2021: Our Year in Review

OK so yes, we are a little late in getting this sent out this time, it was 99% written and we finally had a chance to finish it so thought we may as well send it out, albeit very late!

Wow, what a year … Covid was still hanging around and we still ended up back in lockdown and with all our big trips cancelled again! At least we managed to start the year with a holiday … certainly not the way we wanted the holiday to end though (maybe that was an omen for how the year was to pan out!).

Anyway, here we go, let’s take a look back over the year that was 2021 ….

2021 Trips

January

Just prior to Christmas we headed off to South Australia to spend the Christmas and New Year break exploring the beautiful Eyre Peninsula. We literally just made it across the border in time as they once again snapped shut due to COVID. We had our friends and followers messaging us updates and we were constantly checking our phones, but we managed to cross over safely just in time and start our holiday.

We spent a week camped at Streaky Bay and then moved onto Whyalla for a week. Anyone who’s been following for a while knows what happened in Whyalla and how this all turned out, but more on that later! This whole area of South Australia is beautiful and one you should all visit if you get the chance.

This was a special year for George as he turned 50, so as part of our ‘Festival of Fifty’, Shelly planned a weekend away at the Hunter Valley for George’s birthday, complete with plenty of taste testings, a Segway tour and Hot Air Ballooning (the latter was cancelled on the morning due to high winds so we are still yet to get back up there and do that!).

February

As another part of George’s ‘Festival of Fifty’ we headed up to Mannering Park (just north of Sydney) for a camping weekend away with family and friends. Shelly had been instructed many times that there were to be no parties at all to celebrate George’s 50th birthday …. well a surprise weekend camping with 20 or so of your closest friends doesn’t really count as a ‘party’ does it!

All turned out well and George loved it as people started arriving, some he hadn’t seen in years. We all had a great weekend together and even managed to make and decorate an offroad 4WD track cake for George whilst there (thanks Suzie, Deena and Tas!)

March

This is the month we headed back up to the Hunter Valley again for the Sunset Sounds Concert, it felt great to be back out and seeing live music again after so long. Daryl Braithwaite, Ian Moss, Ross Wilson and Shannon Noll (amongst others) put on a great show as always and even the soggy ground (literally sinking into mud up to your ankles!) didn’t worry us.

April

April was when boarders opened and we were able to fly to Adelaide to pick up the Prado with it’s new engine! This was a quick 3 day trip, but we still managed to do a little sightseeing along the way. We flew down on the Friday and picked up the Prado and camper and then went to the quaint little town of Hahndorf … best fudge ever! We then visited the worlds largest Rocking Horse in Gumeracha, as well as their onsite animal farm. We spent that night in the Rydges Resort, right on pit lane of the famous Tailem Bend racetrack, such a great hotel with good facilities, awesome service and even millions of dollars worth of cars on display in the foyer! We spent the next night camping in the bush and made it home on the Sunday night. Big drive, but it was good to finally have the Prado and camper back home in Sydney with us. 

May

Shelly’s birthday month and wanting to do something different to celebrate we headed to Canberra for the weekend for a private behind the scenes tour (just the 2 of us) at Canberra Zoo. It was a cold start to the day at a chilly -4 degrees but the day just got better and better from there.

We had a full day behind the scenes tour hand feeding lions and tigers and bears, exploring the tiger enclosure, patting a cheetah, lunch with the giraffes, feeding and playing with otters and meerkats and so many other animals. At $695 per person it’s certainly not a cheap day out, but we both learned so much and had the best day, with some once in a lifetime experiences. Highly recommend adding this one to your bucket list!

June

June marks the start of all our trips which were cancelled for the year due to lockdown. First up, a weekend away at Blue Lagoon Beach Resort in Bateau Bay being hosted by The Duck and Ricko. CANCELLED!

July

Next up …. Big Red Bash CANCELLED! Keep in mind that we originally purchased these tickets for the 2020 concert which ended up being cancelled. Whilst the concert did end up going ahead in 2021 we weren’t able to get there due to Sydney lockdown. The Big Red Bash organisers have been great the whole way through and have carried over our tickets yet again to 2022!

Our weekend camping trip with friends up the Hunter was also …. CANCELLED!

August

Now this was the big one, we’d planned and saved so much for this trip as we had booked onto a 3 week tag-a-long trip with Great Divide Tours to visit Arnhem Land as part of George’s 50th birthday present. And yep, you guessed it …. CANCELLED! We’ve now booked onto the same trip leaving in 2022.

