Hi there,

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Monday, 5 June 2017

Darwin... again?!?

Darwin (Northern Territory) - again…
Distance Travelled:
127 km

broken trailer parts (so far):

And we thought it was all going so well… Bugger, oh well, here we go again! (surely, these mishaps must come in groups of three, right…?).

Kakadu had been a dream! Snapping crocs, squawking birds and busily building ants surrounding us at every turn. But, despite the day time pleasures; each night, when we went to rest our weary bodies in bed, there had been a nagging doubt in the back of our minds that “things just weren’t right”.

Unfortunately, neither Nat nor I could put our fingers on what exactly what was causing us to lose sleep. Normally, our bed is a glorious place of tranquil rest and slumber – particularly after a hard day of tramping around the countryside. But, for some reason, since we pulled into Kakadu, things just felt awkward and, well, slightly ‘slanty’...

Secretly, I blamed Nat for having made the bed all wrong and, I imagined, left the underlay bunched up at my end (But, shhh, don’t tell her that). However, I also secretly blamed myself, in case I’d managed to park the trailer all squiffy and placed one wheel into some hitherto hidden ditch that was throwing our stability off-wack. But squiffy it was, and squiffy it remained. For two nights, Nat and I both had dreams about falling off cliffs or rolling down mountains and plunging into an abyss below. On the second night, Nat tells me that she even had a fleeting thought that one of the bed struts may have been left out... but unfortunately, she fell asleep before that thought became a fully formed idea.

I say unfortunately, because, as it turns out – she was right...

During a brisk investigative walk around the van (on our third morning, no less) we finally found the problem. Yup, ‘Mr Poo brain’ here had indeed forgotten to put one of the bed-end struts in place when I was setting up the trailer. For the uninitiated Jayco lugger, the trailer which we are lugging, when collapsed, folds into a footprint about the size of a car.

“But, in that case, where does one sleep?” I hear you cry. Well, that’s the very point of this diatribe. When setting up the trailer, the beds are pulled out from either end and are wedged in place by two stabilizing bed struts. These struts provide support and stability to the beds once fully extended and (purportedly) are able to support up to 350kg. But without these struts, the bed ends are little more than floppy appendages, flapping in the breeze. Yup, missing one of these little beauties was a major faux pas for any Jayco aficionado. Perhaps, it might even be considered on the scale of giving the rude finger to the pope, or as Willy Russell would put it, ‘buggering the bursar’ (I’m sorry if there are any kids reading this - although, I doubt there are - but, at least it’s a reference to a brilliant work of literature… I implore you to read it, it’s one of my faves!).
But, stick the proverbial birdie up at the Pope I did. And, despite adding the strut on the third morning, the damage had already been done.

Oh, poo…

Yet, to the untrained eye of a mere casual pontiff polemic, the ever so slight bend (almost imperceptible, really) in the right-side bed rail was just enough to put a kibosh on our plans.

As it happens, we had been uncharacteristically awake and ready to roll early on the morning of our expected departure. Cupboards were packed, benches were cleaned, kids were dressed and teeth were brushed… and then came time to fold down and collapse the trailer. Nat popped to the shops to pick up some last minute supplies, because in most circumstances - by this point - we were mere moments away from being on the road again and heading to our next destination.

But, alas, not this morning. Alas…

All was going swimmingly; that is, before I came to slide in the final bed end. And, yup – you guessed it – it wouldn’t budge. Oh, how I strained and pushed and sweated and gnashed my teeth with such great fury as would make mountains tremble. But, no matter how much brute force Ben and I applied – it simply wasn’t going anywhere.

Calming down and surveying the situation with fresh eyes, it was clear that there were in fact only a few bolts holding the bed together. But should I take them apart? What would that mean for our warranty? A call to the Jayco roadside assist wasn’t much help. They informed me that they were able to help out with mechanical difficulties (albeit during regular business hours and preferably within spitting distance of a major metropolitan centre), but twisted bed ends were outside their scope of their expertise. Expertise? come on!

It doesn’t look like much, but that ever so slight bend stuffed up our day!

In the end, all I wanted to know was whether I would be permitted (under the terms of my warranty) to take it part myself or if this would be breaking some cardinal sin that would leave me high and dry in the future (we still had a long way to travel, and a warranty could come in handy if we seriously did have an unscrupulous dalliance with the aforementioned bursar…)

The chap I spoke to at Jayco roadside assist did his best to help me. By which, I mean he jumped straight on Google and tried to find someone who might actually know how to fix the problem. In the end (a few hours later) he called back and gleefully informed me that he had found a mechanic in the Kakadu region, who he hoped would be able to help. Being a Sunday, in the middle of a National Park, miles away from absolutely anywhere, our Jayco man seemed quite chuffed with himself as he patched me through to the mechanic waiting on the other end of the line. After a very brief conversation, it quickly became apparent that the mechanic couldn’t really help us at all. What he could do was have a go at straightening the rails for me – but, he wasn’t sure if he had the tools for the job. Either way, it would cost about $180 to find out. “No worries, mate”, I said to the guy at the end of the phone, “I’ll keep you in mind, if I can’t get it sorted myself”.

