Even though we live in Victoria we are involved with the South Australian programme as this is the first programme that Jenny stumbled across. We have found that the programmes in other states with the exception of the Northern Territory are much more difficult to sign up for. Signing up for the SA programme is easy and a read of the info in the link above will set you right.
In short, you’ll need a National Police Check, a SA working With Children’s Check and a First Aid Certificate. There is also some online training to be done. To do a placement you’ll need a means of getting there and back and somewhere to stay. We use our trusty Land Rover and our equally trusty camper trailer.
Why do it ?
We enjoy staying in National Parks and the Campground Host programme gives us a chance to be more involved with the parks that we stay in. We get to interact with the park rangers and the park users. We also get to meet people and we are able to help people enjoy our National Parks.
There are a whole lot of benefits to being part of the programme. We have a campsite for any number of days, we usually have facilities quite close by and we are made to feel as though we are part of a larger team running and maintaining the park.
We get all that, and more, for doing a trivial amount of work – picking up rubbish, cleaning toilets, checking in on campers to make sure they in the correct site, etc. The work takes a couple of hours each day but that’s all.
We have just completed a couple of weeks of Campground Hosting at Deep Creek National Park in South Australia. Here’s a map of where we were.
You may need to drag the map around a bit to see where we were in relation to the rest of SA.
As well as plenty of wind and rain and cold we had a great view from the front of our camper.
The trip over to South Australia
Anyway – I’m getting ahead of myself a bit here.
The trip over was pretty uneventful. We went via Great Western and Strathalbyn. Here’s a map of the route.
As you can see we made a direct line to Stringybark Campground in the Deep Creek National park.
Great Western and Strathalbyn
At Great Western we camped at the community managed recreation reserve and racing club. Great Western is a food and wine village in the Grampians area of Victoria. Because we left ourselves only time for two overnight camps on the way to our Campground Host commitments we didn’t have the time to dally in and around the wineries and cafes of the area. Rest assured that at some stage of the future we’ll be back to sample the local wares.
From Great Western we went to Strathalbyn. This was our second stay at the caravan park there. The first time we stayed there it was wet. Very wet. This time was no different. The less said about our Strathalbyn experiences the better. It can be summed up thusly. Unpleasant.
After a wet pack up we made our way to Stringyback Campground for our Campground Hosting duties. When we got there we found out that we were to set up behind the Pack Office whee we had access to flushing toilets (luxury) and power (even more luxury).
Here’s a screenshot from Google Maps. The area bounded by the shakey white line is the actual campground. There are 15 individual campsites in all. The area bounded by the red line is where we were camped behind the Park Office.
We were very fortunate with our allocated spot. We had OK mobile phone coverage and there were toilets for our use at the end of the park office closest to the trees. The really big advantage was that we had access to power to keep our battery charged. This meant that we didn’t need to mess about with solar panels in very marginal weather conditions and that the generator wasn’t required at all. The last big advantage we had was that in the public toilets in the middle of the camping area had nice hot showers. This made us very happy.
What did we do while we were there ?
First up, every morning before even coffee, we put our sandwich board out. On the board was a quick spiel about who we are and what we were doing there and where we were. The board was placed so that anyone entering the campground would be forced to go past it. Some people even read it.
Next on the agenda was coffee and breakfast. After about three hours we brought the board in and went to do other stuff.
So what was the “other stuff” I hear you ask. Well the first thing to do was to get a copy of the visitor manifest from the ranger. This bit of paper showed us which camp sites should be empty, which camp sites should be occupied and the arrivals and departures for the day. It also listed the car registration plates as well as phone numbers and surnames. While we’re walking through the campground we’re on the lookout for any rubbish that may have been left behind which we’ll go around and pick up about lunchtime after the ones who were due to depart have gone and before the new arrivals have arrived. Then it’s back to our camp to get the rubbish collecting stuff as well as the toilet cleaning gear. After a spot of lunch it’s time for about an hour of generally cleaning – toilet cleaning and collecting any stray rubbish. It has to be said that people are generally pretty good. The toilets usually only need a quick wipe down and a sweep out and the rubbish usually consists of the odd stray tissue or bag tie. Maybe a bottle top or two as well as the inevitable cigarette butt.
Once all that’s done the rangers may have tasks for us such as weeding or other park management tasks. A couple of hours later our sandwich board goes out again for about three hours which lets people know that we are available.
Of course while we are on foot around the campground we are talking to people and answering any questions they may have.
And onto the weather
So now you know roughly what we did. As well as all that we endured the weather.
On the Friday when we arrived it was windy, very windy. So windy in fact that it caused a bit of a tear in the canvas of the camper.
Apart from the wind there was plenty of rain but we were nice and dry in the camper. We had to time our walks around the campground pretty carefully to avoid the worst of the rain and wind.
Overnight was pretty cold so the diesel heater came in very handy. At night before we went to bed we were nice and snug and warm. Jenny had the foresight to bring a thick wool doona so were were warm in bed too. The only bugbear was having to get up for a pee during the night. That was cold.
Having said all that about the weather we had a few glorious days. Pretty cool but sunny and with only a light wind.
So there you have it
At the end of our time there we looked back and felt that we really enjoyed it. Wind and all.
On the way home we went via Bendigo so we could see our grandson and the two great grandsons.
Here’s a map of our route home.
We basically headed straight to Bendigo with one overnight stop at Keith in South Australia in a delightful little caravan park.
When we got to Bendigo we had no choice to pay an exhorbitant fee. The caravan parks are all chain operated parks and they are the most expensive. We thought that a place like Bendigo would have a couple of cheaper parks or that either showgrounds or bush camping would be available but it seems that the big chains have got into the ear of council and places where we used to camp a couple of years ago have either closed the gates to travellers or there have been “No Camping” signs put in.
Oh well, strike Bendigo of the list of places to stop.
From Bendigo it was just a straight drive down the Calder Freeway to Melbourne and then on to home.
Well due to a couple of factors we have had to postpone our big trip. This whole pandemic thing has messed us around and now that the state borders are open again we have got to the time of year when it would be a bad idea weather wise to set off.
