Sunday, December 23, 2012

Outback Trip 2 - Day 2 and 3 - Renmark and Leigh Creek

Setting out from Balranald we planned on getting ourselves across to Renmark.  The route we had set was for about 300 or so kilometers on highway.  The intention was to stay in a caravan Park, do a minimal set up and then push on to somewhere like Leigh Creek.

And the reason that I add all of this in one little post is that the camera went on the fritz and there are no photos from this part of the holiday.

Suffice to say that the stop in Renmark was fantastic.  The owners of the caravan park on the riverbank treated us extremely well and we got ourselves settled in, cleaned up, the car checked out and everything ready for a really long day.

So after an early night we did set off fairly early to get to Leigh Creek before dark.  The main part of the drive was through grazing country, the along the edge of the Flinders Ranges, and then in to the Caravan Park at Leigh Creek.

Again treated well by the caretaker, who gave us a couple of nice spots under trees and told us to head up to a communal fire at about sunset.  We did and had were able to have a bit of a chat with fellow travellers.  All was looking up for what I believed would be the real part of the trip.  Hitting the dirt road to Oodnadatta, seeing Lake Eyre and experiencing this part of the outback.

So after a not so early night, and realistically a not so early set off the next day we were into it!

Sorry about the lack of photos!

I didn't realise the camera was on the fritz at this stage and kept snapping away oblivious to the problem...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Outback trip 2 - Day 1 - Yanga National Park

After weeks of planning and even a couple of changed plans we finally had a plan - drive to Lake Eyre and have a look at it with water in it.  The intention was to travel in winter - which can be pretty bitter at home.  The hope was for mild days and not to cold nights.  So we got out the maps, got together with some friends and the plan was hatched.  A couple of days of hard running on the blacktopo to get us to Leigh Creek and then the outback adventure would begin.

What I didn't know was that we were about to see some amazing parts of the country and experince things that you rarely get to see and do.

Day 1 we set of early and travelled along the Hume, Sturt and Mallee Highways until we reached the vicinity of Balranald.  The first stop was to be Yanga National Park - and a free camp at a campsite within the Park, quite near the historical Wilga Woolshed.  Yanga gives you the opportunity to camp fairly close to where the Burke and Wills expidition camped.  And Balranald - just down the road was a fairly important part of their expedition.  An auction was held at Balranald and a fair bit of the gear that had been hauled from Melbourne was sold off.

We would cross the path of Burke and Wills more than once on the trip, along with their rival John McDouall Stuart!

Suffice to say that arriving at the Willows campground after close to 600km on the road was a relief.

As far as campgrounds go this place was a brilliant introduction to the outback.  A campground with fire places (and firewood), well maintained toilets and as much room as you need to set up comfortably was much welcomed.

How is that for a nice lot of room to set up camp.

The vista was amazing - as the sun went down through the mallee and the saltbush it really did feel like we were in the outback - fantastic!

And the view kept changing for us.

I really enjoyed the first night away - but I do enjoy the peace of a good bush camp and this was exactly that.  With dinner cooked on the campfire we went for a walk and checked out the woolshed and with the sun down completely had a bit of a chat around the campfire.

It was time for bed - the day had been tiring, but getting 600 or so kilometres into a 5000 kilometre trip was worth the effort.

Some details...

Access: Some campsites are accessible by 4WD. 2WD would be OK in dry weather or if you want to camp close to the wooldshed.
Toilets: Yes.
Showers: No.
Water: Didn't see any - might be some near the picnic area.
Shop: Not nearby - that said Balranald is not that far away.
Campfires: Yes - subject to firebans. Bring own wood.
Pets: NO - National Park
Cost: FREE.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review - Coleman chair and table

After 'borrowing' some words about winter camping for my blog from the friendly folks at Coleman they asked me if I would like to take a couple of bits of their gear for a camp - see what I thought about it.

I agreed.  Not often one gets to review equipment.

After a bit of 'to-ing and fro-ing' the gear arrived and it was time to head off for a local weekend camp on the banks of the Murumbidgee River to give it a try.  I'll put up a post about the campsite in a while.  In the meantime some words about the gear...

The kit that arrived was a camp chair (which has a snazzy folding table) and a four way camp table set.  Cool.

The chair first - It is a directors style of chair and it folds up flat, rather than the more common 'cylindrical' shape of my other camp chairs.  To be honest the flat fold up suits the way things are packed in the back of my car.  It is easy to carry with fabric handles sewn in to the 'armrest' part of the chair.  It sets up easily and positively.  By that I mean you can feel it lock in to place.  The swing table flips up and has a fair bit of room and a handy cup holder built in.  The cup holder even has a cut out for long stemmed wine glasses.