November

After so long of being in lockdown and not being able to go anywhere, we arranged a weekend 4wding and camping trip to Lithgow with a few mates. We were all looking forward to finally being able to get away, but this time it wasn’t Covid which caused the issues, but the weather! After a week of torrential rain and a weekend of predicted rain and thunderstorms we ended up cancelling this trip.

December

Thankfully we were able to get away over Christmas. We left on Christmas Eve and drove up to Urunga (just south of Coffs Harbour in NSW) where we were camping over the break with friends. Whilst it rained at some point every day (so the ground never dried up) and our campsite was more water and mud than grass, we still had a great time! The weather most days was great and we spent a lot of time at the beach, 4WDing or out exploring.

A purchase of gum boots definitely made life around camp a little more bearable!

Weekend 4WD Adventures

To be honest, between lockdowns and weather, we really didn’t get too much 4wding in this year. We did start the year off with a quick trip out to Lithgow though to rescue a mate who had got himself stuck, yet again! We won’t mention any names LIAM!!!!

We were relaxing at home one afternoon when we get a message from Liam to say that he is stuck in the bush nearly 2 hours away from us. We couldn’t leave him there and we know he’d do the same for us, so we grabbed our recovery gear, jumped in the 4WD and headed off to find him. It certainly wasn’t the easiest of recoveries, he was stuck pretty good and there were times when we thought there was no way Liea was going to be able to get this 3 tonne Patrol out. But after a couple of hours of trying we finally managed to get the Patrol out and we all made our way home safely.

The only actual 4WD trip we got in was one up to Lithgow with our mate Trent and two of our followers who joined us for the day, Wayne & Meg. It was great to meet up in person and spend the day doing what we all love. Another long time follower who we feel like we know, but have never actually met is Hapy and he turned up to say a quick hello and meet us too!

Day Trips

Another strange year of lockdowns and all, but we still managed to get out and about exploring our local and semi local areas. There is so much to see within a couple of hours of Sydney and here are just some of the places we visited this year, starting with the Cataract Dam, one of the oldest and most picturesque dams in Sydney. We visited the HARS Aviation Museum in Albion Park and spent a few hours exploring and learning about the planes. Goulburn may not be the most exciting town around, but there is actually a lot to do around the area and a lot of history. We spent a day exploring. Of course, we can’t forget the day Shelly took George on an ‘A Country Practice Tour’! For those that remember this popular show from the 80/90’s you might want to take a drive out to Windsor and surrounds and you’ll see some of the place featured in the show. Check out our blog post here.

As mentioned earlier, we spent a weekend in Canberra for Shelly’s birthday and whilst the highlight was the private tour of the zoo, we also visited Old Parliament House and the War Memorial, as well as staying for the evening Last Post Ceremony, a highly moving and emotional service which was great to experience.

After years of driving past we finally spent a day at Mt Tomah Gardens, unfortunately a small area was still closed due to the bush fires which devastated the area, but it’s a beautiful property. What else do you do on a Saturday morning, head up to the Central Coast, call into the Hawkesbury River Oyster Shed and have oysters for breakfast! That was the start to our day which also included visiting Aboriginal Rock Art, visiting a Distillery and seafood by the water for early dinner. Another weekend we drove down south towards Wollongong, we went out to Warragamba Dam which had just started spilling so that was quite interesting to see and most recently we spent a day at Scenic World at Katoomba, followed by a visit to the Three Sisters at Echo Point and a short bush walk.


The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer

150 Series Prado

If you follow our social media channels you would be well aware of our dramas that happened over the Christmas/New Year break last year when …. the Prado died!

It all started when we decided to take a quick drive out to the lighthouse at Point Lowly (about 30km or so out of town) before leaving Whyalla, but the Prado had different ideas and we didn’t make it that far. Whilst driving up a small hill, towing the camper, the 4WD lost power, white smoke started pouring out the back and things just didn’t feel right. George pulled over straight away, oil was pouring out of the catch can and the engine was making a noise it really shouldn’t be! We knew straight away things weren’t good, we weren’t 100% sure at that point in time what had happened, but had suspected a cracked piston. We later found out that this was the case. Unfortunately this is a known problem with these engines and we’ve since had one of our followers and another friend have this happen to them.

Luckily we have NRMA Premium Care (never, ever travel without this as it covers you Australia-wide), so we jumped on the phone and an RAA (SA equivalent) patrol vehicle was dispatched to come pick us, the Prado and camper up. We were lucky that we were right off the side of the road, it wasn’t an overly busy road and we even had a nice view! Overall it wasn’t too bad a place to be stranded for a couple of hours.