So what to do ? We’re both sick and tired of just staying at home apart from the odd weekend away. We have relatives in NSW that we haven’t seen for a while so a bit of a trip to see them seems like a good idea. The spreadsheet for the trip is here and here is the map.
We have two bunches of relatives that we want to visit. One in Albury NSW and the other in Murrurundi in NSW.
After our last trip for a few days in Sea Lake, VIC, we have decided that any driving day should be less than 400km on good roads. Doing in excess of 500km in a day is just too long. Boredom sets in and with that comes a marked reduction in driving performance. A long day also means that when we arrive we need to hurriedly get set up and cook dinner without time for a slower setup and a bit of a relax before starting the cooking thing.
So bearing that in mind a route was planned as outlined in the spreadsheet. Feel free to grab a copy of the spreadsheet to adapt for your own use, by the way. We’ll only be spending single nights anywhere apart from Albury and Murrurundi where we’ll be spending as many nights as we want.
It now appears that the weather is again working against us. We were going to leave on 27th March 2021 but it now looks like we’ll need to delay things by a week or so due to the weather. While we know that the camper is weather proof, sitting in the camper full time is just no fun – we like to at least be able to sit outside and watch the world go by.
Here’s what the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting.
Given that we think a wise course of action is to delay the trip.
So that’s it, we’re all planned and ready to go. The day before leaving we’ll do some shopping, fuel up, make the bed in the camper which is a major pain, load up the car and camper, hitch up and be ready to shoot through early the next morning. All we’ll have to do is have breakfast and coffee and do a few breakfast dishes, lock the door on our way out and go.
The actual trip
The first day of the trip was to the Bombala Caravan Park. Nice and uneventful. We didn’t put the annex up as it’s a bit of a bear and just no worth it for one night. Because we left home a bit later than ideal we didn’t get there until about 4.00pm so we had a bit of a sit around and a glass of wine and cooked dinner. A good first day was had.
Next day we were off to the Cowra Showgrounds. we’ve not camped in a showgrounds before so this was a new experience for us. The facilities were good and so was the sunset – here’s a couple of pics.
We followed the same formula as Bombala – no annex, a couple of glasses of wine, dinner and watch a bit of TV before bed. Yes, we take a TV and antenna with us. The TV is a smaa-ish Kogan 12V affair and the antenna is an amplified, polarisation indifferent affair from Jaycar which works very well – especially in areas with a marginal signal.
Next stop Mudgee in NSW. There we met up with one of my cousins who I had never seen before. He came to the Showgrounds with a bottle of very nice wine which we duly consumed while having a good old chat. This fitted in nicely with the purpose of the trip which was to catch up with family who we haven’t seen for a while. It was a beautiful day and a good time was had by all. Here’s a pic of the showgrounds.
And of course a Mudgee sunset
From Mudgee we shot off to Murrurundi. This time we put the annex up as we were staying a few days to catch up with family. Here the overnight temperatures were getting down to single digits so it was time to break out the heater. Do you think the thing would start ? Not a bit of it. Eventually I managed to get it going though. This was to be a recurring theme.
Here’s a pic of the caravan park.
And of course, a sunset over the caravan park taken from my drone.
From Murrurundi our careful trip planning went a bit out the window. Because we headed about an hours drive further north to see another relative and the kids we didn’t stay at our planned stop at Dubbo. Instead we stopped at a little place called Dunedoo which had a quite pleasant , if a bit noisy (train at 2.00am and a few trucks) caravan park.
Here’s a couple of pics.
And of course a sunset.
And so onto West Wyalong. Here’s the usual pics.
And the sunset.
Well, what can I say about West Wyalong? The showgrounds looked quite untidy with lots of long grass in patches. The amenities were quite new and looked amazing. Unfortunately form definitely followed function – not very functional at all. I’ll just leave it at that. The crowning glory was the number and variety of insects. Mosquitoes and lots of them. Normally they don’t bother me, but here they took great delight in giving me lots of itchy lumps. My poor wife got eaten alive. Midges. The number and savagery of these things is the stuff of legend. The only advantage to the place was the price – it was cheap at fifteen dollars for a powered site. We won’t be staying there again!
From West Wyalong we went to the Albury Showgrounds. Here we were quite close to the take-off end of the active runway at the airport. No drone photos there ! Helicopters, big and small as well as loads of aircraft were constantly whizzing overhead at about 500 feet. It wasn’t a bad camp though once the air traffic slackened off after dusk. The heater, of course, resisted all attempts to get it going so we went to bead early more for the warmth than the sleep.
Seeing as the purpose was to catch up with relatives we made a visit to one that Jenny hasn’t seen for about 40 years. A great catch-up before heading off home.
The last day was spent driving from Albury back to Moe. We were going to spend a day or three camping along the Murray River somewhere near Echuca Village but the weather forecast put us off. Good thing we came home too – the weather turned truly awful.
I’ll finish this off with a sunset taken from about 50 metres above the park next door to home.
So what went wrong on this trip
Well as per usual not everything went to plan. Whilst the trip up to Murrurundi went entirely to plan the return trip was a bit chaotic although the trip up handed us a few challenges.
First up the DC DC charger in the camper decided that it would not do its job. It transpired that it was caused by an issue with a plug under the camper so a bit of re-crimping of the terminals will fix that. A cheap and easy fix.
Next came the issue with the heater. There was no way that I could get the thing to start. The symptoms pointed to a below par glow plug but, of course, I was wrong. The problem was voltage drop at the plug to the camper. By bypassing that plug and using a connection with much higher current carrying capabilities we now have no heater starting issues. Whew. Another bullet dodged.
And, unsurprisingly, the weather played a part. On the way back from Albury we had planned to bush camp for a few days somewhere along the Murray River. Wrong. The day before we left Albury we had a look at the weather forecast and it was pretty grim. Lots of wind and rain. We’ve been camping on the Murray before when the weather was marginal and it wasn’t pleasant. No walks along the river, no sitting outside watching the river go by, just lots of sitting in the camper reading or idly solving the problems of the world. So given all that we just decided to make a break for home and just grin and bear the boring drive down the highway.
All-in-all though it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip away for ten days or so.
And so, we fix the issues, service the car and camper and get ready for our next trip. This one will be longer adn take in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia including the Gibb River Road and the Nullabor plain.