It's a nice chair, well built sturdy and comfortable.  Personally I would like to see it a couple of inches higher.  But I had no problem with relaxing with a drink watching the camp fire burn.

Would I buy one - YES, yes I would.

The next thing we got to try out was the 4way table.

The four way table is a really cool set up.  Not only is it well built and a sensible size but it has multiple uses.  There are effectively two tables that can be set up individually or joined to make a single table.  Each table can be set up at different heights.  The heights are actually well thought out - the taller set up is a good 'kitchen bench' height.  Lower heights are goof for eating at or even using as a coffee table.  All of the bits and pieces lock in to the underside of the table, including the legs and the piece that allows the two tables to be locked together to make up a big tabletop.



I like the table.  It is easy to set up, all of the parts have a home when it is packed away and it is well made.  It packed into the 4WD nicely.
Would I buy one of these - YES, yes I would.
Thanks to the good folks at for the loan of the gear.  If you are interested in these items they can be ordered online or in camping stores across the country.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Winter camp - the plan

In my previous post I added some winter camping tips to the tips that Coleman have published.  The reason I added go somewhere you can't go in summer is that we have just returned from another outback NSW trip.

I'm not sure what summer along the Oodnadatta Track would be like but I would suggest hot and dry, so the thinking was lets get out there are have a look around while it's winter, while there is water in Lake Eyre and best of all - at a time when we could travel with some friends and there would be other travellers out there as well.

The first thing we did was decide roughly where we wanted to go.  Our mission was to get to The Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta from south along the Oodnadatta Track.  Once at Oodnadatta we would then work out where to next.

Our first thing was to do a bit of homework about travelling through the area, where we would bo and what we should see.  To a lesser extent where we would stay.  Enter the Hema Maps Great Desert Tracks map set.  With the map of the area generally on the floor we decided that it was fairly do-able in two weeks.  The plan was sketched out, just the details and the preperation was required.

Naturally the 4WD got a service - oils, filters changed, spares checked, the third roof bar was installed so a second spare tyre could be seet up on them.  The usual recovery gear was put in - snatch strap, tree trunk protector, D shackles, tyre repair kit, tyre deflator, air compressor and a decent tool kit.

The next mission was to set up our water supply.  In the past we had only ever travelled with about 20 or so litres of drinking water - that is usually adequate for a weekend or when not travelling far from drinkable water.  The map, and other people, told us we were going to a desert and most of the water is from a bore.  After a bit of looking around we settled on a big plastic 85 litre tank whick was installed behind the seats against the cargo barrier.  With the water tank in, the tent on the roof all we had to do was load in the fridge and home made shelf/drawer set up and we were ready to go!

So one cold and frosty morning we hit the road for what was ultimately a long trip south, then west, then north, then... You get the picture!

We saw some amazing parts of the country as we travelled, staying at Yanga National Park just outside of Balranald before travelling on to, Renmark, Leigh Creek, William Creek and Oodnadatta.

We made an interesting decision at Oodnadatta.  Over the next few weekends I'll post the story of this amazing trip, and what happened as we made our way along one of the most historically interesting track.  If you stick with me for a couple of weeks you will find out what happened at Oodnadatta and where we went from there.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Winter camping tips

Although I put up a post about our trip to Newnes, which happened back in Easter, we have just arrived back from a two week adventure through the outback - traveling as far as Oodnadatta, Cameron Corner and even Broken Hill!  The reason that we went this time of year is that it is pleasant out that way, weather wise, this time of year.  Add to that a lot of people (relatively speaking) travel through the region it is relatively safe this time of year.

When we were thinking about the trip I cam across some winter camping tips from outdoor gear specialists Coleman...

There tips - used with permission - are as follows:

There are some obvious benefits to camping in the colder months such as smaller crowds, campfires in National Parks and the chance to see wildlife that you wouldn’t normally see (for example, whale watching along the coastline South of Sydney). Coleman has provided some great tips and tricks on how to get out into the wild this winter.

Tips from the outdoor experts Coleman include:

1.          Be properly prepared – Make sure you have everything you need for a colder, harsher environment. You might even want to bring along the Coleman Hot Water on Demand to make sure you can have a hot cup of coffee.

 2.          Have the right equipment – A durable and warm sleeping bag is essential. The Bigfoot range from Coleman are perfect for this!