You can read our blog post about the whole experience here, but long story short, we were stuck in Whyalla for a week whilst everything was sorted and while we worked out what to do next. We had initially wanted the Prado and camper shipped back to Sydney and have the work done locally, but the shipping and transport costs were unbelievably expensive so we were recommended a mechanic in Adelaide and decided to go with him. We also had the issue of how to get the camper home as we couldn’t get a hire car with a towbar and brake controller (at one point we even went car shopping and test drove a Commodore as it was potentially going to be cheaper to buy a car and tow the camper home with us than it would be to have it shipped back to Sydney!). Eventually it worked out and Tim, our wonderful RAA patrolman, towed the Prado to Adelaide and we followed in their Landcruiser towing our camper, and both were dropped off at Auto Masters (they even stored our camper for us). Tim then took us to the airport to pick up our hire car and we made our way back to Sydney.

Finally in April we got the call that the Prado was ready, borders had opened and we were able to fly over and pick up the Prado & camper.

This whole experience was one that we certainly wish we hadn’t of gone through, but we were constantly overwhelmed with the support and offers from help we received from EVERYONE. Tim & Vanessa (Whyalla RAA) were absolutely amazing and went out of their way to help us from the very minute they picked us up – as far as even lending us a vehicle to drive around in whilst we were there! From the moment we posted that this had happened we had our followers, family and friends offering help and advise. One follower even called and spent an hour on the phone running through their experience with us. Everyone was getting in touch with us to offer help with towing or mechanics or share their stories, it was so overwhelming how much everyone wanted to help us … people that didn’t even personally know us. And to our mate, The Duck, who rang us the next morning and told us he’d already spoken to a mate who owned a mechanical workshop in Adelaide, explained the situation and he was awaiting our call, we can’t thank you enough! It was hard to even contemplate leaving our vehicle with someone we didn’t know, but to have a personal recommendation was great.

Once we picked up the Prado and drove home to Sydney it was due for the first service on the engine so off to the mechanic it went to check that all was ok.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the only time we saw the Prado on the back of a tow truck this year … whilst driving down the motorway near home one weekend things didn’t feel right so we pulled over, went to check wheels and saw that the wheel nut was lose so went to tighten it ….. only to find out that it was not lose, it was not connected at all! The whole wheel stud had sheered off and the front drivers side wheel was being held on by one nut. Luckily we pulled over as that could have ended very badly for us and potentially others on the road. No-one wants a wheel coming off while doing 100km down the motorway.

Leia

No major mods for Leia this year, just a few new stickers and a pink recovery hitch! So apart from a few trips to the mechanic, she really didn’t live up to her name of ‘the bottomless pit’ like George calls her … certainly not compared to the Prado this year!

Unfortunately though in one of our recent storms, she did get hit by hail and needed a trip to the smash repairer to make her pretty again! Luckily insurance covered all of this. Interestingly though, the Prado was parked about 5 metres behind her and didn’t get any damage!

And lastly both of the vehicles received new personalised number plates this year, something we’d been thinking about for a while, we love the look and are happy with our colours we picked as they suit the vehicles more than the old plates.

Cub Camper

As we were preparing for our big trips this year we sent the camper off to Cub for a full major service and once over. We’d also been having a few issues with the zipper the last few times we’d used it so we had new zippers installed around the door and some more lighting and USB points beside the bed.

Off The Track 4×4 updates

Giveaways

As always, we did a few giveaways this year, including our huge Christmas Giveaway with prizes totaling over $1,000. We couldn’t do all of this without the support of all the great businesses who we work closely with, but special mention must go to our sponsors, Cost Effective Maintenance and our great mates at Auto Parts Co.

Earlier in the year we teamed up with AMD Touring, Australia’s first dedicated Australian-made 4×4, camping and caravanning store and have been working closely with them since. So if you want to buy some Aussie made camping or 4×4 accessories, check them out!

As mentioned previously, we were also lucky enough to meet a few of our followers this year, Wayne & Meg and Hapy. We also met Peter whilst we were camping at Christmas. It’s always great to meet people in person after so long of interacting on social media! We have a few plans in place for the new year (Covid dependent) which will hopefully mean we can meet a few more of you!

Camp Cooking group

Our Camp Cooking Ideas & Tips Facebook group that we run is still going well. This started back in April 2020 and we’ve now got over 9,500 members.