And no for something completely different – an outback bicycle trip.
The time was some time mid year in 1993 and well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. We planned to leave in June 1994 so as to avoid the heat. So, there was a lot of planning to be done and limited time to do it.
To set the scene a bit. I was a member of the Melbourne Bicycle Touring Club which met every Thursday night for trip planning, socialising, club auctions, etc. After the meetings quite a few of us usually adjourned to a local pub for a few drinks, possibly a meal and more socialising.
It was during one of these after meeting sessions that someone who was old enough to know better (NOT me) suggested a bit of an outback trip. I hasten to add that before the suggestion much Guinness, possibly too much, had been consumed. And so, a plan was hatched. A completely harebrained plan at that. The plan called for whoever was going to get the train from Melbourne to Alice Springs (NT) and from there to head westward to Wiluna (WA) via the Gunbarrel Highway, north to Halls Creek (WA) via the Canning Stock Route and south east back to Alice Springs via the Tanami Road and then home by train to Melbourne.
Then some bright spark suggested that as the expense of a support vehicle would be unaffordable we should do it unsupported. As I say, harebrained.
Here’s a picture of a map with the proposed route in red. This is just the Western Australia part of the route.
And here’s the NT part of the route.
Well somehow we had managed to decide on a route and somehow e managed to get another three suckers….erm…particpants lined up. And then the one who originally came up with the idea decided that he wasn’t coming. And then there were four – Steve, Natalie, Al and of course me. Seeing as were going to do it unsupported that meant a great deal of planning. In this context the word “unsupported” has a whole heap of ramifications.
How do we resupply ? There’s no shops worth mentioning out there. What about spares for the bikes in case of breakages ? What about water supplies ? And the questions went on – the list of what if’s was almost endless.
I don’t know about the others but at this point I was trying to get the whole thing sorted out in my head and was beginning to think that it may not be doable. Around this time I was talking to someone, I can’t remember who, told me that an elephant is an enormous animal and to eat one looks impossible until you realise that you only need to eat one small mouthful at a time and you’ll get through it.
I took this attitude on board with this trip. There was no room for any adhoc-ery with this – that could lead to a life threatening situation considering that we were travelling through some of the most remote and isolated bits of the country.
So where to start ? Maps, and lots of them. We needed to find where we could get water. Then came the thorny question of food. And then bike spares. There were other things too that we hadn’t even considered.
We started with food. Steve came up with a spreadsheet and a huge-arsed thing it was too. It was obvious from the start that we would need to plan for food drops. The first was at Giles Weatherstation with the next being at Warburton. From Steve’s spreadsheet we could work out how many meals we’d need and the time and distance between depots.
So, what do we eat ? One thing that was plain is that there was no way we were going to be eating fresh food – it needed to be dehydrated. Steve and I both had Harvest Maid food dehydrators so we got to work drying fruit and veg. Lots of fruit and veg. From experience I can tell you that dehydrating tomato’s is something to be done in a well ventilated outdoor area. It stinks. Badly. At around this time a new startup was looking for test consumers for their Adventure Food range. Our timing was perfect. They were looking for testers and we needed a lot of dehydrated food at a low cost. They asked us to test their range and report on it and in return they supplied us with what we needed at no cost. Perfect.
So that was food sorted. We’d eat a combination of Adventure Food meals and our own dehydrated stuff. Onto snacky stuff and energy drinks.
For snacks we took a lot of dates and Allens Snakes
For energy drink we took a powder called ISOSport which only needed to be mixed with water. Pity it is no longer made.
Once we had worked out what we were going to eat and got it all together we had to work out where we wanted it.
Working out how many days worth of food and water we could carry we needed to work out where our food depots were going to be. We settled on Giles and Warburton for the Gunbarrel Hwy part of the trip – I’ll only cover the first leg of the trip here from Alice Springs to Wiluna. The rest followed a similar pattern. We found after considerable “map staring” and many phone calls our longest stretch without being able to be resupplied ith anything was going to be about six or seven days.
At this point we had a huge great pile of food on the lounge room floor so we set out dividing it up into piles to be sent to the depots. Once that was done it needed to be packed into containers and dispatched. Freight was going to be an expensive exercise. The freight companies wanted to charge us an absolute fortune to get our food to the required remote location. Then, on a whim I called Australia Post seeing as they deliver mail to these places. Their rates were about a quarter or less than those of the freight companies. Guess who got our business. AusPost delivered on their promises too.
Right that was the food sorted and sent.
Water was going to be an issue. Well two issues actually. Getting it and carrying it. We worked out that three litres per day each should see us right. We also had a stretch where we would not be able to get water for seven days which meant that we needed to be able to carry at least 21 litres of water each. A bit of a look around the outdoor stores and we came up with Ortleib water bags and MSR Dromedary Bags. We each had water carrying capacity of at least 25 litres. We also used Camelback’s to put ISO Sport in for easy access while riding. They hold about two litres which left one litre per day for cooking and everything else.
So that had the “how to carry it” part of the problem solved. The “where to get it” issue was still there though. After lots of “map staring” to find bores, etc. we made what seemed like thousands of phone calls. Eventually we found out where the drinkable water could be obtained. Some of it was pretty rich in mineral content, made a horrid cup of tea and kept us regular it was drinkable. This is when we discovered that we would be mostly carrying enough for four or five days with one stretch of seven days.
So that was the water problem solved.
Bikes and spares
The bikes. Well Al had a bike that was suited to the trip but Steve, Nat and I didn’t. Steve had an aluminium framed Cannondale of a very early generation while Nat and I only had road touring bikes which were not at all suitable.
Enter Ian Christie and Richard Hodgson from Christie’s bike shop. Sadly Christies is no more but they were a top notch touring and mountain bike place. They organised three Giant ATX-780 mountain bikes with solid front forks. No suspension – suspension introduces more moving parts and increases the chance of failure. We did have suspended seat posts though. The wheels were expertly built up by Richard and were 40 spoke Sun Rhino rims with heavy gauge stainless spokes. As a testament to Richard’s skills and the strength of the components between the four of us we broke exactly one spoke.