3.          Stay on top of the weather – Check the weather in advance and make sure you’re prepared for the worst case scenario.

4.        Get out of the wind – Make sure you select a site with some natural wind breaks.

5.       Always use an airbed – Insulating yourself from the cold ground is far more important than insulating from the cold air.

A couple of extra tips from us:

1. If you have some more than a couple of days plan to travel somewhere that it is best to travel to in Winter - desert regions and tropical regions spring to mind.

2.  Check with the National Parks folks about campfires - some don't allow them year round - Sturt National Park springs to mind.

3.  'Menu plan' for comfort food.  Stews and soups are great in winter especially if done in a camp oven!  Camp oven damper, warm, with honey is a favourite of mine.

This being a blog - feel free to post a comment with your tips or even a comment about either my tips or Colman's.

Coleman have a pretty good range of stuff on the market - visit for a look at what they have.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Newnes - Free - Not pet friendly

Wollemi National Park is home to the recently identified Wollemi Pine, which was discovered by National Parks officer Mr David Noble in 1994.  Not only is the Wollemi Pine one of the rarest trees in the world, with less than 100 mature trees in the wild, it is also one of the oldest, with fossil records indicating this rare tree existed about 90 million years ago.

Wollemi National Park is only a couple of hundred km from Sydney and it is one of those places that should appeal to anyone who loves the outdoor lifestyle.  Although the exact location of the pines has never been made publicly available by National Parks there is plenty of interesting flora and fauna in the park.  For history buffs there is the former township of Newnes and Blackfellow's Hand Rock and for 4WD enthusiasts there are any number of great tracks in the area.

I haven't mentioned lots of other attractions, but a search on a good search engine will point you in the right direction.

Add to all of this the fact that the campsite is free this place is pretty cool.

We set off and it is about a half day drive to get there.  It is a reasonably easy drive in to Newnes in the dry, and it would be accessible by 2WD vehicles, but in the wet it gets slippery.

To camp where we camped you will need to cross the Wolgan River and that requires 4WD.

It is a pretty easy crossing...

And you have arrived in the National Park...

Once across the creek the campsite is magnificent!

There are a fair number of campsites and the ruins of the Shale Oil mining facility are quite close. The Wolgan River runs near the campsite and there is a nice, clean drop loo.

After arriving, setting up and taking some photos we caught up with some friends, and planned the following day - a 4WD trip to the Spanish Steps.

The next day was a bit of an adventure - but the scenery in the area is amazing.  And the track conditions vary from muddy bog holes to quite good dirt tracks.

Being guided down the Spanish Steps is something I won't forget in a hurry...

The photo doesn't really do the steepness justice - nor does it reflect how fast my heart was beating as I descended into the valley.  The Spanish Steps, as they are known, are a sandstone formation that resemble steps down into a valley.  And as the saying goes, what goes up...  So there was also a slightly more challenging ascent.

I should point out that the Land Rover Discovery, lately christened 'The Snail' is not a highly modified 4WD.  It has not been lifted and the tyres I use are all terrain pattern.  I do have a winch on the bull bar, and some other bits and pieces like driving lights, UHF CB radio and camping gear.  All up I was pretty impressed that The Snail was able to get down into the valley and then up the other side along with the others who had the benefit of lockers, lift and highly aggressive tyres.

It was an amazing day, lots of fun in the 4WD's and we headed back to re-establish our camp.

The next day we decided to walk to the glow worm tunnel and have a look at Blackfellows Hand.

It's a fair walk in to the tunnel, but worth it for the views and to see the glow worms.

Being way to hard to photograph I did the next best thing...

Looking out of the tunnel - I used a flash to introduce the wall perspective into the pic.  Flash photography, I think, would not capture the glow worms.  In fact it might even upset them into not glowing so I didn't try.

If you intend visiting the tunnel - and I would encourage a visit - wear good shoes, take a torch and remember to be courteous to other visitors and more importantly respect the glow worms.

And respect the natural beauty of the flora and rock formations - how good is this!?

If you walk to the glow worm tunnel from the Newnes side (it can also be accessed from the Lithgow side) it is worth remembering that the trail is the abandoned Newnes Railway line.  You are walking over and alongside history!

It is worth keeping an eye out for the historical stuff like the rock walls and old sleepers on the track.

After the hike in and out we drove to what is known as Blackfellow's Hand Rock.  This rock formation has a number of aboriginal artworks and is definitely worth a look.

Hand paintings on the rock.  If you do go in for a bit of a look please don't touch the paintings.  Once they are gone, they are gone forever.