Track to Nature …. Essential Oils

Last year we started Track to Nature Essential Oils and the way these are being incorporated into our lives grows each and every day. So many people are benefiting from the use of essential oils to help lead a more natural life. It’s even helping with our dog’s wellbeing, from calming them in thunderstorms, to helping ease itchy skin and upset tummies. If you are interested to see how doTERRA Essential Oils can fit into your life (particularly your camping, travel & outdoor life), feel free to contact us to discuss – or join our Facebook group

OTT4x4 Shop

I’m sure you are all well aware, but we do have our own merchandise which we sell (our magnets in particular are so popular!) and we are also affiliates for a number of companies. Whilst we do receive commission for the sale of some products via our affiliate programs, there are many which we don’t. If you check out our website, we have been able to set up discount codes for some companies, which enable a discount for you and nothing at all in return for us. If there is something in the 4WD or camping sector that you are looking for, please remember to check out our shop and see if it may be available. Or feel free to contact us as we do have a lot of contacts in the industry and are always happy to provide our opinion and knowledge and/or point you in the direction of someone we know and trust who can help you.

Our Sponsors and Supporters

Of course we couldn’t end a year without saying a big thank you to our vehicle sponsors, Cost Effective Maintenance. These guys are the most friendly and helpful people you’ll find and they’ll go out of their way to talk you through any problems you may be having and try to offer a solution. If you haven’t checked out their range of products you really need to! Use code “4x4OTT” to receive a 10% discount off all items (excluding Value Packs) – we know that plenty of you are using this code, so keep it up!

And to Jack & Jason at Auto Parts Co, you guys are the best! They have the best range of products and can generally source anything we need. They go above and beyond to help us out and are always willing to throw us some goodies for a giveaway and/or give us something to try out. Don’t forget to Use code “OTT4x4” to receive a 5% discount off all items on their website (except already discounted items).

Lastly, as mentioned previously, there are so many companies which are always happy to donate to our giveaways and we appreciate that they trust in us as much as we believe in their services and products. Most of these are just small companies themselves, yet they are always willing to help out, so make sure you check out their pages and send some love their way too!

On Point Caravan Hire – SydneyAdventure AwaitsDynamic Wheel Co.AMD TouringShower EzyGlass on the Grass


Celebrations

George turned the big 5-0 and we were able to mark the celebration with a camping weekend away with family and friends.

Our nephew, Levi, graduated from pre-school … how cute does he look in his little outfit!! He’s not our little baby anymore, this little man goes off to big school next year.

As for the kids, Tre bought his first house, such an achievement for anyone in these times, let alone someone in their early 20’s. He was busy renovating it to rent out as an investment property. Min, moved out of home and into a rental of her own and has been busy putting her stamp on it and making it the perfect little home. We couldn’t be more proud of both of them.

And lastly, our mate Stewy, who we do a lot of travel with, welcomed a new baby daughter into the world with his partner Lisa. A huge congratulations to them all, including Stewy’s eldest daughter, Rori.

How we spent Christmas

As we were away for Christmas we held our ‘family Christmas’ weekend on 11/12 December. On the Saturday we went to George’s sisters house for lunch with his family and Sunday was spend with Shelly’s family at our house.

Christmas Day was spent camping at Urunga. A perfect day of seafood cooked on the Weber and a few drinks. Even Santa (and his dog!) popped in to visit us at camp!

What’s planned for 2022?

2022 is basically a rerun of what 2021 should have been!

We will hopefully finally do our Hot Air Ballooning which was cancelled.

In July we have the Big Red Bash at Birdsville (which was actually tickets we purchased back in 2019, but Covid ruined our plans 2 years in a row). Fingers crossed, third time lucky! The lineup for this is great with JIMMY BARNES headlining!!! Plenty of other great Aussie bands

  • Missy Higgins
  • Kasey Chambers
  • Jon Stevens
  • Kate Ceberano
  • Richard Clapton
  • The Rolling Stones Review starring: Adalita, Tex Perkins and Tim Rogers
  • Bjorn Again
  • Sarah McLeod
  • Shannon Noll
  • Ash Grunwald
  • Jack Jones
  • Dragon
  • The Radiators
  • Mick Thomas
  • Mi-Sex
  • Chocolate Starfish
  • Steve Balbi
  • Bachelor Girl
  • Mel Dyer

In August/September we have our postponed Arnhem Land tag-a-long trip with Great Divide Tours. We are excited to have the opportunity to explore this remote area of Australia. We’ve never visited the top end of NT, so very much looking forward to this amazing experience.