For racks we used the standard fare from Blackburn and they really proved themselves. We exceeded the recommended maximum weights carried by a lot. In some places we were carrying over three times the Blackburn recommended load.. Only one rack showed any signs of coming adrift and that was able to be held together by hose clamps.
As for spares we each took a spare tyre, a couple of inner tubes, handful of spokes, a gear cluster, a chain, a long brake cable, a long gear cable, and sundry other small stuff including nuts and bolts and hose clamps. Also carried between us were a front and a rear derailleur. So, not that much – bicycles are pretty simple beasts really.
For maintenance we took the inevitable puncture repair stuff including Slime tube sealant. We also took chain lube.
For tools between the four of us we had everything required to completely disassemble and reassemble a bike.
Pulling it all together
OK so now we had a route, we had our food, we had a strategy for water, we had the bikes and spares and stuff for repairs and we had scraped together our maps and camping gear. We’d even managed to scrape together some sponsorship from Australian Geographic and Kodak supplied us with a bunch of Ektachrome slide film – this was well before the days of even remotely affordable digital cameras.
All we needed to do is to get the permits required for crossing the lands and communities of the indigenous people, set a solid departure date and get our train tickets to Alice Springs.
Our friends and families needed to be told where we’ll be and when and rough contact schedules.
In short, we were set to go.
Our permits arrived and we had a solid departure date set. The plan was to have a Melbourne Bicycle Touring Club dinner and from there ride to Spencer Street Station in the Melbourne CBD and hop on the train to Adelaide. From there we would change trains to the Ghan to Alice Springs and spend a couple of nights in a caravan park while we did the last minute packing of the bikes.
Come the day and off we went. Happy days. All that planning, stressing and coordinating had come together. All we now had to do was the actual ride.
The actual ride. Alice Springs to Curtain Springs.
We got to Alice springs and went to a caravan park to get organised. We worked out how everything was going to be packed and filled up our water bags. We needed to get some stove fuel – metholated spirits and shellite (white gas) as we couldn’t take that on the train. We did a little bit of “discretionary” shopping while we were at it.
After that we retired early for an early start the next day. Off we went along Larapinta Drive towards Hermannsburg which is a distance of about 130km. We camped along the road a bit more than half way. That first night we discovered how many three corner jacks, usually known as “bindies”, there are in Central Australia. The things are everywhere.
It doesn’t matter how they land they always have one “spine” pointing up ready to puncture tyres, air mattresses, feet, anything. It transpired that Slime in the tyres was a good thing as the next morning showed a number of little green spots on our tyres which was hardened Slime doing its job and sealing the holes.
Next morning we packed up and headed to Hermannsbug where we poked around for a couple of hours and then it was off to our turnoff which would take us through the Finke Gorge and towards the Lassiter Highway to Uluru.
It was along the stretch through the Finke Gorge that we saw perhaps the strangest thing of the whole trip. We were riding along a good clay road through open red dirt wood land when we happened across a gentleman standing by the side of the road eating an apple. We were in national park and there was no shelter or car in sight, just this man eating his apple. As we rode past, despite us calling out to say g’day all he said was “yeah” and turned around and walked away from the road. Strange indeed.
Anyway after a couple of bush camps and a rest day in the Finke Gorge we hit the Lassiter Highway, turned right and pretty soon found ourselves at Curtain Springs – another place of great strangeness epitomised by a wall decoration of a spear fitted with a telescopic sight.
We had a good meal after a bit of a palava regarding paying for the meal and then having to go back to the bar to get “meal tickets” for cookie. The meal tickets were shot glasses of rum. After the meal, which was damn good and HUGE, we had a couple of drinks and retired for the night.
Curtain Springs to Giles
Next morning we woke up, breakfasted, garnered ourselves a water top up and set sail for Uluru and Yulara (the resort). All bitumen and quite a fast ride.
We spent a couple of nights at the resort camping area before heading off to Kata Tjuta / Mt. Olga where a great many photos were taken.
We would’ve like to stay there but our permits didn’t allow us to camp on the Aboriginal land that we were on so we had to carry on until we were off the land which made it a very late camp – we made camp at around 10.00pm.
We trundled on for a few more days until we reached the outskirts of the Docker River Community. We then had to wait for a couple of days as the community was engaged in Sorry Business. Once we got into the community we stocked up with water and a few other bits and pieces of food and were on our way in the direction of Giles where a food depot was waiting for us.
On our arrival we got ourselves situated and wandered across the road to the weather station to collect our stuff and to introduce ourselves to the staff there. We had all our stuff in the cabin and were busily sorting it out when a couple of the Elders from the adjacent Warakurna Community came over and started talking about what we were doing the next day after we had watched the weather balloon being launched and had a tour of the station. For the rest of the afternoon we did the mandatory shopping – stove fuel, snacks, filled up our water containers, etc. During the afternoon Nat made a pineapple upside down cake for the staff at the weather station so after dinner we wandered across to give them the cake. And help them eat it of course. As we were on Aboriginal lands there was no alcohol allowed so a drink as not an option. Still, cake and coffee was pretty damn good.
We arrived at Giles just in time for an Indigenous player football carnival. The players had come from as far afield as North Queensland and northern Western Australia and the rest of the country. Some of the more distant players and their families had driven for three or more days to get there. We watched a match and there were some very, very good young players on display. This carnival is of some importance to the Australian Football League too as they had sent some player “spotters” to see if there was any young talent worth talking too. In my view they were going to do a lot of talking and soon.
The next day, after our look around the weather station, a couple of indigenous women came and took Nat off to have a look at the women’s places while we went off with a couple of men to have a look at the secret men’s places. Very interesting and educational it was too.
That evening after e had our meal we got our bikes packed so we could head off early-ish in the morning.
There are no photos from since we left Hermannsburg as the local indigenous people and the permit forbid publishing pictures of the land and people. Suffice to say that between us we have hundreds of slides that we can’t show or publish.
Onwards towards Camp Beadell
Although we had traveled across some truly awful roads this next bit had some real shocker sections with the worst road on the planet being the Heather Highway. On this map the good road is highlighted in red with the worst bit highlighted in blueish-purple.