Access: Some campsites are accessible by 4WD. 2WD would be OK in dry weather if you want to camp on the 'pub' side of the river.
Toilets: Yes.
Showers: No.
Water: Boil water from the river.
Shop: Limited to the Newnes Hotel - best to check if it is open.
Campfires: Yes - subject to firebans. Bring own wood.
Pets: NO - National Park
Cost: FREE.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Killalea State Park

Earlier this year we went to catch up with some friends and stay at Killalea State Park.

The Park itself is near the coast and the Woolongong suburb of Shellharbour.  It is close to surf beaches and fishing.  Grat place to stay this time of year.  There are full facilities there for campers including a camp kitchen, hot showers and flushing toilets.  You can have a fire in an established (or constructed) fire place.  However it is not pet friendly so the favourite animal will need to stay away.

As it was a weekend visit to catch up with our friends I didnt take a lot of pics - other than one of the new camping set up I mentioned in an earlier post - our rooftop tent and annex.

Pretty awsome set up and we enjoyed the stay at the park.  Time and socialising prevented a proper fish, but the facilities are teriffic and the staff helpful.

If you are interested in some more details about Killaliea visit:

Friday, June 1, 2012

New camping style from here on in

For those of you who have been visiting this site for a while you will have noticed that we have been tent campers.

Recently we bought an Ironman 4x4 Roof Top Tent.

The posts from here on it will be about our camping adventures with the tent.  Its a pretty cool new toy which we have used a couple of times so far, quite successfully.

We are also planning a 'big' test for it shortly.  Our plan is to head out t the Oodnadatta track, and the RTT will be our home for the couple of weeks we are planning for the trip.

If you are interested in RTT's keep an eye out - you might be able to decide whether one is for you or not based on the next few posts.

Burraga Dam

In February we took a break with some realtives and headed inland to find a peaceful campsite somewhere and have a bit of a break.  The first place was a dud so we moved on to the next site on the list which was Burraga Dam.

Nearby the small town of Burraga which has some facilities like fuel and a small shop, which is convenient.

The Burraga Dam is on Thompson's Creek and apparently it is also known as Thompson's Creek Dam.  The Dam was constructed in the late 1800's to supply water to the local Copper mine.  No longer used for the cooper mine the dam is now a recreational dam, offering fishing, camping and is free and pet friendly.

There is not a lot here - there are some clean and tidy long drop loo's and some pretty neat scenery.  Other than that its all about relaxing.

According to the research I did when we got back the Dam is supposed to be stocked with Rainbow Trout.  I did a little fishing when we were there and mnaged to not catch a thing.  Maybe it is just me.  Interestingly the bait went from the yabbie net.  So if nothing else there must be the odd turtle about.

There is plenty of room to set up camp, doesn't matter whether you are part of a group or on your own.

The dog loved the place as there was plenty of room to walk and play...

There are a couple of tracks around the place - not exactly hardcore 4WD but interesting to see the local area.

My favourite pic of the weekend is the Aussie Mud Map.

I've seen a few of these sort of photos and always wondered wether they were real or fake.  This one is the real deal, you can see my wife and dog is the photo.

Anyways - Burraga Dam is a good spot - free, pet friendly bush camping.

Access: It is accessible by 4WD. 2WD would be OK in dry weather.
Toilets: Yes.
Showers: No.
Water: Not sure - we had our own.
Shop: No.  Small shop in nearby township.
Campfires: Yes - subject to firebans. Bring own wood.
Pets: YES.
Cost: FREE.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Post Christmas - The Bridle Track

After the ordinary start to our summer break we made our way home and back to work.  After a couple of weeks back at work we decided that we would do a long weekend and head up to the Bridle Track.

We had done a bit of homework about the history of the track and the area.  One thing I didn't pick up was the fact that you can't drive the track from end to end.  The track is closed about mid-way along at the part known as Monahagns Bluff.  Heavy rains, a land slip and a rock slide has the centre of the track closed.

We drove up to Bathurst and while we would have like to go to Hill End via the track we were more than contented to set up camp on the bank of the river and just have a couple of days of free, pet-friendly camping with few others around.

Heading in the first sign was pretty cool - we knew that we were in for an interesting couple of days.

It didn't take us long to get onto the Track in search of a campsite..

There aren't a lot of places in NSW where you can acually camp this close to the rive, with a dog, for free.  We were on the Bathurst side and decided to walk up to have a look at the rock fall that has the Track closed.

