisingly long though and we had to consistently go to the larger drive through sites at caravan parks. From Melbourne we took a combination of the Kidman Way, which you pick up at Jerilderie after tracking north via the Hume
Freeway and the Goulburn Valley Highway to Shepparton. Then as we passed through Hay and Bourke we connected to the Matilda Highway which takes you on through Charleville and ultimately drops you on the Flinders Highway – the main road to Townsville. From there it’s all traffic lights to the cast to Cairns, but it still works out quicker than trekking across the hills inland to Atherton and dropping down into Cairns.
The route is all bitumen bar 20km of good red dirt, just short of Torrens Creek on the Aramac to Torrens Creek Road in Central Queensland. The advantage for travelers in a hurry is that there aren’t many towns along the route after you’ve entered into NSW so you are not constantly slowing down for 50km/h town zones and 40km/h school crossings. This allows you to make excellent time. The only catch is that fuel stops can be up to 265km apart, so keep a wary eye on the fuel gauge and, ideally, carry a spare jerry =of fuel – just in case.
The other attraction – or caution – with this inland route is the abundant wildlife. We passed numerous heard of wild goats, followed by many mobs of small grey kangaroos, then brumbies, cattle, sheep and finally many flocks of emus, a number with young chicks. We’re still waiting for the wild camels, feral cats and donkeys to complete our zoological travels, but I doubt we’ll be seeing them on the way up. None of the wildlife gave us any trouble, and at least keeping a wary eye out kept us awake and entertained. Would be great for kids!
We passed through a few heavy rain storms on the way, as a weather front moved over eastern Australia, but when it cleared in Queensland and has been sunny every day since – currently 30 degrees in Port Douglas. Temperatures are predicted to stay around high 30s as we start our trip across the Daintree River and up the Cape this weekend.
We’ve had a few funny moments. The ladies of the little outpost town of Wyandra (between Charleville and Cunnamulla in Queensland’s south-west) have chosen a unique way to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. They’re putting together the world’s longest bra chain to hang in Wyandra’s main street (the record they need to beat was created in Bundaberg with a chain of 166,625 bras spanning 163km)!
The sight of all these bras in the small town (with a population of just 60 people) causes you to do a double-take and we were sucked in to refuel there – at $1.82/litre for diesel, the highest we’ve paid to date on our trip, although we expect things to get closer to $2/litre as we work into the Cape.
The Topaz Series 2 has been really easy to live with so far, with the huge storage space offered by the large enclosed nose section swallowing a row of fuel and water jerry cans, our ARB recover equipment and Bushranger X-Jack exhaust jack, tables, chairs and around three dozen bottles of good red and white wine – to go with some fine fish and in case we get thirsty!
But the van is so beautifully balanced that the ball weight is still not much over 100kg, so it barely affects the ride height of the Navara.
As we are yet to leave the bitumen, the Topaz and our arsenal of 4WD smarts haven’t had a real workout. We look forward to testing the Topaz, the Navara and its new General Grabber AT2 tyres + Hella LED Luminator spotlight combo, as we get into the meat of our trip.
Stay with us and Wendy and I will keep you posted as we take our Topaz Series II to the tip of Australia.