After a few days of pedaling and a number of bush camps we arrived at Warburton. The usual happened – a bit of shopping and got our water topped up. We headed west to Steptoes Turnoff and turned left onto the Heather Highway towards Len Beadells Tree and Mt. Samual. All I can say is that Heather must have been a very nasty piece of work to have that road named after her. It was dreadful. Rutted, corrugated and altogether nasty.
This bit of road was thankfully quite short. Normally were were doing about sixty to eighty or more kilometres per day. The Heather Highway was 39 kilometres in length and it was a very long day – about nine hours of sheer hard work.
After we got off the Highway of horror we headed west for about 70 kilometres to Camp Beadell where we spent a couple of days resting. Natalie even made us an apple crumble with stuff she had in her panniers and very delicious it was too. We had a bit of a cleanup at the bore at Len Beadells Tree but the water was quite unsuitable for drinking. It almost had enough mineral content to be smelted. The bore at Camp Beadell was dry so no water there.
It’s worth noting that on this stretch from Warburton to Carnegie Station we were carrying enough food and water to last us eight days. Our bikes were very, very heavy.
Off to Carnegie Station
After our little rest at Camp Beadell we were off to Carnegie station but first Everard Junction.
After leaving Camp Beadell we decided to have a stop at Mt. Beadell for a look at the view. As we were riding up the small and very rocky hill Nat had a puncture. I was riding close behind her and when she sliced her rear tyre on a bit of rock all I could see was a green cloud coming at me. It was, if course, the Slime escaping from her tyre. A quick tube and tyre change and we were on our way. About a hundred metres further on I managed to have the only spoke breakage for the whole trip so that was another quick repair job.
The view from Mt. Beadell was as good as you could hope for. It was unobstructed 360 degrees out across the desert in all directions. Sadly I don’t have any photos as my camera had long since been shaken into inoperation.
On we went to Everard Junction where we found two curious things. A bus shelter (yes, a bus shelter in the middle of absolutely nowhere) and a 44 gallon drum full of cans. Each can had in it a note from the people who put it there. We put our names and a short description of the trip on a piece of paper and put the note in an IsoSport can and placed it in the drum with the rest. On we went.
A couple of days after Everard Junction we had a little bit of rain. This effectively turned the road into glue. The stuff stuck to everything it came into contact with – especially tyres. After a few metres the tyres were jammed solid and unable to turn so the only option was to hack most of the mud out with a bit of stick and carry on for another twenty or so metres. This carry-on got really tired really quick so we pulled off the road and made camp at the bore about 32 kilometres west of Everard.
Next dawned bright and clear and the road had dried out enough for us to make some real progress towards Carnegie Station.
After a few days of largely uneventful travel we arrived at Carnegie Station. We could easily tell when we crossed the station bounday – the fly population increased to epic proportions.
First thing on the agenda after we got our camp set up was a shower. We needed to wash the red dirt and sweat we had collected since Warburton off. Lots of sweat and lots of red dirt.
We only stayed there for one night but as we had arrived early in the afternoon we had plenty of time to stock up on some high, low GI carbs and, of course, fill op our water bags. We were getting a bit low on water by this stage.
And on to Wiluna
This was to be the last leg of the trip for me. I had decided that I had had enough and would head to Kalgoorlie and from there get the train back to Melbourne. More of that later.
This was another long stretch with no prospect of a resupply. Very heavy bikes again.
The cycling was pretty easy in the scheme of things. Both Al and I managed to fall off pretty heavily and painfully but no damage apart from a couple of corked thighs.
At Wongawol Waters we happened on the most perfect camp site. There was an abundance of cool clear water that was very drinkable so we stayed a couple of days and of course, topped up our water bags.
So, Westward Ho and all that.
By now we were starting to see mining traffic on the road which had magically transformed into wide, billiard table smooth hardpack. Bliss. Mining road trains were starting to become an issue but as we were on bicycles we could hear the coming from miles away. They are big and long – up to eight trailers of ore. And boy do they kick up some dust. Lots and lots of dust. Really thick walls of the stuff.
And so to Wiluna. We went to the post office and collected our Post Restant mail and headed off to the caravan park and got set up. Nat’s friends had driven up from Kalgoorlie to meet us so we sat around and had a well earned drink or two before heading off to the pub for dinner. Al managed to collect a dose of mild food poisoning.
The whole mood of the town was terrible. It’s a dreadfully racist place. The caravan park had a big high fence surrounding it and the gate was locked at 10.00pm. The pub was segregated and was also surrounded by a big high fence. The place seemed to be full of uncouth, racist men who looked down on everyone who wasn’t in the “mining game”. The local indigenous were generally looked down upon and were treated as some sort of low cast person. The four of us found that attitude to be disgusting and absolutely unacceptable.
A thoroughly unpleasant place.
A few final thoughts
I’m sure that there are a lot of things that I don’t remember or just plain left out.
Our evening meals were prepared by Steve, Nat and Al and we each prepared our own breakfast. Each night I made a simple damper – plain flour, baking powder, water and a bit of milk powder. Rarely, when we had Coopers Sparkling Ale on hand the dregs went into it too. The amper was our lunch “bread” which e slathered with cream cheese and jam or some such.
The thought of us having some sort of an emergency had crossed our minds. A lot. I am a licenced Radio Amateur (VK3KW) so I took along a capable transceiver, enough battery power and a wire antenna. On most days I was able to check in to the Australian Travelers Net . We also borrowed an EPIRB for the trip. Communication is covered in general here.
During the six or so weeks of the trip we each lost a fair bit of weight. The amount of exercise that we were doing each day would’ve been pretty extreme if it had been measured.
Because we were travelling west our right side leg, arm and face got sunburnt even though we were travelling in the depths of winter.
The day time temperatures that we had were high teens to mid twenties Celsius so nothing extreme. The overnight low temperatures were usually around the zxero mark or below. Humidity was very, very low all the time.
So that’s the end of this write up. If Steve, Natalie or Al read this please let me know what I’ve got wrong and I’ll fix it.
This is a very nice spot on the Murray River in Victoria on the New South Wales border and is near Echuca in Victoria.
We’ve been there before and while there were quite a number of other campers it seemed like a nice spot. Well worth visiting again when it was a bit quieter and without as much boat and jet-ski traffic on the river.
That’s how it turned out. The spot we went to was almost deserted and we saw a grand total of two boats over the three days we were there.