As 2021 was such a strange year we weren’t able to get out and do too much 4WDing, so hopefully 2022 brings lots more weekend adventures in the bush and a few more weekend camping trips. We know the content on our page may not have been too exciting this year, but it’s hard when you are in lockdown and don’t do anything! Therefore, we are hoping that less restrictions will mean more great adventures we can share with you all.


As always, thank you to each and every one of you who supports us and seems to enjoy what we do! Many of you have been following for years and we really do feel like we know you, we all know what social media can be like at times, but our ‘people’ are the absolute best!!! Knowing that we can do something we absolutely love doing and then share it with others and they enjoy it too is amazing. The messages we get saying how inspiring we are or how people wish they could do what we do or wished they travelled when they could, asking for our opinion or advice on products or holiday destinations … sometimes it’s a little strange to think that we are just doing what we love, yet people look up to us! And the support we got with our Prado issues was overwhelming to say the least, we really do have the absolute best bunch of followers anyone could ask for!!

We know it’s been another difficult year for many and we only hope that we have in some way brought a little something to otherwise trying times.

Don’t forget, if you see us out and about, don’t be shy, come over and have a chat, we always love meeting new people or some of our followers. And please, spread the word – LIKE, COMMENT & SHARE on our socials and lets inspire even more people to get out there and explore.

We do hope that 2022 is a better year for you all, filled with good health, fun times, new adventures and lots of magical memories.

Tailem Bend, South Australia

Tailem Bend is a small town located about an hour out of Adelaide, SA. This rural town is built on the banks of the Murray River and was once an important service centre for the South Australian Railways. It was proclaimed a town in 1887, not long after the railway line went through.

Nowadays though, Tailem Bend is more likely known as the home of Australia’s newest racetrack, ‘The Bend’. The Bend is Australia’s only track to comply with the latest FIA Grade 2 and FIM Category A standards, making it eligible to host international categories such as the World Endurance Championships, IndyCar and MotoGP. It’s also the second longest permanent circuit in the world, after the Nurburgring in Germany.

Construction started in 2016 and the first Supercar Championship race meeting at the track was held on 24–26 August 2018. The track and precinct is very impressive and it’s not even finished yet, plenty more plans in the works.

This was built on what was once Mallala Race Circuit, which for some time was also Mitsubishi’s testing facility. The track was purchased by the Peregrine Corporation, owned by the Shahin Family. This is the same family who is responsible for the OTR stores in SA (if you don’t know about this family and their story, look them up. It’s quite interesting to see where they have come from and what they’ve built). What they’ve done with the OTR stores in one thing, but this whole motorsport complex at The Bend is something else.

We will say that the one thing that we really loved about this whole story is that the Shahin family really do seem so down to earth and very involved in all aspects of their businesses. The way the staff at the hotel spoke of this family was great, you could tell they all appreciate them and have a genuine like for the family. We heard that they actually do spend a bit of time in the complex and meet and speak with the staff.

THE BEND MOTORSPORT PARK

Now we haven’t attended a race meet here or personally raced on the track, but we’ve both been to plenty of racetracks over the years (and George has raced on them) and this one stands out by far. Not only do you have the world class racing circuit, there is karting, drifting, rallycross, a 4WD adventure park, private villas, a Rydges Hotel and a Big 4 caravan park all onsite.

RYDGES PIT LANE HOTEL

You’ll find the hotel located within the main building of the pit lane complex. The hotel offers 100 guests rooms, some with private balconies and views over the racetrack and pit lane. Also the Apex Bar and Restaurant, Apex coffee lounge and obviously plenty of meeting rooms and event spaces.

The hotel has a very modern vibe and we really liked that. Our package deal came with a bottle of champagne on arrival, dinner and breakfast for 2. The food was great, we definitely couldn’t fault that! And the cocktails, yum – do yourself a favour and try a Lemon Meringue Martini! Lastly the staff were all great, ultra friendly and always happy to have a chat or a joke. We all know customer service is important, but when you have a stay like we did, it really makes you remember the place in a very positive light.

The thing that sets this hotel apart from others is the car museum in the foyer. As soon as you walk in the front doors you are greeted with millions and millions of dollars worth of rare, historical and unique Supercars and sports cars. Most are apparently part of the the owners own personal collection and some are still taken out on the race track from time to time. One of the brothers, Sam Shahin is actually quite an accomplished race car driver.

Contact Details and Location

Rydges Pit Lane Hotel

543 Dukes Highway, Tailem Bend SA 5260

Phone: (08) 8165 5730

The World’s Biggest Rocking Horse

Anyone that knows us, knows that we love to visit all the ‘big things’ across Australia and have a whole page on our website dedicated to this! Well on a recent trip to Adelaide we called in to visit The Big Rocking Horse in Gumeracha (only about 40 minutes from Adelaide).