Hanging up, I jumped back on the phone to Jayco and spoke to a different guy who, after much repeating of my question about the potential voiding warranties, he eventually confirmed that I would be well within my rights to get the trailer back on the road by any means necessary (or words to that effect) in order to get to the nearest reputable Jayco servicer.

“Any hassle the with warranty?” I said.

“Nah mate,” he replied “you’re stuffed if you stay where you are – so, if you’re able to get it back on the road, you’ll be covered”.

It seems that ‘nationwide’ support doesn’t actually extend to many of the places a Jayco owner might want to visit in this vast nation in which we live...

Moments later, with a reference number for the call firmly clenched in my hand, I had the bed unbolted and carefully heaved into place ready for transport. A few towels were bundled up and squeezed in, to support the heavy load, and we were soon back on the road once again. My first Jayco Assist friend called back shortly thereafter, to give me an update and tell me that he we still working on the problem. I must admit, he sounded a little deflated when I told him I’d got the problem sorted (for now, at least) and that we were heading back to Darwin. I told him that we hoped we might be able to pick up a new rail in the morning.

“Great,” he said “I’ll book you in with Jayco Darwin so you can have your trailer fixed first thing tomorrow”.

“Fantastic,” I replied, “will you take care of the booking, or shall I call when they open in the morning?”.

Being Sunday, they weren’t open – I had already tried…

“No need,” said the chipper chap at the end of the line, “we’ll do that for you. We’ll get you in first thing in the morning. No problem.”

Not an auspicious start to the day…

And so, with the camper trailer put together into a neat little bundle once again, we turned back in the direction of Darwin. Unfortunately, we weren’t going to be able to see the southern part of Kakadu on this trip – but the prospect of sleeping on a stable bed spurred us on (Oh yes, as well as the pool that would also be waiting for us). So, we figured, we might as well just head back to the same place we came from, Free Spirit caravan park.

After we had parked and reassembled the bed (replacing all bolts and ensuring that each of the struts were firmly in place), we had a dip in the pool and managed to sleep soundly until morning (but, not before watching a few fruit bats who had come to gorge themselves on the palm trees next to our van) knowing that all our problems would be solved the next day…

A friendly vegetarian visitor from the skies above

… What fools we are!!

Waking up early, we were packed and about to head out of the caravan park by 8:30 – ensuring that we were in time to be first in line at Jayco when they opened. But, for some reason, neither Nat nor I truly trusted that Jayco assist would have followed through on their promise. So, we called the Darwin Jayco service centre ourselves. I explained our situation to the mechanic who answered the phone, and he seemed quite flustered, saying that he had a line of vans, trailers and camper trailers already booked in to be fixed today. I gave him a description of what I needed and asked if he had the part at hand.

“Yup,” he replied, “I’ve got a couple of rail tracks here.”

“How much?” I asked.

“Oh, about $30”.

“Great,” I exclaimed (thanking my lucky stars that I didn't go with the $180 offer from the mechanic in Kakadu), “I’ll be there in 10 minutes”.

Eight minutes later we pulled up outside of the Jayco dealership. Mere moments later, I had been shown into the workshop and had procured the necessary part from a rack of spare bits and bobs. Just the thing needed to get us back on the road again. I even picked up a small handful of extra screws to help secure the backboard of the chair that had broken a week earlier. Score!

I figured, I’d taken the bed end apart and reinstalled it a couple of times by now – so, rather than booking in to have the part installed by the friendly Jayco mechanic (which would have meant a full day out of our travels), it would be easier to have a crack at fixing it on the side of the road. I mean, even if everything went pear shaped, at least it wouldn’t be too hard to call on someone who could help...

When it came time to stick the bed end back together, I was amazed at how easily bolts slide together when they are poking through holes drilled in a nice and straight piece of metal. And so, with a little help from Nat and the boys, who held the bed horizontal as the first bolt or two slipped into place, we were done in a jiffy. With the bed sliding properly again, we were soon on our way. Sadly, there was no time to see the southern end of Kakadu; but, at least we were on track to head to our next port of call ‘Edith Falls”.

The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone. The ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone..

Edith Falls was to be an awesome destination – and in the end, we didn’t care much about dropping a day from our itinerary. So, making promises to Nat that we would come back one day finish Kakadu properly, we started trundling down the road once more.

Phew. Fingers crossed that we’ll stay on the road longer this time…

Bye ‘d bye


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