Looking up the river.
And another pic looking down the river.
And here’s a Google Map showing where it is.
While we were there we managed to do a grand total of nothing apart from watch the river go by and read. It did rain on our second day and because the ground was hard pack clay it got as slippery as an oil slick – just standing up was hard work. While it was raining we were treated to a thunder and lightning storm which was quite something. Fortunately the rain wasn’t too heavy and there wasn’t a lot of it. It all dried out pretty well during the next day which was quite warm and sunny. We even had a nice sunset to top it off.
I even managed to get bitten by one of these buggers…
Time to leave
Seeing as we had stayed for a few days it meant that everything had been unpacked so we had a fair bit of packing to do. If we had stayed in a caravan park we would have needed to have left by 10:00am but because wwe were “Bush Camping” there was no such restriction. We took our time and were away a bit before 12:00 noon.
The drive home as pretty boring as it usually is when a lot of highway / freeway is involved and we were soon enough starting to wrestle with the Melbourne traffic as we crossed town and headed towards Moe.
All in all a good, albeit brief, trip away for a relaxing few days.
Like a lot of people in these times of COVID-19 we were well and truly sick and tired of staying at home and seeing as we live in an area that isn’t in lockdown we decided that a few days away in another area not in lockdown was the thing to do. One of our favourite places is the Omeo Caravan Park so we decided to go there.
Because the Land Rover is at the gearbox doctors we couldn’t take the camper so we decided to stay in a cabin.
The trip up
In general the trip up was as boring as ever but with an exception. Last time we came to Omeo it was just after the fires went through Victoria at the end of January 2020 and there was a lot of burnt out bush along the Great Alpine Road.
This trip there was a great deal of regrowth.
As you can see there has been a lot of regrowth.
Anyway that was the trip up to Omeo and about four hours after leaving home we arrived and were welcomed by Sandi and Lou. This time we stayed in a cabin as we didn’t have the camper.
After getting ourselves settled into the cabin we sat out on the veranda and just watched, well, nothing really. A glass of wine and it was time to repair to Lou’s Big Red Food Van for dinner. As ever it was delicious and big as well as being reasonably priced. Seeing as it was bloody cold we sat in the cabin to eat and have a couple of glasses of wine while watching TV.
The next day dawned bright and sunny but cold so we had coffee and breakfast and eventually went for a walk up and down the park. It was a lot different to the Australia Day long weekend when we were last here. Last time the Army was here in force doing a lot clean up and repair work after the fires and the place was buzzing with activity.
This time around there was almost no activity with only and handful of other people staying.
It was very pleasant and quiet. Just what we wanted.
For the three days that we were there we decided to not leave the caravan park but to do a walk up and down every day and sit around reading, etc.
We ate at Lou’s Big Red Food van every night just because we could. We had a handy stash of wine back at the cabin too.
For the couple of days that we were there it was fine, cold and clear. Thankfully the cabin came with good heating and with our bedding we were as snug as could be.
Thursday morning dawned a bit overcast and we had breakfast and got ourselves packed up. How is it that packing a small cabin with only a bag of clothes each and a couple of plastic boxes takes as long as packing up the camper and hitching it to the car ? I dunno either.
And home we went
Well the trip hone was a boring four drive with no stops bar Bruthen to get some fuel. We got home on Thursday and here we are on Sunday itching to get away again.
There’s a bit of goodish news on the Land Rover front – the gearbox mechanic is back on deck after a pretty serious illness (NOT Covid-19) so next time we go away it’ll be in the Land Rover with the camper. Hooray.
During the 2019/2020 bushfires lots of small communities took a huge hit to their economy. To help them get back on their feet they need visitors. Not to do any work or to donate money or anything. Just visit and spend a few dollars in the town. Things like top up with fuel, buy a cup of coffee or a meal or stay a few days in the local caravan park.
Omeo is a place that we really like and the caravan park is, to us, a pretty special place so we decided on the spur of the moment to head off for a long weekend.
So, here we are. It’s nearly 1.00am on Saturday and we want to hit the road before 11.00am on Saturday. We made the decision to go at around 9.00pm and started getting our stuff together. While Jenny was getting the boxes packed I did a hurried oil and coolant check, pumped up the air helper springs, put the auxiliary battery in the back of the car and got the pile of general clutter out of the back of the Land Rover.
We’ve still got stuff to do in the morning – drain and refill the camper water tank, do some shopping for food and plonk and stuff for the weekend and get the camper and car packed and fueled up.
Apparently the Australian Army and others are staying at the caravan park and the Omeo Caravan Park facebook page talks about cricket matches and a sausage sizzle for Australia Day so a good time should be had by all. In this post we’ll be putting up a couple of photos of the devastation caused by the fires as well as pictures of anything that we find interesting or novel.
The trip up
As ever the trip from Moe to Bairnsdale was pretty boring but it started to get a bit more interesting after we went through Bruthen. For a start the road gets a great deal more twisty and steep.
It was also where started to see the results of the fires.
In amongst the destruction were peoples homes that were nothing but twisted wrecks. I’m not showing them out of respect for those that have lost everything.
On the way you can see a lot of the Tambo River. Normally it’s crystal clear but not now. It looks more like a latte or hot milk chocolate. The ash piled up around the river bends looks, quite frankly, disgusting. In the past , when we’ve travelled to Omeo, there have been sandy beaches on the bends. Not now though – it looks more like vast expanses of Vegemite.
As you can see by the dashcam screenshots the destruction was quite complete. In a lot of places a mere two or three weeks after the fires went through we could already see green shoots both in the trees and on the ground. The bush has wasted no time in getting the regeneration process started.
As we got closer to Omeo there was less and less evidence of the fires until there was no evidence at all apart from a lot of smoke in the air.
The rest of the trip up to Omeo was uneventful and we arrived at the Omeo Caravan Park safe and sound. Went to see Sandy in the office and she gladly took our money for three nights and pointed out where we could set up.
By the time we got sorted out and and had finished faffing around with the annex and the poles and guy ropes it was time for some cheese and bikkies. While we snacked and reported back to the family as to our whereabouts there was a constant stream of ADF vehicles returning to the caravan park.