At 18.3 metres high and weighing 25 tonnes, not only is this Australia’s Biggest Rocking Horse, it is the biggest in the world and it’s in the Guinness Book of Records to prove it!

Although it’s free to visit and take photos, for $2 you can climb the rocking horse, which has stairs inside which lead to viewing platforms in the head, on the saddle and one on the rocker near the base. You’ll also receive a certificate of achievement for climbing!

Toy Factory

Also in the complex there is a toy factory which sells some really great wooden toys which are made on site. You don’t see this type of old school workmanship too often these days. As well as the wooden toys there are plenty of other gifts and souvenirs and a range of lollies and chocolates.

The Shop is open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) from 9am – 5pm

Wildlife Park

We can’t forget the Wildlife Park! For $2 entry per person (and an extra $2 if you want a bag of food) who could say no ….. well George could have, but Shelly wanted to go play with the animals!! Although it’s set on 7 acres, the wildlife park itself isn’t anything too exciting, but it was something to do and gave as a few laughs, and for $2 why not!

There was a range of animals including Alpacas, Sheep, Goats Kangaroos, Emus, Ducks, Cockatoos.

The Wildlife Park is open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) from 9am – 4.30pm

CAFE

Lastly there is a cafe on site selling a wide range of food at reasonable prices. We grabbed a salad wrap and plate of chips and both were huge!

The Cafe is open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day) from 10am – 3pm

Where to find The Big Rocking Horse – 452 Torrens Valley Road, Gumeracha, South Australia.

A visit to Hahndorf, SA

Recently we visited the village of Hahndorf which is found about 1/2 hour from Adelaide.

Originally settled in 1839 by Prussian Lutherans, Hahndorf is now Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement.

Its German heritage is definitely still evident as you wander the Main Street which is filled with German pubs, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, chocolate and traditional sweets, wooden folk art, leather wears and cuckoo clocks!

Must say that wandering down the tree lined street was very pretty with all the autumn foliage starting to appear on the trees. This quaint little village is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Oh and the Lemon Meringue fudge … omg 🤤

ᑭᖇᗩᗪO ᑌᑭᗪᗩTE – It’s home!

Wow, what a journey that was! Like one of our mates said ‘there’s never been a more followed engine rebuild’

For those that are new to following us, here’s a quick run down of what happened …… we were holidaying in South Australia over Christmas and unfortunately we didn’t quite make it home! Our Prado broke down on 28th December 2020 (cracked a piston) and we were picked up and towed (including our camper trailer) to RH Automotive in Whyalla. These guys were great and went above and beyond to help us in so many ways. Unfortunately due to COVID and being Christmas/New Year, many places were closed and it was hard to work out what to do. Did we have it all towed back to Sydney (quotes were well in excess of $10K), did we get a new engine, a reconditioned engine (or recon ours) or did we sell and restart all over again? We did the sums and went with the most cost effective option for us. Luckily we have our NRMA Premium Roadside service which assisted us in this whole process and also contributed $3,000 towards towing, accommodation etc.

When we first put the post out there on Facebook about what had happened, so many of you (many we don’t even know) contacted us with information, offers of help etc. One in particular was our mate The Duck who rang George first thing the next morning and gave us a number of his good mate who owns a workshop in Adelaide, he couldn’t recommend him highly enough and said he’d already spoken to him and he was awaiting our call. Obviously it was something we hadn’t considered, having the car repaired in a different state and with people we knew nothing about. But after numerous phone calls and discussions we decided that it was our best option (and most cost effective). So on 4th January 2021 the Prado was towed to and dropped off at Auto Masters Salisbury. These guys also securely stored our camper trailer for us (at no cost) for the duration so that was a huge help.

Throughout this whole process, Tony kept us up to date and was always available whenever George called and texted with a query. It was a comfort to have that contact, considering we couldn’t just ‘pop in’ to check up on anything! It was also great when one of our followers spotted the Prado in the workshop (and later driving on the road) and sent us photos both times! It appears we have little spies everywhere!

Anyway, finally after a long 3 month wait, on Friday 9th April 2021 we flew to Adelaide to pick up the Prado (and it’s brand new engine!) and our camper trailer. Huge thanks to Tony and Dave and all the team at Auto Masters who were involved in the whole process, we couldn’t be happier to have our Prado safely home!! 1,400km in 2 days and we are home and the Prado did great. As we didn’t want to do Adelaide to Sydney straight up on a brand new engine, the mechanics had driven it around prior to us picking it up and put about 600km on the clock and checked it over.

