Just before leaving Mornington we noticed that the chassis cracks that had been re-welded earlier had started to reopen. Getting under the caravan with a torch, I found that one of the suspension bolts showed signs of having shifted position. When I investigated I found that it was quite loose and after removing the nut, saw that the bolt has been jiggling around and badly eroded into the upper side of the slot in the hanger. It appears to me that because of the resultant misalignment from this eroded hole, when the suspension arm moves up and down it now puts quite a high twisting force on the axle bar and this is probably causing it to crack where it attaches to the chassis.
Given this situation we were rather wary about driving any further than necessary until we could get replacement suspension bolts and bushes and get the hanger and chassis fixed properly – especially on the corrugated Gibb River Road. So while we had planned to back track a bit to see Manning Gorge, Galvans Gorge and another Australian Wildlife Conservancy property at Charnley River, we now decided to just drive slowly and carefully directly towards Derby, a town of about 3000, which has a specialist welding company that could do the necessary repairs and arrange for the necessary spares to be sent there. We called Kedron, who agreed to send us the spares, and advised us that if we just tightened up the loose bolt, it was very unlikely to cause more damage and that we need not alter our original plans. However, while their reassurance made us confident that we could limp all the way to Derby (still about 400km away, 300km on unsealed roads), we did not want to push our luck and do an additional 300km that our original plan would have required. Getting a broken down caravan put on a truck and taken to Derby would cost about $4000 and since our insurance would cover only the first $1000, we didn’t want to take this risk.
So plan B had us make our way to Imintji, a small Aboriginal community on the Gibb River Road where we spent two nights and left the caravan to do a day trip to Bell Gorge. From there we moved on to Winjana Gorge (just 20km off the Gibb River Road) and again left the caravan there while doing a side trip to Tunnel Creek. We then drove on to Derby and upon getting there noticed that the tyre on the wheel which had had the worn shock absorber had started to crack badly where it meets the rim and needed to be replaced.
OK, to change the tone of the blog entry from doom and gloom, here are some photos of Bell Gorge and around Imintji.