When dinner time came around surprise, surprise we weren’t that hungry so we just had salad wraps for dinner and after a bit more sitting around we went to bed.
Thus ended day one.
Sunday dawned bright and clear and noisy. The noise came from a bunch of Australian Defence Force Bushmaster vehicles leaving for their tasks for the day. The Army personnel were both Australian from Townsville (3 Combat Engineers Regiment and 3 Combat Signals Regiment) and from Papua New Guinea and they were there clearing dangerous trees from roadsides and re-opening various tracks and roads that had been closed by the damage caused by the fires. There were about 190 ADF and PNG armed forces personnel there engaged in the work.
The next item on the agenda was a trip to the Omeo Show grounds for a cricket match between the “locals” and the ADF / PNG as well as a “sausage sizzle”.
When we got there at the appointed time the sausage sizzle hadn’t quite started and there were a few games of touch footy and soccer going on. No evidence of a cricket match at all. We sat in the car for a while just watching the proceedings and talking to a Chaplain from the PNG contingent until eventually a mower was used to closely crop a cricket pitch sized area in the middle of the oval. Eventually teams were formed and a game of cricket got under way.
The “rules” seemed a bit strange though. Talking to one of the players afterwards we found out that runs meant nothing – it was about how many times you went out. Whilst the scoring was “interesting” some of the batting and bowling techniques on display were quite bizarre.
We watched the cricket and talked to various people for a while and went back to the caravan park for cheese and bikkies. Again, there was a steady stream of ADF vehicles and personnel returning from their tasks in the bush.
We sat around talking for a while and decided to get dinner at Lou’s Red Food Van. Nothing had changed since our last visit. Big, good and tasty meals at a keen price. Lou’s pizzas, dim sims and doughnuts seemed to be a big hit with the military people and as one of them said, “some nights you’ve just got to have pizza”.
After dinner we sat around talking with Lou, and others, until it was time for a shower and bed.
This promised to be a good day. As usual it dawned bright and clear and noisy. The ADF and PNG contingent were having an open day. We sat having breakfast and drinking coffee while we watched them get everything set up. When the appointed time came around we wandered off to have a look and a yak.
There was a variety of military vehicles on display ranging from Bushmasters in various configurations up to very large Mack trucks. Lots of M.A.N. trucks too.
The Bushmasters were being used to ferry equipment and personnel to the work areas as well as one providing a First Aid post. That was equipped as a fully functioning ambulance.
The trip home
Our long weekend at Omeo was at an end. Big thanks to Lou, Sandy,Peanut and Pirra for a great weekend.
After getting the camper and the car packed and hooked up it was time for the “big off”. We left at about ten thirty am and headed off. The trip down was uneventful but it was pretty depressing driving through the fire effected areas again. We carried on to Stratford and pulled into a wayside stop and had a bite to eat and continued. We turned off towards Maffra and about half way between Maffra and Tinamba this happened. The car is dead.
After a few minutes of wondering what to do we called or a flat top that could get us, the car and the camper home. Lots of money later we arrived home and unpacked.
Now starts the hunt for a new engine or a new car or something.
Well off we went on the last day of November. Kiata Campground was our destination and we stayed there for two nights. The trip from home over to Kiata was, as it has been in the past, quite boring. We did the usual – battled the traffic through the Burnley Tunnel and over the Westgate Bridge and droned along the Western Highway to Ballan where we stopped for a bite to east and some fuel which was about ten cents / litre cheaper than anywhere else.And so onwards to Kiata.
We got set up after moving the camper around to offer us the best protection from the wind but still there was a lot of canvas flapping. We ate, had a couple of glasses of wine and sat inside watching a few episodes of a TV series.
We stayed at Kiata Campground for two nights and took off towards Belair National Park Caravan Park which was a drive of around 370km’s. About halfway there we heard a suspicious “thump” which seemed to come from the camper. We pulled over and had a good look around and there was nothing visible but one of the camper wheel bearings was pretty warm to touch. I was able to hold my hand on it without getting burned but I decided to jack up the wheel and check the bearing for tightness and any roughness. It all seemed OK so we decided to continue whilst being a bit paranoid and stopping every now and then to check the offending bearing.
Eventually, after yet another fuel stop, we got to Belair and got ourselves checked in and set up. We used the camp kitchen to cook tea, broccolini, meat (or in my case meat substitute) and some left over cauliflower and camembert pie which we brought with us from home. Very nice it was too.
We had a few glasses of red while watching the last few episodes of The Last Kingdom and went to bed.
The next day we went to the gathering of Campground Hosts and Volunteer Rangers at the Belair National Park Volunteer Centre in the Belair National Park and met a HEAP of people.
The morning tea was incredible – cakes, cheese platters, tea, coffee, etc. After the presentations it was time for lunch – a BBQ. Again, there was heaps and it was very, very good.
After lunch there were a couple more presentations followed by a period set aside for networking. We chatted to lots of people who had a lot of experience of Campground Hosting and gleaned a heap of useful tips and info.
Morning tea and lunch was put on the the friends of Belair National Park so a huge thank you from Jenny and I and, I’m sure, everyone else.
After the function it was back to the caravan park. We decided that dinner would be at the Belair Hotel. Jenny had the roast of the day which was Turkey with all the trimmings and allegedly the best pub roast that she’d ever had. I went for the vegetarian burger with chips and salad. It was pretty large and very good. Both meals were very reasonably priced and the service was good.
After what seemed like a day of eating it was time to go back to the caravan park, have a glass of wine and hit the showers and bed for a well earned food coma.
Up early the next morning to get packed and head off. The original and loose plan called for us to head to the Wilson Hall camping area in the Lower Glenelg National Park but we decided to give Kiata Campground another try. so off we went with our wheel bearing paranoia in good working order and switched on.
So what was Kiata like this time around ? It was bloody windy of course. We only stayed one night after we decided that it was far too windy to do any of the walks and the canvas of the camper was flapping far too much to sit inside.
And so the long boring drive home started. We stopped pretty often to check on the wheel bearing and although it was pretty warm you couldn’t say it was “hot” and it ended up getting us home OK. We had a bite and got some cheap fuel at Ballan and off we went.