So far, the engine sounds a lot quieter than the old one, feels smoother and has more power and we are still wearing it in, so all looking great so far.

So what does just over $21,000 give you? ….. apart from a very sad looking bank balance!!

  • Brand new genuine Toyota long motor
  • Brand new genuine Injectors
  • Brand new genuine Turbo
  • Brand new genuine Map sensor and filter
  • Brand new pump
  • Plus other things which were required to be replaced such as oils, filters, belts etc

Yes it’s expensive, but believe me, it was our best option and it gives us back our freedom and ability to get out there and travel and do what we love to do so that is priceless.

This was quite the experience and one we certainly don’t want to go through again! But throughout this whole process we were constantly surprised by how kind and genuine people can be … from being lent a car to drive around in for free in Whyalla, to being offered free accommodation (which we turned down), the hotel discounting our nightly rate, family and friends offering to drive to SA to pick us up, strangers contacting us with advice and their experiences with cracked pistons. We even went to look at buying a second hand car to drive home in and the car salesman called a friend who owned a trucking company to see if they could ship the Prado back home! It was all very surreal, but was nice to feel like we weren’t alone in such a stressful time.

Thanks again to The Duck, mate if it wasn’t for you pointing us in the right direction, giving us the confidence we’d made the right choice and constantly checking up with us, who knows what may have happened.

And of course to Auto Masters Salisbury, thank you for everything …. Guys, if you’re in SA and you need a mechanic, go check these guys out (they have stores in numerous locations). We can’t fault their work and service and would happily recommend them to others.

Lastly, the only downside in this whole situation is the lack of help from Toyota Australia – numerous phone calls and emails and not a single reply. We are on our second Prado and we also have a Hilux so we obviously love our Toyota’s, but it’s very disappointing to have no contact or backing at all from Toyota. We have a copy of a 4 page Toyota bulletin outlining this problem so we know they are aware and admitted that cracked pistons are a common issue with these engines so it’s very disappointing they won’t even reply. But like we said, that is the only downside to our whole situation and hopefully one we will never, ever have to go through again!

On the way home from Adelaide, free camping, campfires and sky full of stars …… back doing what we love doing best!

The day the Prado died

If you follow our social media channels you would by now be well aware of our dramas that happened over the Christmas/New Year break, but if not, let’s start from the beginning.

We decided to head to South Australia prior to Christmas to spend a few weeks exploring the Eyre Peninsula which is an absolutely stunning area that we had very briefly visited a few years ago and knew we had to go back again to see more. We spent a week in Streaky Bay which was amazing, so much to see, so many beaches to explore, so much yummy seafood and just an overall spectacular area.

After leaving Streaky Bay our next stop was Whyalla, where we were to base ourselves for a week to explore the surrounding areas …. well that’s where things didn’t quite go to plan.

First night we checked into our caravan park, awesome spot right on the beach, amazing views ….. and gale force winds! We lasted one night and decided to leave and head to another camp a little further inland.

View from our campsite

After packing up (not fun in that much wind!) we decided to have a look around Whyalla, do all the main ‘tourist’ things and finally drive out to see the lighthouse at Point Lowly, about 30km or so from town. Unfortunately we didn’t quite make it that far.

This is the lighthouse … we did make it there a week later!

We were driving up a small hill, towing the camper and all of a sudden the 4WD lost power, white smoke pouring out the back and things just didn’t feel right. George pulled over straight away, oil was pouring out of the catch can and the engine was making a noise it shouldn’t be! We knew straight away things weren’t good, we weren’t 100% sure at that point in time, but had suspected a cracked piston. We later found out that this was the case.

Luckily we have NRMA Premium Care which covers roadside assistance across Australia so we got straight on the phone to NRMA to arrange for a patrolman and tow truck to come out to pick us up. We were lucky that we were right off the side of the road, it wasn’t an overly busy road and we even had a nice view! Overall it wasn’t too bad a place to be stranded for a couple of hours.

When we broke down we were picked up by the local RAA serviceman (NRMA equivalent in SA). Tim and his wife Vanessa went above and beyond to help and we cannot thank them enough for all they did for us. At a time when we were both overwhelmed and not sure what to do, these guys turned up and just seemed to make everything easier.