Not being able to drive past here, we decided to walk up and have a look at the 'blockage.' 

And this is what has the Track blocked.  A whopping big rock, some of the road has fallen away and there isn't enough room to safely get a vehicle around, other than maybe a push bike...

Nevertheless it was worth the walk up to the rockfall.  The fiew is amazing and you can also see the way the Track was built.

Check out the stone work supporting this little bridge.

After a bit of a walk on a fairly hot day in summer we retired to the campsite for dinner.

We really enjoyed the visit up there.

Access: It is accessible by 4WD. 2WD would be easy OK in dry weather.
Toilets: No.
Showers: No.
Water: Yes.  From the river - given the turtles and yabbies maybe drinkable.
Shop: No.
Campfires: Yes - subject to firebans. Bring own wood.
Pets: YES.
Cost: FREE.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Coolah Tops, Barracks Camping Area and Giant Grass Trees

We set off just before Christmas with the Discovery loaded up with camping gear, pressies for relatives, some new camping stuff and we were looking forward to the 'plans' we had made. They included a night in Coolah Tops NP, a night in Boomi before heading across to the coast for a couple of nights on Bribie Island before doing who knows what on our way home. But all didn't go to plan. The Discovery came down with a 'clutch infection' as we left Coolah Tops NP... So our adventure was a bit shorter than usual. The clutch was replace and the Discovery is now back on the road, but we had a hire car which meant some of the fun just didn't happen. The rains in Queensland didn't help, with the Bribie Campsite being closed as well. Anyway, thanks to the NRMA, the mechanic in Tammworth who got us back on the road, the hire car company and the motel we stayed in things didn't work out too bad for us. Coolah Tops NP is just outside of Coolah township, not too far from Mudgee. Our site for the night was the Barracks Campground, which is 2WD accessable.

It didn't take us long to choose a campsite and get ourselves set up, the place was all but empty.

There is a pit toilet and wood fire facilities as well as a shelter area here so overall it is a pretty nice place to stay, and the wildlife is amazing...

Kookaburras are one of my favourite Aussie bush animals.  This fella turned up with the smell of us cooking and hung around for a while.

This young lady and her little one also arrived to check us out.  We didn't see the joey get out of the pouch, but I guess you can't have everything.  It's worth thinking about...  We have seen and taken photos of Kangaroos with joeys in animal parks and zoos, but this is the first time we have seen one this close in the bush.  Pretty cool!!

The next morning we decided to take the 600m track to see the giant grass trees.  I hadn't heard about these, so I was more than a little curious as to what they were.  We have a grass tree in our front yard and it is anything but giant, and to say it is slow growing would be an understatement.

These trees were amazing!  Our one at home would be 15cm maybe 20cm tall at the moment.  These things would have been 4 or 5 metres tall.  Definitely worth the 600m walk.

These amazing trees are also known as 'Blackboys' but the name has fallen a bit in to disuse recently.  The traditional owners of these lands would have had a number of uses for these trees.  The flower 'spike' may have been used for fishing spears, the flowers soaked in water to make an apparently sweet drink, and the sap of the trees was used as an adhesive.

Indeed early European settlers used the sap/resin as a perfume (often burned in churches).  The resin often formed the basis for things like polishes and varnishes and of course as an adhesive.

Cool trees - and native to us here in Australia.

Apparently there is some 4WD-ing to be had in the area, at the 'back' of Coolah Tops NP.  With the clutch being a bit 'off' we decided to continue our travels to get it sorted.  Next time we are up that way we will call in for another visit and have a look at the worlds biggest gum tree and some of the 4WD tracks in the park.

Access: It is accessible by 4WD.  2WD would be easy OK in dry weather.
Toilets: Yes - long drop.
Showers: No.
Water: Yes.  Apparently not suitable for drinking.
Shop: No.
Campfires: Yes - subject to firebans.  Bring own wood.
Pets: NO. It is a NSW National Park.
Cost: Free.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Back from the holiday break

Well we have arrived back from a couple of weeks of traveling. In the next couple of weeks I'll tell the story and put up some of the photos we took. Short version is that we went to visit the relatives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. About 1200km away. The plan was to camp at Coolah Tops National Park, New South Wales and then Boomi, New South Wales, then a few nights up on the coast... The plan was then to go for a couple of nights on Bribie Island, Queensland before having a bush Christmas and making our way back home for New Year's Eve. It didn't quite go to plan... I'm getting ready to go to the day job, but when I have time over the next couple of weekends I'll tell the story and reveal what happened.