All went well until about the start of the Westgate Bridge and the traffic started to get heavier and heavier. It was partly our fault as we hit Melbourne at about the start of peak hour. It took about two hours to get from one side of the “worlds most liveable city” to the other. Fun in a manual car towing about two tonnes of camper. Not.
Got home, got unpacked, got the camper on the garage, had tea and went to bed for a well deserved sleep after a mostly great six days.
Last year Jenny and I planned on going to the NT and SA for a few months of Volunteering as Campground Hosts in national parks. After we jumped through all the hoops and got accepted and assigned we had to pull out. We were, and still are, quite disapointed.
We have now been invited to a get together with the other volunteers at Belair Nation Park in SA and we’re dead set keen to go.
We’ll take a few days to get there and after our experience at the Kiata Campground in the Little Desert Nation Park in VIC near Nhill we’ll stop there for one or two nights on the way.
We’ll stay at Belair National Park Campground for a couple of days – one night before the function and leave the day after the function.
At this stage the route back will be via Wilson Hall Camping Area in the Lower Glenelg National Park
We’ll probably stay there for a couple of nights at least. We’ve stayed there before and it’s a brilliant place to stay.
In early 2017 Jenny and I decided that a trip to the Birdsville Races to be held in early September would be in order. We planned to get there via Tocumwal, central and west outback NSW including Ivanhoe, White Cliffs, Milparinka, Tibooburra and Camerons Corner. From there we went across to Merty Merty and up the Old Strzelecki Track to Innaminka.
It must be said that the Ivanhoe pub is a trap. We went across the road from the caravan park to the pub for a quick drink and a meal. The pre-dinner drinks were pretty quick which was what we had in mind. Jenny had the lamb shanks and what a meal that was – nearly as good as the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club. My vegetarian meal was huge and very, very good too. The after dinner drinks turned into a pretty boozy and late night. What a great place!
Anyway here’s a photo of the map as Google Maps will only give the wrong route. I suspect it’s because it doesn’t think that the Old Strzelecki Track is a viabl option. It’s only the map of the last bit from Cameron Corner to Birdsville.
The trip to Birdsville was pretty uneventful and the country we drove through was spectacular – it was a privilege to be able to drive through there. Here’s a few photos that I took with my phone on the way up.
This bit of road is the Walkers Crossing track. It’s pretty rough and the view above is the same in all directions. Flat, featureless and awe inspiring.
When I got out of the car to take this photo I noticed that our water tank was leaking. One of the seams had split, probably due to “oil can effect” while we were bouncing across the road from Tibooburra. All we could do was to stand by and watch nearly 100 litres of water soak into the red dirt. We had nothing to catch it in either.
When we got to Innaminka we managed to get some safe water containers and about 50 litres of water. Pricey but necessary.
Once we got to Birdsville and got set up we, of course, made the obligatory trip to the pub. We wanted a drink as well as a few bottles of plonk to take back to our camp. We got a couple of bottles of Outback Loop 2014 Shiraz and it was damn good so the next day we got ourselves a dozen more.
We camped by the Diamantina River which is a very pleasant area. Good thing that we had our own dunny and water supply as we were about half a kilometre from the toilets and tap.
We went into town we had a good look around and managed to get a couple of showers over the five days that we were there.The showers were $5 but the money went to a local youth charity. They were run by volunteers and were kept spotlessly clean.
The pub was pretty busy. As well as the people on the footpath and road it was jam packed inside. Next day it was off to the races.
After a day at the races it was time to head back to our camp. There was nothing random about the breath testing – they were stopping everyone and as you can see the queue was quite substantial.
After a very pleasant few days at Birdsville it was time to pack up, do some shopping for food and head in the general direction of home. Straight down the Birdsville Track to Marree, Leigh Creek, down through the Flinders Ranges and through the Victorian Mallee district and along the highway to home.
It sounds pretty uneventful but it wasn’t. About half way between Birdsville and Mungeranie we had our first puncture. We stopped for a pee and I could hear a gentle pssss coming from the rear of the car. Sure enough the passenger side rear was on its way down. Oh well, change tyres and on we went. A little bit further on there was this strange noise which, it turns out, was caused by this :-
This one was the camper. Changing the camper tyres is more of a pain than the car but in time it was done. Now that we had no more spares for the car we felt a little vulnerable but headed off regardless.
When we got to Mungeranie we decided that before anything else a quick drink in the pub was in order. We had exactly one drink, paid for a couple of nights camping and went outside to find that we had another puncture. A near thing, it could’ve left us stranded if it had happened any earlier. On the flat tyre we very gingerly drove over to our spot and put the camper up. We decided to leave fixing the tyres until the next morning and to have dinner in the pub. Considering where it is, in the middle of nowhere, the meals were damn good. After dinner we sat around and had a couple more drinks before retiring to bed for the night.
Next morning it was tyre repair time. One of the tyres was OK to be plugged but the other needed patching so I took it over to the workshop. While Phil was having a look at it I asked if there was any work around. He told me that if I had a helicopter and a licence to drive it there’s a heap of mustering and bore running work. Pity we had neither.
While Phil was patching the tyre I was plugging the other one and we got to talking about speed and tyre pressures. Phil was of the opinion that tyres hard or soft and speed fast or slow didn’t make any difference. If there’s a rock with you name on it then there’s a rock with your name on it and you’ll get a puncture.
We also talked about the people in their 4×4 utes with big tyres tearing along at a huge rate of knots spraying stones into other peoples windscreens. Phil reckoned that we’d see at least a couple getting wheel bearings replaced at Marree. The trip down the bottom half of the Birdsville track to Marree was uneventful.
When we got to Marree we camped at the Drovers Run Caravan Park. This is a great park and Jo and Brenton put a damper or two on every night with butter and golden syrup. Needless to say we got into some of that and had a few glasses of red to wash it down. When we got back over to the camper we decided that neither of us was hungry so we had another couple of glasses and went to bed.
Next day I mentioned to Brenton, the only mechanic in town, what Phil had said and he reckoned that rear wheel bearings are his most common repair.
Off we went to Leigh Creek and the bitumen. The rest of the trip home was trouble, and puncture, free and once we hit the bitumen we knew for sure that our Birdsville Races trip was over apart from the boring highway trip home. We’ll do it again sometime I reckon.