Whilst we were on the side of the road we’d had another guy stop to check if we were ok and when we said that RAA were on their way, he told us that “oh you guys are in good hands, he’s a good bloke, owns a mechanical shop in town, you’ll be right” … and yeah, it worked out well for us. Tim and his wife Vanessa could not have been more friendly and helpful.

After being towed back to their workshop and told we could leave the vehicles there for as long as we needed, they then not only offered us one of their personal vehicles to drive around in whilst we were in Whyalla, but they offered us free self contained accommodation for as long as we needed it. Who does that, we aren’t used to strangers being so nice! We decided to accept their offer of the vehicle, which we were so grateful for as it meant we could still get out and about and enjoy our holiday over the next week, but we decided against the accommodation. We already felt so lucky that it just didn’t feel right to take too much. As it turned out we did the right thing as they ended up picking up more stranded travelers who were travelling with their dog and cat so they used the accommodation.

Vanessa proceeded to find us some accommodation, booked us in and took us there. Throughout the next week they both couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating … the workshop was actually closed for the Christmas break but Tim went in to diagnose our vehicle, liaised with NRMA, they met us at the workshop whenever we needed access to the Prado or camper and they even invited us to New Year’s Eve at their house if we didn’t find anything else to do. Of course we can’t forget Henry the dog who was always around, such a friendly little boy. Puppy cuddles always make everything better (and we missed our pups) so it was always great to see Henry! We feel really lucky that we met this amazing couple and cannot begin to thank them enough for everything they did. They are just down to earth, genuine good people who probably don’t even realise how their actions affect other people, but they certainly went a long way in making our crappy, confusing and overwhelming dramas so much easier for us. It’s a special person who can treat total strangers the way they did and we are forever grateful to Tim, Vanessa (& Henry).

The first few days after it happened was like a blur of constant phone calls to NRMA, mechanics, transport companies, family and friends, while we tried to work out what we were going to do and how we were going to get home, not just us, but the Prado and camper as well. After a lot of discussions and running through different scenarios we finally started to form a plan.

Prado – We had initially wanted to have the Prado and camper shipped back to Sydney so we’d at least have them with us and then work out what to do. We weighed up our options, 1) sell and buy another vehicle and start again, 2) buy a second hand motor, 3) rebuild our existing engine. For us we decided to go with the latter option as it seemed like the safest and most economical option. The next decision to make was who was going to do this! We were contacted by a friend who put us in touch with a mate in Adelaide who he couldn’t recommend highly enough. After a few phone calls to and fro we decided to go with him ….. a big scary chance leaving our car in another state with someone we don’t know!

So we then had the Prado sorted, but what about the camper? The shipping cost to get this home was just way over the top (mainly as it’s not a ‘driveable’ vehicle). We got quotes of up to $9,000 to get the Prado and camper towed back to Sydney!! Had COVID not been an issue we would have had someone bring Leia over to pick us and the camper up, but that wasn’t an option with border closures. The mechanic in Whyalla said he could store it for free for as long as we needed and a colleague of George’s who lives in SA also offered to pick it up for us and look after it until we could get back, so we at least had options.

After discussions with the mechanic who was taking the Prado, he advised that he had a storage facility where he could securely store the camper for us as well. Although it’s annoying not having the camper here to use, at the end of the day we decided that we’d rather put our money towards an engine rebuild than shipping costs to bring it back to Sydney.

Us! This was the hardest one to sort out as we couldn’t get a hire car from Whyalla that we were able to drop off in Sydney. Normally you’d say to jump on a bus or train or plane, but we needed to empty out the Prado for towing so we had a whole carload of ‘stuff’ with us, including a fridge! At one point we even went car shopping and test drove a Commodore as it was potentially going to be cheaper to buy a car and tow the camper home with us than it would be to have it shipped back to Sydney (and at least then us and our gear could then get home too!!).

In the end we managed to get a hire car from Adelaide airport that we could drop off in Sydney – we had thought George may need to fly from Whyalla to Adelaide to pick it up, drive back to get Shelly and the gear and then drive home! Luckily we sorted another option with Tim who was towing us to Adelaide.

Had to look at this depressing view for the 4 hour drive to Adelaide!

We met Tim & Vanessa at the workshop, packed all of our gear into their personal Landcruiser, which was going to tow the camper, and loaded the Prado onto the tow truck and all set off for the 4 hour drive to Adelaide. After arriving we dropped the Prado and camper off at the mechanics who are going to do our engine rebuild, loaded the Landcruiser onto the tow truck and Tim took us to the airport to pick up our hire car – we seriously can’t thank these guys enough for all they did for us.